Holding churches and individuals responsible for sin is not Baptist politics; it’s obedience to Scripture.
A recent story that has made its way around the SBC world and blogosphere is the June 23rd vote by the SBC to sever its ties with Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth , TX because of the church’s toleration of homosexuality, even among committee members and leadership. What really made the story interesting is when a KY Baptist university withdrew their invitation for the youth group of Broadway Baptist to participate in a mission project in eastern KY. The group eventually found a place of service in Nashville, TN.
The commentary on these events has been interesting to follow. Two leaders from Broadway Baptist Church, including the pastor, refer to the actions of the SBC and the KY university as “Baptist politics.” Others are calling the scenario “tacky”, “childish”, and “not nice.” One blogger simply says, “when will the SBC understand that love is all that matters?”
I can understand where such sentiments are coming from. Had the decision been left up to me, I probably would not have canceled my invitation to the youth group. I would, however, have taken the opportunity to clearly explain to the leadership coming with Broadway Baptist that I am in full agreement with the SBC’s decision and although I am sure there are many committed, Christ-centered teenagers and adults at the church, I would not be inviting them back for additional service.
Having said that, much of what I am reading is just annoying. Although I would have acted differently, I nevertheless respect the decision that was made by the university. It was no doubt a difficult one to make, contrary to what many would have us to believe. Whenever we as Baptists, and more importantly as Christians, begin to dismiss the consequences of sin as “politics”, then we are on a journey down very dark roads. Holding churches and individuals responsible for sin is not Baptist politics; it’s obedience to Scripture. We would be sinning if we simply turned a blind eye. Those who are poised and wait for yet another news item to pounce upon when it comes to the SBC are refusing to at least consider an alternative position: perhaps the convention is trying its very best to be true to Scripture and not just play a political game.
Finally, in response to those who wonder when the SBC will understand it is all about love, my question is, when will those who operate out of pessimism toward the SBC understand that biblical love is more than just being nice to someone? It’s more than painting a fence. Yes, those elements are good and important; we must be the hands and feet of Christ, but never to the exclusion of the whole counsel of Scripture. It is not going to be “nice” when the wrath of Jesus Christ is poured upon those who don’t believe. The cross was anything but “nice” and Paul even calls it “foolishness” to those who don’t believe. To truly live the counter-cultural message of Christianity, you better believe we will at times be “tacky.” Biblical love is more than just being nice to each other; it has eternity in view. This is why both Jesus and Paul command us to discipline. The very purpose is love. Therefore, the Oprah Winfrey show can do a piece on this story and be appalled, that would fit nicely. But the church should and must take a second look and not be so quick to condemn anyone who is struggling to properly live and love the way Scripture demands. Sin must be dealt with. Failure to do so is anything but love.
5 Replies to “Dealing with Sin is not Baptist Politics”
I realize this post is mainly directed at the Baptist/SBC community, however I think there is an issue of general interest in this post. One of the most interesting issues revolving around these types of decisions/beliefs/issues I believe is that the decision is “obedience to scripture.” I doubt that Broadway Baptist thinks they are thumbing their noses at scripture; but interpret the homosexuality issue differently. Regardless, my point is if one is going to claim obedience to scripture as the reason for anything, what one is really saying is obedience to scripture as I interpret it (whether through prayer, through divine guidance, whatever)–therefore, one must be prepared to explain the reasons for that decision being obedient to scripture. I could site many horrendous religions/actions throughout the world by people who believe they are being obedient to scripture. Ah, but we are different than those people…
Well, I know Philip’s convictions are strong and thought out over much study and prayer, and I know he could explain his reasons for interpreting scripture as he (and the SBC) does and I’m not saying that explanation needs to go here, but I am saying that discourse on these types of issues must adddress the underlying issue–why is an action, whatever it is, being obedient to scripture. And, that answer must lie with how you interpret scripture as a whole, because there are plenty of statements in the Bible (in both the Old and New Testament) that various religions/denominations/factions say are to be absolutely followed and those they say don’t actually mean what they say (Paul lifting the Mosaic code, that’s not what the original Greek or Hebrew word meant, or for whatever reason). And, of course, the various people don’t agree on which are which. Therefore, until those inconsistencies are clarified (and I’m not saying they can’t be, just that most people can’t or don’t try to do so), non-believers or “different” believers will always have a pretty easy (and somewhat legitimate) response to “we are just being obedient to scripture.”
This, of course, has nothing to do with one’s belief and how one should act on that belief–just with how one has to address the issue with others, if one chooses to.
You make some good points and you have clearly thought a lot about this.
