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CBF speakers demand ‘divorce’ from SBC; leaders suggest churches watch BGCT

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Leaders within the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship denounced the Southern Baptist Convention’s newly revised Baptist Faith and Message and several demanded the CBF sever its relationship, during a heated meeting at the shadow denomination’s general assembly in Orlando, June 30.

A breakout session on the new Baptist Faith and Message was filled to capacity as participants denounced “that other Baptist body” for a statement they charged with “seeking to recast the image of who Baptists are.”

The session was led by CBF Baptist Principles Coordinator Gary Parker who roamed the audience with a microphone soliciting comments and questions from audience members, many of whom called for the CBF to officially break with the SBC.

“This resembles a divorce that is never going to be closed until one side decides to walk away without getting everything he wants,” said panel member Annette Hill Briggs, pastor of University Baptist Church in Bloomington, Indiana. “Those churches that still look and feel Southern Baptist are in a quandary,” she suggested.

Briggs said that the SBC’s theological conservatism is nothing new, but that the Convention is simply “keeping up with Indiana,” a state convention whose “history is so sordid.” She said that when she became a BSU director in Indiana she “had to sign a statement that you believed in the virgin birth and that women shouldn’t be pastors.”

Panel member David Hughes, pastor of First Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, N.C., agreed with Briggs’ divorce analogy, comparing the SBC and the CBF to “two people living under the same roof who are not speaking to each other.”

“It may be time to formalize what is already informally happening,” Hughes suggested. “I don’t know what my church is going to do and I don’t know what the CBF is going to do, but I am no longer a Southern Baptist.

Referring to the question of the CBF’s ambiguous denominational status, one session participant suggested that the CBF leadership “has avoided this question for ten years.”

“Isn’t it time to admit that we’re not who they are anymore?” he asked.

Another audience member asked Parker about rumors that the Baptist General Convention of Texas is considering severing ties with the SBC. “Shouldn’t we consider hooking up with them?” she asked.

“We in the CBF will be watching to see what Texas does,” Parker said. “Anything that breaks off from the rigid fundamentalist control of Baptist life in America is a good thing.”

Parker handed out copies of a document entitled “What’s All the Fuss About?: An Analysis of the New ‘Baptist Faith and Message’ Statement and What It Could Mean for You and Your Church.” The pamphlet, written by Parker, charged the BF&M with being “more authority, less freedom; more book, less Jesus; more male, less female.”

The pamphlet states that since the Bible “displays an internal tension over the issue of women in ministry,” Baptists “should take care when we try to use it to prove our particular case.” It counsels CBF members to “ask yourself if you and/or your church want to continue to participate in and fund a denomination that discourages, distorts or even seeks to deny the doctrine of soul competency or priesthood of the believer even as it elevates the authority of the pastor.”

The information suggested that churches form “denominational relations committees” and to “examine your budget to see how much money you send” to the Cooperative Program since “when you fund the SBC through the Cooperative Program, you’re helping to pay for the theology of the new Baptist Faith and Message to be spread.”

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  • Russell D. Moore