Thursday, September 27, 2007

Music City Blogger Friends

My favorite blog support person advised me that posts from the Refugee Baptist will somehow be magically aggregated (or aggravated) over on a community blog site called Music City Bloggers. I wish to apologize to the non-Baptists on that site. Most of the posts on Refugee Baptist are about frustrations with my own denomination and the family, Tennessee Baptist Convention, squabbles that surface in the media. Please understand that all of this is just Baptists being Baptists. We are an ornery bunch and we like to disagree (sometimes agreeably, sometimes not). In spite of ourselves, most of us Baptists achieve a level of cooperation that miraculously becomes ministry on a global scale...I really like the miraculous part of that statement.

A few days ago, a new gadget was added in the menu here for some web site ranking program called TTLB. I laugh at the insignificant microbe (or whatever) title assigned to Refugee Baptist and amuse myself that this blog somehow ranks (note, multiple definitions of rank) in the top 36,000 blogs. I am humbled by such popularity (more laughter goes here).

Hopefully, the Music City Blogger's site will show up in the menu here very soon. It'll probably cost me lunch with a more technically adept friend.

Welcome MCB Friends!

Just so you'll know that posts on Refugee Baptist are from a genuine Baptist, most stories end with a food reference. Recipies are always welcome in the comment section.

Baptist and Reflector - On Communications to TBC Churches

Lonnie Wilkey, the editor of the Tennessee Baptist Convention's newspaper, The Baptist and Reflector is asking for trust and good communication within our convention. He includes a mention of Belmont University as part of his commentary:
"There have been stories in the media, including this paper, in recent weeks about Belmont and TBC going to court. But there are other examples. A Nashville church is being sued by some members to get access to financial records, and a Southern Baptist seminary is in court over a lawsuit by a former faculty member.

These cases need to be settled out of court, but it involves the effort and desire of people on both sides of the dispute. And it won’t be accomplished without cooperation, which won’t occur unless we communicate and build trust."
I agree completely with Mr. Wilkey in this matter. I also challenge him to step up and begin the communication and trust building process regarding the Tennessee Baptist Convention and Belmont University lawsuit. Mediation appears to be over. A trial date has been set. It is time for those with the facts to be open and honest with TBC churches. The Baptist and Reflector has the responsibility to do this instead of a blog written by a crotchety, old, fundamentalist reject (me).

It is time for transparency. I challenge the B&R to print the facts and answer the following questions:
  1. What did the TBC bring to the table in terms of negotiation with Belmont during mediation?
  2. What reasons were given for rejecting the Belmont offers?
  3. How much of the $750,000 allocation from this year's budget has been spent?
  4. Where (specifically) did those funds go?
I ask the same questions (1 & 2) of Belmont University. What (specifically) did you bring to the table? What reasons do you offer for rejecting TBC terms?

I have spoken with friends at Belmont. The campus is not hearing much about the lawsuit other than what has been printed in the paper. We are hearing even less from our Baptist state paper and there is no legal reason why, at this juncture, they cannot tell their constituency the whole truth. If you detect a bit of disdain in the tone of this post, it is partly because searches (Google) for information regarding this lawsuit bring up more posts here on Refugee Baptist than on the Baptist and Reflector web site. Only the Baptist and Reflector can change that.

Please, Lonnie, if there is an ounce of truth to your desire to communicate and build trust, be a journalist. Do your job. Give Tennessee Baptist churches the information that they deserve, not some pablum version of half-truths.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

About Seminary Presidents & Casting Stones

Last week, Baptist Press included a quote from Dr. Al Mohler as part of an Executive Committee wrap-up article:
"Mohler stated that the SBC entity presidents have committed "that we will not ourselves tolerate personal attacks upon one of our colleagues..."
From the rumblings around the blogosphere, Dr. Mohler may need to retrieve some of his own stones from personal attacks before overly concerning himself with the first family of SWBTS.

