Thinking Out Loud

June 10, 2021

The SBC: Breaking Up is Hard, But Necessary to Do

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:56 am

If we have an appliance that stops working, we face the decision as to whether we’re going to repair it, or if we are going to discard it. The surrounding questions include, “What are the costs of repair?” and “What are the advantages of starting from scratch with something new?”

To me, this analogy applies directly to the state of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. “If it ain’t broke…” goes the saying, but in this case many would argue that it is most certainly broken in many ways and that even as a loose affiliation of churches, its sheer size and media influence suggests that presently more harm is being done than good.

Dissolving the entire enterprise seems appropriate. End the capital “C” Convention and the small “c” conventions. Allow each church to go their own direction and find an accountability structure (denomination) with which they can identify in terms of doctrine and structure. I’m betting that each and every church now, if forced to, could name a denominational body for which a significant number of their leadership and parishioners have at least some admiration.

But keep the Department of Missions. This is the part of the SBC that even its fiercest critics admit “ain’t broke.” Give it a new name and allow it to continue to flourish in the various countries it presently serves. Keep those mission workers on the field and sufficiently funded and resourced.

But don’t call it Southern Baptist. My wife, who can be quite cynical, reminds me that if the status quo is maintained, all you are doing is going to other nations and “making more of them.” I did warn you she was cynical.

The analogy I wanted to work with here was Bell Telephone. Wikipedia explains,

The breakup of the Bell System was mandated on January 8, 1982, by an agreed consent decree providing that AT&T Corporation would, as had been initially proposed by AT&T, relinquish control of the Bell Operating Companies that had provided local telephone service in the United States and Canada up until that point… The breakup of the Bell System resulted in the creation of seven independent companies that were formed from the original twenty-two AT&T-controlled members of the System. On January 1, 1984, these companies were NYNEX, Pacific Telesis, Ameritech, Bell Atlantic, Southwestern Bell Corporation, BellSouth, and US West.

Is this a model that is applicable? It breaks down in several respects, and some question how effective the breakup was. It should also be said that the SBC is large, but nothing close to a monopoly — though perhaps it as a monopoly on political influence — but returning to my original analogy, it is broken. Smaller regional SBC-related associations already exist which could continue without a connection to the larger body; or again, each local congregation could be freed to chart its own course.

When the Ravi scandal escalated, there were questions as to the organization continuing to use his name, or continuing at all. If the SBC brand is tainted, I would say both questions are pertinent. Should the entity continue at all, and if it is deemed worthy of continued existence, should there be sweeping changes in hierarchy, policies, centralization, and branding?


Caveat: Assuming the premise as stated, many believe that in the past decade, Reformed or Neo-Calvinist doctrine as become the SBC theological default. If a significant number of churches moved toward those bodies, then you’ve just simply the concentration of ecclesiastic power and influence to a situation that I honestly believe would be worse.

Postscript: The appliance analogy is ironic. As I was typing this the motor in our table saw stopped working.

March 21, 2019

America’s Last Significant Christian Bookstore Chain, LifeWay is Shutting Its Doors

On January 6th, 2018 the iconic James Draper Tower of the LifeWay complex in downtown Nashville was demolished. Thursday’s announcement of the closing of the retail chain sends even bigger shock waves. [Source: Tennessean – see below]

Yesterday, Religion News Service reported:

LifeWay Christian Resources announced Wednesday (March 20) it will close all 170 of its brick-and-mortar stores this year.

That comes as LifeWay, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, shifts its resources online.

Local news media The Tennessean reported:

The company plans to shift to a digital strategy as consumers increasingly rely on online shopping, a challenge that retailers face nationally. LifeWay resources, such as online Bible studies and worship plans, will be offered at LifeWay.com, through the LifeWay Customer Service Center and through its network of church partners

“LifeWay is fortunate to have a robust publishing, events and church services business. Our retail strategy for the future will be a greater focus on digital channels, which are experiencing strong growth,” [CEO Brad] Waggoner said. “LifeWay is moving into a new era with a strategic digital focus that will prepare us for the future and allow us to better serve our customers.”

At LifeWay’s Facts and Trends website, more details:

…The timing of store closings will vary depending on local circumstances. LifeWay expects all brick-and-mortar stores to close by the end of the year…

…In one month, LifeWay interacts with five times as many people through its digital environments as it does through LifeWay stores…

Unlike the 2017 closing of another Christian retail chain, Family Christian Stores, this is not a receivership. The FCS closing affected over 3,000 employees and also devastated publishers, music companies and giftware suppliers who were also sent reeling with the closing of Send the Light, a large wholesale distributor. FCS closed 240 stores in comparison to LifeWay’s current 170. In contrast, the website for Parable explains that, “Parable Christian Stores are locally owned and operated franchise stores run by people who desire to resource their community with Christian products.”

