Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Your Friendly SBC Calvinist and Elder Rule

Consider the case of FBC Micanopy, Florida, a sad tale of a true elder ruled church.

Associated Baptist Press reports on the case:
Court refuses to intervene in church dispute over elder rule

The local paper wrote up the original conflict back in 2008:
Micanopy Baptist church splits in two

According to Wayne Harvey, director of missions for the Santa Fe River Baptist Association, the debate about how a church should be governed is not new.

"We ought to go to the Bible, of course, and there were some decisions made by elders and some were made by the congregation, but it's difficult to say for certain that there was elder rule or there was pure democracy," Harvey said.

Harvey said that while some of the 45 congregations that are members of the Santa Fe River Baptist Association have elected elders who make decisions, none of them have elder rule in which the position holders make all the decisions.

"First Micanopy is the only one that has elder rule," Harvey said. "They left our association last November."

Need it be said to SBC congregations, Pastor Search Committees and Associational Missionaries that if a pastoral candidate or staff minister brings up the matter of elders, they should be extremely wary...lest they follow the sad path of FBC Micanopy?

Some in the SBC have taken to designating around what they see as too much calvinism in SBC entities. Some blogging voices have sounded alarms on elder rule in SBC life.

Oh, and the current pastor of the church is a McArthur seminary grad, fully steeped in Calvinistic Christianity, I suppose and called by the church's elders.

Can't Calvinists start their own churches, after their own elder rule design, according to what suits McArthur et al, and not mess up perfectly good existing churches?

Two eyebrows raised...permanently.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Harvey said that while some of the 45 congregations that are members of the Santa Fe River Baptist Association have elected elders who make decisions, none of them have elder rule in which the position holders make all the decisions.

'First Micanopy is the only one that has elder rule,' Harvey said. 'They left our association last November.'"

The reference you post states that though churches within the association have elders, this church is the ONLY one that was elder-ruled. This hardly gives you grounds to paint the majoirty of SBC Calvinists with the elder-rule brush. Your disgust of SBC Calvinists continues to blind you to their actual positions.

Anonymous said...

Why don't SBC Calvinists just admit that they are closet conservative Presbyterians? They want Presbyterian doctrine. They want Presbyterian church structure in the with boards of Elders just like in a Presbyterian church. What then really makes them Baptists?

Debbie Kaufman said...

Why don't SBC Calvinists just admit that they are closet conservative Presbyterians? They want Presbyterian doctrine. They want Presbyterian church structure in the with boards of Elders just like in a Presbyterian church. What then really makes them Baptists?






Because it's simply not true. We are Southern Baptists. First it was those who had a private prayer language, then women professors and as was predicted Calvinists now. Who next? Some just like to keep stirring the pot and aren't happy unless it's being stirred. And it's the pot stirrers with skewed facts that are going against scripture not Calvinists.

Debbie Kaufman said...

What makes us Baptists? We can affirm the Baptist message 2000.

William Thornton said...

The point of my article, anonymous calvinist, was that there are enough examples of difficulty in established SBC churches for churches to be wary when the matter is raised.

It may be that a calvinist who wants to overlay elders onto his traditional pastor/deacon/congregation church does not intend to go for all out elder rule, a la FBC Micanopy, but a church would be foolish not to scrutinize the proposal in the light of experiences like FBCM's.

And, anonymous non-calvinist, you can certainly be Calvinist and Baptist at the same time...shoot, you can even be Christian and Baptist at the same time ;).

And, thank you Debbie Kaufmann, for a non-anonymous comment.

Anonymous said...

It's kinda funny, but not really that Calvinist screech that this kinda thing is absolutely positively not happening and where's your proof any way nah nah boo boo. Here you have documented evidence of Calvinist going into a church and actually revoking membership of members who don't tow the party line, but of course this is just some made up antiCalvinist story!

SBC Calvinist = Presbyterians who dunk!

Jonathan said...

The concern over Calvinism in SBC life is a well established Plodder hobby horse. The example he points to here is a good one to use to stoke the fires.

My reading of the story is that 1) a group of church leaders made changes to the church's bylaws that strengthened their authority over church decision making and 2) did so in a secretive way designed to all but squelch dissent.

In its essence, this is similar to what happened at FBC Jax, Bellevue, and a number of other churches during a time of leadership transition.