As you probably know, I am one of those who termed the university’s decision to cancel the Broadway youth group’s trip there “tacky” and I would stand by that characterization. Like you, I would not have disinvited them even had I had to decide not to let them come in the future. Still, to disinvite them virtually on the eve of the trip, when the trip was about ministering to people in the name of Jesus, was and will forever remain “tacky.”
Two questions for you: (1) What will happen to the SBC or to any other denomination when it decides to get really serious about disciplining churches that harbor or condone sin; put differently, why does the SBC not take a hard line on churches that have on their rosters adulterers, gluttons, liars, and corrupt business people–and don’t even get me started on the “sins of the heart” that Jesus magnifies in the Sermon on the Mount?
(2) Why exactly is homosexuality accorded a special status as the sin above all sins by the SBC, by which I mean why is it the only sin that constitutionally merits the disfellowshipping of a church by the SBC (well, that and not contributing any money)?
Thanks for your reply and questions.
Actually, I don’t remember you labeling the situation as tacky, I actually thought you used the word shameful. Regardless, as I mentioned, the specifics of how it was handled is one thing, and yes that can regarded as tacky. But my concern is the greater underlying issue which most bloggers have seemed disinterested in.
So, for your questions:
1. The SBC does not take a stronger position on issues like adulterers because we have over time deserted the importance of church discipline. I again commend Greg Wills’ book “Democratic Religion” where he addresses those issues. Also, there is a difference between dealing with people struggling with sin which they are ready to admit is wrong and people who raise the flag of freedom and adopt a sinful lifestyle regardless of Scripture’s teaching. I don’t know too many adulterers, gluttons, liars, etc who would argue that their lifestyle is in accordance with Scripture. That, of course, does not excuse the sin but allows room for us to work and minister with a repentant heart.
2. It’s not. It’s just the only issue that gets talked about. A church in Louisville who is trying to be faithful to church discipline recently removed a church member because he abandoned his wife and child and was unrepentant about it. Yes, it is a difficult and hard road to be faithful with discipline, and yes we may place a focal point on more “obvious” sins like homosexuality, but there are churches who are trying to be consistent and faithful to the Gospel message and to the reputation of the church.
I appreciate your response.
I think that we’re talking about two different things in my question #2 and your response to it.
While there are SBC churches that are trying to apply discipline in other kinds of areas, what I’m talking about is the SBC as a denomination.
For the information of your readers, here is the section on “membership” from the SBC Constitution:
“Article III. Membership: The Convention shall consist of messengers who are members of missionary Baptist churches cooperating with the Convention as follows:
1. One (1) messenger from each church which: (1) Is in friendly cooperation with the Convention and sympathetic with its purposes and work. Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior. And, (2) Has been a bona fide contributor to the Convention’s work during the fiscal year preceding.
2. One (1) additional messenger from each such church for every two hundred and fifty (250) members; or for each $250.00 paid to the work of the Convention during the fiscal year preceding the annual meeting.
3. The messengers shall be appointed and certified by the churches to the Convention, but no church may appoint more than ten (10).
4. Each messenger shall be a member of the church by which he is appointed.”
Note the line “Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior.” So, “to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior” is the only constitutionally stated reason for deeming a church “not in cooperation.”
The SBC is certainly within its rights to take that position; I just wonder why that sin is elevated above all others by the SBC as denomination.
I get your point about working with folks who know their lifestyles are sinful.
But, just for the sake of discussion, why does not the SBC deem to be not in cooperation churches that have persons in leadership, as many, many SBC churches do, who have divorced for reasons other than infidelity on the part of their spouse and who have remarried?
And once such cans of worms are opened, how long is it before they’re voting out churches right and left (pun intended)?
I apologize for my misinterpretation on your second question; it is quite clear your intended point after reading it again.
I agree with you, the article on membership does seem to have that one area stick out pretty noticeably to the exclusion of other items that could go in. Here are just a couple of quick thoughts.
1. My previous point still works here I think. Homosexuality is the issue which the church, or convention, is most pressed on in terms of accepting it as a biblically acceptable lifestyle. It is interesting that the article does not say, “among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which have homosexuals attending.” The point is affirmation of a clearly unbiblical lifestyle. If in the next 10 years, somehow being an adulterer were to become a wide-spread advocated biblical lifestyle, then I’m sure we would see an amendment to the membership section. The convention, nor any organization, does not exist in a vacuum and should, if necessary, address specifically the issues that are most crucial for the day.
2. What is the alternative? Do we just ignore sin altogether? If the convention is not going to list every possible sin, then I think following your position to its logical conclusion leads to a position of ignoring sin altogether.
Thanks for helping me think through these things. I hope I am helping you do the same thing. Have a blessed day friend!