John Pierce of Baptists Today grieves the wrestling among fundamentalists for spoils set off by announced retirement of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)'s besieged International Mission Board chairman, Jerry Rankin.
When Rankin leaves next year there will be vacancies at the top of both the IMB and the scandal-plagued, resignation-rocked, domestically focused North American Mission Board (NAMB). Of that Pierce writes:
The top leadership vacancies at the two SBC mission boards will have the boys who run the denominational show now wrestling to (1) perhaps combine the two boards and (2) get a person(s) into the top post(s) who reflect their side's political bent. That's a battle between the Fundamentalists and the even-more Fundamentalists. . . . the ever-narrowing, suspicious, fear-based nature of Fundamentalism has played out as it always does: turning inward to find enemies.
Pierce does not touch upon the inflated and some say fabricated IMB statistics, focusing instead on the effect of "doctrinal restrictions on SBC missionaries." Private prayer languages were a key issue. They were barred. This for missionaries some of whom had just a few years earlier had to sign the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 or be fired.
The conflicts driving those restrictions are also evident in divinity school inquisitions, sometimes acrimonious public debate among Batholics and Cathists and the online equivalent of rock-throwing which is part of discussion among Southern Baptist luminaries.
All of which is, Wade Burleson predicted after June SBC Convention, getting worse. Michael Spencer developed a list of factors driving the SBC as younger inerrantists make themselves felt. Further repression was implied by SBC President Johnny D. Hunt's recent quiet indication that already retreating Baptist state newspaper editors pull their journalistic horns in even more.
The resurgence governing group meets behind closed doors, however. Some of the questions directed at SBC President Hunt about where it is actually going, however, were answered with questions and mockery recently.
Closed doors and anger about unwelcome reports? The resulting message may be heard from distant seats in uncushioned pews as, "Trust us. We've been fighting continuously among ourselves as the SBC imploded. We've led you into a morass each time we promised renewal. We know what we're doing."
Wade Burleson captures the flavor of the SBC political struggle in his Sept. 16 post when he writes:
I found myself in 2008, at times, questioning whether or not the Christ I follow is actually represented by the Convention with which we choose to affiliate. I recently spoke with J.C. Watts, former United States Congressman from Oklahoma and a life-long Southern Baptist, about our mutual affiliation and affection for the SBC. He said that politics in Washington D.C. is rough and tumble, but he has never seen anything as vicious as Southern Baptist politics. Though I have no experience with D.C. politics, I can echo similar sentiments regarding the SBC and the utter lack of civility among some.
Read the entire post here.