Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

I am off later this morning to see some old friends get married in North Carolina...and felt that I would be remiss if I did not stop long enough to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all those who stop by the Refugee Baptist. I wish you one and all a joyous and blessed holiday season...now, go. Hug somebody!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

What kind of Baptist is Mike Huckabee?

I have my own opinion of Huckabee, the political candidate, as a Christian and a separate opinion of what kind of president he might make. I cannot help but flashback to the author of "Why Not the Best" and similar feelings for another southern governor's campaign in 1976. My thoughts today are a more denominationally focused. Mike Huckabee's response to the GOP candidates' debate question , Do you believe every word of the Bible?:
"Sure. I believe the Bible is exactly what it is. It's the word of revelation to us from God himself. (Applause) And the fact is that when people ask do we believe all of it, you either believe it or you don't believe it. But in the greater sense, I think what the question tried to make us feel like was that, well, if you believe the part that says "Go and pluck out your eye," well, none of us believe that we ought to go pluck out our eye. That obviously is allegorical.

But the Bible has some messages that nobody really can confuse and really not left up to interpretation. "Love your neighbor as yourself."

And as much as you've done it to the least of these brethren, you've done it unto me. Until we get those simple, real easy things right, I'm not sure we ought to spend a whole lot of time fighting over the other parts that are a little bit complicated.

And as the only person here on the stage with a theology degree, there are parts of it I don't fully comprehend and understand, because the Bible is a revelation of an infinite god, and no finite person is ever going to fully understand it. If they do, their god is too small."
I did not see the words infallible or inerrant anywhere in Huckabee's answer. So, in Baptist political terms, does his answer qualify him as a fundamentalist, refugee, moderate, or liberal? I would suggest that if he ever gave this response as his answer if/while running for president of the Southern Baptist Convention, that he would find himself taking a lot of heat.

So. What kind of Baptist is Mike Huckabee?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

$1.2 Million in TBC litigation expenses

I wish that someone would tell me that this number is incorrect. Someone asked from the floor at this year's Tennessee Baptist Convention meeting just how much the Belmont Study Committee expended in the process of suing Belmont University. The gasp from those in attendance at the revelation that $1.2 Million was spent should have echoed in every church across the convention. To put that in perspective, convention-wide giving for the Golden Mission offering in 2006 was just over $1.6 million. Belmont probably spent a ton of money as well preparing its case, bringing the combined TBC and Belmont total to more than the 2006 mission offering amount. Let's be thankful that this is over and that we can move on. I just need some time to get over the news of the waste and get the 'mad' out of my system.

Happy Thanksgiving! (no food reference required here).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

On my way back to Nashville

My flight leaves a little later this morning, but I am at the Guatemala City airport already. All went well with Jorge's surgery. Miraculously the bullet that ended up in Jorge's neck did little permanent nerve damage and had dislodged itself from its original position close to the spine before surgery began. Jorge, in jest, suggested that surgery be delayed another day, so that his family could finish 'praying the bullet out completely'. There is a sermon in that kind of faith that needs to be preached.

I have much to reflect upon from this trip, much to be thankful for. For those of you who lifted Jorge up in prayer over the last several days, I am immensely grateful. For things to have gone as smoothly as they did in circumstances that would make most health workers squeamish, God had to be in this.

I'll be printing out news stories to read on the plane until I run out of quetzals to pay for them. I've some catching up to do. TBCelder did a respectable job of posting in my absence, I had no idea that he could be so restrained in his comments...dinner tonight over Chick-fil-a will be his chance to blow off some steam, I am sure. Thanks, SGM Gary...as you were.


Friday, November 16, 2007

North Carolina Baptists might be on to something

An Associated Baptist Press story covering the proceedings at the North Carolina Baptist Convention reports the folowing,
"Messengers later responded to an altar call to "give up negativism, back biting and sniping at each other." The plea came from Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, in the convention sermon. When he issued an altar call, hundreds of men and women poured from their seats to kneel at the front and pray for a new day in North Carolina Baptist life -- described as a rare response in a convention recently wracked by division."
Of note as well, the North Carolina Baptist Convention, "approved the first of two steps required to relinquish trustee selection of its five colleges."

Giving up negativism, back-biting, and trustee selection of colleges...'good food for thought within the Tennessee Baptist Convention as well.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Note from Guatemala

This morning is the first real opportunity that I've had to sit long enough where there is internet access so that I can send an update. My connection is pretty slow so this will have to be short. All is going well here. Jorge, his family, and a number of sweet people from his church are attending to his needs at the hospital. "Hospital" is a little different here and families are much more involved in day-to-day patient care...it isn't bad, it is considerably different from what one would find in the states (more on that later). Jorge will have surgery tomorrow. I have a picture of his x-ray showing where the bullet is lodged near his spine, but no good way to upload that picture from here. The surgery if far from routine but may not be as difficult or critical as the earlier diagnosis suggested. I'll keep you updated as best I can.

I did a quick scan of the TBC news. I'll have to do some reading when I return in order to see how people feel about the events of the day. At least the Belmont mess is over...that sounds like news worthy of a great season of thanksgiving.

Ya'll talk amongst yourselves,
Will - from Guatemala City

Tennessee Baptist Convention - Clearly Divided

The votes at this year's Tennessee Baptist Convention meeting appear to speak for themselves. One vote, to soften the stance on using the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 as a measure of a committee nominee's doctrinal accountability, failed by a 7 vote margin 497 to 490 (50.4% to 49.6%).

One proposal from the Concerned Tennessee Baptist party would have given the elected TBC President additional power to nominate two, hand-picked candidates. East Tennessee's timesnew.net reported,
"However, the amendment failed when the convention voted 338-331, which was a just shy of a 50.53 percent to roughly 49.47 percent vote — far short of the required two-thirds majority... Expressing his support of increasing the powers of the TBC president, Ron Stewart said, “What’s best for the Tennessee Baptist Convention is for a balance of power."
I'm not quite sure what Ron Stewart considers a balance of power noting that his Concerned Tennessee Baptist candidates have clearly dominated the TBC's elections in recent history.

George Miller offers thoughtful reflection on some of the proceedings at this year's convention. You can read the full context here. I believe he is on target with the following,
"It is no wonder we are divided as a Convention. First of all, even at an annual convention, the worship of our Lord should have priority over our business sessions. If we spent more time in worship together, we'd probably need less time for the business sessions. Secondly, if we can't worship together, how can we possibly work together for the glory of God. We're divided in our work because we are divided in our worship. Worship must always come before work. God is always more concerned about who we are than what we do. When we again make worshiping together a priority in our Convention, we'll see our divisions being dissolved and God working through our Convention to reach the lost and unchurched people of our state. And what is true in our convention is true in our individual churches as well. A house divided against itself cannot stand."

There are other ways our convention can take care of business using technology throughout the year...perhaps getting some of the nitty-gritty business out of the way electronically might allow for better time together for fellowship and worship.

