Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Missouri Baptist Convention & Single Alignment

Those living outside of Missouri might find the religious politics of the state perplexing. With the Missouri Baptist Convention suing 5 former entities that named their own boards of trustees and millions of dollars in Cooperative Program money finding its way to lawyers' pockets as a backdrop, the more recent news has focused on the implementation and enforcement of a policy of single alignment that messengers to the annual meeting approved last year. In an unprecedented move (at least in Southern Baptist life), the MBC has recently sent letters to 24 churches to urge them to reconsider the steps they have taken so as not to jeopardize their historic ties with the MBC. The guilty action of these 24 consists of being somehow linked to CBF--either by supporting CBF in their budget or sending messengers to an annual meeting. The number of churches excluded for such actions will most assuredly grow as the MBC has not yet officially taken the same action against churches involved with the Baptist General Convention of Missouri, though the language of the single alignment proposal that passed last year specifically mentioned these two organizations.

The MBC Pathway has reported their take on this issue, as has the historic Baptist Missouri paper, the Word and Way. By far one of the funniest things to appear regarding single alignment is a satirical piece written by Brian Kaylor. The tongue-in-cheek analogy of Pluto's exclusion from the list of planets in our solar system is a must read.

I find it interesting that while some cooler heads among conservative Baptists in many sectors of the U.S. are calling for widening the tent, permitting principled dissent, and ceasing to narrow the parameters for cooperation among Baptists, in Missouri the exact opposite is occurring. Like the kid on the playground who tells everyone else that if they don't play by his rules, he will take his ball and go home, the MBC is excluding fellow Baptists for the "crime" of being dually aligned with another group in the state. I don't see the same thing happening in Texas or Virginia where moderates comprise the larger state convention. Why is that?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Man in Black

On September 12, 2003, Johnny Cash, “the man in black” died. A music icon known not only for his black clothing but also for his deep, gravely voice, Cash was one of the earliest artists to successfully move between such diverse musical genres as blues, rock and roll, country, and gospel. His music dealt openly with the struggles he faced with addiction to amphetamines and later prescription pain medications. In addition to his autobiography, Man in Black, Cash wrote one other novel entitled, Man in White, a book about the life of the Apostle Paul. Johnny Cash’s legacy mirrors that of all Christians—a mixture of saint and sinner. Paul himself described that ongoing tension in his own life in Romans 7 as he wrestled with his old nature—speaking of not doing those things that he desired to do and finding himself doing the very things that he knew he ought to avoid. This same apostle to the Gentiles who in one breath referred to himself as the “chief of sinners” could also encourage Christians to “be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Johnny Cash, like the apostle Paul, encourages us to seek the good in those around us, while at the same time recognizing that we all have feet of clay. May we be able to say with Paul, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain” (1 Cor. 15:10).