The Pathway

Official News Journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention

 

THE COOPERATIVE BAPTIST FELLOWSHIP:

Serious Questions For Serious Consideration

 

Published by the Missouri Baptist Laymen's Association

1997

 

“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.  So be on your guard!  Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”  Acts 20:29-31 NIV.

 

    It was with tears that the Apostle Paul warned the church elders at Ephesus of the clear and imminent danger of those who would “arise and distort the truth.”  But is Paul’s warning still relevant to the churches today?  Are there still such things as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” or “false prophets” as the Bible speaks so much about?  Do we still believe in a literal devil who “masquerades as an angel of light” and distorts the Scripture in order to lead us astray?  Is there any “interpretation” of Scripture that we as Southern Baptists would dare to identify as “falsehood” or “error?”  These are serious questions that demand serious and careful consideration.

     Since 1979, the Southern Baptist Convention has been embroiled in a theological battle over “truth.” [12]  And though much has been said and written about “fundamentalist” Southern Baptists and the “inerrantist” view of Scripture, little has been written about those who view the Bible as “errant” or the ultimate manifestations of such theological positions.

     After years of fighting, Southern Baptist “moderates” gave up the battle for control of the SBC and in 1991 formed the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF).  Identifying themselves as “free and faithful Baptists,” the CBF has, in many ways, duplicated the Southern Baptist Convention and now claims the support of 1600 Southern Baptist churches.  Rejecting the idea that they are a separate denomination or convention, the CBF currently has a $14.3 million budget, supports approximately 150 of their own missionaries and is “partnering” with 10 theological educational institutions in their effort to produce like-minded Baptists.  Though the CBF does not “own” all of its own agencies, it does support a like-minded news agency (Associated Baptist Press), publishing house (Smyth and Helwys), religious liberty agency (Baptist Joint Committee) and ethics agency (Baptist Center for Ethics).  Most recently, the CBF has declared itself “a religious endorsing body,” allowing the group to endorse chaplains without becoming a separate denomination.  No longer concerned about re-gaining control of the SBC, the CBF has focused its attention on building bridges to Southern Baptist state conventions, where in some states, “moderates” sympathetic to the CBF already control entire state convention apparatuses.

     There are, however, serious questions that need to be answered regarding the CBF.  The organization’s willingness to accommodate blatant theological liberalism and its openness to those who hold extreme positions on such issues as abortion, pornography and homosexuality should cause grave concern.  For example, if one is “faithful” to verbally profess that “Jesus is Lord,” is he then “free” to deny His deity, His virgin birth, His sacrificial death or His substitutionary atonement? [1]  In the name of “inclusive language,” is it now acceptable to call God “Mother” or replace Jesus with “Christ-Sophia?” [2]  Has feminist theology so caught on that it is now acceptable to ordain our women as pastors? [9]

     As CBF works to gain increasing acceptance among Southern Baptist state conventions as an “alternative” to the SBC, let us consider these questions:  Is there a place among our ranks of leadership for those who advocate the ordination of active gay, lesbian and bisexual persons? [10]  Is there a place among us for those who argue that God is “pro-choice,” sometimes even commanding a woman to abort for the purpose of population control? [3]  Is there a place among us for those who advocate “gay marriage” [13] [14] or those who would redefine the family to include “gay families and lesbian families” by virtue of their “enduring covenants?” [11] Should we embrace those who look to atheists for “Biblical Scholarship,” [5] or those who form alliances with the “world” to condemn conservative Christian organizations as “dangerous?” [4] [6] [7] [8]

     These are but a few examples of the issues that have divided “moderates” from conservatives - the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship from the Southern Baptist Convention.  And though every one who identifies himself as a “moderate” is certainly not theologically or socially liberal – liberalism has certainly found a place within the moderate movement.

     Each of the accompanying boxes represents CBF leaders.  Some are members of the CBF’s Coordinating Council; others are “breakout” leaders, chosen by the CBF to “train” its people.

