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.