Wednesday, June 11, 2008

SBC-Indianapolis #4 - The Resolution passes

The Resolution Committee brought before the convention a Resolution (No. 6) "On Regenerate Church Membership and Church Member Restoration." While I appreciate the committee's work on bringing something before the convention, I was disappointed that significant language was excluded from their report. Bart Barber and Malcolm Yarnell shared my disappointment. There were no clear statements baptism, Lord's Supper, discipline or repentance. In addition, there was no clear indication as to why such a resolution was necessary and nothing about denominational servants encouraging churches who try to implement changes in practicing regenerate church membership and church discipline.

I expected some of these deficiencies, but found the overall proposed resolution weaker than I had anticipated. Bart, Malcolm and I discussed what we should do. I had prepared a proposal to amend several weeks ago. We decided to use this proposal, with the addition of a statement on baptism either from the original Barber-Yarnell resolution or a separate, simpler statement written by Malcolm.

We also agreed to stand at microphone #11 together to make the proposed amendment. Somehow, Dr. Yarnell got separated from Bart and me and wound up at microphone #5. Bart and I realized as the presentation of the committee was about to begin that he would not be joining us at mic #11. The two of us were standing together as I was preparing to state our proposed amendments (transcribed in part in legible fashion by my lovely wife, Donna ;-) ). As I was trying to get recognized by the chair, Dr. Yarnell was recognized by Dr. Page to speak to the resolution. Malcolm proposed his amendment on adding the language of baptism, Lord's Supper and discipline in the "Whereas" section.

That actually concerned Dr. Barber and I, because we had hoped to have all of the proposed amendments offered at once. After some discussion, Dr. Yarnell's proposed amendment passed. Dr. Barber then decided to go stand at another microphone in hopes of speaking for my proposed amendment. When I was finally recognized by Dr. Page, I read my proposed amendments. The substance of them follows:
Whereas the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Church Profiles indicate that there are 16,266,920 members in Southern Baptist churches; and

Whereas those same profiles indicate that only 6,148,868 of those members attend a primary worship service of their church in a typical week;
and
RESOLVED that we urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to repent of the any failure among us to live up to our professed commitment to regenerate church membership and any failure to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of lovingly correcting wayward church members (Matthew 18:15-18), and be it further

RESOLVED that we humbly encourage denominational servants to support and encourage churches that seek to recover and implement our Savior's teachings on church discipline, even if such efforts result in the reduction in the number of members that are reported in those churches,
After giving my written and typed notes to Dr. John Sullivan to take back to the platform, I was allowed to speak to the amendment. Following is the subtance of what I said:

Brothers and sisters, last year the convention passed a resolution affirming the legitimacy of corporate repentance. Surely, if we need to repent over anything in the SBC it is true that we need to repent over how we have failed in maintaining biblical standards in the membership of our churches.

Dr. David Dockery, President of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, a Southern Baptist Statesman who is second to none, and author of the highly acclaimed Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal--a book endorsed by Danny Akin, Thom Rainer, Timothy George, John Sullivan, Morris Chapman, Frank Page and Jimmy Draper, was interviewed last week about the very subject of this resolution.

I want to read the brief excerpt from his insightful comments. The article said,

[Dr.] Dockery affirms the call for repentance expressed by one of the resolutions proposed for the annual meeting.

"We need to repent of our lack of concern for biblical faithfulness in our concern and care for church members," he said. "We need to repent of the way the way we often allow people to join local churches without stressing the covenantal aspect of membership. We need to repent of the fact that we have largely neglected any aspect of church discipline that would have helped us begin to address some of these matters."

Brothers and sisters, surely we can all say, "Amen!" to Dr. Dockery’s call for repentance by affirming the amendment to this resolution.
After the chairman of the Resolution Committee, Darrell Orman, spoke very kindly against my proposed amendment, asking the "mothers" of the various resolutions related to this issue to "let the baby live," and citing how all 5 pastors on the committee had exercised appropriate oversight in their churches in maintaining responsible church membership, my brother, Bill Ascol, was recognized by the chair to speak for the motion. He cited John Dagg ("when discipline leaves the church, Christ goes with it") and previous resolutions where the SBC had expressed repentance over issues related to slavery. Then he said that we should indeed let the baby live, but we should make sure that it looked like a "Southern Baptist baby."

The amendment passed by about 2/3 of the vote (according to Dr. Yarnell) and the amended resolution then passed overwhelmingly. It was encouraging to see.

Many, many people have expressed their appreciation for having this resolution on the record. At least a dozen pastors have already told me that they intend to read it to their churches in an effort to shepherd their congregations into healthier streams of responsible church membership. Some of these have had tears in their eyes as we spoke.

A resolution has no binding authority on a local church. But perhaps the Lord will use this to promote the ongoing work of biblical renewal in many churches across the SBC. Pray that this will be the case.

43 comments:

pastor justin said...

I watched the video.

Great work Tom. It is good to see the fruit of your labors accepted.

Praise God!

In the spirit of Wilberforce:
What shall we work on next???

DoGLover said...

