If the denomination continues to operate like a Republican lapdog, it can expect to be seen as a polarizing political institution.
If they can learn to speak truth to power on both sides of the aisle, the SBC stands a chance of restoring its image. The late Henri Nouwen once remarked, “without listening, speaking no longer heals.” He’s right.
No matter how you look at the data, it seems to indicate trouble is on the horizon for the SBC.
As a lifelong Southern Baptist who grew up singing the Baptist Hymnal and whose father served as president of the denomination from 2000 to 2002, these trends are disheartening. In recent years, I’ve watched my denomination fight vicious battles over issues of little importance.
In 1999, the “Associated Press” reported on a trend among SBC churches who were dropping “Baptist” from their name.
To curb this trend, the denomination approved an alternate label—”Great Commission Baptists”—that could be used by member congregations.
This includes a 2003 resolution endorsing President Bush’s war in Iraq, a 2008 resolution taking a position in the so-called “War on Christmas,” and a 2009 resolution titled “On President Barack Hussein Obama.” I keep waiting for a resolution naming Sean Hannity as an honorary fourth member of the Trinity.
But one unwelcome point of discussion this year has been the denomination’s decline.
I’ve seen them dive headfirst into divisive partisan politics.
And I’ve witnessed how anyone who doesn’t bow down to the institutional machine or even dares to question the status quo is not-so-kindly shown the door. A new day is dawning in American religious life in which Christians of many stripes seem to be running fast and hard from denominations, particularly those whose behavior mirrors the descriptions listed above. “You get second things only by putting first things first.” Lewis knew what the Southern Baptist Convention has often forgotten: priorities often determine effectiveness.
Add to this recent squabbles over the so-called “sinner’s prayer” and other lesser issues, and you have a denomination that expends major energy on minor issues.
The SBC’s resolution history also seems to bear this out. D.) in 2000, and a 2011 resolution disapproving of the revision to the world’s most popular Bible translation (NIV), which requested that Life Way Christian Stores stop carrying it.
Just last year, Richard Land, former head of the SBC’s political arm, broke tradition and publicly endorsed Mitt Romney for President.