Monday, December 25, 2006

TIME Person of the Year

I thought I would share with the world that I have been recently named TIME Magazine's person of the year. Quite an accomplishment for a farm boy from Hammon, Oklahoma... :-)

click on the cover to see a larger image

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Kendall Kauley's Celebration Dance

Kendall Kauley is my "Indian way" nephew. He is the son of my lifelong friend and Cheyenne blood brother, Kenneth Kauley. Kenneth and I grew up a half mile apart. My great-grandfather, Jacob Flick, lived just across the road from his grandfather, Henry "Crooked Nose" Elk Rivers. We were the same age and went through all 12 grades together. We were best friends. We played basketball together for the Hammon Warriors. We studied together. We hunted and fished together. We hauled hay together in the summertime to earn money to purchase gasoline for our vehicles. We were inseparable. For more than 60 years we were the closest of friends and maintained a lifelong friendship.

In Cheyenne culture, as in Anglo culture, a brother's children are one's nephews and nieces. Grandchildren are a different matter. In Cheyenne culture, a brother's grandchildren are considered to be one's own grandchildren. Although I have no grandchildren by blood, I do have many Cheyenne grandchildren through my Cheyenne blood brother. Here is a photograph of Kenneth and me with three grandsons. Here's one of my Cheyenne granddaughters. Here's another of the same granddaughter and two other grandsons.

Five years ago, Kenneth had a benign brain tumor removed. During the recovery process, an infection entered his brain, rendering him paralyzed on his right side and unable to speak. He died last February I preached his funeral. After a surgical attempt to repair the damage resulting from the tumor, he lived in a nursing home at Leedey. I saw him at least once a month during the last year of his life. We were never able to communicate freely after surgery, but we could communicate some in the Cheyenne dialect, but not much in English.

Now back to Kendall... On Sunday evening, December the 10th, his family gave him a celebration dance. Kendall is a 2006 graduate of Hammon High School. He recently graduated from the Tulsa Welding School. He is now employed by an oilfield drilling company, working as a welder on the big drilling rigs.

The celebration dance was held in the Hammon Community Hall in Hammon. There was a big feast and lots of gourd dancing and traditional ceremonial dancing. There were traditional gift giveaways. I joined the family and helped celebrate Kendall's accomplishments. Needless to say, I am very proud of my Cheyenne nephew.

Here's a photo album of the celebration festivities.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Oklahoma Baptist Centennial (Part 1)

Oklahoma Southern Baptists celebrated their centennial last week. The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma came into existance in 1906 when the Baptist conventions of Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory joined together. This event occurred almost exactly a year before Oklahoma became a state. It occurred 35 years prior to my birth.

For more than half a century (1950-2001), I lived and breathed as an Oklahoma Southern Baptist. Having been alive through 65 of the first 100 years of Oklahoma Baptist life, many wonderful memories reside in my heart and soul. Most of these memories are positive. But the last decade of my experience as a Southern Baptist was less than desirableable. In this post, I want to recount a few my personal positive memories and experiences. In the next two posts, I will share another side of the story. On a positive note...

  • I was born into an Oklahoma Southern Baptist family in the convention's 35th year (1941).
  • I was saved and baptized in the 44th year of Oklahoma Southern Baptist life (FBC of Hammon in 1950).
  • I accepted God's call to the gospel ministry and was licensed to preach in a Southern Baptist church in the 54th year of Oklahoma Baptist life (FBC of Goodwell in 1964).
  • I preached my first sermon in an Oklahoma Southern Baptist church in the 54th year of Oklahoma Baptist life (Indian Baptist Church of Hammon in 1964).
  • In the 55th year of Oklahoma Baptist life, I married a good Baptist girl in an Oklahoma Southern Baptist church (FBC of Leedey in 1965).
  • I was ordained in an Oklahoma Southern Baptist church in the 56th year of Oklahoma Baptist life (FBC of Sharon in 1966).
  • I attended Oklahoma Baptist University in parts of the 57th, 58th & 59th years of Oklahoma Baptist life (1965-67).
  • I pastored four Oklahoma Southern Baptist churches and missions (Seiling Indian Baptist Mission - 1965-66; Canton Indian Baptist Mission - 1974-77; FBC of Elmore City - 1977-84, and FBC in Dewey - 1984-99).
  • I served as an Oklahoma DOM for 20 months (Grady Baptist Association - 2000-01)
  • I baptized all of my children of my children in an Oklahoma Southern Baptist church (FBC in Elmore City).
  • I served two terms on the BGCO Board of Directors.
  • I served one term on the first ever Board of Trustees for the Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children.
  • I have been to Falls Creek, both as a camper and a pastor, more than forty times (between 1954 & 2000).

Oklahoma Baptists do have a rich history. No doubt about it. I've had my share of good experiences. However, I am no longer an Oklahoma Southern Baptist. I never dreamed that I would be anything other than an Oklahoma Southern Baptist. In the 95th year of Oklahoma Baptist life (2001), I was excluded and pushed aside as persona non grata, --which is another story for another time. I am now pastoring an American Baptist church (ABC/USA) in Watonga. I am happy. I've been in my present church for three years now.

The Oklahoma Baptist Centennial (Part 2)

Oklahoma Baptists celebrated their centennial anniversary in November. Certainly, the BGCO can be proud of many achievements through the first 100 years of their existence. In a recent editorial ("Back to the Future" Links to archived articles are no long available.) in the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger, BGCO executive director, Anthony Jordan, sounded a strange note. Comparing the BGCO to the church in Ephesus, he wrote:

As was true in the words of our Lord to the church at Ephesus, we must return to our first love. Nothing among us must take preeminence over a passionate love for our Savior.

Pardon me, but when did Oklahoma Baptists lose their first love? At what point in their history did Oklahoma Baptists cease to have a passionate love for their Savior? I haven't been an Oklahoma Southern Baptist now for more than three years, but I can't remember a single example of an Oklahoma Baptist (church, pastor, or layman) who strayed from possessing a passionate love for Christ. I have no idea what Jordan is talking about when he writes these words.

He went on to write:
Although our church buildings look different, our ministries have varying shapes and our worship styles have changed, the future of Oklahoma Baptists is centered in a return to the biblical and powerful fundamentals of the past. A love for Jesus, a passion for the lost, a commitment to planting churches and a generosity in our mission support are keys to a dynamic future.

At what point in their history did Oklahoma Baptists stray being a "biblically centered" denomination? At what point in their history did Oklahoma Baptists depart from the "fundamentals of the Baptist beliefs of the past"? I can't answer the questions. I don't know what Dr. Jordan has in mind, but I don't remember that Oklahoma Baptists ever departed from being a biblically centered state convention. Nor I remember anything about Oklahoma Baptists departing from the fundamentals of the past. But I do know when Oklahoma Baptists began the slide into mean-spirited fundamentalism. It began early in the last decade of the first 100 years of Oklahoma Baptist history.

The rise of mean-spirited fundamentalism in Oklahoma occurred simultaneously with the birth of the Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma. Southern Baptists began moving toward fundamentalism in 1979 when Adrian Rogers was elected as the first SBC president in the takeover of the denomination. W. A. Criswell, Paul Pressler, and Paige Patterson convinced the rank and file of Southern Baptists into believing that their denomination was sliding head-long into liberalism.

Of course the notion that Southern Baptists were being threatened by liberalism is a myth. While a great many Southern Baptists followed the takeover leaders toward narrow fundamentalism, a great many Southern Baptists, including myself, remained faithful to what we had always believed. Those who remained faithful to the traditional Southern Baptist beliefs came to be known as "moderates." Moderate Oklahoma Baptists rejected the rhetoric of the fundamentalists. They did not change their views about the Bible. They rejected the narrow theory of biblical inerrancy. They did not change their views about the infallibility of the Bible. They did not change their views concerning missions, ecclesiology, and theology.

