Jonathan Merritt article

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Jonathan Merritt article

Postby Dave Roberts » Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:40 am

Jonathan Merritt has written a thoughtful and largely unantagonistic article on the SBC. It's worth the read.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/06/southern-baptist-church-needs-change/591331/?fbclid=IwAR0X5uuPCGfPR9rqZ70VgQjYjjg7XsetaUGY9R0SOf3WqD5LORx4StObn6g
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby Sandy » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:53 am

Wow. Talk about hitting the nail on the head. Bang!

Jonathan Merritt in Atlantic wrote:The SBC is contracting in both membership and church attendance. It has shed a stunning 1 million members since 2003, and is on pace to lose nearly 100,000 people each year for the foreseeable future. Annual baptisms, which are of obvious importance to Baptists, have plummeted to a 70-year low. Additionally, the denomination is failing to either attract new young people or retain the ones it has. Only half of children raised Southern Baptist choose to remain Southern Baptist. Although the denomination has made attempts to curb the decline through evangelism task forces and mission efforts, such tactics aren’t working as hoped.

There is no easy explanation for this decline. You can’t merely blame secularization or chalk it up to the growing number of religiously unaffiliated people in America, because evangelicals in general have increased in number.


Obviously, the SBC decline goes well beyond the "birth rate."

You have to broaden the category of "evangelicals in general" to get to any kind of numerical increase. That means including a broader range of churches, mostly non-denominational, independent congregations, that take a more precept and contextual and less literal interpretation of the scripture. They tend to be less prescriptive and teach by facilitating trust in the individual's spiritual illumination rather than by dictating straight up statements of faith. (And they tend to be more supportive of, gasp** Democrats and are more to the left politically.)
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby Tim Bonney » Mon Jun 10, 2019 1:35 pm

Very interesting article. I honestly believe I heard some moderate Baptists warn the conservative takeover crowd that once the moderates left, it would only leave the conservatives to fight with each other. That prophecy seems at least partially true.

I believe the SBC is on the very same trajectory that all of the mainstream denominations are on. Some thought being conservative would some how protect the SBC from the changing culture. But I believe the same forces sapping strength from the mainline/progressive denominations is happening to the SBC as well.

Is the time for big institutional denominations over in the Church?
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby Dave Roberts » Mon Jun 10, 2019 5:45 pm

I posted this because Merritt is an insider. This is not a cause for rejoicing in the moderate Baptist world. The whole question of support for denominations and their bureaucracy and institutions does seem a weight that many churches may no longer be willing to carry. It is evident that change is in the winds, and the SBC is trying to find its way through this maze.
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby Sandy » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:32 pm

Timothy Bonney wrote: Is the time for big institutional denominations over in the Church?


In many ways, I think so. I belonged to a Christian and Missionary Alliance church from 2011 to 2017. The CMA as a denomination is growing, but only because the bulk of its 6 million members live outside the US and Canada. In areas where it is traditionally strongest and most numerous, church membership is declining, churches are disbanding and baptisms are down. Most of the churches have a membership that has passed middle age and has built for themselves a congregation that suits their tastes and meets their needs. So some of the young people drift into mega churches with high dollar praise bands and celebrity preachers while others just leave because they don't see the church as being relevant to them. And others leave because there's an emphasis on building denominational loyalty and that's not something they understand.
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby William Thornton » Tue Jun 11, 2019 7:07 am

Not much of an argument from me with Merritt. There are points of conflict. There is also a generation change under way. I'm at the SBC convention in Birmingham. There's a different feel to it and I've been to many over the past 40 years.

The abuse crisis is being addressed by age 40ish SBC leaders. Different altogether than if the old lions were in charge. You can't escape autonomy and polity in this issue.
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby Rvaughn » Tue Jun 11, 2019 7:11 am

Timothy Bonney wrote: Is the time for big institutional denominations over in the Church?
Sandy wrote:In many ways, I think so.
I hope so.
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby Dave Roberts » Tue Jun 11, 2019 10:34 am

I suspect that the SBC will begin shedding institutions in the next few years. I wonder how long Midwestern and Golden Gate can survive. I also wonder when consolidation will occur between the IMB and NAMB. No predictions, but I wonder.
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby Sandy » Tue Jun 11, 2019 10:41 am

William Thornton wrote:The abuse crisis is being addressed by age 40ish SBC leaders. Different altogether than if the old lions were in charge. You can't escape autonomy and polity in this issue.


You mean "cover it up, spin it, preach a good sermon on inerrancy to distract and smile a lot for good PR" isn't the M.O. any more? I'm shocked. ;)

There is some excellent leadership that has actually come to the forefront in the SBC, characterized by J.D. Greear. There are still a lot of "old lions" on those boards and committees and they do bite. But there are some things that have hit the SBC pretty hard in the past few years, the abuse crisis being the hardest blow by far especially since some very prominent leaders were actually involved in perpetuating and ignoring most of it.

