SCBC vs. NewSpring Is No Reason to Cheer

Last month, South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC) President Tommy Kelly decided to offer his opinion on recent happenings at NewSpring Church (http://baptistcourier.com/2015/01/kellystatementnewspring/). Rev. Kelly took issue with a number of things regarding the church and Pastor Perry Noble, and all but stated that the state convention was breaking ties with NewSpring.

As it turns out, this is probably going to take very little shine out of the NewSpring star, as the church has limited connections at best to the SCBC. In terms of their relationship, the denomination and the church are acquaintances. That status may change following Kelly’s fairly direct (and perhaps unprecedented?) reprimand, which bordered on opening the door and telling Noble and NewSpring not to let it hit them on the way out.

Some are cheering Kelly’s action as a commitment to sound Biblical and theological principles. But SCBC churches need to be careful how loud they cheer. In fact, they might do better to lower their heads a little about all of this while asking a simple question:  What if Dr. Kelly had done this to your church or your pastor?

Will your congregation be the subject of a letter or statement, because of some belief, position or action that you/your pastor has taken?

In case readers may have missed this from previous posts, I am no apologist for NewSpring. I have serious issues with Perry Noble and the approach of the church on many issues that I will not discuss here. If anyone would like to discuss it, I will be more than happy to talk, message or email with you about it.

Dr. Kelly’s statements and opinions are not the problem, but his approach in offering them is. Unless there is much to this story that is not readily available, Dr. Kelly may be setting a dangerous precedent. At best, it is un-Baptist, and at worst, it is less than Christ-like.

Dr. Marcus Buckley has on his blog shared similar concerns, and expressed that he directly contacted Dr. Kelly on the matter. Let me confess–perhaps in error–that I have had no direct contact with Dr. Kelly, as Marcus Buckley has. I am neither a pastor nor a messenger in the SCBC, although my membership resides at a cooperating church. This is offered as a matter of observation from a distance, with no “inside” knowledge. Please take that grain of salt with this piece.

Baptists are people who claim that Holy Scripture is their only authority for faith and practice. We have always disagreed–usually loudly, often angrily, and occasionally with dangerous volatility. We certainly do not mince words when calling out those with whom we disagree. Until the last 30 years or so, we managed to do that without figuratively cutting one another’s throats or denying churches the freedom to follow a different interpretation or path.

What business is it of the South Carolina Baptist Convention or Dr. Kelly to encourage churches to break fellowship from NewSpring because of their Biblical interpretation? In addition, is this a course of action that will become common practice for other churches with different interpretations?

Baptists practice action by community, which means study and recommendations and votes on issues, particularly one as grave as calling for the dis-fellowship of a church from other Baptists.

While all that talking and shouting and voting has its own pitfalls, it is who we are; and I believe it is who we need to be. We are not a church of decrees, but a church seeking input in the prayerful hope of common ground. We do not always find it, but we should seek it.

Furthermore, such an approach has to allow for the fact that we (I) might be wrong. As strongly as I disagree with the church growth movement and mega-church mentality, I am in no position to declare it ultimately heretical or worthy of being shunned. While they may not grant me a seat at their table, what makes us worthy of denying them a seat at ours?

The perception is that Dr. Kelly’s statements represent an official position of South Carolina Baptists. I have several questions regarding that:

1. What body within the South Carolina Baptist Convention authorized this statement from Dr. Kelly?

2. Did the members and messengers of the Convention authorize this in any way?

-Would not a statement that appears and is being received as official require action      by authorized messengers?

3. In recent years, local associations have denied churches fellowship for many things, including the ordination of women as deacons or to the ministry. Is the SCBC now stepping into the role of making these decisions about which churches are worthy of fellowship?

-It is also important to note that local Baptist associations vote on such issues.

4. Was NewSpring or Perry Noble offered a chance to respond to the critique in any kind of open forum, committee, or Convention gathering? (Perhaps they were–if so, it would help for Dr. Kelly to share that).

Finally, and perhaps most importantly:

5. Did the leaders of the convention follow the Biblical standard of Matthew 18? Again, if they did, it would be valuable to know that.

When confronted with what we believe to be un-Biblical actions, it is critical that Christians elaborate with an uber-Biblical response. If Perry Noble and NewSpring are out of line, then church/convention leaders should approach them. If they are rebuffed, approach again, with witnesses. If there is no resolution, then take the matter before the entire body–in this case, the messengers of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.

Some might argue that Noble and the church are notorious for ignoring criticism and such an approach would do no good. Perhaps this is true. But my concern is not what NewSpring does. It is that I/we, as Baptists and Christians, do what God commands of us, in all humility, before distancing ourselves from brothers and sisters in Christ. We are to make every effort at peace, until all possibilities for reconciliation are exhausted. When that has happened, then we discuss what that means for our fellowship.

As Baptists, this means action of the entire Body of Christ, not just a few or even one. No matter our feelings on Perry Noble or NewSpring, we need a stronger, more prayerful effort to coexist even through disagreements, with greater charity towards freedom in Christ and greater unity in the areas where we can agree. And above all, we should act out our efforts with love.

Do we want to be judged, as Baptists and Christians, for treating others in the same way that we feel they have treated us? Perhaps the more Biblical approach is to treat them in the same way that we want to be treated, no matter how strongly we disagree.

And it is our calling to do so, no matter how we feel about the actions of the other towards us.

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “SCBC vs. NewSpring Is No Reason to Cheer

    • These are not easy times (were they ever?) in the church world. Hopefully we can work to navigate in grace and peace, with Christ and towards one another. Some days are more challenging than others!

      Like

  1. I have no inside info either, but I do know following the Ten Commandments message Noble preached the Baptist Building here in SC was flooded with concerns. I also do believe( no, proof, just my belief) that the State Convention did approach NewSpring. Whether this was Kelly or not personally I do not know, but knowing the man’s reputation, it would be surprising to me if he didn’t reach out. His statement carries no authority however, as the Convention President has no such authority. If NewSpring were to be dis-fellowshipped, that action would more likely occur at the association level. The statement was measured though, as to me, the biggest consequence for the SCBC is the impact on numbers it could have. It’s no secret the SBC is fixated on numbers, and New Spring brings them. In membership and baptisms. SBC and SCBC numbers are horrific in baptisms, and you take away the 3-4-5,000 NewSpring baptizes a year, and they are beyond abysmal. This tells me the statement was well considered before it was made, and Kelly was simply the vehicle to deliver it. As far as this situation, I do believe 1 Timothy 5:20 has application, and could be the reason the rebuke was public.

    Like

    • Worthwhile points, particularly in regard to the issue of numbers. When dealing with a group that seems to lack transparency, why not go over the top to be transparent in the response? If the convention took all appropriate measures, then let that be known–and clarify that this is not an official action. You are right that any official action would most likely be local, but there needs to be great caution in encouraging such action.

      Thanks again for taking the time to share this.

      Like

      • I don’t disagree with that. One thing that should be noted is that NewSpring has made a lot of enemies in the state and the convention. By that I mean there are a lot of hard feelings in many churches in towns where NewSpring has opened a new campus. They regularly spend about a million dollars opening a new campus with every bell and whistle imaginable and many youth from neighboring churches flock there, and their parents often follow. Obviously when you lose several if not many young families to a new church up the street you can take that personally. I don’t think that was a driving force in the uproar at the SCBC building here, but it is a fact. They are also announcing four new campuses here in the state they will be opening this Sunday. Personally, I think NewSpring withdraws from the convention at some point. They are a member in name only and certainly have shown no desire for cooperation, which is basically the reason for the SBC. It’s going to be interesting to see how things play out

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s