Wednesday, October 26, 2011

More Anti-Calvinism in the SBC

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.... That must be the way that Pastor Jamus Edwards and the members of the Pleasant Valley Community Church (SBC) felt when the Davies-McLean Baptist Association (DMBA) in Kentucky refused to allow them to join last week. This recommendation to reject was made by the credentials committee and overwhelmingly accepted by the messengers at their recent annual meeting according to a report in the Western Recorder (see p. 3).

Why the rejection? Ostensibly, the credentials committee reported to the association that the reasons for rejection stem from concerns Pleasant Valley Community Church would not be "sympathetic with the purpose and work of the body of the DMBA" due to a perceived "overall lack of the key elements of cooperation found in patience, humility, kindness, compassion and gentleness."

Because I know Pastor Edwards and some of the other leaders in that church, I find the committee's judgment hard to believe. Because I have a copy of the official report of the credentials committee--the one requested by and sent to Pleasant Valley Community Church--I find that language duplicitous and disingenuous. There are 14 numbered "findings" in the official report.
  • Number 9 states, "We believe the teaching of Pleasant Valley Community Church to be sound in their doctrine."
  • Number 10 states, "We believe the practice and constitution of Pleasant Valley Community Church to be orderly."
What is blatantly missing in the official report is any suggestion that the church is lacking in basic Christian attitudes such as "patience, humility, kindness, compassion and gentleness."

Pleasant Valley is a faithful member of the Southern Baptist Convention and Kentucky Baptist Convention. I wonder if the those two bodies know that they have a church in their midst that has been judged to be so devoid of Christian character ("patience, humility, kindness, compassion and gentleness") that a local association denied it membership? I think it would be appropriate for those bodies of churches to respond to slanderous accusations of the DMBA and make their own public judgments about Pleasant Valley.

In reality, as the Western Recorder rightly surmises, the real issue is about Calvinism or, more accurately, anti-Calvinism. According to Pastor Edwards, the Director of Missions (DOM) for the DMBA made it clear from the outset that Pleasant Valley was not welcome in the DMBA because of their theological convictions. The credential committee's report admits concern over the fact that Pleasant Valley's "confessional statement is one that (is) Calvinistic in nature. It affirms the doctrine of election and grace." This is not only anti-Calvinism, it's anti-Baptist Faith and Message. Article 5 of that confession, adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1925, 1963 & 2000, is entitled "God's Purpose of Grace" and states,
Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.
Sounds like the "doctrine of election and grace" to me.

I don't want to be misunderstood. The DMBA is an autonomous body and can accept and reject whomever it chooses. They are perfectly free to hire and retain an anti-Calvinist DOM to lead them. That is simply the Baptist way. It's also the Baptist way to tell the truth and trust the people. The truth is that Pleasant Valley is a wonderful Southern Baptist church that has been rejected by the DMBA because of that body's fear and rejection and misunderstanding of doctrinal beliefs that are embedded in the Southern Baptist Convention's Baptist Faith and Message.

That is tragic. Furthermore, it is not the way forward for the body of churches known as the Southern Baptist Convention. I hope that the kind of attitude displayed in this action by the DMBA will be increasingly deplored by all Southern Baptists (including those who are less Calvinistic as well as those who are more so) who are fully committed to the Word of God and willing to fellowship and cooperate around the gospel of Jesus Christ.

23 comments:

Pastor Jack said...

I am left wondering at this point why this is being aired publicly. Those who are neither part of the church nor the association are neither part of the problem nor the solution. The next step should be left up to that church as the ball is in their court. Unless that church seeks advice or assistance from outside sources on their own initiative it should not be made the business of those not involved.

TCT said...

1. Funny how the intolerance usually comes from the Arminian side of the house when Calvinism becomes an issue.

2. Why would a church that confessionally affirms all of the Bible (as opposed to just the parts that don't bother it too much) even want to be part of the SBC unless it wanted to participate in worthy association activites like missions? The motivation is probably not the doctrinal rigor of the SBC.

