Thursday, November 30, 2006

Moyers at West Point on the Meaning of Freedom

Bill Moyers recently gave an outstanding lecture at West Point on The Meaning of Freedom. Here's a quote:

Let me cut closer to the bone. The chickenhawks in Washington, who at this very moment are busily defending you against supposed "insults" or betrayals by the opponents of the war in Iraq, are likewise those who have cut budgets for medical and psychiatric care; who have been so skimpy and late with pay and with provision of necessities that military families in the United States have had to apply for food stamps; who sent the men and women whom you may soon be commanding into Iraq understrength, underequipped, and unprepared for dealing with a kind of war fought in streets and homes full of civilians against enemies undistinguishable from non-combatants; who have time and again broken promises to the civilian National Guardsmen bearing much of the burden by canceling their redeployment orders and extending their tours.

You may or may not agree on the justice and necessity of the war itself, but I hope that you will agree that flattery and adulation are no substitute for genuine support. Much of the money that could be directed to that support has gone into high-tech weapons systems that were supposed to produce a new, mobile, compact "professional" army that could easily defeat the armies of any other two nations combined, but is useless in a war against nationalist or religious guerrilla uprisings that, like it or not, have some support, coerced or otherwise, among the local population. We learned this lesson in Vietnam, only to see it forgotten or ignored by the time this administration invaded Iraq, creating the conditions for a savage sectarian and civil war with our soldiers trapped in the middle, unable to discern civilian from combatant, where it is impossible to kill your enemy faster than rage makes new ones.
Here's his conclusion:

I know the final rule of the military Code of Conduct is already written in your hearts: "I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. . ." The meaning of freedom begins with the still, small voice of conscience, when each of us decides what we will live, or die, for.

Warren Defends Invitation to Obama

Rick Warren has been under fire for inviting Barak Obama to speak at a Global Summit on AIDS at his church. Associated Press is reporting that he has responded to his critics. Here's a quote from Warren's response:
"Our goal has been to put people together who normally won't even speak to each other," the Saddleback statement said. "We do not expect all participants in the summit discussion to agree with all of our evangelical beliefs. However, the HIV/AIDS pandemic cannot be fought by evangelicals alone. It will take the cooperation of all -- government, business, NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) and the church."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Flick on Oklahoma Baptists

This is Oklahoma's Centennial year. The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma celebrated it at their annual meeting. David Flick, former Director of Missions in Grady Association, wrote a series of three blogs documenting BGCO's Fundamentalist turn. Here are links to the first, second, and third blogs.

The third blog gives and extensive account of the way Oklahoma Baptists have ostracized moderate Baptists throughout the state. Here's an excerpt in which Flick talks about their treatment of Ann Graham Lotz, the daughter of evangelist Billy Graham:

Anne Graham Lotz Banned from at the Oklahoma State Evangelism Conference:

In 1993, Jerry Don Abernathy was the state evangelism director for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. As the director of evangelism in Oklahoma, he was the person who planned the program for the annual evangelism conference, held in January. Abernathy planned a program that included Ann Graham Lotz as one of the speakers. The program for the January evangelism conference began to be published in the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger in September.

Shortly after the conference program appeared in the Messenger, Wayne Keeley, pastor of a church in Claremore, began a crusade to have her removed from the program. He wrote numerous letters to the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger and gathered a number of vocal supporters. At the '93 annual BGCO convention in November, Keeley stood on the floor and made the motion to have Mrs. Lotz struck from the conference program. The motion passed and Mrs. Lotz was disinvited because she was a "woman preacher." Keeley let it be known that "Oklahoma Baptists do not approve of women preachers." Not a single voice spoke against his motion. Not one Oklahoma Baptist stood to speak on her behalf.

Keeley attempted to get Abernathy fired because he had invited a "woman preacher" to speak at the 1994 Oklahoma State Evangelism Conference. He was not fired. I don't know what happened, but he was gone from Oklahoma less than a year. Almighty God had nothing to do with banning Mrs. Lotz from preaching at the Oklahomna Evangelism Conference. Almighty God had nothing to do with the terrible treatment that Jerry Don Abernathy received for inviting her to Oklahoma. The controversy was a low point in Oklahoma Baptist history.
It should be noted that the Mainstream Baptist organization was not formed in Oklahoma until 1997. Moderate Baptists were boycotting the convention that year to protest the heavy-handed treatment they had been receiving and they were organizing the Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma. Flick ably recounts that in the text that precedes this excerpt.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ercilia Sandoval's Story

Mother Jones magazine has published a story about Ercilia Sandoval and the Service Employees International Union's struggle to get "Justice for Janitors" in the form of health insurance for its new members.