But there is no doubt the LifeWay decision will have an impact on authors, musicians, and a host of other creatives who make the products that Christian bookstores sell. It will also have ripple-effect repercussions on everything from how Christian products are marketed and promoted to Christian music concert tours.

But not every author, musician, or film producer is affected as the RNS story reminded us that many had their products outright banned by the chain:

[Rachel Held] Evans said Wednesday that she doesn’t rejoice over any bookstore closing and she is mindful that LifeWay’s closing means many people will lose their jobs.

But, she said, “for too long Lifeway’s fundamentalist standards have loomed over Christian publishing, stifling the creativity and honesty of writers of faith.

“I hope this news reinforces to writers, editors, and marketers across the industry that we don’t have to conform to Southern Baptist doctrine and culture to sell books. Readers are hungry for literature that embraces the complexity, nuance, and ragged edges of real-life faith and for bookshelves that reflect the diversity of the Church.”

Other people on Twitter responding to the closure didn’t share Evans’ compassion and were outright gleeful that the chain, long known for its restrictive practices was shutting down. “News we can celebrate;” said one, while @SBCExplainer, an official SBC account, countered with, “[L]et’s band together to dispel any notions that LifeWay is ‘going under’. LifeWay will continue to be the largest Christian resources provider in the world.” 

Patheos blogger Jayson D. Bradley, who himself once worked at a Family Christian store, observed, “Without intending to, LifeWay and Family Christian Stores helped create an evangelical ghetto. By choosing what was orthodox enough to sell and then only carrying what sold, they helped create the hyper right-wing political evangelical culture we all get to enjoy now.”

As the story broke last night in local markets where the company has locations, several reports indicated that store management knew their closing date was coming at the end of May. SBCExplainer also noted that outlets on seminary campuses would also be closing. Also included in the closing is the new flagship store built less than a year ago in the new LifeWay building after the first property was sold and demolished. (See picture above.)

More information was being posted on the store’s FAQ page.

 

This is developing story; check back for updates.

 

October 3, 2015

Weekend Link List

Thought we'd spend a Saturday on the links.

Thought we’d spend a Saturday on the links

blank calendarIf you’re the type that tracks blood moons and Shemitah years, in North America, the change to Standard Time this month is the same night as Halloween. I’m sure this must mean something to John Hagee and Jonathan Cahn.

Selections from the cutting room floor this week, and recent additions:

  • “‘Kids, put away the phones and iPads,’ I announced. ‘We’re going to watch a movie and all look at the same screen the way God intended.'” Skye Jethani looks at what it means to be alone together.
  • The campus newspaper of the state university in Idaho refused an advertisement from a creationist group saying, “many of their claims could be construed as overtly belligerent to our readership.” The university defended the newspaper’s actions.
  • Al Menconi reviews Joe Amaral’s The Story in the Stars DVD. “I’m convinced that Story In The Stars needs to be seen and understood by every Christian in the world and should be taught in every Bible class and science class at every Christian school in the world. This isn’t just an interesting documentary, it is a biblical way to understand what has been right in front of our eyes for thousands of years.”
  • Tensions in the SBC summarized: “We have been pulling on a loose thread for quite some time. Now, it is finally unraveling.” The author expresses five concerns, the fifth of which concerns the role of Dr. Russell Moore: “Moore speaks when I would be silent and remains silent when I would speak. Most of the time, I do not find him representing my views as a Southern Baptist in the public square. Rather, he lectures me on what he thinks my views ought to be.”
  • Zondervan releases a new book by Alan Chambers, former President of Exodus International: “After closing Exodus, the Chambers thought of starting a new organization, but realized quickly that they wanted off the public stage. ‘We wanted to be Alan and Leslie Chambers for a time,’ he said.Around the same time, the couple apologized to the LGBT community on national TV for any hurt Exodus may have caused with their assertion that reorientation of same-sex attraction is possible. “’We wanted people to know we had a sincere change of heart,’ said Chambers.” A review of My Exodus at Publisher’s Weekly.
  • “A Colorado court has issued an arrest warrant for Teen Mania Ministries founder Ron Luce for failing to appear at a hearing last month, according to court documents…in connection to Compassion International’s lawsuit against Teen Mania…Charity Navigator ranks Teen Mania as the nation’s fifth-most insolvent charity with a net worth of negative-$5.2 million.” More at World Magazine.
  • Essay of the Weekend: The new ABC-TV prime time version of The Muppets flies in the face of Jim Henson’s original vision. “…the show suffers from what, since the finale of Seinfeld, has become an overused writing gimmick: no real resolution to the characters’ problems.That’s a far cry from Henson’s original hope of leaving the world a little better than he found it.” I guess it’s not easy being green.
  • Canadian Corner: For this academic, with an federal election just a few weeks away, the problem isn’t that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is Evangelical, it’s that he’s not Evangelical enough. “Ironically, it might be well for the Prime Minister to be a little more afraid than he seems to be about the end of the world: whether brought on by global climate change, the proliferation of war, or the pent-up fury of oppressed peoples.” The environment is a critical issue in the October 19th vote.
  • Finally, the next time you’re eating pecans think of this: Federal labor law enforces say that children from the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, some as young as 6 or 7 were forced to work as much as 14-hour days, including kids who had peanut allergies.

