Let’s Talk About Accountability – Let’s Talk About You and Me

Tim Brister —  December 15, 2007 — 21 Comments

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”)

Mailing address:

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.”

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  • http://www.profoundmystery.blogspot.com Darby Livingston

    I didn’t realize how catholic we southern baptists are! The catholic church may be the only ones the MBC can fellowship with now.

  • http://founders.org/blog tom ascol

    Timmy:

    I wish you would quit waffling and tell us what you really think! :-)

    You have made some excellent points–points which, I dare say, will not be raised by the denominational press and public relations personnel (who, too often, are indistinguishable). These are matters that ought to be discussed because important issues are at stake–issues that transcend even the immediate difficulties that the withdrawal of funds create for several church planters.

    If Southern Baptists are going to talk about these things openly, it will probably have to be in the blogosphere as unwieldy as dialogue in this forum can oftentimes be. Thanks for setting the stage. I hope it will be seriously and graciously engaged.

    ta

  • Kevin

    Timmy,

    Great article. I am one of 2 church planters affected by this. If you want to talk, email me. Most troubling is the idea that we are “saying one thing and doing another.” That is a lie.

  • George Rank

    I wish someone could explain to me this obsession with alcohol. I’m not an advocate of alcohol consumption, however if the SBC is going to be dogmatic about personal behavior why don’t we hear anything about the acceptance of divorce and “living together” that goes on in the SBC. I attend a mega SBC church and both of these issues are common place. I personally know deacons who have been divorced, but “thank God they don’t drink alcohol.”
    I have found if you bring up the subject of divorce your called judgmental but bashing alcohol is called spiritual discernment.

  • http://lesliepuryear.blogspot.com Les Puryear

    Hinkle’s quote “In Missouri Baptist Convention life, next to Christ and His Word, there is no higher authority than the convention’s Executive Board” reveals a flawed mindset. The SBC is a conventionof churches not boards. The churches are supposed to have oversight and final authority, however in this statement, Hinkle reveals that a heirarchy more akin to RCC is held in greater esteem than the oversight by the churches.

    It’s time for a leadership change at all levels of the SBC. This is not what Southern Baptists have been about since 1845.

    Les

  • http://fbcnewlondon.blogspot.com Mike Leake

    Great response. I linked to it here. I do have one concern. Your third “we need to hold accountable” concerns me. While I agree in spirit with what you are saying–that we ought to be fulfilling the Great Comission, and that the Lord usually blesses with fruit–I feel that such a blanket statement is dangerous. We have all heard stories of the missionary that spent years in a place without a single convert. We know that Jeremiah and Isaiah’s ministry was pretty much to blind eyes and deaf ears. I know that these are exceptions…but they ARE exceptions. Perhaps, I am just quibbling over semantics but such a statement to me seems dangerous. Thoughts?

  • http://wordnotbound.blogspot.com/ Ed Franklin

    Recently many of us heard some timely and cogent preaching about how in reclaiming the position for “Inerrancy,” Southern Baptists have lost their grip on “Sufficiency” of the Word of God. This MBC situation is a good illustration. Scripture is apparently insufficient to guide them in the matter, so a committee has been formed…….Men With Authority!

  • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

    Darby,

    Whether RCC or not, one thing is for sure–we are not acting like true Southern Baptists.

    Tom,

    Yeah, I have the tendency of really meaning what I say. :) But I am glad that there is a medium out there where both Don Hinkle and someone like myself can speak openly and candidly about issues at the forefront of SBC life. I think it is times like this, where the seriousness of the issues and the implications that follow, that we cannot afford to make political calculations and write responses with words devoid of pathos and meaning. Of course, you have not been one to do that, but the ethos of the SBC has become one where we can say alot without ever saying anything at all. I, too, really hope that this situation will be dealt with the such seriousness and grace.

  • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

    Kevin,

    Thanks for commenting. I would be interested in talking with you sometime soon. I have your email address, so I will be in touch.

    George,

    You brought up an excellent point. We all but succumbed to the divorce culture in the SBC, where it has been reported divorce rates are higher than among pagans. But apparently, we can pick and choose the sins of others to disqualify them from Southern Baptist life and throw a blind eye to the plank in our own.

    Les,

    I think we were thinking along the same lines when we read the article. It sounded more like a corporation and a convention where the Executive Board acted as CEO’s rather than servants. I was just struck by how blunt Hinkle made it sound.

    Mike,

    I understand where you are coming from, and to an extent, I agree. I added that for the sake of making an argument, knowing that such an action would never take place. It is reported that some 10,000 churches in the SBC would not baptize one person in a given year (1 in 4). A rough estimate would place that figure around 400 Missouri Baptist churches. Here we are talking about nine. I just wanted to provide a little perspective on the matter.

