Wednesday, November 29, 2006

It is a Refugee Baptist Thing

This is what happens when your system support people have too much time on their hands. Thanks to friends over at Nashville is Talking for pointing out a web site where you can generate your very own seal. Have some fun with it!

We were joking about preacher lapel pins and other adornment some time ago... somehow, this strikes me as the kind of design that says, "Hey, let's sit down and have a cup of coffee and talk about is a Baptist thing" (Isaiah 1:18 loosely translated).

And for the other Refugee Baptists, we could adopt Matthew 23:25 (NIV) as our call to arms (and legs): "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

How Tennessee Baptists Can Help Their Higher Education Institutions the Most

It is pretty clear to me that the three, Baptist, higher education institutions that Tennessee Baptists claim as their own are each different. Through the years, I have watched the reports at Tennessee Baptist Convention annual meetings and on those occasions have listened to testimonies, heard musical ensembles, watched slide shows, and viewed videos from students and administrators at the different schools. I have always felt good about Belmont, Carson-Newman, and Union...always. I still hold all three institutions in high regard. In today's competitive world, there seems to be a natural tendency to select favorites and I would guess that each of us in the three grand divisions of Tennessee tend to favor the Baptist school closest to home, I am no different.

In the closing sessions of this year's annual meeting, budget figures were bounced around for supporting Carson-Newman and Union. They both need and depend upon the financial support provided by our cooperative program gifts. Belmont's growth and success has placed the institution in a position where it is no longer dependant on cooperative program monies, in essence the school has done exactly what the TBC wanted it to do: succeed. We should be celebrating the freedom to have more funds available to help other institutions strengthen their wings so they too can fly. I am still amazed that the TBC turned down millions of dollars in student scholarships for Tennessee Baptist families to send their children to Belmont...but that's part of another story.

I am writing today to tell you that there is something each of us can do to support our three Baptist colleges that won't cost you a cent. Many Tennessee Baptists send their children off to college each year...and I would venture to say that most end up choosing state schools over our own Baptist colleges. I am not saying that everyone should attend one of the three schools, but at least make sure that each family knows of the programs at each school so that they are included in the mix of options. More students for each of these schools means more is pretty simple economics. It is my understanding that there are financial models demonstrating that schools with an enrollment of over 4,000 are much more viable than young(er) institutions, without huge endowments, whose financial (enrollment) base is smaller. Belmont is already there. Union is moving steadily in that direction. Carson-Newman is struggling, but optimistic.

The children in my extended family (including their friends and their families) know Belmont...they wear university t-shirts, they hear of student mission trips, and they go to events on campus. Some have already gone to Belmont and if I can have any influence in the choices of other little ones in my family, they will certainly know that Belmont is an option. If I lived closer to Carson-Newman or Union, I know that I would do the same.

Does my loyalty to Belmont mean that I agree with everything that is taught in the classrooms on campus? Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, I am glad that my family is exposed to a diverse cross-section of ideologies. I would be disgusted if only one philosophy of thinking, living, or believing were offered to them. My family walks onto Belmont's campus with a Christian foundation. I expect that foundation to be tested. I would much rather it be tested in a place where there are other Christians available than someplace where the environment discourages Christian activity. I am encouraged by the level of critical thinking that develops in a liberal arts environment. I can guarantee that there are opportunities to meet and associate with other Christian friends, more so that one will find at state schools.

So, what can Tennessee Baptists do to help their colleges the most? Let the youth in your church know about Belmont, Carson-Newman, and Union. Do not take it for granted that they already know of these schools. Who knows, there may be a future TBC president among those future students and alumni.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all my friends (and to those who I have irritated this year), I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving. It is the one special day of the year when Baptists give fried chicken a rest and do our best to keep the Turkey population in check...a public service of sorts. It is what we Baptists do well.

Please pass the cranberry salad,

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

She is my hero, Too

This is a commercial. You need to buy this as a stocking stuffer, Christmas gift. I ordered mine yesterday. If I had copies, I would sell them myself right here. Bring Us Peace is the latest recording project of Ginny Owens... soon to be recipient of the 2006 Artist Award for the Mayor’s Council on Disabilities here in Nashville. Proceeds from the project will be used to support the Fingerprint Initiative, an extension of Ginny's ministry to “bring hope to the world, one touch at a time.” Ginny writes on the Fingerprint Initiative web site,
"I love the thought of God leaving His fingerprints of beauty and creativity not only on His world but also on His children. How wonderful would it be if we were so excited by this truth that we would choose to spend each day of our lives as His living fingerprints; bringing His touches of love, grace, and healing to those in our cities and throughout our universe."
And, by the way, Ginny is a Belmont University graduate, blind since the age of 2...and another reason that I feel good about the cooperative funds that I contributed to Belmont University via the Tennessee Baptist Convention. She is a jewel, an inspiration, and my hero.