Anthony Jordan's attitude toward moderate Baptists was not Christlike. His passionate dislike for Cooperative Baptists and Mainstream Baptists wasn't pretty. He has a passionate distaste for moderate Oklahoma Baptists because they did not fall into line with the with the neo-fundamentalism that came with the takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. He doesn't understand that there was a major shift toward narrow fundamentalism among Southern Baptist thinking over the past quarter century.

The fundamentalist takeover led to a dismissive attitude toward those who rejected the modern ideas about biblical inerrancy. Those who rejected neo-fundamentalism were considered to be liberals of the worst order. Those who rejected the inerrancy theory of the Bible were systematically demeaned and excluded. Subscribing to the inerrancy theory of the Bible became a test of fellowship for the fundamentalists. After the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message was adopted, those who openly opposed the new statement of faith (which functioned more like a creed than a statement of faith) were marginalized and pushed aside. They were purged from leadership positions in Oklahoma Baptist life. They were blackballed, ignored, fired, and demeaned. I know this to be true, because I experienced it first hand.

Dr. Jordan wrote, concerning the first century of Oklahoma Baptist life:
These 100 years of history are marked by the hand and blessing of Almighty God. He has chosen to bless His people with strength in numbers, resources and influence.
I believe God did bless Oklahoma Baptists through the first 75 years of their history, God did bless them strength, numbers, and resources. But that's only part of the story. There's another side to the story. And it isn't as pretty. The next post will delineate part of the other side of the story.

The Oklahoma Baptist Centennial (Part 3)

Through the first 100 years of Oklahoma Southern Baptist life there have been many high points. In an editorial ("Back to the Future") in the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger, to which the link is no longer available, Anthony Jordan painted a glowing picture of God's hand at work in the first century of Oklahoma Baptist history.

These 100 years of history are marked by the hand and blessing of Almighty God. He has chosen to bless His people with strength in numbers, resources and influence.
It's true that God did bless Oklahoma Baptists with strength in numbers, resources, and influence. However, not everything that happened in the last decade or so came from the hand of Almighty God. I don't believe Almighty God had much to do with a whole lot of what happened in Oklahoma during those years. Dr. Jordan tells only part of the story. There is another side that I'm sure many in the Baptist Building in Oklahoma City would rather not have told. There are some low points in Oklahoma Baptist history. Here are several of the of the low points in the history of Southern Baptists in the Sooner state.

A Prevailing Spirit of Hate toward Moderate Baptists (CBFO) in Oklahoma:
From the moment the Cooperative Baptist fellowship was formed, the BGCO leadership sought to discredit and prevent moderate Baptists from having a voice in Oklahoma Baptist life. The Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma was born on February 29, 1992. Anthony Jordan, (who was at the time President of the BGCO) and the leadership in the Baptist Building began their attacks on moderate the CBFO and all CBF friendly people. In April of 1992, Glenn Brown, editor of the Baptist Messenger, wrote an editorial saying that there was not room in Oklahoma Baptist life for both the BGCO and the CBFO.

On March 26, 1992, incorporation papers were issued by John Kennedy, Oklahoma Secretary of State, to the new "Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma." The Secretary of State ruled that the word cooperative could not be used for any kind of organization in Oklahoma except farmers' cooperatives and public utilities. His opinion was ostensibly based on a prohibition contained in the Constitution of Oklahoma. Thus Oklahoma's Fellowship is the only state CBF organization that is "cooperating," but not "cooperative."

Through the summer of 1992, the BGCO leadership did everything possible to prevent the growth of the CBFO. The BGCO leadership did not want the CBFO to even exist. CBFO historian, Dr. Dan Hobbs, wrote a history of the Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma. He wrote:

An interesting sidelight on the First General Assembly was the work of a modern-day Martin Luther, who tacked a sheet of paper on one of doors of a conference room with the title "95 Theses on Why the CBF of Oklahoma Should Not Exist." Not shy, the intruder signed his name. It was Wade Burleson, currently President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and pastor of Emanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma.
I don't believe Almighty God instilled the spirit of hate in the hearts of Oklahoma Baptist leaders in 1992. The year 1992 was definitely a low year in Oklahoma Baptist history.

The Joe L. Ingram Controversy:
The most egregious example of the BGCO's persecution of moderates came in November of 1993, when the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma voted to censure Joe Ingram, its former Executive Secretary and Treasurer, for being in sympathy with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship movement. He was the Executive Director-Treasurer of Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma for 25 years (1971-1986). He was a moderate Baptist before "moderate" was in vogue. Oklahoma Baptist University named the OBU School of Christian Service in his honor.

In 1992, Ingram had appeared on the program at the first annual assembly of the Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma. In retribution for his transgression of "consorting with moderates," the BGCO selected a small committee, headed by Anthony Jordan, to meet with their former leader. Dr. Ingram's "great sin" was that he wrote a letter to key Oklahoma pastors, inviting them to attend a CBF meeting. The Committee sought to express the Convention's displeasure at the exercise of his Baptist freedom and priesthood. A man of impeccable taste and unimpeachable integrity, Joe Ingram refused to meet with the designated committee.

Almighty God had nothing to do with the treatment that Joe Ingram received from the fundamentalists. The controversy was a very low point Oklahoma Baptist history.

Dr. Gene Garrison and First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City:
In the 1970's Dr. Garrison was a respected member of SBC and BGCO boards. He was a frequent conference speaker. In the mid-1980's he, like other moderate Oklahoma Baptists, was blacklisted by the fundamentalists. He pastored First Baptist in Oklahoma City 1973-96. In 1983 Bailey Smith, then pastor of Del City (Oklahoma) First Southern Baptist Church, condemned Oklahoma City FBC for ordaining women deacons. This set off a controversy that led Capital Association to refuse to seat messengers from the church. Dr. Garrison never again had the opportunity to so much as lead a BGCO meeting in silent prayer. After he was blacklisted, he never again appeared on the platform at a BGCO meeting or function.

Almighty God certainly had nothing to do with Dr. Garrison being blacklisted and excluded from having a voice BGCO affairs. Dr. Garrison's treatment by the BGCO was a very low point in Oklahoma Baptist history.

Dr. Lavonn Brown and First Baptist Church of Norman:
Dr. Brown pastored First Baptist in Norman 1970-99. He also was a respected member of SBC and BGCO boards and was a frequent conference speaker. In the mid-1980's he, like Dr. Garrison, was blacklisted by the Fundamentalists. Norman FBC had also ordained women deacons. In 1980 Dr. Brown joined 17 Baptist pastors at Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to discuss the takeover and to help counter the conservative direction of the convention. That group, known subsequently as the "Gatlinburg Gang," formed the nucleus of what became the "Moderate Movement" in the Southern Baptist Convention. From that experience, the Oklahoma Baptist leaders branded him as being a "liberal."

In 1989, when First Norman celebrated its 100th anniversary, Dr. Brown petitioned the BGCO leaders to allow the church to host the convention's annual meeting in the church's centennial year. The convention leadership refused to allow the church to host the Convention's annual meeting simply because Dr. Brown was friendly to the CBF.

Almighty God certainly had nothing to do with Dr. Brown being blacklisted and excluded from having a voice BGCO affairs. Like Dr. Garrison, he never again had an opportunity to lead an Oklahoma Baptist meeting in silent prayer. Dr. Brown's treatment by the BGCO was a very low point in Oklahoma Baptist history.

