February 26, 2006

SBC Bloggers Aggregator Update

So there are now 42 bloggers listed on the SBC aggregator. I haven't been promoting it much, but 42 is a pretty important number.

The headlines that used to be at the top of the page aren't working right now. I used to have the five most recent posts up there, but Blogdigger doesn't like me much at all, and it only ever worked on about half the feeds. Mine was one that it didn't like much, for some reason. I've been looking for a better alternative, but nothing so far. I combined all the feeds into one XML file, but it won't validate (too long), so it's not FeedtoJS comliant -- otherwise, there'd be no problem. I even set up a Bloglines account with the entire aggregator in it to see if I could use that somehow, but no dice.

I'd LOVE it if I could find something that would take the Bloglines OPML file and let me take the five or ten top headlines and put it at the top of the page. That way, I could add the new blogs to bloglines and have them added to the rotation right away, and add the individual entry when I get a chance. But I have no clue how to do it. I've even got a Perl book to see if I can learn a nifty script to do it, but I don't even know if that's the best language to use. Any web gurus out there want to help a brother out?

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February 21, 2006

How Young is Young?

There's going to be a Young Leader's meeting at this year's SBC Convention. Wade Burleson is speaking, and a lot of people who I'd like to meet are going to be there. But I have a question:

How old is too old to be a young leader? Last year on my birthday, I got to use the Monty Python quote "I'm 37 -- I'm not old!" This year, is it "I'm 38 -- I'm not young!"? I may be a pastor by then, so I'd be a leader, but the "young" part is in decided dispute.

Maybe I'll just show up anyway. If nothing else, then they'd call me Caleb.

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February 15, 2006

Good News from the IMB

The Florida Baptist Witness is reporting that the Executive Committee of the IMB is recommending that the motion to remove Wade Burleson from his trustee position be withdrawn.

Several weeks from now [IMB trustee chairman Thomas] Hatley will release an historical and theological explanation of the board's November decision to assess missionary candidates' use of "private prayer language" and mode of baptism.

Misinformation disseminated through informal weblogs caused confusion in the minds of some Southern Baptists, Hatley said. He said he hopes a detailed accounting of the timeline and rationale for those standards will help separate those issues from the matter of Burleson's personal conduct as a trustee and answer questions that have arisen.

Misinformation? Where? Accusations of misinformation and breach of confidence have flown ever since the trustees decided to ask the covnention to dismiss Burleson, and I've never seen anything more than vague accusations. If misinformation has been disseminated through blogs, it's very easy to show it -- blogs are public documents, and they are archived. Even if posts are edited, you can always head over to the Internet Wayback Machine and pull up the original posts, if you know when they were posted. Show us the misinformation -- and show us where you tried to correct it. Blogs are easy to set up; the IMB trustees would have been advised to have started their own, and made sure their version of things was out there for public perusal.

I'd have even linked to them.

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January 19, 2006

IMB Event Horizon

In his immortal classic Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, in book 2, Douglas Adams writes of a world whose economy was crushed because of something called "Shoe Event Horizon."

Many years ago this was a thriving, happy planet - people, cities, shops, a normal world. Except that on the high streets of these cities there were slightly more shoe shops than one might have thought necessary. And slowly, insidiously, the number of the shoe shops were increasing. It's a well-known economic phenomenon but tragic to see it in operation, for the more shoe shops there were, the more shoes they had to make and the worse and more unwearable they became. And the worse they were to wear, the more people had to buy to keep themselves shod, and the more the shops proliferated, until the whole economy of the place passed what I believe is termed the Shoe Event Horizon, and it became no longer economically possible to build anything other than shoe shops.

I was looking through my blog stats today, and was kind of surprised by what I saw. Ever since I started blogging about the IMB/Wade Burleson controversy, my hits have increased by about 20% each day. Now, that's not as big an increase as it sounds, but it's still significant. The number of hits I get from searches on the subject, and from other blogs who are talking about it, is fascinating to me.

It got me thinking about the Shoe Event Horizon, and it's application to blogging. There are some events and some subjects that, once people start blogging them, end up taking on a life of their own. Traffic increases, and bloggers, being the attention hounds that we are, write more about that subject. Blogs start up just on that subject. And it continues.

I'm not saying that the topics aren't important -- I think that this current controversy is very important for all Southern Baptists , especially those of us who are going to be in Greensboro this year. It's just an interesting sociological phenomenon. I think that we're close to the IMB Event Horizon, where many of us aren't willing to write on any other subject lest we lose the new audience that we've found. I wonder how many will stick around ...