     This information is presented as a brief representation of what we believe to be legitimate concerns about an organization seeking the support of Southern Baptist churches.  We have attempted to communicate our conviction that – It matters very much how we view and approach Scripture.  We are equally concerned about those who call for “unity” despite the unrestrained “diversity” inherent within the CBF.  Let us not sacrifice truth for the sake of unity.  As one Christian writer recently noted:  “The kingdom of God is damaged more by falsehood than it is by division.”  Let us never fall prey to the idea that being united in error is more honorable than being divided by truth.

 

[1]  KIRBY GODSEY

  Kirby Godsey served on the CBF Coordinating Council from 1991 to 1993 and is president of Mercer University, the second largest Southern Baptist state university.  In his recent book, When We Talk About God…Let’s Be Honest, published by the CBF-supported Smyth and Helwys, Godsey argues that:  “The heart of our confession is that Jesus Christ is Lord.” (p. 125)  However, he also argues that “Jesus is not God” (p. 128); “Jesus did not have to die” (p. 142): discounts the virgin birth as “unimportant” (p. 120); and rejects repentance and “accepting Jesus” as “the basis of salvation” (p. 145).  Claiming that: “Doctrinal soundness is arrogant theological nonsense,” (p. 17) Godsey states:  “The simple identification of the Word of God with the Bible is a grave mistake.” (p. 50)  Godsey redefines salvation as “healing for our hurt,” (p. 151) and states:  “universal redemption…finds strong support in Holy Scripture.” (p. 202)  Under the leadership of Kirby Godsey, Mercer was named “the country’s ninth best party school” by Playboy magazine.  (Newsweek, Oct. 26, 1987, p. 79)  The CBF is currently housed in the new Mercer School of Theology building in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

[2]  JANN ALDREDGE-CLANTON

A feminist theologian, Jann Aldredge-Clanton led “breakout sessions” at the 1992 and 1995 CBF General Assemblies.  In her book, In Search of the Christ-Sophia, Aldredge-Clanton writes:  “While some feminist theologies exalt the image of the goddess [Sophia]…this book has put forth the image of Christ-Sophia.” (p. 172)  Linking Christ and Sophia, she claims, “links races” and “draw[s] from both the Egyptian and Greek figures of Isis.” (p. 84)  Isis is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “the ancient Egyptian goddess of fertility.”  Aldredge-Clanton further states:  “…Jesus is not just the last and greatest of Sophia’s children, but is Sophia herself in the flesh.  In other words, Jesus is not merely Sophia’s child nor Sophia’s prophet, but Sophia incarnate.” (p. 23)  Other feminine images Aldredge-Clanton offers include “…Jesus as Mother Earth or Mary or the Christ Mother of medieval Christian mystics…(p. 60)  Aldredge-Clanton also argues that:  “When people make the historicity of the virgin birth, the historicity of the miracles, and the historicity of the resurrection their prime concerns, they miss the significance of the Christ-event.” (p. 4)

 

[3]  PAUL SIMMONS

Paul Simmons is a former Professor of Christian Ethics at Southern Seminary and is currently chairman of the theological education committee of the Kentucky CBF.  A leading Southern Baptist abortion rights advocate, Simmons has also been a CBF “breakout” leader.  In his book, Birth and Death:  Bioethical Decision-Making, Simmons argues that:  “God is truly pro-choice,” (p. 87) and that::  “The Bible holds open the possibility, therefore, that abortion may be consistent with the will of God.” (p. 95)  Arguing that:  “God may call for the active participation of people in the killing of germinating life,” (p. 96) Simmons states that:  “Abortion may at times be understood as the command [of God] to control population growth.” (p. 89)

 

 

 

[4]  ROB BOSTON

Rob Boston is Associate Editor of Church and State, published by Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU).  Identifying himself as a “secular humanist,” Boston claims to be an atheist, rejecting both the existence of God and the supernatural.  (Interview with Boston in Aug. 1991)  Boston led a 1994 CBF “breakout session,” where he condemned the “Religious Right” and the “conservative takeover” of the SBC.  Claiming to attend a Unitarian church, Boston stated:  “In the Unitarian Church, the conservatives are the ones who believe in God.”  (CBF General Assembly tape)  The current Executive Director of Americans United, Barry Lynn, is the former legislative counsel for the ACLU.  Lynn testified before the 1985 Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography in favor of First Amendment protection for child pornography.  In 1993, as Executive Director of AU, Lynn again defended First Amendment protection for child pornography on national public television.  Numerous CBF leaders serve on the governing board of AU.

