The Pathway

Official News Journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention

 

The "Controversy" in the Southern Baptist Convention:

What was it all about?

A Resource for Churches Involved in "Denominational Studies"

May 2001

(click here for printer friendly version)

 

 

In 1979, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entered into a time of intense controversy. Conservative Southern Baptists argued that the "moderate" leadership of the SBC had opened the doors of the denomination's agencies and entities to blatant theological liberalism. Primarily, conservatives argued that theological liberalism had crept into the SBC's six seminaries and that an entire generation of young pastors was being trained under the influence of "higher criticism," an approach to Scripture that destroys the faith.

From 1979 to 1991, the battle raged on the national SBC level. But with each passing year, the election of a conservative president gradually moved the SBC back toward its conservative theological roots, and by 1991 the battle began to subside. Through the appointment powers of the president, by 1991 conservatives had gained a voting majority on most of the boards and agencies of the SBC. Also in 1991, messengers to the annual meeting of the SBC voted to completely de-fund the "moderate" controlled Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, a church/state organization made up of various Baptist denominations. In the eyes of conservatives, the BJCPA was symbolic of the deep theological problems that had infected the convention. But most important, 1991 was the year that the moderate/liberal factions of the SBC split off and formed a splinter group called the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship -- CBF.

Though CBF had split off from the SBC and was increasingly operating as an alternative convention/denomination, it continued to operate within the Southern Baptist Convention. With many of the state conventions controlled predominately by anti-SBC/pro-CBF moderates, CBF leaders focused their efforts heavily on organizing and recruiting churches and individuals from within the various state conventions.

Within just a few years of the formation of CBF, it had become blatantly obvious that the political strategy of CBF leaders was to undo the "conservative resurgence" at the state convention level. CBF leaders rightly understood that the vast majority of the money that goes to the SBC first goes through the states. Soon, efforts were underway to re-define "Cooperative Program" giving at the state convention level to include money designated to CBF.

By 1998, two moderate-controlled state conventions had split. In the states of Texas (the largest Southern Baptist state convention) and Virginia, numerous conservative, pro-SBC state leaders ultimately chose to abandon the moderate-controlled, pro-CBF conventions and formed new, conservative, pro-SBC state conventions.

By November 2000, the strongly anti-SBC/pro-CBF leadership of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT), had recommended to the messengers at its annual meeting that the BGCT completely de-fund the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and virtually de-fund the SBC Executive Committee and the SBC's six seminaries. With former CBF Coordinating Council member Dr. Charles Wade leading the charge as the newly elected executive director of the BGCT, and with anti-SBC/pro-CBF moderates solidly in control of the BGCT, the recommendation to begin the process of severing ties with the Southern Baptist Convention passed with ease.

However, churches across Texas and across the SBC are increasingly asking questions: "What is the controversy in the SBC really all about?" "Is the battle about power and politics, or is it something much deeper?" "What are the significant differences between the SBC and CBF?"

SBC and CBF: A Look in Contrast

In 1998, the Missouri Baptist Laymen's Association (MBLA) published a "contrast" which served two basic purposes: First, it provided a brief list of concerns that MBLA had raised about CBF; and second, it showed in a brief, contrasting format, the significant differences between the leadership of the SBC and the CBF. The contrast was based on a fully documented publication entitled: Cooperative Baptist Fellowship: Serious Questions for Serious Consideration.

As this contrast is presented, it is important to note several things. First, we certainly acknowledge that no human institution is perfect and that the sin nature of man transcends theological labels. However, when the "celebration" of illegitimate "diversity" replaces commitment to biblical Truth as the basis of fellowship and unity, to what shall we anchor ourselves -- to what shall we look to establish acceptable boundaries for theological and moral prescriptions? Secondly, while we do not suggest that everybody supportive of CBF is "liberal," it is equally clear that liberalism has most certainly found a comfortable home within CBF. Likewise, CBF leaders who publicly identify themselves as "theological conservatives," yet have participated in the exalting of unrestrained "freedom" above biblical Truth, have not only sent out an "uncertain sound" into the world, but have contributed greatly to a growing attitude that diminishes the seriousness of sin as well as the significance and necessity of repentance.

Lastly, while conservative Southern Baptists argued that the issue in the SBC controversy was theological in nature, it is important to note that theological liberalism does not operate in a vacuum or in a void, but that it manifests itself in various ways. This contrast demonstrates clearly that CBF is full of the manifestations of theological liberalism and provides a glimpse at what the Southern Baptist Convention would likely have looked like had the "conservative resurgence" never taken place.

  • The SBC has no leaders that deny the deity of Christ, the need for His sacrificial death or the importance of His virgin birth.

But CBF does.

  • The SBC has no feminist theologian leaders calling for the worship of the "Christ-Sophia."

But CBF does.

  • The SBC has no leaders calling for the ordination of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons.

But CBF does.

  • The SBC has no leaders declaring that God sometimes commands a woman to abort her unborn child for the purpose of population control.

But CBF does.

But CBF does.

  • The SBC has no leaders proclaiming that the Bible does not condemn all forms of homosexual behavior.

But CBF does.

But CBF does.

  • The SBC has no leaders that have worked in "coalition efforts" with Penthouse International, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Planned Parenthood.

But CBF does.

But CBF does.

But CBF does.

  • The SBC has no leaders that have worked for the passage of such pro-homosexual legislation as the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA) granting minority-status to homosexuals/bisexuals based solely on their sexual behavior.

But CBF does.

  • The SBC does not embrace churches that ordain or "marry" homosexual persons.

But CBF does

But CBF is.

  • The SBC is aligned with no organization that gave all of its "mission grants" (in 1997) to churches that welcome and affirm homosexuality.

But CBF is.

  • The SBC is aligned with no organization whose top leader has defended the reproduction and distribution of child pornography.

But CBF is.

CBF Responds

By 1999, MBLA materials had circulated so widely across the SBC that CBF coordinator Dr. Daniel Vestal sent a certified letter to MBLA research director Roger Moran. As the author of MBLA materials, Vestal called on Moran to "issue a written retraction and a formal, public apology for the misleading and untrue statements" he had made in various publications and in a series of videos.

In response to Dr. Vestal, Moran wrote back: "You have asked for a 'written retraction and a formal, public apology' from MBLA in part for the 'untrue' statements we have made. However, you cited no examples. Would you please provide me with a full list of those statements along with specific details about the factual errors we have made." Moran further inquired of Dr. Vestal: "...are there any concerns that we raised in our materials that you consider legitimate -- or 'honest disagreements?' If so, would you please provide us with a list of those legitimate concerns." Dr. Vestal did not honor the request. Instead, CBF issued "An Open Letter to Roger Moran," that was widely circulated by CBF as its defense against concerns raised by MBLA.

In Moran's letter to Dr. Vestal, he directed 15 specific questions to Vestal based on a fully documented MBLA publication entitled: CBF Circle of Friends: Religious Voices Advocate Homosexuality. However, Dr. Vestal did not respond. Those questions were as follows:

Does it not matter...

  • ...that a significant portion of CBF leadership and CBF-related organizations consistently align themselves with Religious Left groups supportive of homosexuality?

 

  • ...that the CBF-funded BJCPA played a leadership role in the production of an extreme pro-homosexuality political training manual?

 

 

  • ...that numerous members of the CBF's Coordinating Council serve (or have served) on the governing board of Americans United, a participating organization in the National Religious Leadership Roundtable which exists to support and affirm gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons?

 

  • ...that the CBF's Coordinating Council includes the executive director and a board member/treasurer of The Interfaith Alliance, also a member of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable which claims that its existence confirms the broad base of religious support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons?

 

  • ...that the president of the CBF-funded Baptist Women in Ministry served (until recently) as associate pastor of University Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, which was "kicked out" of the Baptist General Convention of Texas for ordaining a homosexual as a deacon? (Kathy Manis Findley, pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, and a former president of Baptist Women in Ministry, received a mission grant from the Alliance of Baptists in 1997. According to Stan Hastey [executive director of the Alliance of Baptists], that church also has a "pro-gay stance." Findley is a member of the CBF's Coordinating Council.)