And not a peep from Will in Guatemala. I am trying not to be a worrywart.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tennessee Baptist Convention Update - Belmont Settlement

Yesterday's news of the settlement between the Tennessee Baptist Convention and Belmont University made the news across the country through the day and into the night. Here is a sampling of those reports:
  • Associate Baptist Press included comments from Clay Austin, the Study Committee Chair,
    "One of the things that we must learn from this is that relationships are extremely valuable and that they are sometimes fragile, and I hope that we have learned that, as we have worked together as brothers and sisters in Christ, we will not always agree."
  • Baptist Press points to a decisive meeting last week where the final agreement was hammered out,
    "From the very onset of the meeting, there was no pride from anyone demonstrated nor felt in that room," said Jerry Massey, pastor of First Baptist Church of Paris, Tenn., and president of the TBC Executive Board. "The four of us came humbly before God, confessing to him that we needed his help, for we do not know what to do."
  • The Baptist & Reflector will wait another week before releasing the full story, but found space to print one side of the story,
    "Porch stressed that the convention did not force Belmont University to leave. “Belmont chose to write themselves out of the Tennessee Baptist Convention story."
  • Concerned Tennessee Baptists mentioned the decision in a Tuesday session update and mentioned the service of the Belmont Study Committee,
    "Let us move forward. Those who did not serve on the Belmont Study Committee should be eternally grateful and those who did will be eternally worn-out. The committee did what they believed was in the best interest of the Convention."
  • Perhaps the best quote in a blog comes from a post titled, Let's Just Kiss and Say Goodbye,
    "This was a case where two sides go their separate ways, but it doesn’t have to mean they can’t still be friends. If the Baptists and Belmont are sincere in their goals of ministering to people and sharing the Gospel, they can’t do that effectively by harboring any grudge towards each other."
  • Mainstream Baptist sees this as a Sad Day for Baptists and Another Black Eye,
    "The greed of our leadership has stained us all with a huge red "G" on our collective foreheads."
  • The Tennessean offers a few more details as to how the agreement came to fruition,
    "I think it hit both sides about how much good energy was being wasted that could have been used to advance the Kingdom," said (Mike) Glenn, a trustee and member of the school's negotiating committee with the convention."

  • Very little discussion seems to happening across the non-Baptist blogs. There is an announcement and comments on Music City Bloggers. The announcement does appear in a few blogs and news papers with little additional commentary: Religion Claus , TennViews, NewsChannel5.com (Nashville), The Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Nashville Business Journal.

The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 issue seems to be the most contentious issue at the the convention this year. Jeff Wright reported on the discussion and the 407-400 vote not to change last year's decision to focus on the BF&M2000. Jeff includes a fair assessment of how that vote might be interpreted. Time permitting, I will re-visit that discussion in another post.

...and no news from Will in Guatemala,
TBC Elder

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Breaking News - Belmont University and Tennessee Baptist Convention settle

Belmont News just released a letter from Belmont University Board of Trustees Chairman, Marty Dickens, announcing the terms of a settlement between the Tennessee Baptist Convention and Belmont University. From that story,
"The settlement concludes a 56-year relationship between Belmont and the TBC and provides gifts by Belmont to Tennessee Baptists of $1,000,000 next year followed by annual payments of $250,000 for the next 40 years. These gifts are an expression of gratitude to Tennessee Baptists for the financial and spiritual support that they have provided to the University over the past five decades. The funds will be added to an endowment at the Tennessee Baptist Foundation to support Tennessee Baptist missions and ministries."
The relationship with the Tennessee Baptist Convention is severed. I had hoped the the words of Philip Jett were true. In September of this year, Dr. Jett was quoted as saying, "money is not the object...the primary goal is to return Belmont to the Baptist fold." That didn't quite work out as some of us had hoped.

At least it is over. I am thankful that this page in history has turned and we have the opportunity to move forward as a convention without this dark cloud hanging over us.

Tennessee Baptist Convention - Pre-Annual Meeting 2007 Blogging

The Tennessean outlined the basics of this year's agenda for the TBC's annual meeting in Kingsport in an article last Friday. No one should be surprised by the hospital business, the elections, the Belmont report, or events surrounding the sale of the TBC headquarters building in Brentwood.

Jeff Wright is on the scene, blogging. He reports on some of the pre-convention activity and is doing his usual-great-job of reporting the events of the day. Will was a little concerned over the mention of Little Caesar's pizza as the meal at the CTB dinner. I suspect that Will may take issue with the pizza meal as giving a little too much unto Caesar (those are Will's words), but I'll leave the Baptist meal jokes and lecturing to him.

If you are interested in the schedule and agenda for this year's Tennessee Baptist Convention annual meeting in Kingsport, you can access the schedule from the TBC web site.

One bit of news. Will is leaving earlier than planned to go to Guatemala. Jorge's condition has worsened. The infection and swelling in his neck is causing breathing problems. I am praying for Jorge, the doctors, and Jorge's family. Will is pretty upset over this and I am concerned for him as well. He probably shouldn't be traveling at all, but feels deeply that this is a divine appointment.

TBC Elder

Baptist Backed Basketball Bounces Big Brother Bunch

It was an amazing week for the Atlantic Sun conference. The best of the Gardner-Webb, Belmont University, and Mercer University wins over big brother basketball programs is spelled out in Paul Newberry's Associated Press story. The quiet celebration that has been happening in the background is that all three of these institutions have historical Baptist roots. I know that some of the teams have experience in missions and evangelism, maybe it is time for these guys help heal the divisions in the world of Baptists by giving us a court-side place to yell and scream, besides at our annual state convention meetings (and at one another). *smiles*

Monday, November 12, 2007

Making plans for Guatemala travel

Friday morning, I received a static-filled phone call from Jorge, an interpreter-friend from my Guatemala trip earlier this year. Jorge is awaiting surgery in a Guatemala City hospital following what sounds like a random shooting last Thursday morning. He was hit in the shoulder by a bullet while riding on one of the school-bus-like shuttles that one sees all over the country. Glass from the window is embedded in the right side of his face and he jokes that it makes him look like he has teenage acne. The troubling part of his injury is that the bullet ended up near his spine at the base of his neck and he is experiencing numbness in some of his extremities.

Doctors are delaying surgery until more of the swelling subsides and all signs of infection are under control. Jorge seems to think that they will attempt to remove the bullet later next week. He asked if there is anyway I could be there to help with his wife and son. I somehow knew the question was coming before he asked.

Wednesday morning, I'll be at the airport around 4:00AM for an early morning of security scans and to make the hop via Houston to Guatemala City so that I can arrive in the middle of the day. The ongoing airport construction in Guatemala City has made a mess of things and those messes are exacerbated by the craziness of morning traffic around the airport. The bag of post-op supplies that I am carrying is something that may raise a few eyebrows but my physician friends advise me that they shouldn't be a problem.

Please pray for Jorge. He is a marvelous translator with a heart of gold. He (and others like him) perform valuable services to volunteer teams in and around Guatemala City. It grieves me immensely to know that he is hurt and that he may be facing a long recovery.

Blogging for the next several days may be a challenge. There are a number of last-minute items I have to address before departure. TBC Elder has agreed to step up with some help from our able-bodied blog-tech person. He has also agreed to make an extra effort to constrain his crotchety comments and keep things civil while I am away. I'll find an internet cafe somewhere to check in every once in a while.

I covet your prayers for a successful surgery and a rapid recovery for Jorge.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Refugee Baptist Veteran

He isn't the kind of man who will not say much about himself. He is much more focused on what is in front of him than what is behind him. TBC Elder, an infrequent contributor to the Refugee Baptist blog, is a Viet Nam vet. People like him went to war in my place. From our conversations over time, I know that many of his experiences involved things that no one should have to witness or endure...but he did. I want to say thank you to him and the thousands like him who stepped up to serve in the armed forces on this Veteran's Day.

As for my crusty old friend...there is nothing purple about your heart. God has blessed you with a new heart that is white as snow. I love you, man!

P.S. You still owe me dinner over our Belmont-Cincinnati wager.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Others express reasons for not going to Tennessee Baptist Convention meeting

Jim isn't going and tells us why he won't be at this year's Tennessee Baptist Convention annual meeting. He has similar hopes that I share:
"The Annual Meeting used to be about Christ, but now its about power. And I have no interest in power aside from the power of the Spirit to live the Christian life. So I'm not going. I'm not going to participate in fussin', fightin' and feudin' under the guise of powerplay.

When the Annual Meeting returns to being an event whose only purpose is to exalt the Lord and encourage the Denomination, I'll go back. Till then, I'm not wasting my time, our Church's money, or energy on it."

