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Seminary president calls Chapman to task
Norman Jameson, BR Editor
June 24, 2009
7 MIN READ TIME

Seminary president calls Chapman to task

Seminary president calls Chapman to task
Norman Jameson, BR Editor
June 24, 2009

Louisville, Ky. — The president of Southeastern Baptist Theological

Seminary called comments in a speech by Southern Baptist Executive

Committee President Morris Chapman “disingenuous” and “shameful” during

a panel discussion hosted by B21 at an Acts 29 church start.

“I wish to apologize to my Calvinist brothers and sisters who are here

for the horrible misrepresentation of your position this morning,” said

Akin, one of six participants in a panel to discuss with young pastors

the viability of continuing involvement with the Southern Baptist

Convention.

B21 is a loose network of persons “seeking to be Baptist in the 21st

century.” Acts 29 is a network of church planting churches whose

foundational documents are clearly Calvinistic.

Many member churches are dually aligned with both Southern Baptists and

Acts 29. Sojourn Community Church in Louisville hosted the panel

discussion, attended by 400-500 filling the main meeting space and an

overflow room. The majority of participants were the young pastors,

leaders and students whose participation in SBC life is coveted by SBC

leadership.

Earlier in the morning Chapman brought his annual address to the 8,450

messengers registered at the time for the annual Southern Baptist

Convention. Although he never uttered the word “Calvinism” he spoke

directly both to it and to the “emerging church” in his remarks.

“Man’s system will be inferior to God’s system now and forever,” he

said. “The belief that sovereignty alone is at work in salvation is not

what has emboldened our witness and elevated our concern for evangelism

and missions through the ages. This is not the doctrine that Southern

Baptists have embraced in their desire to reach the world for Christ.

“If there is any doctrine of grace that drives men to argue and debate

more than it drives them to pursue lost souls and persuade ALL MEN (his

emphasis) to be reconciled to God — then it is no doctrine of our Lord

Jesus Christ.

“The sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man both are taught

in the Bible. Both are necessary elements in the salvation experience.”

He referenced previous controversies over Baptist identity and said,

“While the controversy raged and theologians were arguing about Baptist

identity, Lottie Moon was boarding a boat to the distant shores of East

Asia.”

“The church did not — upon receiving the Spirit of God (at Pentecost) — write a theology text, or form a committee or establish a

bureaucracy or construct a building or engage in idle arguments about

the extent of the atonement or the nature of election.”

Akin said the next day that he has never heard a Calvinist say that

man’s response to the urging of God’s Holy Spirit is not a necessary

ingredient for salvation. He said Calvinist theology has always been

present in Southern Baptist life, at varying degrees. The difference

between the Calvinist view of salvation and the traditional Baptist

view is a matter of emphasis, he said. Both agree God’s sovereignty and

man’s response are essential elements of salvation, but each party

emphasizes one of those elements.

Meeting June 23 in Louisville, home of Southern Baptist Theological

Seminary, whose president Al Mohler is a Calvinist and has returned

Southern to what he believes are its founders’ Calvinistic roots, the

young crowd at the B21 panel discussion likely had a strong Calvinist

bent.

After Akin’s opening apology, frank discussion was more about reasons

young pastors should stay within the Southern Baptist framework, and

financially support a system they do not fully agree with. Panelists

included Akin, Mohler, LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer, Mark

Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., host

pastor Daniel Montgomery and David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook

Hills in Birmingham, Ala.

Akin, Mohler and Stetzer are trusted figures among young pastors and,

with SBC President Johnny Hunt, have done much to invigorate active

discussion among them about reasons to stay involved with the SBC.

Mohler told the pastors and students “Don’t look for too much out of

the Southern Baptist Convention. Don’t find your identity here.” He

encouraged them to minister in their churches, find their identity in

Christ and plug into the SBC for connections and resources.

Mohler said the SBC has done good things, but growing up in SBC

churches, attending SBC schools and seminaries and moving on to lead

SBC churches and entities “produced a tribal identity … rather than a

gospel centered identity.”

While Acts 29 is a “fascinating model” Mohler said, he warned the audience against “developing a tribal identity.”

Mohler said pastors “can find many platforms” and it is “wrong to think

‘either or’” when picking a partner. While he said he hoped pastors

could identify with the SBC and other ministry partners, “there were

hints this morning that’s going to be hard.”

His comment was understood to be in reference to Chapman’s remarks, and

to the steady stream of messengers moving to limit SBC involvement with

Mark Driscoll, a plain speaking Seattle pastor whom many young pastors

admire.

Several panelists declined to answer, “Why should we support our state

Baptist convention?” but eventually Mohler said pastors and churches

“forfeit the right to speak into the situation if you don’t support it

financially.”

He encouraged them to “make every single contribution you make in

terms of mission and ministry support earn that support. Don’t give a

dollar you don’t think is well deployed in ministry and then hold us

accountable.”

Akin said it was easier to support the Baptist State

Convention of North Carolina where Southeastern Seminary resides because “it is moving in

the right direction” in terms of “incrementally” providing more

Cooperative Program dollars for ministry beyond the state.

Stetzer, who has worked for three national Baptist agencies and has

“seen the good, the bad and the ugly,” said he is “not impressed with

the Southern Baptist Convention. I’m not getting my identity from it.”

“Now is the time to engage and fix that system,” he said. “But don’t be

fooled. The voices of division will become more shrill before we come

together.”

Platt, whose church is large and fast growing, reminded the audience

that even churches “are not spending money that in every way is

accomplishing the Great Commission.” He said he knows that even in his

own church money is spent on self serving items.

Montgomery, pastor of the host church, said his church “owed the

structure for the existence of our church,” although he said six weeks

after it started he was already “taking hits” for doing things

differently.

“There is a need for the emerging generation to be schooled in gospel

humility,” he said. “There is a need for the generation before us for

humility to let us fail.”

He said if Stetzer, who “found” and encouraged him to start a church,

had not responded with humility to Montgomery’s early failings, “I

would have left the relationship.”

Complete coverage of the 2009 SBC meeting