No Belmont Report at the Tennessee Baptist Convention Meeting

Belmont University president, Dr. Robert Fisher, was scheduled to deliver the Belmont University report at the TBC annual meeting in Cordova. An early announcement was made that no report would be given. I have given that lack of a report some thought and do not blame anyone from Belmont for not reporting. Let's review some of the circumstances from a perspective that you won't find in print at the Baptist state paper:

1. Belmont jumped through the hoops and gained the approval of a requested, new covenant relationship from the TBC Education Committee. That covenant included a super-majority of Baptists on Belmont's Board and a recommendation to use designated TBC funds for Baptist student scholarships. The TBC executive committee voted against the proposal. Belmont cooperated, the TBC chose not to.

2. Belmont provided the TBC a Resolution on Relationship (again, approved by Education Committee of the TBC Executive Board) at the Clarksville, 2005 TBC Annual Meeting that would have re-defined Belmont's relationship. That proposal was never voted on (tabled). Yet, without voting on a revised relationship, the convention extemporaneously re-structured the budget and re-allocated the cooperative funds that had been budgeted for Belmont. Again, Belmont cooperated, the TBC chose not to. (Interesting that budget alterations were so problematic at this year's meeting.)

3. The day after the TBC announced their irresponsible loss mis-placement of a 1951 document, Belmont produced a copy of the document on their own accord from historical files at the university. If Belmont had meant any ill-will toward the historical relationship between the two institutions, how easy would it have been to say, "Sorry, we could not find any such document". When provided to the TBC, this document became instant fuel and proof that Belmont's trustees (all duly elected by the TBC) are "liars and thieves - Tim McGehee". Belmont demonstrated integrity, the TBC chose not to.

4. In a contentious, called May meeting at Jerry's Place, the convention voted one-by-one, to vacate Belmont's board of trustee members without allowing any discussion whatsoever on any of the individuals who they were asked to remove. Put these in order: Acusation. Execution. Trial.

5. After charging the Belmont Study Committee to negotiate, mediate, and arbitrate...and as a last resort, litigate; the committe met only a few times (in 6 months) and engaged vacated board members minimally before filing a lawsuit, without even the professional courtesy of notification extended between opposing legal counsels. TBC claims: No malice intended. (really?)

6. Most recently, part of Belmont's counter-complaint included allegations that TBC leadership advised Belmont to file its revised charter before the annual convention meeting in 2005. Those claims have been refuted in the B&R: The TBC Executive Director and the conservative leaders all deny the claim. In light of the history between the university and these same people, I can easily understand why their recollection of that conversation might be misplaced different.

I suppose Dr. Fisher shouldn't have taken any of the above personally. He is, after all, busy running a successful university (with the help of some incredibly Baptist and Christain trustees) and has run ito nothing but resistance from TBC leadership and the conservative takeover crowd. If the TBC's own newspaper wasn't willing to provide coverage of the good things going on at Belmont, why then, should the institution's president subject himself to a group that has demonstrated nothing but contempt for Belmont for the last two years.

From my perspective, Dr. Fisher did the right thing. His priorities are focused on the success of some 4,000+ students... and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the TBC is not interested in being a team player in that effort.

When this is all over. I want Tennessee Baptist families to understand that conservative convention leadership led the charge to turn down millions of dollars in scholarship monies to help Tennessee Baptist families send their children to college. I am still hopeful that Belmont will prove to be more gracious and extend that opportunity in spite of the grief heaped on the university and the slanderous claims against duly elected Baptist trustees. Do not be fooled by those who use the guise of "doctrinal accountability" to cover their motive of "institutional takeover".

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tennessee Wasn't the Only Interesting Baptist Convention Meeting

Caught in the Middle provides a brief overview of other interesting Baptist annual meetings. (way-to-go, Scott!)

