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.