Wednesday, November 15, 2006

At the Risk of Sounding Like a Complete Idiot . . .

I'm used to it, I know. Save the jokes.

So I've been following this story (other perspective and some video here) about the North Carolina Baptist State Convention (BSC) enacting a provision that will empower the BSC to expel churches that "knowingly act to affirm, approve, endorse, promote, support or bless homosexual behavior." I'm no expert in SBC politics of any kind, let alone those of a specific state, even if I do attend an SBC seminary in the state.

But even if I don't understand all the history and politics, I'm at least bright enough to find the BSC's articles of incorporation, which includes this provision on membership in the Convention:
A cooperating church shall be one that financially supports any program, institution, or agency of the Convention, and which is in friendly cooperation with the Convention and sympathetic with its purposes and work.
That is it. No more requirements for membership. Zip. Nadda. Nil. Nothing. Think I'm crazy? Download the file and read it for yourself.

Now, there's a sense in which this policy isn't altogether new, even if it wasn't ever incorporated into the organizational documents. Baptist Press, the daily news service of the SBC, has an archived story of the expulsion of a North Carolina church from the state convention after baptizing and admitting into membership two homosexual men. The final paragraph briefly chronicles three previous church expulsions because of toleration of homosexuality. A pro-homosexual site corroborates and adds additional details to this account.

Call me crazy, but I think I would have voted against this new provision. In fact, I probably would have attempted to speak against it on the convention floor. Not because I think the BSC's requirements for membership are adequate. Not because I wouldn't like to see a lot of the current member churches expelled. And certainly not because I think churches should tolerate homosexuality.

I simply can't understand why this one issue is the hill worth dying on.

The BSC has tolerated for years—decades even—churches that have wholly abandoned the inspiration and authority of Scripture. It has overlooked putrid abominations at convention-funded colleges. It has never made other biblical commands tests of fellowship—commands like, say, church discipline. And last but not least, it has winked at rampant racism in BSC churches. Within the past five years, former Southeastern Seminary president Paige Patterson claimed that an average of one seminary student per month was fired from the pastorate of area churches for evangelizing African Americans.

And yet we don't see anything in the BSC articles of incorporation about any of those issues. I wonder why.

Could it be that the conservative resurgence has only now re-established a strong enough majority to enact more restrictive provisions? Perhaps, but I really doubt it.

Could it be that the advance of the homosexual agenda on the national level has revealed an immediate need to address this matter within the BSC? Surely this is a factor, but it still doesn't explain fully why homosexuality is a higher priority than racism and church discipline and oh yeah, say, the authority of the Bible.

Listen, I'm sure the vast majority of people who proposed and voted for this amendment are well-intentioned, godly folks. I'm glad they were willing to stand for something. But I just can't help but wonder why we (because this isn't just a BSC problem) pick and choose certain sins to elevate for judgment above others that are equally clear and far more prevalent. Is it just because homosexuality disgusts us—the socially conservative evangelicals? Are we less offended by churches that dilute or ignore God's Word or by churches that wallow in racism? Are we simply lazy—content to lop off decisively the visible manifestation of a disease rather than do the dirty work of digging out its cancerous roots?

May God grant us the grace, the courage, and the wisdom to take the hard road—the only road that leads to real church reform and the re-establishment of an authentic gospel.


Dave said...

I probably shouldn't bite, but perhaps the answer is something like this particularly sin is: (1) cited in Scripture as being the mark of reprobation (and therefore not really just one sin among many), and (2) it is more easily identifiable than that others you mentioned (attitudes are tough to deal with and it is likewise notoriously hard to deal with doctrinal defection since people seem able to make words mean whatever they like).

Not defending or agreeing with them, just not convinced that this is something to be critical of them about.

Ben said...

I realize I'm critiquing this development, but I hope it's not perceived solely as criticism of the BSC. I'm really hoping that examining this scenario might spur us to think outside the box and ponder more deeply whether the stands we're willing to take are conditioned more by courageous commitment to principle or by the comforts of the culture to which we're conditioned.

franklin said...

excellent post...I wholeheartedly agree...which means...YOU MUST BE WRONG ;).

Ben said...

Uggh, now I'm really going to have to rethink this. ;-)

Heard some good news yesterday franklin. Praying for you.

greg456 said...

I'd rather talk about the BCS, but that's just me.