by the Missouri Baptist Laymen's Association
“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
Since 1979, the Southern Baptist Convention has been embroiled in a
theological battle over “truth.” 
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? 
In the name of “inclusive language,” is it now acceptable to call God
“Mother” or replace Jesus with “Christ-Sophia?” 
Has feminist theology so caught on that it is now acceptable to ordain
our women as pastors? 
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? 
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? 
Is there a place among us for those who advocate “gay marriage” 
or those who would redefine the family to include “gay families and lesbian
families” by virtue of their “enduring covenants?” 
Should we embrace those who look to atheists for “Biblical
or those who form alliances with the “world” to condemn conservative
Christian organizations as “dangerous?” 
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.
are members of the CBF’s Coordinating Council; others are “breakout”
leaders, chosen by the CBF to “train” its people.
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
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.
However, he also argues that “Jesus is not God” (p.
“Jesus did not have to die” (p.
discounts the virgin birth as “unimportant” (p.
and rejects repentance and “accepting Jesus” as “the basis of salvation”
Claiming that: “Doctrinal soundness is arrogant theological
Godsey states: “The simple
identification of the Word of God with the Bible is a grave mistake.” (p.
Godsey redefines salvation as “healing for our hurt,” (p.
and states: “universal
redemption…finds strong support in Holy Scripture.” (p.
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)
CBF is currently housed in the
new Mercer School of Theology building in Atlanta, Georgia.
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.
Linking Christ and Sophia, she claims, “links races” and “draw[s]
from both the Egyptian and Greek figures of Isis.” (p.
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.
Other feminine images Aldredge-Clanton offers include “…Jesus
as Mother Earth or Mary or the Christ Mother of medieval Christian mystics…” (p.
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.
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.
and that:: “The Bible holds open
the possibility, therefore, that abortion may be consistent with the will of
Arguing that: “God may call for
the active participation of people in the killing of germinating life,” (p.
Simmons states that: “Abortion
may at times be understood as the command
[of God] to control population growth.” (p.
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.
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.
BAPTIST/SECULAR HUMANIST DECLARATION
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
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.”
Inquiry, Winter 1990-91)
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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
Numerous other BPFNA staff and board members have led “breakout
sessions” at CBF General Assemblies.
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
25); Under “Suggested
Resources,” materials from the radical homosexual group ACT UP are
recommended. (p. 44)
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
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.”
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.
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]
Press article, 3/9/92, “Alliance
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,
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.