I wonder if the Internet will ever hit Blog Event Horizon -- where there are so many blogs that it becomes unfeasable for anyone to introduce any 'Net application not geared toward bloggers. Of course, some people think we're already there.

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January 17, 2006

I Was Afraid of This ...

{And I promise to blog something nonSBC related later today.}

Ryan DeBarr over at xIFBx has a heartbreaking story of a missionary couple who have been asked to resign because of the new policies at the IMB.

Ryan and I come from similar backgrounds in fundamentalist churches; in fact, he attended the church I was baptized in (though he was there after we moved south). And I think we're both getting an uncomfortable feeling of deja vu with a lot of things that are happening right now in the SBC. We're forgetting that there are some things worth fighting for, and some things that we need to simply agree to disagree about.

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January 16, 2006

Baptism

And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?"
(Acts 8:36 ESV)

And Phillip answered and said, "The International Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, because you must be baptized in a local church."

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Principles and Integrity

This is a sermon that all of us need to hear. In light of the IMB/Wade Burleson controversy, it is educational for all of us to hear these words from Bro. Burleson. Many things have already been said, here and elsewhere. Much more will be said in the weeks to come, before the annual meeting of the SBC in Greensboro, NC later this year. Motivations will be questioned and accusations will be made. What is said in this message needs to be heard by every Southern Baptist. But it's valuable for all Christians to hear this, as a man stands on his convictions in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

{edit: Note that Burleson STILL does not name names or discuss confidential information. Still no evidence of slander or any wrongdoing on his part, other than disagreeing with the power lobby on the trustee board.}

(Hat tip goes to Ryan at xIFBx)

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January 13, 2006

Interesting Quote, and some Background

I read an interesting post concerning the whole IMB controversy today at Scott Bridwell.com. The most interesting was a quote from a current IMB trustee, as published in The Northwest Witness associational paper. more...

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January 12, 2006

Nothing Good Can Come of This

So they've done it.

THEY being a majority of the trustees of the IMB of the Southern Baptist Convention.

IT being booting Wade Burleson.

Of course, they can't just end his service as trustee -- that can only be done in Greensboro this year, at the annual Convention, by a majority of messengers. But they've effectively silenced him.

If you're looking for the "official" reports, here are the links: Baptist Press, Associated Baptist Press. If you want Wade's side of things, read his blog. Marty Durden at the SBC Outpost has also been covering this for the blogosphere.

Wade Burleson is under attack because people don't like the message he's sending to the SBC. I've read no slander, no gossip, no breach of confidence in anything he's written. He's mentioned only two names of people who disagree with him, and has presented their views in a very fair manner. When he's noted potential imporprieties, he has never mentioned names. He has never revealed anything that happened in an Executive Session.

We need people who are willing to expose problems. We need Wade Burleson as an IMB trustee.

I'll be in Greensboro for the Convention. I'll be supporting Wade Burleson. When we start censoring those who reveal problems in our organizations, we have a major problem. The last thing we need -- the last thing we should want -- is a trustee board filled with Yes Men who won't dare stand up for what they really believe, for fear of being run out of town on a rail. This is not a good way to deal with dissent.

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December 11, 2005

What Do We Do With These Swords???

Isaiah 2:4 ESV He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.

I appreciate what Wade Burleson wrote today on his blog.
I am glad and I rejoice over the conservative resurgance. I am a conservative. I love my convention.

But sadly, a new war has begun. It is a war initiated by fellow conservatives; conservatives who have forgotten how to put their swords in their respective sheaths. It is a war that technically may not have just begun, but one that simply never ended.

Conservatives who loved the battles of decades past have fallen victim to a crusading mentality of bloodthirst. Since all the liberals are gone, conservative cruasaders are now killing fellow conservatives.

Burleson has plenty of conservative "street cred." He's not some namby-pamby moderate, nor is he a crypto-liberal trying to undermine the resurgence. He's a genuine man with a genuine concern about the future of the Southern Baptist Convention.

We have to ask ourselves the question: What do we do with all these swords? We spent almost an entire generation fighting for the soul of the SBC. We are going in a direction that Southern Baptists thirty years ago could not have envisioned -- a direction that many Southern Baptists despaired that we'd ever go in again. We've won.

