Southern Baptists and Conventional and Cosmopolitan Cultures

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Southern Baptists and Conventional and Cosmopolitan Cultures

Postby Rvaughn » Tue May 16, 2017 3:35 pm

Southern Baptists and Conventional and Cosmopolitan Cultures, by Trevin Wax
https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/trevinwax/2017/05/15/southern-baptists-and-conventional-and-cosmopolitan-cultures/
Underneath the surface of most of our convention’s arguments and debates is the fact that we are a single denomination with overlapping cultures. Yes, there are debates over doctrine. Yes, there is contention over methodology. But in my view, most often the differences are cultural, which is why they are so difficult to resolve.

I begin with the culture I describe as “cosmopolitan,” defined as “familiar with and at ease in many different countries and cultures.”

Now we turn to another culture in the SBC, which I describe as “conventional” because the root of that word ties the culture to the convention itself.

It is unlikely that either of these cultures in the SBC will disappear any time soon, which means these rivers will likely flow over the rocks of controversy for the foreseeable future.
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Re: Southern Baptists and Conventional and Cosmopolitan Cult

Postby Jon Estes » Wed May 24, 2017 7:30 am

Trevin Wax's article was well written and from my perspective got his synopsis correct.

There may be a debate and conflict with his article because of the different cultural biases we have as we approach the things he stated.
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Re: Southern Baptists and Conventional and Cosmopolitan Cult

Postby Sandy » Wed May 24, 2017 7:52 pm

I read Trevin's blog from time to time. Lifeway employees must all have to go through the same training to learn how to write in order to sound like all of their promotional materials. He's probably pretty close on the general analysis in describing the main cultural streams within the denomination.

Trevin Wax wrote:Conventionals desire to see progress in racial and ethnic diversity in the SBC, and they believe the Baptist Faith and Message is a broad enough statement of faith to foster progress in that area. At the same time, many conventionals are concerned that a growing diversity in terms of theology and methodology will chip away at a sense of solidarity within the SBC and eventually weaken the denomination on its core doctrinal commitments.


I'm not sure I'd make that blanket statement about desiring to see progress in racial and ethnic diversity. The SBC has made a lot of progress in this area over the past decade or so, most of it among what Wax calls "cosmopolitans". Fred Luter got two terms as SBC prez, and the percentage of predominantly minority congregations is increasing within the denomination, also a part of the cosmopolitan culture of the SBC. But inside the denomination's institutions, on its boards and committees, the conventional culture, which still controls them, hasn't indicated much of an interest in extending the racial diversity that is developing elsewhere. Some of that may be out of fear that it would open the door to a level of doctrinal diversity with which they're not comfortable. I can think of one case where an African American pastor resigned from trustee service over a doctrinal issue that wasn't covered by the BFM 2000.

Trevin Wax wrote:Others may object to my categorization by saying that the fundamental problem in the SBC is not cultural, but political. “It’s all about politics and power,” some say, and then advocate for a greater balance of power among leaders and institutions.
Cosmopolitans with this perspective worry about the temptation to prioritize the maintenance of the Convention above the Great Commission. They fear the tendency of being too narrow, of policing the convention’s borders.
Conventionals with this perspective worry that the choices of some Baptists may betray the SBC’s heritage. They fear the possibility of leaders who display insufficient loyalty to the denomination taking advantage of the system and structures that were built and paid for by people more in line with the conventional culture.


The heritage of the SBC is a whole Baptist heritage that doesn't belong to just one denomination. The SBC has taken some time, and made some effort, to distance itself from its "heritage" in recent years, so it seems somewhat counter to that effort to hold to tradition and worry about betraying it. Why the effort? I'm not sure that preserving Baptist identity, or a denomination's heritage is the most important thing that churches gathered in a group should be making a priority. And as we move further into a post-denominational age, and the decline in membership in the SBC widens and deepens to the point where it is now in the same category as some of the liberal mainline denominations that it once criticized for declining membership, it might be possible that the "heritage", which is not important to anyone outside the denomination, is part of the problem.
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