September 17, 2014

Wednesday Link List

T-Rex Eating Icthus Fish Eating Darwin Fish emblem

The Wednesday List Lynx still prowls the office here after dark.

The Wednesday List Lynx still prowls the office here after dark.

Welcome to this week’s link list to those of you who didn’t already have it automatically download to their phone.

My wife makes these. I didn't have a closing photo this week, so I thought you'd enjoy seeing the puppets in an international mood.

My wife makes these. I didn’t have a closing photo this week, so I thought you’d enjoy seeing the puppets in an international mood.

Paul Wilkinson failed to find a suitable Christian media link related to tomorrow’s historic separation vote in Scotland, but you can read him the rest of the week at Thinking Out Loud or devotionally at Christianity 201.

August 4, 2014

Remembering Braxton Caner

Braxton CanerThe death of Braxton Caner, the 15-year old son of Baptist writer Ergun Caner has haunted me all weekend. I’ve followed various internet rabbit trails trying to extract some meaning from his sudden, untimely death, apparently at his own hand. Why?

From the obituary:

…Braxton loved three things: God, his family and sports. When he got to Texas, he added four things to that list: Football, his friends, weight training, and Hannah Spencer. Braxton only loved one girl in his whole life — He and Hannah were inseparable for these last two years, and reflected a godly love far beyond their respective ages… Before he died, Braxton began researching collegiate programs in sports fitness and kinesiology, and wanted to become a sports trainer. Braxton only lived 15 years and four months, but he did more in his brief life than many people do in a lifetime. He traveled with his parents, visiting 41 states. He attended over fifty weeks of church camp in his life, on every major ocean. He learned to surf in Hawaii, escaped a moose in Alaska, got chased out of Canada, helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, and ducked out of the way of a lion in the Serengeti. He got to help do a chapel for his beloved New England Patriots and learned to drive his F150 pickup truck on dirt roads of Texas. Braxton’s faith in Christ was also reflected in his life: He was the best big brother to Drake, led his cousin to Jesus shortly after his own salvation, and was a positive role in the lives of many others. He traveled around the world on eight mission trips, including Kenya twice, Tanzania, Israel, Mexico, the Bahamas, England and Wales…

While there has been speculation as to what propelled Braxton to this action, I think this is one of the news stories that will only become clearer with time. His father is not without controversy, and some have noted* that Braxton was being bullied on his Twitter account by enemies of Ergun Caner. He left no note…

I leave the comment section open to anyone else who has followed this story and wishes to add their insights; please be respectful… 

*UpdateTuesday, August 5th, 10:30 PM EST: The investigative website The Wartburg Watch thoroughly chronicles the role that certain people would appear to have played in Braxton’s sudden death. Writer Darlene Parsons begins, “This is one of the hardest posts I have ever written;” and many gut-wrenching paragraphs later, concludes, “Things have gone way too far.” To read that article click here.


News search results from last week:

Evangelicals Grieve as Braxton Caner, 15-YO Son of Christian

Christian PostJul 30, 2014

June 25, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Church Organ - Air Conditioner Combo

While this is list number two-hundred-and-something at Thinking Out Loud — and probably about the 400th link list over all, it’s list #52 at PARSE. A year! Time flies when you’re having links. Since Leadership Journal owns this weekly piece, clicking anything below takes you to PARSE where you can then link to the item you wish to read first.