"we will not ourselves tolerate personal attacks upon one of our colleagues" I want to remember that quote as an example of humble martyrdom masked in arrogance. Someday, I want to ask some of the gentlemen who were trampled in the SBC's conservative resurgence why they did not simply announce that they wouldn't tolerate personal attacks on their colleagues? Brilliant. It almost sounds like, "we won't tolerate personal attacks on the Bible".

I am announcing today that we, as Refugee Baptists, will not tolerate personal attacks on any homemade pies, cakes, cobblers, or cookies brought to fellowship supper regardless of how conservative or fundamental the recipe. I realize that is shocking...some of you may have witnessed my attack on a pan of fresh, toll house cookies. It is time for that to stop.

Baptist Radicals - 562 Baptized Outdoors

Somewhere in our Baptist history many of us decided that baptizing people in a nice, comfortable, fiberglass tub, inside a meeting house accomplished the same 'public confession' as the accounts that we read in the Bible from the early days of the Church. I confess to being 'too comfortable' with that practice...and in the same breath will tell you that I have a difficult time advocating a return to chilling, January experiences on Tennessee creek banks. But still... To me, there is something about a public (outside the walls of the church building) declaration that connects us to the life and times of Christ's walk on earth. I miss that.

I applaud this church for being radical. 562 Baptized in a Parking Lot! Ring the bells of heaven!! If I had known about this event before it happened, I would have made plans to drive to South Carolina to be a part of the celebration. I haven't heard any outcry of blasphemy this time...luckily, there wasn't a fire engine involved*ahem*. In the old days of Bold Mission Thrust, I think this would have qualified as Bold. Baptist radicals...God bless 'em!

Good discussion on dunkin' vs. dribblin' going on here.

I can imagine that the fellowship that followed this event was something to write home about... I can close my eyes and almost smell the fried chicken. Yummmmmmm!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Younger Generations Frustrated with Christianity

I have been living under the false impression that Baptists have the corner on 'frustration'. According to a recent Barna study, "A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity". Something disturbingly new showed up in this recent study:
"Interestingly, the study discovered a new image that has steadily grown in prominence over the last decade. Today, the most common perception is that present-day Christianity is "anti-homosexual." Overall, 91% of young non-Christians and 80% of young churchgoers say this phrase describes Christianity. As the research probed this perception, non-Christians and Christians explained that beyond their recognition that Christians oppose homosexuality, they believe that Christians show excessive contempt and unloving attitudes towards gays and lesbians. One of the most frequent criticisms of young Christians was that they believe the church has made homosexuality a "bigger sin" than anything else. Moreover, they claim that the church has not helped them apply the biblical teaching on homosexuality to their friendships with gays and lesbians."

That is painful. "Excessive contempt" and "unloving attitudes"...'looks like we have work to do.

Seminary Humor

This made me laugh. The story has its moments even if some of the comments that follow the post are a little over-the-top.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Missouri Baptist Lawsuit - Scorekeeping

This morning, I read the ABP article, Missouri Baptist conference center wins latest round in legal battle. I take issue with two words in that headline, "wins" and "battle".

First of all the attorneys in this case have actually 'won' the right to additional billings in this case...otherwise no one "won" anything. Windermere Baptist Conference Center attorneys were granted more time and, in spite of attorney-like whining, the convention lawyers received the same. The trial date has been delayed, no one won anything.

As for "battle"... we gloss over that term like we just dropped a quarter into a bubble gum machine. There are losses, victims and wounded combatants, in most every battle. Baptists can be at their very best when we are squabbling, but when it comes to warfare, there are far more important battlegrounds than the courtrooms that are such a distraction in Baptist life today.

Listen up Baptists, my friends. If you are keeping score in all of these Baptist legal affairs, keep this in mind: the lost are watching just as much as the saints in the pews. When the final score in this (and other) battles is tallied, there will be wounded on both sides and the arrogant use of the word "winner" is not likely to improve cooperation or bring about much needed healing in our ranks.

I want to 'score' some of that flavored coffee creamer, I hear it is a real 'winner'. Baptist favorites: "Milk and Money", "Funda-menthol", "Life-weigh", and my personal favorite "Refugee Rasberry" (comes with sound effect).

