GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)–A motion to “study a policy of the social use of alcohol” passed by an overwhelming margin on a show-of-hands vote from messengers attending the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s Nov. 8-10 annual meeting in Greensboro.
Presented by Tim Rogers, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Indian Trails, the motion reads:
“I move the convention direct the Board of Directors to study a policy concerning the social use of alcohol as it relates to the funding of church plants, employment of personnel, and the nomination of persons serving on committees and boards of the Baptist State Convention of N.C. Inc. and report back to the 2011 annual convention.”
Observers told Baptist Press that there were very few votes against the motion. Rogers said he noted only a “smattering of hands, maybe 10” from his vantage point.
“This motion was conceived in my quiet times alone with God, where I cried out to Him, asking for an avenue and the wisdom to place it before my fellow pastors and colleagues of the BSCNC,” Rogers said.
With only three minutes to speak to his motion at the annual meeting, Rogers wasn’t able to relate all of his talking points. He later told Baptist Press one such point is modern culture: “Today’s culture reveals that many Southern Baptist pastors have no problem drinking a glass of wine with their dinner or having a cold beer after a hard day and thinking that’s OK.”
Rogers believes that attitude will, within a generation, introduce wine for communion services in Southern Baptist churches.
Rogers cited other motivations for his motion, which he said “created within my spirit an unsettling issue that had to be put to rest.”
One motive was his recent reading of the book “Alcohol Today” by Peter Lumpkins, which Rogers said “presents a clear biblical position for abstinence and points out the weaknesses of many positions other than abstinence.”
Another motive for his motion, Rogers said, was a question raised during a presidential forum at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary wherein seminary President Daniel L. Akin responded to several questions from students regarding alcohol consumption. Garnering particular attention and a rebuke from Akin was a question that asked whether students who signed the seminary’s alcohol abstinence covenant should be allowed to drink between semesters since they believed they weren’t technically students during those times.
Akin told students he was “dumbfounded” and “gravely disappointed” that some would raise such a question in search of a “loophole,” and that he was “stunned” to receive such questions.
“Your problem is not your view of alcohol; your problem is your integrity,” said Akin, who explained that, until a student either graduates or officially withdraws from the seminary, he/she is still considered a student.
“The bottom line is that Southeastern Seminary maintains a position of abstinence when it comes to alcohol…. That’s not going to change as long as I’m president, here,” said Akin, who also has publicly declared a personal policy of abstinence based on biblical wisdom and his Christian witness.
To view the entirety of Akin’s forum, go to www.sebts.edu.
A third motivation for the motion was a statement in an article posted on the website of J.D. Greear, wherein the pastor of the 4,000-member Summit Church in Raleigh, states, in part:
“At this point, I still choose not to drink, personally, to be on the safe side … unless I am in a situation where I feel like not drinking would hurt the cause of the Gospel. If my not drinking would be a stumbling block for an unbeliever, I drink. But, to be honest, I would still rather have a culture of non-drinking around our church than one of drinking.”
Rogers takes exception to Greear’s statement, saying such “an absurdity is being placed before us under the banner of freedom in Christ.” He also deems Greear’s comment a “false argument” that drinking could somehow advance the cause of the Gospel.
Illustrating his point, Rogers recalled a mission trip to Romania in cooperation with an evangelical group from Germany, whose team members imbibed daily and publicly at a bar in the campground where they were ministering. Rogers said he and his mission team from the U.S. found the Romanians far more receptive to the ministry of abstaining American Christians as compared to the “German Christians who had beer breath.”
Saved at 29, Rogers said he “acquired a taste for alcohol” as a non-Christian. “And I was real good at it, too.” During that season of his life, he had a conversation in a bar with a Baptist deacon, who told him that drinking was permissible. “I thought that was crazy,” said Rogers, noting the negative impact that imbibing church-going people can have on the unchurched.
On the Biblical Recorder’s website, editor Norman Jameson called Rogers’ motion “simply unnecessary and extra-biblical” and said, “early Baptists in Kentucky sometimes paid their preachers in bourbon.”
Noting that such payment was wrong on both sides, Rogers said, “The problem with Brother Norman’s analysis has to do with an ethical ploy to win a debate. One tries to kill an absolute by using an extreme position in order to overcome the absolute.”
Rogers cited Rahab and the Hebrew spies: “Was it wrong for Rahab to lie in order to save the lives of the spies? That is a debate of extreme positions. While we would say it is wrong to lie, would one say it is wrong to lie in order to save the lives of one’s family?” Rogers asked. “In the alcohol debate we see it all the time, where someone uses an extreme position to try and negate the absolute. That is what it appears Brother Norman has done in his editorial.”
Other talking points Rogers used in presenting his motion noted the BSCNC’s opposition to Wake Forest University’s efforts to serve beer for profit on campus; a Wall Street Journal article revealing that alcohol is more addictive than crack cocaine, heroin and other street drugs; and a 2006 Southern Baptist Convention resolution adopted in Greensboro stating, in part, “That we urge that no one be elected to serve as a trustee or member of any entity or committee of the Southern Baptist Convention that is a user of alcoholic beverages.”
“The resolution passed by a majority vote,” Rogers said, “but not until the shocking picture was etched, in the minds of Southern Baptists, of pastors standing in opposition to a resolution on alcohol.”
Rogers also expressed concerns to Baptist Press regarding some pastors among the Acts 29 church planting organization who not only practice social drinking, but also use it as a tool to reach people.
“I can take you to the website of a church planting network which shows a picture of their board meeting dinner break at a local restaurant. In that picture you see glasses of wine — one in front of an SBC pastor who publicly stated he abstained — as the choice drink for their meal.”
The church planting network consists of some well-known SBC pastors and leaders, Rogers said.
“Whatever the position of a church — that’s their business,” Rogers said. “But the motion I made merely directs a policy to be implemented that states to the world that the Southern Baptists who make up the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina oppose the moderate use of beverage alcohol and that we will not employ anyone who advances its use.”
Norm Miller is a writer based in Richmond, Va.