Tuesday, November 28, 2006

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!!


Jim Paslay said...

The 1963 BF&M was brought about because of the fear of controversy over the Elliott fiasco at Midwestern Seminary. Would you say that God didn't have anything to do with it either?

David Flick said...

Yes, Jim, the Elliott controversy was a fiasco par excellence. And no, God didn't have a thing to do with the terrible treatment Elliott received from the fundamentalists. Regretfully and shamefully, a number of Oklahomans were involved in the controversy.

There was a two-day meeting at the Capitol Hill Baptist Church in March of 1962. A number of prominent Oklahoma pastors gathered and plotted against Elliott. That meeting was just one of a number of lynch mob type meetings that started the ball rolling to get him fired from Midwestern Seminary. For nearly a half a century now the fundamentalists have gloated about how they "saved" Southern Baptists from a godless liberal professor who didn't believe the Bible. And that's exceedingly sad because they didn't save Southern Baptists from anything. They were simply part of a multitude of people who drove the SBC down the road to fundamentalism.

Jim, Have you done the research on Ralph Elliot? Have you read his commentary, The Message of Genesis? Have you read his book, The "Genesis Controversy" and Continuity in Southern Baptist Chaos - A Eulogy for a Great Tradition? If you haven't, I would encourage you to read them. Elliott was a marvelous OT scholar.

The people who opposed him, including K Owen White and Paul Pressler, didn't know what they were talking about. They were blinded by their narrow fundamentalist views and were vicious in their unchristian treatment of Elliott. History will treat him kindly. History will not be so kind to the fundamentalists who destroyed his teaching career at Midwestern.

Four years ago, I wrote some random thoughts about Ralph Elliott. Those thoughts grew out of an experience I had in a Sunday School class in Chickasha shortly after I had been forced out of my DOM position at Grady Baptist Association. Here's a link to that article.

The fundamentalists among Southern Baptists will never realize it, but what they did to Ralph Elliott stinks to high heavens.

Jim Paslay said...


I am troubled by some of your statements concerning the "family amendment" that was approved in 1998. I guess I must really be gullible but when the individuals on that committee used Ephesians 5 almost verbatim to explain key beliefs, I don't understand your gripe unless you have a problem with God's Word.

Now I know among some moderates that Paul is a big sexist homophobe and we should gravitate toward Jesus's words over Paul, but I am at a loss over the hostility over this amendment. I guess we "funny-damn-mentalists" have a problem because we take God at His Word and we tend to make it black and white instead of gray. We kinda believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman and not the same sex. We are also some of those narrow-minded people that believe that life begins at conception and that abortion is the taking of human life.

When it comes to the family, we "funny-damn-mentalists" believe that Ephesians 5 is pretty important and that it is the blueprint for marriage relationships. Now, if you can prove to me that Paul didn't really say, "Wives, be subject to your husbands," I'll drop my support for the 2000 BF&M. Maybe Ephesians 5 is one of those spots that moderates don't believe is inspired!?? Now if you really believe that the amendment was passed to put women in their places, can I assume that you feel the same way toward God? Did God put them in their place?

I can certainly understand your venom toward those sorry "funny-damn-mentalists" but God's Word is truth. And the God of truth cannot give us error. And I am most confident that Almighty God will not go back on His Word. Therefore the "family amendment" is true!

David Flick said...

Jim Pasley wrote:
I am troubled by some of your statements concerning the "family amendment" that was approved in 1998. I guess I must really be gullible but when the individuals on that committee used Ephesians 5 almost verbatim to explain key beliefs, I don't understand your gripe unless you have a problem with God's Word.

Jim, I don't have a problem with God's word. None whatsoever. But I do have a problem with the way the fundamentalists interpret
Ephesians 5:21-33.

In the first place, you need to recognize that many good Baptists interpret the passage vastly different than the way you do. Secondly, when interpreting passages from the Bible (any passage), the entire context should be considered.

My interpretation of the passage hinges on v. 21 & v. 33. Verse 21 says, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." I interpret the verse to mean that men and women are to submit to one another in an egalitarian fashion.

I interpret vv. 22-33 as being a model of how the church is to relate to Christ. Paul is using the 1st century model of marriage as an illustration of how the church should be in total submission to Christ. I don't believe the passage is a model of family relationships.

The existing model of marriage was all Paul knew and understood. He did not understand that 20 centuries later in the United States of America, the model of marriage would be much different that the 1st century model. Take close notice of v. 32. ("This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church.") Paul is not talking about the family at all here. He's talking about the church's relationship to Christ.

I don't expect you to agree with my interpretation, but you need do know that there are other ways to interpret the passage. And many good Baptists, including myself, to have other ways of interpreting Ephesians 5.

The truth of the matter is that the fundamentalists don't own the corner on the only absolute correct interpretation of Ephesians 5 (or, for that matter, any other passage in the Bible). I'm not about to force women in my church into a second-class position in the church or the family...

The problem I have with the fundamentalist interpretation is that they attempt to superimpose a 1st century model of marriage (and family) on 21st century believers

David Flick said...

Jim Pasley wrote:
I can certainly understand your venom toward those sorry "funny-damn-mentalists" but God's Word is truth. And the God of truth cannot give us error. And I am most confident that Almighty God will not go back on His Word. Therefore the "family amendment" is true!

I think the "Family Amendment" was simply the first effort to begin the process of changing the '63 BF&M. The fundamentalists knew if they could squeeze a small change by adding an amendment, it would be easy for them to come back and radically change the whole confession. Furthermore, it would be easy to make the new confession to become a creed. Hershel Hobbs warned of this many years earlier.

The "Family Amendment" also codified for the first time the unwritten doctrine of submissive women. Prior to that, there was no written pronouncement that women were to be submissive to men in the home and the church. It made it much easier for them to come back and codify the prohibition of the ordination of women to be pastors and deacons.

The Family Amendment wasn't the worst change made by the revision committee, but it ranks right down there at the bottom among the worst. The worst change was when they removed Christ as the criterion for interpreting the Bible. That was when Southern Baptists began their descent into

John Russell said...

The first time I remember attending a Southern Baptist church was Grace Memorial Baptist Church on 25th Avenue in Gulfport MS. I was a toddler and my mother had one hand and my Aunt Holleta the other as we crossed 25 Avenue to the church building. Pastor P. S. Dodge was the pastor. I do not remember the content of his message, but the love he had in his heart registered in my heart. This was about 75 years ago.

Later, I received Christ as my Lord and Savior when I was seven years old in Victory Missionary Baptist Church in Gulfport MS.

I joined the Navy when 17 years old as a "good old backslidden Baptist boy." A friend invited me to an Assemblies of God tent meeting and I was restored to fellowship with the Lord.

Later, I served as an Assemblies of God minister for over 40 years.

SWBTS in Fort Worth accepted me in the MRE/MA(RE) program and awarded me the degree. They also awarded me a DMin in 1981. I am deeply grateful for their (your) kindness.

Jesus said, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:34-35).

Brethren, Let us love one another.

Dr. John E. Russell
Chaplain (COL) AUS, Retired
Vietnam 1969