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 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

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 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, 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.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Tennessee Temple University and the Tennessee Baptist Convention - Questions

A day or so ago, I received an anonymous comment on the Refugee Baptist post, Tennessee Temple - Not Quite Ready for Tennessee Baptist Convention Adoption, expressing concern over my apparent resistance to embrace the Concerned Tennessee Baptist campaign to add TTU and/or the Tennessee Temple Seminary to the TBC. Let me make myself very clear. I am not opposed to adding higher education institutions to the TBC. And, from discussions this week, I have heard wonderful things about numerous administrators and students at TTU. I have also discovered items that I believe should concern Tennessee Baptists. Here is my first question*:

Can a TTU graduate with a B.S. in Education Teach in Tennessee Public Schools?

The TTU Education department web site reads,
"Believing that God may choose to use individuals as teachers in either Christian or public schools, Tennessee Temple prepares its education graduates to serve in either."
I do not doubt the quality of the TTU teacher education program (beefing up the program with a Ph.D. or two on the education faculty would impress me more), but it is my understanding that the state of Tennessee's Department of Education will not license a graduate to teach in Tennessee public schools unless the degree is from a NCATE accredited school of education (See 54-1 on this PDF). TTU's education department does not have NCATE accreditation. The accreditations listed on this page will allow a TTU graduate to teach in a private, Christian school. Unless I am misreading the state requirements, a TTU graduate cannot get a license to teach in a Tennessee public school. Some may argue that is an advantage. Parents and students need to be aware that there may be long-term career implications if this accreditation issue is a matter of fact.

Just so we are clear, the three higher education institutions listed on the TBC Institutions page all have NCATE accreditations attached to their respective teacher education departments. I respect the efforts of those institutions to achieve this accreditation as a demonstration of their commitment to quality teacher education.

I am expressing concerns over Tennessee Temple University solely because I am see nothing but glowing recommendations and no one asking questions. Before this train leaves the station, I would really like to make sure that someone has inspected the tracks (pun intended).

Speaking of tracks, I must reflect on a dining car experience from the past was a moving experience.
*I have more questions...for later.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Dear Pastor, Please Commit this Phrase to Memory

"preachers have no business endorsing political candidates"

Bruce Prescott writes about conservatives who are starting to endorse Mitt Romney for president..."Candidates for political office should be elected on the basis of their values, their competence and their policies, not on the basis of their religious affiliation."

Personally, I have had enough of ministers, particularly high-profile tv-types, using their venues and influence to parade candidates of one flavor or another across their respective pulpits. I want my pastor to encourage active participation in the political system and I do not mind if my pastor expounds on the qualities that the Bible proclaims that we should look for in anyone in leadership. I do not see it as any pastor's calling to encourage his flock to vote for one particular candidate over another whether that is for president of the USA, president of the SBC, president of the TBC, or president of the PTA. That's all I have to say about that.

Let's eat! I fully endorse eating (and fellowship) as a part of the political process.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

People are... like a tree

The Mable Madea Simmons video below is more than just a little irreverent, but there are some great tree analogy materials here for a sermon or two regarding personal relationships. It is 7 minutes long and PG...keep the volume low if you prefer not to have your co-workers hear "hell" expletives referenced too many times (too many for my taste, anyway). Watch to the end. You may never see Patti LaBelle again, without smiling.

Hat Tip: Baptist Blogger

Warning: I have learned how to place videos on the Refugee Baptist...I have a good coach whose patience with the old guy is amazing. The world may not be ready for old guys and online video. Buckle up!

Sex Addicted (Christian) Women

Two stories caught my attention today that exposed my Internet porn naivety. The first is an article in the Baptist and Reflector is about Michele Washam, identified in the article as the creator of the first pornographic web site intended for women, (no longer a porn site, relax...yes, you there in the back row). The general theme of the story is that Washam's conversion lead to the site's transformation to a ministry for women that has now lead to a book offer. Honestly, I had never really considered that pornography obsession/addiction was is a problem for women.

