Some Information

on the

Differences in Southern Baptist Life

       [Numbers in square brackets refer to supplementary articles. 

Click on these numbers to view those articles.]

Basic Issue: The fundamental difference is on biblical authority. Conservatives believe the Bible was inspired by God and, in the originals, was completely without error on any topic which it addresses. [1] Liberals, however, maintain the Bible is the record of man's search for God and that therefore, while it contains spiritual truth, it also contains errors resulting from the human limitations of its authors. [2] One liberal pastor, speaking at a microphone at the SBC meeting in June 2000, put it succinctly: He first complimented the Bible but then said, "But after all, the Bible is just a book." [3]

Think about the implications of this difference. If the Bible is "just a book", then the liberals are right in claiming that the authors were mere men, prisoners of their culture and their times, and that we have now progressed far beyond their understanding. Consequently, we have every right to re-interpret the Bible to suit our own times, circumstances, and feelings.

Consequences: The two understandings are crucially important. Here are three samples of dramatic differences resulting from the liberal view of the Bible.

-- Female Pastors: Liberals believe in and promote women pastors and say that conservatives' views that only men may be pastors are oppressive and demeaning to women. Conservatives believe the Bible clearly sets forth the equal value of men and women but also establishes different functions for them. [4] & [5]

-- Abortion: Conservatives believe an unborn baby is a person from the moment of conception through birth and until death at whatever age. Liberals differ among themselves but in general many believe the unborn child does not qualify as a person either (1) until the fetus would be viable outside the womb or (2) until birth has actually occurred. Therefore, they accept abortion. Moreover, they tend uniformly to focus on the convenience and desires of the mother and to ignore the life of the baby.  [6] & [7]

-- Homosexuality: Conservatives accept the Bible's characterization of homosexuality as an "abomination" to God, a sin which -- like other sins -- may be repented of and overcome like other sins. Liberals continue their emphasis on self by considering homosexuality as simply an alternative lifestyle fully acceptable to God. [8] & [9]

-- Universalism: Someone who believes the Bible is just a human book is almost guaranteed (if he pursues the logic of that stance) to conclude that a sincere believer in any religion will go to heaven, or even that "a loving god would not send anyone to hell". Of course, such positions emphasize God's love to the exclusion of His justice and ignore the Bible's statements about sin, judgment, eternal punishment, and the fact that persistent sinners choose hell in preference to heaven. These views mandate a diminished emphasis on witnessing and saving sinners, and instead concentrate on social ministries.

Organizational Stances: While the Southern Baptist Convention had gone quite liberal in its seminaries and denominational bureaucracies by the 1970s, most pastors and people in the pews remained staunch Bible-believers. God raised up leaders who rallied these believers to attend the annual June conventions. Through their informed votes inerrantist presidents intent on returning the convention's entities to a sound faith were elected in 1979 and every year since. Every yearly election was and is critical, but the crisis came in Dallas in June 1985 when over 45,000 messengers were present. Dr. W. A. Criswell delivered his famous sermon "Whether We Live or Die" to the Pastors' Conference on 10 June. In it he gave a summary history of death in denominations, institutions, and preachers, and then pointed the way to revival. [10]

The consistent conservative victories meant that by June 1990 liberal majorities on the trustee boards of all SBC entities had been replaced with conservative majorities, policies and personnel were changing, and liberals realized they could not prevail in SBC elections. Therefore, they began to establish alternative organizations and to try to turn away from the SBC those state conventions where they were strong, notably Virginia, the most liberal SBC state.

One thing to keep in mind is that consequently conservatives have the Bible always pulling them together on issues and that we have agreement on all basic doctrines. On the other hand, liberals have no such centripetal force binding them together, and so there is a broad spectrum of views among them. In fact, they happily proclaim this diversity. But the downside is that their theology provides no basis beyond personal preference for evaluating anything as "wrong" or "right". Enclosure [11] provides a broad sampling.

-- Cooperative Baptist Fellowship: CBF was formed in August 1990 to provide liberal churches an alternative way to fund "missions" rather than through the SBC. It has grown to where CBF receives donations from approximately 1800 churches annually, although some unknown number of these churches merely forward a designated gift from one or more members but do not have CBF in their budgets. The SBC has over 41,000 affiliated churches.

Though CBF does not call itself a convention, for all intents and purposes it is. It has a national headquarters, sends missionaries, supports theological schools, has an annuity program, publishes books and study materials, has an ethics commission, has an annual national budget, endorses chaplains, etc. [12] CBF leaders have avoided acknowledging that their organization is a convention, but from all reports internal pressure is building to officially assume that designation.

Perhaps the most revealing admission comes from a completely authoritative source, Dr. Daniel Vestal, CBF National Coordinator. Last year at a meeting at the American Baptist Convention's seminary in Kansas City he was asked by a student about the relationship between CBF and the ABC. In part of his answer he said about CBF, "We're not really passionate about the gospel changing people's lives. We're ... more oriented to political correctness and relevancy." [13]

-- Baptist General Convention of Virginia: The BGAV was the first state Baptist convention to begin to separate itself from and to take punitive monetary actions against the SBC. In the 1990 BGAV budget ALL the money that went out of state was sent to the SBC budget and there was only that one budget track. That was the way the budget had been structured for decades. But the 1991 budget began the move away from funding the SBC.

