My denominational tradition—Baptist—and specifically my denominational tribe of heritage—Southern Baptists—has three dimensions of denominational structure. They are known as associations, state (or regional) conventions, and national agencies and institutions.
Associations are the local entity which I categorize generically as dynamic spiritual and fellowship organisms. State conventions and the national expressions are organizations.
In historic order associations came first. The initial association of Baptists in my tradition was the Philadelphia Baptist Association established in 1707. The first association in the South that was ultimately part of my tribe was the Charleston (SC) Baptist Association established in 1751.
The first state convention in my tribe was the South Carolina Baptist Convention established in 1821. Finally, the Southern Baptist Convention came into existence in 1845. These two entities did not replace local associations, but carried forward the work of Southern Baptists from a different dimension and with somewhat different foci.
With the transformation of denominations in the past 40 years, it is a legitimate question to raise as to whether all three entities of my tribe’s denominational structure are still essential and needed. It is certainly a question discussed in formal and informal settings, and acted on by congregations in an autonomous denominational movement such as Southern Baptists.
With significant transition and changes in how congregations and individuals financially support the three dimensions of denominational life among Southern Baptists, one observation can be made without fear of successful contradiction. Southern Baptists are unwilling to financially support all three dimensions of denominational life unless they see added value expressed by each for the fulfillment of the mission of God.
If three dimensions of denominational life are not sustainable, and one needs to disappear, which one is that?
To read the full article, Download Yes Virginia We Need Baptist Associations
Many years ago my mother told me about a trip she took with a group of people to attend a national denominational training event. If you knew my mother, you would know she could hardly tell it without laughing.
The event was far enough away that they had to spend the night to get there. The driver told everyone to be ready and in his car the second morning at a certain time. They had just enough time to make it for the start of the event.
Ten minutes after the deadline, the three passengers were in the car, but the driver was not. As the passengers tried to figure out what might be going on, my mother said the last time she saw him, he was in her room helping her with her luggage.
My mother got out of the car, and went to her room. The door was slightly open. When she went in she saw no one but heard voices coming from the bathroom.
See the article I wrote on this subject at Baptist News Global by clicking HERE.
The end of this month [July 2016], I bring closure to my role as General Secretary [read as executive coordinator] of the North American Baptist Fellowship of the Baptist World Alliance. This is so I can launch the Legacy Season of my ministry as I seek to pass along my learnings from 50 years of congregational and denominational ministry with 40 of those years serving as a consultant/coach, teacher, writer, and speaker on congregational and denominational transformation.
I still have a volunteer role with the Baptist World Alliance as I serve on its Mission Commission. I still have positive spiritual passion about the work and ministry of the Baptist World Alliance. To that end, I believe more leaders and congregations from North America ought to be involved in BWA. I wrote about this for Baptist news Global last week. Here is that article--The Baptist World Alliance: Truly Global?
Look at your denomination and at those around you, and you will notice a lot of drifting and shifting. Drifting is generally unintentional and shifting is generally intentional. Just look at the denominations who have held regular national/international assemblies this year and you will see various patterns of drifting and shifting.
My consulting work is with a lot of denominations across the theological and ecclesiological spectrum so I regularly observe the drifting and shifting. At times it is more difficult to observe the patterns of transition and change in your own denominational family with any objectivity. My denominational family is Baptist. One denomination within that family--Cooperative Baptist Fellowship--observes it 25th anniversary this year. Like many newer denominations which have emerged in the past four decades, they are still trying to figure out who they are, and who is in and who is out.
They began by generically calling themselves "Moderate Baptists". In recent times an increasing number of CBF participants refer to themselves as "Progressive Baptists". Which are they? Are they one or the other? Are they both? Is that possible? What is the difference?
This week I posted some questions for anyone related to CBF to answer. Keep reading and discover my questions and what some people are saying in response.