As promised, I have submitted my resolution on integrity in church membership to the Resolutions Committee for the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention. From what I understand, others may well submit similar resolutions this year.
Before sending my resolution in, I consulted with a few respected leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention. I sent each a copy of what I intended to propose. All were very favorable about the concerns addressed and offered advice. One encouraged me to wait a year or two before submitting the resolution in hopes that the convention might be better prepared for such a dialogue at that time. I understand and respect his reasoning, but decided to go ahead with my original plan.
I am very gratified to see more and more people giving serious attention to the issue of ecclesiology in general and Baptist polity in particular. In case you missed you, you really must read the Baptist Press story on John Hammett’s recent faculty lecture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a professor of theology at the school and spoke on the need to recover our commitment to a regenerate church membership. Here is a summary statement from the article:
Hammett said the most pressing problem facing the Southern Baptist Convention today is not the decadent, post-modern culture, but the Southern Baptist culture, which has lost sight of the Baptist mark of the church — regenerate church membership — and allows anyone to join the church and maintain their membership without any interview process or accountability.
Read the whole story here. Who knows if the SBC will adopt my resolution or not? In one sense, it really doesn’t matter. As I have explained to various reporters and interested observers of things SBC a resolution carries no binding authority on any person or institution within the convention. But it is an expression of what messengers think on a given subject at a particular time. More importantly, a resolution can be a way of raising an issue to the level of conversation within the SBC. If that happens again this year, then I will be most grateful.
Here is the text of what I submitted. Pray that our Lord will use it to provoke greater concern for biblical integrity in the way that we seek to live in our churches.
Submitted by Thomas Ascol
May 1, 2007
- Whereas the Baptist Faith and Message states that the Scriptures are “the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried” (Article 1); and
- Whereas life in a local church should be characterized by loving discipline as the Bible teaches in passages like Matthew 18:15-18, 1 Corinthians 5 and Titus 3:10-11; and
- Whereas the 2006 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Church Profiles indicate that there are 16,306,246 members in Southern Baptist churches; and
- Whereas those same profiles indicate that only 6,138,776 of those members attend a primary worship service of their church in a typical week; and
- Whereas the ideal of a regenerate church membership has long been and remains a cherished Baptist principle as described in Article VI of the Baptist Faith and Message; now, therefore, be it
- RESOLVED that the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in San Antonio, Texas, June 12-13, 2007, urge Southern Baptists to repent of our failure to maintain responsible church membership, and be it further
- RESOLVED that we urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to repent of the widespread failure among us to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of lovingly correcting wayward church members (Matthew 18:15-18), and be it further
- RESOLVED that we plead with pastors and church leaders to lead their churches to study and implement our Lord’s teachings on this essential church practice, and be it further
- RESOLVED that we encourage denominational servants to support and encourage churches that seek to recover and implement our Savior’s teachings on church discipline, especially when such efforts result in the reduction in the number of members that are reported in those churches, and be it finally
- RESOLVED that we commit to pray for our churches as they seek to honor the Lord Jesus Christ through reestablishing integrity to church membership and to the reporting of statistics in the Annual Church Profile.