No Litmus Test - Really?

According to this article, Ron Stewart explains that affirming the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 is not a litmus test for someone who wants to serve on one of the Tennessee Baptist Convention's committees or boards. If that is the case, why then are there emails floating around with the names of replacement nominations for the seven individuals who did not agree to affirm the BF&M2000 on their nomination forms, clearly indicating that the replacement nominations do affirm the BF&M2000?

Belmont University Extend$ Olive Branch to the Tennessee Baptist Convention

There is an update on the Belmont University website regarding the Tennessee Baptist Convention lawsuit. Tuesday's news includes a letter from Marty Dickens outlining a proposed financial commitment by Belmont University to the TBC and the structure of an ongoing Belmont University relationship with the convention. From Mr. Dicken's letter:
"Despite its firm belief in the strength of its legal position, Belmont has gone to extraordinary lengths to address the demands of the Belmont Study Committee without compromising the integrity of the University. To date, not one of Belmont’s efforts to preserve a relationship with the TBC has been favorably received by the TBC’s representatives. We believe that this situation hurts the witness of Christ and distracts all of us from the business of the Kingdom. Accordingly, we continue to search for a solution that honors our Baptist heritage and Jesus Christ."
I want to thank Belmont University for making this information public. I do not understand why the Tennessee Baptist Convention hasn't demonstrated the same kind of openness in revealing its proposals. It makes it look like they have something to hide. It also opens up a whole lot of unnecessary speculation and raises questions regarding accountability and credibility .

Two things strike me as important. First, the dollar amount is significantly higher than the originally proposed five million dollar amount that the convention turned down at the meeting over at Jerry's place: 12.5 million in funding and scholarships over the next 10-15 years plus other commitment expenses. The second part of the proposal is the most encouraging part. Belmont has proposed an ongoing relationship that involves a new Tennessee Baptist Heritage and Ministry Center, an endowed chair for Baptist Ministry Studies, and a place for ex officio members on the Board of Trustees. It is a different kind of relationship with the TBC but I believe it is better than the shunning and ostracism that we are currently witnessing.

Belmont has extended the olive branch to continue a relationship. If this is not about the money, I would expect to see some reciprocal action/motion from the TBC meeting in Kingsport. It is time for this dark era of legal entanglement to be resolved in a manner that will honor God rather than continued gambling with over a million dollars in cooperative program funds.

It is a rare day when Baptists seated around a table, drinking coffee, get angry with each other...more often, you'll witness laughter and great fellowship. Maybe it is time to introduce this secret weapon (coffee) into the TBC vs Belmont debate. $1.5 Million would buy a LOT of coffee *smile*.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Squelching Blogs and Baptist Dissent - A Dark Day for Southern Baptists

Just a few days ago, the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board of trustees voted to suspend Wade Burleson from the trustee body over content in his blog Grace and Truth to You. Full disclosure: I have been reading Wade's blog for several months and see eye-to-eye on most of Wade's perspectives. For me, however, this is not about whether or not I agree with Wade. This is about squelching Baptist dissent that is written in what I would consider a model for other Christian bloggers. There are blogs whose tone is anything but Christian and there are those that are full of abusive and personal attacks. Wade Burleson's blog does NOT fit in any way, shape, or form as a forum for Wade to attack, abuse, or place anyone in a bad light. Certainly, there are visitors to Wade's blog who have expressed views that could be construed as personal attacks and that is sad to see. I find it naive to believe that the current IMB trustees hold Wade accountable for what someone else contributes in the comment section of his blog and that is exactly what some have done. I find this censure action shameful and an attempt to move the dealings of the International Mission Board into unnecessary secrecy in an era when openess and accountability should be the order of the day.

John Floyd, IMB trustee chairman, said that he was deeply saddened at the course events had taken. I am more saddened by John Floyd's lack of transparency and his failure to tell his Christian brother that this censure was forthcoming.

For me, the following, closing quote from Wade Burleson's Statement to the Trustees (dated November 7, 2007) tells me where this man's heart is:
"I wish all Southern Baptists to work together in harmony for the expansion of Christ's Kingdom. I cannot apologize for being a Baptist. I will not apologize for attempting to hold our convention and this board faithful to that end. I will be a trustee of the International Mission Board for a season. I will be a Southern Baptist for a lifetime. I will be a follower of Jesus Christ for eternity."
To that statement, I say "Amen."

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Pat Robertson's endorsement

The founder of the once popular Christian Coalition, Pat Robertson, has formally endorsed former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Robertson has every right to endorse who he pleases. It does raise the question of whether this sort of endorsement helps or hurts a candidate.

What do you think?

Conservative resurgent supporters in Tennessee Baptist Convention shift to panic mode

In the print edition of this week's Baptist & Reflector is a paid advertisement that proposes a motion for the Tennessee Baptist Convention to affirm the Baptist Faith and Message statements of 1925, 1963, or 2000. My spin on the background for this is here.

Quoting from yesterday's More Urgent Than Ever - Concerned TN Baptists email from Larry Reagan:
"Those who support the moderate agenda for the TBC realize what is on the line for this year's convention. They have advertised their key motion. They have announced their candidate for Presdient (sic), which is Randall Adkisson. Their goal is to defeat Tom McCoy and the conservative resurgence. They plan to defeat Amendment #6 that is being offered for our current President, Ron Stewart. They plan to defeat the 7 amendments to the Committee on Boards Report. We've placed it on the line, and now they have also. This the definining moment for the TBC."
Wow. Now the moderate agenda is somehow a threat to the conservative resurgence (not to be confused with the conservative agenda)? Dear Concerned Tennessee Baptists, have you ever heard the expression, "That's the pot calling the kettle black?" At least those who want to propose an alternate solution chose to make a public announcement of their intentions rather than sneaking around behind conservatively closed doors like some conspiracy group. Those who paid for that announcement did so because Lonnie Wilkey, B&R Editor, would have been run out of Brentwood on a rail had he published it as a news story!

Is there even the slightest chance that Baptists watching this spitting contest from the pews are sick of the conservative resurgence? The folks in Missouri seem to think that power-hungry groups shouldn't be in control. And get this, someone had the nerve to print, " Fighting – especially when it seems to be as much about power as principle – is lousy advertising." I wish I had said that.

How's this for a "defining moment for the TBC": let's get back to ministry and learn to fellowship with diversely-opinion-ed brothers (and sisters) and put all this non-productive, disgracefully political in-fighting behind us. How's that for a motion?

Tennessee Baptists haven't learned much about 'control'

The Belmont University vs. Tennessee Baptist Convention mess will be discussed again at this year's TBC annual meeting in Kingsport next week. Lonnie Wilkey tries to be fair in dealing with the extremes in opinion on this subject and wrote about that effort just recently...it is as balanced a report that any employee representing an opposing side in a lawsuit could write and still keep his job. Thanks, Lonnie (I guess).

How the Tennessee Baptist Convention lost 'control?'
The core of the argument in the lawsuit is that the Tennessee Baptist Convention no longer has 'control' over the university. More specifically, the TBC no longer votes (or affirms) the list of trustees provided to the convention during the annual meeting. The delegates/messengers to the TBC have approved the list submitted by Belmont every year since that process began (and I doubt that many delegates have any recollection of the rubber-stamp process). The Belmont University board of trustees runs with the ball after that, making all sorts of management, financial, academic program, and operating decisions. One of those duly elected, 100% Baptist, boards ultimately voted to change the charter of the non-profit organization known as Belmont University to allow 40% of the board to come from other Christian denominations besides Baptists.

