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Hemphill: Family amendment reaction may show lack of biblical preaching

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–The public reaction to the family amendment of the Baptist Faith and Message and, now, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s requirement for faculty to sign the amended statement is probably an indication of a lack of strong biblical preaching in the United States, said Kenneth S. Hemphill, president of the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary.
“[The amendment] has not only taken the secular community by surprise but even some of the religious community, and that’s disappointing that we haven’t done a better job of teaching the Bible in such a way to help people understand the role of the husband as the servant leader,” Hemphill said.
Southwestern’s trustees updated the faculty requirement during their Oct. 19-20 meeting, prompting a front-page story in the Oct. 21 Fort Worth Star Telegram. The story has generated numerous media requests for interviews and comments from newspapers and television and radio stations in Texas.
In the story, it was reported that Dan G. Kent, a 19-year Old Testament professor, said he would not sign the amended statement and had submitted his retirement, declining to give the reasons for his retirement. He told the newspaper, “I don’t think something that significant [as retiring] is ever based on one issue.”
Hemphill said the media attention “is as surprising now as it was in Utah [because] it’s a basic family statement that uses several Scripture passages and is based primarily on Ephesians 5,” Hemphill said. The Southern Baptist Convention passed the family amendment to the Baptist Faith and Message during its annual meeting held last June in Salt Lake City.
Hemphill said most faculty members have been very receptive to signing the amended statement but that two or three might not sign and may need to resign because the faculty policy manual indicates they should do so if at any point by their own conscience they feel they cannot teach according to and not contrary to the Baptist Faith and Message.
“Our charter is very clear on the fact that the convention operates the seminary and sets its teaching parameters. Our teaching parameters are the Baptist Faith and Message as established by the convention,” Hemphill said.
The adoption of the family amendment at the SBC annual meeting in June necessitated a change in Southwestern’s bylaws, which referred to the Baptist Faith and Message adopted in 1963 as the seminary’s statement of faith. Reference to the year was deleted and the phrase “as may be amended from time to time by the Convention” was inserted in its place, with similar changes made in other places for consistency.
The new SBC article describes marriage as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.” It also notes, “The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. … A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. … A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.”

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  • Matt Sanders