Sunday, October 31, 2004

A Good Day


Gil, Gay and our pastor, Steve Hadden.
(Click on picture for larger version.)

Today was a great day. At the end of each of the services, Gay and I went down to the front of the church to inform the church of my decision to go to seminary and pursue a career in full-time ministry.

For those of you who don't know. I went to Bayshore as a kid from the time I was 3 until I was about 12. When I was 12, my Family moved to Lutz, and we moved to First Baptist Church of Lutz for a few years before going to Seminole Heights Baptist. I returned to Bayshore in 1998 shortly before Bayshore hired my former pastor from Seminole Heights, Dr. Tom Pinner. I started working on Sundays for Bayshore in 2001. In December of that year, Gay started working for Bayshore by filling in for another secretary who was on maternity leave. In 2002, she was hired full time as a secretary for Nancy Burke our minister of congregational life. Both of us really feel at home at Bayshore, and we will both miss the people at Bayshore once we leave.

Nearly everyone at Bayshore has been very supportive of my decision. All of the ministers have given me a lot of good advice, written letters of recommendation, and helped me work through all of the issues and questions that have come up during this process.

It was great to have our new pastor, Steve Hadden, Nancy Burke, and Tom Pinner all standing at the front of the church with us. Its nice to know that there will be so many people praying for us as we start this journey.

We will be leaving on Thursday to start visiting schools, and I will be posting pictures and updates here throughout the trip.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

My Call, Part 3

As I stated earlier, CBF was a life changing experience for me.

I think a little bit of an explanation of CBF (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship) is appropriate here. I think many people think of the CBF as being a moderate version of the SBC. While the CBF is composed primarily of moderate Baptists, its organizational structure is entirely different.

The CBF is primarily a networking and missions organization. Unlike the SBC it does not have a publishing division, a Christian ethics division, etc. Rather, CBF partners with other organizations who perform these functions. For example, Smith and Helwys publishes the Sunday School literature used by many CBF churches, but CBF neither owns nor controls Smith and Helwys. Likewise, the CBF does not have seminaries like the SBC, they simply partner with new or existing divinity schools and seminaries. An interesting, and, in my opinion, very beneficial effect of this arrangement is the fact that there are CBF partners that are not Baptist For example: CBF partners with Upper Room Ministries, which is a Methodist organization. A complete list of CBF's partners is available here.

The CBF does not issue the kind of position statements the SBC does, such as the Disney boycott or the call increase evangelism to Jewish people. CBF believes in the autonomy of every local church, so these kinds of decisions are left up to the local church. There are, of course, many beliefs that are common to CBF churches such as the support of women in ministry, but local churches are also free to disagree. There are state and regional CBF's as well.

It is possible for a church as well as an individual to be a member of CBF, and there is plenty to do at annual CBF Meetings for either church staff or laity. I have enjoyed both of the CBF annual meetings I have attended. There is a worship service every night, and there are also "sample worship services" of many different styles offered throughout the conference. There are workshops for pastors, workshops on Baptist history, workshops on prayer and dozens of others on a wide variety of topics with a variety of speakers both Baptist and non-Baptist. Many people think that the national CBF convention is only for church leadership, but that is not the case. If any of this sounds interesting to you, I certainly encourage you to go to the next CBF annual meeting. More information can be found here.

Without CBF, I wouldn't still be Baptist.

Here are some great links for more information about CBF:

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Homepage
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida
Baptist Faith and Message 1963 & 2000 - CBF Follows the 1963 version
CBF and the Baptist Faith and Message
Differences Between CBF and the SBC - By CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal
Fundamental vs. Fundamentalist
Who We Are - Brochure from CBF
Truth about CBF

A lot of the above links are from this page on CBF's website.

I'll get back to my personal experience in the next post. But I decided I needed to talk about CBF a little before I continued. I am very passionate about CBF and the work it is doing right now. They are starting a NEW CBF church every month right now, and that is very exciting.


Some Good Election Articles

Here are some links to great articles on the upcoming election:

Daniel Vestal - National CBF Coordinator - Politics and Passion
Ethics Daily - It's Time to Choose

As I have said before, I don't believe either side has it completely right, so there better be Christians on both sides. If you haven't done so already, make sure you vote in the upcoming election. (Especially if you are planning to vote for Kerry!)