 

 

  • ...that Wake Forest Baptist Church in North Carolina -- whose pastor, Richard Groves, served on the Interim Steering Committee of the CBF and from 1991 to 1995 on the CBF Coordinating Council -- allows its ministers to perform gay marriages and has openly homosexual members serving on the deacon board, in the choir and as Sunday School teachers?

 

  • ...that the Alliance of Baptists, which claims to have "provided much of the leadership of the [Cooperative Baptist] Fellowship," has openly declared its support of homosexuality, giving all six mission grants in 1997 to churches that "have a pro-gay stance?" (Kathy Manis Findley's church was one of those churches.)

 

 

  • ...that the BJCPA, which receives about a quarter-million dollars each year from the CBF, played a significant role in an extreme pro-homosexuality AIDS conference sponsored by the AIDS National Interfaith Network (ANIN), an organization headed up by two homosexual men?

 

  • ...that the CBF's AIDS resource packet, which recommended ANIN as an AIDS resource, re-defines the family to include "gay families and lesbian families" by virtue of their "enduring covenants?"

 

  • ...that the CBF's AIDS resource packet declares that: "We do not choose our sexual orientation, but rather we 'awaken' to it?"

 

  • ...that former CBF Coordinating Council member Dr. Paul Duke (a leading Baptist advocate for biblical acceptance of homosexuality and [formerly] a professor of New Testament at the CBF-funded McAfee School of Theology at Mercer) states in his two part series entitled: "Homosexuality and the Church," that: "Having taken the time to study the [biblical] texts, I cannot with confidence say that the Bible condemns all forms of homosexual behavior?" (Dr. Duke led a CBF Pre-Assembly Institute by the same title at the 1994 CBF General Assembly)

 

  • ...that a significant portion of CBF leadership and CBF-related organizations consistently oppose conservative Christian organizations that have stood firm regarding the sinfulness of homosexual behavior (organizations like James Dobson's Focus on the Family, Don Wildmon's American Family Association, Beverly LaHaye's Concerned Women for America...), referring to such groups as the "Radical Religious Right?" (In 1995, it was you, Dr. Vestal, that signed the statement published by the CBF-funded Center for Christian Ethics, condemning the "Radical Religious Right," stating that: "We are alarmed because the Radical Religious Right poses significant dangers to our churches, our political system, and our American way of life.")

(Click here for the full text of the four letters between Dr. Vestal, Roger Moran and Moran's pastor, Dr. Gary Taylor.)

CBF Issues a "Value Statement" Regarding Homosexuality

Eight years after Southern Baptists settled the homosexual issue within the SBC, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship issued a "value statement" regarding homosexuality. At the CBF's October 2000 Coordinating Council meeting, the group adopted "A Statement of an Organizational Value Regarding the Funding of Partners," described by CBF leaders as "welcoming but not affirming."

Unlike the SBC's clear position on homosexuality, CBF had attempted to take a "position" that would ostracize neither the powerful pro-gay faction of the CBF nor those who believe that homosexual behavior is sinful and should not be advocated. Referring to CBF's statement on homosexuality as "a middle-of-the-road solution," CBF coordinator Dr. Daniel Vestal stated: "I do not want us to fragment over this... I don't want anyone to leave over this."

According to Dr. Vestal: "The council's policy sets forth an 'organizational value' that will guide decisions related to hiring staff, appointing missionaries and funding our partners."

Quoting Dr. Vestal, the CBF-funded Associated Baptist Press further reported that "the value statement would also not affect current employees, describing the organization's hiring practice as 'don't ask, don't tell.'" Thus, the new CBF "Value Statement," which prohibits the "purposeful" hiring of homosexuals as CBF staff or missionaries and the "expenditure of funds for organizations that condone, advocate or affirm homosexual practice," raises additional concerns about homosexuals serving as CBF missionaries and as CBF staff.

Dr. Vestal also noted that the CBF statement on homosexuality is not "intended to be a mandate to congregations in terms of what they should practice or to individuals in terms of what they should believe." Thus, CBF churches that practice the ordination of homosexuals or perform same-sex ceremonies will remain in good standing within CBF.

Nevertheless, the time had come for CBF to deal with the homosexual issue, not out of conviction, but out of financial necessity. According to Associated Baptist Press, "If any sentiment was unanimous among council members, it was that they would have preferred not to deal with the divisive [homosexual] issue."

Arguing against the "Value Statement," CBF council member Steve Harris, an attorney from Liberty, Missouri, stated: "While it may be true that we will lose some churches and money if we don't accept this statement, know that if we do we will lose some of CBF's future." Responding to Harris, Dr. David Currie, who served as chairman of the CBF finance task force for the last two years, argued that "rejecting the value statement would not be 'saving the future but shutting it down' by positioning the Fellowship 'left of center.'" Ironically, Dr. Currie serves as an officer on the board of the extreme pro-homosexual Interfaith Alliance.

According to Dr. Vestal, the homosexual issue had become a serious public relations problem and was becoming CBF's defining issue. Its pro-homosexual "friends on the left" as well as its "enemies on the right," were both portraying CBF as a pro-homosexual organization. Dr. Vestal stated: "We are being defined by our enemies on the right and our friends on the left." He further noted: "In the past two years, I have spent an inordinate amount of time on the homosexuality issue."

In a January 17, 2001 article by Cecil Sherman, the former CBF coordinator reiterated the concerns of Dr. Vestal. Complaining that "CBF is being defined by Roger Moran and Baptist Press," an obvious reference to their "enemies on the right," Sherman also complains of their "friends on the left." Identifying the left-wing of the CBF as the Alliance of Baptists, Sherman states: "Sometimes I wonder if some Coordinating Council members know what an average Baptist church is like. If a few council members from furthest left churches define CBF, the Fellowship will wither." (Click here to view Alliance of Baptists Churches)

The homosexual issue came to a head when a CBF pastor informed Dr. Vestal of his intention to bring a recommendation from the floor of the CBF's 2000 General Assembly to withdraw funding from Wake Forest Divinity School, a CBF "partnering" school, because of its pro-homosexual policy. Dr. Vestal recommended that CBF leadership "address the issue of homosexuality" through a "deliberate process." The pastor agreed and the "Value Statement" on homosexuality was presented to the CBF's Coordinating Council at its October 2000 meeting.

While the "Value Statement" passed on a 35-23 vote, Associated Baptist Press reported that, "Council members rejected a portion of the original recommendation that would have ended direct financial support of theology schools that affirm homosexuality."

Though the pro-homosexual policy of Wake Forest Divinity School was the stated purpose of the CBF's "Value Statement," the problem arose when Dr. Vestal reported that four of the CBF's 11 partnering schools of theology have an open admission policy for homosexuals: Wake Forest Divinity School, Duke Divinity School, Candler School of Theology at Emory and Texas Christian University's Brite Divinity School. Thus, the CBF's "Value Statement" now had the potential of de-funding four CBF partnering schools. (It is also important to note that three of these CBF partnering schools, Wake Forest, Emory and Duke, allow same-sex ceremonies in their chapels.)

Opposition to the CBF's "Value Statement" came quick and continued to mount. At a January 2001 "spiritual retreat," for the CBF's Young Leaders Network, 32 of the 80 participants signed a letter objecting to the statement on homosexuality. One of the signers, Brian Ford, is a member of the Missouri CBF Coordinating Council and a member of the Mainstream Missouri Baptists board of directors. The coordinator of Mainstream Missouri Baptists, Rob Marus, is a member of the steering committee of the CBF Young Leaders Network.

At the February 2001 CBF Coordinating Council meeting, a motion was made by council member Dixie Petrey to rescind the "Value Statement." However, because prior notice is required to rescind a previous action, the vote on her motion was delayed until the council's meeting in June 2001.

Reinforcing Dixie Petrey's motion to rescind the CBF's "Value Statement," the Alliance of Baptists, at its 2001 annual meeting, also urged the CBF Coordinating Council to rescind its statement on homosexuality. According to Associated Baptist Press, one of the questions raised at the Alliance of Baptists meeting was whether the CBF's new statement on homosexuality would apply to exhibitors at this summer's CBF General Assembly.

