I have been the fortunate recipient of several emails from brothers who are concerned about the subject of my last blog article. It is obvious from the public comments and most of those emails that many are upset about the comments that are attributed to Brother Bill Harrell in the Georgia Christian Index. I share those concerns, but must also admit that there is a more generous way to take them. In explaining his “one ground rule,” Harrell reportedly said,
If a man wants to answer a call to a Calvinistic church he should have the freedom to do that, but that man should not answer a call to a church that is not Calvinistic, neglect to tell them his leanings, and then surreptitiously lead them to become a Calvinistic church.
I gave my take on this comment in what I previously wrote. Now let me give you another take, this one by Dr. Greg Welty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a friend who shares my doctrinal commitments and has given the benefit of the doubt to Pastor Harrell (he has also given me permission to quote him).
As I read it, he is not saying that you can’t seek to reform a non-Calvinistic church. Rather, he’s saying that you shouldn’t do so with deception, by hiding your views from them when you’re hired.
This is a gracious reading and one that I think is legitimate. It is certainly true that no one should advocate deception when candidating for a church. Granted, a church or search committee, may not have the biblical literacy to discuss many doctrinal issues with much understanding, but they should not be intentionally deceived, nor should a man try to hide what he genuinely believes from them. On this, I fully agree with brother Harrell.
On another note, I have been corrected about my claim that the Reed Creek Baptist Church was started by Abraham Marshall (this is what the Abilene Baptist Church’s website claims). It was actually started by his father, Daniel, who also started the Kiokee church, whose covenant I quoted in the previous post. This historical mistake is regrettable, but does not change the force of my main point. To the contrary, since the same man started both Kiokee and Reed Creek it is reasonable to expect that the covenant of the former would be very similar to if not exactly the same as that of the latter.