I commend Frank Page, our Executive Committee CEO, for the effort but here are some ways that I think the team missed the mark.
There is no strategy.
My goal is to develop a strategy whereby people of various theological persuasions can purposely work together in missions and evangelism... most likely there will be the crafting of a statement regarding the strategy on how we can work together." - Frank Page
The Calvinist group's statement has no strategy. It does state areas of agreement, cooperation, common goals, as well as call on SBC individuals and entities to affirm and respect each other but there is no strategy. The group does not ask SBC seminary trustees, for example, to formally affirm that their institution does not and will not discriminate in hiring of faculty on the basis of Calvinism or non-Calvinism.
The group has a consensus statement, not insignificant but not a strategy.
The group failed to show that honest conversation among us can be helpful and beneficial.
We affirm the responsibility of all Southern Baptists to guard our conversation so that we do not speak untruthfully, irresponsibly, harshly, or unkindly to or about any other Southern Baptist. This negativity is especially prevalent in the use of social media, and we encourage the exercise of much greater care in that context.
We deny that our cooperation can be long sustained if our conversation becomes untruthful, uncharitable, or irresponsible.
While the group took time to assail the untoward conversations "especially prevalent" in social media, a shot at SBC bloggers who have been discussing the problems with Calvinists and Calvinism in the SBC for years, they were not willing to have their discussion in public where they could demonstrate how SBCers should have these conversations.
Ordinary SBCers regularly receive from their leaders magisterial pronouncements about how prominent SBCers need privacy in order to have honest discussions about matters that cause tension among us.
The private meetings of leaders who are unwilling to discuss things where others can witness and hear their conversations about common problems is self-serving, unhelpful, and destructive. And to assail those who are willing to publicly discuss these matters, even if the discussion is sometimes negative, while having their conversations kept secret, is hypocrisy.
I am not unaware of the dynamics here. I suspect that there are people on this Calvinism group who have ambitions for SBC offices and leadership positions and they would rather not have their words on record where such might harm their career path. I do not assign this to any specific individual but only the naive among us would deny that this is one motive for private meetings.
Brethren, if you think it important to call out bloggers and twitterers for untruthful, uncharitable, and irresponsible conversations then act like Christian men and have your conversations where the rest of us can learn from your example.
Let's be honest here. The only arena where one can find routine conversations on Calvinism and Traditionalism in the SBC is among the blogs. Those may be imperfect but there are preferable to a group that meet and discusses in secret and then grandly pronounces how the rest of us should act and what we should do.
The instructions to ministry candidates and search committees was weak and ignored the obvious.
In order to prevent the rising incidence of theological conflict in the churches, we should expect all candidates for ministry positions in the local church to be fully candid and forthcoming about all matters of faith and doctrine, even as we call upon pulpit and staff search committees to be fully candid and forthcoming about their congregation and its expectations.
Many SBC churches have had difficulty when staff candidates have not been forthcoming about their theological convictions and any call foropenness and transparency is a good move.
The problem is that the reason for this paragraph being included is not that there have been vast numbers of SBC ministry candidates who were not candid and forthcoming about their Traditionalist beliefs. The problem is that there have been numbers of Calvinist ministry candidates who deliberately and deceitfully conceal their Calvinistic beliefs and goals in order to be more appealing to a church search committee.
Tom Ascol, Al Mohler, and other Calvinistic members of the group know this. Frank Page knows this. Ordinary SBCers like myself know this. Why not be plain and straightforward and say what needs to be said here
The report makes no mention whatsoever of some of the most significant realities about the Calvinist/Traditionalist conflict.
These are, (1) Some churches are now negatively designating their Cooperative Program giving so as not to have any of their money going to Southern and Southeastern seminaries because they are considered to be too Calvinistic, (2) Graduates of these same two seminaries are being blackballed in some quarters because of the perception of excessive institutional Calvinism, (3) Many in the SBC are calling for some quota on the proportions of Calvinistic and Traditionalistic SBC leaders.
Did you guys even talk about these?
The report makes no mention of two looming problems caused by Calvinists in churches: Elder rule and destructive church discipline.
Perhaps it was felt that the group should avoid unpleasant thoughts and discussions but some SBC congregations have been ripped apart by Calvinists who implemented a polity whereby the church was owned and ruled by a small cabal of elders. Is such consistent with or contrary to the Baptist Faith and Message? Did you guys even talk about this?
Calvinistic leaders Al Mohler and Tom Ascol have been vocal in calling for the reintroduction of church discipline in SBC churches. Unfortunately, not a few churches who have heeded their call have created a nightmarish system by which a church is controlled by a coterie of paid staff and cronies to the harm of the congregation and individual members. Did you guys have a conversation on this? Did any names come up as examples of how church discipline can go terribly awry?
Were I to be present in Houston, I would vote in favor the group's report, but they could have done better.