A Third Party in Baptist Governance

I am more guilty than most in declaring that Tennessee Baptists have adopted (or inherited) a political party system for denominational governance. Honestly, the thought that rational Christian men and women are so divided that they can no longer trust one another creates a knot in my stomach. I hope that God has a sense of humor. The behavior of Tennessee Baptists on all sides of the conservative, moderate, and liberal debates is laughable...sadly laughable. The reality of today is that one group feels that they have unique ownership of the truth and tends to bully-pulpit their agenda...I do not have to put a label on that group. Suffice it to say, if the shoe fits wear it.

The Baptist situation in Texas is bigger more out of control. A Texas blog titled aintsobad offers several interesting thoughts on creating a third party that is Internet based, with a single paid position whose job is to disburse funds based on the consensus of the party. Essentially, the objective of this third party network would be to collect funds and distrubute funds where they are needed most, without a mountain of institutional overhead. In light of the highly engaging but less-than-productive squabbling within Baptist ranks at the convention level, I am beginning to think that there are many of us who would like to get some cooperative ministry work done without as much BS (Baptist Superfluities) native to the political arena. It is an interesting, forward thinking blog post that closes with the following:
You may not like the blogger(s) or his(their) message(s), though I am now seeing the courageous editor of the Baptist Standard (TX) start to repeat that message in tones loud and clear. Like the bloggers or not, the truth is things are much harder to sweep under the carpet now.

Can we not find better ways to relate/account/cooperate with one another with the use of current (and then future) technologies? If the Elitist Party now in control continues to marginalize the presence of the messengers (and so the local church), what is our alternative? Do we dare settle for more of the same?
(my emphasis)

Hat tip to Just Todd.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Paige Patterson on "blogs"

I have hesitated to write anything in response to an October 14, 2007 Florida Baptist Witness article where Dr. Paige Patterson is quoted,
"Patterson said being a pastor of a local church is now the toughest assignment in all of history. "It's worse than being a high school football coach on the high plains of Texas," he said with a knowing grin.

"Because we have encouraged the rugged individualism rather than a Spirit-filled and Spirit-led congregation, we are now reaping the results," he continued, noting 21st-century technology allows dissatisfied church members to attack the pastor with impunity by launching a blog, an online digest (my emphasis).

"We have lost our way on integrity," he said, adding, "We need to make clear to our people, and the seminaries need to join you in this, what congregationalism means and what it doesn't mean."
Personally I believe it is much tougher to be a good pastor than any kind of football coach...just as it was probably tougher being a seminary president than a pastor in the early 1980's when covert hatchet jobs and yellow journalism were the order of the day. I would suggest that if blogs had been around in the early 1980's that good men like Duke McCall would have at least stood a chance against the prevailing winds of whisper campaigns common to the hallways of Southern Baptist Convention meetings of that era. Dr. Patterson is much more familiar with that type of "rugged individualism" than he is with blogging. It is comforting to see Paige Patterson's admission confession that we have lost our way on integrity, indeed "we" have.

Dr. Patterson is right, to a degree. It is quite easy to start blogging with impunity (although blog technology began in the 20th century, not the 21st century)...considering the Patterson-Pressler era of Baptist politics, it does make me wonder if Dr. Patterson remembers how dissatified conservative leaders attacked hijacked changed a denomination with impunity by launching an era of busing campaigns, voter guides, and defamatory innuendos. Pot. Meet Kettle. (knowing grin added here)

Associated Baptist Press - TBC Annual Meeting Summary

Just in case anyone missed the Associated Baptist Press story from November 17, it is here: "Conservatives win battles during Tennessee Baptist Convention".

There was evidently more discussion over criteria for selection of Executive Board members than has been publicised before now. One board nominee was replaced by another due to the small per centage that his church alloted to the cooperative program. I am so glad that we're focused on getting the most qualified people on our boards and that it is not about the money. Oh. Wait!

The Bible is No Longer Good Enough for Tennessee Baptists

Dr. Danny Chisolm over at Signal Mountain Musings has a post that is well worth reading. He concludes with the following:
The real news out of Bellevue this week is that the Bible isn't good enough, at least for the TBC. The 2000 BFM got more votes than the Bible. After this week, it's not enough to affirm the Word of God as the sole authority for faith and practice. (Dr. Bill) Sherman tried in vain with that idea. It used to be that being known as a "people of the book" was good enough to work and fellowship together. You can't be trusted to serve on a committee or board now unless your doctrinal card has been stamped "2000 BFM approved." ...I serve a great church where the folks know what being a Baptist is about and we do our best to keep the main thing the main thing. No one can tell us what to do. We take the Bible seriously and choose ways to best carry out the Great Commission in our community and beyond. That little song I learned in Vacation Bible School stills rings true: "The B-I-B-L-E, now that's the book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E.
Amen, Danny! If there is still fried chicken anywhere near that orchid growing place on the mountain, I want to take you out for a fine Baptist lunch some day.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