Dr. Gary Cook Kicked Off the BGCO Strategic Planning Committee:
Dr. Cook was a former Vice President for Church Programs and Services at the Sunday School Board. He accepted pastorate of First Baptist Church in Lawton, OK shortly after trustees removed Lloyd Elder as President and replaced him with Jimmy Draper. In 1993 Fundamentalists had Cook removed from BGCO's Strategic Planning Committee because he had moderated a CBF discussion group and had introduced a CBF Cecil Sherman at a luncheon. Dr. Cook was blacklisted and never again had a voice in Oklahoma Baptist life.

Almighty God had nothing to do with Dr. Cook's dismissal from the BGCO Strategic Planning Committee. He was blacklisted by the Baptist Building and state leadership. His treatment by BGCO personnel was a low point in Oklahoma Baptist history.

Anne Graham Lotz Banned from at the Oklahoma State Evangelism Conference:
In 1993, Jerry Don Abernathy was the state evangelism director for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. As the director of evangelism in Oklahoma, he was the person who planned the program for the annual evangelism conference, held in January. Abernathy planned a program that included Ann Graham Lotz as one of the speakers. The program for the January evangelism conference began to be published in the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger in September.

Shortly after the conference program appeared in the Messenger, Wayne Keeley, pastor of a church in Claremore, began a crusade to have her removed from the program. He wrote numerous letters to the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger and gathered a number of vocal supporters. At the '93 annual BGCO convention in November, Keeley stood on the floor and made the motion to have Mrs. Lotz struck from the conference program. The motion passed and Mrs. Lotz was disinvited because she was a "woman preacher." Keeley let it be known that "Oklahoma Baptists do not approve of women preachers." Not a single voice spoke against his motion. Not one Oklahoma Baptist stood to speak on her behalf.

Keeley attempted to get Abernathy fired because he had invited a "woman preacher" to speak at the 1994 Oklahoma State Evangelism Conference. He was not fired. I don't know what happened, but he was gone from Oklahoma less than a year. Almighty God had nothing to do with banning Mrs. Lotz from preaching at the Oklahoma Evangelism Conference. Almighty God had nothing to do with the terrible treatment that Jerry Don Abernathy received for inviting her to Oklahoma. The controversy was a low point in Oklahoma Baptist history.

The 1998 Baptist Faith and Message and the "Submissive
" Article:

The first revision of the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message occurred in 1998. Oklahoma Baptists were heavily involved in the revision process. Tom Elliff, pastor of the Del City (Oklahoma) First Southern Baptist Church and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, appointed a monolithic fundamentalist revision committee, with Oklahoma's executive director, Anthony Jordan, designated as chairman. The committee did not reflect the whole of the Southern Baptist Convention. Rather it reflected the exclusive views of the fundamentalist SBC Takeover faction.

The revision did not change the text of the 63BF&M. Rather, it added an article (Article 18) to the 1963 BF&M. The new article, disguised as an "Family" article, codified an unwritten fundamentalist doctrine relative to the submission of women in the church and home. Fundamentalists, since the beginning of time, have practiced gender discrimination in their homes and churches. Women are to be kept in their place. Wives are to be "submissive" to their husbands. Women are to be excluded from being pastors and deacons. Women must not be ordained to be either deacons or pastors. While the fundamentalists vehemently deny it, they relegate women to second class status in the church and home.

Oklahoma Baptists played a key role in codifying the regulation that women must be kept in their place. The 1998 BF&M was the first document in Southern Baptist history that codified the position of women in the church and home. The 2000 BF&M took the codification process a step farther.

I don't believe Almighty God had anything to do with the 1998 revision of the Baptist Faith and Message. The appearance of the 1998 BF&M was a low point on Oklahoma Baptist history.

The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message Became a Creed:
Oklahoma became one of the first state Baptist conventions to formally adopted the the 2000 BF&M. In August following the June 2000 SBC annual convention in New Orleans, the Oklahoma Fellowship of Directors of Missions formally adopted a resolution on the 2000 BF&M. Anthony Jordan, without the assistance of a resolution committee, presented the resolution to the DOMs. With very little discussion it was railroaded through and passed with one dissenting vote.

At the November 2000 BGCO annual meeting, the convention formally adopted the 2000 BF&M. From the floor of the convention, there were two attempts to dissuade Oklahoma Baptists from adopting the confession, which by that time was quickly becoming a creed for all Southern Baptists.

The 2000 BF&M presented disastrous consequences not only for Oklahoma Baptists, but for all Southern Baptists. Thousands of Southren Baptists suffered the consequences, especially the missionaries, seminary professors, and denominational employees. The 2000 BF&M became a test of fellowship in Oklahoma and across the denomination. Hundreds of faithful missionaries were fired or forced to resign for refusing to sign the creed-like confession. Scores of committed seminary professors were fired or forced to resign. Many good and godly denominational employees became casualties for speaking out against the confession. In an indirect manner, I lost my position as Director of Missions in Grady Baptist Association for writing and publicly speaking out against the confession. I am just one of thousands Southern Baptists who suffered the consequences of opposing the 2000 BF&M.

I don't believe Almighty God had anything to do with the creation of the 2000 BF&M. The God I love and serve is not the author of division and controversy. The God I love and serve does not demand that all Baptists agree, jot and tittle, with the fundamentalist Southern Baptist theology and agenda. The God I love and serve does not treat believers with the same disrepect that the present day fundamentalists treat their fellow Baptists. He is a God of love, not a god of controversy and division. The creation of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message was a low point, not only in Oklahoma Baptist history, but in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Almighty God is my witness!!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Why Am I Not Surprised?

Why am I not surprised? My polling place is a church. It is located three blocks from my house. I voted at noon. When I arrived at the polling place, there were about 20 voters ahead of me. As I stood in line, I glanced over to a table next to the wall and saw a sample ballot.

I decided to examine the ballot as I waited in line. There beside the ballot was a copy of the Oklahoma Voter's Guide. (Click on the photo to see a larger view) Someone had apparently gone to the Oklahoma Family Policy Council website, copied the entire contents of the voters guide, and placed it beside the sample ballot. I was amazed beyond belief that anyone would have the audacity to break the law like this. It is against the law to post any sort of political advertisement inside a polling place, much less beside a sample ballot.

Rather than cause a ruckus, which I could have easily done, I registered, received my ballot, and went to the voting booth and marked it. After entering the ballot into the voting machine, I casually went to the table, picked up the voter's guide, and walked out. I was angry. Very angry.

I decided to drive down to the Garfield County Election Board and lodge a complaint. I told the official at the Election Board office what I experienced. I received a mixed response. The official indicated that it was against the law for something like this to occur. She said the people at the polling place were supposed to be on the watch for incidents like this, but didn't seem overly concerned. She asked which polling place had allowed this to occur. I told her and she declared that I had done the right thing by removing the document from the premises.

I don't honestly don't believe any election official, either at the local polling place or the county election board, had anything to do with placing the document where is was. Rather, I think it was probably someone from the Oklahoma Family Policy Council. I'm not sure how wide spread this was. It could have occurred just at my polling place. But knowing what I do about the zeal of people from the OFCP, I wouldn't be surprised if this kind of thing didn't happen all over Oklahoma.

The date on the voter's guide is 10/20/2006. Someone, whoever it was, apparently deliberately planned to plant this guide at a polling place. I would be interested to learn how many other polling places had these illegal documents beside the sample ballots. Of course, not being an election official, there's no way I could ever learn. But whether it happened just at my polling place, or whether it happened only at other polling places around the county and state, the people of Oklahoma Family Planning Council should be ashamed that one of their number should stoop so low as this. This is illegal by any standard of measurement.