Technical Problems

I'm sorry I haven't posted anything in the past few days, but Blogger was having some technical problems. I was unable to post either on the website or via e-mail. I have a lot of my next post typed, so I will try to put that on later today.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Separation of Church and State Quiz

I found a great link on Dr. Bruce Prescott's Mainstream Baptist Blog (link) to a quiz concerning separation of church and state, and whether the US is a "Christian nation." The answers to the quiz are really interesting, and you can get the answers without answering the questions, just scroll down to the bottom of the quiz. I think this is particularly relevant because of the upcoming election. You can take the quiz by clicking here.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Guestbook and My Yahoo Added

I added a guestbook to the site today. Sign it when you get a chance.

I also added a button to allow you add this blog's feed to your My Yahoo! site. I have used My Yahoo! since the beginning, and I wouldn't use anything else as my start page. You can customize it with all the news, sports, and other information you want. Give it a try if you haven't by clicking here.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Fundamentalist vs. Moderate Baptists

This is a response to a comment left by Julie Laney. But I thought others might find it interesting as well. I will be spending more time on each of these issues in the future.

Here are a few of my differences with the fundamentalists in the SBC. BTW, the fact that a takeover took place is not disputed by either side. The SBC celebrated the 25th anniversary at this years SBC Annual meeting.

Women in Ministy - I support women in ministry, beginning with Sunday School teachers and going all the way up to the pastor. Interestingly enough, there are now a number of CBF churches with co-pastors that are husband and wife. A church in Daytona Beach was kicked out their association for hiring co-pastors. The SBC has even stopped endorsing women chaplains. Without that endorsement, a chaplain cannot find employment. SBC seminaries have also started issuing "certificates" rather than degrees to women who complete the same course work as men. Our minister of music's father had to threaten to sue Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to get her an M.Div. rather than a "certificate." I plan to post my scriptural defense of women in ministry in the future.

The SBC, although they deny it, has become very creedal (a mandatory statement of faith.) Forcing missionaries, seminary professors, and, in some associations, church pastors and employees to sign the Baptist Faith and Message of 2000. Missionaries that wouldn't sign it were fired or forced to take early retirement if they didn't sign the BF&M. For a great comparison of the 1963 and 2000 versions, go to http://www.bgct.org/bfm/bfmcomp.pdf. They call the BF&M a "statement on doctrinal accountability," but a creed by any other name is still a creed. Firing a missionary with decades of excellent service because they will not a find a new man-made document is a sin, there is no other way to put it.

Fundamentalists typically exclude (and this is especially true of the SBC) anyone who doesn't agree with them completely. Seminary professors and even presidents were fired because they were teaching things that were not compatible with the new leaderships. Students were made into spies, and encouraged to record lectures of "suspected professors." The story of Russell Dilday is probably available by doing a Google search.

Separation of Church and state. The SBC was one of the founding bodies of the Baptist Joint committee on Public Affairs. This organization lobbies in Washington to ensure the separation of Church and state. There is a link in the links section if you would like to visit their website. The SBC no longer supports the BJCPA, and their support of the separation of church and state has eroded since the start of the takeover. Again, this is something I will post more about in the future.

The SBC is now all about control. They want to control the seminaries, control the missionaries, and even control the Bible (don't believe me, click here!) Last year the SBC pulled out of the Baptist World Alliance, another missions organization that SBC was a founding member. Two things contributed to their pull out, the admission of the CBF and the fact that they could no longer get their way in the BWA. As I said earlier, separating from "outsiders" is a characteristic of fundamentalism.

I do not agree with most of the changes made to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. Take a look at the website listed above for a great comparison. Most moderate Baptists support the 1963 version.

The Mainstream Baptists site listed in the links section details many of the differences, and they are working on a timeline of the takeover, however it is not complete. There are several good books on the subject, if you are interested. There are books that detail the takeover from both sides of the issue.

Also, the book Fundamentalism by Fisher Humphreys and Phillip Wise is an excellent book on the subject.

Its getting late, and I have to go to a CBF Florida meeting tomorrow, so I will stop here for now. Have any questions, post a comment and I will be happy to answer them. I think discussion of these things is healthy and important for both sides of the issues. And I believe we can agree to disagree and still work together. That is what makes me different from the fundamentalists currently in control of the SBC.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Lie of Absolute Truth

I am taking a little break from writing about my calling to write about something that has been bothering me. I want to start by saying that I may not be right about everything I write. I am writing about whatever I have been thinking about.

