Preliminary review of the First Baptist Church Pampa report
by Wm. Robert Johnston
updated 24 June 2001
Some specific inaccurate/misleading statements and flaws in reasoning (statements from the report are italicized):
- Report is openly biased, using emotional if not inflammatory language and presenting opinions as fact.
- Report contains some false statements and some misleading statements.
- Some sources are quoted out of context.
- Many assertions which warrant documentation have none. Some quotations which are documented have incomplete citations.
- Unfortunately, we have arrived at the point where cooperation in the BGCT and cooperation in the SBC have become mutually exclusive.
This is false: cooperation with the BGCT requires financial support of the BGCT Texas budget and cooperation with the SBC requires financial support of the Cooperative Program and forbids ordination of homosexuals. Such financial support is not at all exclusive (and 4,000 Texas churches are doing it).
- The Southern Baptist Convention hopes that these divisions of labor will continue to be honored.
This statement is questionable, given ambiguous statements by the NAMB to the BGCT on the status of their cooperative agreement, and given the recent IMB decision to refuse funds from a group of Missouri Baptist churches.
- It is now clear that the leadership of the BGCT is orchestrating a complete and total severance of ties with the SBC.
This has not been demonstrated. The BGCT's leadership has distanced itself from the SBC in some areas, has affirmed a relationship with the SBC in most areas (a relationship which in some instances is exclusive), and has stated that they do not intend to "orchestrate a complete and total severance." This statement is that writer's opinion regarding future directions, not fact.
- (Interestingly, this development took place is 1925 with the adoption by the SBC of the original Baptist Faith and Message. It has been our historical position to require those who are paid with Baptist money to believe in Baptist doctrines.)
The BGCT Seminary Study Committee Report documented changes in the specific enforcement of these practices. Additionally, the requirement "to believe in Baptist doctrines" is a broader statement than "full agreement with the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message", which is the direction of current enforcement. Also, adherence to the 2000 BF&M is being required of individuals not receiving financial support from the SBC.
- Though Wade's view is that the SBC voted to become a creedal people, there is not a shred of evidence to that fact. The 2000 BF&M continues to hold to the principle of the autonomy of the local church as strongly as the 1963 and the 1925 versions. Further, in conversation with SBC leadership I have not discovered even the slightest evidence that the 2000 BF&M would be used in any manner differently from past versions... There has been no change in the usage and purpose of the BF&M. The charge is simply smoke and mirrors.
The absolute assertions of "not a shred of evidence", etc., fly in the face of evidence that the BF&M is being applied differently at the seminaries. Under the new BF&M employees are undergoing forced resignations from Baptist institutions and churches are threatened with losing fellowship from some state and local associations. Whether one desires this goal or not, this consequence cannot be denied. Baptists will differ on conclusions regarding the weight of evidence for and against the "creedal" charge, but it is incorrect to state that no evidence exists. The 2000 BF&M's addition of the statement "Baptist churches, associations, and general bodies have adopted confessions of faith as a witness to the world, and as instruments of doctrinal accountability" would be an example.
- The 2000 BF&M says just the opposite of Wade's accusations:
Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.
The 2000 BF&M also added the statement, "Baptist churches, associations, and general bodies have adopted confessions of faith as a witness to the world, and as instruments of doctrinal accountability." This is perhaps the first SBC document to specifically claim status as an "instrument of doctrinal accountability."
- The only explanation is that Wade is a founding director of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and active in the affairs of Texas Baptists Committed, two groups which are belligerent toward the SBC, and is determined to misrepresent the actions of the SBC to Texas Baptists.
The serious charge of "misrepresenting" actions is unsubstantiated (and probably unwise, given the frequency of misquotes in conservative material on the controversy). More accurately, the CBF and TBC have radically different interpretations of SBC actions.
- In a speech by Reynolds to the TBC it became clear that there are many who are working tirelessly to see the BGCT become a national convention with no relationship to the SBC.
This statement is undocumented, but probably refers to his speech in Houston on 10 November 1998. If so, it should be noted that Reynolds prefaced the speech by stating that he was speaking only for himself. He made no claim of a broad base of support.
- It is extremely difficult to see how this article could be rejected without also rejecting the Ephesians 5 passage... I ask, 'How is an article that comes straight from Scripture an 'action against women'...'"
The cited section from the article on the family differs from Ephesians 5:21-33 in several regards. In particular, the Ephesians passage does not assign women the task "to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation." This cannot be a universal task for wives, since some couples are childless. (Note that I am not questioning the ideal; I am questioning the equating of the article with Scripture.)
- Does Dr. Wade really believe that the age of the scriptures has affected their relevancy? Does he believe that the only difference between the Koran and the Bible is Jesus? Is the nature of the Koran the same as the nature of the Bible?
We must have the context of Wade's quote regarding the Bible and Koran to authenticate this report's charges. Many conservative pastors would agree that it is the fact that without Jesus, Son of God, risen from the dead, our faith would be no different than any other religion. The Wade quote given is entirely consistent with this view, which is merely expressing the difference between our faith and others.
- The Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, de-funded by the SBC for liberalism and subsequently added as a line item in the BGCT budget, also holds a very low view of Scripture.
The report presented to the SBC in 1990 cited additional reasons for defunding the BJCPA, including funding issues and policy disputes. The characterization "holds a very low view of Scripture" is a relative determination.