Many Christians preach long and hard about faithfully abiding by the laws of the land. But when it comes furthering their own agenda, breaking the law apparently doesn't matter. Small wonder the world sees so many Christians as being hypocrites. Then again, why am I not surprised?

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Wounded Messenger...

Ray Sanders, editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger, is a wounded messenger. In a recent editorial, he expresses amazement that he would receive criticism for publishing a partisan political voters guide. He wrote:

"It amazes me that people want to "shoot the messenger" for exposing how candidates feel about real issues that are important to Christians. Are candidates so busy they don't have time to answer a brief questionnaire from the third-largest news publication in Oklahoma? Is it wrong for the Baptist Messenger to publish a candidate's response, even if it differs from the opinion of a reader? Is it the Baptist Messenger's fault that a Southern Baptist Governor supports the expansion of gambling in our state? Is it the Baptist Messenger's fault that a former Congressman running for Governor is against gambling, but is a Mormon? Apparently so, based on some of the reactions I have received."

Sanders also wrote,

"Here is the bottom line. The Baptist Messenger, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Family Policy Council don't endorse or support political candidates or parties. What should matter to Oklahoma Baptists is where the candidates stand on the issues. I don't care whether you support a donkey or an elephant or whether your blood bleeds blue or red. It concerns me little if you live in little Dixie or a high-rise apartment. What concerns me is whether your party affiliation will get in the way of how your conscience tells you to vote regarding the issues and how the candidates you elect represent our values.

Here's the bottom line. Sanders is engaging in partisan politics while using Cooperative Program dollars contributed by Oklahoma Baptists. He asks, "Is it wrong for the Baptist Messenger to publish a candidate's response, even if it differs from the opinion of a reader?" The answer yes. It is wrong to publish secular political comments in a special edition of a denominational paper. It is wrong for several reasons:

1) The special edition of the Messenger is partisan political advertisement.
It is wrong for churches and denominations to engage in partisan political advertising. Sanders can claim that the voter's guide is not a partisan political advertisement, but the questions contained in the guide are favorable to Republicans and unfavorable to Democrats. Small wonder the Democrats, including Governor Brad Henry, declined to answer the questionnaire. No straight thinking politician is going to engage in answering a questionnaire that puts him/her in a bad light.

2) The special edition of the Messenger is paid political advertisement. Who paid for this political advertisement? Oklahoma Baptists paid for the voter's guide. They paid for it whether they wanted to or not. There's no telling how many thousands of Cooperative Program dollars were spent on this guide. There's no telling how many thousands of dollars were spent on paper, printing, and postage to get this voter's guide into the hands Oklahoma Baptists. It is a travesty that Oklahoma Baptists should have to bear the cost of producing and mailing the voter's guide. Sanders (and the Baptist Messenger) should leave the paid political advertisements to the politicians and stick to publishing news for and about Oklahoma Baptist churches. The politicians can take care of their own advertisements and Oklahoma Baptists will have thousands of Cooperative Program dollars to spend on ministries that promote the gospel.

3) The Baptist Messenger is a newspaper for and about Oklahoma Baptist churches. The paper is a publication for and about Oklahoma Baptists. The purpose of the paper is to publish news for and about Oklahoma Baptist churches and to promote the gospel of Jesus Christ. The special edition voter's guide contains no news for or about Oklahoma Baptist churches. It contains nothing that promotes the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was designed to influence the outcome of an election.

Sanders wrote: "What concerns me is whether your party affiliation will get in the way of how your conscience tells you to vote regarding the issues and how the candidates you elect represent our values." My conscience tells me that Ray Sanders and the Baptist Messenger do not, and should not, tell Oklahoma Baptists how to vote in political elections. My conscience tells me it is wrong to publish a special edition of denominational newspaper to push a Republican agenda. My conscience tells me it would be just as wrong to publish a special edition of a denominational newspaper to push a Democratic agenda. My conscience tells me it is wrong to use Cooperative Program dollars to influence the outcome of any political election. My conscience tells me that it is wrong to strap the cost of the special edition "Voter's Guide" of the Baptist Messenger on Oklahoma Baptists. My conscience tells me that Oklahoma Baptists should not be in the business of secular politics.

I would see no problem with Ray Sanders writing editorials expressing his personal views in regular issues of the Baptist Messenger. No problem there because that's what editors should do. But don't spend thousands of Cooperative Program dollars publishing special edition partisan political voter's guides. If Sanders wants to write a thousand messages on his own blogsite, at his own expense, well and good. If he wants to encourage secular politicians to answer questionnaires to his own blog, well and good. If he wants to encourage five hundred of his friends in the blogosphere to get his message out, well and good. But don't do it at the expense of Oklahoma Baptists whose Cooperative Program dollars were intended to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ and news for and about Oklahoma Baptists.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A "Baptized" Voters' Guide

I was a Southern Baptist pastor for 35 years and a Director of Missions for 20 months. I am no longer a Southern Baptist, having become an American Baptist (ABC/USA). When I began my career as a pastor, Southern Baptists did not mix religion and partisan politics. Partisan politics didn't enter Southern Baptist life until 1979, when a Texas circuit judge, Judge Paul Pressler, introduced it into Southern Baptist denominational life. Pressler used a form of partisan politics to lead the fundamentalists to affect a takeover of the denomination.

By the 1990s, many Southern Baptists forsook their political-free moorings and joined forces with right wing Christians in giving full support to the Republican party. In Oklahoma, Christian groups began to publish voters' guides that were skewed to their political views. These voters guides were purported to be impartial and nonpartisan. But they were not. Not then. Not now.

It became a regular occurrence, during election seasons, for these voters' guides to be posted on windshields of automobiles in church parking lots on Sunday mornings. Many churches passed these guides out to their congregations on the Sunday prior to elections. I abhorred the Sunday prior to elections when I was a pastor of a local church. I hated to see election day because I knew that these biased voters' guides would would show up somewhere, somehow. I finally had to resort to posting guards in parking lots to prevent the voters guides from being distributed and posted on automobile windshields.

I abhor the idea of churches and denominations getting involved in producing and distributing voters' guides. Secular politics is NOT, and never has been, the purpose and goal of the church. The purpose of the church is to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. The purpose of the church is to evangelize the lost and disciple the believers. I am not opposed to Christians becoming involved in secular politics. I believe it's appropriate for Christians to be involved in politics, but I believe it is inappropriate for Christians to use the church as a platform for promoting secular politics and distributing voters' guides.

Voters' guides always claim to be impartial and nonpartisan. That claim, however, is false. Voters' guides are always biased to one view or another. I have never pastored a church that was comprised only of Democrats or of Republicans. I have never pastored a church wherein the members were all of one political persuasion. As pastor, I always sought to be totally unbiased when it comes to secular politics. I do not, and never did, discuss secular politics from the pulpit. I have, on numerous occasions, taken public stands from the pulpit on moral issues. But I eschewed discussing Republican or Democratic political views from the pulpit. That was a self-imposed off limits that I established for myself early in my ministry. God called me to preach the gospel and pastor people. He did not call me to become involved in partisan politics. I believe in the strictest interpretation of separation of church and state.

This week, the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger published, using Cooperative Program dollars, an Oklahoma Voter' Guide. According to a letter cosigned by Ray Sanders (Editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger) and Mike Jestes (Executive Director of the Oklahoma Family Policy Council), the Messenger seeks to provide a biblical worldview concerning news and information.