I read an article a few weeks ago on the SBC's website that was blasting postmoderns for, among other things, not believing in absolute truth. As someone who has recently come to realize that I think like a postmodern, I admit that I have serious problems with the concept of absolute truth.

Do I believe there is an absolute truth in the universe? Yes, I do. However, what I do not believe in is absolute knowledge of that absolute truth. In the last post on my calling, I quoted 1 Corinthians 13:9: "“For we know in part and we prophesy in part." So, according to the Bible, our knowledge is incomplete and flawed, which means our view of absolute truth could be described as looking at a jigsaw puzzle with a bunch of pieces missing. We can't see the complete picture, and we can't see how each piece relates to the whole.

The other problem I have with absolute truth is the fact that what can be defined as "absolute truth" appears to be relative to the time in which you are living. For example, the Catholic church persecuted Galileo because he was teaching that the Earth revolves around the sun, and not the other way around. This was contrary to the "absolute truth" the Church was teaching at the time, and it took them more than 300 years to apologize for their treatment of Galileo. Since it is impossible for something to be both absolute and relative at the same time, I believe this invalidates the concept of absolute truth.

To summarize, my problem with absolute truth is not its existence, but our incomplete knowledge of it. I believe that theology should constantly be in a state of evolution; we should constantly be trying to learn more about the character of God and his will for our lives. The word "absolute" does not allow for this kind of change.

John 14:6 is a verse I have heard quoted a couple of times by absolute truth proponents. It reads, "Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Absolute truth proponents use this verse to say that the only way to salvation is to accept Jesus as your savior. However, neither this verse, nor any other verse in the Bible addresses the issue of what happens to a child who dies when he is too young to accept Jesus, or someone who is born with another issue that leaves them incapable of making this decision. We have theories such as the "age of accountability", and those theories are based on the character of God we see throughout the rest of the Bible. However, since it is never mentioned, we certainly can not say with absolute certainty what happens or why it happens.

I would like to propose an alternative to absolute truth, and that would be the absolute authority of God. There are simply things we don't know the answer to, and I think it is enough for us to realize that God is in control of those things and everything else for that matter. In the example I gave above, I know that God is going to do the right thing, so I don't have to worry about it. I also know that I can't save anyone, God is the only one who can do that; the best I can do is help the process along.

It is not God or God's truth that is flawed. It is our knowledge that is imperfect and flawed.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Links Added

I added a small links section to the site. I visit all of these sites on a regular basis, and many of them daily. Take the time to visit a few of them when you get the chance.

Democrat and Proud

This is an article on EthicsDaily.com. It is written by another Christian Democrat. What I tell all of my friends is that neither side has all the right answers, so there better be Christians on both sides.

Welcome to Ethics Daily.com!: "Democrat and Proud"

Another great site is www.sojourners.com. They are the organization that published a full page ad in the New York Times entitled "God is Not a Democrat or Republican" during the Republican National Convention. There is a copy of the ad on the website.

Monday, October 18, 2004

My Call, Part 2

I am going to use this post to discuss the more specific events of my call into ministry.

It amazes me how many people I have talked to can trace their calling back to one particular event, such as a revival, youth camp, etc. Well, for me, that event was the CBF General Assembly in Charlotte, North Carolina in June of 2003. Other than at my home church, Bayshore Baptist, I had always felt like I was nearly alone in some of my beliefs. My strong support of women in ministry, separation of church and state, and support of the democratic party are just a few of the issues being challenged by the "new" Southern Baptist Convention. (The fundamentalist takeover of the SBC is deserving of several posts in itself, and I will get to that sometime in the future.) In Charlotte, I found myself surrounded by either people or agreed with me, or people who could at least agree to disagree.

There are two particular events at CBF that were life-changing. The first was the church leadership seminar which was being led by Brian Mclaren. Brian Mclaren has become an expert on postmodern Christianity. (If you want to read about this, his books A New Kind of Christian and The Story We Find Ourselves In are excellent places to start.) I attended this conference with an older friend from church. After the seminar, all of us who attended realized that the younger generation views the world much differently than the older generation. Once both sides realized this, we were able to relate to each other much better. It was also kind of an ah-ha moment for me because I realized that there were other people who think the way I do. Postmodernism is another topic that is too lengthy to be discussed here, and I don't know that I understand it well enough to write about it yet. Before this seminar, I didn't even know what a postmodern was, much less that I was one, and that there were a lot of other people just like me, all of whom were dealing with many of the same issues I am.

