Well, the fat lady has sung. And it was one doozy of a requiem.
The 2021 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention ended Wednesday…
- False teachers, biblically problematic teachers, and women who preach to men peopled the dais at the Send Conference and several other ancillary events.
- Nary a peep was heard about NAMB requiring church planters to preach a false gospel.
- Tom Ascol’s important motion to rescind Resolution 9 was defeated.
- The Resolution on the Incompatibility of CRT/I with the Baptist Faith and Message never saw the light of day.
- James Merritt, chair of the resolutions committee, pitched a hissy fit that doctrinally sound Southern Baptists still dare to complain about CRT, and then resigned.
- And in a runoff between the most conservative candidate and the most liberal candidate, messengers opted for the latter, Ed Litton, to be their president.
That’s not a list of everything that happened, but it’s a few of the more major dismal moments.
It was not good. It is not good. And I am gobsmacked and slack-jawed over the sunshine and rainbows comments I’m seeing and hearing from a few people about the wonderful progress and decisions that were made, and that the SBC’s brightest days are ahead.
Are you kidding me? Is it truly possible to be that blind to what’s going on around you and still be able to pull your socks on every morning?
So I had a few random thoughts I wanted to share to wrap things up and bring this whole ugly nightmare of a convention to an end.
Autonomy of the Local Church
If there were ever a time to remember the autonomy of the local Southern Baptist church and be thankful for it, this is it.
While the SBC president can certainly influence the churches and direction of the Southern Baptist Convention with his bully pulpit (which only extends as far as people actually listen to him), and he does make various decisions that may indirectly affect your church, he’s not the Pope. He does not have the power to hand down edicts that your church is obligated to obey. Ostensibly, with regard to his authority, you and your church can operate in 100% defiance of everything he stands for and still be in friendly cooperation with the SBC. The same goes for SBC resolutions, all of which are non-binding upon you and your church.
CRT/I, Racial Issues, and Resolution 9
This year, the big push among doctrinally sound Southern Baptists was to repudiate Critical Race Theory/Intersectionality.
Tom Ascol made an important motion to rescind 2019’s Resolution 9 which affirmed CRT as a “useful analytical tool” for dealing with issues of race. His motion was ruled procedurally out of order because previous years’ resolutions cannot be rescinded.
Disturbingly, the resolutions committee declined to present the Resolution on the Incompatibility of Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality with the Baptist Faith and Message – which was spearheaded by SBC presidential candidate, Mike Stone (and co-submitted by over 1300 other Southern Baptists who signed on) to the messengers to vote on. They also declined to present several other (at my last count, four) anti-CRT/I resolutions.
Instead, they put all of these into their resolutions committee Cuisinart and poured us a tall glass of watered-down Resolution 2, “On the Sufficiency of Scripture for Race and Racial Reconciliation“. Now, had this resolution been presented two years ago instead of Resolution 9, it would have been fine. Not super impactful, but fine. But in the wake of the past two years of dealing with the Resolution 9 debacle, it was a toothless, cowardly display of fence-sitting meant to placate those on the anti-CRT side and hopefully not offend those on the pro-CRT side.
And when messengers didn’t bow and scrape in thanks and obeisance to the resolutions committee for throwing them this moldy crust of bread from their royal table, but instead objected, resolutions committee chair (and former SBC president), James Merritt, went on an angry, condescending, insulting tirade.
“If some people were as passionate about the gospel as they are about [decrying] Critical Race Theory, we’d win this world to Christ tomorrow!” he shamefully bellowed.
And a significant number of messengers cheered.
Never mind that CRT is antithetical to the gospel. Never mind that it’s being taught in our seminaries and even some of our churches. And never mind that the majority of Christians most passionately against CRT are against it precisely because they are so passionate about the gospel.
If you’re a doctrinally sound Southern Baptist who sees the dangers and heresies in Critical Race Theory and you want it eradicated from the SBC, the message is clear: The leadership wants you to sit down and shut up about it. And so do a lot of your fellow Southern Baptists. They don’t care, and they’re tired of hearing about it.
