I hope Pathway readers find our coverage thought-provoking, clarifying, encouraging, but most importantly, always grounded in God’s inerrant, infallible Word. None of this precludes us from offering varying views on topics, hopefully in a lively, but always Christ-honoring manner.
So it is that I offer some initial thoughts on Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Bryant Wright’s appointment of a task force to advise him on whether the name Southern Baptist Convention ought to be changed. In the coming months as this issue unfolds, The Pathway will offer varying views. My goal is for our news articles and opinions to be accurate, fair, balanced, void of personalities and never questioning motives. Our goal is always the truth, which exists though sometimes requires some work on our part.
I am not going to bore you by spouting my conservative bonafides. Pathway readers are discerning. That said, one of the bum raps conservatives too often fail to debunk is that we oppose change. Nothing could be further from the truth. For starters, we believe in the greatest change of all: a person’s heart when they repent and ask Jesus to come into their heart to become their Lord and Savior.
Some might argue that it will take a miracle to convince 50-somethings like me to change the SBC’s name. In my view, the burden is on those who want the name changed. I am open to it, but in my mind, the bar is high – and it should be.
I suspect not many Missouri Southern Baptists know Bryant Wright. I first met him about 12 years ago while attending The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He preached an expository sermon that demonstrated a high degree of reverence and commitment to God’s Word. I believe him to be a man of integrity with considerable intellect and a heart to lead the lost to Christ while faithfully shepherding a wonderful congregation. He deserves our respect and prayers.
The people Wright has appointed to the task force are committed Southern Baptists, who more importantly, are committed to God and seeking His will. Some of them I know personally, others I do not. For full disclosure, I admit to having the deepest respect and love for Al Mohler, someone whom has had a tremendous impact on my life and ministry. I learned more sitting under his teaching for one year in systematic theology than I ever could have hoped for. I’ve made no secret that Paige Patterson is one of my heroes. Kevin Ezell was my pastor and I need not say more. Tom Elliff is one of the greatest missionaries to ever come out of Southern Baptist life. Missouri Baptists should be gratified that one of our own, Micah Fries, a respected young pastor, will research, debate and deliberate with such esteemed people. I am sure the other task force members, whom I have not had the privilege of meeting, are hewn from the same rock as those I have mentioned.
There have been previous studies on this matter and the convention has repeatedly been asked to consider a name change, always rejecting the idea overwhelmingly. There is clearly a portion of our Southern Baptist Zion who feel the name is an impediment to the Gospel. If you feel this way, please understand my skepticism. Nothing can stop the Gospel. We are dealing with fellow humans who are in rebellion against God. Let us make sure we are not being duped by negative remarks about Southern Baptist that, in reality, are excuses for rejecting God’s mercy.
No Christian wants to be a stumbling block to anyone. This is an issue that we must keep in front of ourselves given the coarseness and rabid skepticism of post-post-modern society. We must at all times examine ourselves and if a brother feels such a serious matter as being a stumbling block needs to be addressed, then by all means let us diligently do so .
To be honest, the time to change the name of the SBC was probably more justifiable many years ago. For sure the SBC has not always done the right thing, but it has never been afraid to examine itself and make corrections. Praise God the Conservative Resurgence – with its affirmation of the Bible as God’s inerrant, infallible Word – will stand as the ultimate example of that.
So let the task force begin its work. I wish them well. I look forward to their findings and the ensuing debate. Let us pledge to love one another and pray as we do this important work. And may we do it to the glory of God.
DON HINKLE / editor