All Other Ground is Sinking Sand: A Portrait of Theological Disaster

Feb 13, 2018 by

by Albert Mohler:

Theological disaster almost never strikes out of the blue. Trouble builds and disaster is somehow averted again and again, but anyone with eyes to see knows the time is running out. Time has run out for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The CBF emerged in the early 1990s as churches aligned with the more liberal wing of the Southern Baptist Convention, self-identified as “moderates,” forged a new organization to replace the SBC, in which they no longer felt at home. From the beginning, the CBF was largely funded by congregations that were not necessarily theologically liberal, at least self-consciously so, but nonetheless disagreed with the SBC’s determination to affirm and enforce the inerrancy of Scripture. Other issues were catalysts, including the SBC’s confessional principle against women serving as pastors. The CBF had a more explicitly liberal wing, but the most leftward of the former Southern Baptists had left earlier, forming what was then known as the Alliance of Baptists.

There was a time when the SBC and the CBF were locked in competition for the loyalty and financial support of major churches. In turn, those congregations were often divided internally by the same conflict. Over twenty years later, that competition is long over. The SBC and the CBF have each moved through history according to their chosen trajectories. They have grown steadily apart. The SBC solidified its conservative convictions and commitments, while a younger generation of leaders emerged in the CBF — a generation that did not long for a return to the SBC of the past, but identified with a far more liberal vision of theology and moral issues. The identity crisis of the CBF was evident from the beginning. So was the fact that the the LGBTQ revolution would be the fuse that would detonate the CBF and its identity.

In June of 2000, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a revision of its confessional statement, the Baptist Faith & Message. The confessional revision was a first in modern church history — the first time that a major denomination had adopted a more conservative confession than it had previously held. The statement explicitly defined the office of pastor as limited to men, affirmed the inerrancy of Scripture, and a host of other conservative convictions. Daniel Vestal, then coordinator of the CBF, predicted that 5,000 churches were ready to leave the SBC and join the CBF in reaction to the confession. In October of 2000, the CBF was under pressure to answer criticism that it was leaning leftward on the question of homosexuality and its Coordinating Council adopted a “statement of organizational value” that precluded the hiring of non-celibate homosexuals for CBF staff or missionary field appointments. The move was immediately criticized by many within the CBF, and especially those identified with its theological schools.

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