Questions Surrounding the Executive Committee: Part 1

23chapmanRecent decisions made by the leadership of the Executive Committee (EC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) are causing many to ask what is going on with the EC and if this is the moment to call for the accountability of its leadership. These events include: 1) The EC “Report” at the 2009 SBC, 2) “Stories” in Baptist Press (BP), 3) the forced resignation of Clark Logan, 4) the EC’s opposition to the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR), and 5) the preservation of the status quo.

1. The EC “Report”

Dr. Chapman, the President of the EC, gave his annual report at the Convention on June 23rd in Louisville. You can read it online in its entirety. The report seemed to be more like a rant (that attacked almost every theological position) than an actual report of the EC’s doings. Dr. Chapman’s main point was that we do not need to concern ourselves with doctrine as much as we concern ourselves with mission, even as he appeared to concern himself with attacking (and mischaracterizing) doctrine.

Dr. Chapman stated that while controversy over Baptist identity raged among theologians in the states, Lottie Moon was boarding a boat to China in order to reach people. He continued, “The church did not—upon receiving the Spirit of God (at Pentecost)—write a theology text…or engage in idle arguments about the extent of the atonement or the nature of election.” This is simply NOT TRUE. The apostles wrote the Bible upon receiving the Spirit. Paul was on mission planting churches and writing the authoritative, inerrant words of the Bible at the same time. That is why Dr. Akin consistently says “Great theologians will be great missionaries like Paul, and great missionaries will of necessity be great theologians.” To divorce mission and theology leads to compromise and ultimately to syncretism. We cannot divorce mission and theology (see the article by Stetzer). The SBC historically has NOT separated them. We just celebrated the 150th year of SBTS, an institution with a confession of faith (The Abstract of Principles) that theologically trains ministers to advance the Gospel. The purpose of the SBC from its inception has been “the propagation of the Gospel,” but at the same time that we adopted a mechanism for more efficient cooperation in mission (the CP) we also adopted a confession of faith (the BFM). This call to “major on mission and minor on theology” sounds familiar. It was the rallying cry of the moderates during the Conservative Resurgence. This rallying point is what destroyed our seminaries and many of our churches that are even now devoid of biblical teaching in the pulpit and full of biblical illiteracy in the pew. This rally cry threatened to destroy our mission as well! Before we can share the Gospel we must know what the Gospel is.

When Dr. Chapman did delve into theology in his address, specifically on the issue of Calvinism, he mischaracterized the position. He said that there is in the Convention “a resurgence in the belief that divine sovereignty alone is at work in salvation without a faith response on the part of man.” Yet, Calvinism does NOT teach that men can be saved apart from repentance and faith. A tweet during the address from @drmoore says that he “has never met a single human being, let alone a Southern Baptist, who believes ‘sovereignty alone’ saves apart from faith.” This errant theological statement led Dr. Akin at the b21 panel later that morning to apologize to Calvinists, calling it a “horrible misrepresentation of your position.”

2. The BP “Stories”

BP seems to be in danger, at times, of becoming an opinionated blog rather than a news reporting service. There have been recent articles that either one seem to misunderstand the current trends of ministry or two do not do thorough research in reporting a “story.” BP, under the leadership of the EC, seems to have a political agenda. Here are a couple of quick examples.

First, BP is asserting that “everything is fine in the SBC.” It seems like the reason we should feel this way according to BP articles is that we are reaching as many southern Whites as we always have. Will Hall, in a recent series, took up the issue of decline in membership, baptisms, younger leaders, etc. in the SBC. He says the decline is not about outdated methodologies or a generation gap but rather “demographic changes in our country.” Our numbers are declining because of a declining birthrate among Whites and the suburbanization of America (80% living in major urban centers). He believes all that is needed is a slight “shift” in strategy. We need to plant churches in urban centers (though many Southern Baptist leaders have called for this for several years now, and this seems to be part of the call of the GCR). So, Hall concludes that we are “not necessarily” a denomination in decline. He even implies that we are growing and “thriving.” In this article he says, “if we are to continue to grow,” and in a recent interview with Christianity Today he says we are thriving. The fact that we are in decline is a matter of math, not opinion (see research).