In the 1991 budget churches were allowed to give out of state money only to the SBC if they so voted and informed the state treasurer. But otherwise they were automatically moved to a new track (then called "The Virginia Plan", subsequently to become "World Missions 2") in which funds were dispensed to a series of line items. Initially 81.3% of that money went to the SBC and the remainder to various liberal causes. Gradually the SBC percentage has been reduced until today, twelve years later, only 7.85% flows to the SBC. Check the BGAV annuals if you want to verify these figures.

-- BGAV & CBF ... Partners: The October 1999 issue of Fellowship News, the newsletter of the CBF of Virginia, quotes the moderator elect of CBFV, "...the Baptist General Association of Virginia and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship have come together in a voluntary association ..." and later he refers to "the partnership between the BGAV and CBF." [14] Earlier, in 1997, Jim Baucom -- then moderator of CBFV -- wrote in an editorial in Fellowship News, "We Cooperative Virginia Baptists enjoy a relationship with our state denominational association that is absolutely unparalleled anywhere else in 'Southern Baptist' circles. ... in Virginia ... the Fellowship can count on the full support of the Baptist General Association leadership and Mission Board staff. ... we are invited to help determine the very shape of Baptist work in the Commonwealth of Virginia. ... the sitting moderator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Virginia was elected to an executive office of the Baptist General Association of Virginia at its annual meeting in November. ... Our outstanding state Executive Director, Dr. Reginald McDonough, is fully supportive of the work of the Fellowship, as are the members of his equally capable staff." [15] & [16]

-- BGAV Budgetary Directions: Though we touched on the BGAV budget above, some more detailed figures are in order. Note in enclosure [17] how a donation of $2,000 is divided according to WM2, WM1, WM3, and for contrast by the SBCV. In WM2 (the default track) only $157 would go to the SBC, in WM1 $680, in WM3 not a penny, but by the SBCV $1,000. In our $2,000 example, under WM2 $56 would be sent by the BGAV to the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. But check the letter summarized in enclosure [18] from a homosexual BTSR student. To track the ten-year history of BGAV giving under the various tracks, see enclosure [19].

-- BGAV & Women Deacons: The number of churches in Virginia with women deacons has more than doubled since 1984. Then there were 150 such churches; in March 2000 the BGAV counted 363. [20]

The Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia

We need not spend much space discussing the SBCV. Suffice it to say that the SBCV is 100% committed to:

1. The complete authority and inerrancy of Scripture. [SBCV Constitution, Article III - Doctrinal Position, encl. [21]

2. Full cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention in evangelizing the United States and the world. [SBCV Constitution, Article II - Purpose, encl. [21]

3. Keeping administrative costs to an absolute minimum so that the maximum amount of the SBCV state budget can be used to plant new churches around the state.

In accord with item 1 immediately above, you will readily understand that the SBCV would not admit a church with a female pastor and would disfellowship an existing member church should it call a female pastor. [22] Likewise, the SBCV would never contribute to an organization that supported homosexuality as a lifestyle acceptable to God or promoted killing unborn babies. [23] Finally, you will appreciate that the SBCV is firmly pro-life, pro-babies, and pro-mothers. [24]

Conclusion

In closing, just two more thoughts: Your church must decide. You may do so consciously by examining the issues, discussing them, and then taking a vote in historic Baptist fashion. Or you may just ignore the issues and decide by default to remain where you are. The important thing to keep in mind is that either way, you have made a decision. [25] The comparative table at encl. [26] is helpful.

The final enclosure is a personal account by the chairman of deacons at Stevensburg Baptist Church. [27] I believe his history will be of great interest to you.

May God guide and direct as you consider this crucial decision.

Enclosures:

1. The Bible as Sole and Soul Authority, David Dockery

2. Mohler is right: CBF members say on questions of Biblical authority, Russell D, Moore

3. Anti-Heritage: Views of a CBF leader, T. C. Pinckney

4. Women Pastors: What Does the Bible Teach?, Richard A. Melick

5. Antiheritage, T. C. Pinckney

6. BGAV Resolution on Abortion, T. C. Pinckney

7. Full abortion rights promoted in CBF-funded agency's journal, Tom Strode

8. Tentacles of Homosexual Agenda Spread Far and Wide, Keith Ninomiya

9. SBC! CBF! What's all the fuss about?, T. C. Pinckney

10. "Whether We Live or Die", Dr. W. A. Criswell

11. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship: Serious Questions for Serious Consideration, Missouri Baptist laymen's Association

12. CBF Coordinator on CBF, T. C. Pinckney

13. Where Do You and Your Church Stand?, The Conservative Record

14. BGAV & CBF: Partners in the Gospel, T. C. Pinckney

15. What I Like about Liberals #2, T. C. Pinckney

16. Where Is the BGAV Heading? Indicators, T. C. Pinckney

17. Budget Comparison, BGAV-SBCV

18. What Does Your Church's Money Support?, T. C. Pinckney

19. A Look at Giving to the BGAV, T. C. Pinckney

20. BGAV Direction, T. C. Pinckney

21. SBCV Constitution and Bylaws, Articles I-IV

22. Resolution on Ordination and the Role of Women in Ministry

23. Resolution on a Christian Response to Homosexuality

24. Resolution on Abortion

25. Decisions, Divisions. You MUST Decide, T. C. Pinckney

26. SBC Conservatives and Moderates Contrasted and Compared, Daniel L. Akin

27. A Personal Testimony, Jeffrey A. C. Burke