THEOLOGY OR MISSION IN THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION

I almost never get involved in Southern Baptist politics. I had enough of that when I was young. I watched as the SBC went from a missional movement to a theological entity. I remember when “Unity in Diversity” was considered one of the strongest values of the convention. Then some folks believed diversity to be wrong, and placed theology over mission as the definition of what makes a Southern Baptist.

On the one hand, I certainly understand that there have to be boundaries – even in diversity. There must be a core of beliefs that are non-negotiable. The problem always comes when people begin to define what is and what is not within that core of beliefs.

Fast forward to today. It is Southern Baptist Convention time, and this year the leadership has decided to do something about the “elephant in the room” as last year’s SBC President Bryant Wright called it (http://www.sbclife.org/Articles/2013/06/SLA1.asp). So what is this elephant: Inerrancy? No. Women in ministry? No. Homosexuality? No.  All of those issues have been used in the past to further divide the people called Southern Baptists. Now the issue is Calvinist/Reformed verses Arminian/Wesleyan.

Level headed leaders in the convention are calling for unity of mission to trump these theological differences (where have we heard that before?). But the reality is this: As long as the SBC is to be defined along theological lines, it will become an ever shrinking convention. That is sad. Sure, these theological differences are important, but I agree with the sentiment of Wright: “Wright said he was concerned that Christ-centered, Bible-believing Southern Baptists will be so engaged in correcting one another’s theological views when it comes to election and salvation that they will be distracted from their mission of rescuing captives who need to be liberated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

I have close pastor friends who are Reformed and close pastor friends who are Arminian in their views of salvation. Then I’ve got close pastor friends who don’t know where they stand on these issues. But in our association, we rise above this and work together to reach out to people far from God. We have a mission – given by God – that drives what we do. We are a Network of churches, equipping churches for kingdom ministry. We will all never agree on theology, but we all love Jesus and want to obey the commission he gave us.

I hope the Southern Baptist Convention finds its way through this situation. If it does, much great kingdom work can result. If it doesn’t, it is just one more issue to weaken the witness of this great organization.