SBC President Condemns NBC

There has been another salvo fired against the formation of the New Baptist Covenant (NBC). Not so surprisingly, it comes from Dr. Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Page was quoted in a recent Baptist Press article as saying “I will not be a part of any smokescreen leftwing liberal agenda that seeks to deny the greatest need in our world, that being the lost be shown the way to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (5/30/07). I say that this is not unusual but in a sense I had hoped that this SBC president would at least be more open to getting the whole story before condemning a gathering of more than 40 kinds of Baptists scheduled for early 2008.

Initial reports for this NBC meeting anticipate approximately 20,000 Baptists gathering in Atlanta to talk about what we have in common as Baptists and how we can work together across racial, gender, social, and economic barriers for the cause of Christ. This is the preliminary idea I’m getting from their website (newbaptistcovenant.org). With all the things that divide us, it is worth taking a second look at those issues that we all can labor together for to improve our world. That doesn’t mean that the gospel is diluted or that the particularity and uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the only way to heaven has to be dismissed. The NBC provides an opportunity to celebrate our historic Baptist distinctives and remember our denominational roots.

I’m not so naive as to think that the NBC isn’t above criticism but let’s wait until after the meeting to determine whether it’s a “smokescreen left-wing agenda.” The Atlanta meeting may very well turn out to be an affirmation of Jesus’ first sermon as recorded in Luke 4. Then again, the SBC president may very well equate both to be one and the same. There will undoubtedly be Baptists of a broad spectrum of theological and political stripes in Atlanta for the meeting in early 2008. This is a good thing, and if we can ever get past the label and libel technique in dealing with folks who don’t agree with us on everything, perhaps something substantive can happen. Like finding out that there are significant areas of agreement out there that stem from the words of Jesus as recorded in Luke 4.

I haven’t heard anything (yet) that remotely sounds like a denial of biblical authority or that Jesus Christ is the “way, the truth, and the life.” This is why Dr. Page’s soundbite is so disappointing to this Baptist. There is more to Baptist life than what happens in June at the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC president’s remarks are timely before the annual meeting and will garner some applause, but will it be interesting to see what the younger guard thinks of his criticisms. Several young SBC bloggers with a growing readership met with former President Jimmy Carter at the Carter Center earlier this year to talk about the agenda for the NBC. They will decide for themselves what to think. This is a novel concept.

Jesus’ first sermon generated a lot of criticism too, as it infuriated the religious establishment of that day. It shouldn’t be too surprising that an emphasis on his words would generate a similar response. Let’s avoid the “shoot first and ask questions later” approach to dealing with people. Time will tell whether the NBC has any merit or not.

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2 thoughts on “SBC President Condemns NBC

  1. Let’s be honest. Jesus was a liberal. He was from the very beginning of his ministry. He gave liberally of himself to his disciples, little children, and the outcasts of society. He was concerned about the poor, the hungry, the sick–I guess he was just a “bleeding heart” liberal, since “liberals” are supposed to be concerned about all of these. Or . . . was he just being Christlike?

    OK, being a political liberal and being concerned about the salvation of humankind are not the same things, but it is a little difficult for a hungry, sick, or hurting person to give his or her clear attention to a gospel witness. Do we have to choose between the two?

  2. Leave it to you to bring the Bible into this. I heard one of my seminary professors respond to this issue when asked by a student about why we feed people. Do we feed them in order to share the gospel? I recall the professor saying, “We feed them because they are hungry.” He encouraged sharing of the gospel also but also focused on the need. I don’t think he would require someone to sit through a sermon in order to get some food, however. It’s hard to listen when you’re hungry or tired.

    I am learning that it is okay to care about our world as Baptists. There seems to be a growing concern for the physical needs along with the spiritual. This is a good thing, but still somewhat controversial. Thus the criticism.

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