BGCT and BGAV both respond to CBF Illumination Report

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship recently updated their hiring policy based on a “two-part recommendation from the Illumination Project Committee, which has been working over the past 18 months to explore how Cooperative Baptists can strengthen their unity in the face of different beliefs and practices in matters of human sexuality.”

Here’s the text of the updated policy:

CBF employees serve as co-laborers with the Holy Spirit in God’s mission, striving to be Christ-like, innovative, authentic, globally focused, committed to hearing and respecting diverse perspectives and to pursuing excellence. Employees will also be committed to CBF’s mission of serving Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission while working together to renew God’s world by cultivating beloved community, bearing witness to Jesus Christ and seeking transformational development in the contexts of global poverty and global migration and in partnership with the Global Church. 

Because of our compelling mission and vision, CBF will employ only individuals who profess Jesus Christ as Lord, are committed to living out the Great Commandment and Great Commission, and who affirm the principles that have shaped our unique Baptist heritage. Preference in hiring will be given to applicants who are active members in good standing of CBF churches as well as those who have demonstrated an active participation and contribution to the missions, ministries or other initiatives of the Fellowship and its partners.

CBF employees are expected to have the highest moral character, displaying professionalism and a commitment to the highest ethical standards. These include: acting with integrity, being a faithful steward of resources, speaking truth in love, embracing accountability, facilitating fairness, supporting and encouraging peers, nurturing a community of respect, and establishing collaborative relationships. CBF employees are expected to live out their Christ-centered relationship both inside and outside the workplace, serving as active members of their local church as well as through service to their community.

The policy also contains an implementation procedure which states, “Among other qualifying factors, CBF will employ persons for leadership positions in ministry who exhibit the ideals set forth in our hiring policy, have gifts appropriate to the particular position and who practice a traditional Christian sexual ethic of celibacy in singleness or faithfulness in marriage between a woman and a man.”  This statement makes clear that leadership positions are reserved for celibate singles and monogamous heterosexual married individuals.  The article on the CBF website goes on to state they for other positions within the CBF applicants will be considered who identify as LGBT Christians.  Missionary appointments will be reserved for those who “practice a traditional Christian sexual ethic of celibacy in singleness or faithfulness in marriage between a woman and a man.”  The rationale given for that is the practices of the overwhelming number of CBF’s global partners.

This updated policy created a predicament for two of our state conventions, the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Baptist General Association of Virginia.  Both served as intermediaries for funds given to the CBF in much the same way that they have historically passed along Cooperative Program dollars to the Southern Baptist Convention.  BGCT and BGAV are the only SBC state conventions that related to the CBF in this way.

But the practice of sending along funds to the CBF has now changed for both the BGCT and BGAV.

The BGCT Executive Board voted on Tuesday, February 20 to remove the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship from its church giving forms.  BGCT President Danny Reeves said, “I am very grateful for the consistent, steady way in which the BGCT has held to God’s Word.  We lovingly say to all people the truth that marriage is to be between one man and one woman.”  BGCT Executive Director David Hardage added, “Texas Baptists have consistently held to Biblical truth on marriage and human sexuality while at the same time loving and caring for everyone.”  Chairman of the Executive Board Dennis Young said, “While we love all people, our love is governed by the Word of God.”

Then yesterday the BGAV released this statement from their Executive Board:

The Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) at numerous annual meetings has affirmed and acted on its commitment to its orthodox and traditional view of biblical marriage and sexuality. The BGAV remains committed to respecting, welcoming, and loving all persons in the name of Christ while affirming an orthodox view of marriage between a man and a woman.  

The Virginia Baptist Executive Board regrets it has had to address the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s (CBF) approval of the Illumination Project Committee’s report permitting the hiring of LGBT personnel for certain staff positions in the organization. Though the BGAV respects CBF’s right to change its hiring policy, such a decision has had a direct impact on the BGAV.  The Executive Board has sought to respond in the most prayerful and prudent way to the effects of this impact.  

Therefore, the Virginia Baptist Executive Board believes it must take action on behalf of the General Association to have all of BGAV’s CBF contributing churches send their CBF gifts directly to the CBF National Office as soon as this is feasible. The Executive Board believes this action serves the BGAV, while respecting CBF.

Executive Director John Upton said, “I want to express appreciation to the Executive Board for the spirit and heart with which they made this decision.”

