By John Pierce
In its constant pursuit of a narrowly defined orthodoxy, Southern Baptist Convention leadership refuses to let logic interfere with decision making. Hence, the recent well-publicized efforts to ostracize Boy Scouts and to keep peace with the Calvinists who are gaining ground among them.
Making any kind of sense out of how Southern Baptists make decisions — and what rises to the top of their priority list — can be challenging. But, heck, why not give it a try?
SBC leaders are bent out of shape that BSA leaders won’t, by policy, exclude or dismiss youthful participants who might confess to same-sex orientation. (Sexual behavior, Scouts leaders have continually affirmed, is not permitted in Scouting.)
So the hatchets of several Southern Baptist pastors — including the current SBC president, the past convention president and the president of the SBC Executive Committee — have fallen on the merit-badge seeking, knot-tying boys and troop leaders tied to their congregations.
Logically, one must ask: Will these churches treat youth within their congregations in the same way they want Boy Scouts to be exclusive? If a faithful teen, long active in the church, confesses to his youth minister that he feels same-sex attraction, will he be booted from the youth group and have his name removed from the church roll?
Apparently, many churches have no problems treating gay and lesbian persons so harshly. A recent Pew Research Center study shows about one-third of gay and lesbian persons stating they have felt unwelcome in a house of worship.
So I guess the strong response from SBC leaders toward the Boy Scouts makes a lot of sense if you don’t think about. But taking such actions to their logical conclusions can be baffling.
However, SBC leaders themselves seem baffled by their denominational decline and can’t imagine why everyone would not want to be just like them. So they are attempting to avoid a split over Calvinism.
A report from an advisory committee called for “unity” based on the odd idea that it is OK to believe “more” than what’s found in the convention’s doctrinal statement but not “less.” Logically, if one dares to think about it, that means their minimums of faith are the most important ones.
Therefore, for example, a fellow Baptist who believes a woman can be called to pastoral ministry (something SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page once defended as biblical in his doctoral dissertation) does not meet the minimal requirements of Southern Baptists. Sorry about that.
However, if a fellow Baptist believes that God died for a predetermined few, rather than for the whole world (as John 3: 16 claims and Page argued in his book, Trouble with the TULIP), that is an acceptable “more” belief that allows for inclusion within the Southern Baptist fold. That’s a minor doctrinal difference compared to the role of women in church leadership, you see.
Are we making sense here? I’m trying hard.
So if I were interested in being a Southern Baptist again, and I’m not, I could embrace the belief that one of my two daughters is destined for Heaven while the other is destined for Hell (regardless of the spiritual nurture we provide or her own response to Jesus). But I cannot believe that one of them might receive a divine calling to pastoral ministry.
When you think about it, that’s how Southern Baptists believe now — “more” or “less.”
But, as one friend asked me: “What if I believe my daughter is predestined to be a pastor?” Don’t confuse the matter, please.
Once again, as hard as I try, it is impossible to make sense out of current SBC decision making and priorities. Their preference is to obsess over orthodoxy by holding and defending a narrow view of “being right” that trumps grace and love, as well as logic.
But they are not the first. Jesus dealt with such religious people in his day, and reserved some of his harshest words for them.
Executive editor / publisher at Good Faith Media.