Month: March 2004

emPOWER rallies see a harvest

Fifty-seven students and one adult prayed to receive Christ during six emPOWER Rallies held across Texas in January and February, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention evangelism department reported.

The regional rallies, held in conjunction with the state emPOWER Conference held Feb. 9-10 in Arlington, drew total attendance of 3,218, including 2,168 adults. Rallies were held at Park Hills Baptist Church in San Antonio; Gardendale Baptist Church in Corpus Christ; Ridgewood Baptist Church in Port Arthur; Sherwood Baptist Church in Odessa; Lifeway Fellowship Baptist Church in Amarillo, and Exciting Emmanuel Baptist Church in El Paso.

“The regional emPOWER Rallies call laypeople and bi-vocational ministers to be involved in an exciting evangelism event that they could not attend any other way,” said Don Cass, SBTC director of evangelism. “Added to that, 58 people prayed to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. That makes these regional emPOWER Rallies worthwhile.”

The youth events included high-energy praise music from the band Rhythm and youth speaker Pat Cammarata.

Time to climb the ‘wall of separation’

No country in the world has been more agreeable to religious liberty than the United States. This can be fairly called a Baptist legacy, one of the most important things we added to the founding years of our nation. Some of the most horrible things in history have been done in the name of an official state religion. In it you have the compulsion of conscience toward one faith as well as the persecution of other faiths. The simple language of the Bill of Rights is intended to keep that from happening here. Our government is restrained from establishing or hindering a religious faith. That’s it. An amazing array of silly ideas spring from misuse of this plain language. Some of those notions threaten our freedom.

Silly idea one: Churches should have no voice in public policy. When President Thomas Jefferson paraphrased the first amendment commitment to religious liberty with the words “a wall of separation between church and state,” his original draft of the letter followed it by pointing out constitutional limits placed on government, not on churches. The problem with his metaphor is that a wall has two sides. This wall keeps government from meddling in the establishment or prohibition of religious exercise, but has also been used by some to limit the voice of Christians to affect government. Current IRS regulations, for example, allow a church’s tax exempt status to be threatened based on the content of a pastor’s sermon. HR 235 has been introduced, by the way, to restore free speech from the pulpit. My point is that we’ve gotten something badly wrong if we need to restore a pastor’s freedom to address public issues.

Silly idea two: Morality is the stuff of religion and not law. Some phrases have been more scornfully used than “legislating morality,” but not many. Some will say marriage is a religious issue and thus the state should not attempt to define it. Others say that it is a civil issue religious people should stay out of. This false dichotomy illustrates our problem. The state speaks to many things that are also religious. Neither should people of faith be told to store their convictions in the church house. Of course we legislate morality. Offending legislated morality is what puts people in prison.

I recently wrote an incumbent leader to express an opinion about a timely issue. The polite and affirmative response implied that the issue was a distraction from other issues of the day?issues more debatable and less sure. I need a clear note on subjects I do know about if I am to trust my leaders on subjects I do not know. Their impatience regarding these issues is mistaken. National security and financial prosperity will never make up for devastated institutions.

Silly idea three: A politician’s faith is no integral part of who he is. Some politicians duck controversial issues by stating their own views and then adding that they would not dream of forcing their views on someone else. A few have taken this “stand” on abortion; several are trying it on same-sex (it’s anything but gay) marriage. It’s scary that so many of us find these self-contradictory responses acceptable. When an elected official claims to believe one thing and then pursues policies contradictory to those stated convictions, there is no doubt what he really believes. A “devout,” pro-abortion Catholic, for example, falls short of any definition of “devout” as related to Catholic teaching. He is either the one thing or the other.

Silly idea four: An interest in public policy is unworthy of pastors and churches. Not usually stating it so baldly, preachers tend to think of Christian citizenship as less important than just about anything else we preach. Churches don’t give citizenship the prominence it deserves. Jesus speaks of us as “salt” and “light” in a declarative way. We are these things. The exhortation he gives is for us to project our new nature into our world. In our nation and in this time, we can influence the people who lead our nation. This rare gift implies that we must use it to express our distinctive and reborn worldview. We should be active citizens and intentionally Christian ones. In community, our churches, we should encourage one another to this good work as to any other. There is no reason churches shouldn’t help their members register to vote, teach them about issues, and encourage them to vote according to biblical convictions. Pastors should lead in this area as in other matters of discipleship.PAN>

Silly idea five: A voter’s faith is no integral part of who he is. I was raised in a Republican corner of a Democrat state. Northwest Arkansas was Republican for the same reason that the rest of the state was Democrat?because Mr. Lincoln won the War. I was surrounded by those who claimed they would vote for a yellow dog if he was of the right party. No reason was needed, no decision. This traditional view becomes insidious in the present day.

