Many Southern Baptists do not prefer one version of the BF&M over another, so the claim that the 2000 BF&M is "a summary of what the SBC... believe[s]" is misleading. The 1925 and 1963 BF&M versions sought to identify doctrines common to all Southern Baptists, representing a "consensus of opinion"; the 2000 BF&M--whether or not by design--represented a narrower view of doctrine in several areas such that it did not summarize the beliefs of all Southern Baptists.
The BGCT has several points of disagreement with the 2000 BF&M. Probably among the most important of these are (1) creedalism of the 2000 BF&M, (2) statements regarding biblical interpretation, and (3) position on women pastors. From the perspective of the BGCT, the issue of biblical interpretation is poorly construed as one of biblical inerrancy; indeed, the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message does not use the term biblical inerrancy. As stated by BGCT leaders, the issue is partly reflected in the deletion of the statement "The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ." They argue, for example, that Old Testament scriptures cannot properly be applied without regard to the fulfillment of the law in Jesus. The first issue (creedalism) has arguably received as much attention from the BGCT as has the issue of biblical interpretation.
The issue would be better described as one of degree, considering that the BGCT engages in large support of mission-oriented activities. The 2003 portion of total budget for in-state missions and evangelism was 18.3% for the SBTC and 12.0% for the BGCT; portion for institutions was 1.2% for the SBTC and 41.7% for the BGCT. In 2007, portions of total budget for in-state missions and evangelism were 18.2% for the SBTC and 9.6% for the BGCT; portion for institutions for the BGCT was 39.3% (the SBTC does not identify the institutional portion of their 2007 budget on their web site). (Note that the BGCT allocates more of its total budget for in-state use than does the SBTC.)
The BGCT does not oppose consenting to a document; BGCT leaders have criticized efforts to force individuals or churches to sign the 2000 BF&M as a condition of employment or fellowship. Prior to the 2000 BF&M controversy, several seminaries required instructors to adhere to certain doctrinal statements, and this was not criticized by the BGCT. The issue is not, in general, one of "know[ing] the theology of the agents and members", but making their employment and fellowship conditional on affirmation of a particular theology. Several IMB missionaries have been dismissed for declining to sign the 2000 BF&M, despite submitting precise statements regarding their theology.
The BGCT identifies the CBF as one of several missions organizations it cooperates with; the CBF's status with the BGCT is below the level of the BGCT-SBC relationship.
The relationship is stronger than affiliation: the CLC is the ethics agency of the BGCT, and is tasked with "speaking to but not for Texas Baptists." The CLC document in question does not "affirm" any exceptions; rather, it says abortion "might be contemplated" when the mother's physical life is threatened; in cases of rape or incest; when the mother's "emotional health" or "mental and emotional stability" is at risk; or "fetal deformity and disease incompatible with life." The document rejects abortion for birth control and defines the emotional health and fetal deformity/disease exceptions more narrowly than is customary in the legislative arena. The SBC has passed several resolutions affirming the exception for when the mother's physical life is threatened and no other.
The 2001 Seminary Study report by the BGCT identifies a number of issues at the root of this decision; the BGCT subsequently backtracked somewhat by eliminating the line-item reduction for the seminaries.
The BGCT-based publications probably serve a different audience than Lifeway publications; considering that many Texas Baptist churches (including conservative ones) use material from sources other than Lifeway, it is clear that Lifeway is not meeting all of the needs of Texas Baptist churches. It is revealing that four years after the launch of BGCT's BaptistWay press, the complaint remains centered on competition and stewardship but not doctrine. BaptistWay became self-supporting in 2005, making the stewardship criticism moot.
© 2007 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 6 March 2007.
Return to Home. Return to Baptist Resources.