The second story, America's latest epidemic: 'sex addicted women', via Bible Belt Blogger caught me off guard as well. From that post,
"According to Nielsen NetRatings, nearly one-third of the visitors to adult websites are female. Today’s Christian Woman reported that 34 percent of their online newsletter readers admitted to intentionally accessing Internet porn."
So, there is not only a problem, but the problem is even larger than I could have imagined.

It is a good thing that there are ministries that address the dysfunction, malfunction, and misinformation about sex and sexual addictions within a Christian context. As an older Baptist, I believe our historical, lack of openness to talk about sex shares part of the blame that makes such ministries necessary. That is a cheap-shot-20-20-hindsight kind of comment, I admit it. But our failure as Baptists to openly discuss the role of sex (even in marriage) has resulted in too many generations ill prepared to respond to situations and circumstances that involve an enormously powerful, God-given, human instinct. The headlines casting shame on the indiscretions of Baptist ministers and laymen are fruits of those failures.

I am reminded of a scene from Kindergarten Cop, where detective/teacher John Kimble acknowledges the raised hand of a kindergarten child whose dad is a gynecologist. The little boy blurts out, "Boys have a penis. Girls have a vagina." In the middle of the last century when I attended kindergarten, such a comment would have resulted in a quick trip to the little boys room and the introduction of a soapy washcloth into the child's mouth. I hope that we, as Baptists, are past the stupidity that silencing honest talk about sex (and other traditionally taboo subjects) is the Christian way. I am not suggesting that we teach sex education in kindergarten...but in the last year in my own Sunday School class of 'mature adults' any discussion about sex has been centered on man's sinful nature rather than how to celebrate God's gift of intimate relations. Maybe we just don get it (ok, you may chuckle at that if you wish).

As many of my posts end with a reference to food and the Baptist way of combining food and fellowship, I leave you with two words that I have just learned: flavored lubricants.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Churches Building Sends 'Gospel' Message?

I read the Baptist Standard (TX) article by Greg Warner, The Spirit in Stone, that talks about a resurgence in architectural design that is bringing back aesthetics to church buildings. It is a thought provoking read that includes a reference to the lack of designated church buildings among the Pennsylvania Amish. There was one sentence in the article that bothered me:
"Whether they speak with bold clarity or subdued elegance, our church buildings are often the most prominent and persistent gospel message their non-Christian neighbors encounter."
I do not want to take lightly the impact that the image of a church property has on an individual's perception of "church", however, I perceive the "often the most prominent and persistent gospel message" part of that quote to be cause for concern. If that truly is the case, then 'the church' (defined as the body of believers) needs to re-evaluate the persistence of our Gospel message. I have serious doubts that a church building can deliver the Gospel message...that job rests in the hands of the church, not the building. The Amish might be on to something worth emulating...perhaps the absence of a church building might deliver a more persistent, Biblically accurate, Gospel message.

Absent from the article is any reference to Lifeway's Church Architecture Department. I would like to think that Lifeway would be taking a lead in this design resurgence...but then again, the article features Baptist churches and not Lifeway churches *snark*.

Do the Amish do fellowship suppers in the same barns where they have community worship??...can you image the aroma of freshly baked bread wafting across a barn full of worshipers. Think break bread together with that vision in-mind. "Taste and see" (Psalm 34:8 KJV) Yumm!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Can it Be? The Lion Sleeps with the Lamb??

I feel pretty sure that most conservatives and most liberals in the Baptist world would agree that we will disagree on many issues. Whether or not we can learn to disagree agreeably is something that people seem to be talking about more these days.

A recent Associated Baptist Press article by Robert Marcus, "Evangelicals, liberals seek dialogue on ‘culture war’ issues", asks the feuding parties among us if we can at least work cooperatively on 5 contentious issues. "The five contentious issues the paper focuses on are the role of religion in public life, gay rights, abortion, research using human embryos, and strengthening families."

