Limp Left: One Pastor’s Analysis of SBC21 (Part 2)
“How long will you go on limping between two different opinions?” (1 Kings 18:21)
In this series of blog posts, I want to offer my thoughts and analysis on the recent Southern Baptist Convention held in Nashville, TN on June 15-16, 2021. I do so, as with all my blogs, primarily as a service to the local church I love and serve, Corydon Baptist Church.
In Part 1 of this series, I tackled the first two resolutions approved by the messengers in Nashville. Below I want to assess two more resolutions that passed, and one that had to be tabled due to time.
The leaders on the platform clearly expected the Resolution “On Abuse and Pastoral Qualifications” to pass without even a hint of discussion or controversy, much less dissension. The reason I know this is because I observed carefully the looks of utter disdain and disgust when President Greear announced “Microphone #__ to speak against?!” His furrowed brow lingered for what seemed like 30 seconds or more! Ditto for others on the platform. But the leaders should not have been so shocked. The Resolution was sloppily worded. In its original form, the Resolution permanently disqualified from the office of pastor “any person who has committed sexual abuse.” Our CBC messengers had a good discussion about whether or not such a stance is actually biblical. After all, a person might commit all sorts of heinous sins in his lost condition. Just ask the Apostle Paul who used to be Saul. Should a man be disqualified forever from being a pastor because of sins he committed prior to conversion?
That’s an impossible case to make, biblically, I think. And so did several other messengers who stepped up to the mic and said as much. One messenger pointed out the growing prevalence of child-on-child abuse. He remarked that he did not think it was a display of belief in the power of the gospel to save sinners to the uttermost to permanently disqualify a man for something he did as an unregenerate eleven year old. It seems to me that if the Apostle Paul wanted to list those kinds of sins as permanently disqualifying he missed his opportunity to do so in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 where he names sexual sins with specificity. Instead, he says,
“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11).
Doesn’t sound like he thought those washed, sanctified, justified men were forever barred from God’s call to the office of Pastor! Now, whether it’s wise for a church to call such a one to be her pastor is a matter we can debate. But, as one messenger aptly pointed out, this Resolution also infringed upon the local autonomy of a church to call such a man as pastor if they determine his life after conversion consistently meets the biblical qualifications (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Indeed, the Resolution says, “we recommend that all of our affiliated churches apply this standard to all positions of church leadership.” But if a local church interviews a man who is transparent about his past as a lost man, and who demonstrates repentance by his voluntary hard and fast boundaries in ministry, shouldn’t that church have the right to make that decision without being made by the Convention to feel like horrible supporters of abuse? Many inmate prison chaplains are serving faithfully and well, who were raised up and trained by our SBC seminaries! Some of them are on death row. NOBTS has ordained many of these former hardened criminals into gospel ministry inside the prison systems.
The way this Resolution was originally worded sounded more like Law than Gospel. The “stoning” of the offender is his permanent disqualification. No forgiveness and restoration in Christ, only perpetual sorrow and repentance. While I believe the intent was good, we need not be so determined to show the watching world how against abuse we are (and what true Christian has ever been pro-sex abuse?) that we run rough shod over the Bible, making a law where God has not spoken. Thankfully, the Resolution was amended to at least say, “any person in a position of trust or authority who has committed sexual abuse is permanently disqualified from holding the office of pastor.” Still not as explicit as I prefer, but better than the original.
The undeniable highlight of the convention was the passing of the Resolution “On Abolishing Abortion.” The Committee did not bring it to the floor for a vote, but offered another less strongly worded (but nonetheless good) Resolution “On Taxpayer Complicity in Abortion and the Hyde Amendment.” But the messengers voted to override the Resolutions Committee and bring “On Abolishing Abortion” to the floor for a vote. And it passed! Albeit with an amendment that ever-so slightly softened the language to ensure those in the pro-life movement who are battling for every victory they can get do not feel unappreciated or slighted. But the final Resolution is still the strongest anti-abortion resolution the SBC has ever passed! I encourage you to read it here: https://www.sbc.net/resource-library/resolutions/on-abolishing-abortion/.
My only consternation regarding this Resolution was how vehemently it was opposed by a Professor at Mid-West Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as a paid employee of the ERLC. I guess my brow furrowed like Greear’s did earlier at the very thought of this Resolution being opposed at all. But praise God, in the end, the messengers approved it. Now, let’s put feet to it and start working to completely abolish abortion from our nation. Period. God help us!
Finally, there was the Resolution that got tabled and never voted on, which condemned the January 6 Capitol insurrection and riots, and mourned the loss of life. In and of itself, there was nothing horribly wrong with the Resolution (although the actual number of deaths directly due to that riot are hotly disputed, and the Resolution listed exactly 5). But as the messengers from our church quickly surmised, this Resolution lacked any reference at all to the plethora of riots, looting, burning and loss of life and livelihoods for the past 12 months due to Antifa and BLM “protests.” Why? Why on earth would our SBC Leaders call upon us to publicly denounce only one of the dozens and dozens of riots in our nation over the last year?
Might be because “the world is watching.”
Many prominent SBC Leaders say they are trying desperately to somehow “depoliticize” things in the convention, making it a safe place for folks affiliated with either political party. But are they really? This Resolution smacked of left-leaning politics, just to be blunt. It appears to be yet another example of a growing unwillingness among our leaders to condemn sin, period, wherever and in whomever it is found. Violence against people and property is not ultimately a political issue. It’s a sin issue. So, we ought to condemn it regardless of whether it comes from BLM or QAnon.
Thankfully it never came up for a vote. Let’s see, however, if it reappears in some form in 2022.
That’s all the assessment I care to make on Resolutions. Other Resolutions passed, but the ones I have addressed in these two posts, in my opinion, demonstrate a definite leftward limping in the SBC. May God put that left leg out of joint, forcing us to hobble back to the Sufficiency of the Bible, and to a desire to please and glorify our risen Lord Jesus Christ above all.