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What Are the Most Pressing Issues Facing the Southern Baptist Convention?

According to our header, SBC Witness is about “encouraging Southern Baptist cooperation and faithfulness.” The contributors to this blog believe these two things to be virtues that ought to be cultivated among the people called Baptist. If I may combine the two, one could argue that the reason we are a convention of autonomous churches rather than Independent Baptists is because we believe in the value of “faithful cooperation.”

Faithful cooperation is increasingly difficult to maintain in the SBC. While the convention enjoyed substantial theological unity in the mid-19th century, that was already beginning to change in the decades after the Civil War. The Landmark controversies, the decline of doctrinaire Calvinism, the rise of theological liberalism and later neo-orthodoxy, the hardening of fundamentalism, the bureaucratization of the convention, the Civil Rights movement, the ecumenical movement, the neo-evangelical movement, the gender revolution, rise of the New Religious Right, the charismatic movement, The Controversy, post-denominationalism, the seeker-sensitive movement, the emerging church movements, the so-called Reformed Resurgence, resurgent Landmarkism, Catholic Baptists, revivalism in all its forms–each of these movements, for better or worse and to varying degrees, has contributed to the diversity among contemporary Southern Baptists. And that diversity has often led to intra-denominational conflict.

So here we are in 2008. The SBC is a divided house, and that’s without even counting churches that for any number of reasons dually align with both Southern Baptists and moderate Baptist, African-American Baptist, Reformed Baptist, or missional groups. In recent years we have fought about more things than I care to think about. There have been statements and counter-statements, blogs and counter-blogs, conferences and counter-conferences, candidates and counter-candidates. The differences in the style and even theology of different SBC public personalities is at times pronounced. Some glory in all this diversity. Some fear we are too diverse. Others pronounce a pox on both houses. And for all our conservative resurging, moderate purging, Republican voting, and program promoting, we remain considerably more divided than most folks will publicly admit.

I am curious: what do you think is the most pressing issue facing the Southern Baptist Convention in 2008? What is that one thing that most precludes us from faithful cooperation? What is our biggest problem? Share your thoughts with us by dropping a comment. I am genuinely curious as to what “normal” Southern Baptists think are the greatest threats to the ongoing viability, let alone vitality, of the convention.

Before you comment, please do a couple of things. First, think before you post. Second, try to stick to the one most pressing issue–two issues at most. Third, remember that whatever you say is being read by a couple dozen other people, mostly the contributors and their wives, so try to be kind and Christ-like. Fourth, do not attack any personalities. Finally, if any of you dialog with each other in the comments, do so respectfully. We want this to be a place for mature Christian reflection, so we will not hesitate to delete nasty comments.