Sunday, December 31, 2006

One Baptist's Year End Reflections

Stories of this year's Baptist battles are circulating widely in print, on the internet, and in blogs like the Refugee Baptist. Interestingly enough, Baptists have a long history of battling among themselves over everything from carpet color in the sanctuary to padded pews to singing in church. We live in an era of Baptist life where change(s) in the denomination may be coming at us at a faster pace than in previous decades. My intuition tells me that the pace and level of interactive exchange of ideas is a major source of discomfort across the generations seated in our pews.

I describe myself as a conservative, perhaps even a fundamental Christian, in part because I love the very foundation of the Baptist church and the history of the denomination. First century Christians might look at us today and ask, "What happened?" Those single digit century believers met/worshipped in homes, treated one another as family, collectively helped widows, the poor, the imprisoned. They broke bread together as part of their rememberance of Him. There is a simplicity and fundamental core to that first century church that I never want us to lose sight of. Even today, I think it is a good idea to ask ourselves, "What happened?" I hope that the answers to that question will always make us uncomfortable. God sent His Son into the world knowing that man (you and me) could really mess things up...and God sent Him anyway. So, as we battle our way into 2007, my prayer is that we will remember the simplicity, the fundamentals, of those first century Christians. We all share a piece of that early church as witnessed by an act of faith that brought Christ into our lives. I hope that we can shift our focus away from the distractions of denominational disagreements and get back to a focus on the world who has not yet experienced what it is like to have Christ in their lives. I am pretty sure that translations of the Great Commission include something about "Go ye" rather than "Fight ye".

Speaking of breaking bread...there was a bread making machine under the Christmas tree at our home this year. I could sure use a good Baptist recipe to give this thing a spin (and I'm sure there is a sour dough reference that I am missing as a punch line).

Saturday, December 30, 2006

WKRN's Brittney Gilbert on Gerald Ford's Death

(when available from YouTube)

Yesterday, Nashville is Talking's Brittney Gilbert posted this video summarizing the discussion from Nashville area blogs regarding the death of former president Gerald Ford. Two miraculous things have happened: 1. The Refugee Baptist is mentioned in the video from this post; and, 2. the technically-challenged-Will managed to get the video to show up here on the blog (Yes. I am patting myself on the back).

Now, back to your regularly scheduled, Saturday morning, honey do list (you know you have one).

Friday, December 29, 2006

Tennessee Baptist College Basketball Off to a Good Start

My faithful blog support person (who keeps the terminally tech-challenged lot of Refugee Baptists online) is an avid basketball fan. This morning, he called with the thought of having a TBC basketball tournament. Think about it, Tennessee Baptists could come together and yell at one another over something besides committee appointments, budgets, and law suits...then have fellowship over hot dogs and Coca-Cola. Does it get any better than that? As it turns out, our three higher education institutional men's teams are off to a good start:

Belmont is 8-4 with last night's 87-85 win over Rice
Union is 7-3 with a recent 74-61 win over Oklahoma Baptist
Carson-Newman is 6-4 including a recent 79-67 win over North Greenville

If you live near any of our three schools, make the trip over for a basketball game. You might even see a Refugee Baptist or two standing around. We're the one's with the Diet Coke and the cheese laden nachos (those cancel each other out in dietary caloric values...ministerialy speaking *big smile*)

Barna Group Survey Report - Worth the Read

I spent some time early this morning reading through The Barna Group's "the 12 Most Significant Religious Findings from 2006 Surveys. I recommend it as a source for some thought provoking statistics. Way down the page, beneath the sub-heading "Patterns That Were Visible" was this concluding paragraph:
"...that the most intriguing blip on the radar screen is the growth of various converging movements of deeply spiritual people who are departing from the conventional forms and communities of faith. “The Revolutionary community – which incorporates divergent but compatible groups of people who are seeking to make their faith the driving force in their life – is reshaping American faith in ways which we are just beginning to understand.” Few researchers and journalists are tracking the behavior and beliefs of those nascent segments."
The phrase divergent but compatible groups of people who are seeking to make their faith the driving force in their life jumped off the page for me. Doesn't that sound rather Baptist to anyone else? I do hope that is the case.

Associated Baptist Press - better late...

Associate Baptist Press reported yesterday, "Belmont names first non-Baptists to board as controversy continues". Although reading the story felt a little like picking up a week old Sunday newspaper, I believe that Robert Marus provides a good summary of the events that led up to last week's announcement by Belmont University.

From where I am seated, we are in a holding pattern until there is a ruling/decision on a document that the Tennessee Baptist Convention calls "an agreement with a reverter clause" and that Belmont University refers to as a "historical artifact". All other arguments and flailing around are simply wasted effort.

I want to walk around some thoughts on what the relationship(s) will look like between the TBC and the associated higher education institutions after the smoke clears from the legal actions...but that is a post for another day.

Coffee is ready. Anyone want to share a cup?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Not Baptist Enough

Kaylor over at the blog, For God's Sake Shut Up, makes an interersting observation on the recent Baptist Press article, "Belmont names 7 non-Baptists to join trustee board." One of the eight new trustees was identified as a member of Brentwood Baptist Church, a Tennessee Baptist and Southern Baptist Convention church. Six were clearly labled by their non-Baptist affiliations. One of the other new trustees is a member of a Missionary Baptist Church which is neither Tennessee or Southern Baptist in affiliation. Kaylor takes Baptist Press to task:
How is the one who is a member of a Missionary Baptist church not a Baptist? Sure, that individual is not affiliated with the TBC or even the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), but they are still Baptist. Unless the SBC and the Baptist Press think they get to decide who deserves to be called “Baptist” (which may actually be what’s going on).
Now there's an idea for a great Southern Baptist crusade...let's go tell all those other groups who use Baptist in their names that they aren't really Baptists (I am getting a Baptist history headache)! Oh wait, Southern Baptists are busy trying to decide who gets to Baptise who within our own denomination...we may discover that WE aren't really Baptist enough. Ha!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford was no accident

Former President Gerald Ford never made my favorite presidents' list, but his term in office is due a significant amount of respect (IMHO). President Nixon had resigned and Vice-President Agnew was not around due to other scandals. History may question Ford's pardon of Nixon's crimes and the political suicide that one act probably caused, but Ford's rise to power was no accident.

