NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A curriculum disputing the Southern Baptist Convention’s statement of beliefs has been published on a fast track by a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship-related organization.
The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message revision was approved during the SBC’s June 13-14 annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.
The 13-lesson curriculum published by the CBF-supported Baptist Center for Ethics was released Aug. 30 on the BCE’s Internet site just in time for the new Sunday school year and for messengers gearing up for state convention elections in the fall.
Designed to highlight the differences between the 1963 BF&M and the 2000 BF&M, it is sure to provide additional fodder for CBF state-level organizations and various state-level CBF surrogate organizations carrying “Mainstream Baptist” or “Baptists Committed” names in their quest to distance Baptist conventions from the SBC. Posting the curriculum on BCE’s website for downloading allows BCE to release curriculum “on a fast track … to speed up distribution,” Robert Parham, BCE executive director, said in a July BCE e-mail newsletter.
“We believe the changes in the Baptist Faith and Message statement will be a battleground for families, churches, associations and state conventions this fall,” Parham said. “We think we can make a constructive contribution through undated lessons designed for adult Sunday School classes or Wednesday night Bible studies.” The curriculum is titled, “Real Baptists: Spotlighting Changes in the Baptist Faith and Message.”
The contribution of the 2000 BF&M, meanwhile, was noted by R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a member of the BF&M study committee, in the Kentucky Western Recorder newsjournal June 28. “Simply put,” Mohler wrote, the revision was needed “because thirty years of abuses and attacks upon the integrity of the Bible made clear that some were using [the BF&M’s previous] language to deny the truthfulness and authority of the Word of God. … Professors and pastors have denied that God ordered the conquest of Canaan, tested Abraham in the sacrifice of Isaac, or inspired the Apostle Paul when he wrote about the family or roles in the church.”
The BCE’s 13-lesson curriculum is penned by a virtual who’s who of anti-SBC sentiment.
Parham himself, in a June 11 column for the Orlando Sentinel, caricatured SBC clergy as wearing “suits and carry(ing) big copies of the King James Bible. Their CBF counterparts will wear golf shirts and slacks and carry sunscreen.” He also contended that the SBC “favors the Old Testament law and letters of the Apostle Paul more than the Old Testament prophets and the Gospels.”
CBF leaders, particularly those affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, are among the harshest critics of the changes in the BF&M approved by local church messengers gathered in Orlando. And indeed at least two BGCT leaders are among the team of writers for the anti-BF&M curriculum: Charles Wade, BGCT executive director, and Marv Knox, editor of the Baptist Standard newsjournal. Both have attempted to frame the public debate over the BF&M changes around which is more paramount, Jesus or the Bible.
Wade, who has been a periodic leader in the CBF since its inception in 1991, spoke against the changes at the Orlando convention, charging SBC leaders with not affirming the supremacy of Christ and attempting to turn the BF&M into a creed. Knox uses the pejorative term, “fundamentalists,” to characterize conservative SBC leaders who have elevated the Bible to “near-divinity” status while worshiping “a defacto Quartet: Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Holy Bible, with the Bible acting as the arbiter of the other three” instead of the Holy Trinity.
Another Texan contributing to the curriculum is Robert Newell, pastor of Memorial Drive Baptist Church in Houston and a member of the Texas CBF steering committee. Among the committee’s tasks listed on its Internet site are to “create a CBF Texas network” and encourage “national CBF participation at the local church level.”
Other contributing writers to the curriculum include:
— Donna Forrester, an ordained minister of pastoral care and counseling at the CBF-affiliated First Baptist Church, Greenville, S.C. She is the current CBF moderator and is the fifth woman appointed to the position since the CBF came into existence. The Associated Press took the unusual opportunity to hail her election in a July 22 nationally distributed story, three weeks after the CBF’s General Assembly, also in Orlando.