According to ABP: "A letter sent by a CBF representative to prospective exhibitors said they must 'enhance and affirm the mission and shared commitments' of the Fellowship. Background documents included the value statement on homosexuality." However, ABP also reported that:

"Ken Sehested, executive director of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, another gay-friendly organization, said CBF leaders took three months before finally granting his request to exhibit at the [2001] General Assembly. He said the Peace Fellowship is free to display any of its materials, including a controversial [church] resource booklet for promoting dialogue about sexual orientation in churches. 'We are not censored in any way,' Sehested said."

Interestingly, in a July 25, 2000 article entitled: "CBF and the issue of homosexuality," Dr. Vestal responded to criticism about the distribution of the Baptist Peace Fellowship's controversial pro-homosexual "church resource" at the 2000 CBF General Assembly's exhibit area. According to Dr. Vestal: "If any of the materials displayed at the Resource Fair are determined to be in conflict with CBF's mission and core values, then future participation by that vendor will be reevaluated." The pro-homosexual church resource, which supports homosexual marriage and the ordination of homosexual persons, was co-published by the Baptist Peace Fellowship and the Alliance of Baptists, both of which have taken strong, "official" positions in support of homosexuality. Apparently, the "church resource" doesn't conflict with the CBF's "mission and core values." In fact, Ken Sehested, executive director of the Baptist Peace Fellowship, will not only be allowed to distribute his pro-homosexual "church resource" at this year's CBF General Assembly, but is also scheduled as a "breakout" leader at this year's CBF General Assembly.

It is also important to note that in 1994, CBF published its own pro-homosexual "church resource" entitled: "HIV/AIDS Ministry: Putting a Face on AIDS." Arguing that "sexuality is a gift from God," and that it is the role of the church to "educate our children and young people about sexuality, sexual identity, and sexual orientation," the CBF publication states: "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." The CBF publication also redefines the family to include "gay families and lesbian families" by virtue of their "enduring covenants."

Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT)

Defends its Pro-CBF/Anti-SBC Leaders

By February 2000, MBLA materials had circulated so widely in Texas that a series of six articles appeared in the February 23rd, 2000 issue of the Baptist Standard, the official newspaper of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. The series of articles, written by managing editor Mark Wingfield and titled, "and nothing but the truth?," were highly critical of MBLA materials and MBLA research director Roger Moran specifically. However, rather than an honest attempt to address legitimate concerns raised by MBLA about the liberalism that permeates CBF, the articles instead attempted to downplay the legitimacy of the concerns and defended BGCT leaders' involvement in CBF.

The February 23rd editorial begins by stating: "Does fact necessarily lead to truth? Do pieces of verifiable information always direct toward accurate conclusions?" The editorial further states: "You may ask why we would devote so much space to a Missouri layman and his claims. The answer is simple: The materials generated by Moran --particularly a document of about 20 pages and a videotape of his presentation -- are major weapons used by Southern Baptists of Texas to convince churches they should loosen ties to the BGCT and support the new SBTC [Southern Baptists of Texas Convention]."

Unable to challenge the factual accuracy of MBLA materials and unable to answer the concerns raised by MBLA regarding the liberalism that permeates CBF, the Baptist Standard instead argued that MBLA had utilized a form of "guilt-by-association" in order to unfairly discredit those involved with CBF -- which ultimately affected numerous BGCT leaders.

 

BGCT: Defending the Indefensible

One of the most significant Texas Baptist leaders defended by the Baptist Standard was Dr. David Currie, coordinator of Texas Baptists Committed. Currie's organization is unapologetically political and is given the lion's-share of credit for moving the BGCT away from its historic partnership with the SBC and towards "partnering" with the CBF.

Dr. Currie, an influential member of the CBF Coordinating Council who, for the last two years, has chaired the CBF's finance task force group, is also the organizer and administrator of the newly formed National Network of Mainstream Baptists organizations. With more than a dozen members of the Texas Baptists Committed executive committee that have served on the national CBF Coordinating Council and as many as 10 that have served as BGCT officers since 1991, Dr. Currie's commitment to bringing together the BGCT and the CBF is only surpassed by his commitment to severing all ties between the BGCT and the SBC. According to Dr. Currie:

"...one cannot co-exist with fundamentalist leadership. Twenty years of fundamentalist control at the SBC level prove these truths... Do not be deluded in your thinking, defeating fundamentalism is the ONLY way to have peace in your state convention."

Nor does Dr. Currie attempt to hide his political objectives: "We [the Baptist General Convention of Texas] are distancing ourselves from the Southern Baptist Convention and rightly so." He further states: "My vision is that over the next 10 years, all traditional Baptist churches will stop supporting the SBC..." Most recently, Dr. Currie's Texas Baptists Committed formally requested that the BGCT completely "divest" itself of SBC money -- specifically, the approximate $1.4 million in annual funding received by the BGCT from the SBC's North American Mission Board and the SBC's Lifeway Christian Resources.

 

Dr. David Currie and The Interfaith Alliance (TIA)

"Guilt by Association?"

The most revealing point of controversy concerning Dr. David Currie arises with his leadership position on the board of The Interfaith Alliance, a leading pro-homosexual religious left group. According to the February 23rd editorial in the Texas Baptist Standard: "[Moran's] material asserts David Currie, head of Texas Baptists Committed, has liberal tendencies because he serves on the board of The Interfaith Alliance with a lesbian activist -- never mind that homosexuality is not part of the alliance's agenda and never has come up as an issue." (emphasis ours) Another February 23rd Baptist Standard article states: "Despite Moran's impressions, Currie said, 'I've been to Interfaith Alliance board meetings for four years, and homosexuality and abortion have never been mentioned.'"

Writing one year earlier in the March 1999 National Edition of the Texas Baptists Committed newsletter, Dr. Currie is even more explicit: "I have been on [The Interfaith Alliance] board three years and have never missed a meeting. The issues of homosexuality and abortion have never been mentioned during a meeting, nor to me in private conversation by a fellow [Interfaith Alliance board] member."

However, a brief look at The Interfaith Alliance's commitment to pro-homosexual activism since 1997 when Dr. Currie came to the group's board of directors shows a very different TIA than the one portrayed by Dr. Currie and the Texas Baptist Standard. It is also worth noting that the Baptist Standard's managing editor, Mark Wingfield, was given the Baptist Communicators' first place award in investigative reporting for the "nothing but the truth" series. However, Wingfield's "investigation" failed to "uncover" any of the following information.

  • In 1997, The Interfaith Alliance endorsed the centerpiece of pro-homosexual federal legislation entitled the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), stating in a press release that "If passed, ENDA would extend current federal protections against employment discrimination to include sexual orientation."

 

  • In 1998, The Interfaith Alliance became a participating organization in the National Religious Leadership Roundtable (NRLR), which was co-convened by Equal Partners in Faith and the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. NRLR claims the support of "more than 40 leaders of religious and advocacy organizations that support gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender spirituality and equality..." Equal Partners in Faith is led by Steven Baines, a homosexual Southern Baptist minister. Meg Riley, a TIA board member and a lesbian, serves as co-chair of the Equal Partners in Faith board of directors.

 

  • In 1999, The Interfaith Alliance gave its first annual "Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award" to Ms. Donna Red Wing, who, according to TIA, "led an initiative to bring together the faith community with the gay and lesbian community in challenging anti-gay tolerance from the religious right." Ms. Red Wing is the National Field Director of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest national lesbian and gay political organization in the United States.

 

  • In 2000, The Interfaith Alliance gave its "Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award" to Rev. Dr. James C Miller, who, according to TIA, "served as an outspoken activist for tolerance by advocating for the inclusion of gays in Boy Scouting and by sponsoring a community forum to address the issue of gays and lesbians in political life." According to TIA's newsletter, "The Light," Dr. Miller has been an outspoken activist for inclusion of gay men and lesbians in religious and public life throughout Rhode Island," where he has served as Executive Minister of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches.

 

  • TIA's 2001 "Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award" was given to Rabbi Steven Jacobs of Temple Kol Tikvah in Woodland Hills, California. Though TIA made no mention of Rabbi Jacobs support of homosexuality, it is important to note that he was a signer of a document published by the Sexuality Information Education Council of the United States in January 2000 calling for the "full inclusion" of homosexuals in congregational life, "including their ordination and the blessing of same sex unions."