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Media Technology Peer Pressure - Who-da-thunk-it?!

I read the Barna Group updates regularly. If you are interested in Christian research, I recommend them to you as a resource.

A report from Barna just a week ago compared issues facing teenagers and preteens. I looked at the issues and felt strongly that all are areas that churches and church families can impact. Consider this summary statement:
"The percentage of young people plagued by peer pressure issues more than doubles once a child reaches high school," Barna revealed. "That pressure takes many forms: using drugs or alcohol, befriending certain groups of peers, owning specific media technologies, having sexual experiences, wearing particular types of clothing or brands, and possessing a certain attitude."
Most of the peer pressure issues listed aren't new: using drugs/alcohol, being part of a particular group, sexual experimentation and looks/attitude pressures...but I don't recall seeing "owning specific media technologies" show up as a peer pressure problem before. I am guessing that we have moved beyond the "own a car" stage as a peer pressure. Does that mean that we, as parents (and grandparents) have succumbed to the pressure to make car ownership/access an automatic right-of-passage?

I see the ever-shrinking cell phones, the white ear pieces indicative of an iPod, and know something of PlayStation. I am, however, shaking my head that these items are a source of pressure that somehow affects a teenagers self-worth or ranking among peers. That saddens me.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bob Fisher, Dolly Parton, & Something New for Songwriters

I was doing a little internet browsing among the blogs and scrolled past a picture or two on Belmont's news site on the way to this article. I did a double-take of sorts with my scroll bar and returned to this picture of Dr. Fisher and Dolly Parton on the Songwriters Hall of Fame story. The two make an interesting couple...and I reluctantly refrain from making jokes about the pair, Dolly makes her own best jokes.

I have been to that old quonset hut before, many years ago and had wondered what would become of it. Housing the songwriter's hall of fame sounds like a perfect match for all involved. Now, someone just needs to write a commemorative song about this historic event...I can't imagine that this picture wouldn't inspire someone!

Others noticed the announcement as well. You can read some of those here, here, here, and here. Congratulations Belmont University!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Refugee Baptist Reader Appreciation Day

Friday is a slow day around the Refugee Baptist camp. News in the Baptist world isn't making headlines...which might mean that we are actually doing ministry instead of misery. I have ribbed the Baptist & Reflector enough in the last few days to have annoyed even myself. So, today I want to thank all of the readers who have helped The Refugee Baptist move into the top 400 rankings over at the Baptist 1000 web site. I am not sure why the three of you keep coming back to read TRB, but I do appreciate your kindness.

Top 400! (laughter goes here) That deserves an extra half-teaspoon of sugar in my coffee.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

It follows 'two' and rhymes with 'refugee'

I am confused by another Baptist and Reflector story: C-N reverses enrollment decline; Union continues record enrollment that begins with the following:
Both (my emphasis) Tennessee Baptist Convention institutions of higher education had good news when final enrollment for the fall semester was tallied in Jefferson City and Jackson.
It would be naive on my part to think that the Baptist and Reflector would report on Belmont University's record growth... but that doesn't explain to me why Belmont is still listed on the TBC Institutions Page as one of three higher education institutions ( "Christian Education Institutions") affiliated with the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Evidently math isn't a strong suit around the TBC, ministerially speaking.

Congratulations Belmont, Carson-Newman, and Union. I salute your efforts to grow (all three of you)!

Two pieces of homemade, steamy-hot, apple pie with a big scoop of ice cream on top. A perfectly delightful Baptist dessert... and not a bad metaphor for the TBC's three higher education institutions.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Baptist Have Busy Week Suing Other Baptists

Ethics Daily provides a professional sounding breakdown of three Baptist lawsuits reported in the news this last week. Here is the not-so-professional version of the same stories: Some of Jerry Sutton's flock seem to think that budget transparency is worth suing over. A former, female professor, at Southwestern Seminary takes her shots at the great white hunter's hiring/firing practices. And, Belmont and the TBC continue to build the pot in their poker game of which institution can prove to be the most stubborn. 'Not a great week of headlines for Baptists.

