Calvinism an issue in associational vote
ISLAND, Ky. (BP) -- Was a western Kentucky church denied admittance to a Baptist association because it is too Calvinistic?
Acting on a report brought by its credentials committee, the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association voted 104-9 at its annual meeting not to accept Pleasant Valley Community Church in Owensboro for membership.
"Our concern in the initial stages of our investigation revolved around the fact that Pleasant Valley Community Church's confessional statement is one that [is] Calvinistic in nature. It affirms the doctrine of election and grace," the report from the association's credentials committee stated.
"While we know the doctrine is not heresy, we do recognize that it is vastly different than the majority of churches within the DMBA," the associational committee noted.
But while the church's Calvinistic views were a concern, other contributing issues emerged during the credentialing process, according to a statement from DMBA vice moderator, Eddie Duke, pastor of Panther Creek Baptist Church in Owensboro.
"Ultimately, we were not satisfied that Pleasant Valley Community Church would be sympathetic with the purpose and work of the body of the DMBA," the committee concluded, citing "an overall lack of the key elements of cooperation found in patience, humility, kindness, compassion and gentleness."
After the committee's statement was heard during the Oct. 17 meeting at Island (Ky.) Baptist Church, the matter would have been concluded unless a motion to accept was made from the floor, according to DMBA moderator Tommy Webb, pastor of Buck Creek Baptist Church in Calhoun. That motion was brought by Barry Rager, pastor of Utica Baptist Church.
"In my dealings with the pastors from this church, I experienced good fellowship [and] good cooperation. These men love the Word, they preach the Gospel; ... they are taking the Gospel around the world," Rager told the Western Recorder, newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. "I didn't see any reason they shouldn't be in the local association -- whether their theology is Reformed or not. I thought they would be of great benefit to us."
Also among those speaking on behalf of Pleasant Valley was Greg Faulls, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Owensboro, which made the formal recommendation in May for the congregation to join the Daviess-McLean association. While he went to the meeting prepared to express his disappointment, he had not planned to make such a motion because he felt the committee had "a pretty good pulse" of the association, Faulls told the Western Recorder.
"It just wouldn't be worth having a disharmonious discussion when the chances of that being voted on affirmatively were so slim," Faulls said. "It was obvious that the issue of more Reformed thinking in this church was an issue of concern."
Though he considers himself to be "a general atonement kind of guy," Faulls said, "I thought they would also fit" under the theological umbrella of the Baptist Faith & Message, "but apparently the association didn't agree."
In a statement to the Western Recorder, Jamus Edwards, pastor of Pleasant Valley Community Church, apologized for "any hurt we have caused or any evidence of impatience or haughtiness" exhibited during the application process. "We truly love the brothers of the DMBA and are thankful for their commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ," he said.
Edwards disagreed, however, with the Calvinist label placed on the church, saying the congregation does not identify itself as such primarily because it is not "helpful in most contexts, but actually distracting and largely misunderstood, precisely like it was in this situation with the DMBA."
As moderator and chairman of the credentials committee, Webb said he was convinced the decision concerning Pleasant Valley was "right in line" with the heartbeat of the association.
"The committee worked hard to seek God's will about the involvement of Pleasant Valley Community Church with the DBMA," Webb noted. "As while the doctrinal position of PVCC was of concern, we also were greatly concerned about the cooperation of PVCC with the other churches of our association. Our prayer and belief is the DMBA will continue to stand firm and strive for a spirit of love and unity."
Pleasant Valley Community Church is a member of both the Kentucky and Southern Baptist conventions.
Edwards, referring to the church's KBC and SBC membership and its status outside the association, said, "We are certainly hurt and disappointed that we have been able to joyfully and peacefully link arms with our Baptist brothers and sisters from across the state and the nation and yet have been refused the opportunity to partner in the Gospel with our brothers and sisters in our very own community."
Todd Deaton is editor of the Western Recorder (www.westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.