Parks claims SBC changed by deception
___By Tim Palmer
___Missouri Word & Way
___COLUMBIA, Mo. (ABP)--In his strongest remarks on record to date, a longtime missions leader claimed conservatives gained control of the Southern Baptist Convention through deception.
___"This whole takeover was based on deceit, on lying, on cheating," said Keith Parks, former president of the SBC agency now known as the International Mission Board.
___His comments later drew a sharp rebuttal from Morris Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee.
___Parks took early retirement from the Richmond, Va., agency, then called the Foreign Mission Board, in 1992 because of philosophical differences with an increasingly conservative board of trustees. While he previously has criticized convention leaders for allowing controversy to override the denomination's main priority of cooperative missions, Parks' recent remarks are his most pointed against Southern Baptists' current leaders.
___Parks, who recently retired as global missions coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and lives in Richardson, spoke four times May 8-11 in Missouri. He was invited by Mainstream Missouri Baptists, a moderate group formed to defend the state against the so-called "conservative resurgence" that took control of the SBC during the 1980s.
___Parks, at one time among the SBC's most respected leaders, said Southern Baptists came together in 1845 for missions, unifying a regionally and theologically diverse group of churches.
___"There were a lot of differences and disagreements, but the consensus was, 'Let's unite behind the gospel and share it with the world,'" Parks said.
___Parks described conversations he once had with former SBC President Adrian Rogers, who countered that doctrine--not missions--is what has held Southern Baptists together.
___Evidence that Rogers' view has prevailed is seen in the fact that independent Baptist Jerry Falwell now is in the theological center of Southern Baptist leaders, Parks said. Falwell "hasn't moved, but SBC leadership has moved to where he's been all along," Parks said.
___Parks said he learned several lessons from watching and being removed from leadership for refusing to embrace the conservative takeover of the SBC.
___One, he said, is the battle was not, as conservatives claimed, over theology.
___"Never one time did anyone try to accuse me of not believing the Bible," he said. "They'd say, 'If you support the conservative resurgence, you can stay.'"
___Most of Parks' FMB presidency spanned the first decade of the conservative movement's rise. He recalled leaders repeatedly insisting they wanted only parity.
___Once they succeeded in gaining complete control in 1990 when the SBC met in New Orleans, however, they celebrated the achievement.
____"They sat there and bragged about the fact that they had lied and cheated and deceived," Parks said.
___Parks voiced dismay at what happened once the takeover was complete. "The people called Baptists didn't even blink," he said. "They said, 'We'll follow these guys who acted unbiblically.'"
___As conservatives moved to exclude people who weren't committed to their political takeover, Parks continued, the whole nature of the SBC annual meeting changed. "Missions night," which had been the big event, became overshadowed by the election of a president.
___Baptists always have disagreed, Parks said, but they formerly sought to change minds through persuasion. Now, he charged, Southern Baptist leaders resort to coercion and control, with rewards for those who do as they're told. "There are preachers who are afraid to come to this meeting tonight," he said to illustrate.
___Parks said the SBC has shifted from being "confessional," where churches voluntarily unite around similar beliefs, to "creedal," where orthodoxy is a requirement for inclusion.
___He described the mindset of current SBC leaders as: "This is what you must believe, and we'll decide if you do." Parks described this approach as making decisions based on legalism instead of grace.
___Parks said he believes if Baptists across the land really understood what has happened, they would rise in opposition to the convention's conservative leaders. He encouraged his listeners to share with others what they had learned. "If you think it doesn't affect your church, then you are an isolated church and not a Southern Baptist church to begin with," he said.
___One example of how churches suffer, Parks said, is that many congregations continue the habit of hiring ministers who are graduates of Southern Baptist seminaries, even though those seminaries no longer teach what he called traditional Southern Baptist views.
___In an interview after his speech, Parks said he broke his public silence about SBC leaders only because he had been asked to speak on Baptist principles and on what happened in the SBC. "Usually I'm asked to speak on missions," he explained.
___Parks' four-day speaking tour was just one event in a recent upswing in Baptist political activity in Missouri.
___Organizers of Project 1000--the Missouri Baptist Laymen's Association effort to consolidate conservatives' control in Missouri--also had a statewide meeting May 9 in Jefferson City.
___Project 1000 leader Roger Moran declined a request to admit a reporter to the May 9 meeting, which took place in Jefferson City.
___"Our meetings are closed," Moran said. "That's the way we like it, and that's the way we're going to keep it." He denied the organization has anything to hide, however. "Our agenda is to tell the truth to people."
___Moran is the author of several volumes of literature highly critical of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship that has been widely distributed in Texas by critics of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
___Parks' comments drew a sharp response from SBC leaders, who were quoted in a May 22 Baptist Press story.
___"Dr. Parks has a well-founded reputation of being unpleasant in his dealings with people he disagrees with, but in this case he is particularly intemperate in his remarks," said Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee. "It is sad when anyone determines that he can only build up his work by tearing down that of others. Disgruntlement and bitterness spoil a man's spirit, jade his judgment and sometimes warp his integrity."
___The Baptist Press story highlighted comments by Chapman and others condemning Parks for having drawn a salary from an agency funded by the SBC Cooperative Program, which he now criticizes. The story did not acknowledge, however, the significant shift that has occurred over who controls Cooperative Program distributions and the different methodologies now funded by Cooperative Program dollars.
___Nor did the Baptist Press story acknowledge that many of the conservatives now running the SBC were critics of the Cooperative Program when Parks and other moderate leaders held were in office.
___"When Dr. Parks was being paid by Southern Baptists, he was an unashamed advocate of the Cooperative Program," Chapman said. "After finding new employers, Dr. Parks championed societal giving as though it is a new discovery instead of the tried and rejected thing it is in Baptist history. It now appears he will devote his retirement years to anti-Southern Baptist diatribes in hopes of damaging the Southern Baptist Convention, its work and its people."
___The Baptist Press story also quoted unnamed "SBC leaders" as defending the SBC against Parks' charges of lies and deception by pointing to ever-increasing giving by SBC churches to the national Cooperative Program.
___The fact that churches continue to send increasing amounts of money to the SBC and missionary appointments are increasing dramatically indicates "the vast majority of Southern Baptists support the direction of the SBC," the BP story asserted.
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