“ I believe these leaders are some sort of Baptist but I am not sure if they are Christians.” Moi
“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” C. S. Lewis
My counterpart is traveling with her family. We discussed this series extensively. Although I will write as an individual, she agrees with me on everything.
On Monday, June 22, 2009, “The News and Observer” in Raleigh, NC, headlined, on its front page, a story by Yonat Shimron entitled, “Southern Baptists Fight Decline”. As our readers may know, today marks the start of the Southern Baptist Convention. Furthermore, it is the 30-year anniversary of the “so-called” conservative resurgence. I will define what I mean by “so-called” later in this post.
Sadly, baptisms in the SBC have hit a 20 year low and membership has stagnated or slightly declined to about 16.2 million. However, even this number is suspect and the actual membership may be as low as 8 million. Why? Because when a member of one SBC church leaves and joins another SBC church, that member often is not removed from the membership roles of the previous church..
There is much speculation on the reasons for these declining numbers. I want to give you a personal take on why these two women have left the SBC. We believe this “testimony” might resonate with many former and present members of the SBC.
During this series, I will be referring to the recently published, excellent, controversial (meaning Paige Patterson is not pleased) book, Hardball Religion by Wade Burleson. He is the pastor of a large SBC church in Enid, Oklahoma. He bears the dubious distinction as the only person ever “fired” from the International Mission Board of the SBC (This includes convicted felons!). (P. 107). His book was published after my decision to leave the SBC. Remarkably, this book covers most of my reasons for leaving.
I became a Christian when I was 17. It occurred during an episode of Star Trek. Long story, not enough time. I lived in the Boston area and was the only Christian I knew in my extended family, friends and, sadly, my churches. Needless to say, this was an unconventional way to start my faith. I sought out books to help me and found CS. Lewis and Frances Schaeffer among others. Slowly, I found some wonderful churches that encouraged me never to settle for easy platitudes but to challenge myself and others to understand the faith in a deep and meaningful way.
I was blessed to find strong evangelical churches with sound teaching. I met my husband in one such church and we share common views about Christianity. Two of the three excellent churches we attended were nondenominational. One of them taught us to “major on the majors and minor on the minors.” The other encouraged me to teach and to ask lots of questions.
Along the way I would bump into Southern Baptists. However, I found many of them to be quite dogmatic on certain minor issues. “Ah ha,” you say, “She’s a liberal.” How very wrong you are. In fact, many who knew me during those early years thought (and some still think) I was too conservative. So, I steered clear of all SBC churches. Approximately eight years ago, I was forced to confront my own prejudices. We moved to an area where it appeared that the best church for my family was a Southern Baptist church.
At this juncture, I want to categorically state that I know many wonderful Southern Baptists who far outshine me in the faith. I admire both Wade Burleson and Charles Colson who both remain Southern Baptists. These are not the type of Southern Baptists to whom I will be referring. I am pointing my finger directly at those leaders in the SBC who claimed that 30 years ago they got rid of the liberals. They pulled the wool over the eyes of the majority of the SBC. I, too, was sucked in.
Both my husband and I decided to join an SBC church. We admired what we thought was a strong stand against liberalism. We made a critical mistake. We should have asked what the SBC leadership meant by the term “liberalism.” I just assumed they meant what I meant. I warn all of you who are reading these words to never, ever assume the meaning of a word. Ask people exactly what meaning they are intending to convey. One man’s “gossip” is another man’s legitimate inquiry.
I believe the good people sitting in their pews have no idea what has happened to the once great SBC. They believe that only the liberals were shown the door. Little do they know that conservatives were the targets as well. “But sadly, a new war has begun. It is a war initiated by fellow conservatives; conservatives who have forgotten how to put their swords in their respective sheaths. It is a war that technically may not have just begun, but one that simply never ended.” (P.76). Wade Burleson adds, referring to this dispute, “A conservative killing a fellow conservative. The future of the convention is at stake.” (P.77).
The first reason I have left the SBC is Landmarkism. I stand before you as a conservative Christian. But, I am NOT a Landmarker. What? Have you not heard of this in your SBC church? They love to keep these things away from the “rank and file” Baptists who tend to get a bit testy over things like this. Did you know that Paige Patterson serves on the board of a large Landmark college in Texas? Did you know that Landmark Baptists serve as trustees at Southwestern and Southern seminaries? They fill many of the leadership roles of the SBC. (Burleson P.49).
Do you care? You should. Landmarkers believe that “there is no authority in the Word (Bible) or from the Spirit for doing the Great Commission; this authority comes solely from the local Baptist church…It is asserted that a church is unscriptural, baptism is invalid, and ministers are not duly ordained unless there is a proper Church Authority for them.” Burleson continues, “The Landmark view is that Baptist churches ALONE (!!!!!!!!!!) have the authority of Christ to evangelize, baptize, and carry out all aspects of the commission.” (Burleson P. 48).
Does this sound a bit like the Roman Catholic Church? Did you know that some Baptist churches would deny you communion if you were not baptized in the “proper” Landmark believing church? Did you know that the International Mission Board is recalling missionaries who were not “properly” baptized according to this unbiblical doctrine? I guess that also leaves me out because I was immersed baptized in a nondenominational church.
According to this doctrine, I can’t do my part in the Great Commission. You know the part where Jesus tells us to go into all the world, baptizing them in the name of Landmarkism? Gee, in my Bible it says, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) I cannot stress enough that Paige Patterson, major Baptist gadabout, manly big game hunter, President of Southwestern Theological Seminary, and the acknowledged architect of the conservative resurgence is involved with this crowd.
Why do you think theses leaders promote such unscriptural beliefs? One only has to look at the life of Paige Patterson to get an idea. Absolute, total, over the top, narcissistic control could be one guess. He gets to define who is and who isn’t a practicing Christian via this method. Pope Patterson can now go mano a mano with the big guy in Rome. Hey Paige, the SBC is losing followers. Keep this up and the SBC will fade into irrelevance.
Tune in tomorrow as I continue to explain why I am no longer a Baptist.