 

 

[5]  BAPTIST/SECULAR HUMANIST DECLARATION

On October 6th and 7th, 1995, a group of Baptists and secular humanists (atheists) gathered together at the University of Richmond, a Virginia Baptist school, where they issued a statement entitled “In Defense of Freedom of Conscience:  A Cooperative Baptist/Secular Humanist Declaration.”  (Free Inquiry, Winter, 1995, p. 4)  The Declaration reflected “common ground” between Baptist and Secular Humanist scholars.  The “common ground” included “Biblical Scholarship” and “Separation of Church and State.”  Among the Baptist signers of the Declaration were such prominent CBF leaders as Glenn Hinson, Paul Simmons, and Stan Hastey, each of whom have served as CBF “breakout” leaders.  Among the secular humanist signers were Paul Kurtz, Timothy Madigan, Lois Porter and Thomas W. Flynn.  All are editors of Free Inquiry, “a secular humanist magazine.”  According to “The Affirmations of Humanism:  A Statement of Principles and Values” published on the back page of Free Inquiry magazine:  “We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence, to seek to explain the world in supernatural terms, and to look outside nature for salvation.”  (Free Inquiry, Winter 1990-91)

 

[6]  THE CENTER FOR CHRISTIAN ETHICS

Seven members of the CBF Coordinating Council signed a statement published by the Center for Christian Ethics (CCE) attacking conservative Christian organizations.  According to the statement:  “We are alarmed because the Radical Religious Right poses significant dangers to our churches, our political system, and our American way of life.”  (Christian Ethics Today, June 1995, p. 25)  The Center for Christian Ethics receives funding from the CBF and is headed by Foy Valentine, a former “sponsor” for the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights and past president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  According to Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United and a signer of the CCE statement:  “Religious Right outfits like James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council, the Traditional Values Coalition, and others continue to crank out hateful propaganda…”  Lynn continues, stating that Americans United will “continue uncovering dangerous ‘stealth’ Religious Right groups like Focus on the Family and the Promise Keepers.”  (1996 AU fund-raising letter)  Both Cecil Sherman and Daniel Vestal, the first two Coordinators of the CBF, signed the CCE statement.  Sherman and numerous other CBF leaders have also served on the governing board of AU.  Vestal serves as a trustee for the CCE.

 

[7]  JAMES DUNN

James Dunn is Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs (BJCPA), an organization which will receive $262,700 in funding from the 1997 CBF budget.  Dunn has also been a regular CBF “breakout” leader.   In 1994, the BJCPA was given “Special thanks” for its leadership role in the production of a far-left political training manual entitled How to Win:  A Practical Guide for Defeating the Radical Right in Your Community.  Among the manual’s 68 “contributing organizations” were:  National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund; Penthouse International; National Abortion Federation; Planned Parenthood; People for the American Way (whose president served on the BJCPA board); National Education Association; Zero Population Growth; and Americans United for Separation of Church and State (where Dunn serves as a trustee).  Supporting homosexuality, the manual states:  “You cannot successfully battle right wing forces without gay and lesbian participation.”  (p. 120)  Supporting abortion, the manual notes:  “If you’re a physician and have not been trained in abortion practice, find out if a local facility offers a training rotation.” (p. 139)  Supporting the free flow of pornographic materials, the manual notes:  “In fact, anti-pornography campaigns can have dangerous impacts.  For example, the Supreme Court of Canada adopted an argument…allowing expression to be banned if it denigrated women.  The first target of the censors?  Lesbian expression.” (p. 113)  According to BJCPA board member W. B. Tichenor, in a March 12, 1997, written defense of the BJCPA:  “The BJC entered into the [How to Win] coalition effort to produce the manual because it believed that a document was needed to enable people to oppose the philosophy of many on the radical right…”The manual identifies the “Radical Religious Right” as:  Focus on the Family; Concerned Women for America; American Family Association; Rutherford Institute; Christian Coalition; and various other such conservative Christian organizations.