This is important. Some things a candidate promises, while sincerely intended, are beyond his power. Others are priorities that all candidates will honor but address with different action plans. No one, for example, is in favor of job loss, economic recession, weak national defense, or ineffective public education. The debate comes from the various ways we might achieve these laudable goals. It’s hard to choose between them because: A. Unforeseeable events often make the results of a policy unpredictable and unavoidable; B. Those who understand economics, diplomacy, and law better than me (or the candidates) will argue forever and still offer contradicting plans; C. My eschatology discourages the level of optimism that characterizes all political candidates (except Ralph Nader, perhaps). How should we then vote?

Not, I suggest, according to selfish interest (which is also largely unpredictable) or our guesses about whose plan will prosper America. Let’s vote according to what we do know this time.

We know that God has spoken on the subjects that challenge our society today?issues of justice, mercy, righteousness, and holiness. We know that life is holy, set apart as God’s sole prerogative to give and take. We know that families are the first and foundational elements of all human institutions. “Family” has a meaning that cannot be altered without catastrophi

Change can be for our good, God’s glory

Change happens so fast that it is hard to keep up.

We are about to move into a new building to house the offices of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. It is an exciting time. Although we will keep our mailing address and phone number for a period of time, all of that will change. My route to the office will be different. I currently travel a highway that has more than 25 traffic lights. If it sounds like a bitter spirit toward those lights because I know the number, you are right. My new route has 5 lights and four stop signs. It is a kinder, gentler path.

While the convention staff numbers remain small in church to staff ratio, we will be adding new ministry and support personnel. Don Cass has come on board as our new evangelism director. There will be others over the next six months that will help us carry out the assignment from the churches. Texas is a huge area with a large population. We are committed to doing more with less. God has honored this approach. It is exciting to get to know new people in the service of our Lord and His churches. These personnel moves will be changes for all involved.

Some changes must take place. Across the denomination, the Conservative Resurgence is an example of necessary change. I sense that God is about to begin another new move among His people. Once the nature of the Word of God and the doctrines that flow from it are settled, then we must turn our attention to obeying that Word. That is one important reason that the SBTC is an unapologetically confessional fellowship.

We need change on a regular basis. We need change in many of our churches. We need change in the lifestyles of the members. We need change in the spiritual level of our leadership. Those of us who are in ministry need change. Spiritual living is like riding a bicycle. You can’t stand still and you can’t go backward. My prayer is that God will continue to change me to make me more like Jesus.

The Southern Baptist Convention calls it “Empowering Kingdom Growth.” Henry Blackaby calls it “Experiencing God.” The North America Mission Board is calling it “What now, America?” Some refer to it as Spiritual Awakening. Old timers like me just say, “We need revival!” Whatever “IT” is, we need it. It will not come through a program, event, denominational agency or humanly devised plan.

Ministers and churches seemingly have tried it all. Now we must come to the end of ourselves. Let’s get radical about seeing God change us. When that happens, He can change our churches, communities and country. Don’t lament the crumbling of the culture. Just place yourself before the Lord and cry out to Him. Change will come for our good and His glory!

Yours for revival,

Jim Richards

Executive Committee recommends BWA withdrawal

NASHVILLE, Tenn.?The SBC Executive Committee, meeting in Nashville Feb. 16-17, voted 62-10 to adopt a report recommending the SBC withdraw from the Baptist World Alliance?an organization it helped start 99 years ago. In other business:

• SBC President Jack Graham said in his address to the Executive Committee Feb. 16 that he would appoint a committee to study a name change for the SBC.

• The Executive Committee on Feb. 17 voted overwhelmingly to request that New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees amend the school’s charter to make the SBC the “sole member” owner of the seminary. The request involves corporate language designed to clarify ownership and came after months of disagreement between NOBTS trustees and the Executive Committee staff about legal and Baptist polity implications regarding sole membership language under Louisiana corporate statutes.BWA Action

In the BWA action, the nine-member BWA study committee alleged aberrant theology and anti-American rhetoric evident at some BWA-sponsored events in its report. Messengers to the SBC Annual Meeting this June will vote on the BWA recommendation. BWA leaders and many moderate Baptists have criticized the expected separation between the SBC and the BWA.

