Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Resolution on Integrity in Church Membership - Strike 2!

June 13, 2007, San Antonio, TX, for the second year in a row, the resolution on integrity in church membership was relegated to File 13 by the SBC Resolutions Committee.

Tom Ascol reports:

Every number has a story. That has been a recurring theme of the Southern Baptist Convention this year in San Antonio. We have heard speaker after speaker as well as numerous video presentations make this point. Some of them have been very moving stories of individuals and people groups who have either recently been reached by the Gospel or stand in need of being reached.

This morning, the Resolution Committee and messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention took actions that confirmed that theme--every number has a story. Sadly, the numbers involved tell a sad, sad story.

The Resolutions Committee refused to submit my resolution on integrity in church membership to the convention for vote. As promised, I brought a motion to overrule that decision. It takes a 2/3 majority to overrule that committee. President Page gave me an opportunity to read my resolution on the floor of convention. The debate was for the most part healthy and appropriately spirited. It was very respectful.

My appeal for allowing the convention to consider this resolution was that we had just passed a resolution calling for corporate repentance and "every number has a story." I read the statistics again from our Annual Church Profiles. I emphasized the fact even in the most generous analysis only 37% of our members even care enough to attend a worship gathering once a week. I have addressed the shame of this statistic repeatedly and will not belabor the point again here.

The chairman of the Resolutions Committee, Gerald Harris, responded to my appeal by saying that the committee thought it inappropriate to bring my resolution before the body because they feared it would infringe on the auntomy of local churches. We should not try to tell churches what to do, he said. Well, anyone who read my resolution and the resolutions that were passed this year and other years will recognize that this argument holds no water. However, it is a tremendous advance over last year's response from the chairman that, if churches took my resolution seriously we would lose our most promising prospects for evangelism!

The convention failed to overturn the committee and therefore my resolution never formally came before them for a vote. Several people--of various theological persuasions--came up to me afterwards to express appreciation for the attempt and dismay over the failure of the committee and convention to allow the resolution to be considered. While I am disappointed by these events and, quite honestly, surprised, I am in no way despondent! Think about it, for two years in a row a resolution calling for integrity in church membership has been read on the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention. We have discussed these matters. What the discussion has exposed is just how spiritually sick we are. While I don't like the fact that we are spiritually ill, I rejoice that this is being made increasingly apparent. Until we admit we have a problem, we will never seek to address it. In other words, until we see our sin, we will never repent of our sin.

I am encouraged because this conversation will continue for another year and, as promised, I will, by God's grace, be in Indianapolis next year to submit the same resolution. The passing of my resolution is not the goal. The goal is the recovery of the Gospel and reformation of local churches. If the events surrounding the efforts to get this resolution before the SBC can contribute to that by shining the light on how desperately sick we are, then praise God!

1. Did the resolution passed just before not affect local church autonomy?

2. How do resolutions, which are actually nonbinding anyway, an infringement on local church autonomy? Notice that this isn't the excuse given last year.

3. What makes this particularly distressing is the fact that this subject gained positive momentum this past year.

4. I submit it will take the bloggers (again) to pick this up and discuss it with some frequency. It will also take some grass roots work by supporters in their state conventions and associations. I will even distribute literature on this subject at Ridgecrest in November if it will help!

5. I further submit the average person in the pew doesn't understand the issues, because most are poorly taught anyway. That's why 4 is important.

6. I also submit that the SBC still things bigger is better and healthier. I think the time has come to do some tallying from the ACP's for our "flagship" churches, the ones held out as models to emulate, the ones the Pastor's Conference crowd often represents, patting each other on the back in the process. Let's see how they stack up. Will it take shaming the SBC to get their attention? I pray not. This one should be a no-brainer, so what's the problem?

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