Debate intensifies concerning Emerging Church in SBC
JEFFERSON CITY – Concerns about the Emerging Church Movement were raised Feb. 20 in Nashville, Tenn., before the entire Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee by one of its members, Roger Moran of Winfield, a layman from First Baptist Church, Troy.
Moran was speaking to a motion made by another messenger at the SBC’s annual meeting in June in Greensboro, N.C. It was mentioned in one paragraph of a Feb. 21 Baptist Press article about the Executive Committee. The article failed to mention “a large round of applause” that followed Moran’s remarks, according to a pair of Missouri Baptist eyewitnesses.
“What I heard was a Southern Baptist who is an Executive Committee member who has some deep concerns about the way we are planting churches and the patterns that we are using from organizations like Acts 29 who seem to have a totally different view of the consumption of alcohol and methods that Southern Baptists have used in the past,” said Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) President Mike Green, who was one of the eyewitnesses. “We’re following some church planting methods that seem to be a little disconcerting, and we have some legitimate items that we need to discuss.”
One of Moran’s concerns is that new Southern Baptist church plants are straying from the denomination’s stand against alcohol consumption. SBC messengers have adopted 57 resolutions on the issue in the 161-year history of the denomination. Southern Baptists meeting in session have called their brothers and sisters to live “an exemplary Christian lifestyle of abstinence from beverage alcohol and all other harmful drugs” (1984); to recognize alcohol as “America’s number one drug problem” (1982); to “reaffirm our historic position as opposing alcohol as a beverage” (1978); to view “personal abstinence” as the “Christian way” (1957); to express their “unceasing opposition to the manufacture, sale and use of alcoholic beverages” (1955); to realize alcohol is a “habit-forming and destructive poison” (1940) and the “chief source of vice, crime, poverty and degradation” (1936); and to “reassert our truceless and uncompromising hostility to the manufacture, sale, importation and transportation of alcoholic beverages” (1896), according to Baptist Press.
The North American Mission Board (NAMB) on Feb. 26 responded to Moran’s concerns with the following statement released through the office of its director of communications, Mike Ebert.
“Roger Moran has not contacted us directly about his concerns, but we agree that there are elements of the Emerging Church Movement that conflict with solid doctrine and biblical practice,” the NAMB statement read. “We are confident the concerns Mr. Moran has expressed are not present among North American Mission Board church plants. NAMB, and the Home Mission Board before it, have longstanding policies prohibiting the use of alcohol or tobacco by our missionaries, including church planters. We are not aware of any NAMB-funded church planters who are violating these policies and if we become aware of any, we would immediately address the matter.
“While unbiblical views and practices should be corrected, Dr. Ed Stetzer’s participation on the Acts 29 board reflects our belief that Southern Baptists should continue to seek to have a positive influence among young pastors who are gaining a growing presence in today’s churched and unchurched culture. It is important to remember that there are many young leaders in SBC life today who hold to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, distance themselves from views like those found at Emergent Village, but consider themselves part of the ‘Emerging Church.’ For that reason, we are confident that the needed research into this important area will be conducted in a way that is respectful of all and motivated by a desire to keep our convention focused on its Christ-centered, biblical foundation.”
MBC Executive Director David Clippard released a statement similar to NAMB’s in that it mentioned the importance BF&M 2000.
“Missouri Baptists can be assured that all of their convention’s ministries and staff operate within the boundaries of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 as adopted by this convention,” Clippard said. “If any areas of concern arise from any source in the MBC, your staff has been and will always be responsive.”
“One of the most dangerous and deceptive movements to infiltrate the ranks of Southern Baptist life has been the Emerging/Emergent Church Movement.
“Not since the stealth tactics of the CBF have we seen a movement operate so successfully below the radar of rank and file Southern Baptists.
“Marked by their fascination with alcohol, their commitment to theological ambiguity and their embrace of religious rituals steeped in eastern mysticism, this movement has made its greatest inroads in the area of “church planting.” And we are now beginning to see the evidence of what’s to come.
“In my home state, the Missouri Baptist Convention is on the brink of a near civil war – and at the heart of our struggle has been the blatant dishonesty of those who are determined that Missouri Baptists will embrace this new postmodern approach to ministry.
“The most recent evidence of the clash in Missouri came on January 28th when on the front page of the Sunday edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch there appeared this article, titled: “Beer and the Bible — It works for one growing St. Louis church but its got Missouri Baptists hopping mad.”
“The story is about one of our new churches in St. Louis called the Journey, which received a $200,000 loan from the Missouri Baptist Convention and has what the Post Dispatch called a “beer ministry” in a local downtown bar. Another so-called ministry is the churches’ “film night,” where secular movies are viewed and discussed – movies that are often rated “R.”
“What makes this all the more significant is that the Journey was exalted by the top leadership of the Missouri Baptist Convention as a model for church planting and its pastor is hailed as a modern-day “Caleb.”
“And while this may sound like a local church issue or a state convention issue – it is not. It is a critically important issue facing the entire Southern Baptist Convention. Let me explain why.
“The pastor of the Journey Church is Darrin Patrick and he serves together with Ed Stetzer from the North American Mission Board as co-chair of NAMB’s Young Leaders Task Force.