The article is worth the read. It concludes with the following,
"In order for this paper to bear more fruit, both progressives and evangelicals will need to continue the hard work of reasoning together,” the authors concluded. “We do not conclude that these conversations will be easy or that the paper’s proposals in themselves will resolve all the real disagreements and tensions on cultural issues. But we believe that the gap need not be as wide and the mistrust need not run as deep."
"But we believe that the gap need not be as wide and the mistrust need not run as deep." I certainly hope we truly believe that and act upon it soon. Can I get an 'Amen'?

Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.
Proverbs 15:17/NIV

Princeton Review and Tennessee Baptist Higher Education

Belmont University's Jack C. Massey School of Business made the Princeton Review Business School list. There is a Belmont News story here.

From Union University news, "Tennessee institutions joining Union on the Colleges of Distinction list are Belmont University, Christian Brothers University, Maryville College, Rhodes College, Trevecca Nazarene University and University of the South."

Congratulations Belmont University and Union University, you make the Refugee Baptists (and many 'other' Baptists) proud.

Monday, October 15, 2007

What Teenagers Want From Churches

The Barna Group released What Teenagers Look for in a Church last week. The following should concern us all,
"...the research raises caution that teenagers' prodigious appetites for spiritual activity may be waning. Since a decade ago, teenagers are less likely to pray (down from 81% in the mid-nineties), to attend worship services (down from 53%), and to read from the Bible on their own time (down from 37%)."
I thought about the report a good bit this last week and nothing particularly surprising stood out. Back in the post-cave days when I was a teenager, my church was THE place I could go and know that if I asked my parents if I could take my girlfriend that the answer would be "yes". Upon further reflection, I'll confess to the hypocritical nature of sitting on the back pew with my girlfriend and singing, "All that thrills my soul is Jesus."*

*Not sure where I heard that, but it is true.

Just My Opinion on Baptists

I read a lot of Baptist blogs (see list on the right-hand side of this page). The tone of discussion has mellowed a little in recent years and I believe that is a good sign. There are still pockets of denominational politicking that irritate me, particularly when those politics involve lines that people choose to draw, effectively reducing the level of cooperation between Baptist churches. The cartoon below isn't completely original and I would love to give proper attribution to the originator, but sadly, I cannot locate that information (if you happen to know, drop me a comment or email). All that to say, this is how I feel about the overall situation:

Thanks, Steven, for your help with the cartoon! I owe you lunch.

Belmont University Student Receives Journalism Award

If you have been around the Refugee Baptist very long, you know that the Tennessee Baptist Convention's official news paper, The Baptist & Reflector, is a frequent target of my barbs for their unbalanced coverage of TBC higher education institutions. They take it well and ignore me. I am OK with that. This morning, I received a call from a Belmont friend who tipped me to a bit of news that (I hope) will actually make the B&R. Chansin Bird, a student at Belmont University, was honored with the President's Award at the recent 2007 Excellence in Journalism Conference hosted by Baptist Press. The award comes with a $1,000 scholarship and a great deal of exposure to some of the best religious journalists in the country. I commend Chansin for her work and the well-deserved recognition.

I first read something by Chansin while she was on a Belmont sponsored mission trip to Honduras last year. Her "One bed for too many children" post on the Reporting from Honduras blog touched me deeply. Since that time, Chansin has written numerous articles for the Belmont Vision, including a recently published story on campus worship. God has great things in store for Chansin and I thank God that he is raising up students who are interested in writing!

Late update 10/16: Belmont News adds that Chansin also won first place in news writing.
Later update 10/17: Baptist Press wrap-up of the conference.

