The Baptist Mafia (Leaving the SBC, Part 5)

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



How in the world did I get caught up in this denomination? Despite becoming a Christian in a highly unusual way, I have been involved in wonderful churches for most of my Christian life. Naively, I believed that most evangelical, Bible believing churches were pretty much the same. This would prove to be a major error on my part. However, I have come to believe that my experiences were God-ordained and this blog figures into it.


I attended a Christian Reformed church on the Navajo reservation that was equally divided between Native American and nonnative American The church even attracted the attendance of the leader of the Navajo Nation and a couple of Code Talkers from WW2. We sang half of the hymns in Navajo (thankfully, it is a phonetic language albeit one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn) and the sermons were given in both Navajo and English. Those two years were significant in my growth as a Christian. This former Bostonian began to understand the differences between cultural Christianity and essential Christianity. For example, my views on Calvinism were slightly different than many yet it did not interfere one whit with my involvement in the church.


We had Bible studies, prayer groups, speakers, Sunday school, and other usual activities. Never once did I ever hear a dogmatic discussion on the role of women. The Navajo tribe is matriarchal which may have influenced this direction. There was much emphasis on caring for the elderly who are highly honored in that culture. Also, much of the teaching involved helping Navajo Christians to understand the differences in the Christian faith and certain traditions and beliefs of the tribe. We never once forgot we were the “bilagaana” or the white folk and that we were the guests of this gentle people. (They are also the best joke tellers that I have ever met)!


Years later I joined an SBC church. In the approximately eight years that I was a member, I began to notice things that gave me pause. There seemed to be an unwritten rule that the membership had to lock step in a number of secondary issues such as the age of the earth and the new “quiver full” movement. Stupid me, I thought that all mandated rules were supposed to be expressed! Stay tuned for both of these issues to be discussed in depth. The quiver full movement is a real doozy.


Perhaps the most disconcerting things I discovered was that the SBC leadership has been and is presently running amuck. I am always telling my kids that one is often known by the company he keeps. This is another reason I am getting out of Dodge. I, in no way, no how, never, ever, ever want to be associated with this posse. I believe that the current leadership in the SBC is bordering on nuts!


I became aware of this through the excellent book by Wade Burleson, Hardball Religion: Feeling the Fury of Fundamentalism. I want to get one thing straight as I begin this review. I am a card carrying conservative in both my Christian faith and my politics. (Just ask the local newspaper who survived both of our memberships on their community panel)! This supposed conservative resurgence has nothing to do with being a conservative. It is an intentional assault on those who believe that there are “A” and “B” issues in the faith. Now, in case you, a Baptist, are chalking me up to just another liberal in sheep’s clothing, take a deep breath and learn what is going on in this denomination. Your SBC church is contributing your hard earned money to these shenanigans and the SBC is losing members as quick as politicians spend money.


I believe that God orchestrated the events that put Wade Burleson as a trustee on the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention in March of 2005. You see, they thought that he was a member of their little group. A year later he was the first trustee in history to be unceremoniously kicked off the board. These self-professed Christian trustees didn’t even remove felons and those who used homosexual prostitutes from this board. (p. xi) Wade was the only trustee who ever became the dubious recipient of this non-Christian act. But God had bigger plans. He used Burleson to get the information out to the Baptist world.


For those who have no idea what the SBC and the IMB is all about, here is a little history. The Southern Baptist Convention was founded on the idea of a “cooperating convention of autonomous Baptist churches”. Furthermore, “Baptists have traditionally enjoyed the freedom that comes from defending liberty of conscience, soul competency, the priestly authority of every believer, and local church autonomy.”(xv)


The IMB has long been a source of pride for the SBC and well it should. In spite of the fiercely held autonomous nature of the Baptist churches, this board received incredible support by the rank and file Baptists. Its mission outreach has had global impact, both spiritually and materially. Many Baptists often give sacrificially to what they believe is furthering the cause of Christ in the world.


Being asked to serve as a trustee is a source of pride for many. It is considered a plum assignment. “The frequency of meetings in the exotic locations chosen to host these meetings are sometimes the only trips small church pastors make in the course of the year.” They have their “travel, food and lodging paid as they traverse the United States. Second, the opportunities to travel for the IMB trustees are frequent. Including overseas trips, IMB trustees meet between six to eight times a year, all expenses paid.” (P.44).