Let's review that last paragraph just a moment and ask/answer a few questions:
1. Who is it that 'elected' the trustees who made the decision to alter the board's composition?
Answer: The Tennessee Baptist Convention messengers who had 100% control of the 'vote' during the annual meeting.
2. What percentage of that Belmont Board of Trustees who made the decision (i.e. controlled the decision) to change the composition was Baptist?
Answer: 100%
3. What percentage of a Board of Trustees would it take to 'control' the decision-making process on Belmont University's board?
Answer: Somewhere between 50% and 60%
4. What percentage of Belmont's Board of Trustees is currently Baptist (and mostly Tennessee Baptist) and controls the decision making process?
Answer: 60%

All of that question and answer information leads me to one point: Tennessee Baptists (particularly the politically organized, conservative resurgent parts) have forgotten how to seize real 'control' over an organization. It requires a strategy of patience, something like 20 years in the case of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Control Lessons Not Learned
Here is a similar Tennessee Baptist takeover strategy: form a group (let's call them Belmont University Board-Busting Accountability Saints - BUBBAS for short) and take the following steps:
1. Gradually replace members of the TBC Education Committee with fellow BUBBAS... that is fairly easy: call some of them doctrinally unaccountable, do a little back-room innuendo backstabbing and you're on your way.
2. Make sure the TBC executive board is controlled by a majority of BUBBAS. That is a little tougher...the BUBBAS might have to resort to name calling, labeling people as CBF'ers, calling them uncooperative, etc. in order to replace those members.
3. Over a period of time (remember patience?), replace Belmont Board of Trustee member nominations (via a BUBBAS controlled Education Committee and Excutive Board) with more and more BUBBAS until the BUBBAS have a voting majority on Belmont's board. And what percentage of a Board of Trustees does that take? Hmmm, something like 50-60%? Right?

Strategy Complete...Checkmate
There you go. With a BUBBAS majority on the Belmont Board of Trustees it is a simple matter to revert the non-profit charter back to its original status and return the board's composition to 100% Baptist. The current problem isn't Tennessee Baptist control over Belmont's board of trustees, the problem is the Tennessee BUBBAS do not have control over Belmont's board of trustees.

Forget Strategy, Let's Go to Court
Unfortunately, the current generation of conservative resurgent-ists failed to learn the 'control' lessons of the Patterson-Pressler era of SBC politics and decided instead, to skip steps one through three in the above strategy, and go right straight to court. That same group isn't even honest enough to admit that the litigation-as-last-resort posturing at the TBC meeting at Jerry's place was nothing more than a sanctimonious sham. It was easier for one Tennessee Baptist pastor (high on passion, short on facts and out-of-control), to stand before the TBC and call Belmont's Board of Trustees "Liars and Thieves" than it was to recognize all of the facts from a process that has been in the works for nearly 10 years and resolve this in a Christ-like manner.

And you wonder why there are Refugee Baptists among us...

This one fact you will never see in the Baptist and Reflector: The Belmont Board of Trustees is still, to this very day, controlled by Baptists...but evidently not the right kind of Baptists.

Baptist & Reflector editor reads email...shocking news gathering technique surprises Todd Stinnett

In a recent post on the Concerned Tennessee Baptists' web site, Todd Stinnett challenges Lonnie Wilkey, the editor of the Baptist and Reflector' s personal reflection editorial:
(Quoting Todd Stinnett) "In your editorial, you also mentioned that seven of the names offered up by the Committee on Boards will be challenged. I’d like to know how the editor to the B&R is able to gather this type of information. Certainly, that type of information is not available to those of us who are rank-and-file messengers to the TBC."
Todd, I'll explain it simply. Mr. Wilkey is much older than you and considerably more experienced in getting his facts straight. How would he know if 7 will be challenged? If you read your email from Brother Larry Reagan, CTB editor, it clearly states the following:
"...There will be 7 proposed amendments
- To the TBC Executive Board:
Terry Kirby, Pos. #35, Alpha BC Morristown, 16.29% CP
Roy Terry, Pos. #34, Laurel Creek BC, 6.8% CP
Bill Carden, Pos. #64, FBC Tullahoma, 12% CP
David Williams, Pos. #49, Hillcrest Morristown, 7% CP
Craig Cummings, Pos. #54, Union BC Knox Co., 9% CP
- To the Committee on Committees
Dave McRight, Pos. #427, FBC Hohenwald, 12.9% CP
Craig Ward, Pos. #428, Lincoln Ave. BC, 5% CP
All 7 of these affirm strongly the BF&M 2000. They are being nominated in place of those who refuse to affirm the BF&M 2000."
I do find it interesting, Todd, that you do not consider the Concerned Tennessee Baptists to be part of the "rank-and-file messengers to the TBC" since the Concerned Tennessee Baptist mailing list was likely the first to hear of these 7 nominations. That is enlightening information. The CTB nominates Todd for 2nd Vice-president and fails to tell him about the 7 proposed amendments...really??

Lastly, Todd, I take issue with your questioning of Lonnie Wilkey, the editor of the Baptist & Reflector, whose newspaper is anything but a source of balanced information for Tennessee Baptists (there is nothing balanced about Tennessee Baptists anyway). I have much more experience than you at giving Lonnie a hard time and I am trying hard not to be resentful of you for questioning Lonnie's very personal and historically accurate, Baptist reflection.

Anyone up for hot apple pie a la mode? Anyone care to affirm 'pecan pie' as a Baptist amendment dessert? (lots of nuts, a sticky mess, crusty around the edges, and stays sweet while being chewed out).

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Prestonwood Baptist Church Doesn't Endorse Candidates

In a Dallas Morning News interview, Pastor Jack Graham claims that his church does not endorse political candidates. Horse Muffins!

Let's review three parts of the definition of 'endorse' (via dictionary.com) and see if there is anything that Prestonwood's leaders might be doing that hints of an endorsement:
  1. to approve - "Here's a man who comes and says: 'I'm not looking for your endorsement. I endorse what you believe. I endorse your values.'" - Jack Graham, Pastor
  2. to support - Mike Buster, executive pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church, recently agreed to help raise $ 100, 000 for Huckabee and says it’s not hard to find donors now. “I’ve raised $ 30, 000 in the last three days,” he said Friday.
  3. to sustain - Asked if he’d (Mike Buster) reach his $ 100, 000 fundraising goal by the end of the year, he replied, “Oh, by the end of the month. There’s an amazing momentum just in the last two or three days that has swept the country. I’m sensing it.”
I tend to agree with Doug Smith who encourages Christians to be politically active but warns:
"... blatant endorsements from the pulpit --- illegal, since churches are nonprofit and tax-exempt. He also pointed out gray areas churches may want to avoid --- inviting a political candidate from only one party to speak or handing out voter guides. The first may be viewed as a de facto endorsement and the latter are typically "crafted in such a way to be clear about who the 'right' and 'wrong' candidates are," Smith said."
Investigations of 6 televangelist' spending habits have already started. Tax-exempt status is a privilege granted to churches that comes with responsibilities. In the litigious nature of this century and with conservative religious leaders acting irresponsibly, do not be surprised if political endorsements become the focus of challenging the tax-exempt status of our churches...even when they proclaim, "we don't endorse candidates."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Todd Stinnett takes issue with Baptist and Reflector editor's reflections

Todd Stinnett, heir apparent to the TBC's 2nd vice-presidency, doesn't feel that enforcing* the BF&M2000 should be a problem with Tennessee Baptists and takes issue with Lonnie Wilkey, the editor of the Tennessee Baptist Convention's Baptist & Reflector. After all, the convention voted last year to adopt the Baptist Faith & Message as well as the RJSV nomination form. The votes weren't close. But now, the 20% who failed to vote for the BF&M2000 motion are second-class Tennessee Baptists, and, according to Todd are not 'doctrinally accountable' and thus should not be eligible to serve on TBC committees or boards.