There was a glimmer of hope in the Ethics Daily post,
"Georgetown College and the Kentucky Baptist Convention agreed to loosen ties amicably in 2005, after both sides conceded it was in their best interest to avoid a legal battle."
Imagine that. Rational Baptist people resolving their differences outside the realm of a civil court. Where, oh where, could they have ever conceived such an idea!?

Richard Dinkins to hear Belmont vs Tennessee Baptist Convention Complaint

According to a recent Tennessean article, Chancellor Richard Dinkins would hear the TBC vs. Belmont complaint sometime in May of 2008. There are a number of reasons that both sides should come to their respective senses and settle this mess and the Dinkins announcement adds more to consider. Take a look at his bio page. There are a couple of items that make me question if this is the right person to make the final judgement in this case:
  1. At one time he was an Associate in Avon William's law firm. I remember Williams as a strong supporter of paramutual gambling in Tennessee, something that the Tennessee Baptist Convention opposed for many years.
  2. He is listed as a Trustee for First Baptist Church Capitol Hill Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Do a little history homework and you will discover an association with First Baptist Church Nashville that includes segregationist overtones. And certainly there are connections between FBC Nashville and the TBC.
  3. There is one notable award that Chancellor Dinkins received from the Tennessee ACLU. I could be mistaken, but the ACLU is not considered a friend in conservative Baptist circles.

At least Chancellor Dinkins is a Baptist (although some Tennessee Baptists might argue that). And as a Baptist, I would bet the farm that the Honorable Richard Dinkins can judge a quality, homemade casserole with the best of us. God bless him!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Others Notice Even When the B&R Buries Story

If the lack of posting about the TBC vs. Belmont issue is an indication that people are bored with this, here is evidence: Only three recents posts (according to from other blogs even mention the action between Belmont University and the Tennessee Baptist Convention:
The Tennessean continues coverage of the case...and the many comments that follow this story seem to indicate that people aren't bored but have some very strong opinions. After reading all of the comments, I understand why the Baptist & Reflector cannot will not report all of the facts...the 'head-in-the-sand' approach will keep open debate within our churches to a minimum on this case. In the glowing budget report section of the B&R article identified above, absolutely NO mention of how the litigation process will be paid for was mentioned...unless, we are to assume that the new "emergency reserve" will become the new method to avoid accounting for mission funds being diverted to law firms who are willing to sue other Baptists.

Yawn. It is only $57-58 million. Why should anyone get excited?!

Tennessee Baptist Confusion - Is it Control or Money that We Want?

Go. Read the revised "complaint" filed by the Tennessee Baptist Convention... it is a whopper of a PDF.

I am not a lawyer, but here is what I read from the complaint:
1. The TBC contends that the 1951 agreement (a document of such monumental proportions that the Tennessee Baptist Convention could not produce a copy on its own) states that if control of Belmont University ever leaves the hands of the TBC that Belmont would pay back monies. So, now, the TBC is asking for $57-58 million. I get that part. Ultimately, a court somewhere will make a decision on the validity of that 1951 document.

2. The Tennessee Baptist Convention also contends that Belmont's revised charter is illegal...meaning that Belmont's trustees took away the TBC's ability to place mutually agreed upon Baptists on Belmont's Board. This is the part that confuses me. If the court rules that the charter is illegal, then, it appears that the TBC's rights to elect Belmont trustees would/could be restored and control of the election process would revert back to the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Right?

Here is where I think it get interesting: The complain clearly asks for money from Belmont from item 1 listed above. The complaint fails to address what happens if, indeed, the charter is illegal and the TBC is granted control of the Belmont's Board of Trustees. From where I am sitting, as soon as the TBC begins participating in Belmont Trustee elections, the money part of the lawsuit starts to look like the TBC would be suing the TBC (well, not really).

If item one fails in court, item two could, conceivably, rule in the TBC's favor and Belmont (less most of its current leadership) would again become part of the TBC... why do I not believe that is what Tennessee Baptists want to happen?