Ercilia Sandoval's story reveals the plight of the working poor who lack basic health care benefits. Here's a link to a video where she tells her story in her own words. The video is best. It shows her with her young children and recounts their concerns over her illness.

Here's a quote from Mother Jones:

Last September Sandoval began feeling worn out on the job. She scrubbed bathroom fixtures through headaches and fevers, emptied trash cans with sore arms and a tight back. Lacking health insurance, she couldn't afford to see a doctor. Nearly a year passed before she forked over $200 for a consultation. A mammogram confirmed her worst fears: She suffered from advanced-stage breast cancer. Yet hospitals in Houston wouldn't treat her because she was uninsured. She waited two months to be approved for state disability coverage. In June, doctors finally began chemotherapy treatments but say she probably has only a few months to live.
There are literally thousands of stories like Ercilia Sandoval's that remain untold.

Health Insurance Premiums Rising Four Times Faster Than Wages

The local ABC affiliate in Oklahoma City is reporting that the skyrocketing numbers of uninsured and underinsured in Oklahoma is being aggravated by disproportional increases in the cost of health insurance.

Oklahoma has an estimated 650,000 people who are without health insurance. That is about 18.5 percent of Oklahoma's entire population of around 3.5 million. Here's a quote:

The cost of health insurance for Oklahoma families rose more than four times faster than their wages over the last six years, according to a new study.

The report released Monday by Families USA, a nonprofit health care consumer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., said that from 2000 to 2006, health care premiums for Oklahomans jumped 59.9 percent, while median earnings rose 13.1 percent.
Here's a link to where you can find information about health care in your state on the Families USA website.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Evangelicals Remain Faithful to GOP

Bill Berkowitz has an insightful essay on Media Matters about the Religious Right's reaction to the 2006 elections. Despite all the scandals, evangelicals turned out for the GOP. The shift to the left came from independents and other moderate Republicans. Here's an excerpt:

In a column headlined "What I learned in the '06 elections," conservative columnist Maggie Gallagher, an affiliate scholar with the Institute for American Values and the president of the Manassas, Virginia-based the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, included this unique way of spelling out how evangelical voters responded to ethics issues -- one of the issues that persuaded many independents to vote for Democrats: "Despite Ted Haggard, Mark Foley, Dick Armey, John Ashcroft, Ryan Sager, David Kuo, and all the other sophisticated efforts to persuade evangelicals that the GOP is simply cynically using them, evangelicals turned out" [italics added], and voted overwhelmingly for GOP candidates. Evangelicals alone may not be enough," Gallagher concluded. "But without them, Republicans are nowhere."

What Gallagher appears to be saying is that conservative Christian evangelicals remained solidly in the GOP camp "despite" the ethics scandals that ensnared former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA), the now-jailed Republican Party lobbyist Jack Abramoff; "despite" the disturbing interactions between Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) and congressional pages; "despite" the gay sex/drug scandal that brought down Haggard, the head of one of the most prominent evangelical Christian megachurches in the country and the former leader of the powerful and politically well-connected National Association of Evangelicals; "despite" David Kuo's revelation in "Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction," that the Bush administration used the faith-based initiative for political purposes, and often ridiculed evangelical leaders.

Power trumps ethics

Gallagher's pithy commentary raises an intriguing question: If the killing fields in Iraq, the Republican Party paying lip service to their agenda, and the GOP's ethics breakdown didn't dissuade the "values voters" from straying from the fold, what ever could cause them to desert the Republican Party?

Carter Raps Israel

Former President Jimmy Carter was on Good Morning America this morning promoting his new book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid. He did not mince words about the role of Israel in fueling Middle East conflict. Here's an excerpt from a Raw Story report:

On Good Morning America, Carter called Israel's occupation the "prime cause" of continuing violence in the Middle East.