The Messenger, which is supposed to be a publication for publishing news about churches and denominational affairs, is now being used to promote a decidedly Republican agenda. The questions posed in the voters' guide are favorable to Republican candidates and are unfavorable to Democratic candidates. The guide promotes Republican candidates and makes Democratic candidates appear to be nonchristian. I am a Republican, but I don't believe a denominational paper should ever become involved in producing voters' guides that promote one view exclusively. Nor do I believe that a denominational paper should be used to influence elections.

Oklahoma Baptists should be ashamed of the Baptist Messenger. Oklahoma Baptists should be ashamed of BGCO Executive Director, Anthony Jordan, for allowing this voters' guide to be published. Oklahoma Baptists should be ashamed of Messenger editor, Ray Sanders, for publishing this guide. Oklahoma Baptists should demand that the Messenger refrain from publishing voters' guides. Oklahoma Baptists should demand that the Messenger stick to publishing news about Oklahoma Baptist churches, church events, denominational events, and promoting the gospel of Christ. Forget the idea of "Baptizing" a voters' guide. Instead, concentrate on promoting the baptizing of new believers.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Water Under the Bridge...

It has been a long time since I've written an article on Southern Baptist denomination's politics. About six months, in fact. Since Most of my writing is devoted to the BaptistLife.Com Discussion Forums, I haven't spent a lot of energy writing here.

Back in January and March, I wrote several articles hereon that related to Wade Burleson's stressful experiences with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board (SBC IMB). I have been keeping a close watch on his blogsite to see how things have unfolded. I have also kept close watch on several of the "young bloggers."

Wade has gotten quite a lot of attention on the BaptistLife.Com Discussiuon forums. I performed a rudimentary research back through two of the of the three discussion forums (the Baptist Faith and Practice forum and the SBC News and Trends Forum). I counted 36 thread titles that contained Wade's name. There was a total of 805 posts in the 36 threads. No less than 31,644 persons viewed and read the threads. And this included only the thread titles in which his name appears. I'm satisfied, although I did not research it, that his name appears in numerous other threads. I think it's safe to say that no other person has gotten as much attention as Wade Burleson. Not bad for nine months.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since early January when this controversy broke into the public eye. Wade's blog has had 353,449 visitors since December 10th. Initially, I was skeptical that Wade could make an impact on Southern Baptist life. I didn't think he could make much of a splash in the water flowing under the bridge. I didn't think he could impact the fundamentalists who hold the reigns of power in the denomination. Afterall, things have rocked pretty much the same since 1979 when Paul Pressler, Paige Patterson, and W. A. Criswell fired the first shots of the takeover.

All moderate Southern Baptists were marginalized and pushed aside as being radical "liberals." Many of them, including myself, lost their ministry positions and were driven away. According to the fundamentalists, we moderates don't believe the Bible because we refuse to use the word "inerrant" and reject the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. The myth floating around among the fundamentalist circles is that all Coopoerative Baptists are little more than disgruntled Southern Baptists. I confess that I get angry when I hear that CBFers are simply disgruntled Southern Baptists. Brad Guenther wrote a response to one of Wade's posts and declared as much. Guenther wrote:
William, I'm well aware that most CBFers are disgruntled former SBCers. 30th response in this blog

Guenther doesn't know what he's talking about and neither does anyone else who repeats such a ridiculous myth. I'm not a disgruntled ex-Southern Baptist. I spent more than five years trying my best to get along with the fundamentalists. I'm a moderate Baptist who gave every effort to cooperating with the fundamentalists but was fired because I spoke out against the 2KBFM. Neither the doctrine of inerrancy of the Bible nor the 2KBF&M are essential to being a Southern Baptist. And neither issue should be required for all Southern Baptists.

Being an Oklahoma Cooperative Baptist, I remember the Wade's 95 Theses against the the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma. Wade gave me a copy of that document a couple of months ago. I think Wade was mistaken to have written that document. I do hope that he has changed his mind regarding the 95 points against the CBFO. I hope someday to discuss the document with him one on one. But that's essentially more water under the bridge so far as I'm concerned.

I've changed my opinion about Wade in recent months. I believe he honestly desires cooperation among all Southern Baptists, even with the moderate Southern Baptists. I believe his opinion about moderate Baptists has changed significantly. I believe he now knows that we moderate Baptists aren't evil "liberals" who don't believe the Bible. He is receiving a lot of heat here in Oklahoma for fraternizing with folks like me. In Oklahoma, it's definitely not kosher to fellowship with moderate Baptists, specifically with Cooperative Baptists. But it happened recently. It really did. I sat beside him at a table and fellowshipped. Here's the proof.

I long to see the day when there will be reconciliation between Oklahoma conservative and moderate Baptists. I honestly believe that if it ever happens, Wade Burleson will be one of the leaders to facilitate reconciliation. One thing is for certain, a lot of conservative Oklahoma Baptists are going to have to come to their senses before it does happen. I once believed reconciliation was virtually impossible. Now I believe there might be hope, now that much water has flowed under the bridge of controversy.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Oklahoma Town Signs and Water Towers...

Fingerprints are unique to every individual. While all fingerprints are in some ways similar, no two people have identical sets.

Oklahoma cities and towns have unique identifying landmarks. While traveling around the state of my birth, I have collected photographs of city and town signs. While all of the signs are similar in that they give names to the town sites, they differ markedly in style and design. Over the past three years, I have collected more than 150 photographs of Oklahoma city and town signs. I now have 140 of these city and town signs ready for viewing by the readers. Click on this link and take a look.

Likewise, almost every city and town in Oklahoma has a water tower or two. Many have more than two. This link will take the lurker to 93 Oklahoma city/town water towers.

This is an ongoing project for me. As I collect and process the hotographs of signs and water towers, I will add them to this collection. Oklahoma residents may enjoy viewing these photographs. Hopefully others will as well. Enjoy...

Sunday, July 30, 2006

77 Oklahoma County Seats...

I'm an Okie by birth and by choice. Oklahoma history and geography is a passion of mine. In 1993, I went on a tour through all 77 Oklahoma counties in one trip. I called the trip, "Tour de 77 Oklahoma Counties." The trip was eight days in length and I covered 2,953 miles. I traveled through the 77 counties in a 1977 Oldsmobile. On the trip, I collected a sample of soils and a sample of rocks from each county. When I returned home, I made a display of the soils.

Recently, 13 years after my "Tour de 77 Counties, I traveled through the 77 Oklahoma counties again. The purpose of my trip this time was to collect photographs of the 77 Oklahoma county courthouses. I didn't travel to all the counties in one trip this time. Rather, I took several shorter, out and back, trips. Although the trips were shorter, I covered more miles (about 3,500 miles). From June of 2005 to June of 2006, I collected photographs of county courthouses. To verify that I had actually made the entire trip, I photographed myself in front of each courthouse. Here is the album that I created which shows each of the 77 Oklahoma county courthouses.

I'm not the world's best photographer, I may be the world's worst. Several of my photos are very poor. I apologize for that. I hope to eventually return to the counties and obtain better photos for my collection.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

My "Indian Way" Grandchildren

I'm 65 yrs old and have no grandchildren. There's not much I can do about it. None of my three children are married. There are times when I think I'll never see grandchildren of my own. If it turns out that I never have grandchildren, all is not lost because I have three sisters who have grandchildren. I'll just borrow my siblings' grandchildren (in Native American fashion) and enjoy them as I would my own, --if I had some.

Among the Cheyenne, as is true for most Native Americans, there is a tradition that one's siblings' grandchildren are his grandchildren.

