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FIRST-PERSON: Standing with cooperation

MADISONVILLE, Texas (BP) — I was not around for the Conservative Resurgence, but I am a beneficiary of it.

The great conflict among Southern Baptists solidified biblical fidelity and conservativism. The Baptist Faith and Message was revised in 2000 and provided the definition, both broad and narrow, of Baptistic beliefs. Among likeminded Southern Baptists, this statement of faith serves as the basis of our cooperation.

Unfortunately, the unity that was enjoyed after the resurgence appears to be waning. Though we as Southern Baptists have affirmed the doctrinal confession of Gospel partnership, some still seek a more specific definition of what a Baptist is. Theological positions regarding elder-led, pastor-led or congregational-led rule in our churches and, of course, Calvinism and non-Calvinism have served as fertile grounds for conflict. While churches within the Southern Baptist Convention have approved their theological basis for Kingdom partnership, some would seek to hold others to a more confined theological standard.

Add to this discussion the conflict that arose in the recent election — Baptist conservativism versus political conservativism. Of course, many might see these two concepts not in conflict, but in agreement. If this were so, there would be no conflict. Here we are looking for definitions and validations as to what is conservative and what is not. If, though, we cannot properly define what it is to be Baptistic in our beliefs, how can we define what political conservativism is?

More than 30 years removed from the Conservative Resurgence, we now find ourselves at another significant battleground — cooperation. If we fail to cooperate through our stewardship of the Cooperative Program, we will cease to exist.

The nature of this recent conflict, along with the others, reveals that as Southern Baptists, we do not understand or appreciate the purpose of the BF&M 2000. What benefit is the document if we hold others to a more rigid standard of what it is to be a Baptist? In short, there is none. The document has then become merely a formality, functioning simply as white noise in the background to be drowned out, or muted altogether.

Yet this document of faith allows theological room in the Southern Baptist Convention for the Calvinist and non-Calvinist, and the Trump supporter and non-Trump supporter alike. As Southern Baptists, we believe the Bible to be divinely inspired (BF&M 2000 Article 1); that God is the one and only God, and is triune — Father, Son and Holy Spirit (BF&M 2000 Article 2). We believe that Jesus is the incarnate Son of God (BF&M 2000 Article 2b). We believe man is made in the image of God, the “crowning work of His creation” and that all human life is sacred. We also believe that man “transgressed the command of God” (BF&M 2000 Article 3) and is in need salvation “offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord” (BF&M 2000 Article 4). Further, we believe that, “There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord” (BF&M 2000 Article 4).

These statements speak nothing to our commitment to Calvin or our opposition of him, nothing of any commitment to a political party or political personality. This is because those matters are not the basis of our cooperation.

Our participation in the Cooperative Program is not out of support for any individual but for one purpose — that the Gospel would go forth to every tribe, people and nation. We cooperate with one another in order to carry forward “the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom” (BF&M 2000 Article 14). If we begin to malign and alienate those whose views and opinions fit within the Southern Baptists’ statement of faith, but not our own, we will see the death of the Southern Baptist Convention on this battleground of cooperation.

I am a millennial pastor under the age of 35. I affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, and I affirm the missional effort of Southern Baptists. I am thankful for a convention that allows room for theological disagreement while also providing the basis of our cooperation. I believe it is the greatest and most effective way to reach our country and our world.

For you see, our cooperation is not based on the BF&M 2000 alone, but on the One of whom the document speaks — Jesus. Thus I choose to stand with cooperation, to lead the church I pastor to give through the same channel of giving that has allowed us the wonderful privilege of partnering with so many others in efforts to see the Gospel advance, the name of Christ declared and the glory of God made known.