What Ford's appearance in the oval office proved to the country is that the system works. The nation was in turmoil over Viet Nam and an executive office that was in disarray...yet the transition of power happened without violent public revolt or military intervention. Ford took the reins and took care of business. Agree with the man or not, President Ford did a job that those who were elected to do couldn't seem to complete.

On behalf of this one Baptist, I am grateful for President Ford's service. I would echo the words of Betty Ford, "His life was filled with love of God, his family and his country." May he rest in peace.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

I want to take a moment here, early on Christmas morning and say Merry Christmas to all of you who stop by The Refugee Baptist. To TBC Tither, commenters, and others who have shared their thoughts, frustrations, and concerns here, I would like to say a special Thank You. May God bless each and every one of you as we remember, together, the greatest Gift of all.

Merry Christmas!

(and although distance prevents us from breaking bread together, I shall remember you all with each nibble of those chocolate chip, almond crunch, oatmeal raisin cookies that my deacon's wife brought over...doesn't that sound like a cookie that came from a Baptist committee or what??)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Let me tell you about one of Belmont's new, non-Baptist Trustees

The denominational labels for Belmont's 8 new trustees made the news this week. Up until now, that is just about all we know of them (unless you are a gospel music fan and know CeCe Wynans). I was delighted to see Steve Horrell's name added to Belmont University's Board of Trustees...and I want all Tennessee Baptists to understand why I feel moves such as this are in the best interest of the school and do NOT make Belmont any less Baptist.

Steve Horrell was raised in a Baptist church right here in Nashville. I attended numerous musical presentations during his youth and young adult days and remember seeing him in the choir. I know that he attended Belmont College back in the days when a select group of Christian men and women called the Belmont Reasons presented a musical witness in TBC churches and gatherings across Tennessee...Steve was part of that group. I know that Steve was a campus leader in other areas as well.

I know of at least one TBC sponsored mission trip that Steve took to Guatemala following a devastating earthquake in the late 1970's and was at his church the night that the team reported back. Even though Steve's words from that trip elude me, I can still hear the passion in his voice for that ministry effort. From a nearby neighbor, I learned later how Steve took care of his mission team's accomodations the last night of that trip when several were quite ill (Steve, Carl thanks you for that).

Steve Horrell knows Belmont intimately. His family has been a part of the institution as far back as I can remember (early 1960's?). Since his graduation, I dare say that he as been a regular on campus and served in a host of roles. He has served faithfully and generously at one of Belmont's Regents in recent history.

I do not know the details of why Steve left the Baptist church to join a Presbyterian church. He may have tired of the bickering among Baptists and simply chose not to become a Baptist Refugee. For me, it does not matter an ounce. This man knows and loves Belmont University. I would expect that his success in the business world will be a tremendous asset in guiding the school through its current growth. He has more than proven himself to be loyal, talented, professional, committed, and Godly. I applaud the university's choice and congratulate Steve on his new position.

Had we as a convention, in the special meeting back in May, actually taken the time to look deeply into the backgrounds, histories, and hearts of Belmont's trustee men and women whose positions we "vacated", I know for a fact that we would have discovered similar levels of talent, commitment, professionalism, and Christian compassion. I pray that the Tennessee Baptist Convention will never allow itself to be misguided by church leaders again to commit such an unjust act, particularly in the name of "legal convenience".

Friday, December 22, 2006

You Didn't Hear it from Me (this time)

Jim over at Mainstream Baptists reviews the latest Belmont University announcement regarding the naming of non-Baptist trustees and has this to say to Tennessee Baptists:
"The battle for Belmont, then, isn't about retaining a convention entity, it's about, yes, you guessed it, money. The leadership of the TBC doesn't care about the many thousands of students it has helped educate, it only concerns itself with control. When it cannot leverage control doctrinally or dogmatically, it turns to its favorite weapon- the purse. So shame on them. Shame on all those in the Convention who voted to sue; and shame on all those in the leadership who urged it. Shame on them for their greed and their failure to apply the teaching of Christ to themselves and the convention. And shame on them most of all for taking their brothers and sisters to court for... money... the true god of this age and the true icon of the leadership of the Tennessee Baptist Convention."
I think TBC Tither had something to say about this a few months ago.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Belmont University and TBC Make Top 15 List

It is a Top 15 story that neither the Tennessee Baptist Convention or Belmont University should be proud of. Baptist journalists across the country identified Baptist battles as their top stories of 2006. Let's hope for a more positive list in 2007...perhaps something about cooperation, missions, and ministry. I am sure that I remember those as being benchmarks that I admired once from my denomination. Yes. I am certain of that.

Methodists and Garrison Keillor

I have a warm place in my heart for Methodists and Garrison Keillor. The Methodist church was within walking distance from my college was also closest to the freshmen women's dorm. Not the best motivations for attending church, but it perhaps made me appreciate Christian diversity a bit more. Garrison Keillor and Prarie Home Companion made me fall in love with the radio and the town of Lake Wobegon, Minesota "where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average,".... So, when there is a satirical article that features Garrison Keillor and Methodists, it is a must read for me. This is Keillor at his best:
"And finally, you know you are a Methodist when: It's 100 degrees, with 90% humidity, and you still have coffee after the service. You hear something really funny during the sermon and smile as loudly as you can. Donuts are a line item in the church budget, just like coffee. When you watch a Star Wars movie and they say, "May the Force be with you,"and you respond, "and also with you."
Somewhere along the geneology of Christians, there is a little Methodist blood mixed in with some of us Baptists...and I don't see that as such a bad thing at all.

Hat Tip: the methoblog

Belmont University Names New Board Members - Baptists Retain Super Majority

The Tennessean released a story today, "Belmont names first non-Baptist trustees". The eight new trustees include one Tennessee Baptist, one Missionary Baptist, three Presbyterians, two Christian Church members, and one non-denominational church member (I feel the need to insert "and a partridge in a pear tree").

Ron Stewart, President of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, insinuates that this move is Belmont's effort to become some sort of money grubbing, gold digging monster: "The thing I want to make clear is that their reason for doing this is financial...It's for the financial benefit they feel can be gained". I would love to ask Ron when was the last time that he turned away a prospective member from his church because he/she happened to be a successful and/or wealthy business person?