My oldest sister (who is two years younger me), Mary John Carter, has eight wonderful grandchildren. So "Indian way" (or by Native American tradition), her grandchildren are my grandchildren... Her grandchildren live in Catoosa, OK; Dumas, TX; and Gallatin, TN.

Every year in June, Mary hosts a Cousin's Camp at her home in Hammon, OK. All of her grandchildren go to her house and spend a week doing all sorts of interesting and delightful activities. This year was special. One of our sisters, Jane Ann Bowen, our parents, John and Loy Flick, and I joined in the fun. We had a wonderful time doing activities with the children. Here's a pictorial account of the Carter Cousin's Camp of 2006. Am I proud of my "Indian way" grandchildren? You bet your boots, I am!!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Brotherhood of Catfish...

While driving through Staples, TX (southeast of Austin) a couple of weeks ago, I ran across this interesting sign.

Brotherhood of Catfishermen? Hmmm... Wonder what they talk about when they are picking up trash along the 2-mile stretch? Maybe they spin wild tales about how large that their most recent catch was...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Still Flickering, albeit lightly...

Long time, no messages posted... I wrote my last post on this blogsite back in March. August is almost here. Many events, including a major surgery for my wife and some personal illness, coupled with common garden variety neglect contributed to lack of posting messages. I'm still around. Meanwhile, I've been engaged in all sorts of good discussions on BaptistLife.Com. Join me there...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I met Dr. Carl Kell for the first time at the initial National Convocation of Mainstream Baptists in Charlotte, N.C. in 2002. He coauthored, and was selling his new book, In the Name of the Father: The Rhetoric of the New Southern Baptist Convention. I purchased a copy and quickly devoured it. It's a great book.

On Feb. 25-26, I attended the 5th NMB Convocation in Richmond, VA. Dr. Kell was selling another of his books, Exiled : Voices of the Southern Baptist Convention Holy War. The book contains the personal accounts of 29 Southern Baptists, many of them very prominent, who were exiled as the fundamentalists affected the Takeover that began in 1979.

The stories of Exiled are compassionate summaries of the anguish and anger felt by the larger community of sincere, honest, and committed Southern Baptist victims of the "holy war." At the same time, these writ­ers reflect the strength and power of their faith as they struggled against the leadership of the Convention. To their credit, they not only survived, but now flourish in their exilic journey.

I personally know several of those who wrote of their exile experiences. I wept as I read some of the stories because they reflect my own experience of being exiled from the Southern Baptist Convention. I was particularly touched by the account written by Dr. Paul Simmons. He spoke of many friends who were exiled, but silently refrained from telling their stories. Determined to tell his story, Simmons wrote:

My voice was not for sale no matter the pressures from trustees, Con­vention leaders, or administrators. The image that haunted me was the tragic story of Maeyken Wens during the Inquisition. As Will Campbell tells the story, this Anabaptist mother of nine insisted on her right to preach and teach in spite of the threat of the Inquisition leaders to silence her. Finally, found guilty of heresy and insubordination, she was condemned to die at the pyre. On the way to the execution, her tongue was screwed to the top of her mouth in order to keep her from speaking.

That screw in the tongue has been a vivid mental image regarding efforts by Convention leaders to silence their opposition in Southern Baptist circles. Some accepted the screw without much resistance. Some emerged early on as strong voices against the fundamentalists, then fell silent and publicly withdrew from the fray under pressure. Some sold their birthright for a lucrative severance package or the promise of promo­tions within the denomination. But the price of "success" was either that of not telling what was known about the unethical practices that were so commonplace in the fundamentalist juggernaut, or never being able to re­veal what was known even after going into exile. The screw in the tongue was a severe test of integrity. Few things were sadder than reading the state­ments of leaders forced out who could only mouth platitudes and defer to "the will of God" while admitting they could not be telling the inside or behind-the-scenes story. They went silently into the night, their tongues screwed securely in place.
The fundamentalist juggernaut was relentless in its effort rid the denomination of people whom they believed to be "liberal." How many times have I heard a fundamentalist declare that "those liberals don't believe the Bible?" Fundamentalism in religion is evil. Fundamentalism among Southern Baptists is evil. Fundamentalists would rather fight their perceived enemies than love them. About the fundamentalists, Simmons wrote:

To be sure, the fundamentalist movement took no prisoners. It was a fierce, no-holds-barred assault against the moderates in the Convention. They had the temperament for a fight to the finish, while moderates had no taste for the excesses involved in any political battle worth winning. Fundamentalists fought with the ferocity of a medieval crusader. They are "true believers" as described so well in the classic by Eric Hoffer. They are intransigent, dogmatic, aggressive, domineering, controlling, and ide­ological. They are also motivated by fear-fear their goals will not be real­ized, fear their faith will falter, fear homosexuals will ruin the family, and that pluralism will dominate the country.
Southern Baptists who experienced being exiled from the denomination will certainly identify with the stories in Dr. Kell's fine book. Fundamentalists, if they dare to read the book, should have their consciences seared with guilt. All of the exiles in this book are now my heroes of the faith. I will not allow my tongue to be screwed to the top of my mouth. I intend to resist fundamentalism with all my strength. Thank you, Dr. Kell, for writing this book. Thank you for helping to expose the evils of fundamentalism in Southern Baptist life...

Sunday, January 22, 2006

It's in the DNA...

While surfing the blogsites which are writing about the IMB trustee controversy, I found a post by a youngster named, "Joey." He is a student pastor who hails from Buford, GA, which in northeast Atlanta. In support of Wade Burleson's cause, he seems to be eager to see fireworks and fighting ensue. He wrote an interesting post which he titled, "Let the Fireworks Begin." Joey wrote:
It is a sad day to be a Southern Baptist. I can only hope and pray that we can mobilize a group who are willing to stand up for God and His Word to show the Southern Baptist Convention that being conservative is not the end of the battle. It seems that it has just begun. We do not need to exclude viable opinions and arguments from the boards and committees. Rather, we should freely discuss, debate and decide what is biblical, not what is practical or what secures our power. Just because some of us have a different methodology and philosophy of ministry does not make us liberal. If not accepting the status quo is not conservative enough, I guess we'll have to rewrite Scriptures to sanitize and conservatize (is that even a word) Jesus Himself.
How odd that the young guns, who seem to love fighting and "fireworks," are saying exactly the same thing the moderates were saying decades ago. How about these comments:

1) "We do not need to exclude viable opinions and arguments from the boards and committees."

2) "Just because some of us have a different methodology and philosophy of ministry does not make us liberal."

How ironic that these youngsters are saying precisely the same things we moderates were saying years ago. There was no honest reason to exclude the CBFers and moderates because they held different opinions about the Bible. The CBFers and moderates, while holding a different methodology and philosophy of ministry, were not liberals. These youngsters are completely oblivious to the fact that this is just another round of a fight that the older fundamentalists fought three decades ago.

It's not about doctrine or theology. It's about who holds the reigns of power. The youngsters fancy themselves as being "cooperating conservatives" but are unwilling to cooperate with anyone who will not cooperate with them. Small wonder that they love fighting and fireworks. They come by it honestly because it's in their DNA. The DNA of every fundamentalist contains a gene that produces a tendency to fight and watch fireworks...

