June 13, 2007

God's Man in Texas

Joel Gregory, professor of preaching at George W. Truett Seminary of Baylor University, has a column at Ethics Daily today that reflects on the conflict and loss of civility within Southern Baptist life. He writes about his sermon at the 1988 SBC meeting in San Antonio:
The combatants were calling one another skunks, opossums and other such Christian epithets.

The dailies of the South had a field day with the internecine fight in the largest Protestant denomination. The rhetoric undermined the Baptist witness to such an extent that it has never recovered.

... My sermon had a pragmatic intention of calming the rhetoric, cooling the tempers and appealing for the same kind of civility that occurs in most corporate board meetings.

... I looked for a middle that was not there.
Gregory will be a speaker at the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant, which seeks to accomplish what Gregory failed to do so with his SBC sermon--bring a return to civility, unite Baptists, and put forth a positive Baptist witness. I am excited about the Celebration because such an effort is desperately needed. And I am excited that Gregory will be one of the speakers.

A few years ago I wrote a column reflecting on the play God's Man in Texas, which was inspired by Gregory's autobiography. It is an insightful and powerful play that reminds us what we are supposed to be focused on--loving God and people, not seeking power and fame. And that is what the Celebration will focus on. As Gregory told Ethics Daily a couple of years ago:
Jesus spoke to more than two or three marquees issues of morality. ... He made it perfectly clear that His Kingdom stood for the poor, the dispossesed, the marginalized and the helpless. He stood above and beyond the political structure and spoke to it.
And that is why the Celebration is needed! I hope to see you in Atlanta next January 30 and February 1.

3 comments:

  1. Chuck8:13 PM

    Brian,

    If you agree that the exclusivity of Christ to save is central to the gospel, then you'll agree exclusivity is a "traditional Baptist value."

    President Carter's non-exclusive statements reported by Newsweek (Mormons) and Rabbi Lerner (Judaism) still raise questions which some honest and sincere Baptists must have answered in order to support the New Baptist Covenant and, indeed, to not urge you and others to reconsider your support.

    Until President Carter himself, or you or someone leading the NBC movement clears these matters up, the identifiable leader is apparently denying a huge "traditional Baptist value" and the true gospel.

    Thus, a good many Baptists don't want to be identified with a Carter-led Baptist movement, when his "prophetic Baptist voice" could just as well be Islamic, Jewish, or Mormon.

    As it now stands, perhaps the purpose of the Atlanta meeting could be restated to simply do good works, leaving "traditional Baptist values" and "prophetic Baptist voice" out of the mix.

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  2. Chuck: Thanks for the comment. I do agree with your first statement. I just disagree with your comments about Carter.

    What about Gregory? Can you at least be excited about him?

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  3. Brian,

    I wouldn't object to the NBC because of Joel Gregory. I believe he was repentant, and that he holds traditional major Baptist values--including, of course, the exclusivity of Christ to save.

    I disagree with some of his now-moderate views--attributed to him by me only because of his employment with Truett Seminary--on less-essential matters, just as I would with you.

    These matters would not cause me to object to the NBC, or urge you to not promote it. President Carter's silence regarding Rabbi Lerner's report does cause me to urge you not to promote the event, or at least to seek his response.

    By the way, as unreliable a source you consider Lerner to be, you shouldn't overlook the fact that President Carter apparently considered him worthy enough to meet with.

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