Congratulations Chansin and Belmont University!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tennessee Temple University - Not Quite Ready for Tennessee Baptist Convention Adoption

No one has quite come out and said it yet, but the writing on the wall looks like there are Tennessee Baptists who would like to see Tennessee Temple University become the newest addition to the list of Tennessee Baptist Convention educational institutions. I am opposed to such a move. I believe very strongly that it would be a mistake. Here are my reasons:
  • Tennessee Temple is not regionally accredited... Here is Temple's accreditation. Compare to Union, Carson-Newman, and Belmont. The Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools is perhaps the newest/weakest route for TTU's accreditation and may not be taken seriously institutions across the country (CNP):
    "..TRACS' limited recognition is somewhat tenuous and their reputation is somewhat controversial. Students are better off enrolling in schools that are accredited by a regional association, the Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges, or the Association of Theological Schools, all of which are fully recognized by both accreditor-approving agencies (the Department of Education and/or CORPA) and by other academic institutions."

  • There are simply too many faculty members with degrees from TTU and Temple Seminary that could be construed as faculty inbreeding. Additionally, the faculty boasts a concentration of Liberty, Luther Rice, Bob Jones, and Baptist Bible Seminary degrees...not exactly icons of Southern Baptist heritage.
  • Entanglement with an independent Baptist church is not a prudent direction to take. For the past 50+ years, Highland Park Baptist Church could hardly call itself a SBC church (in spite of its early history) , it is not currently listed as a Tennessee Baptist Convention church, and mentions nothing of its proud SBC Heritage on the church's history page. Evidently, some TTU alumni consider themselves quite independent.
  • The lack of honesty on the part of the supporters of this effort to simply say, "We want a conservative Baptist seminary in Tennessee" and an attempt to draw a picture of HPBC as some sort of "SBC heritage" monument is disingenuous. There is nothing wrong with the desire to have a seminary...just come on out and say it. Let's build a place where Jerry Sutton can be president of something.
  • Danny Lovett is no David Dockery.
  • There is an endorsement for this action by Jerry Vines. I think Jerry is a wonderful, God-fearing, Bible-believing man...but I wouldn't trust him any farther than I could throw an elephant. That is just my personal opinion, but you might ask some of the SBC leaders who were trampled in the 1980's if they don't share that sentiment.
Whew. After all that, I may need an extra glass of sweet tea!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Half of the Ballot is Complete - Mission Accomplished

Our friends over at Concerned Tennessee Baptists have released their slate of officers nominees for the upcoming Tennessee Baptist Convention meeting. We could save the convention a lot of time by getting on-board with this slate, prayerfully considering them, closing the nomination process, skipping the nomination speeches, taking up the ballots, and getting straight to the acceptance speeches and the covered dish supper. George Jackson, VP at CTB offers his full support to the following:
President: Tom McCoy
1st Vice-President: Tim McGee* Tim McGehee
2nd Vice-President: Todd Stinnett

Mr. Jackson also is, "asking for the (TBC) executive director to announce his retirement...for the good of the convention." We should all be shocked that this is happening.

I commend the CTB group for being organized enough to pull together a slate of officers to do the bidding of conservative causes. But please, do not dodge the thought that some might view this as being a bit political.

What is missing here is an opportunity for a non-Concerned Tennessee Baptists group (Unconcerned Tennessee Baptists?) to offer up a slate of officers so that open and honest debate about TBC issues (and agendas) could see more daylight. You know, something like making the candidates for office accountable for their positions.

I would like to nominate myself for a newly created post of 4th Vice President. My only official duty would be to run blind taste tests of the favorite banana pudding recipes for each of the candidates running for office in the TBC. You can tell a lot about a man from his taste for banana pudding.

*see comments below

Friday, October 05, 2007

Concerned Tennessee Baptists Awaken

After several months of peace and quiet, my friends over at Concerned Tennessee Baptists have published 12 new stories leading up to the November Tennessee Baptist Convention meeting. You can read them all, here. We'll talk amongst ourselves here in the Refugee Baptist camp before taking issue with discussing the CTB articles. After reading the articles, add a comment here on which of the dozen draws your interest the most...don't be shy now.

