I am a simple person. That would make me a simple Baptist would it not. It may be that in this day it is my simplicity that could cause my downfall in relation to present day Southern Baptist life as opposed to what I've experienced in my history with the SBC.
I've always prided myself, in a non-sinful way I hope, in being a non-creedal Southern Baptist. I've viewed the difference between a creed and a confession, which we have utilized for years in the SBC as, simply put, in a creed you have declared what you must believe to be a part of a particular group and in a confession you have declared what you hold to without coercion of any kind. I would have to say that I, as I read one say it, have no creed but Christ and no document of ultimate authority but the Bible. [This is why the sacredness of the text is so important to me.]
I know this will cause some to believe I do not believe anything for sure but, as a Baptist, I have believed the Bible as I have interpreted it under what I believed to be the leadership of the Holy Spirit and have attempted to guard the freedom of EVERY person to interpret scripture, to hear God's voice for themselves, and to obey what he/she hears.
I am now wondering if the words I've just written apply to all Southern Baptists except those under employment to the Convention. If this exception is true, and it is, I find myself wondering when the preceeding words will no longer apply to anyone who calls himself/herself Southern Baptist.
I hear the reasoning going like this. Since employees/missionaries are paid by Southern Baptists our BF@M is a minimal standard for them and they should be required to sign it. OK and I suppose it would have stopped there with no one thinking much about it were it not for the fact that now you have the odd case of the BOT of the IMB going BEYOND the BF@M in a REQUIRED fashion with the baptism and private prayer language thing. ["UUUUMM not so fast my friend, I have an objection to that I'd like to talk about," one said.] It has come out that NAMB did this a while back but it was under the radar so to speak. Thus the following eighteen months of debate.
What we now have is the situation where the President of the IMB would be personally disqualified from being appointed by the very organization he leads. But he can continue to lead since the requirement is not retroactive. Which I guess shows that it is NOT principle upon which it is based, because principle is true for the past, present and future even if we just discover it, but this is based on preference by those who have the authority to decide such matters.
Then the question is asked, if missionaries are required to sign it as a minimal standard why shouldn't Trustees? OK. Then, the argument goes using the same logic, since Southern Baptist money is used to pay these employees/missionaries/trustees [money IS used for expenses for trustees though not salary] shouldn't those who are required to sign it be required to do so without caveats at all? Remember, [according to their logic] if you have caveats you are lying if you say you affirm the BF@M, ie, it must be ALL or NOTHING. [Though "no caveats" has never been the standard until this debate.]
I recall being overseas to Chile, Brazil, and Indonesia for the IMB in the seventies, eighties, and nineties [some after the BF@M signing became a big deal] and I talked with many missionaries who signed, some with caveats, [it was not considered lying in those days remember] many with concerns that what I'm writing about now would, in fact, be a result. [I'm NOW wondering if the same logic will ultimately lead to everyone's identity as Southern Baptist being somehow tied to signing, without caveat, the BF@M, thus completing the shift from confession to creed.]
If this shift is the reason so many are calling for a tiered approach to a confession I can see the significance of the struggle.
But I'm wondering if we are not perhaps struggling more with Southern Baptist identity than we are with Baptist identity. Our Baptist identity has always been the fundamentals of the faith. You can name them. So can I. But our Southern Baptist identity has been shaped by our cooperative efforts at evangelism and missions. It IS our unique cooperative approach to missions that has defined us as a Convention. We are Baptist because of the fundamentals of the faith. We are Southern Baptist because we cooperate with people who DO NOT interpret the scriptures exactly as I do. It is this Southern Baptist identity that is at risk today.
It seems, I say again, seems, we are shifting to a creedal approach to identifying who Southern Baptists are. My simplicity is causing a great deal of struggle in me as to where I will stand if that shift from a cooperative effort to a theological creed is acomplished. As I said, I AM a simple Baptist.
I really like what a life-long friend recently said of himself. "I'm neither a creedal Baptist, nor a conventional Baptist, but I AM a convictional Baptist." May this be so of me and all of my Southern Baptist brothers and sisters as we cooperate with one another out of personal conviction NOT coercion.
I've just reread what I've written about the ongoing debate and I've gotten dizzy headed trying to figure it out. I did confess at the beginning that I'm a simple person. That makes me a simple Baptist and the bottomline is that this simple blogger is struggling with where we are going as Southern Baptists.