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‘Mainstream Baptists’ highlight ‘freedom’ of SBC’s left flank

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BP)–“Testimony” time at most Baptist meetings involve individuals telling how they came to love Jesus Christ. “Testimony” time at the Feb. 15-16 meeting of the “Mainstream Baptist Network,” however, involved individuals telling how they came to oppose the Southern Baptist Convention.

David Flick, introduced by MBN leader David Currie as the moderator of a Baptist Internet discussion forum, “testified” of how he lost his job as a director of missions in Oklahoma, a state Flick identified as “no man’s land for Baptist moderates.”

Flick said he had been “a closet moderate” for years but then came into conflict with conservative pastors when he posted his opinion on his Internet forum that belief in the virgin birth, the resurrection of Jesus and the deity of Christ are not necessary for salvation.

Flick asserted that he did indeed believe in all three doctrines, but that he did not believe a person must know about or believe in them in order to be saved. At his conversion at the age of 8, Flick said, he “didn’t know what a virgin was.” The same was true of the resurrection, he said.

“I didn’t know what resurrection was,” he said. “My cats died. My dogs died. I didn’t know it could happen. So, no, you don’t have to believe in the resurrection.”

Flick said his comments were then anonymously sent to pastors in his association, many of whom then demanded his resignation. Most conservative evangelicals believe that belief in the resurrection of Jesus is necessary for salvation, since the Bible says that those who “confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead” are saved (Romans 10:9).

Flick said the “attitude without latitude” of conservatives on such issues “has always puzzled me.”

“On the minor details, let me have my view and you have your view and we’ll cooperate,” Flick said. “But that doesn’t exist, in Oklahoma anyway.”

Flick said he believes conservative opposition to him began when he was the only Oklahoma director of missions to oppose the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement of beliefs, a move he said “put me in the crosshairs” of the state convention’s executive director, Anthony Jordan. Flick recounted that he posted an opinion on the Internet forum calling Oklahoma DOMs “bootlickers” for supporting the BF&M. Flick said he attended a meeting in 2000 with Jordan in which “I listened to him” while the executive director “ripped me to shreds.”

Currie appeared visibly agitated by Flick’s comments, approaching the podium immediately following Flick.

“I hope you didn’t just sink us,” Currie said to Flick. “I can see the article, ‘Mainstreamers don’t believe in the virgin birth.’ Well, we all believe in it.”

Currie approached this Baptist Press correspondent after the meeting to address Flick’s “testimony.”

“Flick just gave you a Sisemore moment in there,” Currie said, referencing moderate BF&M opponent Anthony Sisemore’s statement on the floor of the 2000 Southern Baptist Convention that “the Bible is just a book.”

“We’ll see how much integrity you have,” Currie said.

When told that most Southern Baptists would disagree with Flick’s statement that belief in the resurrection is not necessary for salvation, Currie said, “Well, you do what you do, and I’ll do what I do when you do it.”

In addition to Flick, who was billed as a “special surprise guest,” other “testimonies” included those by two ordained women ministers: Joy Heaton, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Enfield, N.C., and Lynn Williams, staff minister at Parkview Baptist Church, Gainesville, Fla.

Heaton said she felt “disowned” by the SBC’s 2000 confession of faith, which holds that only qualified men are allowed by Scripture to serve as pastor. She called on the Mainstream Baptist Network to “get past gender and on to Christ.” Neither Heaton nor Williams offered a biblical defense of women in the pastorate, but both pointed to their personal communion with Jesus as evidence of a call to preach.

“I will not let anyone but the Holy Spirit tell me how to interpret Scripture,” Heaton said. “I have a personal relationship with Jesus. I listen to that still, small voice that tells me to go and preach the gospel.”

Heaton rebuffed those who would say that she must have misinterpreted a call to the pastorate, since Scriptures such as 1 Timothy 2:12-3:5 limit the office to men.

“This is a gift so personal and so intimate that only Jesus and I know whether I’ve been called,” she said.

Texas Mainstream leader Phil Lineberger said that hearing Heaton shed some light for him as to why conservative Southern Baptists oppose women in the pastorate.

“After hearing Joy speak, I can see why Adrian [Rogers] and Paige [Patterson] and all those guys are so afraid of women in ministry,” Lineberger said. “She would blow the wheels off those guys.”

Williams offered a similar account, introducing herself as the “infamous Lynn Williams” in reference to the controversy at the Gainesville Baptist Association meeting last year over whether to seat Williams’ church after it had ordained her to the ministry.

Williams said she initially declined the invitation to seek ordination. “But I decided I wasn’t going to be patted on the head anymore; I wasn’t going to be told what to think anymore,” she said. “I searched the Scriptures and God’s inspiration spoke to me, and here I am today ordained.”

The Mainstream group also entered 34 people in the “Mainstream Hall of Fame” of those opposing the “legalism” of SBC conservatism. The first on the list included Johnny Baugh, a Texas industrialist who has reportedly funded many state Mainstream groups, and former SBC officials such as Duke McCall, Russell Dilday, James Dunn, Keith Parks and Carolyn Crumpler. Most inductees were not present.

The Mainstream Baptist Network is a coalition of state groups working toward defeating conservative candidates for state convention offices. At the 2000 General Assembly of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Orlando, Fla., a breakout session trained CBF activists on using the “Mainstream” groups to organize individuals uncomfortable with the CBF to elect “moderate” candidates to state convention office. Moderate-controlled state conventions could then direct funds away from the SBC. Months later, the moderate-controlled Baptist General Convention of Texas voted to divert funding from the six SBC seminaries, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the Executive Committee.

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  • Russell D. Moore