In Part I, you will notice that I referenced a story which moved me to tears as I thought of the heartache and grueling decisions that had to be made to right a wrong. It seems that anytime something needs to be righted it does take heartache and tough decisions. Well, as I re-visit a situation that is current in SBC life I find myself asking the same question that is the title of this post–How Could it Be?
It all began for me in November 2005. I read of accounts of a trustee with the IMB stepping forward and making public items that were discussed in private. It seems that the news was not concerned about a trustee publicly releasing items discussed in private as they were about the issue of “dissent”. This dissent, was something that we Baptist hold dear and here was a trustee that was being squashed, according to the various press coverage, by the system that wanted to keep people under their thumb. The first thing I asked myself had to do with the direction the President, Dr. Jerry Rankin, wanted to go in the matter. The reason I wanted to find Dr. Rankin’s position had to do with the items the trustee was classifying as the “narrowing of parameters”. One doctrine was the doctrine of a Private Prayer Language (PPL). You see, this was something that was revealed to the SBC world about Dr. Jerry Rankin at the time he was announced as the choice of the FMB (Foreign Mission Board is what the International Mission Board was once called.). However, and the way that Dr. Rankin’s election to the post was satisfied, it was agreed that this would never be an issue for Dr. Rankin because he always had this in the privacy of his own devotional life. He never taught this doctrine, and because he only used it privately, it would never be an issue in terms of his employment.
After a period of time there were news reports about a public blog where this trustee opined wildly about the Conservative Resurgence and used some very harsh language concerning Crusading Conservatives. To his credit the trustee went back and changed some of the language as to not make it so harsh. However, this post was a gauntlet being thrown down for the rest of the Board of Trustees and across the convention.
From the IMB decision arose a group of concerned Southern Baptist that this person was being falsely accused and should be protected. This group came together in Memphis and placed in writing the Memphis Declaration. This is where the subtle change in the message was placed in writing to rally the masses. In this story we see the beginnings of information management as the media is manipulated for the cause. The change, you will notice in the story, has moved from the right of public dissent to the narrowing of parameters.
Thus, it seems that we have this tragic accident that has happened–for the first time in the history of the SBC a trustee has been recommended to be removed–some say for reasons of revealing private information and others say it is because of the trustee’s desire to dissent. However, we now see the rallying cry of this group and that is the “narrowing of parameters”. People flocked to the defense of this trustee for various reasons, but I will narrow (no pun intended) it to two. One, has to do with Doctrine. There were some, and I believe the majority of those that jumped on this ambulance, that saw the IMB policies as going outside the BF&M. These policies were implemented, we were told, by a small group of people that were Landmark in their doctrine and wanted to narrow the parameters to meet some Landmark doctrinal position. This position, we were told, was being implemented in order to accomplish two things. First it would keep the SBC under the control of a few people, mainly one sitting as President of another entity in Texas. Second, it would get rid of Dr. Rankin at the IMB something, we were told, was a desire of a small few in leadership on the IMB BoT.
We go into the 2006 convention in Greensboro with the rallying cry of cooperation and CP giving is huge. The presidential candidate is Dr. Ronnie Floyd, and his commitment to the SBC is called into question because of the less than 1% CP giving ratio of the church he pastors. While Dr. Floyd certainly could have done much better in his CP giving ratio we must remember that his SBC commitment is seen in his giving directly to the various entities. Could it be that Dr. Floyd’s CP giving isn’t as much of a picture of his commitment to the SBC as it is his disagreement with Arkansas Baptist giving plan? However, Dr. Floyd was painted as some out of touch Mega-church pastor that could care less about anyone else. Also, when Dr. Paige Patterson and Dr. Al Mohler endorsed Dr. Floyd the die had been cast. It now was argued that the narrowing of parameters was in full force. Since the IMB has brought about PPL and Baptism as an issue, the Calvinist are next to be voted out. That was the banner cry heading into the 2006 convention.
