It’s been a while since I’ve heard the president of a Southern Baptist institution say something worth hearing. David Dockery of Union University is and has been the exception. He talked about the future of denominationalism at a conference, indicating the helpfulness of the para-church organizations but not their necessity for church’s to do Kingdom work. Dockery called upon Christians to advance beyond their adherence to denominational distinctives, embrace the tenets of the gospel, and “move from handwringing to hopefulness.”
Denominations are in trouble. You don’t have to look beyond the show me state to figure that out. The Missouri Baptist Convention is having their annual meeting this month and they are voting on using those sacred cooperative program dollars to sue brothers and sisters in Christ over control over certain Baptist institutions. Many MBC churches are getting tired of this ongoing struggle and putting their lack of money where their mouth is. In the broader scheme, the Southern Baptist Convention is going through a fight right now over the Cooperative Program. There are those who emphasize “percentage” giving vs. those larger churches who focus on the “amount” that is given.
Although the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship doesn’t claim to be a denomination, this Baptist body also struggles with the reality of shrinking budgets and seeking a vision for the future. For almost 15 years, the CBF served as the anti-SBC body with the primary mantra “we’re not that kind of Baptist.” It’s been a necessary and helpful home for Baptists in exile, but now something more is needed to generate enthusiasm for the future of the movement.
This isn’t new information, but what is new is hearing Dockery’s commentary on the situation. His challenge to move beyond handwringing is welcome news to this Baptist but probably not for those whot I would add that these partnerships and cooperation will depend less on geography and more on philosophy. I