An admittedly snarky blog by John Pierce

Over recent decades a major shift occurred within Southern Baptist Convention leadership. The emphasis moved from cooperation to control.

Specifically, terms like “inerrancy” became code words for equating biblical allegiance with support for certain social and doctrinal positions such as opposition to gender equality. (Only a fool would fall for the notion that women are “equal” when the positions that come with all the authority in the home and church are reserved for men.)

Therefore, exclusionary tactics became the favored pastime for those tasting the power of convention leadership and relishing in the joys of boundary keeping.

“Liberals” — that is, anyone who doesn’t agree with fundamentalist viewpoints or agrees with those positions but doesn’t support heavy-handed tactics — were pushed aside. While pained at first, many of us are now happily removed from that old structure which is facing tremendous challenges to remain relevant at any level. (Yes, we’re over it.)

But paying attention to news about Baptists comes with the vocational territory. So it’s worth noting that the SBC’s International Mission Board has loosened its requirements a bit for missionary candidates.

This is just a slight loosening — one notch perhaps — but noteworthy for what it addresses and more so for what it does not.

Missionaries who have a “private prayer language” (speak in tongues but aren’t pushy about it) or have been divorced (once an unpardonable sin) are no longer necessarily excluded from appointment or specific assignments.

However, Southern Baptists, while arguing over it a good bit, have made room in their clubhouse for the rise of Calvinism. And it keeps rising.

Still excluded from participation at any significant level of leadership or service are those who don’t use the right code words about the Bible or who dare to believe that women might be called to all kinds of kingdom service.

And, of course, the high fence remains in front of women themselves who feel called to serve in places these boundary keepers claim that God has reserved for the more-testosterone-filled, first-in-creation gender.

However, needed financial support from women for the funding the big Baptist missions machine is welcomed as always. (Men don’t have time for stuff like that while being great spiritual leaders.)

The challenge in imposing restrictions borne more of social conditioning than biblical revelation — a specialty of Southern Baptists — is that the same viewpoints aren’t found in various cultures (even very conservative ones) worldwide where, for example, the charismatic expression is prevalent and women preach and lead.

So missionaries bump up against their doctrinally imposed, ethnocentric boundaries while trying to serve among populations worldwide, including other Christians.

Despite such challenges, only tiny, incremental and selective loosening can occur within Southern Baptist leadership now because they have so strongly claimed that God and the Bible support their exclusionary positions. Confessing to being wrong on any social issue — not resolved at least a century and a half ago — is beyond the realm of possibility.

So they are left with a strange set of boundaries that doesn’t automatically reject divorcees and closet-praying charismatics. And it’s OK to believe that Jesus died for a limited few — and that God has predetermined those who are bound for heaven and those bound for hell.

They are still careful, however, to ensure that no women try to preach the Gospel to any potentially lost yet superior men. Jesus doesn’t like that.

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