Thursday, October 27, 2011

Kick the Calvinist church out?

Alternate title: Associations Gone Wild!

More accurately, 'Should this Calvinist church be denied membership in the local association?'

Tom Ascol called attention to the recent case of a Calvinist church in Kentucky being denied membership in the local Baptist association for being too Calvinistic.

The Kentucky paper, Western Recorder, reports the story (though you have to get to p. 3 to read it).

Associated Baptist Press does as well.

I don't see anything from Baptist Press but maybe they will get around to considering this to be news one of these days, especially since the BP boss man, Frank Page, has listed the theological divide of Calvinism and non-Calvinism as the number one challenge confronting the SBC today.

ABP has this quote from the association:
“Our concern in the initial stages of our investigation revolved around the fact that Pleasant Valley Community Church’s confessional statement is one that (is) Calvinistic in nature,” the newspaper quoted from a recommendation by the association’s credentials committee. “It affirms the doctrine of election and grace.”

“While we know the doctrine is not heresy, we do recognize that it is vastly different than the majority of churches within the DMBA,” the statement noted.

An associational pastor who supported the church's application for membership was quoted in the Western Recorder:
“In my dealings with the pastors from this church, I experienced good fellowship (and) good cooperation. These men love the word, they preach the gospel; … they are taking the gospel
around the world,” Rager told the Western Recorder. “I didn’t see any reason they shouldn’t be in the local association— whether their theology is reformed or not. I thought they would be of great benefi t to us.”
Apparently, the brethren and sistren of the association were persuaded far more by the former than the latter. The vote against acceptance was 104-9.

The church's confession of faith is a sprawling document, more a confession plus someone's musings, that makes mention of not only the historic expressions of Calvinistic doctrine but also Mark Dever, John Piper, and Santa Claus. Perhaps the church could rename the document an annotated confession of faith with bonus commentary about this that and the other.

Baptist associations are sometimes odd things. A few bombastic pastors can wield a lot of influence and perhaps there is more to this than is reported; however, I don't see a lot of profit in keeping this church out of a local association. The church remains a member of the SBC and the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

My answer to the question posed in this blog title is, "No."


Jonathan said...

This association is near where my parents live and not far from the last association where my father served as DOM.

I know some pastors in that of them contacted our family during the run up to the vote.

1st thought: the association is well within its right to accept or refuse to include a church as member.

2nd thought: associations are rapidly becoming irrelevant, or worse. Think of the last 2 or 5 stories you've read about an association of SBC churches. How many of them were about how churches, working through an association, advancing God's Kingdom in the local area?

The only positive stories that immediately come to my mind have to do with groups of laity doing disaster relief, or groups of laity ministering to the needy in multi-family housing developments, or groups of laity working with immigrants and refugees. Not a single one of these events required the participation of the associational office or the loudest "pastoral" voices in the association. If you've spent any time in associational meetings, you know precisely who these gentlemen are.

To paraphrase Thomas Friedman: The Baptist world is becoming flat. While there are hundreds, thousands of pastors who cut their teeth on the desire to move up the denominational ladder from committee assignment to committee assignment to mid-level agency management assignment to strategic coordinator to published author to conference speaker... the world has moved past them. There is no cry by the millions of motivated church members for their leadership skills outside of local church. So what remains for them? Local associational politics. Yea.

I say, "let them have it".

Meanwhile, the church that wasn't accepted will find other churches to work with, likely mostly out of the associational area.


Stephen Fox said...

It's not a good witness to go around kicking churches out of associations, or people out of churches.
I know from first hand experience of cases handled very badly.

On unrelated note, Dr. Thornton in re our conversation this morning, links about the memoir on Statham are up in the Yoknoptawpha chat at Looking forward to your review.

Anonymous said...


I don't they kicked them out because they were not ... In.

You can't kick out that which was never in.

They were denied acceptance within the Association for certain reasons.

Not knowing all the details ... I don't know if they were right or wrong. Since I've served two Associations, I do know that every Associaiton has a membership process and the right to deny any church applying.

Blessings! Ron Hale

William Thornton said...

I'm using a little homiletic license in my article title and no one would deny an association their right to take whatever actions their autonomous selves wanted.