Vol. 2, No. 4 September 1999
Don't Mess With the Baptist Faith & Message
by Dr. Bruce Prescott
The Baptist Faith & Message has defined the beliefs of “Mainstream Baptists” for 75 years. In June the “Fundamentalists” controlling the SBC authorized a committee to review and revise our statement of faith.
There is method to their madness. Since the “Fundamentalists” seized control of the assets of the SBC in the 1980’s, they have replaced the leadership of every SBC institution and agency. Scores of denominational executives, administrators, and professors have been forced from their positions. Now rank and file Baptists are under assault.
The Baptist Faith & Message is the doctrinal guideline under which every existing missionary, professor and denominational worker was hired. Reviewing the BFM “to remove ambiguities” will certainly result in another wave of dismissals and forced retirements.
Revising the BFM also has profound implications for local Baptist churches. We’ve charted several ramifications.
Two of the most serious repercussions have to do with the legal documents that secure the assets of local churches.
Many Baptist churches have Constitutions and By-laws requiring their deacons and/or trustees and/or ministers to affirm the BFM. Any change in the BFM could make Mainstream deacons, trustees, and ministers who conscientiously object to aspects of the revised BFM vulnerable to opposition from Fundamentalists within their own churches.
Since the BFM was amended last year, churches with leaders opposed to the family amendment may already have need to review and revise their Constitutions and By-laws to protect themselves from legal challenges by takeover minded church members.
Other complications arise for churches with deed restrictions on their property. Many Baptist churches are built on land restricted to use by a congregation affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. If membership within the SBC becomes contingent upon affirming the revised BFM, dissenting congregations may be forced to rebuild at a different locations or fight court battles to keep their property.
Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists remember that 4 members of the 24 member committee that produced the 1963 BFM had ties to Oklahoma (Hershel Hobbs, Ed Packwood, Garth Pybas, and Hugh Bumpas). Only 1 member on the new 15 member committee is an Oklahoman (Max Barnett).
It is hard to believe that Oklahoma Baptists will be more fully represented on the new committee than they were in 1963. Don’t Mess with the BFM !!
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