The second life-changing event occurred only a few hours later. Dr. Tony Campolo was the speaker at the worship service that evening. He hit all nearly all of the issues I think are important, and he agreed with me, and people in the audience were agreeing with him. All I could think of was, "WOW! This is really cool!" I really had a feeling of being "at home" with these people. It was an absolutely wonderful feeling. I realize that not everyone in the audience agreed with Dr. Campolo, but it appeared that the majority of the people agreed with him the majority of the time. What I really took away from this was this: it is possible to be a minister with views like mine and not have to hide those views because of the criticism that is bound to come from fundamentalists. There appeared to be a group of people out there who were able to, as our interim pastor Dr. Hardy Clemons put it, disagree agreeably.

The whole event has changed the way I look at my faith. I don't think are differences are something to be ashamed of or hidden; I think they are something to be proud of and proclaimed! Unlike the current leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention, I see diversity as a strength, not a weakness. 1 Corinthians 13:9 says: “For we know in part and we prophesy in part.” Therefore, none of us has all of the answers, and the only way to get a fuller picture of the character of God and discern his will for us as individuals and collectively as a body of believers is to spend time in prayer and study together. Whenever several Baptists study together, disagreements are bound to occur. The goal should be, as my former interim pastor Hardy Clemons put it, to disagree agreeably. There is nothing wrong, in my opinion, with agreeing to disagree, and the chances are that neither side is completely right nor completely wrong.

In the next post, I will write about what I did with what I learned once I returned home.


Saturday, October 16, 2004

Which Seminaries?

Here are the links to the schools I am currently considering:

Brite Divinity School

MacAfee School of Theology
The Divinity School at Wake Forest University
Campbell University Divinity School

There are 13 schools that partner with CBF, and Gay and I have reduced the list down to these four, for now. I have already been accepted at McAfee, and I will hopefully be interviewing at the others in early November. For more information on the CBF partner schools, you can visit the CBF website at www.thefellowship.info.

Friday, October 15, 2004

My Call, Part 1

I thought it would be appropriate to start this blog by telling the story of my call into full-time ministry. I will be writing my thoughts and experiences here not just for my family to read, but also as a personal journal for me. Recently, I have found writing to be a great release. It gives me the ability to process a lot of what I am feeling, and put into words the thoughts and emotions that have been so strong they have almost overwhelmed me at times.

I think that every person's call into ministry is a little bit different. I think that God comes to us where we are, knows exactly what he needs to do for us to hear him, and that some of us will require a little more convincing than others. Some people may require the "burning bush"; while for others, a still, small voice is all it takes.

I think it is difficult for people who have not had this experience, or been very close to someone who has, to understand it. Some may think I am being overdramatic in my writing, but believe me when I tell you it comes from my heart. For me, it has been an extremely intense and personal event in my life. I think it can be as dramatic a change as getting married or having a baby. Once it happens, you are never the same. I have to admit there were times I wished it would just go away, but God just wouldn't give up on me.

I have always felt I was doing God's will in the academic and occupational decisions, and I still feel that way. I studied broadcasting in College, and throughout college I was active in the TV ministry at Seminole Heights Baptist Church, and I have been a sound technician since then as well. When I decided to come back and work for my father, I felt I was doing God's will as well. We had some success for several years, and I don't regret the decision even though the past few years have been tough. I don't believe God was calling me into full time ministry until about a year ago. So, why did he wait until I was 33, married, and settled in my first house? I don't know. That's the only answer I have right now. I may be able to figure it out some time in the future, but even if I can't, I am fine with that. There is one thing I do know. I know for certain that God is calling me into the ministry -- there is no doubt in my mind, and I consider that to be a blessing.

Because I am older, I am not the only person this decision this affects. I am very lucky that my wife, Gay, has completely supported me. She is going to be giving up a lot to support me in this, a good job, great friends, and a house that she loves. The only explanation is that she loves me more. I can't do this without her, and I am so blessed that God put this beautiful, understanding and wonderful woman in my life.

I'll write about some more of the specific events in my next few postings.