Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Unity Through Purity

Restoration to doctrinal purity and a renewed sense of unity in the churches of our Association were our goals. Unity must always be one of our highest priorities; but it must never eclipse the priority of doctrinal purity.

The two sentences above come from the document described as “Article Concerning SBA Messengers' Decision Regarding Flat Rock Baptist Church which is found on the Surry Baptist Association website here. The authors are Dr. Joel Stephens, pastor of Westfield Baptist Church and Vice-Moderator of the SBA, and Rev. Jim Richland, associate pastor of Westfield Baptist Church and chairman of the Membership Committee of the SBA.

It's a pretty standard conservative treatment of the matter of women as senior pastors. I wouldn't quibble too much about it - standard, sterile, boilerplate seminary classroom stuff.

Unity through purity.  Work with me here, brethren: An antidote to doctrinal miscegenation?

I know the intent. There are things we must share in order to be grouped together in associations, state conventions, and the SBC. I don't argue that Surry can draw their lines anywhere they doggone well please. I just wouldn't vote to draw it as they have.

Of the list of requirements for overseer in 1 Timothy 3, referenced in the document linked above, at least half a dozen are always, always, violated by some pastors of some churches in every association I have ever been around. There's not an association in the SBC, anywhere, that this very day does not have at least one "quarrelsome" pastor in it. So, they get a pass? And you wouldn't have to look hard to find a pastor who is a "lover of money." Greedy with impunity?  Guess so.

Which doctrinaire associational officer, which membership committee in pursuit of purity will lead the charge to excise quarrelsome and greedy pastors from among us? Sixteen days, the length of time it took to get rid of the church which called a pastor with long blonde hair and lipstick along with her seminary degree, is too long for any quarrelsome pastor in an association.

Consider the thinking here: The association claims grave harm by one of its churches which called a female pastor. The offending church has damaged the unity in the association. The happy Baptist ship of Surry has been rocked.

The association as victim.

Plodder is not there yet. I can't see the poor pastors in the association and the unfortunate DOM wrapping themselves in the mantle of victimhood - the Woefully Beleaguered Majority.

One might reasonably conclude that the more damaged party is the church and their new pastor. Bailey Edwards Nelson shows up for her first Sunday at Flat Rock Baptist Church and that very week the church is notified that associational expulsion action is pending. There's your victim.

Consider more of the thinking here, words of the Dr. and Rev. named above:

Sadly, those in leadership at Flat Rock Baptist Church have chosen a different path. As you may have heard, the Surry Baptist Association‟s Membership Committee invited the leadership of Flat Rock to meet to discuss this situation. Flat Rock refused their invitation and thereby closed the door on any reconciliation with the Association. For that reason, a motion was presented to the messengers of the Surry Baptist Association last Monday to withdraw the SBA‟s affiliation with Flat Rock Baptist Church. The motion passed by a very large majority.

‘We-hate-it-but-they-forced-us-to-do-it’ Got it. “We hate it…we didn’t want to do it…they made us do it.” What’s next, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.”

What’s that hollow ring I’m hearing?

Nonetheless, the deed is done, done badly perhaps, but done.

So, when can we hear from the estimated 20% from that associational meeting who voted against the expulsion of the church?

8 comments:

tikesbestfriend.com said...

We won't hear very much from that %20. Regular southern baptists don't seem to be the type to rock the boat. Our leaders though, the Loud Large and In Charge crowd have already had their way.

Tends to be the circle of sbc life.

Tim

Jonathan said...

"There's not an association in the SBC, anywhere, that this very day does not have at least one "quarrelsome" pastor in it. So, they get a pass? And you wouldn't have to look hard to find a pastor who is a "lover of money." Greedy with impunity? Guess so."

I'm reminded of Dr. Mohler's "A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity" where he places the issue of women in the pastorate as a second-order doctrine. I went back to re-read his comments and I didn't see a single reference to quarrelsome or money grubbing pastors but I came away assuming that he would consider these to be second-order doctrines as well.

What I don't get is that second-order doctrines are appropriate for tests of fellowship. Perhaps they are; perhaps they should be. If so there is sufficient evidence that we're not utilizing all second-order doctrines as a test.

One particular comment by Dr. Mohler weighs heavily on how this issue is even discussed:

"The mark of true liberalism is the refusal to admit that first-order theological issues even exist. Liberals treat first-order doctrines as if they were merely third-order in importance, and doctrinal ambiguity is the inevitable result."

My takeaway here is that the tag of liberalism is appropriate only with regard to first-order issues. In other words, a liberal would be one who treats first-order doctrines ("the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture") as third-order ("over which Christians may disagree and remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations").

Yet, we're all aware that disagreements over even 2nd order doctrines tend to result in the use of "liberal" as a label.

At the end of the day, I recognize the autonomy of an association of churches to establish their own boundaries for fellowship. But I join William in noting the inconsistency of application here. This is inconsistent is a component of the Baptist heritage that I could do without.

Tom Parker said...

Jonathan:

That word Liberal has been way overused in SBC life. But it is the kiss of death in many circumstances for anyone who can be portrayed this way by others.

Anonymous said...

Some pastors may become "money grubbers" because of the way they are treated and paid by their church members. Just because some are rich doesn't mean they all are.

Stephen Fox said...

As for first order theological issues, NPR report this morning as discussed in SBC Trends at Baptistlife.com pretty much placed the deathknell on Mohler's constructions.
One fellow conservative evangelical says fundamentalists (mohler by implication) have a bad history of eating their own young.
Google the story on Mohler and Adama and Eve and the Garden at NPR Morning Edition.

Or better just click on my name with this comment and read the story right away.
Mohler's hierarchy about liberals and first through third order and ambiguity and such is being seen more clearly by folks in his own world for the nonsense it is.
Again he needs to bone up with read of Marilynne Robinson if he hopes to get back to the diapason.
His false orthodoxy is getting to be ridiculous.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

William - masterpiece. You hit it on the head:

"Of the list of requirements for overseer in 1 Timothy 3, referenced in the document linked above, at least half a dozen are always, always, violated by some pastors of some churches in every association I have ever been around. There's not an association in the SBC, anywhere, that this very day does not have at least one "quarrelsome" pastor in it. So, they get a pass? And you wouldn't have to look hard to find a pastor who is a "lover of money." Greedy with impunity? Guess so."

Bravo.

Anonymous said...

And I'm sure that bloggers should be the ones evaluating the spirituality of pastors around the country. One blog in particular sure thinks that's his job.

Anonymous said...

Mr Thornton-
You make excellent points about pastor's who do not live up to or break the other qualifications for a pastor. I do not beieve a wman should be a pastor, but as you have stated there are a whole bunch of men who are pastoring and are not qualified to do so.
But, I, as a baptist, believe in the autonomy of the local baptist church. If a church desires to have a female pastor, then so be it. I do not have to attend that church. If they are receiving any funds from the local association or state or national convention, what business is it of mine.
Kyle