Can We Cooperate?

Can We Cooperate?

First, perhaps a little background. I’m a Southern Baptist. I’m a Presbyterian (PCA). Wait, what? Well I am an ordained SB preacher since the mid 1980s. Raised in mostly a SB church, I was then really saved through the ministry of a SB church in my mid-twenties. Then came a Baptist seminary (MABTS) followed by positions in several SB churches.

In the early 1990s I “defected” to the PCA (and graduated from Covenant Seminary with an MDiv) and became ordained as a Teaching Elder (TE) and pastored for seven years in the PCA before burnout took its toll. Since then I have demitted the TE ordination and have served as a Ruling Elder (RE) for eight years in the PCA.

My position on a crucial issue, baptism, is that I can affirm both credo and paedobaptism. I could sprinkle (pour) or immerse. And of course, I am Reformed.

With that background, now my question. Can we cooperate? For 2 1/2 years I have been the Executive Director of a faith based non-profit caring for orphans in Haiti. We partner with evangelical Haitian churches (Baptist) and have as our statement of faith (SOF) the SOF of The Gospel Coalition.

Here is our vision statement (our name removed so as not to appear to be a shameless promotion):

[We] exists to provide loving care for orphans in Haiti, in a Christian gospel context. [Our Org] seeks to meet the incredible housing, educational, and physical needs for Haiti’s orphaned and abandoned children.

[Our Org] partners with the [Another Org] and Haitian evangelical churches to build “villages” for orphan care. This includes housing, food, clothing, education, and clean drinking water.

The schools we build will serve the orphans and children from the surrounding community.  In addition, this helps the local people establish micro-business enterprises such as sewing centers, agricultural  projects, bakeries, and clean water centers.  These not only provide sustainable resources for the orphans, but jobs for Haitians and a means of income to  support the “villages.”

The reason for the question is this: We already have several church partners. Some are Baptist and some PCA. My experience of old is that many SBs are rather slow to partner with orgs and churches not SB. The BF&M says on cooperation:

Christ’s people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God. Such organizations have no authority over one another or over the churches. They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner. Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom. Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ’s people. Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.

So what do you think? Can we cooperate? To what extent?

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10 comments

  1. Ken Hamrick

    Les,

    We ought to be able to cooperate in the manner you describe. But right now, there are some in the SBC who cannot even cooperate with other SBC members who happen not to agree with them on the matter of deterministic election and libertarian free will.

    Welcome to the forum, Les! Thanks for jumping in and posting this. Let’s see what some of the other participants have to say.

  2. William

    Les,
    I would say we can cooperate in the manner you describe. Whenever Christian entities cooperate we need to ask, what is the end goal of such cooperation. Then we need to honestly ask to what degree must the entities be in agreement on matters of in order to cooperate and achieve that goal. Sometimes there needs to be more agreement than is first evident. Also sometimes entities insist on there being more agreement than is really necessary. Jerry Rankin in To the Ends of the Earth gives an example of how he would see such agreements taking place (pg. 165-168). Let me give a few examples.

    Should our goal be to start churches then there would need to be a high level of cooperation. While I have no problem in PCA planting churches, we would not be able to cooperate at that level. Once the church is started we will have disagreements over polity and Baptism. Being Baptist I cannot affirm paedo-baptism or sprinkling. It matters not that you are okay with creedo-baptism and immersion, you don’t have the level of conviction necessary for me to be comfortable in planting a church with you.

    However, should we be seeking to partner in an evangelistic activity such as a crusade, then you and I would be fine working together since we both affirm the essentials of the gospels and the means of salvation. We would need to agree, though, on how to hand individuals who come to Christ over to churches after the evangelistic activity. However, there are other Christian even orthodox Christian entities that such would not be true for.

    A third example would be ministries to the community/world such as what this particular organization is doing. While there is obviously an evangelical witness in what you are doing, I would be okay partnering with anyone who is orthodox and can affirm the mission of this organization.

    @2 Ken, I would propose that the same is how we get back . We need to honestly ask what is the goal of such cooperation and what level of agreement really is necessary for cooperation. One of the problems we are facing now in the SBC is that some think our purpose is to plant Calvinist or Traditionalist churches (or part of our purpose is to not plant Calvinist or Traditional churches) instead of planting Baptist churches in accord with BF&M. Because of this misguided purpose some seek too high a level of agreement and fuss about it.

    Just some thoughts.

  3. Les

    William, thanks for interacting. I agree with everything you said. I also agree that the way back is via the BF&M for SBs. If this latest trend persists on sending or withholding $$ based on the in-house debate over Calvinism, the SBC will fracture in a harmful way.

  4. parsonsmike

    The Gospel ITSELF is not all the theological underpinnings we each hold to, but the basic truth of the life and death of our risen Lord and that by trust in Him we escape death and our deserved condemnation and instead are gifted life forever, and that is the only way to true peace both here on earth and in the next life.
    Let us proclaim JESUS as we work together, and then later if some want to, work on the details.

    Thanks Les for being on the front lines in bringing the Gospel to those in need.

  5. Ken Hamrick

    Thank God for what the Southern Baptists do agree on! If our biggest disagreement is over Calvinism, then we’re nowhere near the apostasy that plagues other denominations. Yes, we fight too much over the issue of freewill in salvation, but we could be fighting over whether to ordain practicing homosexuals. We fight too much over whether Jesus shed His blood for all or just for some; but we could be fighting over whether or not His blood has anything to do with salvation. There’s a “church” in my town that preaches that you can find the Jesus in every religion. Thank God for the SBC, and for the level of disagreements that we have!

  6. revcort (darryl hill)

    Hey Les. My answer is yes. I think we can cooperate. Here’s something funny too. I have been asked to speak at our local PCA church this Sunday. Their pastor is out of town this week. That will be a new experience for me.

  7. Les

    Darryl,

    “I have been asked to speak at our local PCA church this Sunday.”

    That’s cool. I think both the PCA and the SBC could learn a lot from each other, and together advance the kingdom if there was more cooperation. I remember back in the early 1990s when I was serving in a SB church, the sr. pastor referred to some PCA folks as “well, maybe they’re Christians.” Bless his heart (that’s what we say where I come from) he just didn’t know many people or much about anything not SB. Thankfully that has changed in many places for both sides. As I have said before on other sites, I would welcome SB pastors and people on my Haiti trips. We have so much in common in our goals and prayers for the kingdom.

  8. frankmor

    Can we cooperate? The answer is yes. I attend a fairly large Southern Baptist Church in Forney TX. Our pastor and education director encouraged each Bible Study class to take on a mission project.

    Being a personal friend of Les I encouraged first a class I attended and then later a different class that I began teaching to donate to his Haiti Orphan Project. I made it clear to my Southern Baptist pastor and the education director that the leaders of this project were elders in the PCA.

    Neither of them had a problem with this and used our project as an example with the other classes as the type of mission project we should support. So yes, the SBC and the PCA can cooperate.

    By the way, if you haven’t checked out Les’ ministry you should do so. 100% of your donations go to orphan care as all administrative expenses (including Les’) are paid for by another source.

    haitiorphanproject.org

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