Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sorry, the SBC isn't one mammoth megachurch...

Ah, there we go again. That old standby often dredged up by Baptists in various contexts, the one of submitting to authority, was recently raised concerning our new North American Mission Board leader. I will not identify the writer but here's the quote:

God has clearly allowed [Kevin] Ezell [new NAMB CEO] the place of authority, and now it is your job (and mine), for your own sanctification in Christ (and mine), to submit to his authority at NAMB so long as he does not violate the Scriptures.

Sorry, not true. He has authority but not over me or any church.

Another:

Ezell has authority over Southern Baptist NAMB missions; and we should submit to his authority over this… OR, at the very least, we should submit to the majority of other Southern Baptist churches that have voted in favor of the GCR.

No, un-huh, nope.

There is no principle of submission to the authority of SBC leaders, or to decisions made at any SBC annual meeting, unless you are an employee. There is no principle that requires us to swallow any new policy or strategy. There is no biblical prohibition of criticism of denominational executives or policies.

Whatever level of support we give to Kevin Ezell and NAMB, Tom Elliff and the International Mission Board, or Frank Page, or Al Mohler or any state convention executive, or any associational leader is given voluntarily.

These people have to persuade us of the value of their work and ask for support. If they create new strategies, plans and policies they cannot demand support for them. They must instead explain why is it better and ask for our support.

SBC life may be driven by megachurch people and SBC leaders may all be former megachurch people but, meganoito, God forbid that we should grant to our leaders what some megachurch members grant to their megapastor – unquestioned authority.

Nope. Things don’t work that way.

Now I have yet to hear Ezell or any of the others ask Southern Baptists to submit to their authority, nor should they. Such would be unthinkable. While SBC entity leaders have authority within their own institutions and agencies and trustees have authority over what is given to their trust, none of this extends to the tiniest SBC church or the most plodding of SBC pastors.

No pastor, church, or layperson has to submit to any SBC resolution or motion passed by any SBC body.

No pastor, church, or layperson has to submit to and therefore forego criticism of any new policy, plan, strategy or vision adopted by any of our denominational employees or entities.

Rather, for the sake of the Lord’s work which we share in common among the tens of thousands of SBC churches and millions of SBC members, we absolutely ought to speak courteously but plainly about these things.

Like the new NAMB or dislike the new NAMB. Support the changes or not. We get to choose. Criticize or praise. It’s up to us.

And concerning Kevin Ezell and the new NAMB – trustees acted in accord with their authority and responsibility in making him CEO. One may like, dislike, or be ambivalent about that decision but it is done.

I don’t see the profit in making that decision an issue going forward, just don't tell me that the Bible somehow prohibits me from making that an issue.

30 comments:

peter lumpkins said...

Oh, my my.

This must be the most ridiculous nonsense I've seen in a while, William. We are to "submit" to Ezell's 'authority'? Sweet Georgia peaches. This is where the Free Church movement is headed?

With that, I am...
Peter

Jared Moore said...

William, I'm surpised that you write this "Rather, for the sake of the Lord’s work which we share in common among the tens of thousands of SBC churches and millions of SBC members, we absolutely ought to speak courteously but plainly about these things."

This is my same argument for supporting NAMB. "For the sake of the Lord’s work which we share in common among the tens of thousands of SBC churches and millions of SBC members, we absolutely ought to speak courteously but plainly about these things," while still supporting the NAMB, IMB, seminaries, etc.

Why do you see that churches owe it to one another to speak up about disagreements with SBC entities, but you don't believe we owe it to one another to support sbc entities when the disagreements are over non-essentials?

William Thornton said...

Jared, what was said was that "we should submit to the majority of other Southern Baptist churches"...

This is mixed up thinking. Using the language of scripture and appealing to a biblical concept of submitting to authority is not valid with respect to these denominational votes. No vote of the SBC binds any SBC church to anything, nor should it.

We cannot appeal to authority to support SBC entities. Such support may be deserved or appropriate but does not flow from authority. There is a big difference.

Perhaps the problem is with the use of an inappropriate vocabulary.

Jared Moore said...