- The connections of BGCT leadership with the CBF are so stark that it would be ridiculous to say that the CBF theological positions are not the same as those of the BGCT.
This statement presents an invalid conclusion. The CBF, like the SBC and BGCT, is a group of varied individuals holding a variety of opinions. Partially overlapping membership of the CBF and BGCT does not prove the two organizations have identical theological positions, any more than the partially overlapping membership of the BGCT and SBC proves identical theological positions for them. As it turns out, the BGCT and CBF are in stark disagreement on some issues: the BGCT has withdrawn fellowship from a church that ordains homosexuals, whereas the CBF has declared that it would not interfere with church autonomy regarding such ordinations.
- Though repeatedly and publicly the CBF says that it does not condone homosexuality, it has published a resource for churches that does just that. Consider these statements from the CBF's HIV/AIDS Ministry: Putting A Face on AIDS.
The CBF stopped distributing this packet prior to 1998. It would be useful to know if the author has examined a copy of the packet or if they used the citations from the MBLA, which has indicated to me that they do not have a copy of the packet. The CBF has in fact come under recent criticism from the left for not condoning homosexuality.
- The second group [that is openly pro-homosexual] is the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, which will receive $5,500 from the CBF.
In 1995, when the BPFNA declared itself open to homosexuals, the CBF dropped the BPFNA from its budget and has not resumed funding that I am aware of. If the author of this report has such documentation, it should have been cited.
- When asked if people without Christ as Savior would go to Hell, Hastey replied, "I don't know."
Again, this statement proves nothing without context. Could he have been referring to people who die in infancy, for instance?
- The BGCT financially supports the CBF through the annual World Hunger Offering.
It is misleading to refer to this as "financial support." The BGCT collects a World Hunger Offering which includes funds sent to the CBF as designated offerings for hunger relief. These funds do not come from the BGCT general budget, and they do not go into the CBF general budget.
- It is tremendously arrogant to think Texans need their own, unique literature. This is just one example of the services offered by the BGCT that are adequately being met by the SBC.
Many Baptist churches, both conservative and not, have variously used literature from non-SBC sources. About 10% of SBC churches use no LifeWay literature at all, and many of the remainder use some non-LifeWay material. Therefore, "tremendously arrogant" is an overstatement.
- For example, in 1999 Baylor University received $3,994,000 in Cooperative Program funds and yet had over $15 million in excess revenues for that year alone..."
Some SBC seminaries have reported surpluses in recent years.
- This amounts to almost $12,000 for each student our church has in one of these universities.
Conservatives have criticized the BGCT for adopting this very rationale in reviewing support for SBC seminaries. David Hankins wrote, "Is this really how we want to make our decisions about missions giving--based on whether we get any direct benefit?" and "What a disaster if all state conventions said, 'We will only support those things that benefit our own people.'"
- Over $17,000 from our church was given to administration of the BGCT. This does not include the unbelievable amount of administration funds that are dispersed in other areas of the budget...
Though the SBC also has administrative costs, only $1,752 went from our church for the SBC operations budget.
The report makes no reference to the $8,500 of FBC Pampa's giving to the IMB that went to IMB administration and to the $4,000 of its giving to the NAMB that went to NAMB administration. This would raise the support of SBC administration to over $14,000. Another reason for the disparity is the fact that the SBC has a broader base of support: ten times as many churches as the number for the BGCT.
- Were these men, along with Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler, just grabbing for power? The evidence for such an argument is non-existent.
Evidence for the argument includes statements by Patterson and Pressler themselves. Patterson and Pressler did seek political power, but as a means to an end.
- Kenley goes on to say, "The fundamentalist, however, believes that the pastor-preacher is to be the sole authority of God's revelation to His people." This statement is completely unfounded and in direct contradiction with Scriptures and the teaching of conservative pastors.
The statement is unfortunately substantiated by the refusal to acknowledge the priesthood of individual believers in the 2000 BF&M. How the statement is contradicted by Scripture is unclear, since the Bible does not address the topic of fundamentalists.
- Considering the fact that the August 28, 2000 issue of the Standard contained two letters to the editor decrying the fact that only $6000 was given by such a large church, neither of which contained a response from Knox informing readers that the church had actually given over $500,000 to SBC causes, it appears that the information is, in fact, "germane."
Both letters were specifically addressing the fact that so little money was given in support of the BGCT: Michael Reynolds' letter said "but if all Prestonwood gives to the Cooperative Program through the BGCT is $6,000, then I would invite them to hit the road," and Mike Milburn's letter said "Where else could they get seven members on boards and agencies for only $6,000?"
- Perhaps the abandonment of this editorial philosophy is the reason the Baptist Standard has lost 52% of its circulation since 1980.
Harry Leon McBeth's Texas Baptists: A Sesquicentennial History (p. 416) gives several reasons for the circulation decline: more people getting news from broadcast and electronic media, increased subscription costs, and the controversies in the SBC and BGCT.
- And WHEREAS many of the Baptist General Convention of Texas leadership are involved in theh programs of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Texas Baptists Committed, organizations which compete with and are antagonistic toward the Southern Baptist Convention...
On scriptural grounds, competition is not a valid objection. Many SBC churches (some conservative) support or conduct missions through organizations which are not SBC organizations.
© 2001 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 24 June 2001.
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