Ignorance, Laziness, and
Liberalism by Default
I’m going to take a page out of James Merritt’s book and “just say this bluntly and plainly”.
Too many messengers are ignorant of the issues in the Southern Baptist Convention, the candidates for various offices, and, frankly, their Bibles, and yet they attend the annual meeting and vote in ignorance anyway, just blindly trusting whoever happens to be on stage at the moment.
You’re damaging the convention, and hurting your fellow Southern Baptists in the process, because you’re playing right into the liberals’ hand. They are using you – your ignorance and gullibility – to further their ungodly causes and ideologies. Because a lot of the people running this shebang aren’t biblically trustworthy.
They get up there and smooth talk you with the forked tongue of Eden’s serpent, and just like Eve – instead of planting both feet firmly on God’s Word, standing up to them and declaring, “Thus saith the Lord,” – you get suckered in and fall for it.
It is one thing to be ignorant1 about something. We are all ignorant about various things. But if you’re going to represent your church and your fellow Southern Baptists as a messenger, by gum, you’d better at least attempt to know what’s going on, whether or not what you’re voting on is biblical, and what the implications are going to be.
Some of you knew exponentially more about the candidates and their positions on the issues in the last U.S. presidential election than you knew about any of the candidates for president of the SBC. You wouldn’t think of going into a secular voting booth and casting a ballot for candidates or laws at the local, state, or national level without informing yourself. And when you attend your own church’s business meetings you ask questions, and you know the issues and the people you’re voting on.
Don’t you think your decisions on the issues, the president, and other leaders of your own denomination – the largest expression of the visible church in the world – deserves at least as much attention, study, and vetting as you give those other elections and issues? Is it really too much to ask that you take the responsibility of being a messenger seriously?
As I said, it’s one thing to be ignorant, but if you know you’re ignorant about a candidate or an issue, and you know you’ve been given the responsibility of representing your church and millions of other Southern Baptists by voting on that candidate or issue, and you choose not to lift a finger to inform yourself about them and what the Bible says about them, I’m sorry, but you’re being sinfully lazy.
Nowhere does the Bible ever hint that choosing to remain ignorant is a virtue. Rather Proverbs admonishes us:
The wise lay up knowledge…Proverbs 10:14a, 13:16, 18:15
Every prudent man acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly.
An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
You want to attend the convention mainly for the fellowship? Great. Have at it. Fellowship is important, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the many conferences I speak at and attend. But do it on your own dime, and don’t attend as one of your church’s allotted messengers. Give that slot to someone else who’s serious about the issues and about doing the Lord’s business at the convention.
There’s no excuse for showing up to vote at the convention without at least trying to be informed.
Just stop it.
“We just need to get back to evangelism!”
Before, during, and now, after, the annual meeting, I’ve heard a lot of people say, “We just need to get back to evangelism in the SBC and stop dividing over all these other issues.”
If you think that, you’re missing a crucial point that you need to grasp:
We should not be evangelizing anybody with a false or adulterated gospel. And that’s what “all these other issues” are about…
NAMB (the North American Mission Board) is literally adding social justice to the gospel and requiring its church planters to teach a false gospel.
False teachers – promoted, endorsed, and financed by LifeWay – have been running rampant in the SBC for decades.
Critical Race Theory foments strife, bitterness, worldliness, and unforgiveness.
Women preaching and serving as “pastors” teaches the false doctrine that, “It’s fine for God’s people to ignore Scripture and do what’s right in their own eyes.”
Just as Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos aside and corrected him when he was preaching an incomplete, incorrect gospel, these issues, and many more, need to be biblically corrected before anybody attempts to evangelize.
As Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” And Matthew 7 tells us to build our house on the rock of Christ, of sound doctrine, not on sand.
It is time to correct sin and lies before evangelizing. We must have a sure foundation ourselves, first, before we implore others to build their house on that foundation.
Evangelizing with a false gospel just makes people twice as fit for Hell as they already are.Tweet
A time to mourn…
In dealing with the devastating results of the convention, I have appreciated the Barnabases out there who have encouraged us all to remember that God is sovereign, that the true church will prevail, and so many other precious truths and promises from God’s Word. That is right and good.