William, I'm arguing the same thing you're arguing, we should support sbc entities and sbc leaders for the sake of the gospel among our churches and its effectiveness in the world. This does not mean that we shouldn't share our concerns or disagreements with these entities. I do think however that it does mean we should support these entities even when we disagree over non-essentials.

John Fariss said...

Jared, I don't hear William denying support. What I hear him saying is that support should not be because of some perceived "authority" that NAMB, IMB, or any other Southern Baptist entity has--and it cannot be because Southern Baptists do not exist in a connectional or hierichal system like Methodists, Episcopals, Catholics, or many other denominations. I hear William saying "do the right thing for the right reason."

John Fariss

William Thornton said...

There's a big problem with the appeal to authority in all this Jared. Do you recognize that?

Thanks for the comments and this is a legitimate, perhaps critical, discussion to have.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Jared,

I do think however that it does mean we should support these entities even when we disagree over non-essentials.

If you really believe this, then you should express your discouragement with Dr. Kevin Ezell being elected President of NAMB. Why? It was Dr. Ezell that "disengaged" when he was in disagreement of "non-essentials."

Blessings,
Tim

Jared Moore said...

William, yes, I do agree that the appeal to authority is weak if we're talking about necessary submission; however, Ezell is the leader of NAMB. I think for the sake of gospel cooperation, out of respect for our brothers and sisters that voted maybe contrary to us, and the fact that we're disagreeing over non-essentials, should lead to our cooperation and support. Although I don't think it's "blind submission," but, eventually we're either going to support Ezell or not. We should share our concerns; however, since it's not a biblical issue, I think we should support him and NAMB... and encourage others to do the same.

I have yet to read any of you guys that are against the GCR come out and say, "We SHOULD support NAMB." If you have any links to such articles, I would be encouraged by them.

Tom Parker said...

Jared:

You said:"and the fact that we're disagreeing over non-essentials"

What if it is essentials?

This "authority" thing is quite a tricky item and IMO it is not a non-essential.

Arce said...

Actually, there not being "authority" is the essential for Baptists.

Tom Parker said...

Whoever said:"God has clearly allowed [Kevin] Ezell [new NAMB CEO] the place of authority, and now it is your job (and mine), for your own sanctification in Christ (and mine), to submit to his authority at NAMB so long as he does not violate the Scriptures."

Was this another way to say "God's man."

William Thornton said...

If you drop the business about submitting to authority and appeal to SBCers to give Ezell and the new NAMB a fair hearing, to eschew harsh and rancorous criticism, and to pray for them even if you disagree with some of their decisions...I'm fine with that. I'd bet that that is all any of our leaders expect.

The appeal to authority is not weak it is invalid and dangerous. That was the point of my piece here.

Mark said...

What would it mean and look like to submit to Ezell as NAMB president?

What would it mean and look like to not submit to Ezell as NAMB president?

Jared Moore said...

William, does Ezell have authority over NAMB or not?

Tom Parker said...

Jared:

I will let William answer your question of "does Ezell have authority over NAMB or not?"

But my response to that question is absolutely no he does not!

William Thornton said...

Not my issue and not exactly the language you used. It might be helpful if you explained what you mean by "we should submit to his authority over [NAMB]" along with submitting to the majority of churches voting for the GCR. The former is meaningless in our polity. The latter is inaccurate, no church voted for the GCR.

This language of submitting to authority is simply misplaced here.

Why not just give it up and say about Ezell and NAMB about what I said: "...give Ezell and the new NAMB a fair hearing, eschew harsh and rancorous criticism, and pray for them even if you disagree with some of their decisions"?

I honestly don't know why you continue to be wed to this business of submitting to authority in these contexts.

William Thornton said...

Jared, I just read your explanation over on SBCTomorrow, that "I'm referring to following a leader even when we disagree" etc.

This is not the way we operate. Again, your appeal to any biblical principle involving submission of authority in this context is misguided. We don't follow any SBC leader out of any principle of submission to authority because there are no lines of authority involved.

I honestly don't understand why you refuse to relinquish it. This is mixed up and messed up language.

Jared Moore said...

William, we're agreeing; it's just the language used is different. If you follow a leader that you disagree with, I assume you're submitting to that leader, since you're following without agreement... since it's not your idea that your following, but the idea of another.

