11/13/12 Be sure to check in for tomorrow’s post. We will be recapping Dr. Dowless’ address to the Georgia Baptist Convention and give you our response. There will also be a special feature that you will not want to miss!
Tonight, the Georgia Baptist Convention began its 191st Annual Meeting at the Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins with an Inspirational Rally. Leading the program were GBC President, John Waters and GBC Executive Director, Robert White.
Tomorrow evening, faithful Messengers will gather from all over Georgia to hear about the state of the GBC , to celebrate its various accomplishments and to be charged, once more, with carrying out the Great Commission. Most likely, what will NOT be discussed is the decline of the Southern Baptist Convention in general and of the Georgia Baptist Convention in specific.
In June, it was announced that membership in Southern Baptist churches had declined for the fifth straight year. The statistics for 2011 showed that membership had dropped to less than 16 million – a statistic that had not been seen since 2000. Baptisms are also down – drastically.
The Georgia Baptist Convention is in acute budgetary distress. At last year’s November convention, Robert White called on Georgia churches to increase their Cooperative Program giving by 1%. Keep in mind that the GBC keeps approximately 60% of every CP dollar. The average giving from GBC churches nowadays is less than 5%. By February, the GBC was announcing its fourth staff downsizing since 2009, calling it the most drastic cut yet. Discussions have been underway for quite some time about selling the $42 million dollar albatross that is the GBC headquarters (think of how many mission projects that much money could have supported). Perhaps Robert White’s exhortation has been heard, and then again, perhaps not. As recently as May, the Consolation Baptist Association passed a resolution calling for all GBC churches to cut funding to the Cooperative Program in order to keep all donations within the Convention itself.
With the changes in the GBC’s Church Planters Assistance Policy, new churches now are only required to support the Cooperative Program by giving 5% instead of the formerly required 10%. This move, we imagine, was only made in order to keep the new churches aligned with the GBC. In any case, the new changes seem to affirm the Executive Committee’s realization that 5% giving may be the new normal.
The Annual Meeting promises to be a rally for the cause of Fundamentalism. Perhaps the idea of supplanting the old Southern Baptist name and claiming the new Great Commission name will take hold. That will make no difference to the Fundamentalist agenda. No matter what the name, the objectives of exclusivity and control will be the same.
Without doubt, the Messengers will hear great stories of missioning and evangelism. Calls will go forth for more faith, for more proselytizing, for more giving. The intention is to send the Messengers back home with a revitalized commitment to the GBC and to the rightness of the Fundamentalist values. If the current trends are predictors of future behavior, those calls will have limited effect. The GBC simply can’t replace thinking individuals with those who mindlessly follow the dictates of Fundamentalist leadership fast enough.
What does all of this have to do with Shorter? Despite protestations to the contrary, Fundamentalism is in an increasingly rapid decline and carrying the Georgia Baptist Convention and the SBC with it. The more stiff-necked the leadership becomes, the less effective their evangelism efforts. The more they speak of their New Earth theories, the rigidity of inerrancy as interpreted by the SBC alone, the more they deny the genetic factors that point toward the nature of homosexuality, the more they fight among themselves over Calvinist doctrine, the more they separate themselves from fellow denominations and imply there is no place at their table for those who think differently than they do, the more unattractive they become to potential converts.
When you can’t recruit by evangelism and exhortation, when your coffers are rapidly growing smaller, when former allies walk away in disgust, where do you find your potential membership? You take over the halls of academia and force your beliefs on young minds. Instead of gathering converts who willingly gather at your table, you control every facet of education.You indoctrinate those young minds. You have been entrusted to provide your students an academically rigorous education, where open inquiry is the hallmark and academic integrity is valued. Instead, you ignore academic principles in order to ensure future donors for your coffers. You tell your churches that it is their duty to support the colleges and universities you control by sending their dollars and their children to uphold the cause of Christ. You purge the faculty of anyone who does not swear allegiance to your values. And you do it all in the name of Christ. In other words, you pervert academia for your own purposes, few of which are Christ-centered and all of which support the power at the top.
When you preach God’s word in the light and with truth; when the love and acceptance of Jesus Christ at the forefront of the message, people cannot help but flock to you. So it has been for centuries. When creedalism, bigotry, narrow-mindedness, condemnation and greed take over, people leave. From the SBC, from the GBC and from Shorter.
GBC Messengers, you have an obligation to a much higher power than that which sits in the GBC offices. Christ calls us to be disciples of His truth and His love. Wash the clouds from your eyes; dare to speak out and demand the truth – from your pastors, and from those whom you elect. It was Christ’s way to challenge authority. Make it your way.
“I am the way, the truth and the light.” He said to his disciples. Bring back LUX VERITAS. Bring back truth and light.