Sunday, January 21, 2007

Can We Narrow the Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12 ?

Paul admonishes Timothy in I Timothy, 2:12 (KJV), "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." This passage is newsworthy today in light of of the dismisal of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor, Dr. Sheri Klouda...who, according to the article, was dismissed because of her gender and the leadership's application of the I Timothy verse.

First of all, allow me to make it clear that I fully understand Paul's instructions to Timothy in context of what was going on when that letter was written. I must also admit that I am not comfortable with Paul's words being used today to squelch women who have been called into ministry OR to negate OR narrow that calling when/if there is an interface with men.

In the case of Dr. Klouda, she was not a pastor. She was called (and hired in 2002) to teach. She has a gift of teaching (and teaching Hebrew). And yes, there were men in her classroom. Unless there were other circumstances involved, the seminary decided that because of her gender and the fact that she was, indeed, instructing men that the Biblical stance compelled them to dismiss her.

Here is a scenario for you. At some rather arbritrary age between 16 and 21, the males of our species are called men. If you can accept that premise, at what point do we eliminate all female teachers in our Sunday Schools because they may be teaching or having authority over young men?...or would mothers of these young men be on unscriptual foundations if they attempted to teach or hold authority over their sons...even sons who themselves may be pastors some day?

And, what if a woman is involved in writing theological material (or electronically recorded voice/visuals) that is intended to teach men. Should those articles be allowed or should those words be silenced? I'll confess to learning something about leadership in missions from a lady called Lottie Moon...she taught me, and those teachings hold a great deal of influence/authority over my approach to missions...was that teaching unscriptural? It isn't that a big of a jump in interpretation for someone to use I Timothy to say that published works of women should be silenced.

Hitting a little closer to home at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: If Dorothy Paige, the sole, remaining female professor in theology, were to have a male student sign up for one of her Women's Studies classes, would she be dismissed in the same manner as that of Dr. Klouda? Or perhaps, should we simply ban men from studying Women's Programs at SWBT?

All of that to say, my discomfort in disavowing a woman's call to teach, minister, or hold authority over a man is increased considerably when there is an appearance that we may be subjegating a Godly call based upon what may be an ever narrowing interpretation of Paul's words to Timothy. I would hope that we have more important things to do than reduce the ranks of Baptists in ministry based upon their gender.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

TBC President Weigh In on Carson Newman Situation in Knoxville published an article describing some of the challenges that newly-elected Tennessee Baptist Convention President, Ron Stewart faces. Regarding the Carson-Newman situation, the article includes this:
"I have a great deal of confidence in the president Dr. Netherton, I think he is a Godly man, I think he is trying to do what he believes is best, Stewart said.

Stewart says the conflict comes from faculty teaching in contradiction to what the Bible states and what Baptists believe.
I am hoping Ron's statement regarding "faculty teaching" isn't intended as an insult to the many Bible believing faculty at Carson-Newman. And, I hope that Ron is not so naive to belive that the college's 5-year slide in enrollment, the $20 Million in deferred maintenance, the failure to bring numerous staff salary levels above a food-stamp-qualifying level, and an obviously missing game plan from Dr. Netherton's micro-managing administration is truly a result of "faculty teaching in contradiction to what the Bible states".

I fear that Ron's "great deal of confidence" is short on substance even if he thinks Dr. Netherton is a Godly man. Dr. Netherton may be the man to pull Carson-Newman out of their current funk, but 5 year's worth of declining enrollment during his leadership isn't a confidence builder.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Carson-Newman College Trustees Meet Today.


Belmont University Subpoenas and Tennessee Baptist Paperwork

Let's go over it one. more. time: Jim Porch, Executive Director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, is sticking with the convention story that Belmont University is the bad guy because they refuse to acknowledge the validity of a 1951 document that includes a reversion clause. Belmont University's Board of Trustees Chairman, Marty Dickens, is sticking with Belmont's story that the 1951 document was modified at least twice by actions of the convention and that this whole mess is about control and money. Neither side appears to have budged from those positions. There are certainly other issues, but a judge may ultimately weigh the evidence supporting these two core issues...and then it is over.


