SBC to review Faith & Message
___By Mark Wingfield
___ATLANTA--A "blue ribbon committee" will be appointed by Southern Baptist Convention President Paige Patterson to review the entirety of the Baptist Faith & Message doctrinal statement and recommend revisions next June.
___This opportunity for thorough revision comes on the heels of last year's addition of an article on family to the statement. That addition, approved by messengers to the 1998 SBC
annual meeting in Salt Lake City, was the first revision of the Baptist Faith & Message in 35 years.
|CONTINUING A PATTERN of lower attendance at Southern Baptist Convention annual meetings, this year's gathering in Atlanta's Georgia Dome drew about 11,400 messengers. That's up from last year's 47-year low of 8,582 in Salt Lake City, but a 45 percent drop over messenger registration (20,654) the last time the SBC met in Atlanta, in 1995. It's also half the messenger registration of 22,872 when the SBC met in Atlanta in 1978, the year before controversy spiked convention attendance to new highs.At this year's meeting, messengers sat in the north end zone of the Georgia Dome, while the remaining three-fourths of the dome floor (behind the curtain) was used for exhibits. (BP photo by Bill Bangham)
___That revision was not enough, according to T.C. Pinckney of Virginia, who made the motion for the review committee to be appointed.
___Alluding to the recent battle between conservatives and moderates for control of the SBC, Pinckey noted that the 36 years since the Baptist Faith & Message was last thoroughly revised "have been momentous ones" for the SBC.
___"I believe it is appropriate at this time that the Baptist Faith & Message be reviewed and that it be made consistent with the current stand of the Southern Baptist Convention," he said.
___Pinckney, a member of Good News Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., is a retired Air Force general who has been a key advocate of the conservative movement in the SBC. He also was influential in forming a new state convention in Virginia called Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia. He now serves as editor of that convention's newspaper, the Baptist Banner.
___During the opening session of the SBC meeting in Atlanta June 15, Pinckney made the motion for the SBC president "to review the Baptist Faith & Message statement with the responsibility to report and bring any recommendations to this meeting next June in Orlando."
___During time for debate, no one spoke in opposition to the motion.
___However, A.J. Smith of Macedonia Baptist Church in Dry Ridge, Ky., spoke in support of the motion. "Southern Baptists need a statement of faith that is precise and unambiguous," he said.
___Pinckney's motion as adopted gave no parameters on who should serve on the review committee or how many people should serve. Last year's addition on family was drafted by a seven-member committee appointed by then-SBC President Tom Elliff. The 1963 committee was comprised of the 24 sitting presidents of state Baptist conventions then affiliated with the SBC.
___The 1963 committee, chaired by Herschel Hobbs of Oklahoma, based its work on the original Baptist Faith & Message adopted by the SBC in 1925. The 1925 version, drafted by a committee of eight elected by the convention, drew heavily upon the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, one of several historic confessions of faith used by Christians.
___The 1925 committee included Baptist luminaries such as E.Y. Mullins, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and L.R. Scarborough, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
___The idea of adopting what appeared to some as a creed was controversial among Baptists at the time. However, convention leaders thought the step was necessary to head off criticisms by J. Frank Norris, a Texas pastor and legendary Fundamentalist who had been attacking the convention and stirring controversy.
___Aside from last year's revision to include a section on family, several attempts have been made in recent years to amend the statement's section on Scripture. One such motion was made at last year's annual meeting and was referred to the SBC Executive Committee.
___The Executive Committee reported to the convention this year that it had studied the request, in consultation with the presidents of the six SBC seminaries, and determined no action should be taken at this time.
___Pinckney's motion, however, opens the door for revision not only of the article on Scripture--the point over which Southern Baptists fought bitterly from 1979 to 1991--but for revision of any other article, as well as the possible addition or deletion of articles.
___While Pinckney's motion was the most far-reaching one acted upon by messengers at the Atlanta meeting, it was one of 38 motions presented from the convention floor. Of those 38, only four were scheduled for convention debate, four were ruled out of order and 30 were referred to various SBC agencies and institutions for further review.
___The four motions scheduled for debate included Pinckney's, one by Blaine Barber of Michigan calling for a straw poll of messengers on whether to change the convention's name, and two by Wiley Drake of California.
___One of Drake's motions requested the convention to communicate its disapproval of President Clinton's recent proclamation on gay and lesbian pride month and another requested a letter be sent to the American Psychological Association denouncing a recent journal article on child sexual abuse. Both of Drake's concerns were addressed in resolutions adopted by the convention.
___Two of the motions ruled out of order pertained to messengers' desire to demand that Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., discipline Clinton for his stands on homosexuality and other social issues. The third asked that the SBC "disband itself" from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, something the committee on order of business ruled was not possible because the SBC has no formal connection to the breakaway moderate organization. The fourth asked the SBC to convey support for Israel's new prime minister, a request ruled to be a resolution rather than a motion.
___Motions referred by the convention covered a wide range of issues, some at odds with each other. For example, one messenger suggested SBC presidents not be limited in the number of terms they may serve, while another messenger suggested instituting term limits for all SBC officers.
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