Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Dr. Sullivan seeks to impose Resolution #5 on Florida Baptists

I have waited two months before publicly responding to comments made at the recent Florida Baptist Convention by Executive Director, John Sullivan. I wanted to make sure that he actually said what I heard. My efforts immediately after the convention to secure a recording of his comments were futile. However, within two weeks the Florida Baptist Witness quoted him extensively and accurately in an article by Joni Hannigan.

During the last session of the 2006 convention, after a wonderful message by Voddie Baucham, Dr. Sullivan came to the pulpit and expressed his dismay that at the Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro messengers had "wasted thirty minutes of God's precious time debating" resolution #5 on abstaining from alchohol. Citing the amendment to that resolution, that says that "we urge that no one be elected to serve as a trustee or member of any entity or committee of the Southern Baptist Convention that is a user of alcoholic beverages," Sullivan made the following statement:
We are not going to have people on our boards of trustees that do not believe in total abstinence.
I emailed Dr. Sullivan and asked if he actually meant that it would not be enough if a trustee abstained from drinking alcohol, but that he or she would also have to hold to a total abstinence conviction. He confirmed that this was exactly what he meant. He pledged to pursue action within the Florida Baptist Convention to assure this. The current issue of the Witness carries the first of 3 articles by Dr. Sullivan on this topic, with his further pledge to work to impose his view, and that of the infamous Resolution # 5, on the entities of the Florida Baptist Convention. He writes,
Please understand, I am not taking a poll on this matter. It is my candid opinion that as the executive director-treasurer of this convention, I must do everything possible to protect our integrity and witness. This new attitude on "moderate" use of alcohol poses a problem for me and many other Florida Baptists. A proposal will be made to the State Board of Missions through the proper channels that the trustees of the entities of the Florida Baptist State Convention will abstain from the use of alcoholic beverages.
This is a little less than what Dr. Sullivan stated publicly that he would work to impose on Florida Baptists. He will be more likely to gain a hearing for this than if he tries to insist that every trustee personally have a conviction that the Bible teaches abstinence. I suppose the next articles will explain his intent further.

As he states in the article, his mind is made up. It is not up for discussion. I find it ironic that he sees this issue as necessary to "protect our integrity and witness" while admittedly refusing to deal the biblical arguments involved. Perhaps he will engage Scripture in future articles.

As a Florida Baptist pastor, I am grieved by the public statements of our Executive Director and will oppose any effort that he makes to make his extra-biblical convictions the litmus test for service on our the trustees of our convention entities. In fact, in anticipation of this move our church leaders have already discussed a plan of action to recommend to our own church. I do so not because I want to drink (as I have loudly and widely proclaimed, I do not drink), but because I love the Word of God and think it is sufficient to guide us in faith and life. This action, and others like it, undermines the authority of God's Word. Many, many Florida Baptists who read their Bibles readily recognize this. An attempt to impose a total abstinence view on our churches will be disastrous for the welfare of our convention.

Dr. Sullivan begins his article with these words:
I have been surprised by the attention given to my recent statements about the use of alcoholic beverages. Being a "tee-totaler" has been my conviction-not convenience-since August 1955 when I was saved. After salvation, it never entered my mind that "social" or "moderate" drinking was acceptable to the Heavenly Father. I never considered discussing it as a possibility. Now some would say that is closed-mindedness. They would be right-there is no debate for me.
I end my article with this response:

I have been surprised by the quickness with which some have been willing to impose rules on fellow Christians that the Bible does not impose. I have been a "Bible man" since my conversion in 1963 when I was saved. After salvation, it never entered my mind that trying to impose cultural standards on the Bible was acceptable to the God who breathed out the Scripture and said that it was enough for the man of God to be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). I never thought I would see leaders trying to do that very thing. Now, some would say that this is close-mindedness. They are wrong. If I can be shown by clear teaching from the Word of God that any activity is prohibited, I will stand against it without hesitation or equivocation. Like one of my heroes said long ago, "My conscience is captive to the Word of God."

If you want to change my mind, come with an open Bible.

38 comments:

Jared Wall said...

If only the passion and determination that many misguided souls have for resolution #5 could be directed toward the preaching of the gospel and the whole counsel of God. Imagine a church convention so compelled by the Word of God and their beliefs that they refused to allow anyone to work in or around their organization who did not hold to the bold proclamation of God's word through the pulpit by means of expository preaching. That would be refreshing.