I like William's use of the term "old lions." Good description. Ironically, several "old lions" were picked for executive leadership, including Ronnie Floyd and Paul Chitwood. Down the road, we'll see how that works out.
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby Sandy » Tue Jun 11, 2019 10:46 am

Dave Roberts wrote:I suspect that the SBC will begin shedding institutions in the next few years. I wonder how long Midwestern and Golden Gate can survive. I also wonder when consolidation will occur between the IMB and NAMB. No predictions, but I wonder.


I don't think Gateway, formerly Golden Gate, will have much of a problem. It's small, but relocation to the Los Angeles area has boosted enrollment and they're sitting on quite a pile of dollars from the sale of their property in Strawberry Point, which was some of the most expensive real estate in the country. Midwestern is actually larger than it ever has been, and I think might also be as financially healthy as it ever has been.
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Juicy Ecumenism wrote:Midwestern Theological Seminary sprung into the top ten largest seminaries with an inspiring 136 percent increase in full-time student enrollment since 1995. Similarly, evangelical Gordon-Conwell also moved up among the largest seminaries with a 57 percent increase in full-time students over the past two decades.
.
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby William Thornton » Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:04 pm

Dave Roberts wrote:I suspect that the SBC will begin shedding institutions in the next few years. I wonder how long Midwestern and Golden Gate can survive. I also wonder when consolidation will occur between the IMB and NAMB. No predictions, but I wonder.


I think Dave is overly biased by the experience of CBF partner schools. None of the six seminaries is in extremis, not even close. A flat cooperative program still delivers around $200m to the entities. NAMB and IMB have record and near record offerings. Nothing on the near horizon promises catastrophe.
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby William Thornton » Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:07 pm

Sandy wrote:
William Thornton wrote:The abuse crisis is being addressed by age 40ish SBC leaders. Different altogether than if the old lions were in charge. You can't escape autonomy and polity in this issue.


You mean "cover it up, spin it, preach a good sermon on inerrancy to distract and smile a lot for good PR" isn't the M.O. any more? I'm shocked. ;)

There is some excellent leadership that has actually come to the forefront in the SBC, characterized by J.D. Greear. There are still a lot of "old lions" on those boards and committees and they do bite. But there are some things that have hit the SBC pretty hard in the past few years, the abuse crisis being the hardest blow by far especially since some very prominent leaders were actually involved in perpetuating and ignoring most of it.

I like William's use of the term "old lions." Good description. Ironically, several "old lions" were picked for executive leadership, including Ronnie Floyd and Paul Chitwood. Down the road, we'll see how that works out.


Chitwood is younger. Floyd is not but he has been decisive in a crisis.
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby Sandy » Wed Jun 12, 2019 10:08 am

Midwestern and Gateway, formerly Golden Gate, are actually in pretty good shape in terms of both enrollment and finances compared to the other four and over the past several years are the only SBC seminaries that have shown actual growth in enrollment. Golden Gate sold their campus in Mill Valley, CA for $85 million, paid off all their indebtedness, purchased and paid for a new campus in Ontario, CA and moved into a metro area with 15 million people and added $50 million to their endowment. They've been far more innovative than the other schools with satellite campus locations and on-line programs and are seeing their enrollment increase. Midwestern has undergone a complete renaissance. Part of that is due to their more innovative, less traditional approach to seminary education with online and satellite campuses, part of it due to the sale of some property and assets which enabled them to renovate and add some new facilities to a dilapidated campus. I think I read somewhere that they have outgrown New Orleans and moved into the #2 spot in terms of total number of students and are #3 in FTE.

I am most concerned about my seminary alma mater, Southwestern. Perhaps William can share some insights regarding the financial report they turned in to the SBC, the seminaries were supposed to report at about 10 this morning. Their debt load seems to be a bit on the high side and their enrollment is still declining.
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby William Thornton » Wed Jun 12, 2019 10:42 am

Still a mess to be fixed and reported. Enrollment is up. No major crisis resulting from big donor defections.
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby Tim Bonney » Wed Jun 12, 2019 12:01 pm

Sandy wrote:
In many ways, I think so. I belonged to a Christian and Missionary Alliance church from 2011 to 2017. The CMA as a denomination is growing, but only because the bulk of its 6 million members live outside the US and Canada.


That is the same for the UMC. I have been seeing for years that the level of commitment to the local church is much less than it was at one time. When I grew up being active meant you were there 3/4 or more Sundays. Now people who worship once a month think they are active. And I hear from pastors in our community in all kinds of churches (liberal, conservative whatever) have the same experience.
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby Haruo » Thu Jun 13, 2019 1:34 am

Timothy, did you mean once a month?
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Fox definitive Blog on Bham SBC 19

Postby Stephen Fox » Thu Jun 13, 2019 4:22 pm

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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby William Thornton » Thu Jun 13, 2019 5:41 pm

One of your more mindless mental excretions, Stephen. Fits well on your site and naturally had virtually no relevance to what was happening this week. Glad to see you haven't lost your touch.

You could have joined me at Shaw's bbq. Very good.
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby Tim Bonney » Fri Jun 14, 2019 8:28 am

Haruo wrote:Timothy, did you mean once a month?


