Thursday, June 12, 2008

Southern Baptist Convention to Sit Out 2008 Election...

Yesterday, one report pointed out that that there wasn't an election-related gathering of the GOP for Baptist pastors across the street from the SBC annual meeting. Personally, I see this as one of the more positive things that did not occur in Indianapolis. The Southern Baptist Convention should be an issues focused body and no one's forgone conclusion as far as political party affiliation. Even if I do not completely agree with the fine points/issues of Dr. Richard Land's Four Modern Horsemen of the Apocalypse, at least it wasn't presented on the stage of a political candidate (or political party).

I, for one, do not appreciate the Southern Baptist Convention's association with the election of the current administrative leadership in Washington. As an individual, I helped elect the Bush administration...and frankly, I haven't been as disappointed with White House leadership since the Carter administration. I firmly believe that each and every Southern Baptist should actively participate in the political process, however, as a convention/organization I strongly believe that we should avoid entanglement with party affiliations and focus on candidate positions on the issues...there is a difference. There is a BIG difference.

To take a position that says the GOP = Southern Baptist is offensive. To take a position that says to be a Democrat = Southern Baptist is equally offensive. If one asks why our church attendance, memberships, and convention attendance numbers are dwindling, consider the divisive nature (for an individual) to either of these two offensive positions.

There is confusion in SBC circles about John McCain, although this article indicates that many convention attendees will vote for McCain because he is a Republican and perceived to be less liberal than Obama. I share some of that wary feeling...wondering if I should vote for McCain in spite of the fact that he is on the Republican ticket. My suspicion is that confusion will lead to apathy among SBC voters and they will sit this one out. That is a shame, because there are issues that cross political party lines that will require quality politicians from both political parties to address... and those parties need to hear from individual (and refugee) Baptists.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Congratulations to Johnny Hunt, SBC President

I wish Johnny Hunt the very best as he seeks to guide the Southern Baptist Convention for a season as president. He was not my choice, but I respect the decision of the majority in Indianapolis.

For the outgoing President, Frank Page, I offer my warmest appreciation for his service and agree with this closing quote from Ben Coles:
"When he was elected, Frank Page told us that he was conservative but he wasn’t angry about it. Through two years of incredible pressure and conflict, he’s as solidly conservative as he was the day he was elected. And he’s still not angry. Not at the people who opposed him — either secretly or publicly. And not at those of us who by our support gave him more headaches than he ever deserved."

Godspeed, Johnny, I am praying for you.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dr. Avery Willis - An Endorsement

We have good crop of candidates in the pool who are seeking the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention. This year's mix includes some predictable faces, great pastoral leaders, and wonderfully gifted men.

Without hesitation, I personally endorse Avery Willis as the candidate to represent all Southern Baptists. Avery's passion for missions is amazing. His understanding of discipleship is well documented. He understands the power and challenges of Baptist churches with small congregations more so than anyone I know. Avery is a practical man with approaches to ministry/missions/discipleship that would be a breath of fresh air in the SBC.

I pray for all of these candidates...but I love the senior, statesmanship qualities of Avery whose life at home and abroad defines what I love most about Southern Baptists. There are many areas of the conservative direction of the SBC where Avery and I would disagree, but I am convinced that Avery's understanding of fellowship among Baptists is more 'embracing' of our diversity rather than 'narrowing' due to our differences.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Two Rivers Baptist Vote - Again, Confusing

Somewhere in Roberts Rules of Order there (evidently) exists a clause whereby members of an organization who are charged with wrongdoing are not allowed a vote should the issue of their membership status arise. From my experience in running meetings over the last 40 years, that is new one. In one article
Two Rivers Baptist Church attorney, Larry Crain, is quoted as saying,
"If you're charged with a crime, you can't sit on the jury"

Attorney Crain is certainly correct when his comment applies to the court system...I find it a stretch to apply that same logic to a group whose dissension (or sin) is compared to a criminal or illegal act. I would suggest that if that logic were to be applied equitably, then all of those at TRBC who has been accused of financial misdeeds should not have been allowed to vote either.

I am really confused over the 'surprise' Mother's Day vote at Two Rivers Baptist Church. From one Sunday's vote where members were required to show identification in order to vote, to the next Sunday when the very same issue is resolved by a simple show of hands, I believe there is room to question motive as well as action. Those who 'lost' on Mother's Day will no longer be able to vote as 'members' of Two Rivers Baptist Church...otherwise, I am not certain that the second vote accomplished anything other than raising additional suspicions within the congregation.

I will stand by my previous post. Those who have problems with the leadership at Two Rivers Baptist should find a new home..a new branch. Those who remain should re-focus on the mission of the church and bearing new fruit. John 15:1-2 reads, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful."

Many of the members at Two Rivers Baptist Church who were ousted on Mother's Day became members when Jimmy Henry was pastor. I cannot imagine that Jimmy is not heartbroken by the distractions at his previous pastorate. Perhaps some of Jimmy's retirement time could be spent in counseling his older TRBC flock. Certainly there is great need for healing on both sides of the issues at Two Rivers Baptist Church.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

There Are Other Churches Besides Two Rivers Baptist

I read (yet) another report claiming mis-deeds from Dr. Jerry Sutton, Senior Pastor at Two Rivers Baptist Church. There are members who are claiming all sorts of financial irregularities and have gone to court to gain access to financial records. According to the report, "(Dr.) Sutton sent a letter to members saying those who've sued the church will be thrown out if they don't shape up."

My advice to those who disagree with how things are being run at Two Rivers: it is time to find another church home. It is obvious that there is a disagreement. It is obvious that the pastor does not intend to budge from his position. It is obvious that the seventy (or so) members who want to oust the pastor are a small minority. There is nothing that a court suit, a group, or additional head-butting in the media will do to bring any glory to this situation. If there is wrongdoing, God will deal with the sin involved.

Full disclosure: I left Two Rivers Baptist Church a month or so after Dr. Sutton appeared on the scene and summarily dismissed some of the finest women ministers in the Southern Baptist Convention. It was my choice to leave. I spoke personally with Jerry and expressed my disappointment in his decisions. We agreed to disagree. I chose to find another church home. I am still at peace with that decision and view it as a door that lead me to new areas of service that I might not have discovered had I stayed.

Wonderful things have happened to Two Rivers under Dr. Sutton's leadership and although we may disagree on many things, God has blessed Jerry's ministry and Two Rivers Baptist Church. I wish Dr. Sutton the best. I wish those who disagree with Dr. Sutton the best as well.

Monday, March 31, 2008

April 6th Offering for Union University

The Tennessee Baptist Convention's new president, Tom McCoy, has called for an offering to be collected April 6th across the convention to support Union University's re-building programs. In Tom's matter-of-fact, personal touch, way isn't asking churches to spend a whole Sunday on the subject, but enough time to inform congregations and to pass the plate. The Jackson Sun and covered this story as well last week.

James Porch, the TBC Executive Director, outlines some of progress that has already happened since the February 5, 2008 tornado.

If you are not a member of a Baptist church and wish to help in the re-building process, I encourage you to do so (securely) online.

Belmont University, though not affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention, set up a special web site, held a benefit concert, sent student volunteers to assist in the clean-up, and delivered a $100,000 check from the university's trustees to help. Thank You, Belmont!

Thursday, March 27, 2008