Thanks for the information Brother Ascol. And, although I am a Louisiana Baptist, I heartily agree with your thoughts on the matter.

joethorn.net said...

I was going to try and convince you, but then you brought the Bible into it. :)

Praying for you Tom.

The D.O.G. House said...

Good thoughts well written. It makes me think of the first we here of the one who is always working to change God's word.

"Did God really say that you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"

Same old song and dance...different packaging.

Debbie said...

Like one of my heroes said long ago, "My conscience is captive to the Word of God."

"If you want to change my mind, come with an open Bible."

I agree.

Martin Graham said...

Same old legalism that SBC leaders insist is equal to holiness. I am not one who drinks either, but there is absolutely no prohibition in the Bible from drinking, provided that the one drinking does not become "drunk with wine."

GeneMBridges said...

Dontcha know it'll lead the SBC into Calvinism than Presbyterianism if this Resolution is not made policy at every level.

This is rather astounding, for a Resolution would be taken as the model for a binding policy. Wow. So, it's not enough to abstain yourself, you have to do so from an abstinence only stance. If not, we will consider you unfit for service.

That's not far from this logic:
You must believe in particular redemption to be saved; and you must not only believe in it yourself, you must do so from a platform that considers general redemptionists as unregenerate. If not, we will consider you unregenerate. Recognize this logic? It's the logic of "neo-Gnostic" hyperCalvinism.

Highland Host said...

A Victorian English clergyman was walking down the street one day looking unwell. A friend saw him and commented on it. The clergyman said he had been dining with Canon Farrar the week before, and had had some wine. The friend expressed surprise, knowing Farrar was teetotal.
"Yes, but he had what he called unfermented wine and pressed me to drink some. It has been fermenting ever since!"
Seriously, although I do not drink alcohol except at the communion table, I would not think of forcing my position on anyone else, as I dislike those trying to force me to drink socially. I read the arguments of the total absinence group, and none convince me that NO Christian should drink alcohol in moderation.

Of course, I live in the United Kingdom, where excessive alcohol consumption is a serious social problem, and many young people are suffering from alcohol-related diseases

Kevin Rhyne said...

Interesting that this issue is being focused upon Florida Baptists to "protect our integrity and witness" when the SBC's integrity and witness on the issue of church membership suffers much more seriously.

If we took the same logic the Convention did to the membership issue and applied it to Resolution #5, it would make more sense for Sullivan to promote alcohol use so that we could attract more "prospects."

I have chosen not to drink also, it is a stumbling block to others. However, the fervor at which this extra-biblical issue is being forced has all the markings of straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.

Andrew said...

I have many friends (calvinists, arminians, baptists, presbyterians, etc) who believe that drinking alcohol is not only permitted by Scripture, but, with moderation, is to be enjoyed as a gift of God. For them, its not just young people being young and stupid and enjoying getting a buzz (as some might think), but it is a serious theological position that they hold to.

I say this because I believe this discussion could get very very interesting as guys my age start taking more and more roles of leadership within the SBC, because I'm suspecting that the.....antipathy towards Resolution #5 will only become more and more fervent in the coming years, especially as some of the current leadership take such a hard stance on alcoholic abstinence. What concerns me is that we young guns, in our youthful arrogance, might simply disregard the established status quo, and go in our own directions.

I pray will all my heart that God would not permit this to happen, and that He would not allow bitterness and anger to foster and flare in His Church regarding this matter!

May His Will be done!

Tom said...

jared and Kevin:

You are expressing my thoughts, as well. Imagine what this scene must look like in heaven--here is SBC leadership, standing in the front of a predominantly unregenerate denomination, speaking loudly and passionately about the need to impose an abstinence only conviction as a litmus test for leadership in the denomination! I am grieved...and weary.

I meant to state in the article all of the usual disclaimers, that this is not and should not become a personal issue. Dr. Sullivan is a good and godly man who has done much good for the Florida Convention. The issue is not drinking, but Scripture. I am grateful for the care that has been exercised in the comments thus far to avoid any personal attacks. Let's work hard to avoid that at all costs.

scripturesearcher said...

I fully understand the position of Sullivan, Patterson, and many other
Southern Baptist leaders ...

But imposing EXTRA BIBLICAL ethics on others before they can join our "religious club" and serve in our so-called BIBLE BASED churches and para-church institutions, etc.
is one of the distinctive marks of
LEGALISM.