Executive Committee President Morris Chapman opened the discussion by reading from a BWA funding study committee report revised since its initial release in December.

“(W)e need not now justify or vilify, but can simply do what we preferred to do in the first place, which is politely withdraw from an organization that, at least for us, no longer efficiently communicates for the unsaved a crystal-clear gospel message that our Lord Jesus Christ is solely sufficient for salvation,” Chapman said.

Despite claims by critics that the SBC’s move to withdraw from the BWA is fueled by the alliance granting membership to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship?an organization that has its own missionary network led largely by Southern Baptist moderates?Chapman said it is not, citing SBC reviews of the BWA’s mission and doctrinal integrity dating to 1997.

“One soaked by rain need not blame the last raindrop,” Chapman said. “We strongly affirm the right of the BWA to determine its own membership and affiliation. It is the very right we now recommend that our convention exercise.”

Chapman noted the action “is not intended to cast aspersion upon the many godly and enthusiastically evangelical Baptist fellowships that are members of the BWA. We fully intend to continue to partner with our oldest and best friends worldwide, and to develop new and vibrant friendships and joint endeavors to reach the world for Christ.”

Chapman said the proposed withdrawal is a stewardship issue and that if the harvest is multiplied by working through new channels, “there’s no true Christian who should take issue.”

The Executive Committee’s action urges the SBC to continue seeking ways to deepen relationships with “conservative, evangelical Christians around the world” and to seek a meeting between the BWA study committee and selected BWA representatives in Nashville prior to May 1.

Nancy McGuigan, Executive Committee member from Coatesville, Pa., read a letter on behalf of the administrative committee of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania-South Jersey, asking the SBC to seek reconciliation with the BWA, partly based on the state convention’s ethnically diverse membership and its connection with BWA member bodies.

Executive Committee member Janet Hoffman of Bernice, La, the national WMU president, also urged the Executive Committee to seek reconciliation with the BWA, while voicing admiration for her Executive Committee colleagues.

In discussing the proposed severance from BWA, Hoffman said WMU leaders’ prayers had been for unity.

“It is nevertheless true that (WMU leaders) represent grassroots churches from all the conventions too, and there are different positions that are held by those conventions, so we don’t go there,” Hoffman said.

Instead, they talk about the passion of being Great Commission Christians, she said.

“There’s a stewardship of witness here too,” Hoffman said.

Calvin Wittman, pastor of Applewood Baptist Church in Arvado, Colo., argued the action would be “a peaceful move” less divisive than remaining in the BWA, because of theological differences with the BWA’s more liberal members.

Bruce Martin, pastor of Villa

Graham urges consideration of name change

NASHVILLE, Tenn.?A name change for the Southern Baptist Convention has been proposed before, but the time is right to do it or put it to bed forever, SBC President Jack Graham said in his Feb. 16 address to the convention’s Executive Committee.

The Plano pastor, in his last address before that body as president, said he would appoint a committee “in the coming weeks representative of the convention both geographically and generationally. And it’s my prayer that this committee will be able to report back to the Southern Baptist Convention by the year 2005.”

A proposed name change has been discussed for several decades, Graham told the committee, noting that the late W.A. Criswell recommended it to the SBC Annual Meeting in 1974; it was last revisited in 1999 and voted down.

“I am so thrilled that we are committed to expanding the mission of Southern Baptists,” Graham said. “We are no longer a regional denomination. Across America, north to south and east to west and around the world, Southern Baptists are making a global impact. We are a network of churches which circle the planet. We are now kingdom focused. Empowering Kingdom Growth indicates the heart of this convention to move beyond ourselves and to advance the kingdom of God.

“It certainly is my view that now is the time to consider?seriously and prayerfully reconsider?a prayerful study of a name change for the Southern Baptist Convention, a name which will reflect who we are and what we are doing nationally and internationally.”

Graham said the Southern Baptist name has served the convention well. “But the fact is, this name that I love and you love is a name which speaks of our region and doesn’t move us beyond to the great cities of the Northeast, to the West, to the Midwest, and I believe once again it is time for us to look at the possibility of choosing ? a name which reflects our future.

