Thursday, April 2, 2009

New Leaders for a Resurgent SBC

I got involved in blogging several years ago because I was concerned about what was happening with some of our SBC leaders. I am a big fan of Jerry Rankin and I did not like what I perceived to be an orchestrated move to push him out with the new (and silly) policies that were adopted there. There was a momentum for change among some of the young pastors and leaders in the convention. I do not qualify as young but I supported the need for reform in the SBC and the need to oppose the wrong direction many were forging - what has come to be known as Baptist Identity. There are noble proponents of that philosophy (as well as some stinkers) but I am convinced their direction is wrong for our convention.

The problem is that the "reform" movement didn't really have a noble leader. When it was time for the Conservative Resurgence, God raised up Adrian Rogers to lead us. He was neither perfect nor divine, but he was a statesman, a leader who seemed to have more than building a name for himself at heart, a leader who inspired others to follow, a leader who remained relentlessly gracious in the face of opposition. The reform movement had no such leader. It fractured and dwindled.

The biggest problem with the reform movement was that some of its leaders quickly subverted the conservative resurgence. I (and I think many others) wanted to reform the conservative SBC. However, many of the reform leaders have rejected the CR and denigrated its purposes and effects.

I will always be thankful for the leadership of Dr. Patterson in the CR. I think his leadership at SWBTS has been questionable at best. I think there are a lot of us who have this nuanced view - that we appreciate the CR but are suspect of the extremist views of some BI proponents. We want a conservative, but not rigid, legalistic, landmark or extremist denomination.

The reform movement floundered because there was no inspirational, motivational leader to rally us.

But, in recent months, there has been a new awakening. I read Alvin Reid's article "Tipping Point" on Between the Times. I can only hope and pray that the vision he articulates will win the day in the SBC. It seems that Southeastern Seminary is being raised up as a place for those of us who do not want to reject the CR but also do not want to buy into the BI movement. Instead of railing against each other about Calvinist/non-Calvinist idealogy, they did something unique. Nathan Finn and Alvin Reid wrote a series of articles on how a committed Calvinist and a committed non-Calvinist could co-exist. Southeastern is living that. They do not have a hard-core Calvinist Abstract, nor the militant anti-Calvinism that Dr. Patterson sometimes seems to exhibit. They are living together, modeling how it can be done.

Dr. Akin has spearheaded the "Great Commission Resurgence" movement which is providing some direction for our denomination as it faces the future.

My hope is that this movement to reform the SBC along committed conservative lines will continue to gather steam. They are committed to building up the SBC, not tearing it down as some blogs seem committed to doing. They are committed to focusing on reaching the lost, not on replicating one view of Baptist Identity.

I wish I was younger and could attend SEBTS. What a blessing that would be. I am so encouraged that God is raising up men such as these I have mentioned, and several others, who may be putting the SBC back on track to being the noble Great Commission denomination that it can be.

I am more hopeful about the future of the SBC than I have been in a long time.

12 comments:

Mr. Hyde said...

Dave,

I think an aspect that has not been discussed is what has made our churches "ineffective" or "irrelevant" in/to our culture.

I think many pastors in the SBC are struggling with "how" to reach people with the gospel. The teenagers and twenty-somthings have a completely different mindset and worldview. And it is just my opinion, but I think 90% of our churches are still reaching out to an '80s worldview in culture that has a new millenium worldview.

Alvin Reid said...

Thanks for the kind words my brother. Know that our desire is to lead a Great Commission Resurgence, nothing more, nothing less. Pray for us. Pray for the convention. These are critical days.
I hope to visit face to face one day, God willing.

Alvin Reid said...

Thanks for the kind words my brother. Know that our desire is to lead a Great Commission Resurgence, nothing more, nothing less. Pray for us. Pray for the convention. These are critical days.
I hope to visit face to face one day, God willing.

Dave Miller said...

I am excited that my son is graduating Liberty soon and intends to head to Southeastern. I hope to get to spend some time out there.

Dave Miller said...

Mr. Hyde,

I sympathize with your frustration that the Christian world is often tied to 50's culture or Southern ways.

On the other hand, I remember the words of Ecclesiastes, "there is nothing new under the sun."

People are people. Our viewpoints and culture change, but people are essentially people.

So, with a small caveat, I agree with what you are saying.

Mr. Hyde said...

Dave,

I didn't know how to email you, but after reading this post, Alvin Reid's, and the latest at SBC Today I felt compelled to write my own response. Take a look and tell me what you think--am I completely crazy?

Bill said...

David: I was not part of nor a spectator to the CR, so I want to be careful of painting with too broad a brush, but this is my impression after following SBC blogs for some time now. The leaders of the CR saw what they perceived to be a need for change and acted to effect that change. My impression is that their methods left a lot to be desired but I'm not an expert on that.

Those calling for a GCR are in the same position, but whereas the predecessors of the CR where "liberals" (and therefore evil) the predecessors of the GCR are the CRers.

And so (and I don't speak for anyone but myself) my impression is of the CR folks crying foul, saying either that no change is really necessary, or that any change needed is simply the continuation of the CR. They can't seem to let it go.

Dave Miller said...

Bill, if you read some of my earlier posts on this site, I think you would see that you and I are not too far apart.

First, I think the CR was a blessing and grace to a denomination headed for the same spiritual impotence that has come to other leftward-drifting denominations.

Second, I believe that the CR had (mostly) noble aims and purposes, but that it too often bought into the ethic you see on blogs - "I'm fighting fire with fire." I justify saying something bad about you because you have said something bad about me (Wade vs. BI guys for example). I was not always proud of the behavior of my side in the fight.