 

  • In November 1999, The Interfaith Alliance announced that it was one of 10 organizations that comprised the "Just the Facts Coalition" that produced a pro-homosexual publication entitled: "Just the Facts about Sexual Orientation and Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators and School Personnel." This publication, which was sent to 15,000 public school districts, defends the sexual legitimacy of gay, lesbian and bisexual students in public schools. The publication states in part: "Many deeply religious people and a number of religious congregations and denominations are supportive and accepting of lesbian, gay and bisexual people..."

 

On the last page of the "Just the Facts" publication (pg. 13), under the heading, "What is the 'Just the Facts Coalition' and how did this document come about?," a group called GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) is identified as the organization behind the project. GLSEN claims to be the "only national organization whose sole mission is to combat anti-gay bias in K-12 schools." GLSEN further claims that through its "Student Pride" program, it "is the only national network of student-led GSA's [Gay-Straight Alliances] in schools across the country." GLSEN also claims over 90 chapters and Gay-Straight Alliances in "over 700 schools in 46 states." (Carole Shields, as president of People for the American Way, has led the battle in the courts to defend GLSEN's gay/straight alliances in public schools. Shields is a recent past member of the Baptist Joint Committee's board of directors)

At the third annual GLSEN conference, held in Atlanta, Georgia, October 1-3, 1999, GLSEN executive director Kevin Jennings stated that his organization would be "shameless" in promoting pro-homosexual programs to all 15,000 schools in the United States. According to Peter LaBarbera, policy analyst for the Family Research Council, who attended the GLSEN meeting: "Perhaps the most startling aspect of the [conference] was the increasingly bold programs to teach elementary school students to accept homosexual relationships and 'gay families.'" The strategy sessions at the GLSEN conference were led by such organizations as the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

 

  • Six members of The Interfaith Alliance board of directors, who have served alongside Dr. Currie, signed a controversial document calling for the "full inclusion" of homosexuals in congregational life, "including their ordination and the blessing of same-sex unions." The January 2000 document was published by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS).

 

  • The executive director of The Interfaith Alliance, Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, a recent past member of the CBF Coordinating Council and recent past president of the openly pro-homosexual Alliance of Baptists, also served in the late 1990's as president of the extreme pro-homosexual Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United, is one of the signers of the above mentioned SIECUS document. Before becoming executive director of AU, Rev. Lynn served as the legislative counsel for the ACLU.

 

  • It is also worth noting that Dr. Currie, who serves as an officer on the board of The Interfaith Alliance, serves in that position with two openly lesbian religious activists. Rev. Meg Riley, who serves as co-chair of Equal Partners in Faith, is the former director of the Office of Lesbian, Bisexual and Gay Concerns for the Unitarian Universalist Association. Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord, who serves along side Dr. David Currie as a TIA officer, is also openly lesbian. Dr. Guibord was recently elected president of the California Council of Churches and serves as Chief Officer of Ecumenical and Interreligious Concerns for the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, a predominately gay denomination. Both Riley and Guibord signed the above mentioned SIECUS document.

 

  • Founded in 1994, one of The Interfaith Alliance's first pro-homosexual activities was that same year, when it became one of 68 participating organizations in the production of an extreme pro-homosexual/pro-abortion/pro-pornography political training manual titled, "How to Win: A Practical Guide for Defeating the Radical Right in Your Community." This manual makes such statements as, "You cannot successfully battle right wing forces without gay and lesbian participation," and encourages people to "go to church. The gay church." It is also important to note that the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, which receives funding from both the CBF and the Baptist General Convention of Texas, was given "special thanks" for its leadership role in the production of this far-left, pro-homosexual, political training manual. Interestingly, the BJCPA board of directors includes: Dr. David Currie; BGCT executive director Dr. Charles Wade; executive director of the BGCT's Christian Life Commission, Phil Strickland; and the first female senior pastor of a BGCT church, Julie Pennington-Russell.

 

  • Most recently, The Interfaith Alliance became a part of the Progressive Religious Partnership, an effort to organize "progressive" religious voices to compete with conservative Christians in the public arena. The Progressive Religious Partnership (PRP) is a joint effort between People for the American Way Foundation and the California-based Regas Institute. In his speech at the PRP founding conference, Rev. George Regas, of the Regas Institute, stated in regard to homosexuality:

"The Progressive Religious Partnership rejects the traditional negative position of many faith communities, and we proclaim homosexuality is part of God's creation, and it is good. Physical expressions of gay love can be holy and beautiful. These physical sexual relationships may be the most authentic manifestation of love between gay and lesbian couples. And we boldly set forth our affirmation of gay marriage as part of God's design which we will bless before the throne of Almighty God. And we do so as people committed to the Bible."

Arguing that the "blessing of same-sex unions and ordaining practicing gay and lesbian persons are acts of justice, acts of liberation," PRP states: "The most intense opposition to civil and spiritual equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people comes from religious communities and from political leaders claiming scripture as their authority on these issues. That makes progressive religious voices incredibly important to public debate..."

In his founding conference speech, Rev. Regas stated in regard to abortion:

"Many people accept the legality of abortion, but we must move beyond this and affirm its moral legitimacy. A woman can choose to terminate a pregnancy and be a holy and righteous person. It is on this moral issue that the Religious Right has dominated the debate. I admit abortion is devastatingly complex but deep in my soul I believe there is something vicious and violent about coercing a woman to carry to term an unwanted child. This God-given freedom to choose is what it means to be a human being. To force the unwanted on the unwilling, to coerce a woman to use her body against her will and choice, is a kind of legalized rape - and it is morally repugnant. This Progressive Religious Partnership must confront the Religious Right with this gross immorality."

Interestingly, Rev. Charles Adams, pastor of Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit, also served as one of the conference speakers. Rev. Adams is a member of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs' board of directors. Carole Shields, former president of People for the American Way and a recent past member of the BJCPA board, now serves as co-chair of People for the American Way Foundation, one of the two sponsoring organizations of the Progressive Religious Partnership. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, also a participating organizations in the PRP, includes on its board of trustees such CBF leaders as Brent Walker, executive director of the BJCPA, and Cynthia Holmes, former moderator of the Missouri CBF.

Amazingly, the Baptist Standard's award winning "investigative reporting" uncovered none of these things, but rather, assured Texas Baptists that "homosexuality is not a part of [The Interfaith Alliance's] agenda and never has come up as an issue." The Baptist Standard's "investigative" series also included an article dealing with a 12-page MBLA publication entitled: "The Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs: A Closer Look at the Religious Liberty Organization." The Baptist Standard article, titled: "The preacher, the Wiccan priest and the pamphlet," is a classic example of how far "moderate- controlled" Baptist state papers have been willing to go in withholding crucial information from the Southern Baptists who fund the state conventions. (Also see section XV of MBLA's 59-page defense of our 12-page BJCPA flyer.)

For pro-CBF "moderates," raising concerns about CBF leaders like Dr. David Currie and his relationship with far-left groups like The Interfaith Alliance represents an unfair form of "guilt-by- association." But for conservative, Bible-believing Southern Baptists, such relationships are symbolic of what's wrong with the CBF and why there has been such concern about the growing influence of the CBF within the various state Baptist conventions.

The issue is not that Dr. Currie and his many fellow CBF leaders support the full acceptance of homosexuality and abortion -- for who can know the heart of an individual? Rather, the concerns raised by the Missouri Baptist Laymen's Association about CBF leaders like Dr. Currie, who boldly declare themselves to be "mainstream" and "traditional" Baptists, is that they obviously are not bothered by the most rank forms of moral, social and theological liberalism. Dr. Currie's service as an officer on the board of The Interfaith Alliance for the last five years and his leadership role in the CBF are eloquent testimony to this fact.

 

Dr. David Currie and the National Mainstream Network:

Exporting His Anti-SBC Political Machine to 15 States

In early 1998, Dr. Currie and his organization, Texas Baptists Committed, began organizing pro-CBF political organizations across the SBC. Offering $25,000 interest-free startup loans to as many as 15 different states to form "Mainstream Baptists" organizations, the groups would operate as political front-organizations for the CBF, fighting against conservative, pro-SBC Southern Baptist state leaders.