So now we've declared war on ourselves. We've gone from fighting the good fight on inerrancy to fighting over fine points of theology. We are majoring on the minors in a way that I haven't seen since I left the Independant Fundamental church I was baptized in. And we cannot let that happen.

more...

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December 08, 2005

Baptism and the IMB Update

An update on this issue -- one of my concerns has been answered.

Marty Duren posted about this a couple days ago -- the vote numbers and the number of trustees present for the votes aren't as bad as I thought they were. From an email Marty received from the Assistant Recording Secretary: "There were 78 trustees present at the Huntsville meeting. The actual votes were not counted except to indicate that the recommendations made by the Personnel Committee were approved by a majority of those voting."

I'm still not quite sure where the numbers came from in the initial report, but that clarifies things (and makes me feel better about the attendance). It doesn't make me much happier about the actual outcome, though.

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December 02, 2005

Perspective

From the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message

Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.

And
A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons.
Emphasis added in each, of course.

Now, from the IMB

Regarding a candidateÂ’s baptism, trustees voted two to one to establish a guideline that specifies (1) believerÂ’s baptism by immersion; (2) baptism follows salvation; (3) baptism is symbolic, picturing the experience of the believerÂ’s death to sin and resurrection to a new life in Christ; (4) baptism does not regenerate; and (5) baptism is a church ordinance.

The guideline establishes that candidates must have been baptized in a Southern Baptist church or in a church of another denomination that practices believerÂ’s baptism by immersion alone. Also, the baptism must not be viewed as sacramental or regenerative, and the church must embrace the doctrine of the security of the believer.

Emphasis, again, added. The IMB has gone beyond what the BF&M says about baptism in defining specific doctrines that a local, autonomous church must adhere to for baptisms to be considered Scriptural.

I believe that baptism is not regenerative. I believe in the doctrine of eternal security. I would have to have the term 'sacrament' defined, but as I think it's being used, I would probably agree with the IMB there as well. My issue is not that I disagree with the doctrines being affirmed -- my problem is that the IMB has taken it upon itself to decide what Southern Baptists consider Scriptural baptism. That is the role of the local church, since baptism is an ordinance of the local church.

Regarding the 'private prayer language' issue, I have to agree with Marty Duren:

It seems that this had less to do with missionary guidelines and more to do with insulting Jerry Rankin. If you truly believe that this is an unbiblical practice, you should have fired him ...
Dr. Rankin let everyone know that he used a private prayer language when he became IMB President. Suddenly, the IMB trustees have created a rule that effectively eliminates their president from consideration for a missionary position. I'm sure that Dr. Rankin is insulted, and I'm disappointed in the trustees who were there that this "guideline" was adopted.

I'm still disturbed that barely half of the trustees actually voted in this election. It's telling that the vote numbers are no longer present in the IMB article about the vote. I think that we, as Southern Baptists, deserve some answers from the trustees concerning this vote.

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November 30, 2005

IMB and Baptism, Round 2

OK, so in my other post about this, I mentioned my concern with the location of the baptism that the IMB was saying was unscriptural. Reading more about the decision, I have a LOT more concerns.

There is a concern that the IMB is overstepping it's boundaries. It is, in effect, telling churches that baptisms that they have accepted as Biblical and proper are, in fact, neither. The International Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention has decided to tell churches what constitutes scriptural baptism and what doesn't.

There is a concern that the majority of the trustees of the IMB didn't vote at all on this issue. The meeting conflicted with some state conventions, apparently, which makes me wonder who was responsible for the scheduling in the first place. It does seem that the deck was stacked, to me at least.

There is a concern that this will expand to other areas. What happens when this is extended to other areas of Baptist polity -- ordinations, for example. I may not be ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention. I was baptized in an independent Baptist church, not a Southern Baptist church. My church has determined that my baptism is scriptural. The IMB would disagree, it seems. But that's not their responsibility.

I think that it's great that the SBC is moving away from the liberal influences of its past. I'm thankful for the conservative resurgance. But this is an area that we are wrong on. A missionary board has no business telling churches that the baptism they have declared Scriptural aren't good enough -- especially a mission board that is funded by those churches. If memory serves, the Soutehrn Baptist Convention was formed because of a disagreement about the qualifications of missionaries. Maybe the IMB folks need to read their history books a bit more.

