Subscribe in a reader

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Gluttony and Southern Baptists

The issue of gluttony in Southern Baptist circles has been discussed by some of late. There has even been a resolution or two sent to the resolutions committee of the Southern Baptist Convention in the past two years addressing this particular issue. However, the resolutions have failed to make it to the floor of the Convention by recommendation of the committee.

Baptist Press released an article yesterday titled Prof tries to help Baptists improve health, touching upon the issue of gluttony and its severe prevalence among Southern Baptist pastors. Jim Florence, Professor of Public Health at East Tennessee State University (my alma mater), and member of Calvary Baptist Church, Erwin, is aware of the growing trend of growing waistlines of Southern Baptist pastors and is currently working in his own local association to educate and assist pastors with this issue. One of Florence's own motivations for going into public health was the death of his brother by heart attack at 37.

The article also reports that a Purdue University study released in 2006 found that Southern Baptists are 30 times more likely to be obese than non-Christians, and are more obese than any other Christian denomination.

For some helpful information about your personal health, the following websites may be referenced (these are listed through the Tennessee Baptist Convention):

How though does a pastor address the issue of gluttony from the pulpit? When was the last time you heard a preacher address this issue on Sunday morning from a Southern Baptist church? Certainly much care needs to be used, but simply avoiding the issue because it will hurt peoples' feelings is not the proper choice either.

I recently listened to two messages on gluttony preached by Paul Matthies at The Village Church. You can find these two sermons in IPod by selecting Podcasts, Religion & Spirituality, The Village Church. They are sermons 37 and 38, Defeating Gluttony and Defining Gluttony. These sermons provide some clear thinking on gluttony, and may help you to think about the issue more comprehensively.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

San Antonio Convention in Review Part 6

The most controversial aspect of this year's Convention was the debate and vote concerning the motion made by Rick Garner concerning the BF&M 2000. The motion reads:

I move that this convention adopts the statement of the Executive Committee issued in February of this year, and included in the Executive's report found in the 2007 Book of Reports, page 17, which reads 'The Baptist Faith and Message is neither a creed, nor a complete statement of our faith, nor final and infallible; nevertheless, we further acknowledge that it is the only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and such is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention.'

The intent behind the motion was to prohibit trustees serving on SBC agencies from requiring additional theological agreements beyond those published and adopted in the BF&M 2000. The incident which started this protest/movement was first the adopting of two additional theological policies by the trustees of the International Mission Board (IMB).

The two additional policies prohibited from missionary service through the IMB anyone who practiced a Private Prayer Language, and anyone who did not meet four requirements concerning Baptism. Any potential IMB missionary had to meet the following criteria:

1. Baptism is for a believer.
2. Baptism is by immersion only.
3. Baptism is not regenerative.
4. Must have been baptized in a church which believes in eternal security.

The first three points are nearly universally agreed upon by all Southern Baptists today. However, the fourth point drew considerable protest.

In order for a Baptism to be legitimate does a local church have to be perfect in its theological views? If only on certain theological points, then who gets to decide which ones are necessary and which ones are not?

A considerable protest movement started due in no small part to one trustee of the IMB who protested the adoption of these policies. Skipping over a lot of incidents, the debate has turned into whether or not trustees ought to add additional theological positions which must be met and believed that go beyond the BF&M 2000 in order for a Southern Baptist to serve in any of the Southern Baptist Agencies?

There was not much time for debate on the motion due mostly to the way Convention politics and schedules work. So many people who wanted to speak to this motion were not able to be heard and a motion to extend the time of debate was defeated.

The motion passed with 2137 (57.7%) votes for and 1565 (42.2%) against. I voted against the motion for mainly one reason. I did not think this was the best way to correct the policies adopted by the IMB or guard against future policies which further restrict who can serve in our agencies.

As a few of the Presidents of our Seminaries pointed out, the BF&M 2000 is not a sufficient document in and of itself to govern exhaustively the process of hiring a potential professor. There are abundant issues which should be asked of potential teachers on issues of theology and ethics which are not addressed in the BF&M 2000. So in my interpretation of the motion made by Rick Garner, I believed we would have been putting the trustees in a impossible situation of hiring the best teachers without the necessary tools because we would be limiting what must be agreed upon by a potential employee to such an extent that it certainly would endanger them because of a higher risk of selecting someone who may disagree with most Baptists on ethical issues not addressed specifically in the BF&M 2000.

My thinking is this: The best way to combat particular policies is to address them each specifically. If one does not agree with the IMB policy prohibiting a Southern Baptist from serving through the IMB if he or she has a PPL then, put that issue alone to a Convention vote.
IF one does not like the baptism/eternal security issue, then change it by bringin it for a vote at the Convention.

Had each issue (PPL and Baptism/eternal security) been addressed specifically, then I would have been more inclined to vote against the IMB policies.

In light of the adoption of the motion, the leading figure in the protest has made it clear that his view is if Seminaries want to ask for further agreement on other issues when hiring new professors then let the Seminaries bring it before the Convention. However, this seems unfeasible to me. The Convention was not designed so that Seminaries could bring every potential hire before it and get permission for every single issue not addressed in the BF&M 2000.

However, some have pointed out that the motion could be interpreted in at least two ways. The protest movement inteprets the motion to say that the BF&M 2000 alone should be the trustees' guide, but others have pointed out that the motion does not state say the BF&M 2000 is the only guide for trustees.

So what now? What will come of this motion? I do not think anything really has changed. It seems clear from the messages of some of the presidents of the seminaries that they are going to continue to ask questions on more theological issues than just contained in the BF&M 2000, and will be looking for some type of agreement on those questions, which to some would be a violation of the motion adopted in San Antonio, but to others would be completely in harmony with the same motion adopted in San Antonio.