Baptist Press has continued to spread the anti-Acts 29 agenda by publishing the errors of SBCToday in the recent “first person” article entitled “Covenant or Confession” authored by Tim Rogers.
Just last week, I showed how Baptist Press has degenerated into an anti-Mark Driscoll/anti-Acts 29 campaign under the leadership and vision of Will Hall, their executive editor. It appears that there is no level so low Baptist Press is unwilling to stoop, even publishing known errors and blatant mischaracterizations. Baptist Press carries the subtitle “News with a Christian Perspective” and sadly enough, the news they are publishing is not fitting for the journalistic ethics of non-Christians.
While I have made it my practice not to comment over at the blog SBCToday, the factual errors in Tim Roger’s blogpost were just too many to ignore, so I set out to explain where he was wrong with the hopes it was simply due to poor research and ill-conceived conclusions based on limited knowledge of how Acts 29 operates. But I was wrong. You see, not only did I attempt to correct Rogers of his errors, so did Scott Thomas*, the director of Acts 29. It was a perfect opportunity for Rogers to own his mistakes, apologize, and correct his article. Not only did that not happen, but Rogers continued to purport the same claims of his original blogpost in ten subsequent comments**, even after he was explicitly told he was wrong in his assertions about Acts 29 (see my second response here). What was presumed to be an innocent mistake was proven over time to be a lie through the intentional suppression of the truth regarding Acts 29 by SBCToday.
It was bad enough that SBCToday kept the post up, knowing their entire argument was built upon a lie, but Baptist Press took the opportunity to spread that lie across the Southern Baptist Convention by publishing Rogers’ blogpost on a Friday afternoon when they knew very few people would have the time or opportunity to respond. As I stated earlier, Baptist Press is not reporting about important matters of controversy. They have become the controversy in the SBC. Neither Tim Rogers nor Will Hall has sought to verify what they have written, and it is clear that they have little to no correspondence with actual Acts 29 church planters to validate their assertions. Consequently, the whole article is based on a false understanding of how Acts 29 operates as a network of autonomous churches.
Aside from the subtle attacks on Danny Akin, Ed Stetzer, and J.D. Greear (whom he later calls out in this comment), what’s behind Rogers’ article is the premise that all Acts 29 churches are required by covenant to commit 10% of their giving back to the Acts 29 network. He intimates that “some within the SBC have advocated a partnership with Acts 29” though no names are provided, and the fact that there are people in the Great Commission Task Force who are affiliated and sympathetic with Acts 29 necessarily creates controversy and questions whether Southern Baptists are a truly confessional people.
While there are numerous errors to address in Rogers thinking, let me reiterate the matter about 10% giving in Acts 29 because this is the foundation to his entire article. The Acts 29 network does not receive mission money from churches within its network. It is not a funding center like Nashville, nor does Acts 29 have a funding mechanism like the Cooperative Program. Rather, the 10% giving reflects a commitment of Acts 29 churches to keep the priority of being a network of mission-driven, multiplying churches who dedicate a significant portion of their budget to planting more gospel-centered churches. As Scott Thomas plainly stated, Acts 29 “does not check on where and how much an Acts 29 church gives and no report is required” (as in an Annual Church Profile). Unlike the centralized denominational bureaucracy of the SBC, Acts 29 operates as a decentralized network of churches who share a clear theological vision and common missional practice, and Rogers apparently has sought to read Southern Baptist systems into the internal works of an altogether difference organizational structure.
Because Acts 29 holds to the autonomy of the local church, each church determines where and how that money is spent, whether it is to the Cooperative Program, a local church plant, Annie Armstrong, or whatever. Therefore, to say that dually affiliated Acts 29/SBC churches somehow are forced to face a dilemma between giving to Acts 29 or SBC causes is baseless, and this is precisely what Tim Rogers refuses to admit because his entire article hinges on his interpretation of the Acts 29 covenant (which he reiterates six times after Thomas’ explanation contrariwise). Rogers wants to point fingers at dually affiliated Acts 29/SBC churches and argue that they are part of the reason why “missionaries are waiting in the pipeline” when, truth be known, there are few other churches in the SBC who have a greater international missions commitment than that of Summit Church where Greear is pastor (ironically enough, when the SBC Annual Meeting was taking place, Greear was in Europe working with IMB missionaries in a leadership summit!).
The bottom line is this: you can either believe Tim Rogers and Will Hall or you can believe Scott Thomas and the pastors of these Acts 29/SBC churches. Either the director of Acts 29 does not know what he is talking about regarding the practices of Acts 29, or he must be lying in order for Rogers/Hall to have a leg to stand on. Knowing Thomas and many of the Acts 29/SBC pastors personally, I am convinced they are telling the truth.
Fellow Southern Baptists, we cannot afford to have this type of gross mischaracterization printed from our denominational news wire even if it is in the “first person.” Whether SBCToday chooses to publish such errors or not is up to them, but to have Baptist Press continue to exhibit unacceptable journalistic ethic to support an anti-Acts 29 agenda under the banner of Southern Baptist is simply inexcusable.
* Scott Thomas wrote in comment #13 at SBCToday (emphasis mine):
“Like Southern Baptists, Acts 29 churches are autonomous. Acts 29 does not receive the ten percent money. Each church decides where to give their mission money: to the cooperative program, to local church plants, to foreign church plants, to their denomination or to plant a church wherever the Spirit leads. Nobody checks on where or how much an Acts 29 church gives and no report is required. Further, if an Acts 29 planter receives any funding from another agency, we strongly encourage them to honor those commitments. The covenant is to serve the local church, not Acts 29. We want more churches planted and we don’t care how, with whom or who gets the credit.”
** Tim Rogers’ comments as parenthetically referenced in my article are as follows (and numbered in the meta, emphasis mine):
2: “When a church plants a Acts 29 church, their covenant calls for primary consideration for their missions $’s going back into Acts 29 to plant more Acts 29 churches.”
3: “I have to admit that when SB churches embark on a partnership with Acts 29 there is an un-intended competition for $’s. Let’s face it, monies that are going back into the Acts 29 network are being taken away from the IMB, NAMB, and State Conventions.”
5a: “What I am trying to point out is Acts 29 churches mandate 10% must be returned, SBC church planting does not mandate such.”
5b: “Acts 29 Network success is not so much to do with doctrine as it is with directing church plants to return 10% of their funds to Acts 29. If the SBC would mandate such a program, there would not be any missionaries waiting in the pipe line.”
15a: “While “required” may not be the exact word, if a church agrees with that covenant and then does not respond accordingly there will be a withdrawal of funds from the churches that are sponsoring them. Thus, it may not technically be required, it is monetarily controlled.”
15b: “The president of the SBC has not signed a covenant with his diversified missions organizations that he will primarily designate 10% of his budget back to them.”
44: “The 10% covenant of Acts 29 is a violation of the local church’s congregational rule. Therefore a covenant with Acts 29 clearly violates the BF&M concerning congregational polity because someone outside the congregation has already mandated where funds are spent.”
68: “I do not desire to partner with them or turn over $’s to them, but that is another item.”
69: “You need to go on and see that according to the Acts 29 covenant, the church planted needs to place 10% of their primary offerings back into another Acts 29 church plant.”
73: “I am saying if a covenant calls for 10% to go back into an Acts 29 church plant then that is where 10% will in reality end up. If it is a SB/Acts 29 church plant then the SB missionaries are the ones that end up suffering.”