TBC Presidential Challenge

I have not met Ron Stewart, but the words in today's Tennessean article give me hope for all of our Baptist institutions, even Belmont University. Here is my challenge to the man the Tennessee Baptist Convention selected to lead us through the coming year:

Dear Ron,
I challenge you as the newly elected TBC President and a graduate of Belmont University, to make Belmont and all Tennessee Baptists proud. If you allow your conservative party affiliation to dominate your decision making, you will fail to represent us all, you will fail Belmont, and you will fail at demonstrating that Tennessee Baptists are bigger than near-sighted, ill advised, spitting contests. I would much prefer that history would record your presidency as a return to cooperation of all Tennessee Baptists, regardless of creedal definitions, to missions and ministry rather than the president who lead the convention through a fight that divided fellow Christians and affirmed to non-Christians why they should not be Baptist. The ball is in your court, Ron.

TBC Elder

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tennessee Baptist Convention Annual Meeting Summary

You might get a strong cup of coffee before reading this. There isn't anything particularly earth-shattering to report from the Tennessee Baptist Convention meeting that wrapped up yesterday evening after being evicted from the main sanctuary at Bellevue Baptist Church and relegated to the smaller (yet spacious) chapel.
I was encouraged to see individuals blogging convention events. This should be viewed as an encouraging turn in communications. I commend those who blogged, for their clarity and integrity in expressing themselves even when we did not agree on issues (maybe some of that will rub off on me...I'm trying hard to be less snarky)

Note: the Boldly Credaling logo (above) was provided by others... it does seem to reflect what some thought about the 2000BFM motions.

I guess that is all for now...I guess we'll have to wait a week for Lonnie and friends at the Baptist and Reflector to put their spin on things...maybe they will give better coverage of meals than I could provide (perhaps they need a blog?).

Are We Confused Tennessee Baptists?

WTVF has posted an Associated Press story that attributes outgoing Tennessee Baptist Convention President, Philip Jett, saying that, "money is not the object in a 57 (M) million dollar suit against Nashville's Belmont University...the primary goal is to return Belmont to the Baptist fold." In the waning paragraphs of the article, the following appears, "In its lawsuit, the convention says it wants back a total of 57 (M) million it has given Belmont since 1951."

Which is it?: the TBC wants Belmont back into the fold? OR, the TBC wants 57 million dollars back? OR, the TBC wants Belmont back and wants 57 million dollars back?

From my perspective, here is my translation of what Mr. Jett was saying: The TBC has filed the lawsuit in order to put pressure on Belmont's leadership to give up their quest to place other non-Baptist Christians on their Board of Trustees (and return to the flock). I have heard from two sides on the money: one side says that those monies were intended as gifts, the other side views the 1951 document as a contract (that over-rides any other agreements thereafter) and feels that the money should be returned. From the little information that I can get from Belmont, they view the change in Tennessee Baptist Convention leadership as a threat to academic accreditation and as an effort to dictate what is taught in the religion and biology departments (there is probably more, but Belmont isn't talking).

Unfortunately, much of this turned into a spitting contest. Things have been said by Belmont's president that hurt feelings and abused egos. Things have been said from the floor of the convention and from the pulpits in our Baptist churches that I would qualify as "less-than-Christian". There are personalities in conflict here, and unfortunately, both sides appear to be willing to roll the dice and see what the courts have to say. I blieve that one side will not be happy with whatever long, drawn-out, and expensive legal exercise that we'll read about in our newspapers. I would venture to say, that neither side will come out winners. Both sides will lose, particularly in the eyes of the non-Christian world.

By the way, someone needs to point out where, in this document, that it mentions anything about "returning Belmont to the Baptist fold". This document IS about the money, Mr. Jett. Please show me a document that welcomes Belmont "back into the fold" that doesn't include worldly intimidation.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Union University President Affirms He is Baptist

Not that there has ever been any doubt about Union University's president, Dr. David Dockery... it is just that this report confirms his status:
About 300 friends and supporters of Union University attended the university’s dessert fellowship (my emphasis) Nov. 14 at Bellevue Baptist Church as part of the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s annual meeting.
I would like to have heard more about the dessert...I understand that the kitchen crew at Bellevue is awesome!