“Why would we do this? Only one reason, and that is to strengthen and lengthen our witness here in America and around the world. Why would we do this? Because people are wounded, people don’t know Jesus and we are determined to do whatever it takes to connect with our culture and our country and the continents of the earth.”

“This is a season of time, a time set apart. And I believe it is time for us to take some bold steps as Southern Baptists. And I know that a name change ? will not change the hearts of people. But I believe a name change speaks to others in our cities?New York, in Los Angeles, Pacific Northwest, in Canada and around the world?of our intent to be a global, international network, convention, of churches which are determined to fulfill the mission, the passion of Jesus Christ in our day.”

Southern Baptists have always been willing to embrace change to further God’s work, Graham said.

He said a visit with missionaries in New York?one of Southern Baptists’ Strategic Focus Cities?impressed on him the importance of removing barriers to influencing people for the gospel’s sake. His home church, Prestonwood Baptist in Plano, has a missions partnership with a Baptist church in Boston.

In 1999 the convention rejected a proposed name change, instead adopting an Executive Committee report that noted the convention name had become a brand of sorts that transcended its Southern roots.


Before announcing the possible name change, Graham told the committee America is in a war on many fronts.

Graham opened his address by telling of meeting former Marine Col. Oliver North and hearing of a battlefield conversation North witnessed between a reporter and a U.S. Army soldier who had carried several wounded men, including one Iraqi, to a helicopter while dodging crossfire.

The reporter asked the soldier, “Hey, didn’t you notice that that man was an Iraqi?”

The soldier reportedly replied, “Hey, didn’t you notice that man was wounded?”

Graham said Christians are in a war on many fronts and there are scores of wounded people who need to be rescued with the gospel.

“I want us always to remember that the wounded, the people who have been broken by sin, those who are the enemy of the cross, are greatly loved by the Lord Jesus Christ,” Graham said.

“It is a unique time in history, isn’t it? And God has called us to the kingdom for such a time as this. And there is a war. It is a war of worldviews. It is a war that we didn’t quite understand until perhaps we saw the face of the force of evil on 9-1-1, 2001. We recognize that we are in a spiritual war. The question is, ‘Who is God?'”

Swindoll offers advice on corporate worship

FORT WORTH?Honest and supportive relationships between worship leaders are necessary for a church to reflect God’s plan for worship in weekly services, popular Bible teacher Chuck Swindoll said at the 2004 Church Music Workshop at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Feb. 19.

Swindoll, who serves as senior pastor at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, is known for his radio ministry, “Insight for Living,” and many books. At the Church Music Workshop he and Bruce Stevenson, executive pastor of worship and music at Stonebriar, talked about how pastors and staff can work together.

“Relationships are the foundation. Just beyond the relationship with Christ is the [importance of] relationship with one another, and we don’t tolerate lingering offenses or difficulties among individuals,” Swindoll said. “If there is such, I’m not aware of it, and as soon as I’m aware of it, we talk it through. If we can’t, somebody has got to go.

“We embrace worship as a major reason we are on the planet and Sunday provides us with the opportunity to do it corporately,” Swindoll said.

Stevenson outlined five pillars of worship: education, balance, excellence, creativity and character. He said that education was a vital element of worship because it ensures continuity between the history of the church and future generations.

Swindoll and Stevenson both emphasized several times the importance of balance in worship. Acknowledging that many churches face dissension between members about worship styles, Swindoll put the issue in perspective.

“We have centuries of history, which is one of the treasures of the church,” Swindoll said. Stevenson said that incorporating the great hymns of the faith and modern Christian music into worship services helps keep things interesting.

If someone consistently and uncharitably complains about the church’s worship style it may be in the church’s and that person’s best interest for him or her to worship elsewhere, Swindoll said. At the very least, worship leaders should not let the vocal minority shape how they plan worship services.

“You cannot let a carping critic or two shape your philosophy,” Swindoll said. “We are not here to give you what you want; we are here to provide what you need.”

Texas Baptist Builders building roads

“If you build it they will come.”

That’s a classic line from a movie. Unfortunately, that idiom doesn’t work in the church. The church, however, does need buildings for worship, fellowship and education. But churches have limited resources. And because it’s really God’s money we are stewards of, using those resources responsibly is a high priority.

