The Southern Baptist Convention’s recent decision to quit the Baptist World Alliance all but completes its 25-year rewrite of what it means to be Baptist.
George W. Truett, legendary Texas Baptist pastor and founding light of the BWA, wouldn’t recognize the revision.
The time-honored and hard-fought values of individual priesthood, freedom of conscience, congregational self-determination and cooperative missions are distant echoes of the once-great denomination.
Truett knew that the human soul was shaped with an inviolate freedom to embrace or reject its Shaper, that each individual is competent and authorized to make this critical decision, and that this voluntary principle lay at the heart of all true religion.
On this concept of freedom, Truett’s generation built the Southern Baptist Convention. Thousands of Baptist churches throughout Texas and the American South freely dared to trust the Spirit to connect their varied congregations into a remarkably vital denominational community.
It was freedom that formed the Southern Baptist Convention, but the revised SBC no longer believes in freedom.
A denomination that believes in freedom doesn’t require its theologians and missionaries to sign a creed, and fire them if they refuse.
A denomination that believes in freedom doesn’t dabble in partisan politics or advance a brazen political agenda.
A denomination that believes in freedom doesn’t scapegoat women as the cause of Eden’s fall, or deny their right and responsibility to serve God as they are called.
A denomination that believes in freedom doesn’t censor its press and censure its critics.
Violation of freedom has destroyed the Southern Baptist Convention that George W. Truett built and loved. The freedom and cooperation he so carefully cultivated has been replaced by fear, conformity and coercion.
The Baptist General Convention of Texas is the one Baptist jewel that the SBC revisionists have not succeeded in reprogramming, and is the last best hope for preserving the Baptist identity Truett worked so hard to create.
Make no mistake about it: the SBC is gunning for Texas Baptists. That’s why they sent the chief architect of the denominational hostile takeover to preside over the seminary in Fort Worth.
Why shouldn’t they? Baylor University, the Baylor Health Care system, Buckner Baptist Benevolences and 20 other fine Texas Baptist institutions would be a treasure trove for them to control.
BGCT churches continue to serve as collection agencies for the Southern Baptist revision of Baptist history, passing through million of dollars annually to the SBC.
At present, 21 cents of every undesignated dollar the BGCT receives from the churches goes straight through to the SBC, thus underwriting their own demise.
Such a funding mechanism is sheer insanity. It confuses freedom’s friends and empowers freedom’s enemies.
All freedom-loving Baptists should advocate in their congregations the immediate defunding of all SBC causes.
Now is the time for the churches of our great Texas Baptist family to cease bankrolling the revision beyond all recognition of cherished Baptist freedoms.
Charles Foster Johnson is senior pastor of the Trinity Baptist Church of San Antonio, Texas.
Charles Foster Johnson is pastor of Bread in Fort Worth, Texas, and founder and executive director of Pastors for Children, a nationwide network of faith leaders mobilized for public education ministry and advocacy.