As an aside, I agree that Union and Carson-Newman should not get the short end of the budget stick just because the Belmont Study Committee failed to resolve issues in a timely manner. I tried to warn Union and Carson-Newman back in September. In terms of need, I really believe that Carson-Newman could use all the help we can send their way.

Tennessee Baptist Convention Media Coverage

The relative quiet nature of issues within our disfunctional family of Tennessee Baptists means that the mainstream press will have little to say. Robert Markus' Associated Baptist Press coverage zeroed in on the 2000BFM affirmation motion. Nathan Finn over at The Fullness of Time blog takes issue with Robert Markus' substituting "vitriolic rhetoric--for journalism". That sounds a little harsh to me, but who am I to accuse someone else of being abrasive. (I do endorse the use of the word vitriolic... it has a nice Baptist-ic ring to it).

The official voice of Southern Baptists, BPNews, is busy headlining South Africa's gay marriage bill, Intelligent Design in Ohio, Darwinism in Pennsylvania, and embezzling pastors in Texas. There is a State Annual Meeting Roundup 2006 page on their site, but there is no mention of Tennessee (yet). There is one story that caught my attention: Canadian Southern Baptists consider changing their name. No official recommendation will be heard for some time and the words "Canadian" and "Baptist" seem safe for now. I'll suggest one to follow the spineless change of "Baptist Sunday School Board" to "Lifeway" (yes, that still bugs me)... Why not, "Canadian Lifeway Baptist Convention, Eh?"

News from the Georgia Baptist Convention - A Tennessee Baptist Omen

As I mentioned in a previous post, there are several state conventions meeting during the same time frame as the Tennessee Baptist Convention meeting. The news from the Georgia Baptist Convention meeting headlines, " Georgia Baptists finalize split with Mercer University". That saddens me on a personal level. A former Mercer president was a favorite dinner guest of mine on trips to Atlanta and Macon back in the 1960's. Dr. Harris championed the admission of qualified students into higher education regardless or race, and caught much criticism for his stance among conservatives (and Baptists) in Middle Georgia. It was Dr. Harris who convinced me that the traditionally accepted "equal but separate" philosophy was wrong, legally and morally.

So, yesterday, Georgia Baptists blew off 170 years of history due to the labeling of Mercer as "too liberal". I find that troubling. I did not agree with the gay groups who met on that campus or the faculty who supported them. I did not agree with the liberal direction the university was going, however, I never ever considered that the university had drifted from its historical Baptist roots. Just as Dr. Harris disagreed with the equal but separate segregationists, I suspect that he would argue that labeling moderates and liberals as second-class Baptists (or Christians) would have disgusted him as well. Yesterday, the conservatives in Georgia who wanted control over Mercer lost any opportunity for influencing the university's future by pushing it away rather than embracing their differences. There is still pushing going on in Tennessee at this very moment that will result in similar Tennessee newspaper headlines of the future. Baptists will lose yet another part of their history because they simply refuse to accept other Baptists... how sad is that?!

Making Me Feel Better about My Conservative Baptist Friends

I doubt seriously that my CTB friends actually include me on their Christmas list or agree philosophically with much that I have to say, however, I can affirm that there are conservatives among us who are certifiably Baptist. More proof from Jeff Wright:
"The night was finished well with a full rack of ribs at the famous Rendezvous here in Memphis. If you’ve not enjoyed their wares let me suggest that a drive to West Tennessee might be in order – they’re really that good."
Memphis BBQ is at least one thing that Jeff and I agree on, although, I consider myself a regular fan of the Germantown Commisary just because it is on the way home from Memphis (mildly dropped hint).

Fortunate for this year's convention, adopting a motion for the best BBQ in West Tennessee wasn't on the agenda. See, there is something for even the liberals and moderates to be thankful for!

Next year, I'd like to hear what brand of iced tea that each committee nominee affirms...(Jerry, I guess that would be question number 9); you can tell a lot about a Baptist when it comes to iced tea preferences.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Report on TBC Day Two from Jeff Wright

Jeff is taking notes and providing good blog coverage of the Tennessee Baptist Convention meeting near Memphis. Keep it coming Jeff, I'd much rather hear from you than from the media.