That’s where Texas Baptist Builders?a ministry of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention?comes in.

The Texas Baptists Builders (TBB) formed last June to tackle church and church-related projects throughout the state?and anywhere else they may be called of God to help.

The work can be done for much less than what they might pay for a commercial building to be built by the private sector. TBB director Bill Ibos said the savings can be as much as 40 to 50 percent or more.

“Usually your building runs 50 percent material and the other 50 percent is labor,” Ibos said. The TBB is usually able to buy materials at contractor’s pricing or even distributor pricing. However, the majority of the savings for churches come from the labor that is donated by the volunteers that work with the TBB.

Ibos warns not to think that because a person is a “volunteer” they don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to construction work.

“It’s really a misnomer,” Ibos said of the word “volunteer.” “These people have been doing construction work from anywhere from four years to as long as we [Ibos and his family] have.”

Ibos and his wife of 49 years, Martha, have spent 40 years volunteering for construction projects like the ones the TBB takes on. Ibos said he learned the skills of the construction business while working for the Army Corps of Engineers.

The TBB currently has about 50 to 75 people involved on a regular basis. But with 23 projects underway, they are always looking for a few good men?and women.

“What we’re looking for is to recruit families, singles, college students, and high school students to be involved in construction and remodeling of church buildings as the Lord leads and directs us,” Ibos said.

The TBB has taken Texas and divided it into nine zones. Each zone is responsible for about 28 counties. Zone leaders make contact with associations in their zone to find out what the needs are. Work is then prioritized according to needs and plans get underway.

Churches also have responsibilities in the projects.

According to Ibos, the churches are responsible for buying the materials and having them at the location two or three days prior to the arrival of the work crews. They provide hookups for RVs for the volunteer or arrange other housing and provide two meals per day for the workers.

There’s good news for those who aren’t able to swing a hammer without bending a few nails: the organization needs you, too.

“We’ll train you,” Ibos said. “We’ll train you in both metal stud construction and wood construction.” Each site will have at least two or three people who are professionally-trained construction workers. He said speed is not an issue, they just want to train the novice to “do it right,” Ibos said.

What about the person who can’t commit a week or more to construction projects?

“It’s going to take not only volunteers, but prayer warriors,” Ibos said. “If they can’t go out and work, they can pray for the groups that go and pray for the projects to be accomplished.”

If individuals or churches want more information about serving one week on a project or if churches are interested in having TBB assist them, contact Ibos at 817-625-9391 or e-mail him at baptistbuilder

Short takes for March 8 2004

The Waco Trib reports that the Council of Girl Scouts serving the Waco area partnered with Planned Parenthood in a sex education event. The Bluebonnet Council is also reported to have honored the local Planned Parenthood chief executive as a “Woman of Distinction” (role model?). Two troops have withdrawn and some parents are up in arms about the association of two such disparate groups. Some defenders argue that PP is not “about abortion.” And McDonald’s is not about burgers, I guess. Sure they do other stuff, but? Any association with Planned Parenthood should be controversial. It is a wicked organization, even if only part of what they do is evil.

Some prominent youth leaders are calling for a greater emphasis on parents. Southwestern Seminary’s Richard Ross, author Josh McDowell and other national leaders in youth ministry are questioning the exclusive focus on teenagers that characterized student ministry over the past 60 years. McDowell notes that parents are 300 times more influential than the church in the lives of students. Amen. Parents need help but must be primary in educating and discipling their children. Churches have not always honored that priority. See the Call at

Sorry, it’s still on the front page. People from around the world have flocked to San Francisco in the past few weeks to obtain marriage licenses for their same-sex unions. San Francisco’s mayor compares his own flouting of the law with the Civil Rights movement. It’s a bad, self-exalting comparison from a man who will not likely face any consequences for his actions. Let’s vote issues this year. Those who agree with Mr. Mayor should not be elected to lead those who don’t want to see this anarchy repeated in their own town.

Does the SBC need a new name

When Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham proposed studying a new name for the SBC, he put a long-term side discussion on the table for action. It’s past time to look into this. If we can assume that “Southern” is the problematic word in our name and that we will not consider dropping “Baptist,” consider some needs a new name might address.