3. Here is a sad description of not only probably the majority of churches in the SBC but those in other denominations as well: "...a control belief that has a firm appreciation for the authority of Scripture in the abstract, but when it comes to an uncomfortable doctrine which might challenge our own supposed self-sovereignty, that particular doctrine is written out of Scripture, while Scripture in the abstract is upheld as the final authority of our faith and practice." - Ligon Duncan

Tom said...

Pastor Jack,

This action was taken publicly. It was taken against a sister church. I was consulted about it and, as a pastor of a cooperating Southern Baptist Church, I am deeply alarmed by this kind of action. Sadly, it's not an isolated act--just more egregious and less subtle than most others.

Neither churches, nor associations nor conventions should be ashamed to have their public actions publicly examined.

Blessings,
tom

Stan McCullars said...

Wow! Just wow!

Given the contents of the Baptist Faith & Message one has to wonder if it has been read by those voting against admitting Pleasant Valley Community Church.

Bob Cleveland said...

Most Calvinists, with whom I am acquainted, know what they believe.

On the other hand, most Baptists with whom I am acquainted don't know what they believe.

Baptists tend .. IMO .. to be like folks driving with the aid of a navigation system. They know how they got where they are, but they don't know much about the route or the landscape.

I have asked a BUNCH of folks in our church to tell me why you have to be baptized, as a believer, to join a Baptist church. NONE has ever known the right answer.

Prophet Among Them said...

I have appealed for a systematic exegetical public examination of the text through diagrammatic analysis for years. The Holy Spirit had/has only one correct interpretation of the text.

Polemics has not and will not resolve this issue. I affirm an irenic, compassionate and exegetically sound treatment of the issues that shape this tension. Anything less will merely continue the childish and Christ dis-honoring mud slinging.

Proverbs 26:4 cautions the reader to not answer a fool according to his folly lest you become like him. Hiding behind a corrupt process (dsyfunctional democracy) is not the proper medium for resolving such matters. Exegesis of the text is the path to sound orthodoxy and orthopraxy. May we do that and soon.

PPS - DALLAS said...

Pride is more fatal than death. Piper wrote this and I think it will be the reason for the fall of the SBC.

aaronarledge said...

The good folks at the Georgia Baptist Convention hosted a young pastors (45 and below)forum yesterday. Around 120 attended this discussion. When the issue of Calvinism came up one of the hosts asked the participants how many considered themselves reformed. At least half of the room raised their hands. Very interesting and I think eye opening to many that are involved in convention life. This did not surprise me at all.

Clark said...

THis may be a historical Kentucky kinda thing, but although I'm not predicting the downfall of the SBC (or Global BC as I prefer to call it)I do think that other churches, pastors, and members CAN and SHOULD be part of the solution.
When Frank Page (a very likable fellow) says this is a very divisive issue I disagree. People are divisive, not issues. THere are people from whom we should divide and then there are people we should be able to coexist with and in fact, co-thrive and co-progress.

Ben said...

Here's two issues you all are missing:

1. It's very disappointing when a Southern Baptist church claims to hold to historic Baptist theology and is ashamed of the Baptist name.

2. Also in their confession this church is very open and upfront about their willingness to accept alien (non-Baptist) immersions.

As a Kentucky Baptist pastor (in a nearby association) I guarantee these two things made people suspicious of Pleasant Valley Community Church and caused some to vote against receiving them.

David Krueger said...

It’s interesting that a second story on the same page of the Western Recorder is titled: “Page: Calvinism ‘divide’ is SBC’s top challenge.” Is it feasible that the messengers of the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association have taken the SBC Executive Director at his word that Calvinism is one of three great “challenges” that confront the SBC and decided that such theologically non-conforming churches now warrant exclusion? Is this the first of many “shots across the bow” of Calvinists within the convention?
It’s at least nice to know that the DMBA Credentials Committee does not consider the “doctrine of election and grace” as “heresy”.

David Krueger said...

It’s interesting that a second story on the same page of the Western Recorder is titled: “Page: Calvinism ‘divide’ is SBC’s top challenge.” Is it feasible that the messengers of the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association have taken the SBC Executive Director at his word that Calvinism is one of three great “challenges” that confront the SBC and decided that such theologically non-conforming churches now warrant exclusion? Is this the first of many “shots across the bow” of Calvinists within the convention?
It’s at least nice to know that the DMBA Credentials Committee does not consider the “doctrine of election and grace” as “heresy”.

reformedfisher said...