Tennessee Baptist Blogger Round-up

The system administrator person here in the Refugee Camp did a little research for me today. I asked the question, "Are there any other people blogging at/about the TBC annual meeting besides the people on our blog roll?" Well, here is a sampling of what the research found:

Tim Ellsworth - including this from a commenter: "...they have wireless available at Bellevue, but it blocks almost every site imaginable, including this one. I mean, what’s the point of even offering Internet access if you can’t access Like there are other more important sites out there or something."

Jim at Mainstream Baptist - "There is no organization outside the US Congress more befouled of political maneuvering than state and national Southern Baptist meetings. Power hungry souls manipulating and misrepresenting and even deceiving, simply in order to advance their careers. It really is quite disheartening."

Steve Weaver - Short and to the point...he's going.

At the City Gates - lists a bunch of other states having their convention meetings now

Wednesday Morning Update:

Michael Beach
- made the long drive from east Tennessee - and includes his perspective on the passing of the 2000BFM affirmation inclusion into the RJSV Committe Form.

Steve Weaver (updated last night) - Is happy about the TBC's direction and 'doctrinal accountability'

If there are others, please drop me an email:

I'm running for/from a Baptist committee and I affirm this message

If you plan to hold a committee position in the Tennessee Baptist Convention, you will be officially asked to affirm your belief in the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. Rumor has it that the TBC messengers approved the revisions to the Nominating Committee Information Form today...hereinafter referred to as the RJSV (Revised Jerry Sutton Version) , or, What some people won't do to keep women pastors off a committee.

Not to be outdone, here's the Refugee Baptist Top 10 list of things that we'd like people to affirm before serving on Tennessee Baptist Committees:
10. I affirm that dessert at regular Wednesday night fellowship is not an option, it is sacrosanct
9. I agree that "Mo-tea?" is a perfectly acceptable interruption to any Baptist conversation.
8. I support the substitution of coffee pot perculation sounds for singing in early morning Sunday School.
7. I affirm that women should not have children after 35 (really, 35 children are enough).
6. I believe that "turning over in your hymnal" to any page, should qualify as a cardiovascular exercise.
5. I believe that the wearing of wireless microphones into bathrooms prior to a sermon by pastors should be banned from all Baptist life.
4. I affirm that women who prepare caseroles for covered dish meals should qualify for sainthood...(and I want someone to support that with a Biblical reference, please).
3. I believe that church pianists across our convention have the authority to play the Vacation Bible School "sit down chords" at any service where the pastor goes over his alloted time by more than 15 7 minutes.
2. I affirm that church committees who meet in consecutive meetings without food being present must confess that they are not accomplishing nearly as much as those who understand the value of a slice of pizza before beginning deliberations.
1. I affirm that parking lot assemblies that follow regular committee meetings are not required to keep minutes if the conversation includes any two of the following words: coffee, dessert, fishing, hunting, car trading, or honey-do-list.

Is there a cathedral door where I can nail the Refugee Baptist Top 10?

It IS about the Money...and it is about the Students

As the Tennessee Baptist Convention gathers for what may be a doozy of a Baptist gathering, the meeting will likely involve contentious discussion about Carson-Newman and Belmont University. For the messengers in attendance, I hope we will not overlook a large contingent of people who will not be there: the students. Frankly, Carson-Newman doesn't have enough of them and for whatever reason, the declines in enrollment have not been highlighted in the Tennessee Baptist Convention state paper. Belmont may have twice as many students as Carson-Newman, but the vast majority of those belong to denominations other than Baptist, but they are still our students, even if the institutions are not owned by our convention.

This year's convention will have an impact on every student at Carson-Newman and Belmont, yet the students from these two institutions are not likely to personally represented at the microphones in the aisles of Bellevue Baptist Church. Most will be on their respective campuses, just looking forward to a Thanksgiving break. They will, however, be watching how the people at this convention act, speak, and deliberate on their respective institutions.

As we deliberate, let's think of how we define "the church" as the body of believers and not a brick-and-mortar institution. Carry that thought through to how we speak of these two schools. Much will be said of the physical assets that Tennessee Baptists call Belmont and Carson-Newman. From a student's perspective, however, college is about the body of students, faculty, and staff much more that the physical plant or the names on the buildings. So, the next time someone stands on the floor of a convention meeting and cries out, "Liar", "Thief" is naive to believe that the students will not take that personally. Please take the rhetoric down a notch, ok?