Ron, let's do the math here (we will not see it in the Baptist and Reflector). Out of 40 Belmont University trustees, 32 of them are still part of the duly elected (and summarily vacated) Tennessee Baptist church members and one newly elected trustee is from a TBC church. Let's see, 33 divided by 40 (it's OK, Ron you can use your calculator)... 82% (plus change) of the Belmont University trustees are Baptist! I find it difficult to reconcile the math with your statement (as quoted from the same article): "now they're moving away from that Baptist foundation". No. They are not. Please do not confuse an agenda of control of the board of trustees by conservatives with "moving away from that Baptist foundation".

And yes, many of these new, Christian, trustees are either wealthy or have influence within a large donor base. There is NOTHING wrong with that. I don't get the criticism for attracting donors who are wealthy... Ron, just where-the-heck do you expect Belmont to come up with this $57 million extortion complaint payment? And how dare you to say "Having non-Baptists on the board is something I personally would not be willing to accept and I believe most Tennessee Baptists would not accept (emphasis mine)"? Surely you have been a Baptist long enough to understand how un-Baptist it is to try to speak for other Baptists!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Now it is "The Award Winning Tennessee Baptist Convention vs Belmont University Law Suit"

Listed in The Nashville Scene's Boner* Awards 2006 is an irreverent public perspective of what is transpiring between the Tennessee Baptist Convention and Belmont University:
What was that thing about money changers?
"The Lord giveth, but if you’re not careful, He’ll taketh away. In a story that points out the contradictions inherent in the collision of religion, big money and higher learning, the Tennessee Baptist Convention demanded back the money it has given to Belmont University over the past half-century. At issue is control of Belmont’s board of trustees, which has been 100 percent Baptist: the university seeks to reduce the board’s Baptist presence, while the Baptists want all the power their charity can buy. We’re not talking chump change, either. In October, the convention filed a lawsuit asking for $57 million, citing a 1951 repayment agreement that apparently no one remembered until a couple of years ago."
Does anyone at the TBC or Belmont want to revisit the quote, "I'm sorry that it has come to this"? Maybe it would be better if we said collectively that we're really, REALLY sorry that it came to this.

*Boner Awards - named for former Mayor Bill Boner of harmonica-on-late-night-television-buffoon fame (and notably a much better man these days than those prior years - people DO change).

Christmas Gluttony is Forgivable, Right?

One more Christmas gathering and I may have to strap myself to the treadmill for the entire month of January. Hat Tip to and This is the funniest 10 Tips for Sensible Holiday Eating that I read, ever. Jerry Clower would have lobbied to have this added to scripture as a missing gospel, I am certain of it (kidding, of course)! My favorite is number 6 on the list:
"Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog."

There is much more.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Song of the Season for Belmont University

Well, I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. Belmont is home to a lot of creative people and one very large school of music... via email today, a student sent along the following parody to the tune, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer:
Belmont the Baptist school here,
is a place that we all know.
And if you had to draw it,
you would surely say it grows.

All of the fundy Baptists
used to bash and call it names.
They wouldn't let poor Belmont
have a say in boards they claim.

Then one muggy 'tober eve,
lawyers came to say:
"Belmont you have lost your rights,
we'll file-a big complaint tonight."

Oh how the Baptists loathed them
ousted each and all trustees.
Belmont the Baptist school here,
maybe soon they'll set you free!
Finals MUST be over. This student has far too much time on his hands! I'm not sure if I should laugh or cry...OK, I'm laughing!!

HISnets - An inexpensive stocking stuffer for an African family

Thirty eight years ago I was exchanging audio cassette tapes with a missionary journeyman (and girl friend) who was serving in a Baptist Hospital in Nalerigu, Ghana. In the last couple of days, I have read stories that make me feel that the medical needs haven't changed much in that region. Particularly, it is hard to believe that malaria is still a problem.

Bruce Prescott points to a couple malaria fighting sites including HISnets. Within the HISnets site is a story that tells me that we have a new generation of Baptists growing up who are ready to skip the bickering and not let something like a few thousand miles and an ocean get in the way of taking action to remedy a problem that shouldn't exist in the 21st century. From the story, GA's at FBC Jasper Start a Movement:
"Friday afternoon my secretary came into my office with a bag of money. She had just returned from the bank to change a sack of change into paper money. She wanted to know what to do with the money. I asked her what it was for and she said that the GA’s had been giving their personal money to buy nets for Africa. They had enough money to buy 8 nets. I was so very touched and moved y their simple expression of mission and their personal gifts. The make-up of the money made it obvious that parents had not given the money but the girls had done it themselves. On Sunday, during my sermon, I was talking about the power of dreaming and told about what the girls had done. I referred o the Messianic passage in Isaiah 11: 6, ... and a little child shall lead them. After the service a lady came up to me and said that she was touched by the girls gift. If they could give 8 nets, she could do the same. Suddenly 8 had become 16. At deacons meeting on Monday several of the deacons mentioned it and 8 became 25. Tuesday I received an e-mail from a member of the Mission Council challenging the council to take the girls lead and make this a project of the church and set a goal of 1000 nets. He pledged $100.00."
The First Baptist Church - Jasper, Georgia story is a couple of months old now. More recently, Nashville blogger, Sharon Cobb, hit the nail on the head with her post,"People Shouldnt Die for a Mosquito Bite"... and following that is a flurry of stories in the national news about a US initiative to combat malaria in Africa.

There is a point coming: It does not matter to me how this problem gets solved. Personally, I give the young ladies in Jasper, Georgia and the teams over at Madness Against Malaria a better shot at being more effective than the federal initiative. I am joining one of the Madness Against Malaria teams where 100% of the money given will go toward insecticide treated bednets. If you are looking for something a little different to place in someone's stocking this year, a $5.00 donation gets a treated net to an African family that will last 4 years...I'm thinking a small piece of net with a thank you note attached may be part of stocking stuffers in my home this year.

There are a bunch of Madness Against Malaria teams to choose from and the current leader is Team USA. If you are so inclined, spend 5 bucks and help make malaria ancient history.

Merry Christmas!*

*Translation: I will be posting less over the next several days. There are places to go and salad bars that require my attention.