Here's a bit of irony. The TBC couldn't come up with it's copy of the 1951 document, but according to this report, they have managed to come up with over 30,000 pages (that's 60 reams) of documents that allegedly relate to the case. Wouldn't you just love to know how much that cost in legal fees, staff time, and supplies? Thank goodness for our Cooperative Program dollars!

Belmont, who had a copy of the 1951 document, evidently couldn't match the TBC's 30,000 pages (again, that's 60 reams of paper) so they have subpoenaed 100 churches and mailed a letter to the rest. Not to be outdone, the TBC mailed a four page subpoena response letter to churches in the TBC, basically stating the two sentences in my opening paragraph.

...a final word on Paperwork

If Royal Ambassadors (a Baptist version of Boy Scouts) were still settling matters by spitball battles, wouldn't they have a great time with the reams of paper already stockpiled in this legal case. Not unlike RA's of old, no one is talking/thinking about the messy clean-up that will follow the aftermath of the conflict between these two institutions.

Maybe I need to crank up some copies of a Refugee Baptist application form. Paperwork is evidently the new Baptist 'ministry'.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Reflections from a Guatemalan Baptist

People who serve as translators for volunteers on mission trips have a special place in my heart. My trip to Guatemala proved (again) that my love for translators is not misplaced. I consider myself blessed that Jorge was not only my translator and a Christian, but also a Baptist.

Stepping away from all the rhetoric in Southern Baptist political and theological controversy and entering a world where a believer's faith and lifestyle is more fundementally entwined was quite refreshing. Let me explain. Jorge became a Christian about 10 years ago when he was a teenager. The influences of an IMB missionary and a young Guatemalan pastor are still part of Jorge's testimony. What is more important to Jorge is that his commitment to Christ also came with a clearly understood commitment to what it means to be part of the body of Christ, His church.

Baptists in Jorge's church are in the church house on Sunday and they are in Bible study on Wednesday night, without exception. If a church member is not present, their presence is noted immediately and someone (usually the member's deacon) is summoned to the missing member's home to take care of the sick member...there are no other 'excuses' for not being there. Likewise, the members of his church are tithers, no exception...and offer 'first fruits' as a clear and visual expression of that commitment in the most literal sense. I have a picture of the table that stands in front of the pulpit in Jorge's church, and on that table is a very large was a gift, the best of a farmer-member's first crop. On Sunday nights, members bring non-believer friends and associates to the church is an expectation and considered a commitment to Great Comission evangelism.

There is more. When I questioned Jorge about what happens if a member doesn't measure up to all of these (and other) expectations, he looked at me like I had asked the silliest question on earth. The paraphrased summary of his explaination: why would anyone who loves Jesus give up the joy of fellowship with fellow believers or the satisfaction of seeing monetary gifts combined do greater good or 'missing out' on something in a Bible study that enriches your faith or sharing the joy of being a believer with someone who may never have heard the name of Jesus before...are you crazy?

I have been back for a week now. I have asked myself if I could be a Baptist in Jorge's church. I have asked myself, "Am I crazy for NOT being consistent and commited as my Guatemalan brothes and sisters?" You may have heard volunteers report to their home church that even though they traveled to a distant mission point to minister...that in fact, it was something or someone at the host location who ministered more to them personally. In this instance, Jorge-the-Baptist, ministered to me and made it clear that many of us (and I confess my inclusion in this group) who claim to be Baptist are, indeed, crazy!

Guatemalan food note: beware of small, fresh, deliciously sweet bananas...your system may not be prepared for that level of fiber (enough said).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

New Baptist Covenant - At a Glance

You may have already read the news (or read the blog commentary) on what has been billed (perhaps unfairly) as the Carter-Clinton Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant. I say godspeed to those who seek to offer a different view of Baptists and to carry out compassionate ministries. And I say "Amen" to Wade Burleson's closing of his reponse to the news,
"I wish nothing but success for all Baptists who seek to live out the gospel for a world in need of a Savior."
And in the masterfully succinct, concluding words of Forest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that."

