Don Hinkle is the editor of MBC’s state paper, The Pathway, and could perhaps be considered the authorized spokesperson for their Executive Board. What makes Hinkle unique is that he is also a blogger who happens to believe that fellow bloggers cannot address issues like the de-funding of Southern Baptist churches in a Christ-like manner. Granted, we can all admit that the unprecedented decision does raise a lot of emotion, frustration, and even anger, and I would argue rightfully so; however, I am afraid that the substance of the disagreement is written off prima facie simply because we are “amateurs” and not professional journalists. But be that as it may, I would like to respond to Hinkle’s comments in the hopes that, perhaps, he and others in the SBC might give a listening ear.
In his latest blogpost, Hinkle begins with the statement:
In Missouri Baptist Convention life, next to Christ and His Word, there is no higher authority than the convention’s Executive Board.
I find this an odd way to begin for several reasons, not the least of which is that denominational leaders are otherwise considered “denominational servants” who exist to serve Southern Baptist churches, not exercise authority over them. As we all know, the issue before the MBC regarding Acts 29 churches has to do with the issue of alcohol. Now, consider how their authority is being exercised over their respective churches. Interim Executive Director David Tolliver passionately argued that alcohol consumption at any level is “a violation of Romans 14, which urges Christians not to cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble.” Therefore, Tolliver believes “Missouri Southern Baptists ought to abstain from the imbibing of alcoholic beverages.” So what grounds the exercise of making such a decision? Consider Tolliver’s confession:
“I understand that the Bible does not say, ‘Thou shalt not drink. . . . The Bible doesn’t say that. I get that. The Bible doesn’t say ‘Thou shalt not drink’ anytime, anywhere, for any reason. It’s not that explicit. I’m a little slow at it, but I can read, and I understand that the Bible does not say that. The Bible does not specifically call the drinking of alcohol a sin—not in so many words.” (emphasis mine)
So Tolliver believes that the position the MBC is holding to, and exercising authority over, is not found in the Bible. Now, go back to Hinkle’s first comment. He says there is no higher authority, next to Christ and His Word, than the Executive Board of the MBC. Perhaps it should be restated that there is no higher authority in the MBC than the Executive Board period, since the explicit confession by their director reveals they have no biblical warrant for executing their motion among the churches. The only ground they have to stand upon is their own convictions, not the authority of God’s Word. That alone should cause enough concern for us Southern Baptists who believe that Scripture is our sole and final authority, not the dictates of men.
Second, Hinkle does a personal Q&A. He writes:
What is the issue? Some churches within the Acts 29 Network and their practices. I’ll not spend time here delineating those practices that led the board to take the action it took against Acts 29 on Monday. However, I will say this, the evidence in the minds of those who supported the action was overwhelming. (emphasis mine)
So the issue is with Acts 29 and their practices, primarily the issue of alcohol. However, one has to wonder if the evidence is “overwhelming,” then why is it not being disclosed? What does the MBC know about Acts 29 churches that leaves rest of the world shrouded in ignorance? Insert the ad hoc “theology committee” from this past April. This committee came up with seven conclusions which can be read here. While it is apparent that the conclusions this committee compiled have very little theology and a considerable amount of personal concern, professor Mark Devine went at great lengths to try to explain the error in their thinking and offer a more faithful and accurate understanding of Acts 29. The theology committee, however, dismissed Devine’s presentation and continued in their persistent march to victory–that is, the removal of Acts 29 churches from their state convention. [For further background info, read Devine's "Southern Baptists, Missouri Baptists, and the Emerging Church" and "Fast Friend or Future Foes: The Emerging Church and Southern Baptists."] In a recent Baptist Press article, however, we find another confession. Gerald Davidson, chairman of the MBC Executive Board, explained that
“only a handful of board members were informed enough about the Acts 29 Network to be able to vote on any motion that was critical of it. He said on two separate occasions that his knowledge was lacking.” (emphasis mine)
Now, if only a handful of board member have any idea of what is going on, how can they make a responsible vote in any motion, especially one that is de-funding Southern Baptist churches?! Should not decisions of such weight have not only a thorough knowledge of the subject matter, but given prayerful and careful attention? So on the one hand, there is the Executive Director of the MBC telling us that he knows that the motion has no biblical weight, and on the other hand, the chairman of the board tells us that people voting have no idea what they are voting on. Is this how Executive Board meetings are supposed to handle their business?
Third, Hinkle is quick to assert that the decision
“in no way violates the Southern Baptist tenet of local church autonomy. If a church wants to cooperate with Acts 29 in a church plant, go ahead, it will just be without Cooperative Program dollars.”