Unfit Baptist Tea Totalers

In light of my more serious reflections, I must offer up the satirical-Baptist-insider look at 10 Reasons Why Tea Totalers Should Be Excluded from Southern Baptist Leadership and Missions Ministry (I did find this link in the comments to be amazing).This could be an indication that it may be open season on the distractions that keep Baptists from focusing on missions and ministry.

I have wondered if Baptist churches could do with fewer restrooms if the number of coffee pots in Sunday School rooms were to be reduced...but then, faster conversation (due to caffeine) allows us to say more in less time.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Baptists should not get drunk with wine (or whine)

I (obviously) have issues with the politics and past history of Paige Patterson regarding his influence in the Southern Baptist Convention, and, I am sure that he probably could care less of my whining commentary. Oddly enough, I am also sure that if seated across a coffee table from one another, we'd have great conversations on how to save one another from ourselves. After reading the alcohol discussion from the SBC Greensboro assembly, however, I am amused and annoyed at his frustration over the convention's discussion on alcohol. (quoting from James Smith's Florida Baptist Witness editorial):

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson — the subject of much criticism of (Ben) Cole and other bloggers — nicely summarized the alcohol resolution debate when he told me, “Sadly, I would never have believed that I would see a 45 minute debate at the Southern Baptist Convention on a resolution on abstinence from beverage alcohol. When one considers that the alcohol industry devastates more lives and homes today than any industry other than the pornography industry, such a question is doubly unthinkable. Positively, the resolution was adopted by 90 percent of the messengers, a critically important resolution in light of some pastors who now openly boast of imbibing alcohol.” (my emphasis)
I was not there for the 45 minutes worth of discussion...but a discussion on social problems associated with alcohol abuse is worthy of our time. Abstinence is certainly one viable option to alleviate the problem. I question how effective a BBB (Baptist Boycot of Budweiswer) might be (thinking failed Disney boycot of past years). And if my American history serves me correctly, attempting to legislate the alcohol business into oblivion failed miserably. I understand, however, that there was much more to it at the SBC than encouraging abstinence among Baptists...something about an attempt to present abstinence as being "the full biblical witness", quoting from the same Florida Baptist Witness editorial:
"As noted in the debate on the resolution, it's clear from Scripture that wine was consumed during biblical times - and that it is even encouraged in moderation in select passages of the Bible," wrote James Smith, editor of the conservative Florida Baptist Witness newspaper, in a June 19 editorial on the convention. "But the idea that adopting a resolution which calls for total abstinence of alcohol is anti-biblical fails to take in account the full biblical witness - as well as the pernicious influence alcohol has had in our society and in the lives of countless individuals."

I am not sure that we can all agree on what anti-biblical? and/or full biblical witness mean, but they do sound like terms that folks on both sides of the aisle could use in this debate.

Where do I stand?
I watched my 90+ year-old grandmother agonize over her doctor's recommendation that she take a glass of wine following her evening meal each night. My grandmother was a saint, a daughter of a WCTU leader, and a life-long Baptist. The very idea of having a bottle of blackberry Mogen David wine in her refrigerator was as foreign to her as having a deck of playing cards in her home. Yet, she was miserable and she trusted her doctor. Well, the wine did wonders for her digestion (the Biblical advice is right) and she claimed to have slept better every night.

Let me be clear on this. I know the difference between my grandmother's alcohol consumption and the consumption of alcohol with the intent of getting drunk. However, both instances involve drinking alcohol and it is not simply a black and white issue. I feel just as strongly about drunkeness being a sin as I do that other alcohol consumption may not be a sin. I do not believe that we, as Christians, are doing a good job in teaching that distinction...we run around attacking an industry and appear to be afraid of what teaching people what responsible, even Biblical, consumption might look like! People WILL drink. Baptists WILL drink (go ahead and gasp..but get over it). If Christian people do not understand what they are doing, they WILL get drunk. Do we really want our schools (or the alcohol industry) to be the primary source of instruction on the difference between drunkeness, moderation (responsible consumption), and total abstinence?

Alcohol abuse is a huge problem. It is a problem that we as Baptists need to address with a full range of options for solving those problems. Yes, abstinence is one option. It is not the only option. Looking toward the Bible for a solution and guidance is the way to go, however, trying to reconcile the Bible's references to the use of wine in Jesus' day (not to mention the miracle of coverting water into wine) and justify abstinence as THE only biblical solution is a wheel-spinning exercise...we can spend (waste) another 45 minutes discussing abstinence and still be the same distance away from resolving any of the social ills involved. We as Baptists are now on record having supported the abstinence, let's spend more than 45 minutes and figure out how we can resolve the abuse problems. A resolution without wings is worthless. WORTHLESS!!

One final word. My other grandmother was part of a very wealthy branch on the family tree. Some years after my grandfather died, she moved in with my family. We were much simpler, middle class folks. One of the traditions that arrived with her joining our family was the appearance of a wine bottle at evening meals (yes, families used to eat together around a dinner table). I was too young to participate in the evening toast. But I did see something that stuck with me through the years...even though there was frequent mealtime alcohol consumption, not once in all those years did I witness an adult getting drunk. Was what I viewed the sinful nature of my family or was it a witness to what the Bible describes as moderation?

There is a wine bottle on the table at special occasions in my home at a much more infrequent rate than those years of my live-in grandmother. However, that tradition and that witness of moderation are something that I do not view as something anti-biblical. Perhaps it might be considered a full biblical witness.

.. and Dr. Patterson, I pray that you will not take this post as just another pastor
"openly boast(ing) of imbibing alcohol". There really is a bigger issue involved.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I am NOT at all OK with this...

I know that this prediction will be seven years old next week. It is good to know that the predicted split in the SBC hasn't happened. I would ask after reading the article: Are we working toward preventing a split or are we working to make sure that Dr. Patterson's prophesy comes true?

I am just not OK with throwing in the towel. We have work to do, I am certain of it.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Let's get mad and show the world how Baptist we are

I have tried to broaden the scope of my reading in the Baptist blogoshphere (now THAT's a dangerous combination of words). My blogroll over in the right-hand column intentionally includes conservative, liberal, moderate, and assorted flavors of commentary coming from differing perspectives within the Southern Baptist Convention, and more specifically the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Rarely do I find a topic from any of those sources that matches my feelings/opinions exactly. I read something this morning that comes very close to how I feel about being a Baptist...and if you have not read anything of Wade Burleson's blog, be sure to read this December 16, 2006 post. It includes the following:
There are those who say, "This fussing and fighting make me wish I weren't a Baptist."

