Some good questions and comments have been written about essentials/non-essentials, one of which took to task my previous post for leaving out a strategic point needed in the opinion of the author of the comment posted on Wade's blog. That point being that essentials/non-essentials should refer to all strata of associations, fellowships, etc. I wish to respond to that idea plus a few other things.
First let me say, I appreciate the good spirit with which the comments were made. [With that one caveat I put in comment form on Wade's blog.] The young man is very articulate and obviously intellegent. That said, however, I wish to address some thoughts to the concepts involved. I do this because it is fun and it causes me to think, both of which, I believe, are good motives for doing so.
Now my thoughts...I think it might be wise to use essentials/non-essentials in a theological arena alone for the sake of clarity. Essentials being those things related to salvation which include obvious truths. Non-essentials being all those other no less important biblical truths just not related to salvation.
For other levels of relationships it might be best to use something like "mutual agreements." [This would be policies for an entity governed by trustees.] An example...The staff in my previous post checked to see if the church covenant [mutual agreement of the whole Body] had included any standard of the use of alcoholic beverages. If it had, that mutual agreement would be honored by the staff no matter the free and open discussions as to the scriptural validity of the covenant position.
That's why we wrote our church covenant using guidelines for our relationships based on clear biblical principles rather than personal preference or personal conviction issues. But to use essentials/non-essentials for that church covenant seems a bit over the top to me. This illustrates why I believe it is best to leave those words to the broad theological realm.
The above can be applied, in my judgement, to all associations/fellowships, etc. The Baptist Faith and Message is a theological agreement hence mutual agreement would be appropriate.
We can still be cooperating SB churches because of the cooperative program if a church doesn't agree with every point. Mine doesn't. But that's okay because we rethink it sometimes. That's good too. Our SBC entities have then a mutually agreed theological foundation to work from.
However, when an SBC entity requires an employee to sign and abide by the BF@M as a minimum theological agreement, which it can and has done,[Some disagree with having to sign but the prevailing view is that if a salary is paid by the convention then theological accountability is appropriate.] then to enlarge that by adding private prayer language or baptism by a group that holds to eternal security, would be the same as the staff in an earlier illustration doing their own thing regardless of the church covenant. They don't have the authority to do that. Neither does an SBC entity in my judgement.
There must be, it seems to me, proper consideration by the whole group involved in the original mutual agreement which is the entire convention. This is what Jerry Sutton was evidently saying when he suggested recently we might need to rethink the BF@M in regards to those points of theology. Who knows where we would fall as a convention but let her speak.
If the IMB BOT was doing what it did out of fear of charismatic teachings Baptist missionaries might be doing on the field, simply say so. Though I personally believe that is properly addressed with the policies in place and by the leadership of the IMB doing their job, which they are. But to add those two elements on a theological basis is a bit of a problem with many Baptists, including me, precisely because our mutually agreed theological position [the BF@M] would need to reflect that. Remember we are NOT addressing policies of weight, age, etc., but a signed theological agreement. To change THAT without full and open debate of all concerned is over the line in my opinion.
If there are already theological requirements in place that exceed the BF@M we may need to rethink those while we're at it. The policy part of the requirements that are not theological in nature needed for appointment fall under the trustees sole responsibility.
I'm wondering if the whole problem in the West Africa conflict may have been leadership imposing [with good intentions I'm sure] a new theological standard not addressed by the BF@M, and the missionaries involved believed they were abiding by agreed policy previously signed. You would then have leadership saying "you're not submitting" and Missionaries saying "yes we are submitting to our mutually agreed theological position originally signed". My opinion only, but this illustrates why we must not narrow Or enlarge our mutually agreed parameters namely the BF@M, since there is a required signing, without full and open discussion and convention approval. I would have to submissively say no to leadership were I the one involve in that conflict.
Now another point in question. I think principled dissent is far removed from talking about personalities/clothing styles/etc. Those things are a matter of personal preference only. I'm talking about theological mutual agreements being changed with no free discussion involved. That demands, it seems to me, dissent and discussion. For the most part, the bloggers I have read have tried to keep the discussion on the issues, with rare exceptions. This was always healthy in churches I pastored and in the denomination I've been a part of for 50 years.
NOTICE--This post was basically written prior to the convention in Greensboro and saved as a draft until now. So I realize context may be lost for some. But I posted it anyway.
I am now going to return to my original purpose for this blog namely practical issues of pastoring and ministry with the next post.