Entrusted: A Gospel Legacy for the Coming Generations
December 19th, 2017 / By: Jim Richards | Executive Director / comments
The title of my column is the theme for the 2018 Annual Meeting, held November 12 and 13 at Second Baptist Houston’s Kingwood campus. The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is celebrating 20 years of missions and ministry. It is a time to look back and look ahead.
It is hard to think that an SBTC church pastor who is 30 years old was 10 when the convention was started. We have a new generation of leaders who need to know why we exist. Here’s my perspective.
After World War II the Southern Baptist Convention saw the seeds of theological liberalism begin to sprout in the seminaries and agencies. Ralph Elliott, a professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a book, The Message of Genesis, in 1961 that denied a literal Adam and Eve as well as a literal worldwide flood. The neo-orthodoxy of European Christianity and the northern U.S. denominations had bubbled up in the Southern Baptist Convention. Southern Baptists were outraged but the encroachment of liberalism had only begun.
By 1971, the Southern Baptist Convention in annual meeting voted to essentially call for abortion on demand. With the support of SBC agency heads, the resolution called on Southern Baptists to “to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.”
A president of an SBC seminary had written a commentary pointing to miracles in the Bible as “legend and saga inextricably interwoven in the text.”
By 1979 the situation in the SBC was dire. The leadership in many agencies was theologically detached from the people in the pew. It took 15 years of struggle for Billy and Betty Baptist to regain the SBC from those who had taken it down a path of theological liberalism. By the mid-1990s the SBC agencies had been
reclaimed for biblical inerrancy.
State conventions are not farm clubs of the SBC. Each state convention is autonomous just like each local church is autonomous. The SBC system operates on voluntary cooperation. State conventions would have to decide whether or not they were going to reflect the conservative theology of the SBC. All state conventions to varying degrees reflected the SBC’s return to sound doctrine with the exception of two--Virginia and Texas. In 1995 many Virginia Southern Baptists formed a new state convention.
Loyal Southern Baptists in Texas tried to elect presidents to the state convention through the 1990s but to no avail. The presidents would have been able to effect change in the state agencies and schools. After losing elections and votes on issues, it became apparent that a new convention would have to be formed in Texas.
There were five defining differences between Texas convention leadership and disaffected Southern Baptists. The foremost point of contention was biblical inerrancy. Those who wanted change were calling for a confessional fellowship of churches based on a doctrinal statement. The office of pastor being reserved for a man was the second matter of concern. There were several churches with women serving as pastors. The third reason for disagreement was that the Texas convention allowed churches to support liberal or SBC competing groups while calling the contributions “Cooperative Program” giving. These three issues continue to make the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention unique in Texas as a state convention. Another issue was an agency of the Texas convention that endorsed justifications for abortions, which included fetal deformity and the emotional state of the mother. Finally, there were cooperating churches with the Texas convention that endorsed homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle. The SBTC founders spoke loud and clear that they wanted a different type of convention.
Twenty years later the SBTC stills stands for the principles it was founded upon. The Bible is the inerrant word of God. The convention is a confessional fellowship. The statement of faith states that churches will work together, agreeing that life begins at conception and ends at natural death, that the office of pastor is reserved for a man and that marriage is between one man and one woman. The Cooperative Program is defined as an undesignated giving channel in an exclusive partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention. In twenty years we have remained faithful.
It has been my privilege to be with the SBTC from the very beginning. Next month I will share with you my personal journey in coming to the SBTC.
Have a great start to the New Year as we work together to Reach Texas and Touch the World!