Baptist Faith & Message motion grabs SBC attention
Published June 21, 2007
SAN ANTONIO (BP)—Messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention approved a motion June 12 to affirm the Baptist Faith and Message as the SBC's "only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs."
After an initial vote of raised ballots, SBC President Frank Page called for a ballot vote following the Tuesday evening discussion. The voting results, 2,137 (57.7 percent) to 1,565 (42.2 percent), were announced during the Wednesday morning session, June 13, of the SBC's annual meeting at San Antonio's Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.
Rick Garner, pastor of Liberty Heights Church in Liberty Township, Ohio, offered the motion, which read: "I move this Convention adopts the statement of the Executive Committee ... found in the 2007 Book of Reports ... which reads: 'The Baptist Faith and Message is neither a creed nor a complete statement of our faith nor final or infallible. Nevertheless we further acknowledge that it is the only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and as such is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention.'"
In the discussion about his motion, Garner characterized the Baptist Faith and Message as the "doctrinal capstone of the Conservative Resurgence.... It is the privilege, it is indeed the sacred responsibility of this convened body to inform our entities, agencies and institutions of our continued and firm commitment to this instrument of doctrinal accountability."
Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, urged messengers to approve Garner's motion and suggested denominational decision-makers have crafted policies incompatible and inconsistent with the Baptist Faith and Message.
"It's really a simple matter," McKissic stated. "Are we going to let the parents make rules for the house, or are we going to let the children rule the house? The agencies, the entities, they should be subordinate to the Southern Baptist Convention."
Robin Hadaway, a messenger from Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty, Mo., and associate professor of missions at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, spoke against Garner's motion.
Hadaway urged the convention not to make a creed of the Baptist Faith and Message. Quoting from the Book of Reports, he noted that the Executive Committee states the Baptist Faith and Message "is sufficient to guide" trustee boards throughout the SBC.
"'Guide' does not mean an exhaustive list," Hadaway observed, citing several doctrinal and ethical concerns not explicitly mentioned in the Baptist Faith and Message, including speaking in tongues, private prayer languages, participation in gambling and the use of alcohol and tobacco.
"Let's keep [the Baptist Faith and Message] as a guide and allow the trustee boards, agencies and entities to design policies and procedures to select godly men and women as missionaries, professors and employees to serve in these agencies," Hadaway urged. "Otherwise we may have missionaries and professors ... with practices not in keeping with the majority of Southern Baptists. I urge the defeat of this motion."
In speaking against the motion, another messenger declared that some denominational trustees and employees do not affirm minimal doctrinal standards adopted by SBC entities.
Jeremy Green, pastor of First Baptist Church in Joshua, Texas, called for defeat of the proposal and cautioned messengers against a counterproductive decision.
"Baptist polity and our trustee system both necessitate that each individual trustee board maintains the right and responsibility to employ other doctrinal parameters as needed," Green said. "The Baptist Faith and Message is a sufficient guide, but it is not the only guide. I believe that voting for this motion is the first step in the wrong direction."
Bob Cleveland, a messenger from First Baptist Church, Pelham, Ala., and a proponent of Garner's motion, acknowledged the annual convention meeting "cannot tell the entities what they have to do, but we can tell the entities of the SBC what we believe that being a Southern Baptist means—and I think this is it."
In other business, Page ruled three motions were "not in order" after Allan Blume, chairman of the Committee on Order of Business, explained that "any motion which seeks to have the Convention exercise the authority of an entity's board is not in order." The three motions ruled as not in order were:
•that LifeWay Christian Resources reconsider its policies allowing "promotion and distribution of fables and allegories such as the 'Chronicles of Narnia' which the Word of God specifically forbids," submitted by Bob Green, pastor of Arrow Heights Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, Okla.
•that SBC entities and staff avoid supporting the doctrines, leaders, publications or other resources of the "emerging church," submitted by Steve Fox, messenger from South Valley Baptist Church in Riverton, Utah.
•that an ad hoc committee be created to study the salaries of Southern Baptist seminary professors in comparison with other members of the Association of Theological Schools, submitted by Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas.
After Page's ruling, Barber appealed the decision of the chair.
"Respectfully, the motion did not call for any setting or changes with regard to salary," Barber explained. "Therefore it does not really usurp any authority of the trustees."
Page called for a response from the Committee on the Order of Business, which was delivered by one of the convention parliamentarians, Barry McCarty.
McCarty told messengers the committee had discussed with legal counsel and other parliamentarians what kind of report would be made by such an ad hoc committee.
"We came to conclusion together that really the only kind of meaningful action would be action that would put the convention in the position of directing an entity rather than allowing the trustees of that entity to direct its actions," McCarty said.
Messengers voted to sustain Page's ruling that the motion was not in order.
Motions referred to the Executive Committee included:
•that the Executive Committee "conduct a feasibility study concerning the development of a database of Southern Baptist clergy and staff who have been credibly accused of, personally confessed to, or legally been convicted of sexual harassment or abuse and that such a database be accessible to Southern Baptist churches," submitted by Wade Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Okla.
•that the SBC president appoint a task force that would "develop a workable solution to the difficulties that have arisen as a result of policies adopted by trustee boards concerning the practice of the spiritual gift of tongues generally and as a private prayer language specifically develop a policy that is consistent with the Baptist Faith & Message 2000," submitted by Lee Saunders, minister of church development at Garden Oaks Baptist Church in Houston.
•that the Executive Committee would cover reasonable "travel, housing and meal expense" for convention officers during the SBC's annual meeting, submitted by Wiley Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif.
•that SBC Bylaw 15J be amended to include this phrase: "along with any disagreements various nominees may have concerning the Baptist Faith & Message 2000," submitted by Tim Rogers, pastor of Yadkin Baptist Church in Statesville, N.C.
•that "serious consideration" be given to cities as future sites for the annual meeting that have not hosted the SBC during the past 20 years, submitted by Bob Lilly, pastor of Catonsville Baptist Church in Baltimore.
Motions referred to the Executive Committee and all SBC entities included:
•that "each Convention entity study the feasibility of providing regular reports of the voting and attendance records of all trustees of all Southern Baptist Convention agencies and institutions on all matters on which voting occurs and that these reports be available in a timely manner both on-line and off-line," submitted by Leslie Puryear, pastor, Lewisville Baptist Church, Lewisville, N.C.
•that "the Southern Baptist Convention implement more ministries for handicapped people," submitted by Graham Jones, messenger from Remount Baptist Church in North Charleston, S.C.
A motion referred to LifeWay Christian Resources and the North American Mission Board was submitted by Dennis Piearcy, pastor of First Baptist Church, Kiowa, Okla. Piearcy's motion asked that a task force be established "to find ways to help build up small churches with programs and books that are designed for one-staff churches."
A motion referred to the 2008 Committee on the Order of Business was submitted by Beauford Smith, pastor of Colfax Baptist Church, Colfax, N.C. Smith proposed "that an honor guard representing five branches of the military present the American flag at the call to order of the SBC annual meeting."