Brave Baptists meet this week in Birmingham, England, for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Baptist World Alliance, despite two terrorist attacks on London in recent weeks.
These folk are certain to learn from one another, forging a stronger global core of goodwill Baptists and giving a witness to the forces of violence that many Baptists believe peace will win.
Cowardly Baptists withdrew from the BWA last year, making wild charges against the BWA of anti-Americanism, pro-homosexual alliances and a drift toward liberalism.
These folk lacked the courage to admit that they could not–would not–cooperate with others whom they were unable to control and mold into their ideological self-image. They are the Southern Baptist Convention leaders and enablers. They needed to slander the BWA in order to justify their retreat from it.
“We can no longer afford in this particular day, when the press for gay marriage is on, to be in alliance with denominations that support in any form or fashion gay marriage,” asserted Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was also a member of the SBC/BWA study committee that recommended defunding the BWA.
“What you give your money and name to, you give tacit approval to,” he said.
Patterson and the SBC practice a situation ethic, however. They continue to turn a blind eye to their own tacit approval of two individuals who are marquee speakers at the event in the United Kingdom.
Rick Warren and Henry Blackaby are both BWA program leaders and regular columnists for Baptist Press, the public relations arm of the SBC. Their presence on the BWA program has been well-know for a long time. Nevertheless, Baptist Press continues to carry their columns.
Warren and Blackaby provide a modest level of credibility to and endorsement of the BWA within Southern Baptist circles.
The SBC indirectly and directly finances Warren and Blackaby. The SBC affords them visibility in Baptist Press and Baptist state papers, helping with book and product sales. SBC bookstores directly sell both their products. Warren is one of the regular best-selling authors; Blackaby’s products have been selling for 15 years in Baptist bookstores. Both have undoubtedly made a good deal for themselves and SBC bookstores.
Additionally, the SBC has profiled Warren as a model for church growth. Blackaby’s piety has become boilerplate spirituality for Southern Baptists.
So, what is the SBC to do?
Remember, “What you give your money and name to, you give tacit approval to,” said Patterson.
The SBC has certainly given its name and money to Warren and Blackaby. Therefore, should the SBC withdraw their products from bookshelves and stop carrying their columns on Baptist Press? Should SBC leaders hold that the involvement of Warren and Blackaby in the BWA discloses that they have an anti-American, pro-gay agenda? If the SBC’s involvement in the BWA suggests that the SBC is soft on gay marriage, does the same apply to Warren and Blackaby?
The SBC would be in a far better position had it decided to disengage simply from the BWA without conjuring up absurd charges to justify its withdrawal. Now it’s left with a conundrum of what its does to Warren and Blackaby.
What the SBC will do is likely to cover its eyes and hope that nobody sees its flimflam.
Meanwhile goodwill Baptists will press forward together advancing the best of the Baptist tradition of respect for one another and cooperation.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.