What a shame! I thought the point of associations were to rally together local churches in the gospel for edification of one another and the work evangelism. There isn't a Calvinistic church in the SBC that doesn't support those things. There would be no reason to cooperate if that were the case. Thanks for wisely addressing this issue and pointing out that the BF&M is a statement that affirms the doctrine of election yet has enough liberty where orthodox Southern Baptists can unite and confess around the same confession.

God Bless you brother in your work!

Jason said...

It is rather ironic that the association said they lack "patience, humility, kindness, compassion and gentleness."

I wonder how they didn't pick up on that irony.

This whole situation is pathetic.

Stewart said...

Makes those on the outside wonder, "Is this isolated issue something to be concerned about?" We are on the verge of joining the SBC and wonder now if that is advisable. I have heard of this happening in our area, mostly due to the DOM. The local association would likely welcome us but it is something that I wonder if it advisable. Since Founders is committed to the SBC, I am sure they would say, "Yes." However, many young pastors I know would say, "time to start over."

asher said...

As a member of a sister church in Owensboro, I can say that the pastors of PVCC have demonstrated much grace in response to this situation.

And Jerome, as someone who knows Pastor Jamus Edwards personally and his church well, I can say that, while the church is definitely Calvinistic in doctrine, they would not define themselves primarily as a Calvinist church. Sometimes, nuances don't come through in short newspaper quotes.

Tom said...

I inadvertently deleted Jerome's comment, so I am reposting it here:

Jerome has left a new comment on your post "More Anti-Calvinism in the SBC":

From the story in the state paper:

"In a statement to the Western
Recorder, Jamus Edwards, pastor of
Pleasant Valley Community Church,
apologized for “any hurt we have caused or any evidence of impatience or haughtiness”
exhibited during the application
process."

"Edwards disagreed, however, with
the Calvinist label placed on the
church, saying the congregation does not identify itself as such"


Sounds like y'all need to get your story straight.

Jared Moore said...

Stewart, and other young pastors, (I'm 30),

Please don't start over now. Most of the battle has been fought. I think the hard part is behind us. There are now Calvinists throughout various leadership positions in the SBC. There are former Anti-Calvinists such as Johnny Hunt that have changed. I could understand you wanting to start over if we were talking about 10 years ago, but the SBC has changed dramatically in the past 10 years IMO. I can't imagine where we're be in another 10 years. I think we'll be in an better spot Biblically then, than we are now. You can help, but you leaving won't help the sbc. (But, I don't know the future. I just want all to stay and help. The revival concerning theology in the past 10 years has amazed me.)

Tom, what do you think?

Tom said...

Jared,

I concur. The last 10 years have seen many folks on both sides of the divide grow in grace, humility and love, leaving the extremists all-the-more identifiable and, I believe, increasingly marginalized. Those who are committed to working together on the basis of gospel unity need to lead the way within the SBC. I think that is happening more and more. It's not that we don't have any differences nor that some of those differences aren't significant, but none of them rise to the level of writing off one another as heretics.

That is the spirit is continues to rise within the SBC. The more that it does the more it exposes other spirits that are driven by agendas other than the gospel.

Test said...

As a 5 Point Calvinist, I would be VERY CONCERNED about having this Acts 29 plant in my association too. Take a quick peek at their website:

http://www.owensborochurch.com/

Just One More said...

@Test

Gonna need some more explaining on this one. What about their website makes you wary? Because there is an A29 logo?

The whole SBC vs. A29 fight is tired and fundamentally flawed. If you want to discuss Christian liberty, then do that. Don't pit entity vs. entity out of fear and ignorance.

But I repeat my original question - What about their site makes you wary?

Esteban said...

It is dissapointing to see how Pragmatic Arminians demonstrate to be divisive and intolerant but at the same time unwilling to discuss matters from Scripture alone.

I guess all goes back to human pride and total depravity. The association does not want for God to be God, like most Southern Baptists.

Dave Scarbrough said...

One of the keys can be found in your last paragraph - Hire! As long as you Southern Baptists continue to have Hirelings, they will lead you away from the truth.