Erosion of Baptist principles
...[I]t is a reminder to us all that people with power, left unchecked and unguarded, become addicted by their power to the point of being anesthetized to their own immoral actions.
Amen. He went on to say:
Our founding fathers of the United States understood the safety in the separation of powers, and even religious denominations and organizations should be aware of handing too much power into the hands of any one person or oligarchy of people. The same principle applies to the local church, and I'm afraid that in the future we may be finding that several congregations will have to deal with pastors who have assumed total authority of a church and have abused the trust. I am still one, unlike many of my friends, who believe congregational authority in major decisions is still best philosophically, and yes, even Scripturally (the priesthood of every believer).
Okay - on that issue we're on the same wavelength. What really bothered me, though, was the last sentence: "I am still one, unlike many of my friends, who believe congregational authority in major decisions is still best philosophically, and yes, even Scripturally (the priesthood of every believer)."
Unlike many of my friends... *sigh*. This issue strikes at the core of the differences between traditional Baptists found in organizations like the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and those who took over the Southern Baptist Convention. By and large, folks running and within the CBF understand that congregationalism is a fundamental Baptist principle, and from that, the priesthood of every believer.
The question comes "Who determines our theology?". Our theology is not determined by a pope or a denominational leader or even our pastor - but through our own interpretation. That's why we're unique as Baptists - or at least supposed to be.
One of the first goals of the fundamentalists was to use the office of the President to pack seminary trustee boards with like-minded folks. Once a majority was attained, they replaced the school's President and started witchhunts to weed out professors who wouldn't submit to their beliefs.
Who determines our theology? Not a trustee board.
Once the seminaries were firmly in the grasp of the fundamentalists - namely Southern, Southeastern, and Southwestern, the new professors could focus on perpetuating their skewed view of Baptist principles on their students. The students then would graduate and assume pastorates with a loss of respect of the congregation and a belief that they were in charge of the church. By sheer numbers, churches would be expected to steer more conservative than before with these new graduates.
Who determines our theology? Not a pastor.
Think I'm a bit alarmist? Read the yearly review of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia's Baptist Banner. It reads like a war report. T.C. Pinckney details every state and how conservative efforts are going and sizing the strength of the CBF, as if they were gauging the power of the enemy. North Carolina's report from 2004 in part reads "Conservative Southeastern graduates are being called to pastorates and are having a growing impact."
What is that growing impact? Generating support to remove North Carolina's state convention's unique giving plan is part of the answer. Baptists in NC can choose one of four plans to send their money - one that's all SBC entities, one that's all CBF, and the rest are hybrids. As Baptist churches are supposed to be locally run, this sort of plan makes sense. Let the local church decide where they want its money to go.
Who determines our theology? Not a state convention.
By ignoring congregational authority and the Baptist and Scriptural principles that form its undergirding, fundamentalists are continuing to seek control on anything that currently remains out of their grasp. This includes state conventions (North Carolina will fall soon), agencies (the Women's Missionary Union escaped again this year), and local churches.
What we're seeing is the latter stages of the plan hatched more than 30 years ago by Paul Pressler, Paige Patterson, and the like. Baptists have historically formed organizations as a way to network the local church to provide money for missions, seminary training, and educational materials. The focus has been a "bottom-up" endeavor as the various agencies and boards were called to support the local church. The fundamentalists, in their quest for power from the top-down, were forced to give realign to the SBC in a similar fashion to consolidate their new-found control.
Traditional Baptists balked. The majority of Baptists stayed within the SBC simply because they did not understand what it means to be Baptist. I would venture to say that some do not even care as they wholly agree with the aims of the SBC.
I, for one, do care. I understand the persecution our Baptist forefathers endured, both in Europe and here in America. Virginia Baptists were especially persecuted for their beliefs. I cannot remain idle while I watch fellow Baptists throw out those hard-fought principles in an arrogant quest for power.
Baptists did not come together to compel one another to the same interpretation of doctrine - they came together to pool resources for perpetuating the faith through missions and education. Organizations such as the CBF understand this, and many will continually to malign it until they understand why it must exist.
And that's where I feel called to come in.
//For a quick reading of traditional Baptist principles, visit this page. To read what's important to Southern Baptists, read this page at the Founder's Journal, which self-proclaims itself to be "Committed to historic Baptist principles". Notice what's important and what's left out. More will be written on this in the future.