Patterned after Dr. Currie's Texas Baptists Committed, these newly formed "Mainstream" groups would serve a basic two-fold purpose. First, they would work to turn the hearts of the Southern Baptists in the pews against the conservative leadership of the SBC by working to produce an anti-SBC political climate in their respective state conventions. Secondly, they would actively work to build a pro-CBF/anti-SBC coalition and then work to "transition" as many anti-SBC converts as possible into the CBF camp. This, however, has proven to be significantly difficult. Many who have bought into the anti-SBC rhetoric of the CBF/Mainstream coalition have not been so willing to embrace the CBF. This has created the need for a viable, "moderate," national alternative to the CBF to receive "moderate" money diverted away from the SBC's Cooperative Program.

Interestingly, at the Baptist General Convention of Texas' 2000 annual meeting, messengers voted to open the doors of their convention for the full participation of churches outside of Texas. Churches outside of Texas that send money to the BGCT can now serve on its boards and agencies. Thus, we should expect to see an increasing emphasis and push for anti-SBC churches outside of Texas that are not willing to be a part of CBF to join the more moderate-perceived BGCT.

In a September 2000 Baptists Today interview with Dr. Currie, he stated his prediction that the BGCT, rather than the CBF, will most likely become the moderate "alternative" to the SBC and then the "new BGCT" will "partner" with CBF and other state conventions. According to the CBF-funded national publication, he states: "I do not think CBF will become an alternative to the Southern Baptist Convention. I don't know what the moderate or traditional or mainstream Baptist movement will look like in five or ten years, but I think the best potential is [that] Texas will in essence go its own way. And out of its independence it will partner with CBF, it will partner with other state conventions and there may be some areas in missions where it will partner with the SBC."

However, as the BGCT continues to move away from its historic partnership with the SBC, it should also be expected that conservative, pro-SBC Texas Baptist churches will continue to move away from the BGCT. Likewise, as the BGCT continues to move toward increased "partnerships" with the CBF and as anti-SBC/pro-CBF churches from other states opt to "partner" with the BGCT (with voting privileges), there is no reason to believe that those who demanded unrestrained "freedom," the celebration of undefined "diversity" and accommodation of moral/theological liberalism in CBF will not demand the same of the "new BGCT." Thus, as the CBF understanding of "what it means to be a Baptist" becomes the majority view, the "new BGCT" will increasingly look like the old CBF.

Likewise, we should also expect to hear more from Dr. Herbert Reynolds, retired chancellor and president of Baylor University and the current chairman of Texas Baptists Committed. Dr. Reynolds has been the chief advocate for the conversion of the BGCT into the Baptist Convention of the Americas, a new convention/denomination of anti-SBC/pro-CBF moderates. Referring to the resources of the BGCT, Dr. Reynolds states: "Texas is the only state that has the history, the freedom, the strength of numbers, the finances and the soundness of identity, polity and theology to not only row our own boat but to also lead out in partnering with other states, associations and churches..." Dr. Reynolds also announced that he has secured articles of incorporation for the new convention and filed federal papers to preserve its trademark.

Most recently, Dr. Currie has formed the National Network of Mainstream Baptist organizations. Currie serves as administrator of the newly formed group which operates out of his Texas Baptists Committed offices. According to a May 25, 2000 report in Baptists Today, Dr. Currie and one of his board members, Houston businessman John Baugh, who "provided initial funding to start state [Mainstream] groups," have traveled to more than 12 states to help organize "Mainstream" Baptist groups.

According to Texas Baptists Committed, 11 "Mainstream" state groups are in operation with five to six more expected by the end of 2001. The state groups in operation thus far include: Mainstream Missouri Baptists; Arkansas Baptists Committed; Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists; Mainstream Alabama Baptists; Mainstream Illinois Baptists; Mainstream Louisiana Baptists; Mainstream North Carolina Baptists; Mainstream Tennessee Baptists; Virginia Baptists Committed; Georgia Baptist Heritage Council; and Texas Baptists Committed (which is studying the possibility of changing its name to Mainstream Texas Baptists).

 

"We are not CBF!" We are "Mainstream"

Speaking at a "CBF Forum" at the 2000 CBF General Assembly entitled: "How Mainstream Baptist Organizations Assist CBF in Your State," Dr. Currie revealed clearly what the growing network of Mainstream Baptist organizations is about. He stated: "If you win your state convention, you can partner with CBF." Rob Marus, coordinator of Mainstream Missouri and a speaker at the CBF Forum, explained the need for the Missouri Mainstream group to engage in political activism against pro-SBC conservative Missouri Baptists. He stated: "CBF of Missouri will have a difficult time to grow, if they have a hostile Missouri Baptist Convention."

While these "Mainstream" groups boldly declare they are not CBF - for obvious political reasons -- it is important to note that, with virtually no exceptions, a significant part of the leadership of the various state groups is made up of high-profile CBF leaders. As noted earlier, more than a dozen members of the Texas Baptists Committed executive committee have served on the national CBF Coordinating Council. Two more serve on the national CBF Foundation and six serve on the CBF of Texas Steering Committee. Texas Baptists Committed associate coordinator Charles McLaughlin served until recently as coordinator of the Texas CBF. Likewise, the board of directors of Mainstream Missouri Baptists reflects the same commitment to CBF:

  • Rob Marus, coordinator of Mainstream Missouri Baptists and a member at First Baptist Church, Jefferson City, serves on the steering committee of the CBF Young Leaders Network.

 

  • Dr. Harlan Spurgeon, a retired associate coordinator for the national CBF and a member of the Missouri CBF "Refinement Committee" which drafted the new Missouri CBF "Strategic Plan," was the Mainstream Missouri Baptists endorsed candidate for president of the Missouri Baptist Convention in 2000.

 

  • Dr. John Hughes, a recent-past member of the national CBF Coordinating Council, is pastor of First Baptist Church in Independence and a former president of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

 

  • Rev. Pete Hill, a brother to MBC executive director Jim Hill, has served on the national CBF Coordinating Council and served as pastor of Wornall Road Baptist Church in Kansas City until leaving the state in 2000.

 

  • Twila Smith, a former member of the national CBF Coordinating Council, is a member of First Baptist Church in Boliver and a former professor at Southwest Baptist University. Ms. Smith was the Mainstream Missouri Baptists endorsed candidate for Recording Secretary of the Missouri Baptist Convention in 2000.

 

  • Rev. Bob Webb, a member of the national CBF Coordinating Council, is pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Columbia.

 

  • Larry Jones, a member of the Missouri CBF Coordinating Council and a member of First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, serves as treasurer for both the Missouri CBF and Mainstream Missouri Baptists.

 

  • Brian Ford, also a member of the Missouri CBF Coordinating Council, is a member of First Baptist Church, Independence.

It is also significant to note that:

  • Dr. Doyle Sager, president of Mainstream Missouri Baptists and a former president of the Missouri Baptist Convention, served as host pastor for the 1998 Missouri CBF General Assembly.

 

  • In 1999, Dr. Sager served as a "worship leader" at the national CBF General Assembly in Birmingham, Alabama.

 

  • In early 2000, Dr. Sager and MMB coordinator Rob Marus led a "breakout session" at the Missouri CBF General Assembly.

 

  • In June 2000, Rob Marus and CBF leader Dr. David Currie led a "breakout session" at the national CBF General Assembly in Orlando, Florida titled: "How Mainstream Baptist Organizations Can Assist CBF in Your State."

Tony Woodell, president of Arkansas Baptists Committed, the Mainstream group in Arkansas, and a speaker at the 2000 CBF Forum, stated: "We have people in our group who wouldn't touch CBF with a ten foot pole." However, the chairman of Woodell's board of directors, Charlie Cole Chafin, is a member of the Arkansas CBF Coordinating Council. His board also includes the current and former moderators of the Arkansas CBF, Hal Bass and Ray Higgins, both of whom have served on the national CBF Coordinating Council. Bass also serves on the board of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs with Dr. Currie.

 

Needed: An Issue to Divide Southern Baptists

Every political movement has to have an "issue" to rally around. Unable to answer the multitude of concerns raised about the liberalism that permeates every area of CBF, CBF/Mainstream leaders desperately needed an issue that would allow them to move from a defensive to an offensive posture against the SBC. In the eyes of the CBF/Mainstream coalition, the 1998 addition of the article on "The Family" to the Baptist Faith & Message and the 2000 revised Baptist Faith & Message statement (which included the article on the family) was the issue they needed. For CBF/Mainstream leaders, if framed properly, these issues had the potential to turn the hearts of Southern Baptists against the "Fundamentalist" leadership of the SBC.