Don't say that.

The truth is, we may seem to 'fuss and fight' but all we are really doing is establishing the fact that we are by nature Baptists --- nobody dictates, demands, or dominates our beliefs. The Word of God is our guide, and no human instrument will bind our conscience. The presence of free debate and dissent is a sign of a 'healthy Baptist denomination.'
Wade's comments fit my definition of who we are as Baptists. What seems to have changed for many of us that we just don't seem to know how to fight fairly. What the world sees is the unfairness of our tactics and misses the free debate and dissent..and now electronically-on-the-web, the open display is often a bad combination of unfair,ad hominem, free debate and dissent.

I would hold up Wade's blog as a shining example of gracious and reasoned response in the face of criticism. I believe that he demonstrates what electronic debate should look like. We may not agree completely. But with Wade, I am confident that our fellowship is not in danger due to our differences. For me, that is a core, historical, Baptist value that needs to be cultivated more among Baptist bloggers.

I still contend that whenever two or more Baptists are gathered in His name, there is a Meat and Three somewhere nearby.(my apologies to Matthew) We may fuss and fight, but we sure seem to have fewer problems when eating with one another.

There is no limit to anger born from ignorance or misinformation

It must be something in this morning's coffee, but I have been pondering what others have had to say about a certain value, belief, icon (i.e the Bible), or institution (i.e. the family) coming under 'attack'. I'll confess to my tendancies to become defensive when faced with an opinion, comment, or ideology that either conflicts with my own values or makes me uncomfortable. It is because of that discomfort that I leave you with the following words from Mark Twain:
"We despise all reverences and all the objects of reverence which are outside the pale of our own list of sacred things. And yet, with strange inconsistency, we are shocked when other people despise and defile the things which are holy to us."
Maybe I just need more creamer...perhaps one of those fancy flavored varieties.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Baptist & Reflector Editor Interested in Fairness

There is hope. Following a small hiccup in jounalistic standards, Lonnie Wilkins published "In the Interest of Fairness" as a follow up to this article. The Baptist and Reflector editor concludes with what I feel to be an honest reflection, worthy of consideration by all of us:
"It is a reminder that we need to be careful about not only what we say, but how it may be interpreted. We should never leave any doubt that we believe Jesus is “the only way, the truth, and the life.” And we should never, ever be ashamed to proclaim that Jesus is Lord."
I, too, will stand by what I wrote based upon Lonnie's story.

Dr. David Dockery - Baptist Olive Branches

I really, truly like David Dockery. He is a great match for the Union University community and the mission/goals/vision for the school. I hope that the trustees recognize the jewel that they have at the helm and support and encourage his ministry in leadership.

Dr. Dockery has stepped up to the plate to mend fences and extend olive brances within the ranks of Southern Baptists. His efforts are commendable. I hope that his most recent foray into Baptist diplomacy doesn't pull him too far from his focus at Union. I say that in all sincerity and know from experience and history that a misstep in any direction can be disasterous. We Baptists still tend to bury our wounded.

The following is a quote from a recent Concerned Tennessee Baptist news story, "Dockery calls for consensus on theological issues of primary importance":
Dockery traced his own experiences growing up as a Southern Baptist in the 1950s, when being Southern Baptist carried a cultural and programmatic identity no longer seen today. Instead, in recent years, Dockery said the Southern Baptist Convention has become a gathering of loosely-connected groups – including fundamentalists, evangelicals, revivalists, purpose-driven churches, quasi-charismatics, culture warriors and Calvinists, to name a few.

Dockery acknowledged that tension may exist between some of these groups – as tension exists in some basic Christian doctrines. But he said tension doesn’t have to lead to fragmentation or division.

“It is possible to hold hands with brothers and sisters who disagree on secondary and tertiary matters of theology and work together toward a common good to advance the kingdom of God,” Dockery said. “But we need to be of like mind on first-order issues, issues such as the authority and truthfulness of the Bible, the deity and humanity of Christ, the Holy Trinity and the exclusivity of the gospel.”
I feel pretty confident that Dr. Dockery's statement, "But we need to be of like mind on first-order issues" is something that most every Baptist would agree to. It may, however, be naive (and un-Baptist-like) to believe that his list of first-order issues will gain consensus in light of on-going debate over the Baptist Faith and Message (choose your version). I wish Dr. Dockery godspeed in his quest and will be watching for the wings of his words.

Refugee Baptists have affirmed Dr. Dockery's status as a Baptist... there is the burning question of whether or not he believes that fried chicken is the concensus Baptist bird. It is a first-order, Baptist fellowship issue, isn't it?

Not Under My Christmas Tree, No Way!

I have a historical appreciation for the folks over at Focus on the Family and their original projects that focused on parenting. In spite of what I perceive as a shift toward a focus on politics, there have been expansions of programs that I appreciate. I have generally found their entertainment reviews at PluggedIn to be fair and on target. I do take issue with the latest game recommendation.

First, read their review and endorsement for the computer game. Then, check out the reactions to Left Behind: Eternal Forces over at Sorry, guys, I believe the Focus on the Family crowd missed this one...particularly:
"Eternal Forces is the kind of game that Mom and Dad can actually play with Junior—and use to raise some interesting questions along the way. Production company Left Behind Games is pushing it as an evangelism tool for teens, and I can see that, too. You certainly don't have to be an eschatologically minded seminarian to appreciate it."
Oh, just in case someone chooses to lump me in with the "rock throwers", I HAVE seen and played the game. I consider the downplaying of "defensive violence" to be is probably the only part of the game that "Junior" would actually "enjoy". I would place this "tool for evangelism" in the same category of sharing the four spiritual laws using a hand might feel good, but it is just not quite right. The primary benefit of the review might be parents scrambling for a dictionary to define eschatologically minded seminarian.