I did. Thanks!
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby Sandy » Fri Jun 14, 2019 10:46 am

Stephen Fox, Fox of Bama wrote:Southern Baptists held their national convocation in Birmingham this week and acted like the takeover that began in 1979 had nothing to do with the John Birch Society and the Eagle Forum and leftovers from the White Citizens Council had nothing to do to put in place these vanilla coated 'reformers" posing as repentants on a sex scandal was the point.


That's where you lost me.

Your theory would work if there were a lot of outsiders who came into the SBC during and after the resurgence and found their way to the boards and committees. But the only person in that group of resurgence leaders who didn't build their influence on a lifelong Southern Baptist pedigree was Pressler.

The SBC did plunge into extremist right wing politics in a much more open fashion after 1979, but that was a side effect, not the main agenda of the conservative resurgence. The purpose of the resurgence was to oust the entrenched denominational bureaucracy built on old networks of prominence and prestige so that the group of individuals who were using inerrancy and literalism to gain control of the SBC in order to have the denominational jobs they wanted. Even though Adrian Rogers warned against their doing that, and they buffered it with a few years of "neutrality" at first, pretty much everyone got the job or the power they wanted. No question that there are Southern Baptists on the extremist right end of the political spectrum, John Birchers, Eagle Forum or even White Citizens Councils but there's not much credible evidence that these groups played a role in the conservative resurgence. It would have been, IMHO, virtually impossible for there to have been a "takeover" of any kind in the SBC by outsiders who were aiming to capture the power to use for the benefit of right wing politics. To get in a position of leadership and influence in the SBC requires years of glad-handing, "sucking up," developing personal loyalty networks and exploiting friendships. It's as difficult to line up your Southern Baptist pedigree as it is to prove your loyalty and lineage to join the Daughters of the Confederacy. There was no "takeover" of the SBC, everyone in the inner circle of the resurgence was entitled to be there by lifetime involvement, with the exception of Pressler, who came via his connection with Ed Young and his standing as a circuit court judge who transfered over from an "independent" fundamentalist Presbyterian church.

As I posted elsewhere, many key moderate Baptists were also right wing extremists politically, including Stephen's buddy Jesse Helms who held membership in several North Carolina CBF affiliated congregations.
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby Tim Bonney » Fri Jun 14, 2019 10:50 am

Sandy wrote:
Stephen Fox, Fox of Bama wrote:Southern Baptists held their national convocation in Birmingham this week and acted like the takeover that began in 1979 had nothing to do with the John Birch Society and the Eagle Forum and leftovers from the White Citizens Council had nothing to do to put in place these vanilla coated 'reformers" posing as repentants on a sex scandal was the point.


That's where you lost me.


I also have no clue. And, gee folks, it has been 40 years now.
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SAWS BBQ

Postby Stephen Fox » Mon Jun 17, 2019 12:00 pm

William Thornton wrote:One of your more mindless mental excretions, Stephen. Fits well on your site and naturally had virtually no relevance to what was happening this week. Glad to see you haven't lost your touch.

You could have joined me at Shaw's bbq. Very good.



I think you meant SAWS. And it is very good. Sad news one of my Calvinist friends from here in Colinsville was in Charlotte for a business week and drove right by Bridges BBQ in Shelby last Friday about one pm. A Travesty. He took the Knoxville/Chattanooga route home.

As for my mindless blog, well folks in Davidson History Dept, Dartmouth and Meet the Press seem to take me serious but as Billy Bob Thornton said...........

Oh very soon I will be sharing unsolicited with Paul Baxley who was right up 29 from you there for a while.

All the difference in the world between him and Ronnie Floyd, as you well know

And Sandy Ive provided the remedial reading material for you. Sad to see Jill Lepore gets it in her new history of America, These Truths, the Chapter Battle Lines and you and Thornton stay in the Dark.
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby William Thornton » Mon Jun 17, 2019 1:48 pm

Yeah, Saws. Autocorrect. Whatever. Very good BBQ.
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby Sandy » Mon Jun 17, 2019 9:21 pm

Stephen Fox wrote: And Sandy Ive provided the remedial reading material for you. Sad to see Jill Lepore gets it in her new history of America, These Truths, the Chapter Battle Lines.


Can you explain, exactly, how that particular reference does what you say it does? Who, among the leaders of the conservative resurgence in the SBC was an outsider who infiltrated the denominational leadership for political purposes?
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Re: Jonathan Merritt article

Postby Dave Roberts » Tue Jun 18, 2019 9:30 am

Sandy wrote:
Stephen Fox wrote: And Sandy Ive provided the remedial reading material for you. Sad to see Jill Lepore gets it in her new history of America, These Truths, the Chapter Battle Lines.


Can you explain, exactly, how that particular reference does what you say it does? Who, among the leaders of the conservative resurgence in the SBC was an outsider who infiltrated the denominational leadership for political purposes?


I know two original outsiders who hitched their wagons successfully to the Takeover--Al Mohler and Ken Hemphill. I have no idea if that is who Stephen had in mind.
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