Marty Duren is writing an interesting series on his blog about post-denominationalism. Marty was the original founder of the SBC Outpost blog, one of the first voices to be raised in blogdom that questioned the health of the SBC hierarchy and its direction. He graciously bowed out of denominational discussions for a good while, preferring instead to write about missional themes. His writings are always insightful and I’d recommend that you pay a visit to his blog.
Having said that, I’d like to weigh in a bit as well about the demise of denominationalism—especially as it relates to the Southern Baptist Convention. I think it is an unquestionable fact that denominational loyalty is fading—especially among the younger set. There clearly is a more willing disposition to seek new avenues of cooperation through networking with other like-minded Christians (be they Southern Baptist or not) than there is to sustain a bureaucracy that in many respects has lost touch with current culture. Appeals to time-honored traditions simply don’t persuade “20-somethings” and even those a bit older than that of the propriety of continuing to blindly and uncritically support denominational institutions and entities.
There probably is more of a willingness to make an exception when it comes to the work of the IMB, as that part of our heritage as Southern Baptists can still motivate churches and individuals to give sacrificially so that the missionary task isn’t abandoned. Nevertheless, the “glue” that has united our convention historically is losing its adhesive pull as ongoing revelations are disclosed about the backroom, closed-door, political maneuverings of the IMB’s Board of Trustees. The disclosure by Wade Burleson of Rodney Hammer’s recent resignation as Regional Leader for Central and Eastern Europe, prompted by the new restrictive policies (guidelines) of the IMB’s BoT, is just the latest in a series of black eyes that this group has suffered. Perhaps a better image than a black eye would be a self-inflicted wound.
In the interest of full disclosure, I cannot claim absolute objectivity in this matter. As readers of my blog or my comments on other blogs may well recall, my family and I chose to resign from the IMB in 2002 rather than sign the BF&M 2000. It’s safe to say that I feel a certain degree of resentment and distrust toward the same fundamentalist/legalist types who now control the IMB’s BoT who at that time coerced Dr. Rankin into rescinding his earlier promise that missionaries already under appointment would not be required to sign the document but would be “grandfathered in” as it were, recognizing that we had written our own responses to the 1963 version of the BF&M that the BoT at the time of our appointment had considered doctrinally sound.
My heart goes out to former colleagues who still labor with the IMB and I respect, pray for, and support their ministries. I wonder how long they can continue to serve in good faith and conscience with an organization that is growing increasingly restrictive and whose Board of Trustees seems far more concerned about sustaining and extending Southern Baptist identity than the Kingdom of God. It seems that many of them can no longer distinguish between the two.
This post has already far exceeded the length of my usual posts, so I will wrap it up at this point. I do intend to follow up in subsequent posts with some specific thoughts about the post-denominational mindset and how I see that impacting future efforts in missions and the challenges it poses for existing denominations, state conventions, associations, and local churches.