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FIRST PERSON: Courteous, cautious and caring in speech

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–I recently gave a statement to SBCoutpost.com, a web site upon which a small group of young Southern Baptist bloggers regularly contribute their opinions about a number of issues in the Southern Baptist Convention. Almost immediately thereafter, my statement was removed because the predicate upon which I offered it (a more-Christlike tone in the exchange of ideas) was not satisfied. I was careful to assure that my comments were removed, and having done so, considered the matter closed.

Throughout the years when problems have arisen among Southern Baptists, I have most often tried to answer questions and resolve issues quietly, but definitively. In this instance, I at first felt a more public statement would take the matter to a level that the occurrence did not justify, causing even more confusion among the members of our Southern Baptist family. It has become obvious to me that my reluctance to make a public statement has offended some, and I believe they deserve a more public response.

With regard to my original statement to the web site in question, it, along with statements from several Southern Baptist leaders, was posted under a tab entitled “Endorsements.” This was a decision made by the SBC Outpost sponsors after I rendered my statement and not a description I would have chosen myself. Nevertheless, I can understand how some might have been offended by the appearance of support for a website containing disrespectful commentary and opinion about Convention entities and leaders.

The statement I was asked for, and which I submitted to the site, should be taken at face value, and no further. It says what it says, and as you can see from reading it, the statement (which I have placed verbatim below) was not an endorsement of the site’s content or of any of the individual participants. Rather it concentrated upon a) recognizing blogging as a viable medium of electronic communication, and b) making a diplomatic appeal for opinions to be written in a spirit honoring Christ without pejorative statements against individual Southern Baptists.

Obviously, in this instance, my appeal went unheeded, but I do not regret initially having made the attempt. Anyone who might claim that my statement was irresponsible could find equal opportunity in criticizing me for my silence had I not tried to steer the commentary toward a more productive and positive tone.

There is nothing wrong with asking questions, identifying problems, or posing solutions. A healthy exchange can go a long way toward building a stronger Convention and a more powerful witness for our Lord Jesus Christ. In honest and open discourse, differences and disagreements are inevitable regardless of the environment in which the discourse takes place. The best way to work through our differences is to discuss the issues without derogatory and demeaning remarks about fellow Christians.

In accord with the preceding observations and in the best interest of our Convention, I believe it is wise to declare more publicly my retraction which was effected a month ago.

Over the years, the SBC will be the focus of many conversations on an increasing number of blogs. For various reasons, some will be more widely read than others. I am hopeful that the recent discussions about SBC Outpost will encourage all bloggers, and for that matter, all Southern Baptists, to take to heart the third chapter of James, thereby being cautious in speech and caring in spirit whether speaking privately or publicly.

James 3:13,17-18 says, “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. … the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”
Sincerely in Christ Jesus,
Morris Chapman

Statement Requested by SBCoutpost.com upon Inauguration of its Rebirth
Morris H. Chapman

The new consortium of bloggers at SBC Outpost provides a new and accelerated flow of information among a growing number of Southern Baptists. Whether you agree or disagree with any particular opinion expressed by Outpost bloggers, their open and straightforward style of writing gives insight into their own thinking while often challenging the reader with views that otherwise might remain unspoken and thus unheard.

While the Outpost bloggers will continue to speak up, I am encouraged by their stated intention to tone down personal criticisms of those who have differing views. If this objective is achieved, the SBC Outpost will be a model of Christian decorum as well as an always current source of multiple opinions about any one issue being discussed among Southern Baptists. Hopefully, this model will encourage us all to be more conscientious and circumspect about how we communicate with each other.
Morris H. Chapman is president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.

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  • Morris H. Chapman