Carson-Newman Crisis Milestones

This site reports that we have just passed 100 days since the no-confidence vote for Carson-Newman President Netherton, and, that the Carson-Newman trustees are only a day or so away from meeting. It is clear that Tennessee Baptists have not been given a clear view of what has been going on at the college for (at least) the last 5-6 years. Personally, I am not sure that we are getting a clear view even now. Our own state convention paper doesn't appear qualified to do investigative reporting and is satified with re-printing the spin coming out of Carson-Newman's PR department and the mainstream press.

What I do know from reading the Concerned Carson-Newman College Alumni and Friends site is that there is more than mere bickering going on and that these issues cannot be swept under the rug.

I am praying for Carson-Newman today and for the decisions facing their Board of Trustees in the next few days. I hope that you will join me.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Bill Carden Wants To Save Carson-Newman, I Suggest We Let Him

It is a lonnnng article over at the Concerned Tennessee Baptist site, but it is a must read for friends of Carson-Newman and for any other Tennessee Baptist Convention agency or institution. Bill Carden apparently knows why Carson-Newman is failing and has a solution to return the university to its "Christian liberal arts heritage."

From reading the article, one might get the impression that Bill Carden, pastor a deacon of First Baptist Church Tullahoma, has an axe to grind with anyone associated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship...the finger is clearly pointed at that group as the major reason for Carson-Newman's decline. The following is a direct quote from Rev. Mr. Carden's article:
If survival of the college is most important, then the list of nominees for trustee positions that the college presents to the TBC Committee on Boards in 2007 and future years will not include the name of any person from a church affiliated with the CBF. If the college continues to nominate any persons who are from churches affiliated with the CBF, this will be interpreted as a sure signal to Tennessee Baptists that the college has no interest in the restoration of trust with Tennessee Baptists.
Finally, someone is honest enough to say that if you are affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship your services are no longer required in the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Let's be sure to include that in next year's list of Tennessee Baptist Convention would at least be an honest reflection of conservative Tennessee Baptist leadership.

Oh, and for those who still don't believe this is about the money, please be sure to read the last paragraph and the veiled concluding threat:
"If the Carson-Newman trustees are unwilling to begin this trust restoration process right now, and carry it through to its complete resolution, then the trustees may have to take their chances on continued survival of the college without the benefit of Cooperative Program funds from Tennessee Baptist Churches. And Union University certainly deserves the extra money!"
That's the ticket, Bill. Let's pull the plug on those suckers and show them how Baptist we are. That'll show those liberals that we hold the purse strings and we mean business!

With that in mind: I nominate Bill Carden for President of Carson-Newman. As a leader in a non-CFB church and with his outline to fix the college, he is eminently qualified. (But let's hold off on giving Union more money than they "certainly deserve.")

Belmont University Featured on Cover of Phone Book

Having a Board of Trustees Chairman who is President of ATT-Tennessee evidently has its advantages. Belmont University announced earlier this week that the Inman Center Will Be Featured on the Cover of The AT&T Real White Pages. In the vernacular of the blogosphere: wOOt!

Please allow me to kick a dead horse one more time: Perhaps when the new phone books are delivered to the office of the Tennessee Baptist Convention's Baptist and Reflector newspaper, they will realized that they accidently missed the story about Belmont's new 20 million dollar health sciences building and will report it to the rest of the Baptists in Tennessee... fair and balanced reporting and all that sort of thing.

The Baptist and Reflector Gets it Right

Since I have already blasted the Tennessee Baptist Convention's reporting on one story, it is only fair that I commend them for NOT regurgitating an error that appeared in the secular media (and Baptist Press) the week before Christmas. The Baptist & Reflector, in this story, correctly identifies the eight new Belmont University Board of Trustee Members by including, "only one of whom is a member of a convention-affiliated church." Earlier media releases called seven of the new board members non-Baptists. Thank you, B&R, for not offending our Missionary Baptist friends.

At the bottom of the story, TBC President and Belmont alumnus, Ron Stewart is quoted, "
it just reveals they’re (Belmont) moving forward without any visible signs they would ever want to renew the relationship." Good point, Ron. What's the game plan from your leadership that gives any of us a sign that you want to renew that relationship? Just curious...the lawsuit just isn't doing it for me.

What Response? What Letter?