Best Baptist Football Commentary

There are plenty of creative folks in the ranks of Baptist sports' fans and this is one of 'em: Remember the Sabbath

I'll have a hot dog with that. Thank-you very much.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Christian Civility

Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary writes a great post, Evangelical Manners, that concludes with the following,
"Why are we so afraid actually to “reach” out with an invitation to have lunch with folks with whom we disagree? Or maybe it is not so much that we are afraid, but that we don’t even think about the need to do that kind of thing. Why not?"
I agree with Dr. Mouw and I would ask him out for lunch in spite of that (*smiles*) is definitely the Baptist thing to do, but something that we as Baptists seem to have lost in our heritage.

There is something about fresh-outa-the-oven chocolate chip cookies that can turn the sourest of conversations into something extraordinarily pleasant. Of course, good Baptists can argue over whose recipe is better/best while inhaling said cookies at an alarming rate. We are an amazing lot, aren't we? Pass the milk, please?

Belmont and Union Mentioned in the Same Article

It is such a rare occasion that newspapers (even the Tennessee Baptist newspaper*) mention Union University and Belmont University within the same article, I thought it appropriate to share with my Baptist friends how that is done (via
"To be considered for inclusion in the list of 100, an institution must be an accredited, four-year institution offering bachelor's degrees and full residential facilities. It also must have had an entering freshman class in fall 2006 with a high school grade point average and/or SAT/ACT score equal to or above the national average, and an out-of-state attendance cost in 2007-08 not exceeding the national average by more than 10 percent.

The other schools ranked in Tennessee were: Belmont University, Tennessee Tech University, Union University, UT-Knoxville and UT-Martin."
See, that didn't hurt at all, did it?

Congratulations Belmont and Union (and the others as well)!

* For those keeping score, Belmont is still listed as a TBC institution although rarely mentioned in a positive (i.e. fair and balanced) light in the Baptist & Reflector, Tennessee's official Baptist newspaper.

I Recognize My Fallibility

Among Baptist bloggers, I consider the voice of Wade Burleson to be one of the very few who can simultaneously rattle our comfort zones and gracefully engage a range of opposing perspectives. I admire that quality as being fundamental to what Baptists should be about. We need to be uncomfortable with the condition of our world, the condition of our denomination, and our personal, 'oft-too-comfy' conditions. We need, also, to talk to one another in a manner that reflects Grace, even when we bitterly strongly disagree. I share this quote from Wade's blog as good food for thought:
"I wonder if dogmatism against women in ministry might one day be viewed the same as we now view Southern Baptists former dogmatism in defending slavery. I don't know. I'm just asking. It's one of the reasons I refuse to be dogmatic on my complementarian beliefs and will listen to my friends who are egalitarian.

This does not mean I doubt the Word of God. I fully trust God's Word. It means I fully comprehend my own fallibility in properly interpreting the Word of God. Let's dialogue about the issue. Let's debate the issue. Let's disagree over the issue. But we should never DIVIDE over the issue. There are far more important doctrines that UNITE us."
I, too, recognize my fallibility...I take that as a reminder that God isn't finished with me (yet), nor is he finished with those who may not agree with me. Some day, I hope that Baptists will be viewed as a strongly united body because of our ability to accept differences...rather than a divided body shredded by our inability to recognize our personal fallibilities.

With all that being said, we simply MUST agree that coffee is the official drink of SBC Sunday School...then, we can argue until we are silly over which creamer (if allowed), is divinely inspired. So there! *big smile*

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I Remember Sputnik

...and it was a little scary.

Today's San Francisco Chronicle described the spacecraft:
"...a small and rather silly-looking thing, 23 inches in diameter and 184 pounds, with four feathery antennas swept back like a windblown comb-over from its high-gloss sphere."
Oddly enough, that same description matches that of my childhood pastor, except he was a little larger than 23 inches in diameter.