    Ed,

    That’s correct. I would highly recommend reading Tom Nettles’ book Ready for Reformation? which came out a couple of years ago. It speaks much to the issue of the formal and material principle in our need for reformation. This situation is case in point that inerrancy is not enough.

  • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

    Here are the nine Acts 29 churches and their pastors.

    Believer’s Church
    #1 YMCA Drive
    Hannibal, MO 63401
    573.221.8889
    Pastor: Sam Byers

    Genesis Church
    4525 Highway 109
    Eureka, MO 63025
    635.549.3179
    Pastor: Mike Hubbard

    Karis Community Church
    23 S. 8th St.
    Columbia, MO 65201
    573.823.4130
    Pastor: Kevin Larson

    LifePoint Church
    PO Box 1728
    Ozark, MO 65721
    417.581.6572
    Pastor: Lane Harrison

    Matthias’ Lot
    1511 Waverly St
    Saint Charles, MO 63302
    636.233.2577
    Pastor: Marc Sikma

    Mystery Church
    P.O. Box 322
    Webb City, MO 64870
    417.483.4686
    Pastor: Steev Inge

    Refuge Church
    1900 Randolph
    Saint Charles, MO 63302
    636-352-2233
    Pastor: Trey Herweck

    Summit Community Church
    1145 Tom Ginnever
    O’fallon, MO 63366
    636.978.4545
    Pastor: John Ryan

    The Journey St. Louis
    7701 Maryland Ave.
    Saint Louis, MO 63105
    314-863-8448
    Pastor: Darrin Patrick

  • Jerry

    I don’t want to come across as a conspiracy theorist, but I can’t help wondering that while there have been recent “Bridge Building” discussions within the SBC that this move is using the “booze” issue as a smokescreen to hide opposition to the reformed nature of the A29 movement. (Either that or the abandonment of Dispensationalism.)

  • http://thejonahsyndrome.blogspot.com Marc Backes
  • John Mark Inman

    Hinkle’s a company man. He has to keep his job. There are some in MO who are unhappy with the Pathway.

    If there was a convention funded church plant not reaching people they would lose their funding. I think the funding only lasts a couple of years any way.

    I don’t think most southern baptists are that concerned with doing an audit on their church rolls. They haven’t been concerned with it for nearly 100 years. They see rolls as a tool not equivalent to the book of life.

    I think what it comes down to is that the older generation of Southern Baptists doesn’t want to fund the rise of Calvinism in the SBC.

  • Pingback: Locusts and Wild Honey » Show Me Church Planting Fund()

  • http://www.talithakoumfiles.blogspot.com Letitia

    The comments are certainly flying everywhere. Although the main issue seems to be alcohol, I think it only makes up half of the consideration in the MBC decision. The other half I suspect is the EB’s unfounded fear that the Acts 29 Network is like all the other emergent churches. But, I don’t think they will admit it.

    The Saga Continues

  • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

    John Mark,

    I find it intriguing that Don and Scott are going tit for tat on their blog. They need a referee over there. :)

    My point about accountability is simply to make the point that we are focusing on tithing mint and dill and cumin while neglecting the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.

    How many MBC churches can you enter on any given Sunday and not hear Christ proclaimed, the Scriptures exposited, and the gospel preached?

    How many MBC churches that do not provide any accountability for their members, their spiritual lives, their faithfulness to their church, and commitment to serve one another?

    Beginning with Hinkle and the Executive Board, how many MBC pastors/leaders are overweight and a stumbling block to sinners?

    Whether the ultimate issue is the Reformed resurgence, I still am not convinced either way. What I do believe is that there is a very small number of Southern Baptist politicos making executive decisions and are out of touch with the majority of those they assume they represent.

    Ultimately, as Scott Thomas pointed out, future church planters are going to steer clear of Missouri altogether and look to plant elsewhere in the Midwest. Ultimately, the real loser is the “Show Me” state who has shown church planters the door.

  • sam stilley

    Yeah, I can testify about Hinkle’s girth. I am sure Don is very thankful for the inventor of elastic bands

  • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

    I’ve got one more post on this going up later today, but for now, here are some updates.

    1. Mark Devine, from the St. Louis Dispatch article:

    Mark Devine, a theology professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, said he was “disappointed” in Monday’s vote. Devine is an expert on the emerging church movement and earlier this year he was invited to brief Missouri Baptist Convention leaders on the emerging church. “I believe Missouri is setting a negative example that other state conventions should reject,” he said.

    2. Scott Thomas, director of Acts 29 in the same article:

    “There are guys now who are saying they’re still going to plant a church in the Midwest, but they’re not going to do it in Missouri,” said the Rev. Scott Thomas, director of Acts 29. “They’re looking at Kansas and Illinois instead.”