I thought I explained what I meant over at Voices through numerous comments?

Jared Moore said...

Tom, who has authority over NAMB if Ezell does not? Who is leading NAMB, hiring and firing, etc.?

William Thornton said...

No, we're not agreeing so long as you cling to your language. Language is everything here.

There is no authority between NAMB and me or my church. I don't get a paycheck signed by the NAMB payroll guy.

Cooperation presumes the voluntary agreement between parties, not any submission out of authority.

And, please, we absolutely don't submit to the policies of our agency leaders. They persuade and we may agree, voluntarily.

Look at it this way. Following your principles we would be submitting to the moderates and liberals who controlled the convention pre-conservative resurgence.

Time to give this one up, bro. :)

Tom Parker said...

William:

You said to Jared:"Look at it this way. Following your principles we would be submitting to the moderates and liberals who controlled the convention pre-conservative resurgence.

Time to give this one up, bro. :)"

I do wonder if he has thought about this. It works both ways.

I have been a SB for 37 years and have never ever thought of submitting to any SBC leader.

It is just not Baptistic.

Jared Moore said...

We're arguing semantics.

Tom Parker said...

Jared:

I really beg to differ, it is not about semantics.

You said:"William, does Ezell have authority over NAMB or not?"

Your above statement is pretty clear what you are saying about authority.

You've got it backwards Ezell is to be a servant and not a King.

Jared Moore said...

Tom, you're being ridiculous. He's a servant that controls NAMB? Or, if it's the trustees, then they're servants that control NAMB. Otherwise, no one controls NAMB.

NAMB is indeed a servant of SBC churches, but it's not lead by you, me, or your church, or my church.

BTW: I wonder we Ezell's title is "President"? Shouldn't it be "servant"?

Anonymous said...

Noone submits to anyone's authority any longer and look at the pathetic mess we have created. Just look at the SBC and then follow it down to your local church. A sad testimony to believers who so grandly proclaim they believe in the Bible and there are specific Biblical admonitions about authority and whose authority to follow.

There's an old saying that says, "you get what you pay for" and that's sure true in the Baptist world. We are reaping what we sow and it sure does stink.

Tom Parker said...

Jared:

I for one vote for his title to be servant of NAMB instead of President.

I noticed you used the word controls 3 times in your last comment to me.

Why are you so focused on that word?

Is he the sole control of NAMB?

BTW it is not really nice to tell some one they are being ridiculous when you are having a "conversation".

Anonymous said...

The churches through their messengers choose to give the authority to the trustees and they in turn choose who will lead the organization. If you can't deal with that, then go be something other than a Southern Baptist. Sounds to me like a lot of people have a lot of problems submitting to anyone's leadership.

William Thornton said...

Megachurch pastors get to tell their members to submit to their authority. SBC leaders don't get to do this, nor have I ever heard one demand that.

The SBC is not a megachurch. There is no authority that runs between any SBC agency or institution and any pastor, church, or member.

...but keep punching that 'submit to authority' tar baby, brethren, if you wish. :)

Tom Parker said...

Anonymous:

You said:"The churches through their messengers choose to give the authority to the trustees and they in turn choose who will lead the organization. If you can't deal with that, then go be something other than a Southern Baptist. Sounds to me like a lot of people have a lot of problems submitting to anyone's leadership. "

Got to love that--"If you can't deal with that, then go be something other than a Southern Baptist." Your way or the highway.

It is obvious to me you do not understand how we as SB work together cooperatively.

This authority thing you and some others are pushing just is not going to happen--we as SB do not operate out of blindly following the lead of anyone.

tikesbestfriend.com said...

I still have people in my church that talk about tithing to the CP. From my understanding, that has been common language from my predecessors. Of course, I don't agree with it. We tithe in church, during worship, as an act of worship to our Lord. It isn't some sort of dues we pass on to the state and national bodies. But, I guess it has been helpful to create a false identity/connection between the church and denomination.

I guess what I'm saying is, the idea that the denomination "is the church" has been around for a long time. It isn't new, nor is it directly connected to the mega-churches.

Just my 2 cents.

Tim