However, it is important to note that while CBF/Mainstream leaders have vehemently attacked the leaders of the SBC for the 2000 BF&M, they have never addressed the very reasons why such revisions and additions were deemed necessary by conservative Southern Baptists. While much has been written regarding the theological arguments, we will look briefly at the context that gave rise to the 2000 revised BF&M. Thus, to fully understand the underlying significance of the revised BF&M statement, it must be understood in the context of the current SBC/CBF controversy as well as the post-modern American culture in which we live.

As one prominent CBF leader once told this writer, "everything comes out of a context." Indeed he was right, and the 2000 revised BF&M came out of a context. That context was a culture increasingly hostile toward the very concept of absolute truth and a growing commitment to "religious pluralism" with its belief that Jesus Christ is just one of many legitimate paths to God. Unfortunately, this ideological/theological shift did not occur just among the unbelieving or within the "liberal" denominations, but had severely infected the left-wing of the Southern Baptist Convention -- the CBF.

 

The Article on "The Family"

The 2000 revised BF&M's article on "The Family" provided Southern Baptists the opportunity to speak clearly about the biblical principles that govern the family and human sexuality. By stating in a positive manner what the vast majority of Southern Baptists believe, this statement challenged those who, while claiming "Southern Baptist" credentials, were sending a very "uncertain sound" out into a world desperately needing to hear the truth. The BF&M article on "The Family" spoke clearly...

  • ...that marriage is between one man and one woman for a lifetime, thus negating the idea of homosexual marriage.

 

  • ...that the only legitimate expression of sexual intimacy is within the confines of marriage, thus negating the idea that homosexuality is "a gift from God" or that "bisexuality," which is promiscuous by definition, is somehow a behavior to be protected.

 

  • ...that children, from the moment of conception, are a gift from God, thus negating the idea that God is "pro-choice," or that abortion is biblically acceptable.

The need for the article on "The Family" is seen most clearly when viewed in light of CBF leaders and CBF-related organizations, who while declaring themselves to be "Southern Baptist," have boldly declared what the vast majority of Southern Baptists do not believe.

  • Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, a past member of the CBF Coordinating Council and executive director of the pro-homosexual Interfaith Alliance, is regularly identified as a "Southern Baptist minister."

 

  • Rev. Steven Baines, coordinator of the extreme pro-homosexual Equal Partners in Faith, is openly homosexual and regularly identified as a "Southern Baptist minister." In April 2001, Baines joined the staff of People for the American Way as its "senior organizer for religious affairs."

 

  • Carole Shields, recent past president of People for the American Way, a leading advocate for partial-birth abortion and homosexual marriage, is regularly identified as a "Southern Baptist" and the daughter of a prominent, former SBC leader (Grady Cothen, former president of the Baptist Sunday School Board and a founder of CBF). Shields currently serves as co-chair of People for the American Way Foundation with TV producer Norman Lear.

 

  • Dr. Paul Simmons, former professor of Christian Ethics at Southern Seminary and former chairman of the theological education committee for the Kentucky CBF, is a leading pro-abortion spokesman for such groups as Planned Parenthood and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Dr. Simmons, who most recently signed a public statement calling for gay marriage and the ordination of homosexuals, is regularly identified as a "Southern Baptist."

 

 

  • Americans United for Separation of Church and State, with former ACLU legislative counsel Rev. Barry Lynn serving as the group's executive director and numerous CBF leaders serving on its 14 member board of trustees and its larger 125 member governing board, has become one of America's leading pro-homosexual advocacy groups.

 

While the SBC's article on the family clearly represented a direct assault against the pro-abortion/pro-homosexual activism of a significant portion of CBF leadership and CBF-related organizations, the universal public outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders came over the section of the family article calling for wives to "submit" to their husbands. Though it states, "A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church," the universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders came over the statement: "A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ." This brief BF&M excerpt was based on Ephesians 5:22-23 which states: "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body," and Colossians 3:18 which states: "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord."

At the heart of this controversy is CBF's commitment to women serving as senior pastors. The very concept that wives should "submit" to their husbands or that "the husband is the head of the wife," is seen by CBF leaders as a direct assault against women in ministry, most specifically, women serving as senior pastors. Interestingly, Dr. David Currie, who heads the National Network of Mainstream Baptist organizations, stated in a September 2000 interview in Baptists Today: "I personally believe God does call women into the ministry and I'm thrilled when a local church calls a woman to be their pastor."

One of CBF's "partnering" organizations is Baptist Women in Ministry, a group which advocates women serving as senior pastors. Former CBF Coordinating Council member Dr. Charles Wade, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and an outspoken opponent of the conservative leadership of the SBC and the 2000 revised BP&M, argued in a recent audio taped message that the issue of women serving as senior pastors is an issue of "local church autonomy." In the audio tape, that was sent out by Dr. Currie to 75,000 Southern Baptists along with a letter from former president Jimmy Carter announcing that he was leaving the SBC, Dr. Wade states:

"We don't have enough women who want to preach as far as I'm concerned. God will call all that He wants to... We don't need to build fences around any office in the church and say this is off base to women or to men. Let the Spirit of God call whom He will. He always gives evidence of His calling... But that's what it means to be a Baptist, is that nobody can tell a local church who they can ordain or who they can't."

Interestingly, with all the emphasis CBF leaders have placed on women serving as pastors, Baptist Press reported that "preliminary results of a study conducted by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary" showed that "less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the 41,099 SBC churches are pastored by women." The article also noted that "only eight states have women pastoring Southern Baptist churches -- most of them in North Carolina and Virginia where about a dozen serve in each state." It further notes that "other states with women in pastorates include: Georgia (4), Texas (2), Maryland (2), Kentucky (1), Hawaii (1), and South Carolina (1). In total, the overall number would be 35 or less." 

Dr. Wade and Dr. Currie serve together on the board of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs with Julie Pennington-Russell, the first female pastor of a Texas Baptist church. Like Wade and Currie, Pennington-Russell has served on the national CBF Coordinating Council.

 

Re-Creating Jesus In Order to Re-Interpret Scripture

The other area where CBF/Mainstream leaders cried out in unison against the conservative leadership of the SBC was over changes in Article One of the revised BF&M entitled, "The Scriptures." This is the area that goes to the heart of the controversy that has raged within the SBC. Dr. Morris Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee summed up the root of the SBC controversy in an October 20, 2000 Baptist Press article: "The core difference between these two groups [conservative SBC leaders and CBF/Mainstream leaders] is their beliefs about the authority of God's Word... The moderates believe the Bible contains God's Holy Word. Southern Baptist conservatives believe the Bible is God's Holy Word."

In the 2000 revised BF&M statement, three changes were made in the article on "The Scriptures." The section which referred to the Bible as "the record of God's revelation of Himself to man," was changed to state that the Bible "is God's revelation of Himself to man." The second change was an addition inserted directly after the section stating that the Bible has "truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter." The addition states: "Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy." This eliminated the "wiggle room" for those who argue that not all Scripture is true, that the Bible contains errors and contradictions and that the Bible is not historically and scientifically accurate. The third change, which was the primary focus of the CBF/Mainstream coalition, states: "All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation." This replaced the statement: "The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ."

It was at this point that CBF/Mainstream leaders launched their most vicious attack against the SBC. The removal of this particular sentence produced a universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders, who were soon declaring that Southern Baptists had "rejected Jesus" -- that Southern Baptists "exalted the Bible above Jesus" and that Southern Baptists "worship the Bible."

However, such statements must be understood in light of the theological battle that raged at the national SBC level and is now raging at the state convention level. The universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders over the removal of the BF&M statement identifying Jesus Christ as the "criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted," must be seen in contrast to their virtual silence regarding the liberalism that permeates every area of CBF.

 

Where was the Universal Outcry from

CBF/Mainstream Leaders?

While CBF/Mainstream leaders were quick to condemn conservative Southern Baptists for approving the 2000 revised Baptist Faith & Message, where was the universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders when...