Until someone proves me wrong, I contend that all of this crap about wanting to re-gain control over Belmont is just that, C.R.A.P. The TBC does not want control or oversight or accountability of mission directions at Belmont. The revised complaint makes it very clear, this is about M.O.N.E.Y!

Tennessee Baptist Convention Director Responds

Today's Tennessean carries a story on the continuing saga of the Tennessee Baptist Convention lawsuit against Belmont University, Talks between Belmont, Baptist leaders break down. According to the article, "the convention added two more allegations to its lawsuit Friday in Davidson County Chancery Court, claiming the university's charter is illegal." This is an anticipated move by anyone who has been keeping score. In order for the TBC to gain any sort of legal foothold, they need to prove that Belmont's Board of Trustees who, at the time was 100% Baptist and 100% approved by convention vote, did not have the right to ammend its own charter even though the convention voted to allow all TBC institutions to do so several years ago.
The part I love the most is a quote from Kevin Shrum regarding Belmont's original offer of five million dollars to settle this thing last May (from the article), "Shrum, who served as convention president from 2001-02, added that if Belmont's offer had been in the $30-$50 million range, he and others might have voted differently."
The other portion of the article that I like comes from Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Director, James "caught-between-a-rock-and-a-hard-case" Porch, "the convention is still hopeful and prayerful that the possibility exists for amicable resolution" of the debate." I think Jim's statement translates into, "If we can just squeeze another 5+ million out of Belmont, I'll be off the hook".

Attention Tennessee Baptists: This IS about the money. Yes, that is a shocking revelation. Can we finally be honest and admit that this really has nothing to do with bringing Belmont "back into the fold"?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Belmont Student Newspaper Scoops Tennessee Baptist State Paper

I've never known a news outlet that liked to be "scooped". Unfortunately, The Belmont Vision has done precisely that, "TBC, Belmont head to court".

I don't blame the Baptist and Reflector for not publishing the isn't good news for either party, we are our own worst enemy. The efforts of the Baptist and Reflector to keep bad news from our churches in Tennessee is commendable. The churches in the convention are just paying the bill for this "complaint", why should they be bothered with reports on the committee's progress to resolve it.

Sour grapes. Anyone have a recipe for sour grape jam? That's what I need here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Belmont Updates Position in Tennessee Baptist Action

Hoping to find some official word about the Belmont case from the Tennessee Baptist Convention and their respective news arm, the Baptist and Reflector (and finding none either in print or online), I offer you a revised/updated statement from Belmont University's news site. I had heard rumor that during the mediation process that Belmont had not shown any motion toward compromise...from the following, that rumor appears to be less than accurate:
"Indeed, Belmont's last and final proposal to the TBC included: investing significant sums of money over a 10 to 15 year period to support scholarships for Baptist students to attend Belmont; funding to assist with the operations of the Tennessee Baptist Children's Home and Harrison-Chilhowee Baptist Academy; and funding to support the international missions efforts of Tennessee Baptists."

While we are dealing with inaccuarcies, let's not forget the following statement from a WTVF* report from last year,
"The outgoing president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention says money is not the object in a 57 (M) million dollar suit against Nashville's Belmont University. Philip Jett said the primary goal is to return Belmont to the Baptist fold."
Perhaps it's my trifocals, but would someone please read the complaint again and point out the parts where the TBC wants to accept the prodigal son (Belmont) back into the fold? It sounds strangely like this mess is ALL about the money...but I could be wrong.

*I must acknowledge that reports surrounding Philip Jett have been inaccurately reported by the media before due to no fault of Bro. Jett.

Please note that my jabs at the Baptist & Reflector are in no way intended to be personal attacks against the fine folks who work is about bringing the B&R back into the Baptist news fold.

Coffee anyone?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I am ordering my DVD copy

Hat tip to Ethics Daily and Robert Parham for alerting me (and others) to a new 36 minute DVD, Golden Rule Politics. The following paragraph closed the sale for me:
"Through Christian representatives from a number of Christian faith traditions, "Golden Rule Politics" explores what is the rightful role of faith in politics. Democratic politicians share their Christian witness, without ever making an exclusive claim to the politics of providence. Clergy caution that political parties are neither thoroughly moral nor completely immoral, that God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, that sin is a universal reality and that God transcends human finitude."