But let’s not miss or ignore the fact that there’s also “a time to weep” and “a time to mourn“.
This is that time.
Just as it is appropriate to encourage and be encouraged that God’s got this, it is also totally appropriate to take some time to mourn over the visible church throwing away sound doctrine with both hands and running after sin and false doctrine.
This “time to weep and mourn” is also right and good.
From what I’m reading and hearing from scores of Southern Baptists and their pastors, a number of doctrinally sound churches are probably going to cut ties with the SBC within the next year. And who could blame them? They’ve been fighting to take the ship for years and now, they discern, there’s no ship left to take.
But many leaders in the conservative stream are urging against that, pleading with them to hang in there and fight. Rome wasn’t built in a day. After all, for how many hundreds of years did the prophets cry out to Israel to repent and return to God? Were they wasting their time?
Honestly, I think both sides make an excellent point, so I guess it’s a good thing God hasn’t called me to make the final decision on this for my tribe, my church, or my family.
So, church ladies, where do we go from here? Here’s my encouragement to you…
Should I stay or should I go?
I dealt with the question of leaving the SBC in Monday’s Mailbag article, When is it time to leave the SBC? and I still mean every word of it. If you haven’t yet read it, I urge you to do so and give the contents some prayerful consideration.
One thing I would add to that article is this: I heard from a lady who – before the convention was even over – told she was already beginning her search for a new, non-SBC church.
I would urge you not to react and make decisions out of emotionalism. If you’re in a doctrinally sound SBC church, don’t jump ship immediately. Take a bare minimum of several weeks to settle down, make an appointment with your pastor, and calmly and patiently talk to him about all of this. And, as I said in the article, make every effort to follow his leadership if at all possible.
Be prayerful and gracious.
Pray for your pastor, elders, church, and husband as they are all working through this issue. This is really going to be a tough one for pastors. No matter which way they lead their churches – to hang in there for a while and fight, or to leave immediately – somebody’s going to be upset with them.
If that somebody is you, be kind. Be patient. Be loving. If you absolutely have to leave your church, do so graciously, not making a big stink or showing your baser nature on the way out the door.
Inform, inform, inform.
Again, one of the primary weaknesses in the convention is that so many Southern Baptists are ignorant about the issues and the leadership. If you and your church decide to stay in and fight the good fight, one of the most helpful things you can do is to inform yourself and see if you can find a way to help inform others.
Ask your pastor if there’s any way you can help him or your church in that regard. You might also want to check with your local SBC association and (if he’s favorably disposed) ask the Director if there’s anything you can do (write a regular column in the newsletter, organize an informational event, etc.) to help Southern Baptists in your area get informed.
There are two organizations I would suggest you and your church follow and/or join to keep abreast of the issues: Founders Ministries and the Conservative Baptist Network. (Founders is more Calvinistic, and CBN is more traditionalist, but both are open to and friendly toward everyone.) And you should probably follow Tom Buck on Twitter, too.
What about the offering plate?
If your church is Southern Baptist, it is, by definition, contributing financially to the SBC at the national level. That’s a requirement for being “in friendly cooperation” (affiliated) with the SBC.
Most churches give a percentage of their offerings to the Cooperative Program, which is sort of like a “general fund” from which monies are disbursed to various entities of the SBC: IMB, NAMB, the six seminaries, the ERLC, Guidestone Finanacial Resources, and the Executive Committee.
Over the last few years, a significant number of churches decided they could no longer, in good conscience, financially support the ERLC due to its worldly stances and unbiblical actions. So instead of sending their offerings in to the Cooperative Program, they sent the money directly to SBC entities they felt more comfortable supporting.
But if you’ve been keeping up with the issues, you know that CRT is being taught in our seminaries, NAMB is attaching social justice to the gospel, I’d bet you dollars to doughnuts that there are unbiblical issues afoot at IMB (you’ll have to do the research on that one), and then there’s the ERLC.
Maybe you’re not comfortable with your family’s offerings going to the Cooperative Program or a particular entity(s). What to do?
