In 1979, I had just graduated from college, and for the first time, would attend the Southern Baptist Convention as a messenger. I’d been a couple of other times before, but never as a voting participant. Of course, the 1979 gathering, in the Houston Summit Arena, now used by Lakewood Church as a worship venue, turned out to be a major turning point in the denomination’s history. At the time, it was viewed by those inside and outside the convention as the “splitting” of America’s largest non-Catholic denomination. As it progressed, it became quite clear that the sides, labelled “conservative” and “moderate” by the media, were not equal in terms of number, support, and ability to use the convention’s relatively backward, provincial system for selecting leadership.
There were cracks and flaws in the denominational structure long before the “controversy” became front page news in 1979. Arguments over Biblical interpretation, the degree of Biblical authority which was reflected in the denomination’s doctrinal statement, the Baptist Faith and Message, at the crux of the argument, whether or not the Biblical text, in its original form, was without error. While the moderates claimed that it is irrelevant to declare originals which are no longer in existence, inerrant, conservatives insist that since the process of translation and transmission is incredibly accurate, an inerrant original is vital to the substance of the scripture, and ultimately to what is believed and taught about Jesus himself.
What transpired, which is seen by some as remarkably complex, is actually pretty simple. Continue reading →