Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman delivered a message this morning calling for unity in the convention and for Southern Baptists to stop dividing along “secondary and tertiary doctrines.” He also made two suggestions regarding the way entities in the future adopt anything that “has the force of doctrine.”
In the most significant portion of his address, he said:
“Revising the Baptist Faith and Message should not be lightly regarded nor should our confessional statement be revised year after year. However, if we believe a doctrine is a part of the core belief system of Southern Baptists, it should be in the Baptist Faith and Message. Only a very few years ago it seemed sufficient for all missionaries and Convention leaders to sign the Baptist Faith and Message as a statement of loyalty to Christ and to the Convention. Now other doctrines are beginning to be required aside from our adopted confession. It causes one to ask, ‘Where does it end?’ Let me propose two suggestions for future consideration:
“Any practice instituted by an entity in the Southern Baptist Convention that has the force of doctrine should be in accord with the Baptist Faith and Message and not exceed its boundaries unless and until it has been approved by the Southern Baptist Convention.
“And secondly, if an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention adopts a confession of faith separate and distinct from the Baptist Faith and Message and it includes a doctrine unsupported by our confessional statement, the entity should request approval from the Convention prior to including the doctrine in its confession.
“These two proposals have to do only with the confession of faith by which employees of an entity of the convention are to abide whether they be missionaries, professors or administrators.
“… These proposals in no way restrict the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission from proclaiming biblical positions about the moral and ethical issues with which we are confronted as Christians. … These proposals in no way require the allegiance of students in order to be enrolled in one of our seminaries.
“These proposals do not infringe upon the responsibility of trustees to govern an entity of our Convention. We must come together in the Spirit over the core beliefs that we hold in common and learn to engage in healthy debate about varied interpretations of other doctrinally-related Scripture. Otherwise -- and here is the tragedy -- we shall spend our time arguing among ourselves while thousands, even millions die without a Savior.
“During the conservative resurgence, those of us in leadership repeated again and again that the issue at hand was the authority of God’s Word. … We specifically stated that the resurgence is not about the interpretation of God’s Word. Now that we have clarified and solidified what we think about the authority of God’s Word, we are struggling with the temptation to lay down certain interpretations for defining a ‘true’ Southern Baptist compared to a ‘maverick’ Southern Baptist. For Jesus’ sake, and the sake of His Kingdom on earth, we must not make every doctrinal issue a crusade or a political football,” he said to applause.
“We are wasting time when we are given to harshly debate disputable doctrines that lead to destructive distractions. We have no right to judge others with whom we disagree about secondary and tertiary doctrines. Only God is our Judge. But we do have the right to engage in spirited debate where we differ.”
A complete Baptist Press story now is available here: http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=25838