To those of you who follow me on Facebook, you already know where this is going, but I would encourage you to read on for two reasons: #1) This is an elaboration on what I’ve been posting for the last couple of days and I’m going to be a little more thorough than what I have been on Facebook, and #2) this is a preface to a forthcoming article Build a Dinghy: Rainbow Edition where I address the “Welcoming” Cumberland Presbyterians. (I’m sure you can guess what their priorities are.)
Why I’m Even Saying Anything
Now, you might be reading this and wondering to yourself, “Logan, you’re not Southern Baptist. Why do you even care? Why are you even taking the time to comment about such things?” It all boils down to the following reasons:
- The Southern Baptist Convention is easily the largest Protestant evangelical denomination and they have a large voice in the United States which is where I happen to live and pastor so I think I’m entitled to say something about what’s going in the culture which I to preach to every week.
- I was a part of a Southern Baptist church plant for 3 years. While I would not consider them a cult, there were cult-like practices that were in place that eventually led to their downfall. (Imagine Seattle’s Mars Hill Church in small town Arkansas where Mark Driscoll was sane and it was the “Executive Elders” who were arrogant, had anger issues, and terrible opinions about women.)
- I have a blog and I can. *insert shrug emoji here*
If You’re Still With Me By Now…
Let me start off by saying that I love my Southern Baptist friends. There are things about being Southern Baptist that greatly appeal to me. Southern Baptists, in a lot of ways, are outdoing Cumberland Presbyterians in how many missionaries they commission each year, how much of a reach they have out into the world with the Gospel, and a lot of them could teach us a thing or two about expositional preaching. So, understand that what I’m about to say doesn’t come from a place of malice, it comes as an elbow jab from a brother. Afterwards, we can go out to the pub and have an apple juice together. (You can tell your congregation it’s apple juice, I’ll lie for you.)
The Jolly Roger Wasn’t So Jolly
I couldn’t really find the origin of it, but #TakeTheShip became the war cry of many of the ultra conservative Southern Baptist pastors and leaders for this year’s annual meeting held in Nashville. The idea is that the Southern Baptist Convention is a ship that is headed in the wrong direction and it needs to be commandeered and steered by the conservatives in the right direction. (Now, in this case, whether ‘right’ means ‘correct’ or if it just means ‘not left’ remains to be seen.)
In an article that heavily featured Southern Baptist pastor and fellow Arkansan, Allen Nelson IV, The New York Times reported, “Those hoping to “take the ship” maintain that piracy is nothing more than a cheeky metaphor for a dry, democratic process.” Now, when it comes to pirate imagery, I’ve got to admit the aesthetic is cool, and I’m a little mad that I didn’t think of it first. However, the imagery implies that those who take the ship don’t belong on the ship to begin with. Historically speaking, pirates weren’t exactly great people who went around kindly asking for stuff with an open hand. They apprehended ships that weren’t their’s by force and took what didn’t belong to them.
Maybe I’m reading into it, but this got me to thinking about what the Conservative Baptist Network and what they really stand for. At the end of the day, I’m sure there are a lot of members of the Conservative Baptist Network who passionately love the Southern Baptist Convention and they passionately love Southern Baptist life. However, if you want to be one of them, it’s not enough that you be Southern Baptist, you must also be a conservative Southern Baptist.
Now, if you’re an “outsider” like I am, you might be reading this and thinking, “Aren’t most Southern Baptists conservative?” Yes, they are. The vast majority of Southern Baptists would tell you that abortion is a sin, homosexuality and all of its related behavior is sinful, and that the Bible should be taken literally. So, what’s the problem? The problem is that none of those things are good enough. It doesn’t matter if you share all of those positions with them, you’re still just a liberal who wants to steer the ship into an iceberg. It’s not enough to be conservative, you have to be conservative by their standards. When they move the goalposts you have to go with them.
For example, if you go to the Conservative Baptist Network website, and try to join a local chapter, you will be asked for your contact information, but then you will be asked to click a box that indicates that you affirm with the Conservative Baptist Network Purpose.
Now, if you read the Conservative Baptist Network Purpose this is where it gets interesting. If you know the Baptist Faith & Message, then you can see right off the bat that the second bullet point is superfluous. The Baptist Faith & Message already affirms “the inerrancy, supremacy, and sufficiency of Scripture in all facets of life and application.” If it doesn’t then why are they requiring people to affirm the Baptist Faith & Message as part of this statement?
Now, I’m not going to run through all of these, but these are pretty standard beliefs and practices of those that call themselves Southern Baptist except for the fourth bullet point. Now, I get it. CRT is important issue. I fully believe that CRT does more damage to racial relations than good. Many Southern Baptists felt that passing Resolution 9 at the annual meeting in Birmingham in 2019 was a bad idea, but the resolution only stated that CRT could be used an “analytical tool” not a theological one, AND the resolution affirm that “Critical race theory and intersectionality have been appropriated by individuals with worldviews that are contrary to the Christian faith, resulting in ideologies and methods that contradict Scripture.” What more do they want, egg in in their beer? Part of the failure of Southern Baptist polity is that resolutions don’t really mean anything anyway. Just because a resolution passes doesn’t mean you or your church have to affirm it. It’s not like the Baptist Faith and Message. Which brings me to my next point…
It doesn’t matter if you affirm everything else that they affirm. It doesn’t matter if you stand against same-sex marriage, abortion, or if you stand for the doctrines that are taught in the Baptist Faith & Message, if you can’t agree with them on this issue then you’re not conservative enough for them. They can’t lock arms with you and call you a brother.
When I was a part of a Southern Baptist church plant, I was taught that part of what it means to be a Southern Baptist is to affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message. When I could no longer do that, I stopped identifying as a Southern Baptist and eventually left. If you cannot lock arms with someone who also affirms your confession and your statement of belief, and you have to go above and beyond it to make sure someone is on “your side” then you either need to repent and seek biblical reconciliation or if you believe you are correct, then you need to form a new statement of belief that matches your ideals and use that as the goalpost.
If You Can’t Take the Ship…
If you feel the need to take the ship like pirates on the open sea, then you’re implying that you weren’t on the ship to begin with and in all honestly, maybe you weren’t. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I disagree with the Conservative Baptist Network a lot, but I think a lot of them have good intentions. I don’t think they’re evil people, but maybe it’s time they branch out. Starting a new denomination or cooperative program isn’t a bad thing. The body of Christ has arms and it has armpits. Some parts might stink more than others, but they’re all necessary.
So, if you can’t take the ship, build a dinghy.
P.S. I’m not going to be so nice in my next article.