Beware LEGALISM!
Beware ANTINOMIANISM!

Both are scripturally wrong and will eventually destroy the clear
proclamation of the true GOSPEL of
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Kevin Rhyne said...

Tom,

I do not know Dr. Sullivan, so I cede to your assessment of him as a "good and godly man." My comments were directed at the unbiblical foundation and logic of the position, not the man.

I agree, the conversation on this should not degenerate into ad hominem. If my post could be interpreted as such a personal attack, let me say unequivocally, it was not meant to be so.

"And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth," 2 Tim. 2:24-25.

scripturesearcher said...

And some who want to change our minds regarding this issue (and many others) insist on "coming to us with an open Bible" but it must always be the Bible Jesus used ~ which they ignorantly believe to be the KJV of 1611.

What did Christians use before the year 1611 ?????????????????????

It is a rhetorical question and is
considered a "no brainer" by all informed believers - and unbelievers, too.

Tom said...

Kevin:

I did not take your comments that way at all. My comment was simply an attempt to pre-emptively address what could but should not happen. Thanks.

ta

Rick Chase said...

The way things are going, i guess not even Jesus or Paul could be a trustee in the SBC since Jesus drank enough wine to be accused of being a wine bibber and Paul advocated Timothy use wine for his tummy. I don't buy the argument that the wine of Jesus' day was non alcoholic, since Jesus described it as fermented drink in the parable of the wineskins and there are numerous warnings against being drunk on much wine. The best argument against use of alcohol is personal conviction and not wanting to cause a brother to stumble. That puts it into the same categorie as meet sacrificed to idols. Perhaps another resolution whould prohibit those who eat meat sacrificed to idols since that would be consistent with the logic of Resolution 5.

kingofbleh said...

Churches today are self-imposing all sorts of extra-biblical restictions/regulations. Just that most of them have not risen to the state or national level (yet)!

1. "Churches must have a (sappy, sentimental music-filled emotion-driven) invitation at the end of every service where people can either walk an aisle, pray a prayer in their seat, sign a card or raise their hand to be saved. Max. invitation time: 1 min or 2 verses whichever comes first. We believe that churches that do not include such invitations because they claim to desire 'to preach the whole gospel' in pursuit of what they call 'regenerate' conversions are not pursuing their Biblical mandate.

2. "(Luke 14:23-style) old-fashioned evangelism/visitation programs are no longer appropriate because God would want to offend anyone by showing up at their door uninvited. Instead, our evanglism program will consist of mass mailers, local TV ads and surveys on how the church can serve the local community better. God will not be mentioned much so as to not offend anyone with the gospel."

3. "God says that religious groups calling themselves Christian must get along regardless of their various beliefs on irrelevant doctrinal issues like justication by faith and the grace of God in order to unite behind moral causes to bring America back to it's Christian roots. So churches and Christians who would rather spend their time proclaiming the Gospel than rallying behind our political agenda do not have God's will at heart."

4. "Churches that are not experiencing rapid Saddleback-style (numeric) growth rates are not growing and should be (killed off) by the nearest purpose-driven church"

I could go on. These are my paraphrases (with words added) of things I have heard spoken at pastor's conferences and pulpits of megachurches. In this context the convictional abstinence movement does not surprise me.

G. Alford said...

Ok, I have two comments on this:

1st – I think I smell a Rat… no I am not talking about Dr. Sullivan, so like Tom said don’t even go there. What I am saying is this; why is the implementing of resolution #5, which has been passed about 50 times over the past century, being pursued by the Executive Director of the Florida Convention at this time?

Could their possibly be a connection between the number of Calvinist who spoke out against resolution #5 and the determination to now enforce it? In one bold and very clever move this will effectively ban most Calvinist, who will never consent to any such extra-biblical policy, from serving in the Florida Convention… nicely done Dr. Sullivan!

2nd – In their article “Why We Left the Episcopal Church”, which appeared in the January 8, 2007 edition of the Washington Post, the Rev. John Yates and Os Guinness write:

“Fundamental to a liberal view of freedom is the right of a person or group to define themselves, to speak for themselves and to not be dehumanized by the definitions and distortions of others. This right we request even of those who differ from us.”

Yikes, talk about turning church history on its head… The Episcopal brethren have become the champions of religious freedom while we Baptist are busy meeting behind closed doors to see who we need to investigate next (the impact of Calvinism), bar from serving on our committees (anyone who drinks a class of wine with their evening meals), or reject as a missionary (anyone who speaks in a private prayer language).