This is the most common reason given for changing names. For the first 70 years of our convention’s life, Southern Baptists were a mostly regional denomination. We had many missionaries overseas, but our missionaries were more likely novel because of their nationality and Baptist identity than for their regional name. As Southern Baptists worked more extensively in the northern U.S., we began to face stereotypes and puzzlement related to the presence of “Southern” Baptists outside the South. Across the Midwest, it is more common for “First Baptist Church” to be American Baptist or even Free Will Baptist. In some towns up there, we even have a “First Southern” Baptist Church to clarify the matter.

For years this worked because of the huge northward migration of Southern Baptists during the middle of the 20th century. Immigrants from Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Oklahoma not only laid the foundation for Midwestern Southern Baptist work but their children still dominate Southern Baptist churches in that region. For them “Southern” is a term that clarifies rather than confuses. This clarity, however, does not extend to churches that are reaching native Hoosiers or Buckeyes or Huskers. Partly, this is where the call for change comes from.

Perhaps a further confusion comes with our “Southern” heritage. Slavery was a major issue in the formation of our denomination. While the racism of that era is not embraced by Southern Baptists and while we are now a highly diverse fellowship of churches, “Southern” is, to some, a reminder of the negative aspects of our heritage that we might rightly leave behind.


A second issue Dr. Graham mentioned has to do with the scope of our ministry. We are not regional or even national in our outreach, we are worldwide. Identification with an 18-state region of the U.S. (our focus up until about 1917 included the South, Missouri, New Mexico, and Illinois?a total of 18 states) implies something more limited than our Great Commission work.

A name that leaves behind our distinctively “Southern” identity might free us of the need to explain the meaning of our name to coming generations and to new places and groups. It could shorten the time we are considered outsiders in Iowa or Washington or New York.

On the other hand, this is much bigger than a PR campaign. It will cause a degree of turmoil that must be offset by significant advantages. Here a couple of obstacles we need to consider.


Consider how many times the words “Southern Baptist” appear in church documents, literature, promotional items, and even church signs. Associations and state conventions would also face an expensive facelift as a result of a name change. On the national level, the cost would be high and the process elaborate. Our own state convention could face a name change, a thorough PR redo, and a constitutional revision.


While we would hope that the net result of any change would be a clearer communication of our ministry, the short-term result could be less positive. All the attention Southern Baptists have received since 1979 have given us opportunities to explain our name, heritage, mission, and polity to a general audience. It’s complicated to us and beyond mysterious to outsiders but we’ve explained ourselves in newspapers, on talk shows, in a score of books, and on the nightly news frequently over the last twenty years. We’ve had some success at it, too. Now we would face explaining that we have a new name, but that we are the same people. Separating ourselves from the mistakes of the past could be undercut by the need to establish the continuity of our identity.


While we should not hesitate to express our convictions to whatever audience is listening, we should not seek controversy impulsively. Some of our churches will not agree that “Southern” is an impediment to either our mission or our good reputation. Their point will also be reasonably arguable. Our high national profile means that any disagreement will become public beyond our little fellowship. Again, we should have some solid reasons in our heads and convictions in our hearts before going down this path.

Some of this is no revelation to anyone with common sense. At the same time, opposition and advocacy will begin building before any research or careful deliberations begin. Our consideration of this matter must begin with an understanding of the potential benefits and costs.

And a final thought that might mitigate some of the costs we would face as a result of such an extensive change. What if we change more than just our face? Part of the artificiality of a PR facelift comes when the change is only skin deep. If we try to explain to people that we are the same denomination with a new label, we should expect some level of righteous cynicism. We could change our identification in ways that clarify our mission and justify the facelift, though.

What I have in mind is that we become a confessional body (although I like the idea, it’s not original with me). More than 10 years ago we changed the qualifications for participation in the SBC by adding the stipulation that churches should not endorse homosexual behavior in any way. It disenfranchised a small handful of churches, and we consider it worth it because of our biblical convictions. If we expand our constitutional requirements for participation to include crucial elements of our confession of faith, we could enhance the strength of our cooperative work as well as our reputation.

Face it, the loose fellowship formed in 1845 has become far looser than we ever intended. Many have noted that the SBC sometimes finds itself more in agreement with non Baptists than with moderate Baptists. If we define kinship in terms of faith and practice, this is often the case. It wasn’t the case 100 years ago. Things have changed a lot since we first described the nature of our partnership as Southern Baptist churches. A more confessional identity for the SBC could better represent the reality.