Debbie Kaufman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Debbie Kaufman said...

Anon: And you have non-Calvinists doing the same thing. Revoking membership of those who don't tow the party line. Both are wrong. I don't believe in Elder rule nor do I belong in a church who is elder ruled although we teach predominately Calvinist . We have both Calvinist and non-Calvinist as members and are congregational ruled. My point in writing this is that I am not against elder ruled, but am against the abuse that causes. Don't throw all calvinists in the same basket. This should be addressed on a case by case basis, not in all Calvinists are not Southern Baptist. That is simply not true.

You are welcome William. :) I'm too brave for my own good, but I believe in standing by ones words and not anonymity.

Anonymous said...

My eyebrows are raised much more quickly when I hear people say things like "A church is a democracy" or "we are run by our deacons."

I have no problem whatsoever with a church having elders since its Biblical. Perhaps those that think business meetings are Biblical ought to go back study the text a bit more.

In reality, a church should be a theocracy since it belongs to HIM.

Anonymous said...

Of course Debbie, Calvinist never do anything wrong. All those stories of people being victimized by Calvinist are flat out lies except when you are faced with actual substantiated proof then it's the childish "both sides do it so there!"

William Thornton said...

One of the reasons I like many things about SBC calvinists is because some of them are emminently reasonable, intelligent, and congenial like Jonathan, whose point is well taken.

While I don't mind anonymous comments under most circumstances, I would ask them not to get in to a slugfest with each other. Thanks.

Scott Shaffer said...

No doubt about it, there is a connection between Calvinism and plurality of elders (notice I didn’t say elder-rule or elder-led). Whether it is because they take their cues from Calvin, Presbyterians, John MacArthur (you misspelled his name), Mark Dever, or the Bible doesn’t alter this fact.

The issue is not elders per se, after all, most people agree that pastor, bishop/overseer, and elder are synonymous NT terms. Furthermore, the issue shouldn’t be whether churches should have a plurality of pastors, elders, or whatever you choose to call them. After all, many SBC churches that would never dream of having ‘elders’, have no problem with having several ‘pastors’ on staff. In many of these churches the deacons function similar to elders in Reformed Baptist Churches.

I agree with The Plodder that there are two main issues in SB life in this regard.

1. When a particular form of church government eliminates congregationalism. It’s hard to see how that squares with the BF&M. When is this most likely to occur? In SBC circles, it’s when your pastor is a Calvinist. This certainly isn’t a sure thing, but the probability is higher than if you had an non-Calvinist pastor.
2. Should pastors be transparent about their view on this issue when they are candidating? Absolutely. Why wouldn’t they? Having said that, I think it is perfectly legitimate to say, “I think Scripture teaches churches should have a plurality of elders/pastors, and their job is to oversee, lead, and shepherd the flock, while the congregation is intimately involved in making key ministry decisions. Nevertheless, I don’t see this as an issue worth dividing over and would not recommend this direction if the flock doesn’t support it.”

As an aside, there is clearly a difference between elder-led and elder-ruled. Those who refuse to see it just aren’t looking close enough. Who hasn’t heard of a pastor-ruled or deacon-ruled church that effectively shuts out the congregation from decision making? Just because a church has an elder board does not mean they don’t have a congregational form of government. There is also some gray area between being an elder/pastor-ruled and elder/pastor-led church. Namely, what decisions can church leaders make without congregational approval? Everyone draws the line in a different spot. After all, many SBC congregations don’t elect their pastors, they just let the senior pastor hire his own pastor/elder.

Anonymous said...

To me "elder rule" is a flag word. Clarity needs to be in play on what an assembly means by "elder rule." Sadly is this where postmodernism has led us to in the assemblies? Where the authority of the Word of God seems so obscure and elders are scared to be challenged by it like in issues of tithing? Torah specifics state you have to be from the tribe of Levite to inherit the tithe, but men like Patterson will charge struggling seminarian as poor because they don't tithe.

danielmharding said...

...and Micanopy is such a beautiful area of Central Florida. In fact if Ocala was not in Central Florida it would probably be the prettiest part of Florida. As a teenager there was a road to Micanopy that I traveled weekly - usually at a high rate of speed. Even then the beauty amazed me and years later I made it a point to ride that road again with my wife.

