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.