  • ...former CBF Coordinating Council member, Dr. Kirby Godsey, president of Mercer University, argued in his 1996 book that "Jesus is not God," that "Jesus did not have to die," discounted the virgin birth as "unimportant," and declared that "universal redemption... finds strong support in Holy Scripture." Interestingly, CBF is housed at Mercer University and Dr. Godsey's book was published by Smyth and Helwys, the CBF-funded publishing house.

Where was the universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders when...

  • ...former CBF Coordinating Council member Ron Sisk, pastor of Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, publicly denied the exclusivity of Christ -- the idea that there is salvation only in Christ. Sisk stated: "I certainly don't believe that any one tradition has an exclusive corner on God. I would never limit God's salvation to those who share my own perspective or my own understanding. I would respect the traditions of others, both Christian and non-Christian, for the truth which they reveal. I would say Christ's spirit operates in places where Christ is not named or known." Interestingly, Sisk's rejection of the exclusivity of Christ occurred at a 1999 Baptist/Jewish relations forum sponsored by the Kentuckiana Interfaith Community, whose executive director, Reba Cobb, is an ordained minister and member of Sisk's church. Cobb, also a former CBF Coordinating Council member, was recently elected as CBF's chief operating officer, the group's No. 2 staff position.

Where was the universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders when...

  • ...former CBF Coordinating Council member Dr. Molly Marshall, a leading feminist theologian and former professor at Southern Seminary, openly identified herself as an "inclusivist" in her doctoral dissertation. In her book, No Salvation Outside the Church? A Critical Inquiry, based on her dissertation, Marshall articulates her viewpoint that there are other ways to salvation than belief in Jesus Christ. She also argues that those who never hear the gospel will be given another opportunity to respond to God after death. Dr. Marshall is currently a professor at Central Seminary, one of CBF's 11 "partnering" schools of theology.

Where was the universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders when...

  • ...Dr. Alan Neely, who has served on CBF's "World Missions Ministry Group" and as a CBF "breakout" leader, rejected the idea that faith in Christ is necessary for salvation, stating that such a view is "not my theology" because such a view "reflects arrogance, ignorance, and superficiality." A former professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and the first executive director of the Alliance of Baptists -- which claims to have "provided much of the leadership" of the CBF -- Dr. Neely stated clearly the theological condition of SBC seminaries prior to the 1980's when conservative Southern Baptists began to influence the course of the convention. In a March 5, 1990 article in Christianity in Crisis, Dr. Neely identified 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," and then goes on to say: "Until the 1980's, 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." Interestingly, Dr. Daniel Vestal, coordinator of CBF, wrote the foreword to Dr. Neely's most recent book, A New Call to Mission. (Dr. Neely also serves as president of the Wake County chapter of The Interfaith Alliance in North Carolina.)

Where was the universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders when...

  • ...former CBF Coordinating Council member Dr. Paul Duke used "Jesus" as "the criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted" when he concluded that: "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." Dr. Duke then goes on to state: "Having taken the time to study the [biblical] text, I must tell you - I cannot with confidence say that the Bible condemns all forms of homosexual behavior." Dr. Duke served as a professor of preaching and worship at Mercer University's McAfee School of theology, a CBF "partnering" school, until he abruptly resigned in early 2000.

Where was the universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders when...

  • ...a small group of prominent CBF leaders met with a group of "secular humanists" in 1995 at the University of Richmond, a Virginia Baptist school, and signed a "declaration" stating that "biblical scholarship" was an area of "common ground" between the two groups. Or when in early 2000, the Baptists and the secular humanists published a book entitled: "Freedom of Conscience: A Baptist/Humanist Dialogue." The book, which resulted from the 1995 meeting at the University of Richmond, was edited by former Southern Seminary professor Dr. Paul Simmons, who states in the introduction: "I have not come to bury humanism but to praise it." Interestingly, Dr. Simmon's introduction is titled, "Thank God for Humanism."

Among the secular humanist signers of the 1995 declaration and contributors to the book is Dr. Paul Kurtz, former editor of the Humanist magazine, signer of Humanist Manifesto II, and long-time leader of the Council on Secular Humanism. In an interview with Fred Edwords, executive director of the American Humanist Association (AHA), the largest organized group of atheists in the United States and publisher of the Humanist magazine, about humanist interest in biblical scholarship, Mr. Edwords stated: "Among both religious and secular humanists you will find many deeply interested in modern biblical scholarship. Modern biblical scholarship, which is taught in most seminaries across the country, has started many seminary students on the path toward humanism." Other CBF leaders signing the declaration or contributing to the book includes: Dr. Molly Marshall, a former professor at Southern Seminary, who is now a professor at the CBF-funded Central Seminary; E. Glenn Hinson, formerly a professor at Southern Seminary, has also served as a professor at the CBF-funded Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond and Wake Forest University; Dan O. Via, who has taught at the Divinity School of Duke University and Wake Forest University, both CBF "partnering" schools.

Where was the universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders when...

  • ...Jann Aldredge-Clanton, a leading feminist theologian and author of In Search of the Christ-Sophia, stated in her book: "...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." She further states: "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." Interestingly, Jann Aldredge-Clanton, who has led "breakout sessions" at two CBF General Assemblies, was the featured speaker at the 2001 annual convocation of the Alliance of Baptists.

Where was the universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders when...

  • ...the CBF-funded Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America issued its 1995 statement calling for the ordination of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons, arguing also that such persons should not be disqualified for denominational leadership positions by virtue of their sexuality. Interestingly, Ken Sehested, executive director of the BPFNA is once again a scheduled "breakout" leader at the 2001 CBF General Assembly. (Sehested's wife, Nancy Hastings Sehested, is a past president of the Alliance of Baptists and was a signer of the SIECUS document calling for homosexual marriages and the ordination of homosexual persons.)

Where was the universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders when...

  • ...the CBF-funded Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and the Alliance of Baptists, which claims to have "provided much of the leadership" of the CBF, jointly published a pro-homosexual "resource for congregations in dialogue on sexual orientation," entitled: "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth." The church resource makes such statements as: "...the inevitable conclusion is that all sexual orientations are a gift from God. Homosexuality, the natural ability to fall in love with a person of the same sex is a gift from God. God blesses same-sex relationships in the same way that God blesses different-sex relationships." Interestingly, Dr. Vestal stated in a November 15, 2000 CBF publication entitled, "Rationale for Homosexuality Statement," that after he had "worked through the congregational resource," that he found it to be "a helpful resource," but had to "respectfully disagree" with its hard-line pro-homosexual position.

Where was the universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders when...

  • ...four CBF "partnering" schools of theology admitted to having open admission policies for homosexual students and when the president of a fifth "partnering" school, Central Seminary, endorsed the Baptist Peace Fellowship/Alliance of Baptists pro-homosexual church resource. Interestingly, former CBF moderator Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler also endorsed the pro-homosexual church resource.

Where was the universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders when...

Where was the universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders when...

  • ...CBF published its own "church resource" in 1994 entitled: "HIV/AIDS Ministry: Putting a Face on AIDS." Arguing that because "sexuality is a gift from God," it is the role of the church to "educate our children and young people about sexuality, sexual identity, and sexual orientation." The CBF publication further states: "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." The CBF publication also redefines the family to include "gay families and lesbian families" by virtue of their "enduring covenants."

Where was the universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders when...

  • ...CBF leader Dr. Paul Simmons, a former professor of Christian ethics at Southern Seminary, argued in his book, Birth and Death: Bioethical Decision-Making, that "God is truly pro-choice" and that "Abortion may at times be understood as the command [of God] to control population growth." Interestingly, Dr. Simmons, who serves on the 14 member board of trustees of the pro-homosexual Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU), signed the SIECUS document in early 2000 (along with AU executive director Barry Lynn) calling for the support of homosexual marriage and the ordination of homosexual persons.

Where was the universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders when...

