Thursday, August 10, 2017

We’re Flattered, But…

I read a few tweets on the SBC Voices Twitter feed last night and I realized that there is a misperception out there among some about who we are. I know you regular SBCers know this, but there are some things I need to make clear.

We’ve been “blessed” recently to have some of our articles referenced in major news articles – pro and con.  It is gratifying to get noticed outside the Baptist world, but folks, we are weird. People don’t understand our structure, our ecclesiology, our autonomy. These links draw people to this site from the secular world, from the non-SBC evangelical world, and from the mainline, liberal world. Let’s face it, most Southern Baptists really don’t know how the SBC works. People are used to hierarchical denominations where power and authority rests with the home office. People have no idea who we are and when I try to explain it they act like I am trying to dodge responsibility.

Robert Jeffress has infuriated a lot of people with his comments about North Korea. I’m not going to comment on that here (and we aren’t going to discuss it here). But there were several calls demanding that we do something about Robert Jeffress. “What are you going to do about this, SBC Voices?”

I asked one of the more belligerent of those making calls, “What exactly would you have us do?” The answers came back.

SBC Voices was supposed to:

  • Disfellowship FBC Dallas from the SBC, and
  • Revoke Robert Jeffress’ ordination.

Unless there have been some changes to the bylaws of the SBC that no one informed me about, we here at SBC Voices do NOT hold that kind of power.

I tried to explain to this man that even the Executive Committee of the SBC did not have that power. My youngest son just received pastoral credentials from another denomination (he went out from us because he was not of us?). They were issued by the denomination and they can be revoked by the denomination. In our world, ordination is performed by a local church and can only be revoked by that church.

Frank Page and the Executive Committee have no more power to defrock a pastor (even if they wanted to – I’m not saying they do in this case) than I do. They have the limited ability to recommend we disfellowship a church based on established constitutional grounds, but those are limited. We are an association of independent churches and we do not have an authoritarian hierarchy. The man I talked to simply refused to believe it, but it is true.

Here are the facts for our non-SBC visitors: 

1. SBC Voices is a blog run by a group of SBC pastors. On this blog, we express our opinions. We seek to have a range of views on most issues that face the SBC, and the opinions expressed in the blog are those of the author of the post. We have a few rules and loose editorial guidelines, but mostly we just try to do what we think is right. I have struggled for seven years to come up with rules for blogging. There are none. You just have to try to do the right thing, and start over when you don’t.

2. SBC Voices has NO official affiliation with the structure of the SBC. I consider just about everyone at the SBC Executive Committee a friend, but we are not under their authority. We are not an SBC entity, but a group of SBC pastors with opinions.

3. SBC Voices has very few editorial opinions. There are a couple. We are pretty uniform in our commitment to racial reconciliation and intolerant of anything that smacks of racism. But on most issues, we have contributors on all sides and are willing to post well-written counterpoints to any point we make. But, asking us to “do something about x” is pretty pointless. If we have strong convictions about it, we will write on it, but we are not people of power, we are pastors with keyboards.

4. I realize that the SBC is odd to most who are not part of our group. We are odd to many and even our own people don’t understand how things run. Let me give you a brief synopsis.

  • The SBC’s denominational officers hold NO authority over local churches. Frank Page, our “CEO” cannot tell any pastor or church what to do, cannot discipline pastors or churches, has only the most limited authority. He organizes, strategizes, encourages, administrates, promotes, but he does not rule.
  • The authority in the SBC rests in autonomous local churches. Churches run themselves, ordain pastors, discipline members (theoretically), and choose to fellowship and partner together in our combined missions work.
  • No Southern Baptist speaks on behalf of all Southern Baptists.
  • If you are upset about something a Southern Baptist pastor or leader says or does, your recourse is to complain to the church that person is a member of or the entity at which the person works. Asking the “SBC” to take action against someone you don’t like is pointless. We are independent churches. It’s like going into Target to complain about how messy things are at Walmart.
  • We believe that our highest authority is God’s word, though we are horrendously imperfect at following that. If you look under the Southern Baptist hood, you will find a lot of problems, but we are also a people who love Jesus, love the Bible, and want the world to know the gospel.

If you are going to rail at us, it would help to have a rudimentary understanding of us.

Now, to respond to the tweets. No, I am not going to revoke Robert Jeffress’ ordination because no one in the world gave me that right and I am not going to disfellowship FBC, Dallas because guess what – I’m a pastor in Iowa and no-can-do.

Besides, if I could defrock pastors and disfellowship churches, I’d be working through a long list of candidates before I got to YOUR complaints!


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