Keeping Up with the Southern Baptist Convention
Times they are a changing. Not long ago, the Baptist General Conference changed its name to Converge Worldwide. This new name, in part, reflects a cultural shift that has occurred within the BGC, formerly the Swedish Baptists, as they have lost most of their Swedish identity and moved first into mainstream American life and then into the worldwide culture.
In a similar fashion, the world’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, is feeling its own cultural shift. In recent months, the denomination as a whole has been talking about the Great Commission Resurgence. On the face of it, one wonders why anyone would object to such a document. In fact, at the SBC Convention this week in Louisville, Al Mohler moved to appoint a task force for the implementation of the GCR for the 2010 convention. The vote was supported by an estimated 95% of those who voted.
Nevertheless, there are dissenting voices—some in fairly influential positions—such as Morris Chapman, the president of the SBC executive committee who delivered what can at best be called a cautious warning. His message to the Convention suggested that the GCR would weaken the denomination’s central structure. He also is concerned about the rise of Calvinism in the SBC. Other younger voices applaud the decision. Some even have gone so far as to suggest that the SBC forget the past battles and the culture wars altogether (Calvinism, Mark Driscoll, and alcohol consumption, especially) and get on with the Great Commission. Others are suggesting that the passing of this motion will mean another year of controversy in a denomination that until recently was rife with strife.
It will be interesting to see what becomes of the world’s largest Protestant group in the year ahead and how this vote will shape its future. In the past, Southern Baptists have even discussed their own name change, but this always has been defeated. More important will be the state of the denomination as it continues to feel the pressures of the culture wars from the inside and from without. These indeed are interesting days in the history of the Christian Church. Stay tuned!
P.S. You can also read what our friend Dave Doran had to say about the GCR a while back.