Though my knowledge of Texas Baptists is limited, the response from the BGCT is not particularly surprising.  They have seemed to be trending in this direction for a while now.  It is nonetheless encouraging to see their commitment to the authority of Scripture reflected in this decision.

As a lifelong Virginian, I have quite a bit more knowledge concerning the BGAV.  The church I pastor is no longer affiliated with the BGAV, but my previous church was.  In fact, I proposed the original version of the resolution concerning homosexual behavior and the sanctity of marriage that was approved at the 2015 BGAV annual meeting.  Despite the BGAV’s past position on marriage, I must admit that I am a bit surprised that they have taken this action.  I truly expected them not to respond and to appeal to the autonomy of the local church.  I am thankful that is not the course of action they have taken, and I commend them for this decision.

While these two decisions are important, this is likely still a developing story as individual churches will still have to make decisions concerning their relationship to the CBF and SBC.  In fact, a prominent BGAV church’s pastor serves on the CBF board that made the hiring policy change.  How will Richmond’s First Baptist Church relate to the BGAV going forward?  These are certainly interesting days.

Breaking: Small Group of Southern Baptists Now Opposed to the Cooperative Program

For almost 100 years now, the Cooperative Program has been the primary funding mechanism of the Southern Baptist Convention. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised. Tens of thousands of missionaries have been fully funded as they risked their lives to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Tens of thousands of churches have been planted across North America. And millions of people have heard the gospel as a result of the cooperative efforts of Southern Baptists. The impact of the Cooperative Program over the last 100 years of Southern Baptist life will only be fully known in eternity.

The idea is that if we pool our resources together, we can do more together than we could apart. That line of thinking rings true for me as a small church pastor. If my church were to raise up someone who wanted to be sent out as an international missionary, we wouldn’t be able to support him even if we used all of the money that we give annually to the Cooperative Program, Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Yet because of the partnership we have with the Southern Baptist Convention, our member who feels God’s call to serve overseas can be appointed as a full-time career missionary without us writing him a single check.  That’s the beauty of the Cooperative Program.

But now, a small group of Southern Baptists has come out as opposed to the Cooperative Program. They are concerned that it is being misused by churches that aren’t paying enough in each year to support the missionaries that they are sending through the International Mission Board. One church in the convention currently has 158 of its members serving with IMB. The church gave $500,000 to the Cooperative Program in 2017, but that would not have been enough to support all of the missionaries they have on the field. The small group of CP opponents is concerned that this makes the church a “net consumer” of CP dollars.

If I didn’t know any better, I would think that this was some kind of political game. Maybe they have some kind of ulterior motive. I mean, who would think to criticize a church for sending too many missionaries? Who would be willing to undermine the very funding mechanism that has financed the SBC for nearly 100 years without some kind of other motive?

Thankfully, these Cooperative Program opponents are only a minuscule percentage of the nearly 15 million member Southern Baptist Convention. They are loud. And they like for people to think they are a much larger group. They even like for people to think that they represent the thinking of the majority of Southern Baptists. But they are wrong. They do not represent most Southern Baptists. Most Southern Baptists love missions and give sacrificially so that those called to take the gospel to the ends of the earth can do so without worrying about raising support. The Cooperative Program will go on. Southern Baptists will continue to fund missions in the same way we have for almost 100 years now. And those churches that raise up their own to serve overseas will have the opportunity to send them with the IMB even if they can’t give enough to pay the bill.

2018 Pastor’s Conference Lineup Announced

Last May I expressed my excitement on this blog that H.B. Charles would be nominated to serve as the President of the 2018 SBC Pastor’s Conference.  Then at the annual meeting in Phoenix last year, Pastor Charles was unanimously elected to serve as the first African American president of the SBC Pastor’s Conference.  I have been looking forward to the conference, and last week the lineup of speakers was announced on Pastor Charles’ blog.

The Speakers for the 2018 SBC Pastor’s Conference

Bryan Carter | Concord Church | Dallas, Texas

Charlie Dates | Progressive Baptist Church | Chicago, Illinois

Jack Graham | Prestonwood Baptist Church | Plano, Texas

J.D. Greear | Summit Church | Durham, North Carolina

Tony Evans | Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship | Dallas, Texas

James Merritt | Cross Pointe Church | Sugarloaf, Georgia

Ray Pritchard | Keep Believing Ministries | Dallas, Texas

Juan Sanchez | High Pointe Baptist Church | Austin, Texas

Robert Smith | Beeson Divinity School | Birmingham, Alabama

Cameron Triggs | Grace Alive | Orlando, Florida

Daven Watkins | First Baptist Church | Pelham, Alabama

It was also announced that Frank Pomeroy, Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs will share a special testimony during the conference.  This will be “his testimony of trusting God through the tragedy his congregation suffered last summer, including the death of his young daughter.”