The unity among those who proposed the amendments was encouraging. Perhaps others will see that our desire truly is to build bridges and not barriers to fellowship withing the SBC.
Thanks, Tom, for your faithful leadership & service.

Kurt Strassner said...

Great news! Thank God for your persistence. Now let's pray that there are more and more pastors like this dozen ... and many more who start to think seriously about this for the first time.

kingofbleh said...

Drs. Ascol, Barber and Yarnell:

THANK YOU for caring about this critical issue and for the unregenerate on our roles. Now the REAL WORK begins!

Wouldn't it be great to see Brother Johnny take the lead on this by instituting a model process at Woodstock (Lord willing)? Woodstock Baptist has been such a great leader for other churches in so many areas of ministry. Who knows? If the Lord blessed and the Holy Spirit moved, maybe they would go from running 5,500 on Sundays to running 10,000 or more?

James Hunt said...

Praise God for your persistence. May God our Savior be praised.

brent.fontenot said...

Dear Tom,

At the end of your post you said "A resolution has no binding authority on a local church. But perhaps the Lord will use this to promote the ongoing work of biblical renewal in many churches across the SBC. Pray that this will be the case." Forgive me for my ignorance, but what is the relevance of passing a resolution if it is not authoritative and, does the SBC itself exercise any authority over the local congregation? Thanks.

Best regards,

Brent Fontenot

Brian Marsh said...

Wow, I'm stunned that you were able to get this passed! Perhaps there's hope in the SBC after all. Good going guys!

Tom said...

Thanks for all of the encouraging comments. I am grateful to the Lord for the way that this issue has been put on the front burner in the SBC. May He use it to promote ongoing reformation and renewal.

Brent:

Good question. In Baptist polity the final court of appeal in authority is the local church. No ecclesiastical authority is above a church. Thus, no denominational agency or action can dictate to a church. There is some accountability in the sense that the convention can determine who gets to participate in the life of the convention. Churches can be disfellowshipped, but can't be made to change.

Hope this helps.

ta

brent.fontenot said...

Thanks Tom, that helps. God bless you.

Brent.

Bob Cleveland said...

Tom,

I'm glad it got passed, too, but am much less optimistic. The section concerning repentance was sufficiently mild that most anyone would sign onto it without admitting that they'd been lying (quoting Dr. Patterson there) about numbers.

I put up my cynical doom & gloom thoughts over at my place.

Brian Hamrick said...

I would like to suggest some resolution be offered annually- maybe next year, recognizing churches who made significant progress in that area. Maybe Tom and Dr. Yarnell could do this together? We've got to keep this, positively, at the forefront of people's thoughts.

Pastor said...

Praise the Lord!

Tom, I want to thank you for your efforts in this matter and applaud you for doing so. The issue of church membership and its Integrity has been one of my major focuses since becoming pastor. My church had been reporting that it had 1477 members to the SBC. However, on a given Sunday, we may have 150-200. Last year we formulated a committee who researched the membership rolls, contacted as many of them as possible (some had been dead for years) and we purged our membership roll to reflect a more accurant number of 259. Furthermore, when/if a church contacts us to receive a letter of one of those members we have not seen or heard of we report the fact that they have NOT attended the church for (in many cases the length of time that I have been Pastor (15years)). I would hope that other churches would do the same for us.

Said at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary said...

I am excited to know that this resolution passed and I pray that these ideas will filter down to the local church.

Tom Bryant said...

Tom,
Like I said to you at the convention, to be able to vote on this was a major reason why I wanted to be here this year. I am thankful for the changes in the wording by Dr. Yarnell and you.

Now the hard work begins of helping churches put this into practice.

David Milton said...

With all the talk about "letting the baby live" and "SBC baby", I wonder if the messengers were confused into thinking they were voting on a pro-life amendment! A happy accident if so. Wonderful! Way to go Tom.

What a week of contrasts compared to two years ago: The Resolution passes during the same week that Johnny Hunt is elected president without a Caner voice to be found. There is hope!

Bart Barber said...

Tom,

I'm glad that things worked out for us to see a resolution passed that worked out for everyone. The committee said that they were searching for the wisdom of Solomon. What a delightful outcome to see that the "Moms" were able to support the same outcome!

Bill Formella said...

As I said on Timmy Brister's blog, Tom and Bill Ascol disciplined "the baby" and it still lives. Not only is it alive, but it's now stronger. Now if our Pastors will trust God to do the same in their churches.....

Brian is right. We need to keep praying and providing opportunities to keep this at the forefront. There is so much good that can and, I believe, will come as churches begin to weep over, plead with and pray for those on their membership roles who show no signs of life.

Dismal Deacon said...

Any ideas on the issue of rare attendance rather than non-attendance?

I think most of us are on the same page about a person who never comes to church anymore but what about one who comes once every month or so?

How should we deal with him Biblicaly if he will not repent and fellowship on regular basis? How do we even define "regular basis"?

DD

Wayne Smith said...

Tom,

Praise God for allowing this resolution to pass and thanks for all your Labor of Love in this Resolution. Praise God for the Brotherhood of Dr. Bart Barber, Dr. Malcolm Yarnell working with you in the Ammendments to be added to the Resolution. Praise God for Humbled Wimps to be used for His Glory. Pride Goes before the Fall. Praise God from Whom All Blessing Flow.

