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Friday, February 16, 2007

Coerced Conformity – Sullivan’s Legacy?

What is taking place in the Florida Baptist Convention; "the narrowing of the parameters of cooperation" to include only Baptist who “hold to a total abstinence form alcohol conviction” has occupied quite a bit of my thoughts lately. There are several reasons why this has so captured my attention and caused me such concern.

#1. The concentration of “unquestionable power" is always dangerous, deadly, and unbiblical for any man to possess. History has proven this to be true over and over. That one man, the Executive Director/Treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, (Dr. John Sullivan) has been given such power to enact his will upon the Baptist of the State of Florida is undeniable. Yes, he will go through the proper channels to enact his will, but can anyone deny that in all but an extreme request whoever holds this powerful position in the State of Florida will get whatsoever he ask for? However, in asking that the parameters of cooperation be narrowed based upon his personal convictions a very “dangerous precedent” has now been established whereas the Executive Director/Treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, and not our confession of faith, is looked to for guidance on matters of what constitutes appropriate doctrine for cooperation among the individuals and churches that make up the Florida Baptist Convention. Future Executive Director/Treasurers will exercise this “new authority” to mold and shape the Florida Baptist Convention in ways that cannot now be predicted or known.

#2. The Executive Director/Treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention is using the power of his position to “deny equal opportunity for employment or service” with the Florida Baptist Convention to all Baptist of the State of Florida who do not share his personal convictions on total abstinence from alcohol, instead of using the power of his position to educate and convince fellow Florida Baptist of the wisdom of his convictions. Once again a “dangerous precedent” is being established whereby Florida Baptist are being excluded, or denied opportunity of employment and service, based not upon some conflict with the doctrines contained in our Confession of Faith, but upon one man’s “personal convictions” which cannot be fully known at the time of his hiring. That one agrees or does not agree with the motivation for Dr. Sullivan’s actions is not the issue here. The issue is - if this “dangerous precedent” is allowed to stand, the seeds of future instability will have been planted within the Florida Baptist Convention. This is because the personal convictions of the Executive Director/Treasurer have now become the standard for acceptance and service within the Florida Baptist Convention, and his convictions on any and all matters of faith can never be fully known at any given time or can change at any given time. If this “dangerous precedent” becomes the foundation upon which cooperation is built within the Florida Baptist Convention it is not a matter of “IF” but “WHEN” an Executive Director/Treasurer will make a decision that will split or severely damage the Florida Baptist Convention.

#3. For the Florida Baptist Convention to elevate the position of total abstinence from alcohol to a “first level doctrine" of such importance as to break fellowship with all who do not agree is a “clear violation” of our own confession of faith as expressed in article XVII on Religious Liberty. This article reads – “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it.” Unless it can be proven Holy Scripture commands total abstinence from alcohol (which no honest person will say) then I do not see how the Florida Baptist Convention can maintain its position on total abstinence and not be in “violation of its own confession of faith.”

#4. It is inconsistent for the Florida Baptist Convention to maintain that it holds to the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scriptures and yet adopt a policy that denies the undisputed truth that wine (even if it was watered down, which is a point I do not concede) is one of the two “Holy Elements of Communion” and as such is most proper to partake. Either the policy is in error, or the Scriptures are not inerrant. Both cannot be true.

#5. For the Florida Baptist Convention to maintain that the ordinance of Baptism is to be according to the “literal example” of full immersion in water as found in the scriptures and that no substitutes for this example (sprinkling or pouring) is proper, and yet demand that the “literal example” contained in the scriptures for the ordinance of the Lords Supper consisting of the two elements of unleavened bread and wine are “NOT acceptable" is to be again inconsistent. If the “literal example” is true of one Holy ordinance instituted by Jesus Christ, then the “literal example” is true of the second Holy ordinance instituted by Jesus Christ as well. In other words, by what principle of interpretation can the Florida Baptist Convention insist on Baptism by full immersion and at the same time forbid the Lords Supper to be observed with wine? If a substitute is acceptable, yea even demanded, in the one then why is it not acceptable in the other?

#6. After having considered all the above, what troubles me the most about this new policy is it’s none too subtle attempt at “Coerced Conformity”. This, “tow the line or else”, mindset is very dangerous because it places the Florida Baptist Convention on the slippery slope of dictating to the Baptist Churches of the State of Florida “extra-biblical terms for cooperation.” I am deeply disappointed in the Executive Director/Treasures of the Florida Baptist Convention; that with all the resources at his disposal to battle the dangers of alcohol abuse in our society he has chosen “Coercion”.

Respectfully, Greg Alford


imb m from Florida said...

So does this mean if you, yourself, hold to personal abstinence, but don't require it of others (within Biblical guidelines) that you can not serve in any capacity within the Fl. Bapt. Conv. (except as pastor, etc?)


G. Alford said...

Very good question (imb m from florida)... I don't think anyone has taken the time to ask all the questions that need to be ask before this policy is rushed into practice... Just how many pastors in the state of florida is this going to exclude? What about the pastor who holds to personal abstinence but his church does not?

Hmmmmmmmmm... is right!