    3. Darrin Patrick, commenting to Don Hinkle’s post:

    Don, I agree that the Acts 29 debate is a good one for the MBC. Your good friend Roger Moran has publically agreed to debate these important issues regarding Gospel, Church and culture with me in the near future. I am looking forward to Dr. Tolliver moderating this important debate as he has agreed to do so. The Journey tech team is going to make the video of this debate available to every church so that they can hear both sides of these important issues.

    4. Scott Lamb’s most recent article, calling for MBC to stay true to their commitments and not compromise on their integrity:

    To the Executive Board, I plead with you. If you so desire, restrict future funding of Acts 29 affiliated church plants. I will disagree with you on this, but you have that right.

    However, to any minister whom we have committed support to, who standing before God as that man’s witness can state with honesty that they have NOT broken any signed agreements regarding MBC standards of conduct, we MUST honor the commitment.

    There is no excuse that can justify nor explanation that can satisfy why we as a convention can act without integrity in the matter of such commitments.

    Members of the Executive Board, our integrity as a convention is on the line. A watching world awaits to see if Christians do what they say they will do. If there has been a breach of church-planting contracts, then bring out the evidence and justify your action. If not, then no matter how much you may believe that FUTURE funds cannot and will not be used to support FUTURE Acts 29 church plants, the PRESENT commitments simply must be honored.

    5. James Galyon responds to David Tolliver’s assertion of abstinence as the “only biblical position.” Check it out here:

    http://drjamesgalyon.wordpress.com/2007/12/16/the-only-biblical-position/

    6. Two of the pastors losing funding responded in the St. Louis Dispatch article:

    Kevin Larson said, “The group voted to renege on its commitment to us,” he said. “We’re highly disappointed.”

    Sam Bryers said, “The vast majority of people in leadership in MBC churches are not on board with this decision. . . . This was a political decision, and it’s a good thing to see there are people out there who think more about the mission than about politics.”

    7. J.D. Greear, a dually affiliated Acts29/SBC church planter who also spoke at the annual meeting in San Aton this past summer, was interviewed by the NC state convention in which he discusses Acts 29 and the differences between emerging, emergent, and missional. Here’s the MP3 of the interview:

    http://www.annualsession.org/uploads/tx_pmkmp3player/JD_Greer_Interview__Nov_2007.mp3

    8. Lastly, Jim Shaver’s list of questions which are rather apropo:

    Will the MBC (Missouri Baptist Convention) still receive Cooperative Program funds from Churches that accept tithes and offerings from members who gain part of those offerings from the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages?

    Will the MBC still receive CP funds from Churches that hold religious discussions in bars?

    Will the MBC still receive CP funds from Churches that participate in Christian family day at Busch Stadium in St. Louis?

    Will the MBC still portray Albert Pujols as a Christian example to Missouri Baptists via the Pathway when it is a known fact that his restaurant in St. Louis has a bar?

    Will the MBC still hold Annual Convention meetings at Tan Tar A when it is known that a portion of their income is derived from the sale and consumption of alcohol?

    Will the MBC continue to promote usage of the Holman Christian Standard Bible published by Broadman and Holman Publishing Group, an arm of the SBC, at it’s annual meetings because it contains the word beer?

    More to come . . .

  • http://wordnotbound.blogspot.com/ Ed Franklin

    It seems to me this problem is bigger than Don Hinkle (no pun intended, seriously) and we are diluting the issues by resorting to ad hominem asides about his weight, making this an attack on a man rather than on a serious situation.

  • John Mark Inman

    Timmy,
    Agreed. I’m against SBC politicos making decisions out of step with the will of the people. This would include using institutions to promote Calvinism when 90% of pastors(the number would be higher w/out the past 15 years of Southern’s influence) and a likely higher percentage of members do not adhere to this theology.

  • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

    Ed,

    I agree. No one should be resorting to personal attacks, but inquiring about the obesity level of Hinkle and the Executive Board, and then the MBC at large, is not a personal attack. It is a fair question regarding accountability that seems to be so high on the priority list among those “there is no higher authority.”

    There is a both a seriousness and a silliness about the situation. When we can fence off Southern Baptists on a non-essential matter it is both silly and serious. When pastors are approved by NAMB and the MBC to receive funding, and they renege on their commitments when the pastors are not at fault, that is serious.

    But that aside, part of the argument is to show the folly of modern fundamentalism in the SBC. What the MBC is doing reveals that we have a Conservative Resurgence without a true Reformation. We have replaced one bureaucracy with another, and in the words of Timothy George, this, a reformation, does not make.