GCRTF VIEWPOINT (Lonnie Wilkey): Us and them
BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (BP)--I am now in my 30th year as a denominational journalist. That in itself is hard to believe. But after graduating from the University of South Carolina in 1980 I worked in public relations for North Greenville College (now University) and have been employed either at the state level or national level ever since.
As I get ready to leave for the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention next week in Orlando, Fla., I was reflecting on all the conventions I have attended since 1983 when I went to my first annual meeting in Pittsburgh. I have missed only two since then for various reasons, so I am guessing next week will be my 25th annual meeting.
One thing that stands out is that, at least in my 30 years of direct involvement, Southern Baptists, for some reason, have had an "us" and "them" mentality.
For the first 10 to 15 years, it was easy to distinguish between us and them. It was moderates and conservatives. But as conservatives took control of the convention, most "die-hard" moderates left the convention.
But the "us and them" mentality remains in the SBC even though I don't know if anyone really can define the distinction between "us and them" since everyone is generally considered to be conservative.
For instance, Morris H. Chapman is retiring in September as president of the SBC Executive Committee. When he was elected to the position in 1992, he was president of the convention and a leader in the conservative movement. He was definitely one of the "us."
But now, with only a few months remaining on his watch, he appears to be out of favor with current leadership in the SBC. He apparently will leave the SBC as a "them," whoever "them" are.
Chapman makes it clear he is very much opposed to the report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force which will be presented during the annual meeting next week. He wrote several articles in Baptist Press along with an "open letter" in which he offered some alternate recommendations to the GCR Task Force report.
In his letter, released in Baptist Press on June 4, Chapman wrote, "I would have wished that these last few months could have been different. Frankly, some encouraged me to 'Finish Well' by which they meant that I should slip off into the sunset without conveying my opinion about the GCTF Final Report. When I accepted the responsibility of this office in 1992, I did so with a commitment to keep Southern Baptists as informed as possible about the key issues confronting the SBC. Until September 30, 2010, I have as much responsibility in this regard as I did on October 1, 1992. I cannot shirk my responsibility simply because my time to exit my position is coming to a close."
I admire Chapman for standing up for his principles and beliefs.
I think most people believe in the basic premise of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report. I certainly do. We need to do what it takes to reach our state, nation and world for Christ. But it will take more than simply adopting a report in Orlando to see this resurgence.
A resurgence will happen only when and if Southern Baptists redefine "us and them" to the most basic of terms. "Us" is everyone who has confessed their sin and invited Jesus Christ into their heart as Lord and Savior of their life (believers). "Them" is everyone who has not yet made that decision and commitment (nonbelievers).
Put simply, fulfilling the Great Commission involves us (Christians) telling them (non-Christians) about the love of Jesus Christ. Sometimes Southern Baptists (and other denominations as well) make it more complicated than Jesus intended it to be.
Pray for the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. May we come out of those sessions united together to reach our world for Christ.
Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. This article was first posted at http://lonniewilkey.wordpress.com.