SBC unveils Credential Committee. Is it really a force for good?

A lot of members of the Evangelical Dark Web are skeptical of the Southern Baptist Convention’s unveiling of a online submission form that has the far reaching consequences of kicking out churches. With recent events such as the passing of Resolution 9, it’s difficult to discount these objections to the newly formed committee that presupposes to wield considerable power for the more decentralized autonomous denomination.

The SBC Credentials committee created a form to accuse churches of three things

  1. Sex abuse/ coverups related to sex abuse
  2. Racism
  3. Cooperation with the convention in matters of faith or practice

Sexism

The main goal of this was to ensure that the Southern Baptist Convention does not institutionally cover up sex abuse. This is a noble quest that none seem to object to.

Racism

The racism claim is where this committee gets Orwellian. Last month we saw the the likes of Big Eva attempt to place their thumbs on the scale in local church politic. FBC Naples became the center of controversy after church leaders accused dissenting members of their congregation of being racist without evidence. This church under the rules would be accused of discriminatory for denying a new pastor who so happened to be black. Indeed this is the complaint of Jeff Maples at Reformation Charlotte:

According to Critical Race Theory, the very virtue of being “white” is racist. In other words, unless you’re all-in in this new version of “woke church,” your church is in danger of being disfellowshiped from the denomination and branded as white supremacists unless you take drastic action, like FBC Naples did, to throw non-woke church members out to the dogs, purge them from your ranks, and affirm the new social justice gospel created by this movement.

This complaint is beyond validated by the behavior of JD Greear following FBC Naples. It also further corroborates the article I wrote about FBC Naples: Identity politics: coming to a church near you.

If identity politics and intersectionality are allowed to become common practice in Evangelical Churches, Satan will exploit the church by recruiting heretics who will exploit identity politics for positions in leadership. We see this being done at the higher up levels where Critical Race Theory is being taught institutionally. We see charges of sexism being lobbed at complementarians for criticizing Beth Moore, who has a well-documented pattern of acting counter to biblical instruction. This situation, a new development, is one where JD Greear, President of the SBC, is using his influence to put his thumb on the scale in local church functions. Are we to allow a culture at the SBC where local churches are deemed racist for refusing bad teachers who so happen to be black? By no means! Yet, this is the precedent that FBC Naples is trying to set for the rest of the churches in the Southern Baptist Convention.

According to Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality, white men are racist by virtue of existence. And since baseless accusations of racism have an intimidating effect on people, churches will be accused of racist for denying theologically questionable pastors who so happen to be black. Thus Resolution 9 could be enforced as an ecclesiastical tool.

Cooperation

Another Orwellian prediction came from Pulpit & Pen. JD Hall writes:

Someone hears the politically-incorrect sermon and reports them anonymously to the snitching portal. A faceless bureaucratic drone decides it’s “racist,” and the Executive Committee immediately dismisses them from the SBC (probably with a press release to announce it to the world, thus forever branding your church as “racist”).

Imagine a Southern Baptist pastor preaching a sermon against the corruption and cover-up in the SBC. One would imagine that now they would be seen in violation of the “friendly cooperation” clause immediately. The pastor would lose his Guidestone retirement. The students in the church would lose their SBC discounts at their seminaries, Bible colleges, and Baptist-owned undergraduate schools. The fall-out would be tremendous.

The ramifications for abuse are really severe for the church in question. And while churches who cover up sex abuse should be exposed, ‘excommunicated’ from fellowship, the abuse of this process could be devastating to both the individual church and the goal of evangelism.

Ripe for abuse?

However the instances of potential abuse is not prescription of the likelihood of abuse. On the portal form, anonymous submissions are not allowed. Furthermore, a user is encouraged to identify their church affiliation. The lack of anonymous accusers, lends credibility to the portal tool. Furthermore, if a user does not identify as being a member of a church, their credibility could be questioned. Along those lines, users who supersede maliciously against their church could be subject to church discipline, as they should. In theory, the way its laid out weeds out the least credible accusers of any kind.

There was a key detail, I think, JD Hall misses in the bylaw. Section 2 of the SBC Bylaw 8 states

(2) When, during an annual meeting, an issue arises whether a church is in cooperation with the Convention, the Credentials Committee shall consider the matter and review any information available to it. The committee shall either: (a) consider the question in the manner described in section (3)a below and, when prepared, recommend any action to the Executive Committee, in which case messengers from the church shall be seated pending any action by the Executive Committee; or (b) at the earliest opportunity, recommend to the Convention whether the church should be considered a cooperating church. The Convention shall immediately consider the committee’s recommendation. One representative of the church under consideration and one representative of the Credentials Committee shall be permitted to speak to the question, subject to the normal rules of debate. When debate is concluded, the Convention may decide whether the church is a cooperating church or refer the matter to the Executive Committee for further review and a decision. Unless the Convention decides that the church is not a cooperating church, messengers from the church shall be registered and seated in accordance with the Convention’s rules.

Buried in all of this legal language is some form of hearing in which arguments and cross-examination can be made. It’s like the BAR Association hearing in Better Call Saul. The standard of proof for evidence won’t be nearly as high. Precedent is likely to be strongly considered. The Executive Committee will similarly seek to uphold the reputation of the Southern Baptist Convention, which remains comparably good and orthodox in America. The biggest question remains how trivial, tyrannical, will the Credential Committee be? As SBC President, JD Greear will likely being appointing the inaugural committee members.

Since there is no precedent for this committee to act on, it’s unlikely they will want to draw extra scrutiny to themselves. The likelihood of successfully ousting a church like FBC Naples for rejecting a questionable pastor who so happens to be black is dubious, as is the unlikelihood of not raising heaps of notoriety at the grassroots level for such action. This committee will not want to make such a grand pronouncement early on. In contrast, they will likely want to oust sex offender affirming congregations first so that they can build a credible reputation from which to oust mere dissidents. When the Tennessee Baptist Convention just passed a strong condemnation of Resolution 9, is the Credential Committee really going to set a precedent that would expel a state level assembly? That’s a losing war from the onset. Heretics like to operate in the shadows, as wolves in sheep’s clothing. They won’t go full Monty until they have complete institutional control, because the general laity of baptists is orthodox. We are not there yet, so the Credentials Committee going full Monty is not a likely occurrence. Simply put, bureaucracies exist to perpetuate their own existence. It is unnatural for them to outkick their coverage so suddenly.

Force For Good?

In any case, the Orwellian slippery slope exists. However the President of the SBC appoints the committees. So if theologically orthodox Christians who refuse to capitulate to the world retake the Presidency, the committee will be forestalled in going down the dire route. Of course for how long is the resulting question. But if the committee is stacked with orthodox baptists, the committee can do a lot of good enforcing doctrine and orthopraxy. Sex abuse affirming congregations will be kicked out. Furthermore, the cooperation purpose allows for doctrinal enforcement. So if a baptist church were to have Beth Moore preach on Mother’s Day, they could be reported to the Credentials Committee for violating the Baptist Faith & Message which codifies complementarianism. Similarly homosexuality affirming congregations can be expelled. And maybe, just maybe, disciplinary action can be taken against churches preaching the Social Justice Gospel or the Prosperity Gospel.

The Credentials Committee could be the very tool that could more quickly enact the Second Conservative Resurgence. Or it could hasten the destruction of the Southern Baptist Convention.

 


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