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Baptist association counters stance by other association on speaking out


ROGERS, Ark. (BP)–A second Baptist association in Arkansas has weighed in on whether Baptist leaders ought to speak out concerning a specific congregation’s action or inaction on significant biblical matters.
Northwest Baptist Association, based in Rogers, Ark., said Baptist leaders indeed should speak out, in a resolution adopted without dissent during an Oct. 19 annual meeting attended by 160-plus messengers representing the association’s 45 congregations.
The specific congregation at issue, though not mentioned by name in the Northwest resolution, is President Bill Clinton’s home church, Immanuel Baptist in Little Rock, which was criticized by a prominent Southern Baptist seminary president, R. Albert Mohler Jr., for not exercising church discipline over Clinton’s admitted extramarital affair with a young White House intern.
Northwest Baptist Association’s stance counters a resolution adopted unanimously by the Pulaski Baptist Association’s executive board Sept. 15, declaring: “In response to the calls of certain Southern Baptists upon Immanuel Baptist Church of Little Rock to ‘discipline’ one of her own, we support our sister congregation and her pastor, Rex Horne, in allowing them to conduct their ministry as they see fit under the direction of God’s Holy Spirit.”
The Pulaski resolution further declared that “no one outside that congregation has the right, nor the privilege, of trying to coerce Immanuel Baptist to do otherwise.”
Northwest Baptist Association countered in its resolution that “the autonomy of the church does not truncate the priesthood of the believer,” that “every believer has the standing in Christ to interpret and speak scriptural truth.” The association added, “we encourage prophetic voices to continue to speak exhortations, encouragements and rebukes from the platform of the priesthood of the believer.” The association at the same time acknowledged that “no believer has a right to infringe upon the autonomy of the local church.”
More specifically, the Northwest resolution stated, “Dr. R. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Dr. Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and president of the SBC, using this time-honored principle of the priesthood of the believer, spoke prophetically in calling a church to consider her scriptural mandate of discipline on an erring member.” Patterson joined Mohler’s call for Immanuel to discipline Clinton in a Sept. 10 news conference at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Northwest Association’s resolution added that it commends Mohler and Patterson “for speaking the truth in love.”
Key passages regarding church discipline are found in Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 in the New Testament.
Jim Richards, Northwest’s director of missions, said the association’s resolutions committee proposed the resolution at least in part as a reaction to a statement by Emil Turner, executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
Turned was quoted in the Sept. 17 issue of the Arkansas Baptist Newsmagazine as stating, “I doubt there is a church in Arkansas that would appreciate a denominational official giving it any kind of instruction or direction.”
Turner also cited Immanuel Baptist’s strong support of Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program giving channel and said, “I am surprised that Dr. Mohler would attack one of his faithful supporters.”
Richards said the Northwest Association will submit its resolution to the resolutions committee at the state convention’s annual meeting Nov. 3-4 in Arkadelphia to help add balance if any statement is proposed to messengers about church discipline, church autonomy and the priesthood of the believer.
A two-page letter from President Clinton asking forgiveness from fellow members of Immanuel Baptist was read to the congregation Oct. 18 by pastor Rex Horne at the conclusion of the Sunday morning worship. Clinton “expressed repentance for his actions, sadness for the consequence of his sin on his family, friends and church family, and asked forgiveness from Immanuel,” Horne said in a two-sentence, written statement released to the Arkansas Baptist Newsmagazine. Baptist Press requested a copy of the letter from Horne’s office, but a church staff member said the letter was a personal, handwritten one to the pastor, who was not releasing it to others, including Immanuel members.
After Clinton admitted on Aug. 17 that he misled his family, staff and the American people about his extramarital relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Mohler penned a column in Religion News Service Aug. 24 stating that Immanuel is accountable for failing to exercise church discipline toward its most famous member and called for the church to do so. Immanuel was wrongly allowing Clinton to “claim to be a Southern Baptist” while continuing his “public display of serial sin,” Mohler wrote.