Good to hear that neither party is "neither thoroughly moral nor completely immoral"; although there have been days when I thought that perhaps BOTH parties were complete morons and immedicable (i.e.incurable).

I promise that I will not be disappointed if the DVD doesn't include mention of the Golden Rule of Baptist Covered Dish Suppers: Bring not from Krogers what others claiming Special Recipies have brought.

Traditional Baptist Values

The search for a new college president at Carson-Newman College has been underway for a while now. I finally made a visit over to the presidential search web site to see what sort of qualities and qualifications the university is seeking. I give the group selected high marks for defining the individual and for the diversity within the search committee itself.

There is one sentence in the qualification statement that interested me, particularly in the light of politics among the ranks of Tennessee Baptist Convention folks. The sentence reads:
"He or she will be a committed Christian who holds traditional Baptist values (my emphasis) and supports the institution’s heritage while bolstering the College’s relationships with friends of the College, Tennessee Baptists, and the public at large."
First of all, I'll not even venture into the minefield of the "he or she"...although politically correct and a great legal posture, let's be honest. Carson Newman's next president will be a man lest the university face the wrath of Pattersonians in our ranks who would probably view the selection of a female president as a full scale attack on the Bible.

What does interest me is the phrase "traditional Baptist values". I would ask, "Who gets to decide what traditional Baptist values are in this instance? Noting that the committee includes at least one member of Carson Newman's religion faculty and remembering the accusations of 'liberalism' hurled in that department's direction, I do wonder if it is a matter of Concern for some Tennessee Baptists. Or possibly, does this new president's historical association with Baptists define traditional Baptist values via some sort of proxy affiliation with the Baptist churches where he has been a member since Sunbeams. If so, isn't there some sort of litmus test or Likert Scale (ranging from "ultra-liberal" to "ultra-conservative") whereby this new man's status as a Christian-and-Baptist can be judged?

Lucky for Carson-Newman, there is help on the way in making this value judgment. I predict that the Tennessee Baptist Convention will vote to control have more say in the selection of trustee members for the college, and my question regarding who gets to decide will be answered (conservatively speaking).

My suspicion: inclusion of traditional Baptist values is a bone being thrown to the TBC to delay the inevitable severing of a financial lifeline. My suggestion for all involved, particularly those who indeed wish to control the university: drop the charade. Go ahead and consolidate the TBC's venture(s) into Christian education and re-name Carson-Newman, "Union East". The newly selected pastor president at Union East could not find better coat tails to hang onto than those of the star of traditional Baptist values found at Union.

My dollars to Union East would be designated to the new School of Traditional Baptist Cooking. Why hasn't someone thought of that before?? Sign me up for Desserts 101!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Belmont and Tennessee Baptist Convention News

Well, it appears that those members of the Tennessee Baptist Convention who wanted their day in court to get money back from Belmont University will get their day. I must bug my Belmont friends for not keeping me up-to-date. Someone must have skipped the convocation where Dr. Fisher read a carefully prepared statement announcing: Tennessee Baptist Convention/Belmont Lawsuit Headed for Court. The announced court date is May 19, 2008.

I hope that I am wrong about this, but shouldn't news like this come from Tennessee's own state newspaper? Did I miss the B&R article? Perhaps the possibility of the TBC receiving 58 million dollars isn't newsworthy.

I can now look forward to November's TBC meeting...'still wondering if we'll ever get an honest accounting of where $750,000 worth of state mission offering dollars went in regard to the "Belmont Situation". That raises another question: Since there is no longer a line item in the TBC budget allocating funds to Belmont, where will additional mission funds be pulled to pursue the court case?

I am ready for this to be over with. Maybe Jerry Sutton will invite us all back over to Two Rivers to a reception following the court date. I could sure use some more fried chicken.