I am just sayin'...(to use the vernacular of today)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I Want to Hear Ron Paul

I received the following hand-written note yesterday from an old friend in Bowling Green, Kentucky. With his permission, I post his thoughts (expletives deleted) here:

Ron Paul is coming to Nashville: 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, at the War Memorial Auditorium. Pass the word. I believe this man has a message that needs to be heard, particularly for Democratic Party and Republican Party refugees. I have long believed that we elect people to represent seems that our system of governance has turned that against us and we now elect political 'parties' to represent us. From my seat, I see two parties that are neither willing or able to work together to govern or represent their respective constituencies. I also see elected leaders who spend more time working to insure their re-election that working to represent...that is simply wrong.

If it means that I have to revolt against a two-party system, I am ready. Neither party offers me a presidential choice that I can support in good conscience. I have considered the thought that voting for an independent candidate is a wasted vote and that it might help elect someone that I do not want in office. I have voted for party candidates my entire life and feel now that I have wasted my vote by allowing a failing 'party' system to continue the demise of a representative government. If I am to 'waste' my vote, I intend to do so with a clear conscience.

Don Gray
(Edited and Posted by Will)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Baptists Discover/Confirm Peter Principle

Does anyone remember reading The Peter Principle? It is a book that deals with our tendancy to promote people to their highest level of incompetence. With all of the controversy pinging around Southern Baptist pastors who are now in institutional leadership positions, I hope someone will take the following quote from an article to heart:
“I’ll put it this way. He’s a great preacher, a great family man. He represents the seminary well. But he’s lacking in administration and people skills. And in order for the seminary to grow, you have to have these things.”
It is probably just me, but it seems that far too many men with seminary degrees have ended up in Southern Baptist leadership/management positions with neither the skills, training, or natural ability to actually manage. We seem to be perfectly capable of ruining great ministers by electing them to leadership positions in our institutions assuming that great ministers = great managers. Recent history is ripe with examples...think about it.

In God We Trust (all others pay cash)

Today is the 5oth anniversary of the inclusion of In God We Trust on the US one dollar bill. In today's litigious world, it may be more politically/legally correct to read In God, Some of Us, Trust... read the history and controversy here. 'Not looking for a fight or anything, but there is food for thought as to why a materialistic symbol (the dollar), from a government agency (US Treasury), bears a creed that doesn't apply to all who use the document. It does sound better than In Visa We Trust...but that just might be a more honest statement 50 years out.

Hat tip to

Belmont is Building, Again

I had not visited Belmont University's campus in a while. Saturday, at the invitation of my niece, I drove to the campus and, after several minutes of touring parking lots looking for a visitor's space landed a spot near the art building.

Belmont alumni who haven't made the pilgrimage to Belmont University for a few years need to drop by. There is more landscaping in what used to be the old West Amphitheater and there is chain link fence around a new dormitory construction site where the old greenhouse used to be. Bob the Builder is at it again...'good for Bob!

It still saddens me that a rift has grown between the people in our Tennessee Baptist Churches and the folks at Belmont. I contend that the people at Belmont (students, faculty & staff) have so much in common with the people sitting in our church pews every week that all are missing out on some great opportunities to fellowship and work together in ministry. Most of those Tennessee Baptists will never hear of the good things going on at Belmont. The campus is blossoming figuratively and literally.

The new Troutt Theater is open now...with a significant link to Tennessee Baptist history. The original chapel at Belmont Heights Baptist Church has been renovated to serve as the theater building for the campus. There had been drama in that building before when Tennessee Baptists met there as part of TBC meetings. Here is a bit of irony to the Baptist church/theater conversion...the opening production: Much Ado About Nothing. Hmmm. I could take issue with that from a Tennessee Baptist point of view if I didn't appreciate the humor.