Tennessee Baptist's One-and-a-half Political Party System at Work

The Tennessee Baptist Convention's annual meeting is in progress. Last night, the one well organized political faction within the convention announced its proposed slate of convention officers:
President: Ron Stewart, Grace Baptist Church, Knoxville
Vice-President: Tom McCoy, Thompson Station Baptist Church*
Second Vice-President: Tim McGhehee, Grace Baptist Church, Tullahoma

Three conspiracy-theory issues were discussed as secondary concerns: allegations that conservative nominee nominations are being misplaced/lost at the TBC, a witch hunt concern for Cooperative Baptist Fellowship infiltration into the TBC, and issues surrounding all those high-paying TBC salaries that aren't published for the entire convention to see.

If any other factions within the Tennessee Baptist Convention have met to select a slate of candidates, they have done so only half-heartedly. I have heard nothing from the Moderately Concerned Tennessee Baptists, nor have I heard from the Liberally Concerned Tennessee Baptists...the latter two comprising the 'one-half' of the political system within the TBC. It is somewhat comforting to know that Voter Guides won't be as popular at the convention, at least let's hope not.

Hat tip to Jeff Wright for his excellent blogging from the convention...and for giving kudos to the kitchen crew at Bellevue Baptist Church. Two things I wish he had mentioned in the same sentence: "French Silk Pie" and "Go-Box"...oh well.

* I haved loved watching Tom and Leighann McCoy as they matured in their ministry...and wonder if their association with the CTB has affected their feelings towards Woodmont Baptist, a CBF church who provided support in the early days of the mission.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Jim Porch - Tennessee Baptist Scapegoat of the Year

It is really quite sad. Tennessee Baptist Convention Exectutive Director, Dr. Jim Porch is apparently the latest target of the conservative resurgence within the Tennessee Baptist Convention. In a recent Concerned Tennessee Baptist newsletter updates, Dr. Porch is singled out as an accomplice to the Belmont University Board of Trustees actions that resulted in the filing of a new charter with the State of Tennessee. Larry Reagon, pastor of Adams Chapel Baptist Church in Dresden and the current TBC 2nd Vice President is quoted here:
"If we examine all the evidence, we will find that Dr. James Porch has assisted Belmont for several years to go in this direction," Reagan said. "He has repeatedly told the messengers, the Executive Board, and various committees that the TBC does not own Belmont."

From that same article (without attribution):"Should a conservative slate of officers be elected, as expected, at the Nov. 14-15 Tennessee Baptist Convention at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., attention could turn to Porch's leadership, both for his handling of the Belmont issue and long suspicion by fundamentalists that he has aided the nomination process to give churches sympathetic to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a moderate breakaway group, disproportionate leadership on TBC boards and agencies."
Now, it seems, labeling someone as having any association with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, present or past, is enough to have them removed from leadership in the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

Dr. Porch, we'll keep the coffee hot for you over here with the rest of the can bring your own mug regardless of whether it is conservative, moderate, or liberal...just as long as it is Baptist.

Tennessee Baptist Convention Meeting - Thermometer Calibration

In the next few days, I expect the conversation here at the Baptist Refugee Camp to get a little snarky. Snarky is a word that needs more respect in Baptist is what we do when we are at our worst, but yet at our best being Baptists.

There will be words here about my fellow Baptists over at the Concerned Tennessee Baptists Party that they will not like. It is not personal, my friends, it is just that I hate to see a group of conservatives have all the fun when it comes to innuendo and character assasination in the name of righteous accountability.

The CTB group is unequivocally Baptist. I have irrefutable proof: The published menu for the Concerned Tennessee Baptist, convention dinner, at Bellevue Baptist Church on Tuesday night is as follows: "...grilled boneless chicken breast with mushroom sauce, wild rice, julienne spring vegetables, tossed salad, rolls, French silk pie, and beverages."

The group will be forgiven (this time) for not including mashed potatoes, caseroles, or homemade ice cream. Without a doubt there is more pressing business to attend to when political groups gather...traditional Baptist delicacies are overlooked when there are doctrinal integrity papers to be signed and candidates to rally around.

I understand that wives are welcome at the church dinner, as long as they remain silent*.

*snarky remark

Friday, November 10, 2006

Thank You, Baptist & Reflector

I am impatient, it seems. I had hoped that some of these stories were more newsworthy back in May...but Good News is good news regardless of the timing. The latest issue of the online Baptist and Reflector carries two Belmont University stories about student missions involvement. The first speaks of Betty Wiseman's championing the platform of sports evangelism:
Wiseman was pleased that Belmont sports evangelism was invited to be a part of the year- long 25th anniversary of partnership missions. Involvement in partership missions has been a huge part of her ministry and has spanned 20 years.