Dr. Frank Page is the nominee that Burleson shopped around to find. With the seemingly endorsement of Dr. Morris Chapman, this group met in their hotel suite with their new President and laid hands on and anointed their new leaders that would help them implement the changes they so desperately wanted. However, there was emerging within the leaders of this group a curious doctrinal deficiency that Southern Baptist held tenaciously onto in the past that those who signed on were about to notice. One was alcohol, and the other was ecclesiology.
At the 2006 convention Ben Cole, a leader at the Memphis convocation, along with Tom Ascol, President of the Calvinist organization Founders Ministry, argued in support of a resolution on alcohol. This argument elicited some excitable statements by veteran SBC observers. I remember sitting in the SEBTS alumni luncheon on that Wednesday and hearing Dr. Danny Akin express his distress at sitting in a SBC convention meeting and hearing SBC pastors argue for the use of alcohol as a social beverage. The icing on the cake for this convention was the blog post by the trustee that was supposed to be tragically attacked in this narrowing of parameters scene, where he purportedly used wine as a device to lead someone to Christ. People who thought they were signing onto a movement with other Biblical inerrantist were beginning to question exactly who exactly this was.
Ecclesiology became another area that was beginning to come to the forefront. It seems that it began with the idea that the seating of the universal church was in the present. It has now moved to the offices of the local church and how there is no prohibition in gender for the Senior Pastor. It seems that the argument of the local church has moved forward in the same principles of the alcohol argument. The alcohol argument was basically, you cannot find in the Bible ‘Thou shalt not drink’. The argument for the local church has moved from, you cannot find in the Bible, ‘the local church is my church’ and since that is not there, you certainly cannot find that the Senior Pastor is not an office in the Scripture. Thus, if the Senior Pastor is not referenced in Scripture, there can be no prohibitions on the office because the Bible doesn’t even mention the office.
This brings me to the conclusion of this post. It seems that many who were commenting in the beginning trying to defend this trustee now are no longer defending. Why is that? Well as in Part I of this series, the Van Ryn family realized this young lady they had nurtured back to health for five weeks was not part of their immediate family, it seems that statements and positions by this former trustee indicate this is not part of the immediate family–doctrinally. The real problem in question has to do with things being said. In a comment stream here (second comment to a John), he says that he voted against the BF&M 2000. But, in a post here (in the opening paragraph), he says that he voted for the BF&M 2000. Regardless of that inconsistency, that gives the appearance that the former trustee will say whatever he needs to say in order to favor his audience, there is now a promotion of women pastors. Many who once said, I am for you and will follow, are now having to reassess their positions.
As the Van Ryn’s some are now saying, you must believe I am an idiot because I cannot identify someone that is an inerrantist. The Cerak family responded with love and compassion toward their family because they knew what they were feeling as they realized that the daughter they thought was theirs was alive, but was in reality dead. Both families came away from this tragedy stronger in their faith and much more in love with our Lord. But they acknowledged that one they thought was their family, in reality was not.
It is the same with some that responded to what you perceived was a tragedy, but you now realize that the injured was not part of the doctrinal family you have known as the SBC. Allow me to commend you on nurturing our Brother and being there for him. However, it is okay for you to now acknowledge what he has acknowledged–he does not embrace the BF&M 2000. Some may still be hanging on because you are still hung onto the question; “How could it be?”. That is okay, also. Back away and re-look at the posts that you see coming from this blog and you will observe the doctrinal slide toward the left. Then venture to this blog and view the post by this author and you will observe the vitriol and vengeance toward an entity president that has been duly elected by the BoT who are authorized to be in their positions by the convention.
As you review and wonder about the outcome. Let me encourage you to go ahead and release these Brothers that are doctrinally members of another family. We do not desire to see harm come to them, but we must release them to their doctrinal family where they will be better nurtured and cared for simply because they are not doctrinally a part of our family.