You would think that folks who have firm convictions would not be threatened by the notion of cooperating in various ways with others who might differ in some respects. Apparently, however, the fear of contamination rules in some circles.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, for example, has told the Tarrant Baptist Association that it must vacate the office space it has used for many years on the edge of Southwestern’s campus. According to Associated Baptist Press, the seminary accused the association of violating a 1997 agreement that the two organizations must be in “theological harmony.”
The apparent rub for Southwestern is that the association has not booted Fort Worth’s Broadway Baptist Church, which welcomes homosexual members, from membership in the association. Broadway was expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention in 2009, and in 2010 voluntarily withdrew from the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
Do Southwestern’s leaders fear that the campus might be infected by liberalism if a member of Broadway should visit the associational office, or do they worry about being accused of consorting with the enemy by allowing the autonomous association to act autonomously in deciding which churches qualify for fellowship?
It’s an ugly business either way, and demonstrates more insecurity than strength.
The same appears to be true with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, which appears to fear Methodists. After the BSCNC removed the mid-summer music week from its accustomed slot at the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Caswell, Campbell University Divinity School sought to take up the slack by planning a music and worship conference July 19-20 called “Oasis.”
The conference features excellent leadership from 15 clinicians, all of whom are Baptist with the exception of a lone Methodist who is “Pastor of Worship Life” at her church. In the interest of cooperation, a staff member from the BSCNC was also invited to participate, but he declined, saying he could not participate because the school was “cooperating with Methodists.”
You have to watch those Methodists. Some volunteer choir director might fall from grace after listening to one of them talk about worship.
Fundamentalist Baptists may feel justified in their growing exclusivism and isolationist attitudes, but cutting themselves off from the larger church, it seems to me, ensures that they will become a shrinking and increasingly less relevant presence in the world.