{And I haven't even started about the "private prayer language" thing. Maybe that's one for another post.}

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November 28, 2005

On Baptism

A tip of my nonexistent hat to Steve at the Missional Baptist Blog for this one. From the Baptist Press story:

Regarding a candidate's baptism, trustees voted by a 2-1 margin to establish a guideline that specifies (1) believer's baptism by immersion; (2) baptism follows salvation; (3) baptism is symbolic, picturing the experience of the believer's death to sin and resurrection to a new life in Christ; (4) baptism does not regenerate; and (5) baptism is a church ordinance.

The guideline establishes that candidates must have been baptized in a Southern Baptist church or in a church of another denomination that practices believer's baptism by immersion alone. Also, the baptism must not be viewed as sacramental or regenerative, and the church must embrace the doctrine of the security of the believer.

Well, it's pretty clear to me that the "baptism must be in a Southern Baptist Church" shouldn't refer to physical location -- after all, we baptize people every year at the national convention, and have at many of the state conventions I've been to. It has to do with support. Candidates for baptism must be supported by a local church -- at least that's the way I understand SBC polity.

IF they are saying that a legitimate, Scriptural baptism has to take place INSIDE a church, then I have a HUGE problem with this language, and someone at the IMB needs to examine Baptist history, because indoor baptisms were not a part of early Baptist practice. Baptisms were public, performed in streams or rivers -- not in churches. Location does not, and should NEVER, matter -- what matters is that the subject of the baptism is a believer, and that he is being baptized under the guidance and authority of a local church. If THAT is what the IMB is trying to affirm, then I don't see any conflicts.

I've been planning on doing a series of posts concerning Baptist "distinctives," which would touch on Baptist polity issues such as church ordinances and offices. I've been holding off until I had a chance to take Dr. Moore's Systematic Theology III class at Southern (because ecclesiology is NOT my strong suit), but I think I feel a rush of independent study coming on. Maybe in a couple weeks.

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October 14, 2005

What Price for a Soul?

$48, cash or check.

I'm not going to go into a long critique of this method of evangelism. As I reflect on my own life, I can see many times I've done something similar. I can remember the Saturdays that I spent with my youth group, playing kickball and sharing Jesus with kids. And seeing the same kids get saved every single week.

The problem with so many modern evangelism methods is that there is no discipleship. No connect with a local church. No clue what they believe, or why. Then ten years later, they have nothing to do with the church. Did they lose their salvation? No -- you can't lose something that you never had in the first place. We failed them. Our emphasis on numbers has resulted in our missing one important fact -- these are people. They are souls that Christ died for. They will spend eternity somewhere, and we are giving them false hope. Their hope is in a repeated prayer, rather than Christ.

I question any directive that places a greater emphasis on numbers than on discipleship. Quality over quantity. And I am willing to invest whatever I need to -- time, money, tears, whatever.

$48 just seems a little cheap to me.

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August 17, 2005

SBC Aggregator Broken!

There's a temporary problem at the SBC Aggregator, caused by a change in one of the tools I used to set it up. I'm working on fixing it, but it may be a while.

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July 06, 2005

An Unregenerate Denomination?

I opened up my RSS reader this morning and saw a headline that at first made me mad. Tim Challies wrote about "Southern Baptists - An Unregenerate Denomination" and I admit that I was ready to charge forth.

Then I read what he wrote, and realized that he was right.

more...

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June 23, 2005

We Are Resolved ...

... to do pretty much what we have been doing all along.

Everyone was so up in arms about the Public Schools Resolution (tm) -- including me, yes I admit it. And THIS is what we finally resolved to do (I'm skipping the whereas stuff -- if you want to read all that, go here and read the whole thing yourself): more...

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June 22, 2005

WOW -- Good PR!!!

Three SBC bloggers (two of whom are already in the Aggregator -- guess I need to email Marty Duren!) were featured in a story about live blogging at the SBC. Steve DeVane at the North Carolina Baptists' paper The Biblical Recorder interviewed Steve McCoy, Joe Thorn, and Marty briefly at the beginning of his story about blog coverage of the Convention.

Congrats, guys!!

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June 21, 2005

Streaming the SBC

The Southern Baptist Convention is holding it's annual meeting today and tomorrow in Nashville. You can watch the proceedings by clicking here and following the directions to start streaming.

Pastors Conference is actually the best part -- once you are streaming the convention, click on the 'Video Archives' link (right of the screen) and you can see archival footage of the Pastors Conference. It's worth it.

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