Regardless of your position on any or all of the above mentioned issues it is clear that many in the Southern Baptist Convention are just fine with the loss of religious freedom… as long as it is the loss of someone else’s religious freedom.

Timmy said...

Tom said:
I find it ironic that he sees this issue as necessary to "protect our integrity and witness" while admittedly refusing to deal the biblical arguments involved. Perhaps he will engage Scripture in future articles.

I say: Good luck. :)

What are our sources of authority by which we speak and make decisions? We take two steps forward, and three steps back . . . to Rome.

G. Alford said...

Timmy I thought you knew...

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. (BFM2000)

Timmy said...

Mr. Alford,

Thanks for the refresher. :)

G. Alford said...

Timmy,

Big Smile :-)

I am sure that those who wrote our Baptist Faith and Message meant to include the words "and religious decrees from Rome." N-O-T !

G. Alford said...

More from the BFM2000...

XVII. Religious Liberty

God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it.

One Salient Oversight said...

I'm not Baptist nor American - I'm an Australian Presbyterian.

I chose to remain teetotal for my teenage years. This was my own choice. My parents both drank, but never to excess, and they were not believers.

But this choice to be teetotal was not based upon anything to do with my Christian faith. I knew that it was okay to drink alcohol, so long as you do not become drunk - it was clear to me that the bible taught this.

During my late teens and early 20s I would occasionally go to bars with workmates. They would drink beer, I would drink orange juice. They respected me for my decision and knew that it had nothing to do with me being Christian.

(BTW, the drinking age in Australia is 18, not 21, which is why I was able to go to these places)

Since the age of 23 I have chosen to consume alcohol (I am now 37). I drink wine and spirits but choose not to drink beer (I tried it once and it was awful).

As a result of this I have been in case where I have socialised with alcohol drinking unbelievers in bars. I am happy to say that it has been relatively easy for me to stop drinking after 2-3 drinks. Even though I have been drinking alcohol, I have never been drunk. The unbelievers I drank with would occasionally rib me and say "We'll get you drunk!", but I would always shake my head. I've never been drunk and my witness has not been compromised as a result.

These unbelivers knew that I was a Christian and they knew I chose to remain sober because of my faith. If I had gotten blind drunk then my witness to them would have been ruined.

But I have to say - at least I didn't sit there and judge them for drinking and sprout unbiblical nonsense about God wanting people to be completely abstinent.

Byroniac said...

Dr. Ascol:

Well, I agree that the Bible does not require total abstention from alcohol, though of course it does forbid drunkenness. I am curious however about what someone like me is supposed to do who is a member of an SBC church whose membership covenant contains that famous clause forbidding usage of alcohol. I see that clause as extra-biblical legalism, but at the same time, it is part of the membership covenant that I am beholden to in good faith. So where does this leave people such as myself?

I do want to clarify something: I do no longer hold to personal abstinence of alcohol either, though I still affirm that drunkenness is sinful.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. A,

I surely do hope to stand at Microphone 13 in San Antonio to speak again for the sufficiency of God's Word if the need arises. I've grown my beard out so the parliamentarian will not recognize me until I've already been given the floor! :)

Love in Christ,

Jeff

centuri0n said...

What if you evangelize someone who is holding a 2/3 beer?

B Nettles said...

I would like to hear a sermon from Dr. Sullivan regarding the head coverings of women and men having long hair. Would he apply the same Biblical "rigor" to I Corinthians that he does to, uh, well, Deuteronomy 14:26? oh, wait, that says consuming wine or strong drink before the Lord is ACCEPTABLE.

Oh, but that's in the Old Testament. Let's see, where is it prohibited in the New Testament....Oh, wow...it's not there!

C.T. Lillies said...

If we took the same logic the Convention did to the membership issue and applied it to Resolution #5, it would make more sense for Sullivan to promote alcohol use so that we could attract more "prospects."

Tom are you going to put the Integrity in Membership thing up again this year?

Cent--I wouldn't lose any sleep over having a beer with someone if that was the only way I could share the gospel with them but I'm sure a lot of folks won't agree with me on that.

I think it comes down to the fact that a lot of my beloved SBC kindred are afraid that since their decision got them into heaven a different decision can get them out.

Don't let 'em drag you down Tom!

Josh
"...the word of God is not bound."
--2 Timothy 2:9

willreformed said...