There are Baptist parts of the Left Behind Game game...while playing, it is essential that the leader keep his followers supplied (at least spiritually). Again, the lack of actual reference to fried chicken, green beens, or pecan pie was a real disappointment.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Concerned Tennessee Baptists - Searching for Sin

Larry Regan and his wife used the seach feature on web sites for Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target, and Meijer using the following words: "lesbian, gay, homosexual, transexual, and bisexual". The intent of the research project was to get some indication of where these stores stand on these cultural issues, particularly since WalMart announced (but has yet to fully implement) a change in corporate giving to homosexual causes. I have re-created Larry's findings in chart form below (the numbers in each column represent the number of items that link to a word in the left-hand column):
Your response to the figures in this chart may have been like mine. I was surprised, shocked, dismayed, and genuinely concerned. So, I ventured into WalMart's search feature to see just what kinds of products these homosexual search terms referenced. As it turns out, the vast majority of the products are books.

Since WalMart isn't where I generally shop for books, I decided to apply the same search terms to the places where I have been known to shop for books. Here are my findings:
If these search terms are to be the basis for a boycot, then I might suggest that Amazon appears to be a far greater offender than WalMart (noting that LifeWay doesn't look any better than Kmart, Target, or Meijer at this level...perhaps indicating a flaw in the thesis for the research). Which leads me to the following thoughts:

Generally, I am not one to boycot an institution because of a stance on cultural issues that differs from mine. I say that in one breath and will tell you in the next that I will not darken the door of an 'Adult Bookstore' or 'Gentleman's Club'... I make what I consider a common sense distinction (i.e. I doubt seriously that anyone enters an adult bookstore expecting to find bread, milk, and eggs).

I am not of the opinion that a boycot of an institution will bring that institution to saving grace. By focusing on the institution, we somehow miss the mark to reach the people within that institution (including corporate leadership) with the Gospel. I am pretty sure that the great commission mentions 'people' and not 'institutions' (although the imagery of immersing a Wal-Mart does have a certain appeal to my imagination).

I am not saying that we should throw in the towel for institutions that we see headed in the wrong direction. If any group understands how to make those kinds of institutional changes, I would expect that group to include strategists from the conservative resurgence. One share of stock in WalMart get you a vote and a seat at a stockholder's can take it from there. Other groups have succeeded with a similar strategy.

Bottom line: I am not making plans to boycot WalMart although I am far less likely to purchase books from the store... call it a WalMart Book-cot if you like, but things that don't sell at WalMart are replaced by items that will. Now, I am struggling with how I should respond knowing a little more about Amazon. Thank goodness Amazon doesn't sell groceries!

I am pretty sure it shouldn't be like this

John the Methodist concludes a recent post regarding blogs being used to label someone unfit for ministry with the following:
It's amazing how bloodthirsty and ruthless Christians can get under the disguise of "correcting an errant brother in a spirit of love".
Amazing, indeed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dr. Gabhart in Good Form

I hear that Dr. Herbert Gabhart is progressing well in his physical therapy at Vanderbilt's Stallworth Hospital. For those of you who do not know the man that I consider Tennessee Baptists' senior statesman, take a look at part of a message that he delivered at Union University nearly 55 years ago (January 1952). It is cited in Calvin Miller's book, The Book of Jesus: A Treasury of the Greatest Stories and Writings About Christ. These are the words of Dr. Gabhart and the reason why that I love the heart of this man so dearly:
Let us call the roll of some of the professions:
To artists, He is the One altogether lovely.
To architects, He is the Chief Cornerstone.
To physicians, He is the Great Physician.
To preachers, He is the Word of God.
To philosophers, He is the Wisdom of God.
To the dying, He is the Resurrection and the Life.
To geologists, He is the Rock of ages.
To farmers, He is the Lord of the harvest.
To professors, He is the Master Teacher.
To prodigals, He is the forgiving Father.
To the lost sheep, He is the Good Shepherd.
To thirsty souls, He is the Water of life.
To the hungry, He is the Bread of life.
To philanthropists, He is God's Unspeakable Gift.
Nineteen centuries after His sojourn on earth, His shadow is larger and growing larger than ever before. No one can measure His height or His influence.
God bless you, Dr. Gabhart, I pray for your return to good health and happy times. We miss you!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Tounges Tied - Another Southern Baptist Divisor

For a snapshot view of the most recent Southern Baptist squabble, I believe Sam Hodges' Tongues tied: The lowdown on a Baptist spat treats the subject fairly and succinctly. There is a quote at the end of the article from Freddie Gage, a Dallas-based Southern Baptist evangelist, that I embrace. It is how many of us perceive the direction that our convention is headed:
“We’re no longer fishers of men, we’re keepers of an aquarium,” he said. “People need to be reached.”
"Keepers of the aquarium"...that is painful.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Paige Patterson on Non-Conservative Baptist Colleges

I have seen a couple of references to a 'let moderate and liberal colleges go' statement attrubuted to Dr. Paige Patterson, but did not know of a source until a Refugee Baptist reader sent me this link (thanks, Charles).

In an post titled, "SBC Leader Says Fighting Over Baptist Colleges a Waste of Time", Dr. Patterson is quoted as saying:
"Most of the colleges and universities that have chosen not to move with the conservative movement are not going to move with the conservative movement," Patterson said. "[There's] nothing you can do that will do anything but create more hostility and more difficulty."
Please excuse my cynicism, but I believe that most of the colleges (and seminaries) who moved with the conservative movement did not do so by 'choice'...although, there were some colleges who did. Patterson clarified his position in later sections of the story:
"I thought frankly when we started out that out of the 56 Southern Baptist state-run colleges and universities we wouldn't get (emphasis mine) more than four or five of them for the conservative movement," he continued. "We've actually ended up with about 15 of them."

"There's no use fighting that battle any further in my estimation," Patterson said. "The thing to do is keep our own house clean."
In the cases of Belmont University and Carson-Newman College, I believe that Paige Patterson's estimation is correct. "We" (whoever-the-heck 'we', is) probably won't 'get' Carson-Newman or Belmont into the conservative movement. The question of whether battling institutions can cooperate in ministry after the dust settles from the feuds still remains to be asked or answered. I am still hopeful that partnerships between Belmont, Carson-Newman and the Tennessee Baptist Convention will happen in spite of the rift between the institutions. I cannot image that anyone in the ranks of Tennessee Baptists view Belmont or Carson-Newman students as a mission field that should be thrown out, discarded, or abandoned. There are examples of non-affiliated institution who completely abandoned their Baptist heritage, and there are examples of institutions who remain Christian with Baptist roots who continue the cooperative spirit that once was the glue that held Southern Baptist Churches together. I am willing to allow those who wish to "follow the conservative movement" to do so, and am still willing to find common, cooperative grounds for is what I see that makes Baptists different from other denominations.

