Friday, February 03, 2006

Baptist Communitarians Respond to Underwood

Associated Baptist Press has reported that the authors of the "Baptist Manifesto" have responded to criticisms of their theology made by Mercer President-elect Bill Underwood in a speech he gave a couple weeks ago.

I have long been on Underwood's side of this debate. Below is a re-post of a blog about the "Baptist Manifesto" that I first posted on 7/9/04. I'll respond to the current discussion in another blog. [Note: the version of the "Manifesto" that is online is a later modification of the version to which I was responding in 1996.]

My experience with the "Baptist Manifesto" dates back to the fall of 1996 when Dr. Freeman, then professor at Houston Baptist University, asked me if I would like to add my signature to the document. After a lively phone conversation in which I expressed my concerns about aspects of the Manifesto, I wrote Dr. Freeman a letter documenting those concerns. A few weeks later I was invited to attend a conference at Baylor University on the Manifesto. I attended the conference expecting to hear some thoughtful review and critique of the document, instead, literally all of the presentations were given by proponents of the document and little time was given to permit questions about it (Remember this as you read the statement in the Manifesto that says, "When all exercise their gifts and callings, when every voice is heard and weighed, when no one is silenced or privileged, the Spirit leads communities to read wisely and to practice faithfully the direction of the gospel.")

Weary of the task of criticism, I decided to offer some constructive alternatives. My first brief attempt was in a devotional entitled "The Baptist Distinctive of Personal Integrity" given at a meeting of the coordinating council of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. A little longer attempt was in a statement called "Reaffirming Baptist Identity" that was printed along with the Baptist Manifesto in the June 25, 1997 issue of Baptists Today.

The most thorough assessment of the Manifesto, of which I am aware, is a paper called "The Baptist Identity and the Baptist Manifesto" written by Dr. Walter Shurden.

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