Third, I think there is a natural tendency for a "reform" group to change in time when it takes power. When the CR succeeded, the leaders who fought the entrenched bureaucracy of the moderates became an entrenched bureaucracy of their own. A few leaders became especially enamored of their own power and place.

Fourth, I think the GCR is a corrective to the CR. The CR was hijacked by extremists and powerful men, and the convention has felt the effects. The GCR is a corrective to restore the CR to what it was originally intended to be.

I know you probably do not agree with all of that, but I don't think that I am looking at the CR through rose-colored glasses There were some amazingly noble leaders (Adrian, etc) and a few who said and did things that often embarrassed me (a name comes to mind, but I will not say it).

Bill said...

I know you probably do not agree with all of that,

I see no reason to disagree. You seem to have a more balanced view of the CR than many. With others I see a definite "ends justify the means" mentality.

Dave Miller said...

Bill,

You hit the nail on the head. While I am in full agreement with the aims and purposes of the CR, I think that many leaders of the CR (like many bloggers today) have adopted that "ends justifies the means" ethic you mentioned.

As Christians, we must commit ourselves to both noble ENDS, and godly MEANS.

Ron said...

Dave,
You’ve written a good article here. I agree with much and disagree with some. Even though we disagree on the nature of the Conservative Resurgence, I say it was always about power and control and you say it was about theology, I appreciate you desire to as you say get involved with blogging because your concern about what is happening with some of our SBC leaders. I wish more would get involved. I also appreciate your willingness to blog with thoughtfulness and politeness.

I would like to first comment on your statements about Jerry Rankin and Paige Patterson. I am not thankful for Patterson’s leadership in the CR as you are but I agree his leadership at SWBTS has been questionable at best. In fact, I think his leadership has been disastrous. I have been aware of his style since I was living in Fayetteville, Arkansas where he was pastor before he went to Criswell. His style was the same then as it was in the early days of the CR and as it has been at SWBTS. Attack others in order to further your own position. You say you say you are a fan of Jerry Rankin but did not like the orchestrated move to push him out. Are you not aware that Paige Patterson was leading that orchestra? Did you know that Patterson personally sent a letter to each of the trustees criticizing Rankin’s leadership while he was president of SEBTS? What would happen if Rankin sent a letter to the trustees at SWBTS criticizing Patterson? He would be fired.

I agree with your assessment that Adrian Rogers was an inspirational leader who was key to the success of the conservative resurgence. I also agree that he was neither perfect nor divine. I disagree that he was always gracious in the face of opposition. One example that also shows that power and control were the driving force for Rogers also concerns Paige Patterson and Russell Dilday. When W.A. Criswell and the trustees at Criswell Institute fired Patterson, Rogers led the charge down to Dallas and threatened to do all he could to stop students from attending Criswell if they went ahead. The reason was that it would look bad for the conservative resurgence. On the other hand Rogers, Jerry Vines and Charles Stanley worked through their surrogate Ollin Collins and other trustees at SWBTS to fire Russell Dilday even though both he and Southwestern were solidly theologically conservative. So on the one hand a president was doing a poor job but Rogers fought to save his job because he was part of the cr and on the other hand he worked to fire a president who was doing a good job because he was not part of the cr. Rogers was not concerned about theology in either case. He was only concerned about power and control. I could also mention the time he threatened the WMU that they had better get hard wired into the SBC power structure let the cr leaders select their leaders or they would lose their seat on the Executive Committee. I could go on with other examples of when Rogers was not gracious and was more concerned with power and control than theology.

Dave, you said, “First, I think the CR was a blessing and grace to a denomination headed for the same spiritual impotence that has come to other leftward-drifting denominations.” I do not believe the SBC was heading for spiritual importance and I will tell you why. The largest entity of the SBC was the FMB. It was theologically conservative and its leaders, Baker James Cauthon and Keith Parks, were solid conservatives who would not allow the FMB to move to spiritual impotence. I was appointed by the FMB in 1978 and can testify to the truth of that statement. I am not as knowledgeable about the Home Mission Board but I believe that statement would be true about the HMB also. In addition the largest SBC seminary was Southwestern. It was also conservative theologically and its leaders Robert Naylor and Russell Dilday would not allow it to head for spiritual impotence. In addition my state convention, Arkansas, was theologically conservative as were most state conventions as were 99% of the churches in the SBC. It may true that a handful of seminary professors were out of bounds theologically but I believe that even the majority of seminary professors were theologically conservative by any fair measurement. Being conservative did not stop the cr leaders from attacking the IMB and other entities because theology was not their main concern. Power and control were.

Dave, even if you don’t respond to anything I said I would like to hear your response to the following. You mentioned on Wade’s blog that he was becoming left leaning and gave as your reason that he had changed his position and was now opposing the cr. Do you really believe that opposing the cr is a sign of left leaning or becoming liberal? I have never supported the cr and in fact have opposed it for many years. I am not left leaning and in fact it is because of my conservative theological beliefs that I oppose the cr. I cannot support an organization whose leaders have shown contempt for so many or the clear teachings of the Bible. That would include you should not bear false witness, you should not steal and you should not commit adultery. One of the worst things the cr has done is to cause otherwise good people to accept the perception that to be theologically conservative you have to support the cr and if you do not support the cr you are not conservative theologically and are therefore should not be allowed to serve in a place of leadership in the SBC.

I like you am hopeful for the future of the SBC and I think part of that reason is we have many new leaders like Wade Burleson and others who are asking questions and not letting others tell them what to think.
Ron West

Dave Miller said...

Ron, I answered you - but focused a whole post on it.