Brother Tom
I sincerely, but regrettably believe, that the SBC is a dying denomination. The recent articles in the SBTC about the problem of unregenerate membership, the falling away from the foundational rock of the Bibie as the only authority for faith and practice, and the unwillingness to preach the whole cousel of God, are all symptomatic of a denomination, and a people, who have lost there way.

I have great personal respect for you as you attempt, in a Godly manner, to stand for Biblical truth.
Will

Doug said...

Byroniac,

I would say that if you have signed the church covenant and become a member, then you should abide by the covenant you sign. If there is a process in place for changing things like the covenant, you may want to consider following that process.

If you find you can't abide by the rule, politely remove yourself and find a church that doesn't have that rule.

In my case, I belonged to a church that had that very statement in their covenant. I abided by the the rule while a member there. I eventually was sent out to plant a church by the one where I was a member. When we formulated our covenant, we left that line out.

Tom said...

Josh:

I do plan to introduce the resolution on integrity in church membership again this year. I have a post ready to go on it. Unfortunately (and ironically), Dr. Sullivan's article appeared the day I planned to post it. I will put it up either today or Monday. Thanks for the encouragement!

Will:

I largely agree with you. What is more alarming to me is that I think there may be huge numbers of churches that are dying or maybe even dead, ala Smyrna and Laodicia (read Rev. 3:1 and 17)--that is dead or dying all the while being touted as excitingly alive. Jesus' words to those church tell us that this scenario is at least possible. But, notice that Jesus does not give up on them...yet. I think we need more of our Lord's patience and willingness to work for reformation.

Byroniac:

I think Doug said it just right!

Samuel J Bell III said...

I could go on and on about my personal opinions on the topic. But I will just let the word of God speek for its self.
Psalm 104:
14 HE makes grass grow for the cattle,and plants FOR man to cultivate—bringing forth food from the earth:
15 WINE that GLADDENS the heart of man,oil to make his face shine,
and bread that sustains his heart.

and then in
1 Corinthians 10:
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

So in Light of this Is this a major issue and if it is should it be. I wonder if Dr. Sullivan is as worrried about the lack of reverance that is shown in todays churches. Also mabye he should be more concerned about the fellowship of the people of God than if someone takes a moderat drink every now and then.
In Him

Tom said...

Jeff:

Thanks! I will be looking for you!

ta

Rick Chase said...

I guess a positive side to all this is that at least we Southern Baptists are simply debating the use of alcohol, i would rather agree to disagree with brothers over that issue rather then be in fellowship with church leaders who support gay marriage.

Lance Roberts said...

The Bible is quite clear that alcohol is wrong, a mocker and a deceiver. There's as many scriptural statements against alcohol as against pornography.

Lance Roberts said...

Rick Chase,

The reason for new wineskins, was because the wine would ferment, not that it started out in that state.

G. Alford said...

Lance Roberts said:

“The Bible is quite clear that alcohol is wrong,”

Really?

Well Lance I am glad you cleared up the issue of Jesus living a sinless life or not… I mean with him turning water into “Wine” for a wedding, and apparently drinking wine so often that the Pharisees accused him of being a “Winebibber”, O and what about drinking Wine with his disciples at the last supper?… Yep, it is quite clear that this guy did a lot of things “Wrong”…

And what does that say about his “Father in heaven” who accepted wine as an O.T. offering? I guess its true what they say; “Like Father, Like Son”.

Mark said...

Lance,

Why did you not list the scriptures? Not the one(s) about being drunk, but the one(s) prohibiting the production, sale and use of alcohol in any form.

Also, explain this. Does God tempt man to sin? If yes you go against scripture. If no, explain what was Jesus doing at the wedding feast. If the bible states that the use and drinking of alcohol is a sin, did Jesus sin? Did he tempt others to sin? Did he enable others to sin?

Taking a position like you have taken, and Dr. Sullivan, throws a money wrench in your theology of Christ and God. If alcohol, the making or using is a sin...what about Christ, the sinless one. Did he sin? If he did, he is not the "lamb of God", if he did not well let us not make the gospel a burden upon the backs of man. A paraphrase of Christ to the Pharisees.

If you, Dr. Sullivan, Pastor Ascol and 99.9% of the SBC chose to not drink. Good for you. The .1% who may choose to drink, not be a drunkard, good for them. Neither is violating the word of God, commands or the law.