Monday, June 19, 2006


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.

Paul Burleson


Bob Cleveland said...


Talk about a quick learn!

Reminds me that my dad always said that those who are too old to learn were probably always too old to learn.

Not you, obviously.

Paul Burleson said...

Bob, I'm pretty good at following clear instructions and that's what you gave. In the words of Kevin Bussey "you the man." [Is this fun or what!!] :)

Paul B.

Bob Cleveland said...


Not to get serious or anything, but I'm having the time of my life. Folks at church ask why Peg and I don't take part in the "senior programs" and I tell them I'm having too much fun hanging around the young'uns. My SS class keeps my mindset fresh and energetic ... we've had a half dozen babies among class members this year and it's like having more kids ourselves (without the 2am feedings).

One other thing ... I was raised in Calumet City, Illinois. The term would be "you da' man".

But then so are you.

God bless.

Paul Burleson said...

For those who don't know, Bob Cleveland gave me much needed information on how to present a delayed post which was giving me fits to figure out. But we did it.

Paul B.

TheMDude said...

Paul. What you wrote about the extra-BF&M PPL and Baptism issues are still of concern to many - I hope. Seems to me that this is what sparked what happened at the convention. Honestly, I hope that we can see the IMB BOT back down on these policies as has Regional Leader Rodney Hammer as well as Jerry Rankin, the PPL and charismatic leanings are not an issue on the field and both have repeatedly asked the BOT for specific instances and the BOT has not replied. Anyway, keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Brother Paul,
I am asking for a little advice. I am a young pastor in the SBC and have served both as a Journeyman and as a Mission Service Corps Volunteer. I have been in the SBC all my life, but sometimes I don't feel as though I am wanted. I do practice the gift of tongues privately which will keep me from any missionary service through our boards. I also do not feel comfortable with all the changes that were made in the BFM. For one, I think there is enough legitimate debate over women pastors to allow disagreement within our convention. In my mind it is a local church issue. I am also bothered when people emphasize inerrancy and yet do not yield their lives to scriptural authority. No one believes our current manuscripts are innerant anyway. It's like a cheerleading slogan that gets the crowd on one's side and allows them to treat others in ungodly ways. I see perhaps a little moderation happening in our convention, but I fear this new group of leaders would brand me a heretic just as quickly as the old ones would. Is there room for me in the SBC?
I am not brave enough to post my name.
Just call me Pete