As for Calvinism, elder-rule/led/cajoled, etc I must say that a man who is disingenuous with his beliefs will be manipulative and deceitful in his actions.

Could the issue be our seminaries? Not necessarily the Calvinism or even the Elderism but rather the mindset that students leave with. I fear that many are leaving with an absolutism in their beliefs that are yet to be tested in their interaction and work with others. I don't know that it helps that many of our high-profile seminary leaders are known for their "stances" on certain issues. I don't mind knowing these leaders stance but I want to know that there is more depth to them than that.

danielmharding said...

...and Micanopy is such a beautiful area of Central Florida. In fact if Ocala was not in Central Florida it would probably be the prettiest part of Florida. As a teenager there was a road to Micanopy that I traveled weekly - usually at a high rate of speed. Even then the beauty amazed me and years later I made it a point to ride that road again with my wife.

As for Calvinism, elder-rule/led/cajoled, etc I must say that a man who is disingenuous with his beliefs will be manipulative and deceitful in his actions.

Could the issue be our seminaries? Not necessarily the Calvinism or even the Elderism but rather the mindset that students leave with. I fear that many are leaving with an absolutism in their beliefs that are yet to be tested in their interaction and work with others. I don't know that it helps that many of our high-profile seminary leaders are known for their "stances" on certain issues. I don't mind knowing these leaders stance but I want to know that there is more depth to them than that.

Anonymous said...

A deacon friend of mine who past on for four years now, had a strong pastor from the conservative resurgence movement in the SBC take over as pastor in their assembly. He said that he was a very good preacher but really seem to struggle in knowing how to be a good pastor. That pastor ended moving back to a church an area where he grew up.

Anonymous said...

William,

Have you read Lemke's latest entry into his Baptist distinction series? He argues, among several other things, that the plurality of elders trend that has stemmed from Mark Dever's ministry does not transgress the confines of the Baptist Faith and Message, but is a legitimate form of congregationalism and a legitimate expression of Southern Baptist polity. In the article, he distinguishes carefully between the variations in which the term elder is employed. If you would stop painting Southern Baptist Calvinists as those who hold to elder-rule and recognize that those who hold to elder-rule represent few Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike in the SBC, you would find a friend in Southern Baptist Calvinists, who are even more passionate about congregationalism than many non-Calvinists, even if these Calvinists do express their congregationalism in the form that they have come to believe is biblical through Mark Dever's ministry and through seminary professors.

William Thornton said...

I haven't read it anon 7:27 but will.

And it is a mistake to presume that since I use some examples of Calvinists gone awry, that I intend to make broad generalizations about all SBC Calvinists.

There is enough evidence in my view to cause SBC churches and pastor search committees to be careful when considering Calvinists for positions in their church.

Debbie Kaufman said...

And we will always disagree with that assertion William. Looking at Calvinists as a threat even in bringing elder rule is unfounded in my opinion and I will answer anonymous's charge as yes I see antedoctal stories that have no facts behind them. So no I do not believe that Calvinists have done the damage that William and others claim. I have seen no clear evidence to support these claims.

Hysteria is an ugly thing and I think because of it, more and more Calvinists will have a place in leadership. With the growing number of people turning Calvinist, it's almost inevitable that Calvinists will get hired as ministers(which is a good thing) and into leadership positions. Al Mohler is a Calvinist and in leadership. Having been in such a place for quite some time.

William Thornton said...

Debbie, anecdotal doesn't mean fictional and I don't think the main facts of this case are in dispute. I grant you or anyone the point that isolated cases cannot be taken to presume broad application, a point I have never asserted.

Debbie Kaufman said...

William: But sometimes it does mean fictional. 1. You have been in the SBC long enough to know tht character assasination with no proof occurs all the time. 2.I have heard no recordings, seen no video, read nothing in the form of actual proof that these assertions are true. That is what is needed if I am going to believe these stories.

Scott Shaffer said...

You mean like the newspaper article William cited in the original post?

First Baptist Church of Micanopy said...

Finally, someone on the web besides me taking notice of our situation.

For details you WON'T find in the media, please visit our temporary web page (kindly put up by one of our younger members):
http://www.angelfire.com/whittenwords/fbcm/

and our facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/First-Baptist-Church-of-Micanopy/150196138406196