June 15, 2004

Why Did The SBC Leave the BWA?


Nicene Theology, Neo Theo(b)log, and MSNBC have commented on this so far -- I'll link to others as I find them, and edit this post.

I never thought I'd end up an SBC apologist. Even after I joind a Southern Baptist church, I didn't think I'd ever end up defending them. But I do. I'm one of the "resident SBC experts" on the Fundamentalist Forums. And I'm getting ready to jump into the fray again over the SBC vote to leave the Baptist World Alliance.


The BWA has, the SBC alleges, theological differences which make it necessary for the convention to withdraw fellowship. I have talked about separation before -- this is not the second, third, and fourth degree separation practiced by modern fundamentalists. This is Scriptural separation from organizations or individuals who differ on theological basics. Among the differences are:



  • Questioning the truthfulness of Scripture

  • Not affirming the necessity of a conscious faith in Christ for salvation



Other issues, such as promoting women preachers and the criticism of the SBC's foreign missions board, are minor things for me. The BWA has issued a statement affirming the necessity for Christ alone in salvation, but that is not binding on member groups. Nothing that I was able to find on the BWA web site addressed the concerns about Scripture at all. There is also concern about the membership of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) -- an offshoot of the SBC, made up of former SBC members who are upset with the conservative direction that the convention is taking.

After the SBC has fought for decades to eliminate theological liberals and moderates from the convention, it seems silly to me to expect the Southern Baptists to suddenly embrace fellowship with these same people. The vote to leave the BWA is a signal that the fight is over, and that there is no interest in the leadership of the convention to re-fight these battles in another forum. There is considerable ammounts of ill-will between the SBC and the CBF -- should we expect these two groups to work together?

Neo Theo(b)log quotes Alistair McGrath that "One of the purposes of doctrine is to divide." We need to make sure that the doctrine that we divide over is important. Faith in Christ as the sole means of salvation is such a doctrine. The infalibility of Scripture is such a doctrine. I would argue if ordination of women is sufficient for division, although I do not believe that it is biblical. I know that criticism of missions boards isn't grounds for separation -- it's not a doctrinal difference. But if someone was openly deriding the ministry that you were involved in, one of the most distinctive ministries that you offer, would you want to support them financially? Would you want to be associated with them?

Neither would the Southern Baptist Convention.

{edit} Take a look here for the Baptist Press story about the vote. The convention has been discussing it's differences with the BWA for a year, and hasn't been able to resolve things. This isn't a spur of the moment decision, folks. This is a 100 year association that has ended. That doesn't happen overnight.

For a non-American view of the subject, click here.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 08:52 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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