However, unbeknownst to Burleson at the time of his appointment, significant changes were occurring in the SBC. The idea of a cooperative convention of autonomous churches has been superseded by an authoritative denominational control the demands conformity to a specific ideology called “Fundamentalism.” “Ironically, it is the demand for conformity on all things nonessential to the Christian faith, and a quiet submission to this demand, that is causing the historic nonconformist identity of Baptist people to be in jeopardy.” “Those who hold to a Fundamental ideology see willing to stop at nothing to see that their goal of a uniform Baptist identity arises.” (xv)


I submit two thoughts at this point. First, for those wondering if the SBC leadership just went after liberals, think about this. Just how liberal was the average Southern Baptist in this past century? Obviously, this is a rhetorical question. Southern Baptists were hardly known for their freewheeling lifestyles and beliefs. Secondly, I hate the term, “fundamentalist.” This used to mean that folks adhered to the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Now, it means those who adhere to ideologies that far exceed the fundamentals of the faith.


Wade Burleson has become a persona non grata (wear this badge with pride, Wade) with Paige Patterson and his hunting buddies (whoops, trustees). Why? He had the audacity to break the code of silence (Doug Pittman calls these people, “The Baptist Mafia” Stay tune for his incredible story coming soon on this blog). Burleson started a blog to alert Baptists to the asinine, unbiblical changes that are occurring in the SBC. BTW, did you know that a number of abusive churches are trying to get their membership to sign covenants that they will not blog and will not associate with those who do? Please see our series on Spiritual Abuse.


Patterson and his flunkies made a major mistake appointing this fine man to the IMB. He protested two major changes. The first change “required a missionary desiring to be appointed by the IMB be baptized in a Southern Baptist church, or at least in a church that taught “eternal security.” This violates universal Protestant thinking that baptism is identification with Christ, “not a swearing of allegiance to a system of local church beliefs.”


To make matters even worse, some of these Baptist leaders (I have a hard time calling them Christians) believe that one has to have an “authorized” Baptizer do it. (P.2) This is a nod to a strange belief that the Baptist church has been the one, true church throughout the Christian era and some sort of “thing” has been passed down from the time of the apostles that give today’s Baptist leaders some sort of holy advantage. (Can you imagine the fights? – Landmark Baptists are the one true church; no, the reformed Baptists are are; no the Catholic Church is and so on and so on. -How did I ever get involved with this crowd in the first place- sheesh)?!


The second change is the disqualification of any prospective Southern Baptist missionaries if they have a private prayer language.” The IMB already had a policy of public expression of a prayer language. That wasn’t good enough. The Bible unequivocally states that “Do not forbid the speaking in tongues.” 1 Corinthians 14:39. (P.2) Heh, heh, this should cause a little awkwardness with their friends over at Sovereign Grace Ministries.


I bet you didn’t know that in the past number of years, women missionaries have been recalled if it was discovered that the had taught a man. In fact, they were recalled if they even had administrative authority over a man. Also, all missionaries were recalled if they would not sign a covenant that emphasized the submission of the wife. This involved some missionaries who had been on the field for years. Nothing like changing the rules of the game years later, huh?


Ideological differences are to be expected in any denomination. What is astonishing about this situation is how simple disagreements are now being treated like WW3. Tomorrow I will deal with the unchristian behavior of the “boys” of the SBC leadership. Their actions were (and, most likely continue to be) ungodly. Yep, that’s right. I am judging them and I have a Biblical right to do so. I dare you, try the “you can’t do this because you are a woman” argument.


So, how do these supposedly “godly” leaders act? Let’s see, pulling a knife in a threatening manner during a meeting, secret meetings that are not allowed by bylaws, lies, hunting buddies appointed to key positions (such manly men,) and politics that would make former governor Rod Blagojevich blush, do not constitute Christianity, at least in the Bible that I read. Is there a “Baptist” bible that I am missing?


Hey Paige, how about spending more time doing a “word” study on humility and less time giving “safari” lectures? A small man blowing off the heads of large, beautiful animals hardly constitutes a macho activity. Perhaps this “hobby” is symbolic of your approach to leadership in a faith that is becoming unrecognizable to many. Shame on you! Take a page from the actions of Wade Burleson. Now there’s a real man!


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