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That’s Not In the Bulletin, Bub!

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.

(H/T: IsaiahSix)



  1. Jim says:

    When Julie and I decided to “become Lutheran”, one of the deciding factors for me was a more catholic approach to the Church as well as a more liturgical approach to worship. While by no means perfect, I’m certainly much more comfortable in the setting I’m in now then where I was. That’s not to disparage LBC… God bless the church I was raised up in. But I can agree with your sentiment when I read Baptist news….I’m glad to be watching it from the outside.

    Who knows, someday maybe I’ll be involved enough in LC-MS politics to get an ulcer over that as well? There’s plenty to go around.


  2. PS says:

    Also a Lutheran here……I think there is a real potential problem when a denomination starts to define itself as a reaction to what it is NOT. And another potential problem when it says worship has to be a certain way. Music, for example, seems to be part of an ongoing part of creation, God’s creation.

    There is also the potential problem of saying that “this is OUR way” which morphs into “this is the RIGHT way” and then becomes, “Your way is the WRONG way.” That morphs into, “THOSE people aren’t Christian.”

    There are a number of blogs of certain sub-segments of Lutherans, as well as sub-segments of other Christian groups, that are pretty overt about putting down the way other Christians do things. The more defensive the group or person, the more mean spirited the commentary, it seems.

    We’ve all heard the jokes about the people in heaven in sound proof rooms who think they are the only denomination there. It is sad when Christians can’t respect the diversity in the way God made us.


  3. D. P. says:

    Jim – I’ll bet having a Catholic mother helped you along in coming to appreciate liturgical worship. (She’s a real gem, btw.)

    PS: What you’ve put your finger on is precisely why I doubt that anything good can come of the SBC sticking its hand in the “worship wars.” I would argue (and perhaps I will in a later post) that they are setting themselves up to do what the Roman Catholic church did 500 years ago at Trent: set a particular worship form in stone and make no allowances for natural, gradual development.


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