First Baptist, Greenville, severed its ties with the SBC in 1999 and was the first church in South Carolina to join the Alliance of Baptists. The Alliance of Baptists, which has practicing homosexuals as members, is a denomination-like group founded in opposition to the SBC. The Greenville church is the only church to twice host the Alliance of Baptists’ annual convocation. Forrester’s pastor, Hardy Clemons, is a former CBF moderator, making this the only church to have two of its own leaders as the CBF’s top elected leader. Clemons also caught the eye of Southern Baptists when he defended Mercer University President R. Kirby Godsey’s “When We Talk About God … Let’s Be Honest,” a 1996 book condemned as heresy by a Georgia Baptist Convention study committee.
— Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler, retired executive director of the Woman’s Missionary Union, former CBF moderator and CBF Foundation trustee. Crumpler is among six CBF leaders who have served on the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America’s board of directors and/or advisory committee. The BPFNM was defunded by the CBF in 1995 for its pro-homosexual stances, but was subsequently refunded by the CBF and this year will receive $9,000. The BPFNM supports the ordination of homosexuals into the ministry and recently introduced a “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth” church-oriented resource that affirms same-sex unions, denies that the Bible condemns homosexual behavior and affirms homosexuality as an unchangeable sexual orientation. Promotional materials carry Crumpler’s endorsement of the resource as “well-written and thoughtfully presented.”
— Michael Clingenpeel, editor of the Virginia Baptist newsjournal, the Religious Herald. He has labeled SBC leaders as “ultra-conservative” and “fundamentalists.” Like Knox, Clingenpeel has framed the debate around Jesus versus the Bible. He believes the Bible is a “record of God’s revelation of Himself to man.” In approving the revised BF&M in Orlando, “Southern Baptists erected a paper calf, before which in time all its employees inevitably will be required to kneel,” Clingenpeel wrote in a recent editorial. However, such a view stands in contrast to the beliefs of most Southern Baptists who maintain the Bible is not merely a “record” of revelation, but rather is revelation itself. “The Bible is not a fallible witness to the revelation of God, it is God’s perfectly inspired Word,” Mohler wrote in the Western Recorder. “The written Word testifies of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, as our Lord Himself explained.”
— Brent and Nancy Walker. Brent Walker is executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs and a trustee for the left-leaning Americans United for Separation of Church and State that recently aided in a suit against the Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children for firing a homosexual employee. In 1994 the BJCPA worked with a number of religious and homosexual-activist groups on the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA), the centerpiece of homosexual rights legislation. By adding a religious exemption for churches and nonprofit religious organizations, the BJCPA claims to have made ENDA “politically more saleable.” However, Brent Walker noted, “… those with religious objections to hiring homosexuals should not be able to discriminate when they engage exclusively in for-profit enterprises.” Counted among the BJCPA’s board of directors: CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal. In 1999 approximately half of the BJCPA’s $878,000 budget came from the CBF and Baptist state conventions.
— Fisher Humphreys, former professor of theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and currently professor of divinity at Beeson Divinity School of Samford University, Birmingham, Ala.
— Bob Setzer, a member of the CBF Coordinating Council and pastor of First Baptist Church, Macon, Ga.
— Bill Wilson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Waynesboro, Va., a BCE board member. Wilson recently was elected co-chair of the BJCPA’s Religious Liberty Council.
— Karen Johnson Zurheide, a BCE board member and freelance writer from Edmond, Okla.
Jim Taulman, editor of all BCE undated curriculum, is heading the new curriculum project.
The 13 lessons include: Meeting Jesus, Treasuring the Bible as the Record of God’s Revelation, Reading the Bible with Jesus’ Help, Embracing Soul Competency, Being Priest in the (Neighbor) Hood, Practicing Local Church Autonomy, Ringing the Bell of Religious Liberty, Separating Church and State, Practicing Citizenship, Doing Evangelism, Submitting Mutually, Opening the Door to Women, and Leading Like Servants.
Users will obtain a password after placing their order with BCE and will be invoiced for downloading the lessons from BCE’s website depending on how many copies they plan to print.
“Obviously, we are working on an honor system,” Parham said.