Wayne Smith

NativeVermonter said...

DD,

That is an issue that your elders will have do address. If this is an issue for the deacons at your church then you might want to examine your polity.

b. woodward said...

Praise God! Thanks for all your work Tom. May God use this to begin a new era of faithfulness among the churches of the SBC.

Scott Gordon said...

Tom,

Good to meet you today. I want to again thank you for your faithfulness in maintaining your conviction and call to our convention regarding this important issue in Baptist life.

SOLA GRATIA!

Wyman Richardson said...

Tom,

It was a great moment. You argued well for your amendments, as did Dr. Yarnell for his. I was glad to see you guys unified and overjoyed to see the revised version of the resolution pass.

Well done. I, too, thought of Wilberforce and the power of persevering in a right cause when the amendments passed and the resolution passed.

Well done!

My only regret from the whole event was that my nominee for 2nd VP, Doug Mulkey, lost!

Wyman

DoGLover said...

Tom, will you post the full, amended resolution - or a link to it? Thanks.

Shane said...

praise the Lord--keep up the good work Tom--Maybe Founders could do a "survival kit" bundle of books on church life and discipline for pastors who are impacted by the resolution--or maybe you all could set up a special website with resources and such for churches who are interested--maybe using nine marks stuff??

I pray the Lord uses this in the churches

So thankful for Founders and for you Tom--God bless you brother!

Wade Phillips said...

Way to go, Dr. Ascol! I'm so excited to see this passed! Thank you for your hard work over the last three years getting the word out about this issue. Now the real work begins. God will get the glory for it!

Dismal Deacon said...

NavtiveVermonter,

I imagine we are in large part agreed about the Biblical instruction concerning elders. However,as you are do doubt aware most in the SBC do not have this type of structure.

Because of this it is my guess that many of our deacons do in fact meet the Biblical qualifcations of elders but are just ordained as deacons. Just because we have the structure wrong does not mean God stops adding such men to the body. While our ordination papers may read "deacon" we still have a responsibility to take care of the Lord's sheep.

If you do have a direct answer to my honest questions I would still be interested in hearing it, Brother.

DD

chadwick said...

Dr. Ascol,

My favorite line was when your brother, Bill, stated that the "baby" needed a Baptist indentity! :D

I rejoiced when I saw all of the ballots rise (in favor of both amendments), along with mine, to be,in my opinion,a great moment in SBC life, in which a sense of genuine unity was felt concerning the future of the SBC!

Blessings,
chadwick

Scott Gordon said...

Chadwick,

Let me be the first to welcome you to the Baptist Identity/Founders coalition!
;-D

Sola Gratia!

Joshua Collins said...

I'm wondering if any of you have advice for promoting honest membership analysis at a church where the wonderful constitution requires a 75% vote to remove someone from the roll (outside of death or transfer to another church) and only 50% plus one to remove a pastor.

chadwick said...

solagraTia (Scott Gordon),


'Ain't' it wonderful to see our sovereign Lord unify our hearts (in both camps) for His Great Commission . . . this magnifies His majestic and sovereign guidence over the SBC!

chadwick

chadwick said...

Spelling correction for previous comment: guidance!

lawngospel said...

Amen brother! God has been good to us. May there be more where this came from!

gig'em brother.

Kris said...

Where can I find the video?

DoGLover said...

Here's a link to the full resolution:
http://www.bpnews.net/blog/article.asp?ID=176

David Richardson said...

First time reader of your blog, Tom.

Just wanted to say how thrilled I am that this was passed. It has generated some important discussion, and my hope is that it leads to some real action. I'm all for what you guys did up there in Indianapolis.

Thanks for taking a stand on an issue such as this!

Tom said...

Thanks for the feeback. I have another post that I have tried to put up but blogger won't let me for some reason. I also have some ideas about some of the questions that have been raised here.

God willing, I will be able to respond more thoroughly soon.

Wyman Richardson said...

Tom,

I know that David Richardson guy who just posted. You better watch him. ;-)

Wyman Richardson

timmybrister.com said...

Tom,

Time to leave Blogger. Too many glitches, too few options. Hello WordPress? No?

Tom said...

Tim:

Yeah...I have been recently admonished to do just that...now twice! I will gladly submit to your wisdom in this!

Todd Pruitt said...

Tom,

I add my voice of gratitude to all the others for your leadership in this matter. You are an example of cheerful service to so many of us who feel a bit like outsiders in our own denomination. Press on!

todd

Lance said...

Thank you for all your work on this.

Soli Deo Gloria.

JBaird CFP said...

Dr. Ascol,
Thank you so much for putting your hand to the plough and not turning back. You have given us all an excellent example of courage, patience, perseverance, and humility in the way you have handled this. I am not in the SBC, but love and respect it very much. I have hopes that this will set the precedent for the Baptist Missionary Association of America, for we too have similar problems as the SBC in the area of reporting numbers.
Thank you again, and may Christ be magnified through the churches of the SBC.
Jonathan Baird