After a morning with a light feel and some respectful disagreements… we moved into another time of business to vote on motions made yesterday. Right before lunch we voted on a motion to defund/dissolve the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
Regarding the motion to dissolve/defund the ERLC… The messengers voted overwhelmingly to keep the ERLC. Dr. Richard Land, former President of the ERLC spoke to the motion. He said that he doesn’t agree with everything that is written or said from the commission either. But, to defund and dissolve the ERLC would be like killing a mosquito with a cannon ball. The mosquito dies, but the collateral damage is overkill.
I think Dr. Land’s illustration applies to much of what we are witnessing in our culture, the convention, and even our churches. Far too often I see people who want to kill the mosquito with a cannon ball rather than address the particular issue and move forward with everything still intact.
I’m not sure what all of the issues some may have with the ERLC are… but I do know that the course of action taken to today didn’t address the issues. I’m not saying the gentleman who made the motion didn’t have particular reasons, he mentioned some of them. But the issues he had didn’t warrant the action he pursued. By trying to get rid of the ERLC, rather than finding a way to address particular issues, the motion accomplished nothing.
In my experience people who bring out the cannon ball are often reactive,can’t articulate their issue, or are acting with impure motives. Regardless of which one it is, it signifies immaturity and a missed opportunity for unity and growth.
At one point today someone mentioned the difference between uniformity and unity. My experiences as a pastor have taught me that there are some really do want uniformity more than they want unity. Christians are called to unity as they conform to Christ and His Word. Where there is unity there will be differences of opinion on secondary and tertiary issues. Where there is uniformity, every issue is a first tier issue and everyone who disagrees is canceled and removed. (Unfortunately most people who want uniformity have a hard time seeing that and admitting it.)
This week in the SBC we have seen some who want uniformity while others have displayed a commitment to unity. And, I think we have seen that there are some first tier issues, or at least, second tier issues that we need to address and work through. We have taken good steps toward dealing with sexual abuse, and we will keep taking steps this next year.
One of the primary issues to work on is unity on what we mean when we call someone “pastor.” I think the BF&M is clear, and I am thankful for Dr. Al Mohler who stated: “In 2000 Southern Baptists overwhelmingly adopted the Baptist Faith & Message revision. We explicitly stated that we confess and believe together that “the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” Southern Baptists knew what they were doing. Words matter. The Southern Baptist Convention is a confessional body. Our confession is essential to how we know if a church is or is not in friendly cooperation with the SBC. The word pastor was chosen for its clarity among Southern Baptists.”
I agree with Dr. Mohler that it’s clear… but there is an obvious division in our convention over this. And I’m not sure how big the divide is.
As many have said this week, the SBC is based in the local church. It’s up to each church to clarify what the Word says. This week has furthered my resolve to make sure that Harrisburg Baptist stays faithful to the Word in everything that we do and say. We are not perfect, but we will continue to strive in that direction and seek unity in the gospel and conformity to Christ, over uniformity.