Now we know one of the Texas baptist para-church leaders will step aside from the day to day operations of his organization so that he can morph into something he wants to become and they can continue to do what few apparently want them to continue doing. He will no longer be his own office manager, which he has never been, so that he can spend his time speaking to groups on baptist distinctives, a theological hot potato akin to fretting over that pesky angel-dancing-on-a-pinhead thing.
What are our Free Church distinctives? What happens when we actually talk about them? What are the unintended consequences when we ask people just to remember where we come from in order to point where we ought to go?
This sounds like a new series to me. Let's get started.
Baptist distinctives partake of equal parts history, philosophy and theology. I will not get to all of them today but let's first talk about the mindset of the Free Church and how it guides both our practice and our polity.
Our distinctives are our values. Our values are those motives, assignments, dreams, thoughts and accomplishments we act on when we think from and about the very best of our intentions.
We might then say, looking at our actions, that our values are these:
- Baptists are generous in giving but conservative in fiscal policy. There is good reason to believe Texas baptists would have been horrified by the extreme waste in the Valleygate debacle if they had been informed. The Free Church is a populist movement and the people, who give and give and give, hate waste, abhor extravagance and simply will not condone theft, even if it is theft by incompetence rather than intent.
- Baptists love education. We may come across as Bible-thumpin' knotheads because, well, we are Bible-thumpin' knotheads, but we are Bible thumpin' knotheads with advanced earned degrees from highly accredited institutions. When we split, as we do from time to time, we start schools almost as fast as we start churches. We put money, students and the best (if most poorly paid) academicians we can find into them. Baptists love education.
- Baptists are moderate to liberal on social issues that count. No? Check our corporate record as to historical stance on separation of church and state, slavery, civil rights, women's issues and protection of children. The late Phil Strickland, as head of CLC, wrote most of the statutes passed into law in Texas on the protection of children.We are moderate-centrist to liberal (liberal meaning generous and open-hearted, not tax and spend pilferage) on social issues.
- Baptists have an official hard line on values issues. This may seems like a complete and total contradiction to our historically moderate-liberal stance on meaningful social issues but it is not. At least, I will make it seem like less of a contradiction when I finish my next few sentences, since I feel the weight of this meaty contradiction on my own shoulders. To wit, theologically, baptists hate the sin and love the sinner. We have a flip-floppy enigma in our midst, in that there are values issues on which we will not budge, officially, while we eagerly welcome persons into our midst who violate one or more of those values daily. Do not try to figure out why we do not just cast these dread violators into outer darkness. We just don't. That is us. Go figure.
So, Doctor Para-Church organizational guy who is not being fired or forced out but who is just not going to be his own office manager any more which is funny because I doubt he even knew where his office was in the first place, if you are going to come out here to talk to us about baptist distinctives, please understand some things. To wit,
- You were the one who was out of touch with baptist distinctives, not the actual baptists in the pews. That is why your organization has to retool now.
- You were the one who appealed to what was worst in us and that was why so many left your circle. If we wanted degeneration we coulda-stayed-home in the first place.
- You came on in the first scene as the warrior-champion and you were good enough, not great, but good enough. The play changed to scene two but you never got it. Apparently, you did not even notice when the applause stopped and the audience went home. Now, you have a chance for your final scene. There are not a lot of people watching or listening now but how you perform in this final scene will determine what the audience goes home thinking about you and yours. It is probably too late for you to help us much here in the real world but you could hurt us badly if you are not careful, studied, gracious and coherent.
- You will spend most of your time speaking to people who already agree with you or are at least willing to hear your version of the party line. Remember, please, the microphone and the search engine. If you are reliably far left-wing, it will be used against the people you claim to support. Do not assume, since you are only a figure-head kind of speaker now that your empty position is empty of danger. Those you claim to protect already have to answer for many of your ill-considered antics. Don't let the unintended consequence of your final scene companion the death of your organization with the murder of the larger body.