I just read the January 10, 2007 Baptist & Reflector article, "Response issued to Belmont Letter". I could hardly wait to read the article and see what the Tennessee Baptist Convention had to say to Belmont. Unfortunately, the story contains two facts: One, Jim Porch appears to be only aware of a letter sent to TBC churches. And secondly (quoting Porch), "...we are preparing a statement to comment upon the assertions made and issues raised by this letter."

Let me summarize: Jim Porch is preparing comments on assertions written in a letter that he apparently hasn't even seen yet. And THAT was the lead article in the online version of the Baptist and Reflector.

Thank goodness the weather is getting colder in Nashville...this mis-titled B&R story will be useful only if rolled up and included in the kindling for a fire.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Welcome Home News from Bemont to the Tennessee Baptist Convention

I have a ton of things to share with my two loyal readers about my trip to Guatemala, but that will have to wait until I rid myself of whatever I picked up that keeps me running to the porcelin throne. I'll write fast for now.

Via the Associated Press, WKRN in Nashville released the story, "Belmont to subpoena nearly 100 churches in Baptist lawsuit". My friend, TBC Elder, told me this was coming and that a long-time Belmont employee happened to be the only person available at his own church when the papers were served. There is some irony there, I am sure of it.

OK, so Belmont wants to see 50 years of records from 100 of Tennessee Baptist Convention's most generous churches. I may be the only one laughing here, but I would be surprised if most of our churches keep detailed financial records for more than 5 or 6 years... now, ask us about Baptisms and attendance in worship and we can spout those numbers off like a football fanatic addicted to Super Bowl trivia.

That's it for now. It is Chicken Noodle Soup (without the chicken or the noodles) for me over the next couple of days. If we ever meet, ask me how many different languages that I know how to say, "Kaopectate, please". I gotta run...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

How Could Baptists Miss This Opportunity

I mentioned yesterday that Will's references to Baptist recipes and food would not appear here until his return from Guatemala, but then this story shows up in the news. The Tennessean story begins, "The nation's largest franchisee of Church's Chicken fast-food restaurants is buying Nashville-based Shoney's with a pledge to bring Shoney's back to its "glory days."

    This story has Baptist written all over it! Consider the following (including the sarcasm):
  • First of all this IS Church related (nothing say Baptist Church like fried chicken, plus, it IS a Church franchisee)
  • Secondly, there is a law suit involved from a previous bidder for Shoney's ownership...(there is probably a historical document involved as well). Just ask Tennessee Baptists if the word lawsuit doesn't sound familiar.
  • Thirdly, some of the locations have been accused of being 'lukewarm' (Sure, the lukewarm-ness is related to food storage temperature violations, but the metaphor can't be lost among Baptists familiar with current theological debates)
  • FINALLY, the new power player on the block wants a glory days "resurgence"... that alone makes this a Baptist deal.

How soon can we get a Shoney's Baptist Convention ( web site? Think about that for just a moment...replacing Southern with Shoney's means that we can still call it the SBC, we lose the bias associated with the word Southern, there is instance name recognition with the name (that includes a Big Boy...we'll not go there theologically), and we finally admit that Baptist fellowship is best done at a breakfast bar (we'll just have to delete that 'bar' reference somehow). What an opportunity!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Will in Guatemala

A late nite phone call from Will let me know that he arrived safely in Guatemala and that he has cell phone service in a couple of places. He does not have internet access and will not be writing anything here for a week or so.

If anything earth shattering happens in what Will refers to as the Refugee Baptist Camp, I will try to keep you informed. I do not have any Baptist recipes. You will have to settle for foodless blogging while Will is away.


Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year's Resolution Avoidance

Happy New Year to one and all! I have but one resolution this year: I shall make no resolutions that will be associated with the New Year. Somehow, resolving to do something (like walk everyday, lose a pound a month, etc.) for an entire year ends up in disappointment or a mis-step along the way. Inevitably, something gets in the way and I have a terrible time forgiving myself of those sorts of failures. So, this year, I shall have specific goals, plans of action, and associated timeframes for each objective...(hmmm, 'still sound like resolutions).

Blogging may be sporatic for the next several days. I am off to a small town just outside of Guatemala City to assist a local church build a clinic in a town that has very few medical resources. TBC Elder may step up and post if I can pull him away from his bowl game surveilllance. Go. Talk among yourselves...and be nice to one another.