Dr. Gene Garrison's
LETTERS FROM EXILE #2
March 30, 1999
The response from my first letter has encouraged me to write another. The friends who actually mail these letters tell me they only have addresses for churches and not for individual pastors. In a sense, I regret this because in my own mind I am writing to pastors as personally as I possibly can.
I received numerous replies to my first "Letter from Exile" and all but four of them were warm, positive, and encouraging (which I greatly appreciated). Two of them questioned my theology and my reason for sending the letter, and two of them were simply abrupt and unhappy. But ! In all of the other letters, I found a cordial spirit. Frankly, several expressed personal frustration and confusion about some of the same matters which continue to concern me about the "direction" of our Southern Baptist Convention.
I suppose the specific thing that prompts this second letter is an editorial in a recent edition of The Baptist Messenger in which Mark Coppenger, now President of Midwestern Seminary and one of the leaders in "the Conservative resurgence" writes of how glad he is to be a Southern Baptist because of our "unequivocal commitment to " (and he lists these four things): (1) Biblical inerrancy; (2) the new Baptist Faith and Message article saying that wives should be submissive to their husbands; (3) the male pastorate; and (4) the rights of the unborn.
Surely, these are not the only things to which Southern Baptists are committed. But they have become the main things. And that is what continues to give Southern Baptists their new identity: as a narrow, negative, judgmental people. What I have been sensing now for 20 years is that if a person does not agree and accept every nuance of every pronouncement of SBC leadership in these four areas, that person has no place in the denomination.
For example: You tell me if I "belong" in the Southern Baptist Convention today?
Am I still a Southern Baptist? I really would appreciate hearing from you. Please know that I am not just trying to stir up trouble. Nor am I a "power broker." Although I have retired from pastoring, I am still genuinely, deeply concerned about the denomination which I once believed God was raising up to become His missionary instrument to the world. I see the convention now dominated by the J. Frank Norris/Jerry Falwell kind of Fundamentalism, alienating and isolating people instead of relating to them with redemptive love. Do you share any of this concern?
By the way, my call-in radio talk show on Sunday mornings is going unbelievably well! From 8:30-10:00 a.m. each Sunday, I am on a network of stations across the state (both AM and FM) with a toll free telephone number: 1-888-339-1049 (460-1049 for OKC area). I have been on the air now for 13 months, and I welcome calls on all sorts of "religious" topics (its called "Religious Talk on Sunday Morning").
Either by mail or by telephone some Sunday morning, Id love to hear from you.
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