Hall is calling for a minor course correction not wholesale changes. The remedy is not updating outdated methodologies but rather that “we abandoned some enduring principles of proven methodologies about how to plant and grow churches and reach the lost.” What are these proven strategies? Sunday School and Training Union! He says that Training Union “was an effective method of intentionally teaching our beliefs while also developing loyalty to Southern Baptist causes.” So, in order to address the supposed decline in the SBC we need to plant churches in urban centers that do Training Union? This seems a little naïve.

Second, BP has launched an all out assault on Mark Driscoll. The latest article deals with how Bott radio interrupted a show on its airwaves in which Driscoll was a guest. The interview was on the “Family Life” program hosted by Dennis Rainey, a very reputable program. The article implies that Driscoll said something in order to make the radio station interrupt the broadcast. However, nothing in the interview itself caused the cancellation. Rather the cancellation had to do with previous things the station had “heard” about Driscoll. Bott interrupted the show mainly because of Driscoll’s comments when preaching on the Song of Solomon in Scotland (Nov. 18, 2007). What was absolutely irresponsible on the part of Bott and BP is they do not show due diligence in researching the matter. The greatest disgust for Driscoll came over the comments about oral sex that he made in Edinburgh almost 2 years ago. Bott says, “I’ve seen what he said at that church in Scotland and as far as I know he’s never addressed it in any repentant way…” Then BP rehashes all of the same material from this earlier “story.” The fact is that Driscoll was lovingly confronted by an older pastor on this issue that led to Driscoll repenting and pulling the audio off of their website. Neither Bott nor BP mentions this.

This is part of a pattern which led Between the Times to publicly criticize BP for its coverage of the pastor.  Increasingly, Southern Baptists are seeing BP as a biased and agenda driven source, and that does not bode well for the SBC’s confidence in the EC.

What makes it look like BP has an agenda in this matter is that it waited a month from when this “incident” happened on May 18th to report it on June 17th right before the annual meeting (for another example of BP’s agenda see the next point in Part 2).

Part 2 of this piece will deal with the remaining points of the outline.

Ronnie Parrott

Comments 0

  1. Great post! We cannot cast off theology in our attempt to be a denomination that is faithful in the fulfillment of the Great Commission. This is absolutely absurd! It is the task of theology that gives us a clear message to share. It is the labor of the pastor-theologians who have helped us to understand the gospel and its implications. The great missionaries of the past have labored hard at the task of theology!

    Adoniram Judson, on his trip to Mynmar (Burma) went from congregationalist to baptist on the voyage! How? He was studying the Word of God (theology)! He went on to set an example for the rest of us in missional living. Lottie Moon was indeed concerned about souls and she boarded a boat for China to see people saved. Lottie Moon also had the mind of a theologian. A few titles of her work for the Foreign Mission Journal:

    “Good Points and Bad Points in Chinese Christians”
    “Houses-The Kitchen God-Buddhists Ideas About Animal Food”
    “Chinese Superstitions–Transmigrations”

    The titles will suffice to make the point.

    The call to cast off theology and be concerned with missions rings hollow. When one is unconcerned with right doctrine, which is gained through theological reflection, then the message, more often than not, will be open to every sort of attack. The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ has defended the message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for centuries. This defense has always been through the task of theology. This defense has always been so that we retain, in tact, the one message that saves to the glory of God.

    We are all theologians. The question is whether or not we are a good one or a bad one.

  2. Ronnie thank you for this, Looking forward to part 2. I agree with this as stated by Dr Akin, Paul as well as the apostles were trained for three years before they started out on missions this sounds like doctrine to me. Also when Paul ran into some disiples of John the baptist thay were still teaching John’s baptisim so what did Paul do ?
    Dr. Chapman’s main point was that we do not need to concern ourselves with doctrine as much as we concern ourselves with mission, They were on mission but Paul had to help them out on doctrine. I am no Dr but feel we need to do the same.
    John Thompson

  3. Good post Ronnie. If the SBC wants to move forward to reach the lost and to reach Christians that have left the SBC there has to be some accountability at all levels. Good job brother.

