4 seminary leaders voice concern over film's preview

NASHVILLE (BP) -- A Southern Baptist seminary president has asked that his interview be removed from a forthcoming documentary decrying the issue of "social justice" currently being debated in evangelicalism.

R. Albert Mohler Jr. (right), is one of four Southern Baptist seminary presidents who have taken issue with a four-minute trailer for an upcoming documentary produced by the Founders Ministries, an organization founded in 1983 with a Calvinistic view of Baptist life and led by Florida pastor Tom Ascol (left). Mohler tweeted he is "alarmed at how some respected SBC leaders are represented."
Screen capture from YouTube
Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina, recounted via Twitter on July 23 that he had a brief interview for a documentary, titled "By What Standard," being produced by the Founders Ministries, an organization founded in 1983 with a Calvinistic view of Baptist life and led by Florida pastor Tom Ascol.

Akin and three other SBC seminary professors took issue with the documentary's trailer, or preview, of nearly 4 minutes now online.

Voicing his disappointment, Akin wrote, "What I saw was edited footage that I believe to be misleading, which misrepresents important issues and what leaders in the SBC actually affirm."

Akin voiced concern "about what the tone, tenor, and content of the full documentary will be, and I have requested that my association with and contribution to this film be removed."

"I hope my brothers will reconsider their strategy for communicating our deeply held Southern Baptist conviction that the Bible is our sole foundation and authority for all of life and faith."

The Founders Ministries website does not list a release date for the documentary.

Akin was briefly shown in the trailer and it included a 12-second clip with R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky; a five-second clip of Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; and five clips ranging from one to 10 seconds of Georgia pastor James Merritt, a former SBC president.

Mohler, in three tweets on July 23, wrote that he is "alarmed at how some respected SBC leaders are represented." He has "long known and enjoyed the company of the folks who made the video and the folks offended by the video and I am hopeful that @FoundersMin will respond appropriately and in a way that affirms their intention to be a responsible voice in the SBC."

The trailer, Mohler wrote, is a reminder "that HOW we engage and represent one another is as important as what we argue and who we engage. Let's encourage one another to good works, good theology, and a good mood."

The documentary, according to the Founders Ministries website, addresses "many unbiblical agendas ... being advanced under the guise of honoring and protecting women, promoting racial reconciliation, and showing love and compassion to people experiencing sexual dysphoria."

Twenty-five years after the Conservative Resurgence returned the SBC to "its historic commitments on the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture," the website states that "it seems like evangelicals, including Southern Baptists, are in danger of loosening their commitments to those basic, Christian commitments."

"If we care about true justice -- what God has revealed to be just -- then we must stand against what is being promoted under social justice," the website states. "If we care about the true gospel -- the gospel revealed in the faith once-for-all-delivered to the saints -- we must reject the agendas being promoted by godless ideologies."

Jason Allen and Adam W. Greenway were the other two SBC seminary presidents voicing concern via Twitter about the documentary's trailer.

Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Missouri, wrote, "This trailer is either a click-bait promo piece or it foreshadows a movie that's uncharitable & unhelpful. @FoundersMin has often played a constructive role in SBC life, but I'm afraid this video isn't such an occasion. These issues demand we engage w clarity & charity."

Greenway, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, wrote in three tweets, "@tomascol asked me to join other seminary leaders I respect like @albertmohler and @DannyAkin in being interviewed on the SBC Conservative Resurgence's legacy. I will not, however, be part of any agenda seeking to divide Southern Baptists unnecessarily.

"Undoubtedly there are important issues we must confront as Southern Baptists. But HOW we confront those issues matters as much to me as WHAT we are choosing to confront. Part of the SBC's nature is our willingness to disagree charitably on matters outside our confession of faith.

"There are better ways to have the conversations we need to have as a convention of churches," Greenway wrote, voicing his intent "to be a part of any productive engagement that will help to bring greater clarity and unity amongst our Southern Baptist family."

Russell Moore, as of July 24, had not addressed the trailer on his Twitter account. Bible teacher and author Beth Moore, who is briefly referenced, tweeted on July 6 she is taking "a bit of a Twitter break."

Art Toalston is senior editor of Baptist Press.
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