Todd, I understand your passion to rid the Tennessee Baptist Convention of liberalism and make us all doctrinally accountable. It is a well intentioned and well-meaning goal...if it is to become the primary goal of the new conservative leadership in our convention, then please, at your earliest convenience remove the word Baptist from the name of the state convention. We, as a convention, have affirmed the BF&M2000, great. Can we get on with the mission of our calling? Please, let's not use the BF&M2000 as some pharisaical-looking effort to divide the convention further by marginalizing individuals who do not view their cooperative relationships with other Baptist churches in the state the same way that you do. It may be fundamental but it is NOT Baptist.

OK, so we're not going to be Creedal, we're going to be Doctrinally Accountable. I love buzz words. I hope I can get a rubber stamp on my hand with "DA" in purple ink so that I can get back into a TBC committee meeting. Or maybe it is time to get little DA tattoos, a secret handshake, some cool candles, gold embroidered vests, and pointy looking hats.

Just so this post will not be construed to be completely antagonistic, Todd and I agree on major problems within our denomination.

*Enforced is the word chosen by one of Todd's fellow co-conspirators Concerned Tennessee Baptists, Larry Reagan.

Monday, November 05, 2007

And, he has a dog named "Moses"

One ambassador for the Grand Ole Opry dies and a new generation rises and to be inducted to the group. Josh Turner has ties to Belmont University and Baptists... and frequently relates the influence that the university and his Christian walk has on his work.
Belmont University has every reason to be proud of Josh...and I'd bet that there are a ton of Tennessee Baptists who are proud of Josh as well. Congratulations, Josh, on becoming part of the Grand Ole Opry!

Notre Dame Deserves Special Bowl Invite

I am gloating..big time gloating. The mid-shipmen ended a losing streak of 43 seasons that last saw Roger Staubach as the Navy quarterback in 1963. Notre Dame, one of the nation's most traditionally over-rated football teams has now lost 5 home games and has an abysmal record of 1 win and 8 losses. The Notre-Dame-addicted Regis Philbin may need therapy, or a lifeline of oxygen after this season (bless his heart).

It is probably wrong to be this happy over someone else's agony of defeat...but somehow, I still want Notre Dame to go to a bowl game, just so they can meet the guys at Appalachian State. (Insert evil laugh here) There is something about "Mountaineers vs Irish" that sounds like "Hatfields and McCoys." No offense to the program at Appalachian State, but they'll get little respect from the major bowl committees despite a winning record and two previous, back-to-back NCAA Division 1-AA championships.

On behalf of Appalachian State and my bowl recommendation, I'd buy this T-shirt:
How many batteries does it take to beat Notre Dame?
One - Double "A"

Tailgating - now, there is a food phenomena that has Baptist written all over it (without the beer, of course). Why didn't we think of that?!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Mark Lowry Hits the Hot Buttons...and Makes Us Laugh

I've always thought that Mark Lowry's sense of humor ought to be something that we should use to inoculate every Baptist minister. Here's why:

HT: Charles at BlogItch

Remember, I warned you all about the old guy learning how to add YouTube vidoes here. I feel so technically enlightened that I'm almost ready to take on the flashing 12:00 on my vcr. Who knows, I might even learn how to cook something besides popcorn in the microwave!

Persecuted Religious Conservatives

I just finished reading Ken Connor's, Worldviews matter, editorial over on the Baptist Press site. I had to stop at the end of the first sentence, "In America, it has long been a popular sport to demean and ridicule the faith of religious conservatives" and take a deep breath. Actually, Ken, some religious conservatives have brought some of that sport on themselves, don't you think? Let's review a few examples:
Religious conservative groups and leaders who are in the public eye and do stupid things will get press coverage and their faith will be associated with whatever variety of stupidity is involved. Unfortunately, the rest of us get lumped in with those whose stupidity makes headlines. Connor's point may be that the press goes into a feeding frenzy when a high profile conservative leader is accused of something/anything (rightly or wrongly), and I must agree with him on that. High profile religious conservative leaders who venture into the realm of governmental politics are on shaky ground in my opinion, not because they choose to voice their positions on issues but because they focus on one party/candidate or another as an endorsed solution.

There is a basic lesson for religious conservatives and religious conservative leaders: Don't Mess Up, the World is Watching! There is a second lesson to be learned from this that too many who find themselves under attack and in the headlines seem to miss, transparency and honesty from the day one of being accused is essential. Hiding behind an attorney or holding back information feeds skepticism over an individual's credibility...and the press seems to be quite adept at rooting out scandal, and have gotten even better at it since the WaterGate era. Efforts to cover-up indiscretions are like throwing gas on the flaming fires of media frenzies.

My 'sport' with religious conservatives is that the actions of a few have seriously diminished the reputation of the rest. I consider myself a refugee of sorts from the religious conservative crowd primarily because I see religious conservatives flaunting their positions of authority and influence to guide their flocks blindly into territory we should and can avoid (particularly politics). Which leads to a third lesson we should all learn: If you fall into the category of religious conservative leader, be extremely cautious before throwing the first stone. The credibility microscope will reveal flaws and those flaws can/will make headlines. Is that fair? Probably not. Is it a reality we need to grasp? Definitely!

I would contend that even though is is extremely challenging to do so, religious conservatives suffer from their inability to get headlines for the good things that they/we do. Chances are we'll struggle on offense because we have so much more experience and expertise being defensive. Worldview does matter. Christian Worldview headlines matter more, but those require more work than we seem to be able to muster.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lonnie Wilkey on the Baptist Faith & Message 2000

Please read Lonnie Wilkeys' Random Thoughts About the Baptist Faith and Message. Lonnie sums up things with far less emotion than Larry Reagan or me. I particularly like the following,
"I personally think those who hold leadership positions should come from churches that support the work of the convention with monetary support. But to do so would make CP giving a “litmus test.” The same goes for the Baptist Faith and Message. I honestly believe that most people affirm what Baptists believe or they wouldn’t be Baptist. Why they would choose not to publicly affirm the BF&M is an individual decision. If that question keeps someone from being appointed, it too becomes a litmus test."
Well said, Lonnie. I appreciate your gracious reflections.

All this talk about litmus tests is making me hungry. I simply must do some research on litmus tests for fellowship supper... there is a Baptist chemistry presence there that is worthy of study.

Using the Baptist Faith and Message as a Means to Divide Tennessee Baptists

There is an Associated Baptist Press story online, Tennessee Baptists gear up for struggles over trustees, that I recommend as balanced assessment of what we may see this year at the Tennessee Baptist Convention. It speaks of a certain level of disinterest of some of our church leaders to continue battles that aren't significant to ministries in our local churches. It also refers to the "aggressive tack" of Larry Reagan, pastor of Adam's Chapel in Dresden, Tennessee.

I have taken quite a bit of time to mull over the angry sentiments that I read from Pastor Larry Reagan over at Concerned Tennessee Baptists regarding those who have been nominated for Tennessee Baptist Convention positions who chose to say they did not or would not affirm the BF&M2000. Pastor Reagan's passion is not something I want to question or offend, but I want to walk around a few things that he has to say that I find worrisome. You can read the full context here and here...but allow me to focus on this:
"Our failure to require doctrinal accountability in the past has caused great harm to God’s work in Tennessee. The messengers from the churches understand this clearly. Last year we affirmed the BF&M 2000. This year we must enforce that affirmation. It is time to show up, stand up, and speak up. It is time for changes to be made. If our executive leadership continues to resist the enforcement of doctrinal accountability, then it is time for a change in executive leadership.
We have many great servants in positions of leadership in the TBC. They are working hard to lead the TBC by biblical principles. They deserve executive leadership that agrees with the churches. Doctrinal accountability matters!"
Last year, the Tennessee Baptist convention did affirm the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 by a considerable majority. Now, according to Pastor Reagan, agreeing with that document is apparently a litmus test to be used to determine if an individual is "doctrinally accountable". Larry, I am sorry. Some of these individuals are hardcore Cooperative Program supporting Baptists who believe they are accountable only to God and His Word. If that somehow makes them doctrinally un-accountable, I think a different label (besides doctrinally accountable) is needed. Some of us who affirmed the BF&M 2000 did so because we felt it was important for the world to have something more abbreviated than the entire Bible to understand who Southern Baptists are and what separates us from other denominations. If agreeing to the words on the BF&M2000 is all that it takes to indicate that someone is doctrinally accountable, then I suggest we entertain a motion at the TBC to trim a little fat off the Bible and reduce it down to a few key verses in the New Testament.