Friday, January 20, 2006

Burleson, Blogggers & Bloviaters

I spent four hours this afternoon reading scores of blogsites. Most of the bloggers were from the younger generation of Southern Baptists who are either in seminary or less than a decade out of seminary. I must admit that the younger fellows are phenomenal blogging bloviaters. They are powerfully cocksure when expressing their opinions. And some of them can be quite humorous. One blogger (One who I’ll let the reader search and find on his/her own) wrote the following:

I've shaken the hand of Jerry Rankin, heard O.S. Hawkins respond to "How are you?" by saying "I'm blessed," and have an autographed autobiography of Jimmy Draper. I've heard Roy Fish tell a class on evangelism to "Put THAT in your Calvinistic pipe and smoke it." I've peed next to Danny Akin while he told me stories about the ethics class he took under Paige Patterson. I've had Ken Hemphill (cowboy boots and all) and his wife Paula in our Fort Worth townhouse for brownies and ice cream. I've had many conversations with Al Mohler, including one about an episode of Prairie Home Companion.
This guy is way beyond me because I don't believe I've ever had a conversation with anyone about anything while standing in front of a urinal.

I discovered several interesting points while reading the young bloggers. Especially in the discussion about Wade Burleson:

1) The younger fellows seem to be ignorant (in the sense of being unaware or uninformed) of the history of the SBC takeover. It seems they believe rebelling against existing SBC leadership is something new. They believe the "conservative resurgence" of the last generation (the generation in which they did not personally know) was a theological battle while the IMB controversy is a battle over legalism. In truth, both battles related to power and control in the denomination.

2) The younger fellows seem to be oblivious to the fact that their rebellious nature mirrors the rebellious nature of the of the Pressler/Patterson faction. The Pressler/Patterson faction believed the SBC "liberal" leadership was nothing more than a "good ole boy" system designed to prevent conservatives from getting equal treatment in the system. The younger generation believes the present leadership runs things from behind a "green curtain." The younger fellows are suspicious of the very people gained the power for the fundamentalists. In truth, their rebellious nature is the same.

3) The younger fellows, especially the ones from Southern Seminary, believe that Al Mohler and Russ Moore are excessive legalists. I was surprised at the animosity shown toward Mohler and Moore. They are only recently discovering something that many of the older generation have known for a long time.

4) The younger generation has an element of communication (blogging) that the older generation did not have. They are at home communicating through the blogosphere. They know how to use the bells and whistles of the internet much better than the old codgers like myself and those of my generation. They're way ahead of us. My generation had only the print media through which to express ideas and opinions. Sometimes it took weeks to get a controversy going full-blown. The younger guys can get a controversy going in a matter of hours. Through the print media, we couldn't produce near the volume of material that they then can in the same amount of time. I'm into the blogging scene but in reality I'm a dinosaur compared to the young fellows. They leave me, and others of my generation, in the dust. They're true bloggers. I'm a slogger...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Shootout at the IMB Corral...

There's a war going on over at the IMB corral. The war is between the SBC Crusading Conservatives and the SBC Cooperating Conservatives. The majority of the IMB trustees are crusading conservatives. Wade Burleson is one of the leaders of cooperating conservatives.

The crusading conservatives are on an eternal crusade to keep Southern Baptist missionaries spotlessly pure according to their view of Southern Baptist orthodoxy. The cooperating conservatives are willing to fudge a bit and allow missionaries to hold views that aren't exactly in line with Southern Baptist orthodoxy. Crusading conservatives and cooperating conservatives are exactly alike. Neither group will cooperate with people who refuse to cooperate with them. So much for the idea that "cooperating conservatives" really want to cooperate with others unless others cooperate with them on their terms.

Here's the way the war at the IMB Corral started. The IMB trustees were all gathered at the corral for a regular trustee meeting. Some of the trustees were caucusing in small groups outside the corral. In a previous meeting, the trustees had changed the IMB policy regarding missionaries. The new policy change tightened the ropes around the necks of the missionaries. Apparently, they were also planning strategy to put a hangman's noose over the head of IMB foreman, Jerry Rankin. Wade didn't like this one bit. He didn’t like the fact that he couldn’t control the same IMB policy that the crusading conservatives were trying to control

Wade had a plan when he went to the corral. He loaded his shiny, smooth blogosphere pistol with cyber bullets. The shots that initiated this war came from his cyber pistol. Wade walked into the IMB corral and emptied his pistol of cyber bullets at the at the IMB trustees who would not cooperate with him. The IMB trustees were stunned for a short while, but none were severely wounded. They ran and hid in the back room of the ranch house behind the corral.

For a day or two, the IMB trustees hunched down behind closed doors and yelled loud verbal curses at Wade. They were very angry at the kind of bullets he was using. Many of the IMB trustees had never seen the kind of bullets he was using. Some said the bullets were made of something akin to pornography. Others said the bullets were made of slander and gossip. Finally after taking Wade's best shots, the IMB trustees decided to return the fire with a shot of their own. Instead of using a cyber pistol, which can only inflict injury to one's ego, the trustees used a huge cannon that could kill one's membership in the body of trustees. The IMB trustees fired only one shot from their big cannon and Wade was fired from the IMB trustees.

At the end of the day, Wade lay not dead, but severely wounded. He managed to crawl back to his hideout. Meanwhile back on the SBC ranch out in the hinterlands, Wade’s buddies heard about fight at the IMB corral. The young guns called one another to arms. They began firing cyber blogshots at the IMB trustees and everyone else within range. Of course the whole world is within range of a blogshot. An interesting thing about shooting with cyber pistols is that cyber bullets can go literally around the world in a split second. They aren’t always accurate, but they sure are fast. They’re much faster than speeding bullets of the regular kind.

I am happy to report that Wade, although wounded, is gaining strength every day. He’s not dead. Certainly not by a long cybershot. His cyber buddies are whipped up into a cyber frenzy. They are excited about waging cyber war with the IMB trustees through the blogisphere. The big shootout is yet to come. That will happen at the Greensboro corral in June. Stay tuned…

Monday, January 16, 2006

Is God the Author of Controversy?

From the beginning of the of the SBC takeover until now, the fundamentalists have claimed God's leadership in controversial actions. The fundamentalists have consistently claimed that God "led" them to controversial actions that would rid the denomination of so-called "liberalism." Paul Pressler was one of the first to openly express the idea that God was behind the takeover. Regarding the takeover, Pressler wrote:
The SBC controversy was a hill on which to die. Many did die-if not phys­ically, in other ways. It was a hill that had to be won, and won it was. I am grate­ful for those who will lead in the future. I am grateful for the many, many young people who will not be damaged in our Southern Baptist institutions by liberal teachers but instead will go forth with hearts aflame for God. I am grateful for the increased mission activity. I praise God, for only He could have brought about the present result.
Source: A Hill On Which To Die, p. 306

According to Pressler, God was power behind the takeover. If God was behind the takeover effort, then God was the author of division and controversy. Is God the author of controversy? Apparently he is, if we can believe Pressler.

In response to the current controversy of Wade Burleson's removal as a trustee of the International Mission Board, he wrote an interesting blog that delineates Five Salient Points about his position. Point 5 is interesting:
(5). Finally, I am convinced that these actions were caused by God to bring about result that would be impossible without such a public act. Because I believe God is behind it all I don't pay much attention to what men say.
Wade is convinced that God is behind the current controversy. Essentially, he is crediting God for the controversy. Apparently, God is on his side and is opposed to those with whom he disagrees. The logical conclusion is that God is the author of controversy.

Does God cause controversy? Does God create situations where controversy is the only way to solve disagreements between believers? I think not. I can't imagine a situation where God deliberately creates controversy. The God I know and love isn't that kind of God...

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Anthony's Dilemma

Wade Burleson is an Oklahoma Baptist. He is pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist church in Enid. He is a past president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. He is a freshman trustee on the SBC International Mission Board. He is an avowed inerrantist who opposes anyone who appears to be "liberal" among Southern Baptists. He is an influential figure both in Oklahoma Baptist life and Southern Baptist life.