Missouri Baptists, and Southern Baptists at large, are doing precisely that. We are going ahead. Darren Casper, the Director for church planting in the St. Louis Metro Association of Baptist churches in Missouri, has created a way that you can support the nine MBC/A29 churches that are being de-funded in less than three weeks (without any prior knowledge). If you would like to assist those church planters during this time of unanticipated shortfall, you can send a check made out to:
St. Louis Metro Baptist Association
(designate it for the “Show Me Church Planting Fund”)
St. Louis Metro Bapt. Assoc.
attn. Darren Casper
3859 Fee Fee Road
Bridgeton, Mo. 63044
You may contact Darren at 314-571-7579, extension 103.
I would strongly encourage all Southern Baptists and non-Southern Baptists to consider supporting these churches and fellow church planters. They need our prayers, and they need our resources. If we cannot give to them the “conventional” way, they by all means, let’s do it the biblical way.
Fourth, Hinkle states that Southern Baptists did not
“give to plant churches who pledge to do one thing, then do another, often putting the church plant and convention at doctrinal odds — and without accountability, something Acts 29 seems to be lacking. Southern Baptists choose to cooperate with their money and they have every right to demand accountability. In Missouri they expect the Executive Board to carry out that responsibility.” (emphasis mine)
While it has been stated time and again, there are no doctrinal differences between Acts 29 and the SBC. Acts 29 churches are as solid as they come, so claim that they need more accountability on doctrinal issues appears to be shadow purpose, a mere boxing in the air. Incidentally, the Executive Board felt at liberty to carry out the responsibility of providing accountability to churches they deem not worthy of being supported by Southern Baptist dollars. Now, the issue of accountability is an important one, but I find it interesting that we are so quick to point the finger at nine churches who apparently hold to a different position on a nonessential matter. But since we are on the topic, let’s talk about accountability. Let’s talk about you and me–Missouri Baptist churches and their pastors.
As a Southern Baptist, I would like to propose some areas where I would like the Executive Board of the MBC to consider taking responsibility–this time on our own turf.
First, we need to hold accountable all Missouri Baptist churches who are not preaching Christ and the gospel. If the gospel is not being shared and Christ not proclaimed in the pulpits of our churches, then all MBC churches should considered worthy of disciplinary action.
Second, we need to hold accountable all Missouri Baptist churches who do not practice the historic Baptist distinctive of regenerate church membership. Where there are churches who have large percentages of “inactive” church members and church discipline is not carried out, then all MBC churches should be culpable of denying a core distinctive of what makes us Baptist.
Third, we need to hold accountable all Missouri Baptist churches who did not lead one person to Christ last year and did not baptize one person. Since we are a convention who believes in the Great Commission, and “baptist” is in our name, then all MBC churches not being true, Great Commission churches need to be under the disciplinary authority of the Executive Board.
Fourth, we need to hold accountable all Missouri Baptist pastors who are overweight and obese. I’m not kidding. There is a far greater issue in the MBC waist line than MBC pastors who do not “walk the line.” If we are going to de-fund all MBC churches who do not hold to abstentionism, then we need to balance this directive with de-funding all MBC churches whose pastors are clinically overweight and guilty of gluttony.
Friends, this is accountability. What we are talking here (except for the fourth area) is at the heart of who we are. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the integrity of the local church, and the evangelistic nature of Southern Baptists who are on mission. If we can exercise authority and accountability over nonessential matters such as alcohol, then certainly we can consider disciplining churches and pastors who are under greater guilt before God on matters that are essential to the Christian faith.
Lastly, Hinkle says that this motion was simply Southern Baptists “behaving like Southern Baptists.” Perhaps some Southern Baptists, but certainly not all. For instance, over the course of the past year we have seen Southern Baptists such as Ed Stetzer, Danny Akin, J.D. Greear, Tom Ascol, Bruce Ware, and now Mark Dever all either affiliate or speak positively of the Acts 29 Network. I would venture to say that the Dec. 10th decision by the MBC was not a good day for these men as well as a myriad of other Southern Baptist whom Roger Moran and his cohorts are not representative. Hinkle concludes with one final point:
“The Acts 29 debate is about to spread across the SBC — and that’s a good thing.”
I honestly do not understand how removing CP funds from pastors and churches who, with the exception of one (The Journey), did nothing wrong, except be affiliated with a church planting network with a record of almost 100% success rate of church plants, is a “good thing,” much less spreading this debate across the SBC. Board member Monty Dunn, again in the BP article, was explicit in stating,
“We want to put the brakes on this thing, and we’re telling the convention we know where the brake pedal is.”
Mr. Dunn, MBC Executive Board, and all those who care to listen, you are telling the convention more than that you know where the brake pedal is. You are telling who is in the driver’s seat, and it is not Jesus. My biggest fear is that, while your foot meets pedal, the hands of many Southern Baptists are meeting the handle of the door with neon lighting that says, “Exit here.”