  4. Good post. I think it’s great to see so many people wanting accountability within the SBC. I think we are on the verge of great things, but we definitely need to deal with some of this. I look forward to part 2.

  5. What I find interesting in this whole mess is that since the early days of the CR, Baptist Press has not been a free press in any way shape or form, it has been the publicity arm of the EC – why do you all think that would change?

    We Baptists – even us conservative theologically but politically moderate types, opened the door wide open for this type of abuse by naming the EC the “sole member”

    Lastly I find it quite funny that you all can work up this kind of angst over this gentleman being shown the door when your heros of the CR have been doing this for years – Dilday, Bullock, Klouda – the list of CR casualties goes on and on (but of course we have to remember the end justified the means)

  6. Pingback: Picking Up Steam: Chapman Controvesy and the SBC « Musings of a Wannabe Muser

  7. Jim,

    “What I find interesting in this whole mess is that since the early days of the CR, Baptist Press has not been a free press in any way shape or form, it has been the publicity arm of the EC – why do you all think that would change?”

    I agree with your assessment that the BP News has been the “publicity arm of the EC” for awhile. Hoping for change is simply a hope that we can do better, all of us, even the BP News, in being faithful to do what we are tasked with doing. We expect a news agency that is “supported by Cooperative Program funds” ( to faithfully report the news and keep Southern Baptist current with what concerns the SBC. The fact that a key member of the EC was asked to submit his resignation should warrant some type of coverage from BP News.

    “Lastly I find it quite funny that you all can work up this kind of angst over this gentleman being shown the door when your heroes of the CR have been doing this for years – Dilday, Bullock, Klouda – the list of CR casualties goes on and on (but of course we have to remember the end justified the means)”

    To link the the CR showing of the “door” and this situation with Clark Logan together is a stretch. The two are not anywhere near the same. The Conservative Resurgence was fought over the very foundation on which we stand as Christians. If we lose the inerrancy and infallibility of the Word of God, we lose the gospel that it heralds. The Conservative Resurgence, with men like Paige Patterson, Paul Pressler, and many others at the helm was a battle to retain the Bible as the fully authoritative Word of the living God. Any who deny this must be “shown the door!” We must “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” and is passed down through the ages in the Bible.

    What we are calling for here is transparency and accountability. This is not something that is out of bounds for Southern Baptist. Dr. Chapman, having served us for many years and is to be respected for it, is not above giving an account of his and the EC’s actions. That is what is needed.

    If there are grounds and sensible reasons for the “showing” of the proverbial “door” to Clark Logan, then so be it. There were serious reasons that many during the CR were “shown the door.” But at least we, as Southern Baptist, knew the reasons.

  8. Nice work Ronnie. After reading some of the status quo defending articles (I am much more confident in Ed Stetzer’s statistical work and that of the Leavell Center at NOBTS than BP), I thought of the past when men of God stood to speak to their times. I would suggest a rewriting of certain key sermons:
    Jonathan Edwards: not “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” but “Why Can’t We All Get Along (God too)”
    Gilbert Tennent: not “The Dangers of an Unconverted Ministry” but “I’m OK, You’re OK”
    R.G. Lee: not “Payday Someday” but “Your Best Life Now.”
    Okay I am being a bit facetious. But the history of the church at her best tells the story of men of God dealing honestly with their times in a biblical, theological,and evangelistically effective manner. And by they way, I LOVE teaching at a seminary where theology and evangelism, biblical studies and missions, ethics and spiritual formation all come together in our faculty.

  9. Jonathan, Jon, Steve, Randy, Jim, Bill, Dr. Reid,

    Thank you all for your comments and kind words. I am excited about the future of our denomination and believe firmly that both theology and mission must thread together in order to accomplish our task and mission.


    In regards to the CL situation, Dr. Chapman has given no reasons for asking Clark Logan to resign other than a “personal” and “private” matter. There is speculation that it was for the wrong reason, but this is only speculation. I believe the SBC deserves an answer from Dr. Chapman and the EC. Thanks again for commenting.


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