Friday, December 08, 2006

We Moved to Beta Blogger

I am not sure what this means for anyone who has The Refugee Baptist in their feed reader or blog roll, but if something isn't working on your end, it may be due to our change to blogger beta. I am guessing that whatever has happened is related to this.

And if all the above sounds like Greek to you, you are in good company.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Baptist Christmas Music - The Outtakes

Who would ever have imagined that the 1980's heavy metal band Twisted Sister would be singing "Oh Come All Ye Faithful"... Somehow, I don't expect it to make the cut at any of this season's Christmas pagents...but it did make me laugh.

Thanks to our resident systems person for the long telephone conversation to learn about posting YouTube videos. Who says that you can't teach an old dog...

Hat tip: Reformed Baptist Thinker

Even (Real) Journalists Make Mistakes

Many bloggers make themselves easy targets for professional journalists to point fingers at the blogosphere as a harbor for unethical/unprofessional journalistic practice. It would seem that it still happens in mainstream journalism as well. The editor of the Tennessee Baptist and Reflector, Lonnie Young, inadvertently slipped into that chasm this week. His recent commentary, Poor Advice, is based upon poor factual reporting by the Tennessean. Without checking his facts first, Lonnie (and others) re-gurgitated the misinformation, insulted Dr. Camp, and then broadcast it in print to Baptists in the state of Tennessee.

I am certain the mistake was not intentional on Lonnie's part, however, thousands of Baptist readers across the state may never learn of the error. At least in a blog, the opportunity exists to correct the problem immediately. Come to think about it, the online version of the B&R has that same flexibility...perhaps we'll see an errata/apology.

Bill Hobbs had the following to say (and it applies to Mr. Wilkins error):
"You don't trust The Tennessean on a regular basis to get the facts right or to represent conservative viewpoints accurately when it comes to a variety of issues, yet you blindly accepted their version of events yesterday. You ought to know better. Like you, I took immediate offense at Dr. Camp's alleged remarks as quoted by The Tennessean yesterday, but it soon occurred to me that he may have been misquoted, or taken out of context..."
Here is some Good Advice: If someone in Christendom is quoted in the newspaper as saying something that sounds completely outrageous. Go. Phone. Email. Ask the individual if, indeed, that is what they actually said. (Note to self: That is good advice for bloggers as is basic, ethical journalism for those who call themselves (or emulate) professionals).

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I only wish I had said this first...

Agree or disagree with Wade Burleson as you may...but denying that he has the heart of a Baptist would be completely off the reservation. Wade reposted his feelings regarding conservative politics in Southern Baptist circles, and I quote him here because it defines where I am, better than I have been able to do myself:
"I, and others like me, are now being isolated by political conservatives who want to rid our convention of fellow conservatives who don't interpret Scripture like they do, or express dissent with the power politics of the SBC. These political conservatives refuse cooperation in favor of conformity, and I really think it is because they have forgotten how to minister in the power of the Spirit through prayer, humility and cooperation.

I do not want to fight with my fellow conservatives. I want to cooperate with every conservative to win the world to Christ. I don't want to even argue, I just want all of us who call ourselves Southern Baptists to realize our convention is big enough for different interpretations of the non-essential doctrines of Scripture. Let's accept the Baptist Faith and Message, but let's not demand conformity on doctrines that are not even addressed in our 2000 confession of faith before agree to cooperate with each other."
I confess my frustrations with the political tactics of the conservative resurgence and promise to work harder to avoid using the same ends-justifies-the-means strategies that have caused pain and confusion for far too many years.

I want my fried chicken and I want it now! (There must be a fried chicken = "Baptist cooperative spirit" metaphor somewhere that will preach...there is certainly more than one way to make good friend chicken instead of arguing over white meat or dark meat, right?)

Dr. Herbert Gabhart Hospitalized

Dr. Herbert GabhartDr. Gabhart has been hospitalized and is now in Vanderbilt Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital. Tennessee Baptists know this man well as one of Belmont's early presidents and the epitome of Baptist statesmen. I am praying for Dr. Gabhart's return to the active lifestyle that this 90+ year old young man enjoys... join me. (He is missing far too many deserts...and we can't have that, now can we?)

The Nativity Story - Quick Movie Review

Yes. I went to a movie theater. I watched The Nativity Story. If you are expecting a Charleton Heston, voice-of-god-like, narrated reading of the Christmas story from Luke, you will be disapointed. What you will see, however, is a wonderfully engaging project that gives a real feeling of what day-to-day life must have been like in Roman occupied territories where Jesus was born. You will be transported into the sights, the sounds, the customs, and community of Nazareth and the surrounding coutryside. There is a villianous Herod. There are shepherds whose faces show the wrinkles and roughness of a life lived outdoors. There are Mary's family and friends who struggle with Mary's announcement and react in ways that are believable. Mary and Joseph are not shiny and glossy people, but are portrayed in a manner that lets you know that they had real faith, hopes, fears, and questions... I'll not give away the ending. Just leave it to say that I don't think you will be disapointed. Take the family and friends. It is a beautifully portrayed story and a great way to get into the spirit of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Belmont University's Cafeteria - Subversive?

You read it right. What Belmont University is doing in their cafeteria is down. right. subversive! They are after our children. If I didn't know better, I think they might even want them to be Baptists! (relax already, I am joking)

Many of you attended college and I dare say that a large per centage of you would agree that the cafeteria food from those years was a motivator to get you OUT of school rather than keep you there. Gracious, I remember little bowls of chocolate pudding that had to be the precursor to Wham-O Super Balls (you know what I'm talking about)... oh, the nightmares!