First, you need to talk to your pastor or the head of your finance committee and find out exactly where your church’s offerings are going. If you learn they’re going to the Cooperative Program or to any entity you know is promoting something unbiblical, discuss your concerns with your pastor. He may not be aware of the issues (although he should be). Perhaps he will lead your church to alter its giving to the SBC in a way that aligns with your conscience.
If not, and your conscience will not allow you to financially contribute to the SBC at the national level the way your church has currently designated, ask your pastor for his advice about earmarking your family’s offerings to support your own church and other non-SBC ministries your church supports.
If your church is looking for an alternative to NAMB and IMB but still wants to support missions, may I suggest two?
The Master’s Academy International (TMAI) – TMAI originated with The Master’s Seminary (Grace Community Church / John MacArthur) and trains indigenous pastors to plant and pastor churches in their native countries. Not only is this ministry doctrinally sound, it is much more efficient and economical to train a pastor who already lives in the area, and knows the people, culture, and language, than it is to train and relocate an American to a foreign country.
Heartcry Missionary Society – Founded by Paul Washer, Heartcry’s approach is very similar to TMAI’s: training, supporting, and supplying materials to indigenous pastors and missionaries.
Be a pal
If you’ve already left the SBC, or were never in it, I need to let you know that angrily ranting and raving that doctrinally sound Christians should have left the SBC years ago, smug “I told you so’s,” and strutting how great your denomination or non-denominational status is, are not helping anybody.
Many of your Southern Baptist brothers and sisters are basically mourning the death of the only way of church life, polity, and ecclesiastical structure and connection they’ve ever known.
I’m not trying to exaggerate, here.
I’ve been a Southern Baptist since the day I was born, and I’ve been an active, invested member of one Southern Baptist church or another all of my 52 years. I grew up in GA’s and Acteens, taught Mission Friends, did my time in BYW and WMU, and faithfully gave to Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon every year. I attended a Southern Baptist university, was a Southern Baptist minister of music’s wife, and my husband attended an SBC seminary. I served as our local association’s prayer coordinator, VBS music trainer, and discipleship conference planner and speaker. I helped plant a Southern Baptist church. I’ve provided the special music for our local associational meetings, and served as a messenger at both associational and national SBC annual meetings. And I’ve been doing everything I can for the past thirteen years of blogging, speaking, and podcasting to raise awareness about the issues in the SBC and call for a return to scriptural fidelity.
This has been my life. And it hurts. And I’m sure others feel the same way.
Yes, we know that local church life will go on – probably even better – after the SBC, that independent churches and other denominations are great, that God doesn’t need the SBC, yada yada yada.
But for crying out loud, give us a minute to grieve and gather ourselves.
Give a hug. A kind, supportive word. An “I’m praying for you…your church…the SBC.” Just…be a pal.
It’s been a rough week for the SBC and those of us still in it. Will the convention ever repent and return to obedience to Scripture? Only time will tell, and only God knows.
The “Get Out Now” Perspective:
SBC 2021: What Went Wrong and Can it Be Recovered? by Jon Harris on the Conversations that Matter podcast
8 Reasons to Leave the SBC by Jon Harris on the Conversations that Matter podcast
Russell Fuller on the State of the SBC by Jon Harris on the Conversations that Matter podcast
The “Stay In and Fight – Here’s How” Perspective:
The 2021 Southern Baptist Convention: What Just Happened? by Tom Ascol for Founders Ministries
Breaking Down the SBC Annual Meeting, Pastor Mike Stone Joins Us on Wretched with Todd Friel
How SBC Churches May Discriminately Support Convention Causes by Tom Ascol for Founders Ministries
Five Things Concerned Southern Baptist Churches Can Do Right Now by Tom Ascol for Founders Ministries
#SBC21 Shenanigans: Resolution 9, President Ed Litton, Whistleblowers and a Watching World on The Sword and The Trowel Podcast
1The word “ignorant” isn’t pejorative. It simply means you don’t know something. Again, we are all ignorant of a great many things in life, myself included.