Thursday, August 18, 2005

Resolution on Integrity in Reporting

Gene Bridges had a great idea. Why not offer a resolution at the annual SBC meeting next year? The gatekeepers have pretty tight security around the process now, as spelled out in bylaw 20. Nevertheless, any member in good standing of a qualified Southern Baptist church (remember, there's over 16 million of us!) can submit a resolution to the committee on resolutions up to 15 days prior to the annual meeting.

We could work on a resolution here and offer it--or various versions of it--at our local associations and state conventions and then at the SBC in 2006 in Greensboro, NC. If everyone gets enough supporters in his or her own association and state to propose and pass this kind of resolution, it should be harder to for the committee on resolutions to ignore or dismiss it at the national convention.

OK, here is my offering, just to get the process started:

Whereas this 148th annual session of the Southern Baptist Convention marks the 26th anniversary of the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention; and

Whereas at the heart of this resurgence has been a determination to return to an unashamed commitment to the inerrancy and infallibilty of the Bible as the written Word of God; and

Whereas the Baptist Faith and Message states that the Scriptures are "the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried" (Article 1); and

Whereas the inerrant, infallible Word of God instructs us not to bear false witness (Exodus 20:16), but to put away lying and to speak truthfully to his neighbor (Ephesians 4:25); and

Whereas in 2004 the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Church Profiles indicated that there are 16,287,494 members in Southern Baptist churches; and

Whereas well over one half of those members never attend or participate meaningfully in the life of any local Southern Baptist church and are thus no different than non-members; and

Whereas the ideal of a regenerate church membership has long been and remains a cherished Baptist principle; now, comma, therefore, be it

RESOLVED that the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 13-14, 2005, urge Southern Baptists to repent of neglecting the effort to maintain responsible church membership, and be it further

RESOLVED that we urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to repent of their failure to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of church discipline (Matthew 18:15-18), and be it further

RESOLVED that we plead with pastors and church leaders to lead their churches to study and implement out Lord's teachings on this essential church practice, and be it further

RESOLVED that we encourage denominational servants to support and encourage churches that seek to recover and implement our Savior's teachings on church discipline especially when such efforts result in the reduction in the number of members that are reported in those churches, and be it finally

RESOLVED that we commit to pray for our churches as they seek to honor the Lord Jesus Christ through reestablishing integrity to church membership.

Well, that's at least a start. What do you think?

13 comments:

Stan said...

What would you think about also calling for statistics on discipline cases to be requested on the ACP? That would raise the level of awareness of the issue and the level of expectation of discipline just by reading the ACP and the compiled statistics. It would also expose 2000-member churches that never discipline a single member in a given year.

Steve Weaver said...

This is a much needed move if we are to remain legitimate as Baptists who are supposedly committed to a "regenerate church membership."

Bill Moore said...

I, too, think there is a need for an entry on the ACP that reveals the number dismissed from the membership because of discipline.

Tom, it looks like you've had practice at resolution-drafting. I like what you have.

Having a resolution brought to the SBC and getting it to the floor is one thing (and quite a hurdle at that). We can make the concept of meaningful membership a topic of discussion by writing letters to the editor of our state papers and by submitting articles to be published in those papers.

It's time to face up to the sham that our stats represent. Sure, other groups may be guilty of even more inflated statistics, but they do not claim regenerate membership as a denominational distinctive.

Bill

Ben said...

Perhaps also the blogosphere might shed some light on the process if the gatekeepers try to shove it under the rug.

Tony K. said...

Why would anyone not agree with this resolution? It would demonstrate real humility does exist in the SBC.

ScriptureSearcher said...

I remember Vance Havner saying that buildings, baptisms and budgets are not the biblical way to measure the true strength of a local church or entire denomination. The dear man of God said that we Southern Baptists are many, but it is to be feared, we're not much.

D.R. said...

I think the first thing that needs to happen is that we start talking more about it, prior to setting forth a resolution. That means more blogging, more people writing about it on BP news, and more bringing it up in state convention meetings. Resolutions are like presidential candidates -- they seem to have the most support the first time around, but after they lose the first primary or election, they never seem to have as much impact. This is something that might take a little more time than a year to get popular support.

BTW, I was impressed with Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, a mega-church that I think is heading in the right direction, when their Senior Pastor and elders decided to require all members to re-register their membership, in essence, wiping out the rolls and asking their members to make committments to actually be in church. Pretty impressive for a megachurch.

GeneMBridges said...

Tom,

Thank you for the compliment in running with my suggestion. (A rare moment of clarity for me the other day I suppose ;) .

May I suggest a few more things.