Let me put it this way. I attend Baptist churches who are passionate about introducing Jesus Christ to a lost world and leading people to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If someone who receives Christ in our church chooses to align him/herself with a Southern Baptist Church, then I would hope they would find a place where that person can set roots and grow in their relationship with Christ through Bible study and fellowship with other Christians. Being there, they will witness and learn of Baptist life, our ordinances, and our tradition of cooperative ministries with other churches. If that Christian finds another place to set roots and grow in a fellowship that doesn't include "Baptist" on the church sign or perhaps in another denomination, I will not condemn them because they choose not to affirm the Baptist Faith and Message, nor will I consider them any less Christian or less doctrinally accountable. Unless Brother Reagan is reading a different Bible, I am pretty sure that there is nothing in the Bible that commands us to go into the world and make BF&M2000 Baptists of every creature.

We as Baptist have a great tradition of arguing over our confessions, creeds, and statements of faith. I believe that we, as Baptist, benefit from having a statement of faith so that others will know the general principles of our beliefs. We produce these statements (and have for over 100 years) with the understanding that as fallible creatures that any creed we produce will not be infallible or inerrant. I want that debate to go on as long as there are Baptists walking the Earth. I do not, however, believe that there is anything worse than using a confession or creed to label another Christian as a fundamentalist, liberal, moderate, godless-CBF-er, progressive, evangelical, democrat, republican, independent, emergent, or doctrinally un-accountable. God will not bless efforts of any group to divide the Tennessee Baptist Convention further by declaring that some denominational document created by the hands of well-meaning men will somehow make us better Baptists or Christians. It might help us to understand how a diverse group of believers manages to cooperate in ministry without beating each other up with our Bibles. I sincerely doubt that the God of my Bible concerns himself with any man made creed...particularly if that creed is intended to somehow "enforce" anything.

To my brother in Christ, Larry Reagan, I pray that you will focus your passion on winning souls for Christ rather than wasting God's time trying to "enforce doctrinal accountability". God is quite capable of dealing with the sins of man and those called to minister to His flock. Let's not lose focus on God by pushing away fellow Christians (and Baptists) by creating new labels for individuals who do not believe the BF&M2000 to be infallible or inerrant or the litmus test for their personal relationship with Christ. I believe deeply that my brother Larry Reagan and I are on God's side. I sincerely wish that Brother Reagan would embrace my questioning of any creed as acceptable behavior in God's sight as I accept his passion for fundamentalism to be blessed by God.

I do want someone to be accountable for the menu at the meetings surrounding the TBC. .. nothing ruins a good fellowship worse than a caterer who doesn't understand the Baptist metaphor of Dunkin Donuts. *smiles*

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Who Will Blog This Year's Tennessee Baptist Convention Meeting?

As much as I would like to, I cannot be a part of the Tennessee Baptist Convention's annual meeting and conservative takeover re-resurgence in Kingsport this year. Last year, Jeff Wright did a great job blogging from Jeff Wright's Blog. Likewise, Steve Weaver provided his perspective on the actions of the annual meeting. If the Kingsport convention center doesn't block his access, I am hopeful that Tim Ellsworth will jump in and blog from this year's convention.

A couple of last year's blogs seem to have vanished in to blog-oblivion, but that happens. Anyone know if either Mark Beach or Danny Chisolm are blogging from new sites?

Are there new (or used) bloggers amongst us who plan to post from the 2007 Tennessee Baptist Convention in Kingsport? Please let me know. I hope to pull together thoughts from a variety of people in attendance. I would hope that the Baptist & Reflector will join the blogging community as well...it is very 21st century.

And someone, please, blog/affirm that we are being fed physically as well as spiritually at the TBC. I'd hate to think that such important coverage is going to waist.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Baptist University Students Win Stock Market Challenge for Second Consecutive Year

Three Union University business students won the Fifth Third Bank Stock Market Challenge earlier this week here in Nashville. Twenty-five teams from private and public Tennessee universities participated in the competition. By the way...last year, the Belmont University team took top honors. Has anyone alerted Carson-Newman that next year is their turn?

Congratulations to Union University and to Belmont University. Tennessee Baptists have plenty of reasons to be proud of your accomplishments.

Welcome, Visitors from Time.com

To all of you who happen by the Refugee Baptist via this story, welcome. I dont't generally make a habit of telling people to 'put a sock in it' (although I am often tempted). Stick around. We'll make a place for you at supper. You can bring dessert.

More Tennessee Baptist Convention v. Belmont University Information Released

Just a week or so ago, before one of the Baptist & Reflector press deadlines, Belmont filed a response to the Tennessee Baptist Convention's lawsuit. I have asked my TBC Elder friend to see if he can divide the 53 page document into smaller pieces. I found a link to the full document on the Tennessean web site yesterday evening. There are communications between the Tennessee Baptist Convention and Belmont University that the messengers at this year's TBC annual meeting need to read before they vote to spend any more money on legal fees. No kidding. All we have heard so far from the Belmont Study Committee focuses on the missing-in-action, 1951 document that the TBC committee wants to use in a high stakes gamble. Folks, there is evidence in Belmont's response that demands your attention. I doubt seriously that we will read anything but one side of the story in the Baptist & Reflector and there is something terribly wrong with that when there are hundreds of thousands of missions' dollars at risk.

By the way, I do not blame Lonnie Wilkins for the lack of balanced coverage on the Belmont vs. TBC issues. I suspect that he has orders not to discuss the lawsuit. And, in fairness to Mr. Wilkins, I understand that the folks at Belmont University were given similar instructions several months ago.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tennessean Interviews Belmont Students About TBC Law Suit

Colby Sledge, staff writer for the Tennessean, writes: Most Belmont Students Don't Pay Attention to Lawsuit. One of the students interviewed for the article had this to say,
"Mikey Brackett, a senior majoring in religion and the arts who transferred to Belmont two years ago, has spent much of his time trying to rebuild the Baptist Campus Ministry after many of its leaders graduated. That put the BCM behind to begin with, and the lawsuit didn't help. "People thought, 'The Baptists? Aren't they the ones who are suing us?' " Brackett said."
I would surmise from that conversation that Tennessee Baptists aren't exactly helping the students who belong to the Baptist Campus Ministry. I would love to ask someone in the Tennessee Baptist Convention what they have against the Baptist students on Belmont University's campus? It is one thing to have issues with the university's administration and trustees...it is shameful to think that Baptist students at Belmont do not have convention support for their ministries.

Should the Tennessee Baptist Convention receive a monetary judgment from Belmont University, I find it ironic that there will be families of Baptist students whose monies will be repaying 50+ years of gifts that other Tennessee Baptist families contributed. It makes my head spin.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tennessee Baptist Convention's Gambling Budget

I must be reading something wrong in the Baptist and Reflector (print copy only). There is a line item in the Tennessee Baptist Convention's proposed Cooperative Program Budget for something called the Belmont Study Committee. Last year, this line item was three quarters of a million dollars ($750,000). This year's Budget Committee Recommendation is Three Quarters of a Million Dollars ($750,000). I am not the best mathematician in the pew, but that sounds a lot like 1.5 MILLION Dollars in Cooperative Program funds from the people sitting in the pews of our TBC churches.

