It’s difficult to take seriously the claim that moderate Baptists are more than just “not the SBC” when editorials like this show up in their prominent publications.
We are in a recession, so perhaps what appears to be a recent rash of editorials from several moderate Baptist writers critical of the SBC related to the recent news about the “Great Commission Resurgence” is related to attempts to stir up the contributors and generate some additional revenue. John Pierce’s critique of the GCR in the most recent edition of Baptists Today shared the page with a multi-colored fund raising appeal. Ethics Daily featured their critique in a display with a picture of the Titanic that flashed in a box at the top of their home page.
It’s no secret that the SBC is experiencing declines in statistical categories where it once showed small increases. Natually, some of its leaders are concerned, particularly about the drop off in baptisms, which does measure the evangelistic effectiveness of the denomination as a whole. It is not surprising that some of those leaders are reflecting in hindsight that the turmoil resulting from the conservative resurgence may be at least partly to blame for at least some of the decline. Johnny Hunt and Danny Akin have been brutally honest in calling for necessary change which they believe will help reverse the decline.
So I have to wonder why moderate Baptist writers who have been lamenting the judgmental attitude of SBC leadership have suddenly decided to assume a similar attitude toward the SBC.
Perhaps they’ve discovered that moving on to more positive topics and away from criticizing the SBC in order to develop an identity that went beyond being merely “the anti-SBC” did not generate the readership or financial contributions that they needed to operate their various entities or publications. Perhaps they can’t resist the bait to fire off a stinging retort to a particularly critical jab made by a prominent SBC leader. Or perhaps their own lack of evangelistic zeal, and the fact that baptism, attendance and membership figures for most of the moderate Baptist organizations birthed out of the SBC during the conservative resurgence might show them to be in an even steeper decline in this regard is the reason for their criticism. Misery loves company.
I suspect that both Pierce and Parham would protest vehemently if SBC Life, or some other SBC related publication chastized CBF for a decline in baptisms, or made note of the fact that in recent years, its churches have struggled to meet a downsized budget. They have protested many of the criticisms that have come their way from some of the leadership of the SBC, particularly those associated with the conservative resurgence, while at the same time they have championed the cause of Baptist unity in diversity. Turning back, at this point, and resorting to the same kind of journalism they once protested undermines the image of “free and faithful” Baptists they’ve tried to convey.
It does not appear, at least from the pens of Parham and Pierce, that moderate Baptists have developed an identity apart from “we’re not the SBC.”