HOBBS, N.M. (BP) — A moment of tremendous humility that led to great unity occurred at the Southern Baptist Convention when J.D. Greear withdrew his name from the SBC presidential race and asked messengers to elect Steve Gaines.
J.D. showed Southern Baptists the path forward: putting aside differences and exercising humility toward one another for the purpose of our unity and cooperation. Steve had been praying overnight about doing the same.
Southern Baptist unity is unique. We consist of many theological persuasions, differing on such issues as Calvinism, the end times and, in some instances, charismatic gifts and the use of alcohol. Between the opposite poles is a vast array of moderated positions. Many Southern Baptists find themselves caught in the middle without a “dog in the fight.”
We also have old and young in our midst. We have suits and skinny jeans. We have different styles of worship. We are red and yellow, black and white, all precious in His sight.
In his book “A Hill on Which to Die,” Judge Paul Pressler notes that “the presence of such persuasions as Calvinist and charismatic in the conservative ranks merely shows that conservatives never sought to have all Southern Baptists think exactly alike. All we wanted was for people to base what they believe on an intelligent study of what the Bible says.”
In a meeting a couple of years ago, I heard Jimmy Draper warn a group of pastors that if we preserve doctrinal integrity but fail to maintain unity, we will give away the Southern Baptist ship. In the words of Joel Gregory’s 1988 convention sermon, we will lose the castle while we build the wall.
Ronnie Floyd has urged our convention for two years to lock arms in agreement, unity and prayer for the sake of the Great Commission. It is possible Southern Baptists could see a Third Great Awakening in our lifetimes if we catch on to that vision.
This sparks my yearning for Southern Baptists to embrace “‘big tent’ conservative cooperation.”
Certainly the Southern Baptist Convention is conservative. The “battle for the Bible” has been won. Our seminaries and other entities are led by men and women committed to the inerrancy of Scripture. Our missionaries affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, an explicitly conservative statement of faith that serves as a measure of doctrinal accountability for our cooperation together. Our common belief that Scripture is “truth without any mixture of error” ensures that while we are a big tent convention, we are a big tent committed to conservative theology.
And the Southern Baptist Convention is cooperative. We cooperate together because of our common doctrinal and missional commitments. That which unites us is greater than that which divides us.
Read more at BAPTISTS: ‘Big tent’ conservative cooperation.