When the Baptist Faith and Message Study Committee recommended their changes to the 2000 Southern Baptist Convention, included was a change in article 8 that effectively reduced confessional commitments to the Lord’s Day. They made this change without any stated reasons. Even when asked, committee members did not give any rationale for the change. No one was debating this issue prior to that. Their proposed change came out of the blue. When I wrote an article expressing disagreement with this move I was roundly criticized by one stronghold of the conservative resurgence as being in cahoots with the CBF. I have been accused of many things in my life, but that is the only time I have been lumped with the CBFers. I took it as an (unsuccessful) attempt to silence dissent.
In the article, I made the following observations about the change:
[It] represents a definite break with our theological heritage as Southern Baptists. John Broadus, James Boyce, John Dagg, B. H. Carroll, Williams Rutherford, E. C. Dargan, and many other early Southern Baptist statesmen, in addition to numerous confessions of faith, can all be cited in support of regarding the Lord’s Day as a special day to be set apart by Christians in order to take a break from typical, daily responsibilities, and to give oneself to concentrated efforts in worship, devotion and spiritual service. There are differences as to whether or not this day should be called the Christian Sabbath, but there is great consensus regarding the sanctity of the day itself.
Why the study committee deemed it wise to break with our heritage at this point, as it was adequately expressed in the 1963 statement, remains a mystery. Committee members have left this question unanswered. If it is because the committee believes our forefathers misunderstood the Bible at this point, then this should have been expressly stated in the presentation of their report. No one else in our Southern Baptist family, prior to the publication of the committee’s proposed changes, has made this issue a matter of debate.
My recent reading through some old SBC resolutions further confirmed that the BFM 2000 departed from Southern Baptist heritage in its revision of article 8. Consider the following simple, unequivocal statement that was adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1891.
WHEREAS, Great pressure is being brought to bear on the management of the World’s Fair to openly and officially desecrate the Lord’s day in full view of the whole world; therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED, That the Southern Baptists, in convention assembled, representing a constituency of 1,235,765 Baptists, respectfully petition to the World’s Fair management to close its gates on Sunday, thus giving due respect to the God of nations and to that Christian sentiment that underlies our civilization.
RESOLVED FURTHER, That a copy of this preamble and resolutions be cordially forwarded from this Convention to the managers of the World’s Fair.
From the annual meeting of the SBC in 1891, which met in Birmingham, Alabama.
Southern Baptists took a step away from Scripture and our heritage and toward confessional conformity to our post-Christian culture by the revision of article 8 of the BF&M. It is unfortunate that there was no discussion of this issue before and there has been no explanation of it since. Healthy denominational life would allow not only for such dialogue but also for friendly dissent.