“I saw 13 Belmont students connecting with people of all ages through the language of love,” she remarked about the Venezuelan missions trip.

“There was laughter, smiles, hugs, tears, high fives, handshakes, and touches. I saw God at work bringing together two countries, not through politics or religion, but through a relationship. There are no barriers, no hidden agendas, no egos, no power struggles. There was only the love of Christ being demonstrated and proclaimed through the platform of basketball.*

Part of that same B&R story included this:
Belmont University’s dean of the school of religion, Darrell Gwaltney, led the 15-member team to Otwock, Poland, to assist IMB missionary Steven Reece in his church planting efforts. Though the team members were predominantly Brentwood Church members, a goal was to bring more Belmont students on a follow-up missions trip for next summer.

According to Gwaltney, Reece has seen unresolved conflicts in Polish society that hinder the gospel including the awareness of the Holocaust and barely 2,000 Jews remaining in the country.

With no one to tend the Jewish cemeteries, the abandoned and vandalized cemeteries serve as a stark reminder of a part of Polish life that has been destroyed. “Restoring the cemeteries is a way to heal old wounds and to show how believers living out the love of Christ, changes communities,” said Gwaltney.

Thanks, Lonnie. That wasn't painful to publish now, was it?

* (Note: this quote from the B&R may look familiar)

Inner City Death Watch for Baptist Churches

My dear Baptist friends,

I asked Will if there was room for an editorial that is heavy on my heart and the next thing you know his Blogger administrator friend sets me up with an account. Let's be clear up front. I am TBC Elder. I am a Baptist and have been for almost as many years as there are white hairs growing out of my ears. I am 'elder' by the definition of being aged and and providing counsel and friendship to many a baptist pastor/leader. I am not "Elder" with a capital "E", so don't go bothering Lloyd about writing on a blog (maybe he should. It is much easier to publish than BSSB literature ever was). Just love me for being the Baptist I am. I promise to return the favor.

Inner City Death Watch
It's a sensitive subject, but is there not a solution to stepping in to the often Elderly Congregations, much like we do with our own Parents health and lifestyle issues? Terms like merge, sell, close, or even donate their facilities to another form of Ministry are like curse words to the dozen or two remaining senior Members, as they sit in hallowed halls that once burst with hundreds and hundreds.

Our Convention, Associations, the North American Mission Board send in young Pastors with guns-a-blazin' to save the Church, save the also-dying neighborhoods, change the music, and reach new Families. Then poof, these young pastors leave in short periods of time, leaving behind more bitterness, and a few new faces that also don't understand. It saddens my heart. It hurts deeply in the lives of those who feel helpless as their church family dwindles around them.

Is there an answer? Has there ever been an answer?

Prayerfully yours,

Friday, November 03, 2006

Belmont Challenges Tennessee Baptist Law Suit

I guess we can stop calling the Tennessee Baptist Convention's lawsuit a complaint. The Tennessean reports today that Belmont has filed papers challenging the TBC lawsuit. That sounds a lot like this matter will be settled in court and not with arbitration, mediation, or negotiation. I could be mistaken. For those in the TBC who stood in the May meeting and said that they'd rather sue than accept a settlement, apparently your wish has come true.

Clay Austin was quoted after the October surprise filing of the suit:
"This action allows the parties to pursue the next option of mediation (my emphasis) in hopes of reaching an amicable resolution of the issues," said Clay Austin, chairman of the special convention committee named to negotiate with Belmont over the dispute.
I am sorry that I won't be there to hear Clay's explanation of why the strategy to file suit didn't turn out like he expected. I certainly hope that someone holds the Belmont Study Committee accountable for the "effort" that they made to keep this mess out of court and out of my pocketbook.

So much for Belmont University rolling over and playing dead. So much for a nice quiet Belmont Study Committee report at the upcoming Tennessee Baptist Convention annual meeting. The media is breathing a sigh of relief right now. Finally, there is a contentious Baptist story to be told at the Memphis gathering. Maybe the Steven Lockhart connection with the Tennessee Baptist Convention will be overlooked. And hopefully, the Bellevue Baptist Church crowd has resolved last month's issues with their new fence-jumping pastor.