Wade has two claims to fame. First, he opposed the formation of the Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma. In a recent blog, Wade wrote:
"I have stood side by side with my fellow conservatives and toe to toe with liberals in our convention over the years. When the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship organized in Oklahoma I nailed on the door of their organizational meeting "Thesis Against the Formation of the CBF", an act which marked me forever as an opponent of the CBF."
Secondly, Wade's latest claim to fame is that he stood toe to toe with fellow trustees over a disagreement in the direction which the IMB is moving. He dared to oppose the powerbrokers, both inside and outside the body of trustees. The powerbrokers inside the body of trustees have apparently been violating the rules of decorum. Many of the trustees are unhappy with IMB President, Jerry Rankin. Wade claims that the trustees want Rankin's head on a platter. They want him fired or relieved of his position.

The powerbrokers outside the trustees are led by Paige Patterson and friends. Apparently, they also want Rankin's head on a platter. For more than two years, Patterson has been working behind the scenes to replace Rankin with a person of his choosing. Wade is fighting tooth and toenail as he stands toe to toe against the group of people he claims to be "crusading conservatives." Wade claims to be a "cooperating conservative," but he is certainly not cooperating with the crusaders. His refusal to cooperate with the crusaders has launched him into the limelight in a big way. So what we are observing now is a major war between the crusading conservatives and the cooperating conservatives.

Anthony Jordan is an Oklahoma Baptist. He has served in the highest offices available to an Oklahoma Baptist. He is a past president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. He is presently serving as the Executive Director of the BGCO. He also is an influential figure in Oklahoma and Southern Baptist life. He has several claims to fame, not the least of which is his service on the committee that gave Article XVIII of the Baptist Faith and Message to Southern Baptists. The article was added to the BF&M in 1998. Anthony was the chairman of that committee.

The significance of Article XVIII is threefold. One, the article codified the doctrine that women are commanded to be "graciously submissive" to men in the home and the church. Second, it helped to codify the doctrine that women are not allowed be pastors of local churches. And third, it emboldened the powerbrokers to execute yet another revision just two years later in 2000. The 2000 BF&M codified the doctrine of inerrancy for Southern Baptists.

Anthony is facing a major dilemma concerning the current IMB trustee controversy. He is between a rock and a hard place in the worst way. Anthony's is being forced to choose between the crusading conservatives and the cooperating conservatives. The crusading conservatives are backed by the major powerbrokers in the denomination. The crusading conservatives are led by the group that affected the takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. This would be Paige Patterson, Paul Pressler, and numerous others.

The cooperating conservatives are led by one man, Wade Burleson. As it stands now, there are no major Southern Baptist figures who claim to be in agreement with the cooperating conservatives. But there has been a ground swell of cooperating conservatives who have risen up in arms over the past week. If one is to believe the huge number of messages in the blogisphere, one would have to concede there are more than a few cooperating conservatives who refuse to cooperate with the crusading conservatives. It's interesting that the crusading conservatives will not cooperate with the cooperating conservatives. It's also interesting that the cooperating conservatives want desperately to cooperate with the crusading conservatives, but flatly refuse to cooperate with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. I can hardly believe that the cooperating conservatives are really cooperating kinds of people. They will cooperate only with people who will cooperate with them on their terms.

Anthony's dilemma comes down to this. Will he choose to cooperate with the crusading conservatives who have the denominational powerbrokers power behind them? Or will he choose to cooperate with the conservatives who are composed of one powerbroker and a host of disgruntled cooperating conservatives? Now that's a real dilemma if there ever was one. My hunch is that Anthony will lay low for a short while, stick a wet finger in the air, see which way the wind is blowing, and then make his decision. Since he has plenty of denominational political aspirations, he can't afford to choose the wrong side in this uncooperative fight. If he chooses the side of the crusading conservatives and they lose, he loses. If he chooses the side of the cooperating conservatives and they lose, he loses. In the end, I believe Anthony is in a lose-lose situation. I can't see how he can possibly come out a winner; even if he chooses what he thinks will be the winning side. Am I ever glad I'm not in Anthony's shoes...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The IMB Meltdown Continues...

It comes as no surprise to me that the International Mission Board of the SBC (IMB) is experiencing yet another crisis. It's not surprising that the fundamentalists are now beginning to turn on themselves.

Wade Burleson, the immediate Past President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, is facing the worst of what fundamentalists do to those who do not stick with the party agenda. Fundamentalists desire absolute control and will tolerate nothing less from anyone, including their own. I want to make two points in this blog:

First, the IMB is in a meltdown. Actually it's the continuation of a meltdown that began many years ago. It began when the IMB board of trustees reached the tipping point and became a majority of fundamentalists. In 1982, Keith Parks, resigned from the IMB in protest against a hostile fundamentalist board of trustees. He joined the CBF and became head of the CBF Global Missions program (which is the CBF equivalent to the IMB).

There have been numerous signs of meltdown in the IMB, not the least of which was the mandate for all IMB missionaries to sign the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. That crisis led to the firing and exclusion of over a hundred missionaries. There were no tears shed by the fundamentalists as Jerry Rankin and the IMB forced many good and faithful missionaries home from the field because they could not in good conscience sign a man-made creed. The hurt and pain of this crisis was felt by thousands of Southern Baptists who couldn't understand why the IMB would act in such an unchristian manner.

Now comes Wade Burleson's attempt to stand up to the powers that be. He is now facing the wrath of those who will tolerate nothing short of absolute conformity. I feel Wade's pain. I experienced it myself. I understand what he's going through. For all practical purposes, Wade is now persona non grata to the very people he supported when the SBC attempted to silence the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. It's a crying shame. I can't say, however, that I'm surprised at the way he is being treated.

Secondly, many of Wade's supporters are attempting to say that there is a difference between what he did 16 years ago and what is happening now. In 1992, Wade wrote a "95 Thesis Why the CBF Should Not Exist." He tacked it a door of the room where the CBFO was formed. In one of his blogs, Wade wrote:

I have stood side by side with my fellow conservatives and toe to toe with liberals in our convention over the years. When the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship organized in Oklahoma I nailed on the door of their organizational meeting "95 Thesis Against the Formation of the CBF," an act which marked me forever as an opponent of the CBF. Source...

(On 2/6/06, Wade edited out the words highlighted in red)

Now that Wade is experiencing the wrath of the fundamentalist IMB trustees, his supporting friends are attempting to say that this is a different sort of fight. Wade wrote a blog that attempts to differentiate between groups of fundamentalists. Wade says there are "crusading conservatives" and "cooperating conservatives." He is casting lots with the "cooperating conservatives." Many of his supporters are casting lots with "cooperating conservatives."

The truth of the matter is that there isn't ounce of difference between the "crusading conservatives" and "cooperating conservatives." Both groups have the same attitude toward all others who don't agree with their line of thinking. Crusading conservatives fight everyone including themselves. Cooperating conservatives desire to cooperate with crusading conservatives, but despise the Cooperative Baptists (the CBF). Cooperating conservatives cooperate with hardly anyone other than their own kind. Which hardly qualifies them as being "cooperating conservatives."

A curious thing to me is that Wade didn't want to cooperate with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship but he desperately wants to cooperate with the fundamentalists. In the end, those who try to differentiate between "crusading conservatives" and "cooperating conservatives" are fooling only themselves.

Wade Burleson is hurting. I feel his pain. I've been there and have experienced that. I applaud his courage to stand up against powerful people. I am praying for him.