 

[8]  THE INTERFAITH ALLIANCE

Bill Golderer and Ken Brooker Langston are staff members at The Interfaith Alliance (TIA) and have led CBF “breakout sessions.”  According to TIA:  “The Interfaith Alliance was established in July of 1994 as a mainstream alternative to the radical religious right.”  (April 13, 1995 TIA press release)  TIA defines the “Radical Religious Right” as the American Family Association; Concerned Women for American; Christian Coalition; Focus on the Family; Family Research Council; Eagle Forum; and various other such organizations.  In TIA’s Mission Statement, they state that the Religious Right “promote[s] an extreme political agenda based on a false gospel…  This false gospel threatens our families, our values and our future.”  However, three members of TIA’s board of directors signed an April 29, 1996, letter published by the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights praising President Clinton for vetoing the ban on partial-birth abortions.  TIA Executive Director Jill Hanauer was formerly the political action director of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL).  Regarding the issue of homosexuality, TIA board members consistently side with the “gay” community:  Denise Davidoff, moderator of the Unitarian Universalist Association, “endorses homosexual marriages”; Diane Porter, a former Episcopal Church executive, “supported a new church seminary policy that welcomed ‘committed same-sex couples’”; Amos Brown, “who pastors the largest black church in the West, embraced homosexual marriage while running successfully for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors”; Herbert Valentine, former moderator of the Presbyterian Church USA, “opposed his denomination’s policy against homosexual practice”; Bishop Edmond Browning, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, “urged Congress to recognize homosexuals as a class specially protected under civil rights laws.”  (Washington Times, March 31, 1997, p. A19 and Faith and Freedom, Spring 1997, p. 11)  TIA was also one of the 68 “contributing organizations” that produced the extreme pro-abortion/pro-homosexual political training manual entitled How to Win:  A Practical Guide for Defeating The Radical Right in Your Community.  David Currie, a member of the CBF Coordinating Council, is a member of TIA’s board of directors.  Foy Valentine, a longtime leader of the SBC “moderate” movement and a CBF program leader, also serves on TIA’s board.

 

[9]  BAPTIST WOMEN IN MINISTRY

Southern Baptist Women in Ministry was founded in 1983 and has played a major role in the CBF.  Changing its name to Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM) in 1995, numerous BWIM board members and officers have served on the CBF Coordinating Council and led “breakout sessions” at annual CBF General Assemblies.  Claiming 126 known ordained women in Southern Baptist churches in 1983, by 1995 BWIM claims to have documented 1150.  (Fellowship News, July/Aug. 1995, p. 22)  The CBF’s commitment to women pastors was again highlighted in an interview with newly-elected CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal: “This organization is not going to back down from its commitment to women in leadership, women in ministry and women in the pastorate…” (Fellowship News, Oct. 1996, p. 3)  Vestal, who was previously opposed to women in the pastorate, stated in his first address to the CBF General Assembly that he has had to “repent” of his earlier opposition. (Word and Way, July 10, 1997, p. 13).

 

[10]  KEN SEHESTED

Ken Sehested is Executive Director of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America (BPFNA), an organization which receives funding from the CBF.  Sehested has also led “breakout sessions” at the 1992 and 1994 CBF General Assemblies.  In February of 1995, the BPFNA issued a “Statement on Gay and Lesbian Justice,” which supported, among other things, the ordination of “gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons.”  (Attachment 2, BPFNA Board Minutes 2/9-11/1995)  Numerous other BPFNA staff and board members have led “breakout sessions” at CBF General Assemblies.