Before my blood pressure gets the best of me, I want to get the following off my chest just to get some perspective on the Study Committee's allocation:

1. We have yet to see anything that resembles accountability or an accounting of where those mission dollars for the Belmont Study Committee have gone. We do not know if the $750,000 allocated last year was fully expended or if some of those funds have been carried over. Just how much studying does $750,000 buy a Baptist convention, anyway? I think we have a right to know.

2. At the last gathering where the Belmont University situation was railroaded discussed, we were told by Clay Austin that the chances of winning the case against Belmont University were something like 50-75%. The committee has had a year+ to study the situation. From what I am hearing, the odds have changed significantly. Are we as a convention ready to gamble with another $750,000 if the odds have worsened? And do not let anyone sugar-coat this, or lie to you...this is a gamble.

3. Our statewide Golden Mission Offering goal for 2007 is $ 1,640,000. The amount allocated this year to the Belmont Study Committee is 45.7%, nearly 50%, of the total goal amount for the statewide mission offering. I may be the only Tennessee Baptist who is having a problem with that... but I am not willing to stand by and let it happen repeatedly without letting someone understand that I believe there are "liars and thieves" among us, and they aren't on the Belmont side of the aisle.

4. I believe you can get a sense of an institution's purpose, mission, and priorities by looking at where they choose to invest the gifts that they receive. The chart below lists selected budget line items from the proposed 2007-2008 TBC budget:
Belmont Study Committee$750,000
TN Missions/Ministry Worship$620,082
TN Missions/Ministry Prayer$488,224
TN Missions/Ministry Fellowship$583,207
Harrison Chilhowee Academy$483,618
TN Baptist Adult Homes$267,466
TBC Meeting & Committees$360,511
From that chart, I am not seeing priorities that match up with my concept of putting my money where my heart is. Is the Belmont Study Committee a higher priority than our total budget allocation for TN Missions and Ministries Prayer??

There was a day when Tennessee Baptists fought against those in our state house who wanted to bring gambling to Tennessee in the name of supporting education for our students. I never thought that I would see the day when Baptist infighting would distract us from stopping gambling from becoming legal in Tennessee. Now, we appear to be willing to gamble with $1.5 Million Dollars of Cooperative Program dollars in hopes of winning the Belmont Lottery. I find that utterly disgusting. I am counting on the fired-up bunch of conservatives who will rule the convention after this year to demonstrate how Bible-believing men will correct this error in our ways. Surely the new and improved, conservative resurgent budget will be void of gambling dollars and focused on missions and ministry.

One last thing... In light of my personal annoyance with the name "Belmont Study Committee", can we simplify that to just "BS Committee?"

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tennessee Baptist Headline That Made Me Smile

Up front. This is nitpicking, but it brought on a smile. The Baptist & Reflector's headline: Swanberg, Vines, Brunson, headline Tennessee Baptist Pastors Conference. It is just that Swansberg is from Louisiana, Brunson is Florida, and Vines is from Florida...all pastors, but not Tennessee Baptist Pastors; headlining the Tennessee Baptist Pastors Conference. For you in the back row, I could draw you a picture. Hey, I warned you this is nitpicking.

I would love to be in the room when Dennis 'the Swan' Swansberg speaks. He is amazing. All of you who are planning to attend will be blessed with his humor and inspiration. Encourage him to do the Obituary for the Pillsbury Doughboy. Take a hanky, you'll need it to wipe away tears of joy. I promise.

Will has not yet taken issue with the B&R's failure to print the menu for the pastor's conference...more proof that the state paper doesn't have its priorities straight (you cmay laugh now).

More Evidence That Baptist Pastors Should Not Control the Purse Strings

The (now) Rev. Bible Belt Blogger writes, "Crooked preacher gets 50 months in federal pen". If you thought the Peter Principle was bad, I'm thinking this crooked-preacher-guy wrote the Judas Principle.

Baptist Pastor Political Endorsements - Neither Biblical nor Baptist

After some sort of endorsement of Mitt Romney, Don Wilton has withdrawn that original endorsement. Don, bless his heart, is pastor of the mega-First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina and former president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

I fully support brother Wilton's right to choose whatever candidate that he chooses to support. I believe that the Bible expects us, as Christians, to be a part of the civil process that forms and maintains our government. I resent very much the fact that brother Wilton (and any other pastor) uses his position of popularity and influence to PUBLICLY announce who he will/might/won't support. I am pretty sure that brother Wilson is well informed of the polity of Baptist life. Baptist churches function without a ruling organization to mandate how they function and that each Baptist church is autonomous. To even imply that one speaks with such authority, particularly when it comes to politics, is akin to heresy within the historical context of Baptist autonomy...and that is exactly what a public endorsement does.

I consider it naive to think that the endorsement by any Southern Baptist or Tennessee Baptist (ad nauseum Baptist) is somehow an endorsement by the individual church members who make up our individual churches, but that is exactly what is happening. The press does not make a distinction between your endorsement as a high profile leader in your city/state/region and what your denominational brothers and sisters may endorse.

And get this shocker: every Baptist isn't a republican or conservative or democrat or liberal. Efforts to pigeon-hole all Baptists as some sort of mindless zombies who vote en masse for whoever some high profile leader endorses are sadly misguided. Granted, as a denomination Baptists tend to lean more toward conservatism...but there are actually classical liberal Baptists and libertarians (gasp) around (just don't tell the fundamentalist among us).

If there is one thing that I believe ISN'T Baptist, it is one Baptist attempting to speak for other Baptists. Baptists are an independent-minded (and often ornery) yet cooperative bunch of folks who do not need any leader to tell us who to vote for. My advice to any Baptist minister who is contemplating an endorsement: Get on with your ministry. Shut Up when it comes to public endorsements of candidates. Don't do it. It is an abuse of power and authority. It is neither Biblical nor Baptist.

Jeff Wright summed it up much more concisely.

Pass the mash potatoes please. All this screaming has made me hungry.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Would Someone Please Tell Richard Land to "Put a Sock in It"

Acording to a post on ethicsdaily.com, Richard Land call Mormonism "the fourth Abrahamic faith". Richard Land is the president of the SBC ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and apparently is attempting to do one of the most dangerous things one can do in Baptist life: speak for other Baptists.

I need to dig up a copy of Dr. Walter Martin's Kingdom of the Cults and send 'ole Richard a copy.

It's like this: if it is called Network 21 or International Dreambuilders and the products are from AmWay, it is still AmWay. This "fourth Abrahamic faith" crap smells worse than week-old, spoiled towels leftover in a baptistry dressing room.

Moving the Tennessee Baptist Convention to the 21st Century

Will and I had a great dinner last night in Nashville and he asked me to put down in words some technology ideas for Tennessee Baptists. I promised no war stories about my experiences in Southeast Asia with an IBM punch card machine called Elvis, but reference that memory only to let readers know that technology isn't all that new to this old f*rt.

Will pointed me to today's article in the Baptist state paper, The Baptist and Regurgitator (I think that is the name, anyway *grin*). There's a story about the upcoming convention in east Tennessee at the Kingsport Convention Center. The article speaks to the shrinking numbers in attendance each year and bemoans the projection, "the attendance to be less than it was in 1998." Ron Stewart, our fearless fundamentalist leader, is quoted: "I believe the Lord is working with us to create a convention that is able to minister to the constantly changing culture of the 21st century." Well, fundamentally, I agree with brother Ron.

