SAN ANTONIO (BP)–Rather than debating “disputable doctrines that lead to destructive distractions” from the task of spreading the Gospel, Morris H. Chapman urged messengers to embrace the core beliefs they hold in common and “learn to engage in healthy debate” about varied interpretations of other doctrines.
Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, proposed two suggestions for future consideration.
“Any practice instituted by an entity in the Southern Baptist Convention that has the force of doctrine should be in accord with the Baptist Faith and Message and not exceed its boundaries unless and until it has been approved by the Southern Baptist Convention,” Chapman told messengers to the SBC annual meeting June 12 in San Antonio.
“If an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention adopts a confession of faith separate and distinct from the Baptist Faith and Message and it includes a doctrine unsupported by our confessional statement, the entity should request approval from the convention prior to including the doctrine in its confession,” Chapman added.
The two proposals relate only to the confession of faith by which employees of a convention entity are to abide, including missionaries, professors, administrators and support staff, Chapman explained, and the proposals in no way restrict the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s work of proclaiming biblical positions about moral and ethical issues.
Furthermore, Chapman’s two proposals do not require the allegiance of students in order to be enrolled in an SBC seminary, and they do not infringe on the responsibility of trustees to govern entities, he said.
“We must come together as one in the Spirit over the core beliefs that we hold in common and learn to engage in healthy debate about varied interpretations of other doctrinally related Scripture,” Chapman told messengers. “Otherwise, we shall spend our time arguing among ourselves while thousands, even millions, die without a Savior.”
Because the Conservative Resurgence within the convention was characterized by debate over the authority of God’s Word rather than the interpretation of God’s Word, Chapman said Southern Baptists are wasting their time when they harshly argue over secondary and tertiary doctrines.
“For Jesus’ sake and the sake of His Kingdom on earth, we must not make every doctrinal issue a crusade or a political football,” Chapman said.
The Executive Committee’s objective, Chapman said, is to provide spiritual leadership by example as it makes decisions and offers recommendations it believes are in the best interest of the entire convention.
One of the ways the Executive Committee has taken a deliberate step to provide that leadership was by hiring Ken Hemphill in 2001 as a strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth.
“EKG was never intended to be a program but a movement, an appeal for spiritual renewal in us all and an outbreak of Kingdom consciousness in our churches,” Chapman said.
In 2006 the Executive Committee accepted the ministry assignment of biblical stewardship, and the Cooperative Program and Stewardship division of the Executive Committee has developed a partnership with Crown Financial Ministries and launched a new initiative titled “It’s a New Day” about how to conquer debt, Chapman noted.
“Stewardship, as we see it, is not an effort to get something from the churches,” he said. “It is an effort to give the churches God’s roadmap to financial freedom and the abundance of God’s blessings that are poured out upon those who obey His Word. If God’s people become faithful stewards, it will revolutionize your church and this convention.”
Another deliberate step to provide spiritual leadership by example, Chapman said, was to recommend to the convention last year the ideas developed by the Cooperative Program Ad Hoc Study Committee.
Among those recommendations adopted by the convention are that every Southern Baptist be encouraged to tithe to his local church, that churches be commended for giving sacrificially through the Cooperative Program and that each convention have a plan for forwarding an increasing percentage of receipts to SBC mission causes through the Cooperative Program, Chapman recounted.
The most recent step the Executive Committee has taken to provide spiritual leadership by example was the hiring of Bobby Welch, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., and former convention president, as a strategist for global evangelical relations to build strong relationships with conservative evangelicals around the world.
“Eventually he will have traveled to all seven continents, getting to know those who, like us, have the lost world on their hearts,” Chapman said.
In addition to hiring new staff and recommending goals to the convention, the Executive Committee is producing a new film series and publishing books with the intention of educating this generation and the ones to come about the heritage of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The “Forged by Faith” film series will soon add a fourth installment, and already the Executive Committee has published — under the Convention Press imprint leased from LifeWay — a booklet titled “Building Bridges,” which was distributed to convention messengers at registration.
“As you watch these films you will be overwhelmed by how God moved among our forebears,” Chapman said. “Our great heritage should humble us and renew our desire to witness faithfully to the ends of the earth.
“Those of us alive today cannot witness to past generations. We cannot witness to future generations,” Chapman said. “If we are going to tell the story of Jesus to a lost world, we must tell it to those who live today.”