At the conclusion of the Building Bridges Conference, many Southern Baptists were encouraged by what took place.
Not Norman Jameson, editor of North Carolina’s Biblical Recorder, who took opportunity to misrepresent “creeping” Calvinists. As an alarmist, Jameson shared his “befuddlement” and overall disdain over what the Building Bridges conference represented. That was December of last year.
Today (June 12), Norman Jameson came out again, spinning the result of the resolution on regenerate church membership title with the alarmist title, “SBC Resolution Could Shrink Membership Rolls.” While his article addresses all the resolutions passed by the messengers at Indy, he focuses particularly on resolution #6, that is, on regenerate church membership.
Aside from his title, consider also how he refers to individuals in his article. Referring to Malcolm Yarnell, Jameson writes,
The first, offered by Malcolm Yarnell, a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, added to the definition of New Testament church.
Now consider how he identifies Tom Ascol:
Messengers adopted an amendment by Tom Ascol, prominent in the Calvinist Founder’s Movement in the Southern Baptist Convention . . .
So why could Jameson not identify him as, “Tom Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Cape Coral, FL” as any other news outlet does? That would be, of course, because Jameson is a spin-meister, ever hoping to alert unsuspecting Southern Baptists to the “agendas” of folks he finds problematic.
So now it is the Calvinists causing the reduction in membership rolls in SBC churches, according to Norman Jameson. It is not the fact that we have abandoned the historic practice of regenerate church membership with all Southern Baptists–Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike–have uniformly upheld. Jameson advertises this resolution as though the goal is to “shrink membership rolls” of Southern Baptist churches. The spinning of this resolution, then, is to say that this will take the SBC in further decline, causing churches to shrink as a result of its passing.
The fact is, a commitment to regenerate church membership is the very thing we need in order to revive our churches. In his book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever affirms,
“I’m convinced that getting this concept of church membership right is a key step in revitalizing our churches, evangelizing our nation, furthering the cause of Christ around the world, and so bringing glory to God (148)”.
Charles Deweese agrees, stating,
“A direct relationship exists between a regenerate church membership and five other areas of Baptist life–church covenants, the ordinances, church discipline, evangelism, and small groups” (Charles W. Deweese, A Community of Believers: Making Church Membership More Meaningful (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1978), 13.
The purpose of passing a resolution on regenerate church membership is that our churches would reflect what God has commanded in Scripture. There is no other agenda than to honor Christ by seeking to have a church composed of “Christ’s baptized disciples, united in the belief of what he has said, and covenanting to do what he has commanded” (J. M. Pendleton, Baptist Church Manual (Nashville, Broadman Press, 1966), 7. It is really disappointing to find state editors seeking to use such a historic moment in the life of the SBC to misrepresent the nature and goal of such a resolution. But the struggle to revive the issue of regenerate church membership will continue in spite of its detractors. May those who have the health and integrity of the local church on their radar continue to forge a convention-wide consensus on this cardinal belief of Baptists so that our churches can thrive for generations to come.