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On Biblical Authority
By now, you should have received a letter from the Diaconate explaining that they are reviewing our affiliation with American Baptist Churches USA.
There are five concerns in total, but the first is most important; namely, that our church is out-of-step with the denomination (or they with us) on the matter of biblical authority.
What does this mean?
What We Believe
In 2013, the members of FBC Harlan unanimously adopted our Statement of Core Beliefs, which begins with the following affirmation:
We believe that the sixty-six books of the Bible, as originally given, are, in their entirety, without error in all areas in which they speak and are the inspired Word of God. Therefore, they are the supreme and final authority for faith and practice. (emphasis added)
In a nutshell, the ABC doesn’t agree with us on this.
Instead, the denomination has demonstrated a tendency to deny the clear teaching of Scripture in order to accommodate the culture. The denial isn’t necessarily blatant, but more on the order of being slippery or dodgy.
I’ll give two examples.
The first example is with respect to abortion. On this life & death matter, the denomination refuses to call abortion the unjust killing of a human being and thus a moral evil. Instead, the General Board of the ABC insists that, while some Christians and churches believe this is so, others do not – and both sides consider their position morally justifiable.
It is undoubtedly true that some Christians and churches believe abortion is morally justifiable, but to let the belief stand without correction or rebuke is moral cowardice.
Ironically, there are other issues, such as the appropriateness of female pastors in the local church or the proper response to illegal immigration, on which the General Board takes a strong stand and doesn’t seem to recognize any other viewpoint.
Another example is on the whole matter of sexual ethics, which is arguably the cultural issue of our time.
In June, 1992, the General Board narrowly(!) passed a resolution stating that God’s plan for sexual fulfillment is “one man and one woman in heterosexual, monogamous and lifelong marriage.” Later that same year, the General Board passed another resolution stating that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
The General Board of the early 1990’s is to be commended for these two resolutions.
Welcoming & Affirming
However, in response to the 1992 resolutions, a number of ABC churches formed (in 1993) the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists. The AWAB is an organization devoted to advancing the LGBTQ agenda within the ABC.
(Note: To “affirm” homosexuality means to support and encourage it; to approve of it. In contrast, FBC Harlan is “welcoming & transforming.” This means we receive warmly those who struggle with their sexuality (as we do those with any struggle), but we long for the Gospel to transform their lives and bring it into conformity with God’s will.)
Rather than take a stand against the AWAB and its member churches (now 116 churches in total), the AWAB is regularly given a prominent role at ABC conferences and events.
For example, in the mid-2000’s, my former church sent a member of our Diaconate (a retired judge) to the ABC’s biennial conference. Upon his return, he reported to us that the conference was so pro-LGBTQ that he and his wife returned to their hotel room the first evening and wept. After this, we never again sent a representative to any gathering of the ABC.
While the 1992 resolutions have never been rescinded, resolutions since then emphasize a “diversity of views” on the subject, with a call, not for repentance and faithfulness to the Scriptures, but for “dialogue.” This is similar to the stance on abortion; that is, the view that there are two sides to the issue and both are morally justifiable.
This is a bending to the authority of the culture, not to the authority of the Bible.