Looks like Southern Baptist leaders are gearing up to start splitting with each other over worship styles:
“We have two important issues to solve in our Convention. First, concerning the matter of worship style, we must decide what identifies us as Southern Baptists. This will be difficult, because we are autonomous, but I believe our Convention leaders need to make a more definitive statement about how we identify ourselves in worship and who we are as Southern Baptists. We are never going to be homogeneous, never have been, but there are some lines we should never cross as Southern Baptists,” Harrell added. “There must be something distinctive about us or we will lose our identity.”
“Second,” Harrell continued, “we must deal with Calvinism….” (emphasis added)
When I was in seminary in the 1980’s, Southern Baptists needed a “more definitive statement” about biblical inerrancy, and they got it. Then they discovered that there were inerrantists (Carey Newman, for example), who affirmed women in ministry because that was their interpretation of the inerrant word of God, so the 1990’s saw clamoring for a “more definitive statement” on women in ministry. They got that with the 2000 revision of the Baptist Faith and Message.
Lately the issue has been two-pronged: Calvinism on the one hand and the Charismatics on the other. We can probably expect a “more definitive statement” or two in the next few years.
Bill Harrell, chairman of the SBC’s executive committee, has given us a heads-up on what will come after that. The Convention needs a more standardized (dare I say regulated) form of worship.
I’ll be honest. I think Baptists could benefit from a more regulated form of worship‚ something that would tap into 2,000 years of Christian history and offer a bulwark against creeping sectarianism. But I don’t trust the current SBC leadership to provide anything of the sort. Broadening Baptists’ historical, liturgical, and theological horizons is not exactly on their to-do list, and the sectarianism is no longer creeping but proceeding at a full gallop.
This will be interesting to watch…from the outside.