October 4, 2007 Publishing Good News since 1884 Volume 124 Number 235

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NEWS ANALYSIS: Changes in Rogers’ answers suggest more than subtle editing


SAN ANTONIO, Texas (FBW) – David Rogers, a candidate for the office of first vice-president of the Southern Baptist Convention, has given permission for Florida Baptist Witness to publish changes made to answers to a questionnaire officer candidates were asked by the Witness.

The Witness learned June 7 that Ben Cole, a controversial blogger and major critic of Southern Baptist Convention leaders, made 57 changes to Rogers’ answers tracked in the history of changes to the Microsoft Word document Rogers ultimately submitted to the Witness.

The nature of the changes ranged from single word replacements to the addition and deletion of several sentences and paragraphs regarding baptism and tongues and private prayer language; biblical morality; and what’s right and what’s wrong in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Unchanged were answers to topics regarding the “narrowing of parameters of doctrinal cooperation,” the discussion of prayer tongues as “spiritual gifts,” the Cooperative Program giving of other candidate’s home churches; and an open question “What else would you like to say to Southern Baptists.”

According to both Cole, pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, and Rogers, a missionary for the SBC’s International Mission Board in Madrid, Spain, the changes were approved by Rogers.

Rogers told the Witness in a statement June 8 that “the final revision which I sent in is the one that most accurately reflects my own thoughts. That is the one that, after hours of praying and meditating over the best possible wording, I decided, of my own volition, to send in.”

Both men’s complete statements are available in the intitial story “Blogger Ben Cole makes 57 changes to David Rogers’ answers in Witness questionnaire,” online at www.FloridaBaptistWitness.com.

The changes made by Cole are labeled “Benjamin Cole” in the change tracking function of the word processing software and occurred over a period of 34 minutes, 10:35-11:09 p.m. on June 6. When the Witness received the document, the change tracking function was active when it was opened.

While roughly half of the 57 suggested changes could be considered minor edits for grammar, style and vocabulary, the other half include the insertion of additional ideas and rationale of a substantial nature.

In answering the question, “What’s right in the Southern Baptist Convention and how will your election contribute to what’s right?,” Rogers makes the statement, “If elected I would do everything possible to help lead Southern Baptists to affirm and support missions and ministry.”

Cole’s changes add the following: “If elected, I would do everything possible to help lead Southern Baptists to affirm and support our confessional heritage, to actively promote our values and vision for righteousness, and to sacrificially commit more resources, prayer, and personnel for missions and ministry. I also believe that the Cooperative Program was designed for the primary purpose of funding our shared missionary vision as Baptists. I hope, if I am elected, to continue the challenge issued by our convention president for our churches to renew a commitment to sacrifice for the cause of Christ.”

In “What’s wrong with the Southern Baptist Convention and how will your election contribute to correcting what’s wrong?” Rogers writes: “In certain areas of concern, we have allowed ourselves to get side-tracked on theological tangents that are not central to the gospel.”

Cole changes the expression concerning “theological tangents” as being “not central” to “not essential,” and adds: “I believe that something must be done about the majority of our churches that are plateaued or declining. Fewer baptisms are reported by fewer churches who contribute fewer dollars to evangelistic ministries and missionary causes.”

In a second part of the answer, Rogers says: “If elected, I hope to hold before us the fundamental reasons for which we cooperate together, and encourage us to fix our sights on our personal relationship with the Lord, submission to His Word, and partnership in the proclamation of the gospel,” and Cole adds “to foster the revitalization of our existing churches and the planting of new ones.”

Additionally, Cole ads “inerrant” between “His” and “Word” so the sentence reads “submission to His inerrant Word.”

Further, Cole adds the following graph: “I also believe that my election could serve as a boost for greater participation of Southern Baptist churches in our world mission effort. Every year, Southern Baptists give generously to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. Nothing is able to get Southern Baptists to give sacrificially, pray strategically, and go obediently like our missionary mandate. I hope that having a missionary serve as convention first vice-president will reignite our passion for missions.”

Regarding a question about the recently revised doctrinal guidelines for prospective missionaries of the International Mission Board regarding baptism, tongues and private prayer language, Cole recommends the following comments about Jerry Rankin, IMB president: “I can only say that I am grateful for the leadership of Dr. Jerry Rankin. Without his godly commitments and careful administration, our convention would not have seen the tremendous growth in missionary appointments, baptisms and church plants on the foreign mission field [that we have seen in recent years]. If a private prayer language should disqualify a missionary candidate, then Southern Baptists would have been denied the excellent leadership, bold vision, and model character of our mission board president.” Apparently, Rogers later added the clause, “that we have seen in recent years.”

As to whether the SBC’s Baptist Faith & Message should be amended to address charismatic theological issues, Rogers says, “I believe the BFM in its current version is sufficient in its treatment of these issues,” and Cole adds, “ and I appreciate the care exercised by the SBC Executive Committee to reinforce this commitment.”

At the end of the same paragraph, Rogers speaks of the gospel message. Cole adds “simple” between “the” and “gospel,” and adds “message” to the clause, so the answer reads, “the simple gospel message,” instead of “the gospel.”

About the Conservative Resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention, Rogers says: “While cooperation in missions is the lifeblood that drives us as Southern Baptists, mission efforts that don’t flow from a clear commitment to the authority of our Lord Jesus as expressed to us through His inerrant Word have no sense at all.”

Cole changes the last part of the sentence to read: “through His inerrant Word have no “place among Southern Baptists.”

In a final change, Cole responds to a question about relating to the culture with regards to biblical morality. Cole adds the following: “Cultural relevance is not something that the gospel lacks. Nor does the sovereign Lord need Southern Baptists to make an impact on cultures. The role of Southern Baptists should continue to be prophetic against cultural excess and evil, but we must not fall into the trap of thinking that ‘culture’ is an evil in itself.”

Rogers told the Witness he is not able to be in San Antonio for the SBC since his son is graduating from high school in Spain—and he was not aware he would be nominated for the office until June 4.

“I will try to follow as much of the convention as I can by web-cast, however,” Rogers told the Witness.