Thursday through Tuesday, Paul blogs at Thinking Out Loud, both writes and steals devotional material at Christianity 201, and provides hints of the following week’s link list on Twitter.

 

It's not every day that we see a Jaguar X16 with a Jesus fish in our part of the world. Mind you it's a gold fish, nicely framed and matted.

It’s not every day that we see a Jaguar X16 with a Jesus fish in our part of the world. Mind you it’s a gold fish, nicely framed and matted.

May 21, 2014

Wednesday Link List

John Wesley quotation

Out of several hundred potential links, these were some things that got my attention this week. Clicking anything below will take you to PARSE, the list’s owner, a blog of Leadership Journal in the Christianity Today family. From there, click the stories you want to see.

When not hunting down links for you, Paul Wilkinson blogs at Thinking Out Loud, Christianity 201, and Christian Book Shop Talk.

June 14, 2013

United Methodists Offer to Take Evicted Boy Scout Troops

Filed under: Church, issues — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:15 am

WATE-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee reported yesterday that Boy Scout Troops which are looking — or will be looking — for a new home following the resolution of the Southern Baptist Convention to cease supporting the group will find a welcome waiting from the United Methodist Churches.

After the Southern Baptist Convention came out against allowing gay Boy Scouts, another denomination announces they will welcome all scouts with open arms.

The United Methodist Church said any troops who lose their Southern Baptist sponsorship can find a new home with them.

But here the story gets confusing. Perhaps like me you were told that 70% of the Scout Troops in America are currently under the roof of a Southern Baptist Church. Mathematically, I was trying to make this sentence in the WATE report work:

United Methodist Churches sponsor the second most Boy Scout troops in the country, topped only by the Mormons.

Apparently, the 70% figure that I and others heard is wrong, and the SBC is not the major player in the Boy Scout movement that some of the headlines suggest. The 70% figure  is made clear in a story in the Christian Science Monitor; it reflects the sponsorship by all religious groups.  (see chart below)

That article went on to say that the idea of churches creating a Boy Scouts of America alternative aren’t feasible:

Some effort will be made to offer alternatives, … but such efforts could be limited and difficult for churches because the churches are not in financial shape to start anything as elaborate and significant as the Boy Scouts.

The sheer scope of the organization is impressive. A Wikipedia article begins noting:

…2.7 million youth members and over 1 million adult volunteers  Since its founding in 1910 as part of the international Scout Movement, more than 110 million Americans have been members of the BSA.

As a Reuters news story reported, the resolution passed at the SBC’s annual meeting is non binding.  It also stated:

Some at the Southern Baptist conference said the church should embrace gay members of scouting and guide them toward a more Christian life.

One pastor argued that a young boy who claims to be gay is most likely the victim of abuse or otherwise needs guidance, and that the church or scouts should not abandon him.

I‘ve said here and elsewhere that the gender issues in general, and the gay issue specifically remain the top challenge the church is facing. The BSA and SBC stories remind us that in addition to formulating response, the issue has the potential to foment division

 

Appendix:

Top 10 Chartered Organizations associated with the Boy Scouts of America, by Total Youth Boy Scouts of America Fact Sheet. Last updated December 2011. Retrieved July 22, 2012.

Name of Organization Total Units Total Youth
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 37882 420977
United Methodist Church 11078 371491
Catholic Church 8570 283642
Parent-teacher groups other than PTAs 3712 153214
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 3663 127931
Lutheranism 3902 119701
Groups of Citizens 3445 106852
Baptists 4099 109298
Private schools 2837 101563
Parent-Teacher Association/Parent Teacher Organization 1661 69812

June 12, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Texting While Driving - Reverend Fun

Copyright © 2011 The Zondervan Corporation

Wednesday List Lynx -- two, actually

Wednesday List Lynx — two, actually

Time for another round of Christian blog and news links for the whole family. In the past we would often begin and end here with cartoons, but the whole question of fair use gets muddy sometimes, especially when humor meets illustration. I’ve studied the permissions statements of some of these and can’t reconcile what I read with what seems to be ubiquitous online. So we decided to run one, since it’s been awhile. Click the image to visit Reverend Run’s site.

I Once Was Lost Golf Ball Don’t forget to get your link suggestions in by 6:00 PM, Mondays, EST; and as always, for breaking links, you can follow me on Twitter. Look for @PaulW1lk1nson (change the letter i to a number 1).