Here is my top 5 list of suggestions to get the Tennessee Baptist Convention out of the Gutenberg era into something beyond the current century's Gutenberg Project decade:

1. For less than 1/10th of the money that the TBC is wasting on lawyers to sue Belmont University, the entire Tennessee Baptist Convention annual meeting could be made available via streaming video to anyone in the convention who wanted to watch on a cable-speed Internet connection. I'd guess that some would be willing to pay a subscription for such a service. The technology is affordable and available NOW.

2. If the TBC wants to demonstrate real leadership, allow churches to securely register messengers as online participants in the meeting. A unique ballot code could be distributed to those who are validated through their respective churches and when it comes time to vote during the convention, many could submit their votes electronically. I'll be the first to offer up the argument that this system might be manipulated...but it couldn't be as manipulated as votes in 1980's era SBC meetings where leaders held up color-coded cards telling their constituent blocks just how to vote on issues. The technology is affordable and available NOW.

3. The state paper could easily host moderated discussions using the current space they are wasting on the TBC web site to regurgitate the print edition. Many newspapers have opened up online articles for follow-up questions and comments. These comments could easily be moderated so that just the views of whatever flavor of leadership is running the convention would actually show up on the web site. The technology is affordable and available NOW.

4. Open up the TBC's newspaper to churches in the convention to electronically post praise and prayer requests. There are great things happening in our churches AND in our institutions that members in TBC churches should be allowed to read. There is certainly no room for such requests in the murdered-tree (i.e. print-version) version of the B&R and I am sure that the B&R staff is not large enough to cover all of our churches in this constantly changing culture of the 21st century. Allow some democracy into the world of Baptist state paper journalism, it could be a breath of fresh air instead of the staleness that we witness currently. And, again, the technology is affordable and available NOW.

5. Let's be honest with one another and realize that an annual (i.e. one meeting each year) is hardly realistic with the pace of change in the lives of our churches in the 21st century. Even if we stick with one face-to-face fellowship meeting each year, there is absolutely no reason that a quarterly electronic meeting couldn't be organized so that more of our members can be involved at some level. Let's be creative and innovative in the way we do committee meetings...Cracker Barrel will survive without us. And if this old man can understand enough to make it work, I would not entertain the nonsense that too many churches wouldn't be able to participate...that is fresh-off-the-steeple pigeon poop. And, (you guessed it), the technology is affordable and available NOW!

We could start with the basics and advise all Tennessee Baptists that the little tray that shoots out from their personal computers ISN'T a holder for a coffee cup. I'd even be willing to propose reconstituting the 19th century's WCTU. Listen to the Baptist sound of this: Wholesome Computer Training Union.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

One visit in three years for $240,000

It is the best chancellor's gig in the country if you ask me. Bible Belt Blogger reports that Oral Roberts (the 89 year-old, senior version) has been paid $80,000 per year as the university's chancellor yet just this week made his first trip to campus in three years. The Associated Press story covers the rest. At a chapel service on Monday, the senior Roberts proclaimed, "the devil is not going to steal ORU." From what I read, it isn't the devil who has been accused of stealing from the university.

I contend that this is just one more example of a religious institution discovering the meaning of the The Peter Principle.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Notre Dame Discovers Reason For Losing Record

I'll stick with SEC football. They don't make excuses but they do tend to beat each other up every Saturday.

Hat Tip: My friend, the Photoshop Guy

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Exclamation Point or e-Scream-ation Point?

Good read and wild comments over at Grace and Truth to You!

Some Baptist Kids WILL Have Sex

I read Kelly Bogg's article, Please, Portland, Let Them Be Kids, over at Baptist Press with shock, concern, disgust, and frustration. At the heart of Bogg's editorial is this:
"The Portland (Maine) School Committee Oct. 17 voted 7-2 in favor of allowing King Middle School to make birth control pill and patch prescriptions available to its students, even if the parents don't approve it."
First of all, I want to go on record to say this is wrong...but not for the reasons you might think. I believe this is wrong because it is the responsibility of parents to take care of birth control education for their children and it is NOT the school system's job. I believe this is wrong because there are (evidently) parents who refuse to educate and discipline their 10-15 year-olds about sex and then blame the school system for unwanted pregnancies. I believe that issuing birth control methods to 10-15 year-olds without parental permission is wrong because it encourages (some) parents to neglect their sex education responsibilities for effective birth control and NOT because it encourages their children to have sex. I believe this is a wholesale condemnation of our churches, faith-based institutions, and families for passing-the-buck to public/governmental agencies where those public/secular agencies have NO business getting involved. This is wrong, wrong wrong! (Whew! That felt good!...but I am not finished.)

Now, on to Bogg's opening question: "Should a public school encourage students to engage in risky behavior that is also illegal? (my emphasis)" I am pretty sure that Bogg's is telling us that it is illegal for 10-15 year-olds in Maine to have sex. Great. Let's incarcerate every boy and girl who is unfortunate enough to get caught having sex...that'll show em! It continues to amaze me that we attempt to legislate sex between two people who want to have sex, regardless of their age. Although I agree with society's desire to prevent kids from having sex, passing a law to make it illegal does not address the deeper instincts that result in violating the law. Why not place the parents of these sexually active kids in stocks on the public square? We would have about as much success with that as we would if it were illegal to take more than one piece of pie off a desert table* at a Baptist fellowship supper. Some kids, even kids who know better, WILL have sex! Making it illegal for a hormonal kid to discover that tab "A" goes into slot "B" hasn't fixed much of anything.

The sad reality of having sex today is that there is not only the risk of pregnancy but there is risk of contracting a life threatening disease. I am asking myself, "Who gets to decide how we (as a society..and as Christians in society) minimize those risks?

Here is the frustrating part of Bogg's article: He asks (rhetorically) if the next step beyond the school sanctioned safe-sex initiative are future safe-smoking or safe-drinking or safe-cheating initiates? I would hope that doesn't happen either...but even if it does, it still doesn't resolve the sex issues. Throwing up smoking, drinking, and cheating smoke-screens is simply an additional confession that we do not know how to resolve those issues either and that we would rather condemn those who are taking drastic actions to resolve a life-threatening/life-producing problem that a single act of sexual intercourse can cause than offer up an alternative solution.

Oddly enough, Boggs and I are on the same side. Neither of us want kids having babies or having sexual intercourse. Sadly, neither of us can prevent that, sitting here in the cheap seats. As far as I can tell, we differ in that I am not willing to condemn the Portland, Maine school system for trying to fix something that the rest of us haven't been able to (or are unwilling to) fix. Boggs says, in his conclusion: "It truly is a bad idea." Boggs also presents a good case for why the Portland solution isn't likely to work. I am not crazy about the idea myself and I tend to agree with the implementation problems. I will not, however, let someone throw stones at an effort to fix a problem without offering up even a hint of how to resolve it. The theory that "kids will have sex" is NOT a theory...the reality is "some kids WILL have sex".

...even Baptist kids
Back in the old days when we used to sweep pregnant 15-year olds off to a relative in another state so they could spare the hometown family embarrassment, it was my pastor's daughter and my best friend who "did it" and to their surprise, delivered a 6.5 lb creature into the world nine months later. They knew that "dong it" was wrong. They also learned that there are consequences. There isn't a happy ending to this story. My friend ended up a single dad at 19. My pastor's daughter self-destructed into the world of alcohol and drugs. Before he died, my old pastor referred to the pregnancy as "the awful embarrassment" that ruined his ministry. From where I am seated today, we haven't made a lot of progress since that era in addressing children having sex with children...but we can sure tell you what we don't believe will work.

And while I am ranting over what I believe is wrong, I confess that I do not have a magic solution to offer to all the people in Portland (either)...and because I do not have a solution, I support their efforts to resolve the issue the best way they know how. I pray that this is a wake-up call for all Christians to find solutions even if it means talking openly and honestly and frequently about sex in church.

*For the record: I WILL take more than one piece of pie off the desert table.