Some thoughts on Acts 29, church discipline
My column in the Dec. 25 issue of The Pathway defended the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Board’s decision not to provide Cooperative Program dollars to two church plants aligned with a church planting network outside of Southern Baptist life called Acts 29.
Message boards and blogs on the Internet run by people who are angry over the board’s action have buzzed with, quite frankly, more “heat” than “light.” The board has been referred to as a “cult,” likened to Mormons, Unitarians and followers of the late madman David Koresh. Some have even accused the board of throwing pastors and their families out on the street.
Of course all of these wild accusations are untrue, including the most recent directed at me. In recent days I have been called a liar and a hypocrite. I am a sinner –saved by grace, but I have not lied, nor been inconsistent in my views on Acts 29 mainly because I have not written about them.
Why are they attacking me? I suppose because I dared to defend the board’s action. If the board cannot decide who gets CP dollars and who cannot, then why have a convention? The board deals with all sorts of difficult issues and often times their decision does not please everyone, but they are duly elected and do what they feel is in the best interest of ALL Missouri Southern Baptists.
In this case the board decided not to fund the two church plants in question because of Acts 29’s perceived “softness” on alcohol and other issues deemed not in step with Southern Baptists (one of those church plants has since ordained two women as deacons). Defending the board’s right to distribute CP money in the way they see fit is the only issue to which I have spoken with regard to Acts 29. I, nor The Pathway, nor the board, have taken official positions on Acts 29. Indeed there are several churches with Acts 29 ties that are affiliated with the MBC. We will continue to work with them and The Pathway will certainly continue to serve them just like we do any church affiliated with this convention. There are some good things about Acts 29 (high view of Scripture is but one), some of which we ought to incorporate in our church planting efforts. I personally do not have an ax to grind with Acts 29, yet some on the Internet persist in misrepresenting my views.
I expect to be criticized and I understand that people will not always agree with my position – that is the nature of being a state newspaper editor. All I ask is that as we debate difficult issues, we do so void of personal attacks. I understand that many are involved now in convention politics (I, nor this newspaper, should be counted among them), but it seems too many are falling to the temptation of using politics of personal destruction. How does such behavior bring honor and glory to God?
Our convention is so close to peace and unity. I want The Pathway to create an environment that will promote peace and unity while still telling the Missouri Baptist story truthfully. Let us pray for civility as we go about serving our great and mighty God.
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A new book featuring a collection of essays written by 11 Southern Baptist scholars ought to be added to your reading list.
Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches, published by Kregel addresses the subjects of church membership, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the priesthood of believers and church discipline. These are meaty issues particularly at a time when the Missouri Baptist Convention is focusing on church health. Too often the local church is influenced by a consumer-driven, numbers-oriented society. This book tackles that head-on.
Once again we get a first-rate account of how church discipline was once an integral part of Baptist life by Greg Wills, the highly respected church historian at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. It was Wills who made quite a splash in 1997 with his book, Democratic Religion: Freedom, Authority, and Church Discipline in the Baptist South 1785-1900. It once-and-for-all smashed any notion that church discipline had never been a part of Baptist life in the South. His essay in Restoring Integrity is a perfect lead-in to another article in the book dealing with the subject.
R. Stanton Norman’s The Reestablishment of Proper Church Discipline, is a worthy read. Norman, who is vice president for University Relations at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, contends that the regular practice of biblical church discipline is a “glaring omission in modern Baptist church life.” He details the Bible’s teaching on the doctrine of church discipline and offers both the occasion for – and the purpose of – church discipline. The portion of his essay titled, “The Decline of the Practice of Church Discipline” offers some compelling reasons for the decline. He closes with a scriptural prescription for the malady. Buy this book.