 

[11]  CBF AIDS PACKET

At its 1994 General Assembly, the CBF released its first “resource packet” entitled HIV/AIDS Ministry: Putting a Face on AIDS.  The packet was again widely distributed at the 1995 CBF General Assembly.  While the 80-page packet devotes much space to justifying homosexual “orientation,” nowhere does the packet identify homosexual behavior as sin.  Among the controversial statements in the CBF AIDS packet are:  “During pregnancy, the fetus is developing characteristics that will determine the person’s sexual orientation.  Therefore, a person does not choose to be homosexual or heterosexual.” (p. 16); “We do not choose our sexual orientation, but rather we ‘awaken’ to it.” (pp. 17-18); “The Church needs to be a place where sexual identity and orientation can be discussed, developed, and fostered.” (emphasis ours) (p. 18); “No longer is family defined as a mother, father, son, daughter, a dog, and a station wagon.  Such definition has changed through time, circumstances, and disintegration.  Family may be defined as a basic, primary group of caring relationships within intimate boundaries…  There are couples who have no intent of marrying.  There are single-parent families.  There are blended families…gay families and lesbian families…yet they are constituted as families by enduring covenants.” (p. 25);  Under “Suggested Resources,” materials from the radical homosexual group ACT UP are recommended. (p. 44)

 

[12]  ALAN NEELY

Alan Neely was a founder and first Executive Director of the Alliance of Baptist and was a 1994 CBF “breakout” leader.  A leading figure in the SBC “moderate” movement, Neely also served as a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1976 to 1988.  Writing in the March 5, 1990, issue of Christianity and Crisis, Neely describes the SBC prior to the conservative resurgence:  “Prior to 1979, the SBC was…composed of a small number of theological fundamentalists, a much larger number of theological conservatives, and an influential but not large group of theological and social progressives, most of whom were teaching in seminaries, colleges and universities…(emphasis ours)  Identifying the “beliefs of classical fundamentalism” as “the infallibility of the Bible, Virgin Birth of Christ, substitutionary  atonement, bodily Resurrection of Christ, and the pre-millennial Second Coming,” Neely states:  “Until the 1980s, for example, I never knew a Southern Baptist seminary professor who affirmed all of these doctrines.  Often they would qualify the ones they did affirm.”  (pp. 63-64)

 

[13]  PAUL DUKE

Paul Duke is a former member of the CBF’s Coordinating Council and is now a New Testament professor at the new CBF-supported Mercer School of Theology.  Duke wrote a two-part series entitled:  “Homosexuality and the Church” and led a 1994 CBF “Pre-Assembly Institute” by the same title.  In presenting his two-part series at Broadway Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri, Duke states:  “We are people for whom Scripture bears real authority.  Now let’s tell the whole truth about that.  Scripture is not our ultimate authority, because the Bible will one day pass away.  We won’t carry those in Heaven.”  He continues:  “Homosexuality is not a major concern of the Bible.  The Ten Commandments say nothing of it.  The four Gospels say nothing of it.  Jesus apparently said nothing about it.”  Concluding this section, Duke states:  “Having taken the time to study the [biblical] texts, I must tell you – I cannot with confidence say that the Bible condemns all forms of homosexual behavior.”  When asked during a question and answer session about the “rite and ceremony of [homosexual] marriage,” Duke stated his “broad support” for the union of homosexual couples but noted his personal preference to reserve the word “marriage” for heterosexual couples.

 

[14]  STAN HASTEY

Stan Hastey is Executive Director of the Alliance of Baptists and has led “breakout sessions” at the 1996 and 1997 CBF General Assemblies.  According to Hastey:  “the Alliance has provided much of the leadership for the [Cooperative Baptist] Fellowship.”  (Baptist Press article, 3/9/92,  “Alliance Changes Name, Contemplates its future”)  In 1992, the Alliance of Baptists formed a Task Force on Human Sexuality, primarily in response to two North Carolina Baptist churches, one of which ordained a homosexual divinity student to the ministry and the other which “married” two gay men.  (Baptist Press, June 11, 1992, “SBC Takes Aim on Homosexuality”)  The Task Force included longtime Alliance leader and founder, Mahan Siler, the North Carolina pastor who performed the “gay Marriage.”  In response to the pro-homosexual Task Force report, Hastey wrote:  “Some now will say that we are pro-gay.  And while some Alliance people will object, I want you to know I won’t be among them…[I]n the Alliance, we have known of some of our gay constituency and have sought to create a welcoming atmosphere.  My strongly held view has been and will remain that this fact of Alliance life is not something to hide or run away from but to welcome and celebrate.”  (Baptist Today, Oct. 13, 1994)  Numerous other Alliance board members and staff have led “breakout sessions” and have served on the CBF Coordinating Council.