June 11, 2013

Calvinist Doctrinal Diatribe Continues Online

In the first place, Calvinistic Christianity is nothing more and nothing less than biblical Christianity. It follows, then, that the future of Christianity itself is bound up in the fortunes of Calvinism…

from the website Founders.org

This week I got an email which contained the following:

Over the years, I have noticed on your blog that you have obviously had some less-than-edifying contact with Reformed brothers and sisters (and I should add, publishers).

In replying, I suggested a friendly amendment, namely that my in-person interactions with Reformed people — particularly those from my local CRC church — are actually most pleasant; it’s the online persona of more militant Calvinists such as the author of the quote which leads today’s article that I find somewhat objectionable.

Here’s the full quote from Founders.org with emphasis added:

In the first place, Calvinistic Christianity is nothing more and nothing less than biblical Christianity. It follows, then, that the future of Christianity itself is bound up in the fortunes of Calvinism….

…For whoever believes in God’s redemption through Christ and recognizes his own utter dependence on God, whoever recognizes that salvation is of the Lord, whoever seeks to glorify God in his worship and life, that person is already implicitly a Calvinist, no matter what he calls himself. In such circumstances, to make the person an explicit Calvinist, all we are required to do (humanly speaking) is to show the believer the natural implications of these already-held fundamental principles, which underlie all true Christianity, and trust God to do his work, that is, trust God to reveal these implications to the person.

Chris Hubbs writes:

Did you get that? Calvinism is “nothing more and nothing less than biblical Christianity”. And if anyone recognizes salvation from the Lord, and seeks to glorify God, then that person is implicitly a Calvinist! And all the Calvinists need to do is explain it in a way that the unknowing Calvinist might understand.

Just think, reader; you might be a Calvinist right now and not know it.

A year ago it was the same people wishing that Calvinism could be the default doctrine of the Southern Baptist Convention, North America’s largest Protestant denomination. Yes, that could be a Calvinist coup!

And just last week on this page it was our discovery of Calvinist kids being indoctrinated against Arminians in the form of children’s story books.

No wonder I despair.

Ironically, the post scheduled for today was a link to an article by Russell D. Moore — an obvious graduate of the Bible’s school of peacemaking — who talks about the commonality both Arminans and Calvinists have on the subject of religious liberty.

On the one hand:

Sometimes people caricature Arminians, and those who share some convictions with them. The Arminian tradition doesn’t believe that the human will is naturally free in this fallen era. They believe that God graciously empowers human beings with the freedom to choose. In fact, much of what some Christians call “Arminianism” is instead the sort of manipulative, emotional revivalism they’ve seen or heard about somewhere. Arminians are, above all people, opposed to manipulation.

They believe, after all, that the human will must make a free decision to follow Jesus or to walk away. That means a clear presentation of what the gospel entails, with all the “cost-counting” that Jesus tells us about. This must be a personal, free decision, and can’t be outsourced to or vetoed by some emperor or bishop or bureaucrat.

And on the other hand,

Well, like the Arminians, Calvinists are easy to caricature. Some assume they believe the will is like a computer program operated by God, or that the gospel isn’t freely offered to all people. Evangelical Calvinists believe in the free offer of the gospel to all people, just as they believe in the universal command of the law of God. They believe that, left to ourselves, we will all run away from the law and we will all run away from the gospel. We see the light of Christ, and we hide because, in our sin, we don’t want to meet our God.

The Calvinist doctrine of effectual calling means that the Spirit works through preaching to overturn the power of the devil, to liberate our wills so that we can see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. God doesn’t overpower our wills; he frees us from occupation by the deceiving demonic powers.

Toward the end, Dr. Moore concludes:

We will seek to search the Scriptures on everything God has told us. But we’re not that far apart. And even when we disagree, we can listen to the important emphases that each tradition brings, emphases that are grounded in God’s word and God’s gospel.

(here’s another link to Moore’s article, Why Calvinists and Arminians (and Those in Between) Can Unite for Religious Liberty)

…As someone who got to experience the tail end of the “Jesus People” era, I dream of a day when the labels won’t matter. Perhaps that day won’t happen in the present era. Still, I see a new generation moving toward a climate where the signs on the church door are a little less significant.

But I worry about the fragmentation that seems to be brewing in one particular segment of the larger Body. I worry about both how it looks and what it’s doing to us.

That’s what makes people like Russell D. Moore so vitally important. He gets both sides and also, I truly believe, dreams of a day when the sides don’t exist.

Older Posts »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.