  • ...former president Jimmy Carter served as an honorary co-chair of a 1992 fund-raising dinner for the nation's largest homosexual advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign. One year later, president Carter served as keynote speaker at the 1993 CBF General Assembly, announcing that he had "found a home" in CBF. Or what about president Carter's October 2000 announcement that, though he believes homosexuality is a sin, he sees nothing wrong with a "Christian" homosexual being ordained. This revelation came on the heels of his announcement that he could no longer support the SBC and was personally leaving the convention. According to an ABP article, president Carter cited as his primary concern in deciding to leave the SBC, "the elimination of language that identifies Jesus Christ as 'the criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted.'" However, in applying "Jesus" as his criterion for interpreting the Bible, president Carter justifies his pro-homosexual views by stating: "Jesus never singled out homosexuals to be condemned. When the Southern Baptist Convention started singling out homosexuals as a special form or degree of sinfulness, I didn't agree with it."

 

  • Interestingly, president Carter, in a meeting he initiated with Dr. David Currie, and Becky Matheny, director of the "Mainstream Baptist" organization in Georgia (called the Georgia Baptist Heritage Council), agreed to write a letter to Southern Baptists announcing that he could "no longer be associated" with the SBC and endorsed an audio tape of Dr. Charles Wade, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, attacking the conservative leadership of the SBC and the 2000 revised BF&M statement. The letter and the audio tape were mailed by Dr. Currie's Texas Baptists Committed to 75,000 Southern Baptists across the nation and was funded in part by president Carter, who will be the keynote speaker at the 2001 CBF General Assembly.

 

  • It is also most interesting to note that in 1998, the Baptist General Convention of Texas "kicked out" University Baptist Church in Austin for ordaining a homosexual as a deacon. Yet, president Carter stated that the ordination of homosexuals is a decision to be made by individual churches. Regarding his own church, Carter stated: "If we did have a homosexual in our church [Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia] who wanted to be ordained, it would be decided not on sexual preference." Ironically, it sounds as though president Carter would be quite comfortable at University Baptist Church, which, like Carter's church in Georgia, is a CBF church. However, when president Carter's convictions about the ordination of homosexual persons was applied at University Baptist Church, it was "kicked out" of the very convention whose leaders are now exalting this former U.S. president as "Southern Baptists' most famous layman."

Where was the universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders about the liberalism espoused by their fellow CBF leaders? Where was the universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders against those who had stripped Jesus of His divinity and His exclusivity in matters of salvation? Where was the universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders against those who had re-created Jesus as pro-choice and as the creator of homosexuality? Where was the universal outcry from CBF/Mainstream leaders against those who had applied a fabricated "Jesus" as the "criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted?"

It was in this context that messengers at the 2000 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention voted to approve the revised BF&M statement, saying in essence: "We can no longer silently stand by while those who call themselves 'Southern Baptists,' re-create a 'Christ' in an image they are personally more comfortable with." As conservative, Bible-believing Southern Baptists, the SBC messengers said in essence: We cannot -- we will not -- silently stand by...

  • ...while the pro-homosexual faction of the CBF re-creates a "Christ" that has no problem with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered sexuality.

 

  • ...while the pro-abortion faction of the CBF re-creates a "Christ" supportive of a woman's "right" to abort her unborn child.

 

  • ...while the feminist faction of the CBF calls on people to worship the "Christ-Sophia," and re-creates God as "Mother."

 

  • ...or while the inclusivist/universalist faction of the CBF re-create a "Christ" committed to the salvation of the unrepentant and the unbelieving.

The conservative leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention understood clearly that where there is a low view of Scripture, there is also a low view of the Christ of Scripture. The conservative leadership of the SBC understood clearly that when Jesus Christ is divorced from Scripture and then used as "the criterion by which the Bible was to be interpreted," there is no limit to the theological/spiritual perversions that can arise. Likewise, conservative SBC leaders understood clearly that the only Christ we can know that can save us from our sins, is the Christ of Scripture -- the same Christ that calls all men everywhere to repent of their sin.

Thus, the conservative leadership of the SBC spoke clearly, concisely and with a prophetic voice in warning Southern Baptists to beware of those who profess a "Christ" who bears little resemblance to the Christ of Scripture and who exalt personal experience and personal opinion above Scripture. And the conservative leadership of the SBC spoke clearly, concisely and with a prophetic voice when they sounded the alarm against those who had re-interpreted Scripture in order to re-created a "Christ" more to their personal liking, and then applied this "fabricated" Christ as "the criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted." Indeed, Dr. David Currie said it well in a recent article in his newsletter: "Division in Southern Baptist life is the result, most of all, of our belief in a different Jesus! Mainstream Baptists and many fundamentalist [pro-SBC] Baptists have a different, unreconcilable visions of the Gospel."(Jan/Feb 2001 Texas Baptist Committed Newsletter)

 

Conclusion: What About Evangelism?

Since 1979, conservative Southern Baptists have argued that the controversy in the SBC was theological in nature. Now, after 22 years of "controversy," the significance of the underlying differences between the SBC and the CBF have become evident for all to see. The rapidly approaching tenth anniversary of the CBF has provided ample testimony as to what the SBC would likely have resembled had the "conservative resurgence" never occurred. Most importantly, ten years of CBF has proven beyond any doubt that theological liberalism does not operate in a vacuum or in a void but that it manifests itself in specific ways. Thus, the CBF, which in essence is the old "moderate" leadership of the SBC, is full of the manifestations of theological liberalism. While this publication has presented numerous "manifestations" of theological liberalism within CBF, there is another that goes to the heart of the SBC controversy that has not yet been discussed.

CBF talks a lot about "missions and ministry." Yet, the question needs to be asked: "What exactly does 'missions and ministry' mean in the context of the liberalism that permeates every area of CBF?" More specifically, with CBF's low view of the seriousness of sin, its lack of emphasis on repentance of sin, and its self-declared deficiency in evangelistic zeal, what does "missions and ministry" mean?

Theological liberalism, by its very nature, nurtures doubt rather than faith and skepticism rather than confidence regarding God's Holy Word. Equally significant, theological liberalism does not produce a commitment to evangelism and personal soul winning, but rather, produces a commitment to "religious pluralism," where all "sincerely held" religious beliefs are exalted to equal standing with biblical Christianity for the "truth" which they reveal.

Theological liberalism is the life-blood of the religious left's "social gospel" -- a "gospel" which shifts the emphasis from the eternal to the temporal; from the spiritual to the physical; from the sins of the individual to the corporate sins of society; from repentance of sin to submission to "political correctness"; from the salvation of the individual to the transformation of society; from dependency upon God as the Great Provider of our needs and solver of our problems - to dependency upon government. The social gospel provides a drink of cold water, but withholds the Living Water. The social gospel provides a piece of bread, but withholds the Bread of Life. As Walter Raushenbush, the father of the social gospel, so eloquently noted, the social gospel is the "moral power in the propaganda of socialism." (Raushenbush is the oft quoted Baptist hero of the CBF from the early 1900's.)

Thus, to the degree that CBF/Mainstream leaders, churches and individuals have embraced theological liberalism, their commitment to evangelism has diminished. CBF coordinator Dr. Daniel Vestal emphasized this problem in the life of CBF at the centennial celebration of Central Seminary, a CBF partnering school, in August 2000. When asked about "a concern, problem or weakness unique to ABC [American Baptist Churches] and CBF," Dr. Vestal stated: "To be honest, as I look at ABC, I guess I don't see ABC churches and folks being really aggressively evangelistic. They don't win a lot of people to Jesus. However, having said that, I don't see most moderate Southern Baptist churches being aggressively evangelistic... We're not really passionate about the gospel changing people's lives. We're...more oriented to political correctness and relevancy."

This is what the battle in the SBC was ultimately about. And now, the battle that once raged on the national SBC level has come home to the state conventions, the associations and to individual churches. And just as there were competing visions for the future of the SBC, there are two very different and competing visions for the future of the Southern Baptist state conventions and for the 41,000 churches that make up the SBC. One vision says: The Southern Baptist Convention, with its commitments to missions, evangelism, moral purity and theological integrity, best reflects who we are, what we believe and where we want to go as a convention and as a church. The other says: The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (and increasingly, the "new BGCT"), with its commitment to unrestrained "freedom," undefined "diversity" and unlimited theological tolerance, best reflects who we are, what we believe and where we want to take our churches and our state convention.

Let us forever beware of those whose approach to Scripture blurs the distinctions between the ways of the world and the ways of the Lord, and whose approach to evangelism is to "widen the gate" and "broaden the way" so that the way of destruction seems good.

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