Keep the KBC a ‘Big Tent Convention’

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On May 29, I received an advance copy of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” from David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Within a couple of days, that statement was released via the Internet with an invitation for people to sign indicating their approval of the document.

Since that time, the document has dominated denominational conversations. While an admittedly small number of Southern Baptists spend their time engaging in conversations about the denomination, I believe growing publicity warrants two brief comments from me as your executive director.

First, I join others in expressing delight that we are debating the nuances of biblical soteriology rather than issues like what parts of the Bible we will choose to believe or whether we will ordain as ministers those who practice homosexuality. In a recent interview on the latter subject, a reporter asked if I believed Southern Baptists would soon begin to follow the lead of our society and of some other denominations and endorse gay marriage. I responded that we would not because, submitting ourselves to the Bible’s authority over us, we cannot.

Second, regardless of whether or not my personal convictions would permit me, I simply choose not to sign the document. The reason I choose not to sign the document is that I am committed to keeping the Kentucky Baptist Convention a “big tent convention.” What, exactly, does that mean? In order to be home to 2,400 churches, the KBC must be committed to including a diversity of churches and Kentucky Baptists.

Having spent many a night in a tent, I recognize that any tent needs corner stakes to keep from being blown away by the least gust of wind. Thus, to avoid being “blown here and there by every wind of teaching,” I believe the KBC must be anchored by our commitment to these four things: the truthfulness of God’s Word, our Lord’s Great Commission, the beliefs summarized in the Baptist Faith and Message, and cooperation. To exclude any Kentucky Baptist church sharing these four commitments is, in my opinion, a grave mistake.

Moreover, I do not stand alone in my opinion. The KBC was formed in 1837, eight years before the Southern Baptist Convention was founded in 1845. The commitment of Kentucky Baptists over the course of our 175 year history has been to partner with those who share our commitment to Scripture, to the Great Commission, to the varying streams of Baptist doctrine, and to cooperation.

That commitment has served well the Kingdom of God. I believe it will continue to serve well the Kingdom of God in Kentucky and to the ends of the earth.

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10 Comments

  1. Posted June 7, 2012 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    Brother Chitwood, I appreciate your leadership for Kentucky Baptists (and Southern Baptists). I hope we are indeed able to maintain a “big tent” denomination for committed and biblical Baptists across our state and our convention.

    • Posted June 8, 2012 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      Hoping with you my brother.

    • Posted June 8, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      Brother Winters, I echo your hope, and Dr. Chitwood, I appreciate your four commitments and leadership. Thank you!

  2. mark payton
    Posted June 8, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Paul just wondering if u signed the abstract principles for Southern being a adjunct Professor? Because I would have more trouble with that document then this one.

    • Posted June 8, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      Great question Brother Mark! Yes, in my role as a seminary professor I signed the document.

      If, however, the Abstract was being floated today as a convention-wide statement targeting the “New Traditional Bapitsts” I would not, in my current role as Executive Director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, sign the document. My theological convictions have not changed but my signature could be mis-interpreted as a desire to narrow the boundaries of cooperation in the KBC. Based upon that explanation I don’t think I am being inconsistent. Does that make sense?

      Signing the Abstract and also the recent Statement does seem, on the surface, a little inconsistent.

      Let me add that I trust from our relationship over more than a decade, you have observed that my signature on the Abstract and the theological convictions that represents have never caused me to be anything but affirming of my brothers whose theology fits within the BF&M, even we disagreed on some of the more technical aspects of soteriology.

      • Mark Payton
        Posted June 8, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        Thanks Paul for your explanation and friendship

  3. Posted June 8, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Dr. Chitwood thank you for responding to and seeking to diffuse a potentially divisive issue in our state. I especially appreciate your comment regarding four things that unite us as Kentucky Baptist. These four statements seem to allow both boundaries protecting us from theological danger and freedom for diversity within orthodoxy. I particularly appreciate your reference to the Baptist Faith and Message. If Dr. Al Mohler and Adrian Rogers could serve on the same panel and agree on the the contents of the BF&M then surely it can serve as a satisfying summarizing document for Kentucky Baptist. Thank you for your leadership.

    • Posted June 8, 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      Thank you, Todd, for your kind and well-stated comments. Though sometimes fragile, God has used our partnerships as Southern Baptists and Kentucky Baptists for great Kingdom advance. With you, I’m praying that our current debate in no way jeopardizes these partnerships.

  4. Posted June 13, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    Paul,

    Thanks for the leadership and friendship you provide not just to me but to many accross the KBC and convention. I chose to sign the document but in doing so my intent was never to exclude anyone but rather identify the document as describing my beliefs. While I don’t think there’s any real way to quantify how many pastors and churches hold to which position it’s my conviction that the document does summarize the thoughts and beliefs of the majority of Southern Baptists. Lifeway Research had a study, I think it was last year that put the figure at around 25% of “recent” seminary graduates who identified themselves as “Reformed” in their theology.

    I think we need to be careful to not exclude brothers from either position. I recently was at a meeting with a small number of pastors. We were discussing some opportunities to work together. One pastor (not Reformed) asked another (Reformed) at the table if he could “work” with everyone around the table. After hemming and hawing he finally said, “I’m not sure, I have a very high view of salvation.” The implication was that most of us, who do not hold a Reformed position, had a lower view of salvation and as such this pastor couldn’t work with us. I love all my brothers, Reformed and non-reformed. In fact if you were to question my staff here at Eastwood, I think you’d find at least 3-4 of them that would consider themselves “Reformed”. But we rally together around the cross of Christ and fulfilling the Great Commission taking the Good News to the ends of the earth.

    Again, maybe I misread something in the document (I’m going to go back and check), but in signing it, it was never my intention to state that as Southern Baptists we want to force this position on all, or make it a litmus test to serve. Blessings friend!

    • Posted June 13, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

      Tom, thanks for your comment. I’m not troubled by you signing off on the document. Other close friends of mine have done so. For me to do so, however, even if I felt I could, might be interpreted as a KBC endorsement. That may, as you say, serve to unwantingly exclude. As for the Reformed brother who cannot work with you, or others who cannot work with Reformed brothers, the KBC will never be small enough for them.

      I’m grateful for your faithful preaching and partnership in the gospel. Might God continue to bless and use you!