Am I mistaken that you will be attending the AOMin Cruise this year? If not, then that would be a prime time to run this by folks there.

I like what you have offered. Also, this is a chance to discuss statisitics, but it is also a resolution that needs to offer a constructive alternative, if only in it supporting material when presented to the associations who will have to look at it before it goes to the committee, many of whom do not, in general, share our theological convictions.

A. That could mean proposing a new system. At a minimum, it may cause a discussion about the reasons for the resolution.

B. If (i), then I suggest proposing a real study of our statistics that highlights the variables that are in question. A cohort study is a good case to start.

C. If (ii) then we need to have a statistical analysis (very like the one you presented in your previous article) handy. I suggest using the ACP's of the churches from a selection of past presidents of the SBC since the beginning of the conservative resurgence.

In short, if we're going to propose a resolution of this nature, then we need to do more than call for change, we need to offer a constructive alternative as well as establish the reasons for the alternative. I would also point out that, even if it doesn't make it through committee, it will serve the purpose of bringing this issue to the general table via the resolutions process and put the gatekeepers on notice that there is a need that needs to be addressed.

Stan said...

d.r. and genembridges make some excellent points. Some groundwork may need to be laid to give this resolution maximum impact. I note that Mohler had a four-part First Person series on Baptist Press on church discipline:

http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=21232
http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=21241
http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=21251
http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=21259

This is the kind of thing that needs to be built upon. I wonder if it would help to get some of P. H. Mell's stuff on church discipline back in circulation. Nine Marks has provided a start:

http://www.9marks.org/partner/Article_Display_Page/0,,PTID314526|CHID598014|CIID2048934,00.html

Also, what do you think about hosting some seminars for local associations on "putting meaning back into membership" or something along those lines? That would seem like a palatable way to introduce the idea of church discipline to pastors. I confess that I know virtually nothing about the dynamics of doing something like this in a local association.

GeneMBridges said...

Also, what do you think about hosting some seminars for local associations on "putting meaning back into membership" or something along those lines? That would seem like a palatable way to introduce the idea of church discipline to pastors.

This is a very good idea! Recently on tribalogue (Steve Hays' blog) Steve asked exactly where those who have problems with the lack of church discipline think we should start. Steve is a Presbyterian, not a Southern Baptist, and the PCA does, in general, a better job with church covenants than we do, so I wouldn't expect him to quite understand how profound this issue is for us Baptists. CenturiOn's reply was "Pretty much anywhere," since the problem isn't as much laxity in church discipline as it is a complete lack of church discipline.

Unfortunately, in my experience, this is the norm for a great many of our churches, and is sometimes difficult to get people to step up to the plate from within our own ranks on the "how to's" of this issue, since many of those most conscious of it are also pastoring churches and are in transition at the moment with regard to this issue.

It is also difficult to get Southern Baptists to see beyond the myopia of our own ranks for good examples. If it doesn't come with "Lifeway" or "Executive Committee Approved" or "I went to such and such SBC seminary or college" it just isn't worth considering. However, at the same time, it may mean going outside our own ranks for folks to help us. For example, the church my own mother attends is Baptist, but not Southern Baptist. They have a "real" church covenant with a "real" discipline process in place that really works. They also have "real" educational standards (as in members are expected to grow in the understanding of the Scriptures and know some theology), to which they have approximately 85 percent compliance. When this church splits, it is even because it grows too large! Their Constitution says they have to split if they reach over 500 members. Why? So that their elders and deacons can do their jobs effectively. It's an impressive little church (one that would be the envy of many of us). However, since they aren't SBC, it would be a real pain to get the Association to study them as a model of how to do things right. Sad, but true.

Jeff Wright said...

I would love to see the inclusion of church discipline stats on the ACP (done properly) but I think we all realize what a big fuss that will stir up.

I don't know that it's entirely realistic to start there. I do think the aforementioned resolution would be a great place to start a conventione wide elevation of church membership importance.

Perhaps once it passes, the road would be better cleared for something on church discipline information being gathered on the coming year's ACPs.

Either way, I'm in. I'd happily volunteer to blog on the resolution and email/mail all the TN pastors I know about voting for it in the state and national conventions. Not sure how much worth my efforts there will be worth but I'm willing to do what I can.

centuri0n said...

That is the bandwagin I am talking about.

Nathan said...

I am whole-heartedly in favor of this type of resolution. Southern Baptists conveniently forget about the ninth commandment everytime we brag about our bloated numbers. I suspect that there are many non-Calvinists in the SBC that would be supportive of such a strong statement for statistical honesty and the importance of regenerate church membership. This is a good idea.