A new link appeared recently on Belmont University's home page just right of the news stories and it is called Bruin Blog. I started reading what students have to say about life on Belmont's campus and stumbled on this story: "Mmmmmm Mmmmmm Good" Dear me! There are actually choices in Belmont's cafeteria:
The "Caf" or cafeteria is probably the most well rounded meal choice, always serving an entree with probably a few veggies, a vegeterian choice, a special chef prepared treat, a salad bar, dessert bar, cereal bar, ice cream bar, pizza bar, and hamburger/chicken sandwich/grilled cheese bar. Enough bars? I'd like to think so. My favorite meal thus far at Belmont is probably the Belgian Waffles at breakfast... where you can use all the whipped cream, syrup, and fruit that your heart desires. Wow, I'm getting hungry just writing this!
Well, there you have it, folks...fodder for a Baptist debate: Conservatives can jump on all the bars at Belmont. Moderates will find food in the middle of the room... and liberals can ask the chef to water down the gravy. See, I think this place IS Baptist and the cafeteria is a covert, subversive, instrument . I offer the closing paragraph of Mmmmm Good as proof:
Food is important! Don't underestimate the power of food! I can assure you that you can always find something to chow down on at Belmont, and if you don't believe me, see for yourself!
You DO understand that I am kidding about the caf, right?... but I'd like to think that the "you can always find something to chow down on at Belmont" speaks metaphorically of the good things going on inside the classrooms on campus.

Hopeful Carson-Newman Faculty - Beware of Wolves...

If you haven't been following the struggles at Carson-Newman College, this post will be of little interest to you. If you have any connection to the college as a student, faculty, staff, or alumni, I hope that you will find encouragement in the words of a faculty member regarding a recent 'listening session':
"I was inspired beyond description by the integrity, honesty, and genuineness with which my colleagues shared their concerns about the state of Carson-Newman College. Their commitment to students, to Jesus, to academic excellence, was a delight to hear... My hope for the future of C-N was rekindled in a way that it has not been for years... I have never been more proud of Carson-Newman faculty. I am proud to be counted among them."
There are many needs at Carson-Newman, but a dedicated and committed faculty of Christian educators is not something the school lacks. I hope that Tennessee Baptists will recognize that fact and that they will rally around those individuals who are prepared to lead the college forward.

There are some in the Tennessee Baptist Convention who are proposing that Carson-Newman be changed to reflect the conservative resurgence within the Tennessee Baptist Convention:
"The theologically liberal Religion department at C-N should be replaced with Bible-believing faculty members. The Biology department should be replaced with teachers who do not teach evolution as fact. The Trustees from CBF churches should be replaced with Trustees from churches whose theology and worldview are representative of Tennessee Baptists."
- Bill Carden, FBC Tullahoma
It may just be my refugee roots, but Bill Carden's suggestions sound like conservative Baptists want more than just a change in direction...don't be surprised if a conservative pastor becomes a candidate is called to replace Carson-Newman's current president.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Prodigal Blogger

I spent much of last week reading other Baptist blogs. I could be way off base, but I see much more reasoned discussion going on than venom-filled, personal attacks. It may be that I have discovered the places where reasonable Baptist have gathered...and if so, I forgive them in advance for not sharing their favorite 'meat-and-three' (which preaches as 'meet-and-two-or-three' Matthew 18:20 )...I regress.

One of my discoveries is The Prodigal Blogger. I commend Brother Wade to you for several reasons and plan to have his blog added to my reading list. He is currently a student at Campell University and is a recent graduate of Southeastern College... if you do not read anything else on his blog, please take the time to read In the Name of Fairness, his personal journey as an older student called into ministry, relating his experiences at Campbell and Southeastern. I consider is closing paragraph to be of Refugee Baptist, prophetic proportion:
I find myself in a unique position. I see both sides of the issues and do not subscribe to either one. I will not choose sides. In all fairness to both institutions my opinion on both schools is that they more than likely stand on equal footing as abominations to the Lord God of Heaven. Both schools have flaws in their core beliefs. Southeastern has gone too far. Campbell has not gone far enough. Southeastern worships a book and themselves. Campbell has all but chunked the book out the window and worships themselves. Liars and hypocrites! When will the two sides wake up and realize that all they are doing is dragging the body of Jesus and nailing it back on the cross over and over again. Truly the time has come for both sides to quit acting like fools in the name of Jesus and discover that there is indeed equal footing at the cross of Calvary.
There are many good posts on The Prodigal Blogger and I sense a kindred spirit in Brother Wade's frustrations with the polarized ranks of Baptists.

Brother Wade and I have never met, but I'm thinking that conversation over Cracker Barrel's beef stew and corn bread would be some-kinda-fellowship!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I Don't Think So

The Houston Chronicle (12/2/2006) apparently thinks that Rev. Jett is the outgoing president at Belmont University... Has anyone told Dr. Fisher?

I am just hoping that the Houston Chronicle will stick with the news and stay away from prophesy.

Belmont University Students are Upset with TBC

The student newspaper at Belmont University, The Belmont Vision, recently posted a story on the university's response to the law suit filed by the Tennessee Baptist Convention against the university. Dr. Todd Lake, the university's Vice President for Spiritual Development had this to say about the ideological aspects of the conflict:
This conflict is between “Baptists who believe that we become a stronger school by including other Christians and those who think we stay truer to our mission by excluding other Christians,” he said.

“Usually we Baptists can see clearly enough to see that our mission is enhanced by including other Christians,” he continued. “It is unfortunate that in this conflict, some see that our mission is better served through exclusion.”

Lake said he also sees the conflict as fueled by the inherent struggle between tradition and progress.

“Belmont is moving ahead, and we need a Board of Trustees that reflects the reality of the school…We want to be more robustly and vibrantly Christian, and so [after breaking with the TBC] we can widen our trustee selection.”

Those who fear that this is a step leading to the secularization of Belmont should realize that this is a fear without basis, Lake added, saying that universities that become secular do so as a conscious choice, not just because they drop an affiliation with one denomination. Lake said he believes it likely that after the conflict has blown over, little of Belmont’s core nature will be changed.

“I’m sure that in the long run, people will look back and wonder what the big deal was,” Lake said.
The graphic on the left appears in the sidebar on the same page with the Belmont Vision story. It gives a clear indication on how the students feel about the conflict. While this mess is being cleared up in the courts and back room meetings, it looks to me like this is still a big deal to some students.