“Interestingly, these two men also serve together on the board of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network (Patrick actually serves as vice president and Stetzer as a board member).
“The president of Acts 29 is Mark Driscoll, best known by his peers as ‘Mark the cussing pastor.” Driscoll, who claims to be theologically conservative, pastors the non-denominational Mars Hill Church in Seattle Wa, where this past New Year’s Eve, his church hosted a “Red Hot Bash.” Those who attended were encouraged to dress “red hot,” and those planning to drink were advised to bring their ID’s.
“I mention Driscoll because he is scheduled to appear in chapel at one of our seminaries, and one of our cherished professors from another seminary will be preaching at Driscoll’s church later this year.
“These ‘young leaders’ [Patrick, Stetzer and Driscoll] are being hailed as the great church planters in America and through what they call their ‘Acts 29 boot camp’ they are training young church planters across the SBC. But the question we need to ask is: Exactly what kind of churches are they planting? Let me give you a glimpse.
“The pastor of one particular Acts 29 church plant in the Northwest United States stated in an interview with the San Diego Reader.com that: ‘Beer is one of our core values. We enjoy it and like to drink it.’ The article continues with an increasingly common argument among young emergents: “We want to go where people are. We don’t expect people to come to us. In [Pacific Beach], people are at the bars, parties, and drinking beer, so this is where we go.”
“But it actually gets much more serious. One of our new pro-alcohol emerging church plants in Springfield, Mo., recently offered to those making a contribution to their church a copy of a book by Brian McLaren, the undisputed leader of the far-left wing of the Emerging Church Movement. McLaren is best known for his statements calling for a 5 to 10 year ‘moratorium’ on any ‘pronouncements’ against homosexuality and his statement rejecting the substitutionary atonement of Christ.
“On the website of this new church plant in Missouri, the pastor bashes the name ‘Christian’ stating that he doesn’t want to become ‘known as a bad tipper, judgmental jerk, or a nationalist warmonger.’ He concludes by stating:
“By that token, I believe Jesus would be a terrible Christian. I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if he chose never to show up in church on Sunday, or had a beer at a frat party, or frequented a gay bookstore. And you know what the Christians would say? ‘This man doesn’t honor the Sabbath’ or ‘This man hangs out with sinners.’
“In Missouri, most of our people have no idea what emerging or emergent means. But they do understand the implications of ‘CBF.’ And what I have found is that the left and right wings of the Emerging Church Movement and the left and right wings of the CBF are near mirrored images of each other.
“In fact, leaders within the CBF are now saying that the emerging/emergent movement is a great fit for CBF – and the CBF is currently building relationships with the emergent movement. CBF is now developing four web pages on their website devoted to the emerging/emergent movement.
“One CBF leader, a church planter from Atlanta named Jake Meyers, has noted the best way to describe the emerging church movement is ‘beer, candles and theologian Soren Kierkegaard.’ (More clearly stated: Beer; ancient and mystical rituals; and an openness to theological liberalism.
“Interestingly, this CBF leader (Jake Meyers) serves on the coordinating group of Emergent Village, the far-left wing of the Emerging Church Movement where Brian McLaren serves as chairman of the board. According to Emergent Village, they have everything from a Texas Baptist pastor to a New England lesbian Episcopal priest.
“Also serving on the board of Emergent Village is Chris Seay, an emerging church planter from Houston, Texas who was one of the featured speakers at the Younger Leaders Summit in Nashville, hosted by LifeWay’s Jimmy Draper in 2005 [and in 2006 was led by NAMB’s Ed Stetzer.]
“And while I am certainly perplexed as to why a board member of Emergent Village was a featured speaker at our Younger Leaders Summit, I am equally concerned about the particular group of younger leaders we seem to be pursuing for leadership positions in the SBC.
“For within this group of young SBC leaders are those who strongly oppose the SBC’s long standing position on alcohol; and those who now want us to move toward embracing the charismatic practice of speaking in tongues; and those who are now telling us that CBF really wasn’t that much of a problem; and those who are now calling for a ‘revolution’ to move the SBC back to what they call the “center.”
“Dr. Mohler has stated that: ‘The Emergent Movement represents a significant challenge to biblical Christianity.’
“And he’s absolutely right, but the greater immediate challenge may be to convince certain SBC leaders to stop lending the credibility of the SBC and its institutions to a movement that is dripping with error – and thus sending out an uncertain sound.
“The seriousness of the emerging/emergent movement and the degree to which it has infiltrated the SBC warrants a full and thorough investigation. And I would argue that the investigation needs to start at the North American Mission Board, and most specifically in the area of church planting.
“As we refer this motion to LifeWay, I would ask that the Executive Committee express our deep and serious concern about the emerging/emergent movement and request that LifeWay honor this request for a full and thorough investigation.”
Ebert, the NAMB spokesman, responded specifically to a couple of Moran’s points by providing Internet links. For example, when Stetzer confronted Driscoll about his reputation as “the cussing pastor,” Driscoll apologized (see http://theresurgence.com/apology). And Stetzer’s views on several of these controversial matters, including the use of alcohol, are included on http://www.joethorn.net/2007/02/21/guilt-by-association/. Ebert also mentioned that http://www.acts29network.org/about/doctrine would prove to be helpful in the greater debate as Southern Baptists begin to discover what Acts 29 believes.