Southern Baptists in the news (unfortunately)-- part 1
on Baptists and alcohol (from Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra in Christianity Today)...
Church planters who receive money from the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) must now teach alcohol abstinence. The policy change was sparked by the Journey, a growing interdenominational church that borrowed $200,000 from the MBC to renovate a church two years ago. One of the Journey's outreach groups meets in a St. Louis microbrewery.
"Theology at the Bottleworks was started to reach people who are actively opposed to Christianity, by discussing contemporary cultural issues in a neutral environment," explained Darrin Patrick, founding pastor of the Journey, which attracts about 1,500 people weekly to three sites. Those who attend Theology at the Bottleworks grab a beer and discuss political or spiritual topics, such as the role of women in society, the legal system, or animal rights.
The outreach caught the MBC off guard, said interim executive director David Tolliver. "We need to engage the culture, but without compromising our biblical, traditional Baptist values," Tolliver said. "For me, that includes abstinence from alcohol."
Oops...they seem to have run afoul of Baptist leadership. Let's dissect Mr. Tolliver's statement...
--"our biblical...values"-- uhh, no...those aren't "biblical" values
--"our...traditional Baptist values"-- yep, that's quite common
--"for me..."-- the individual's ability to interpret the Scriptures is strongly respected in Baptist circles...unfortunately, individuals (and institutions) are quite capable of coming up with interpretations, worldviews, and policies which are heretical, legalistic, incoherent, etc.-- and thus, inconsistent with the ministry of Christ and the character of God
--"for me, that includes abstinence from alcohol"-- for Mr. Tolliver, abstinence may well be the best choice (although he might interpret Scripture more effectively after a glass of wine). But the question here is whether Mr. Tolliver's view should be extended to all others in good standing within Baptist circles.
Patrick said that the Journey adheres to the same theological confessions as the MBC, the state division of the Southern Baptist Convention.
This is an odd statement. Such policies are not theological per se. But they are the product of a flawed theology and hermeneutic.
Because the Journey received the money by loan, not by grant, the new policy does not affect the church. But future borrowers will be scrutinized more closely, Tolliver said.
Will this forward the Kingdom of God? Is Jesus crying into his beer (or wine) as he watches all of this?
Previously, church planters were asked to sign a statement agreeing to abstain from alcohol. Now they must teach "the strong biblical warnings" against drinking beer and wine. Though the Bible does not expressly forbid alcohol consumption, the new policy states that alcohol consumption is not wise.
OK, Mr. Tolliver seems to understand what the Bible says about alcohol consumption. It's that confident and firm leap to his inferences that is troubling.
The policy addresses an ongoing SBC debate. Baptists have championed alcohol abstinence since the late 1800s, but a growing number want the SBC to reexamine the issue, said Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School.
"There is growing discontent, people saying that we shouldn't be mandating things that aren't spoken clearly about in Scripture," George said. "It's hard to argue that the Bible requires total abstinence."
Uhh, yeah! Dr. George, I suppose, is trying to be tactful...
...The Journey's Patrick serves as vice president of Acts 29, a church-planting network led by Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll. Driscoll describes Acts 29 as "theologically conservative and culturally liberal." About one-quarter of Acts 29 churches affiliate with the SBC.
The controversy may not stop with alcohol. MBC executive board member Michael Knight, who chairs the theological study committee, has proposed that the MBC sever all contact, financial and otherwise, with Acts 29.
Maybe Acts 29 would be better off without the Baptists...