The theme for the conference is “Fulfill Your Ministry” from 2 Timothy 4:5.  The worship leader for the conference is Joe Pace.  Pace is the worship leader at Shiloh Church in Jacksonville, FL where Charles is Pastor.  He will be accompanied by a more than one hundred voice choir that will “lead us to sing praise to the high name of the Lord Jesus Christ!”

Join me in praying for the conference.  Hope to see you in Dallas!

The New Progressive Agenda

You may have heard that some among our Southern Baptist Convention are intent on bearing false witness against Russell Moore and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.  Dr. Moore is accused of pushing a progressive agenda at the ERLC.  He must be stopped, it is argued.

Well, the ERLC has just released their 2018 Legislative Agenda.  If this is the new progressive agenda, then sign me up!  I am hoping that someone with contacts to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi can pass it along to them so they will know what things to work toward in 2018.  I’m not sure they know that they are supposed to be supporting things like the sanctity of human life and religious liberty.

Here are some samples from the ERLC agenda.  I hope you will consider reading the whole thing.

On the Sanctity of Human Life…

Scripture teaches that every person is an image bearer of God (Gen. 1:26-27). Moreover, Scripture is clear that the womb is God’s domain, and that his knowledge of the unborn even precedes the creative act of conception (Jer. 1:5; Ps. 139:13). It is estimated that over 3,000 abortions take place in the United States every day. These are precious human lives denied both personhood and protection by an on-demand abortion culture. This year, we continue our fight on behalf of the most vulnerable among us, beginning with our annual Evangelicals For Life conference in Washington, D.C. Additionally, with the current congressional makeup, we are hopeful regarding a number of key pro-life legislative initiatives: Conscience Protection Act, Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, The Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, Defund Planned Parenthood, No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, (opposition to) Physician-assisted Suicide.

On Religious Liberty…

We learn from Romans 13:1–7 that governments and rulers have authority because that authority is given by God. God alone is the Creator of the universe and Lord of the conscience, and recognizing God’s authority also means recognizing man’s authority is never all-encompassing but limited and to be exercised within the parameters set by God. The American Founders understood this basic reality when crafting Article Six and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which provides religious freedom for American citizens by limiting the power of government. Baptists have always stood at the forefront, both among Christians insisting on religious freedom as a biblical teaching and in the public square contending for religious freedom for all. The ERLC will continue our work to defend the free exercise of faith for all believers.

On Family and Marriage…

Marriage is a gift from God. It serves as the basic human social structure (Gen. 2:18-25), provides stability for raising children (Prov. 1:8), and, most importantly, illustrates the relationship between Christ and his Church (Eph. 5:22-33). Marriage is an essential, foundational institution for human life and flourishing. We will work in the coming year to defend God’s design for marriage amidst related policy items.

On Justice…

Scripture unequivocally teaches that God is just (Deut. 32:4). And as Christians we rightly bear the call to reflect the justice of God as we seek to be faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. That mandate can been seen most clearly in the words of the prophet Micah: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) In our advocacy for fair and impartial judgment, and equitable treatment of the unjustly oppressed and marginalized, we bear witness to a God who is ultimately the just Judge, and a gospel that saves indiscriminately and without partiality.

On International Engagement…

Just as the ERLC is focused on advocating for human dignity, religious liberty, the family, and justice issues in the United States, we advance the same agenda internationally. In so doing, we respond to the call of the Scriptures to “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute” (Prov. 31:8). The ERLC’s international work is focused on the most vulnerable, such as religious minorities and victims of human trafficking.

As you can see, the idea that the ERLC is left-leaning or progressive under the leadership of Russell Moore is an absolutely ridiculous assertion.  You do not have to agree with Dr. Moore and his team on the specifics of every single issue of public policy to realize that this looks nothing like a progressive agenda.

For my part, I will simply continue to remind those who are intent on telling outright lies about Dr. Moore and the ERLC that the 9th Commandment is still in the Bible.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.