"And contrary to the United Nations resolutions, contrary to the official policy of the United States government, contrary to the Quartet so-called road map, all of those things -- and contrary to the majority of Israeli people's opinion -- this occupation and confiscation and colonization of land in the West Bank is the prime cause of a continuation of violence in the Middle East," said Carter.

"And what is being done to the Palestinians under Israeli domination is really atrocious," Carter continued. "It's a terrible affliction on these people."

In his book, Carter argues that "peace will come to Israel and the Middle East only when the Israeli government is willing to comply with international law, with the Roadmap for Peace, with official American policy, with the wishes of a majority of its own citizens and honor its own previous commitments by accepting its legal borders."

On the Rise of China and India

The former head of the World Bank is advising the West to prepare for the economic dominance of China and India. Here's an excerpt from an AFP report:

Within 25 years, the combined gross domestic products of China and India would exceed those of the Group of Seven wealthy nations, he said.

"This is not a trivial advance, this is a monumental advance."

Wolfensohn said that somewhere between 2030 and 2040, China would become the largest economy in the world, leaving the United States behind.

By 2050, China's current two trillion US dollar GDP was set to balloon to 48.6 trillion, while that of India, whose economy weighs in at under a trillion dollars, would hit 27 trillion, he said, citing projections by investment bank Goldman Sachs.

In comparison, the US's 13 trillion dollar income would expand to only 37 trillion -- 10 trillion behind China.

"You will have in the growth of these countries a 22 times growth between now and the year 2050 and the current rich countries will grow maybe 2.5 times."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Christian Coalition To Keep Narrow Focus

Joel Hunter has resigned as President-Elect of the Christian Coalition.

He was trying to get the Christian Coalition to broaden its concerns to include concern for the environment and easing poverty. Other leaders insisted that the organization stay focused on outlawing abortion and gay rights. Here's an excerpt from a report in the Buffalo News:

Hunter's move signals more tumult for a group that has fallen on hard times. Members have complained the coalition's agenda has become too liberal and diffuse.

Hunter hoped to revive the group by expanding its agenda to include what he called "compassion issues." He also planned to teach evangelicals how to "vote with their life," or integrate and apply their Christian values to public life.

The coalition's rejection of Hunter's approach means it is unwilling to part with its partisan, Republican roots, Hunter said.

"To tell you the truth, I feel like there are literally millions of evangelical Christians that don't have a home right now," Hunter said.

Roy Moore Still Doesn't "Get It"

The Washington Times ran an Op-Ed by Roy Moore yesterday. Entitled "Strayed from the Course," the Op-Ed holds up Ronald Reagan's presidency as the golden era of "conservative Christian leadership."

How quickly the forces of the Religious Right forget their dissatisfaction with the work of the Reagan administration. They used to lament that the Reagan administration proved to be all talk an no action on their moral issues.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Ecumenical Dialogue Gets a Boost

Reuters is reporting that Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Pope Benedict have agreed to pursue dialogue toward the union of the Roman Catholic and Anglican Church. Here's a quote:

In their common declaration, Williams and the Pope reaffirmed their commitment "to pursue the path towards full visible communion".

They said dialogue had to continue to "address the important issues involved in the emerging ecclesiological and ethical factors making that journey more difficult and arduous".
We won't hold our breath until it happens. The two communions are deeply divided over issues of the ordination of women and homosexuals.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hankins Assesses Francis Schaeffer

ABP has a report about Barry Hankins' address to the Evangelical Theological Society. Here's an excerpt:

A Christian Manifesto, written by Schaeffer in 1982, was one way he sought to defend the faith. Intended as a response to the Communist Manifesto and the Humanist Manifesto, the book said society -- to its detriment -- had become increasingly pluralistic. Schaeffer also argued that Christians should challenge the influence of secular humanism, the worldview that "man is the measure of all things."

"In the 1970s, the militancy and combativeness for Schaeffer's fundamentalism were still there," Hankins said. Schaeffer believed anything that undermined creationism undercut all of Christianity, and he warned against working with those who questioned the inerrancy of the Bible, Hankins said.

For Schaeffer in the '70s and '80s, the identifiable enemy was the secular humanist. "How Shall We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? defined Schaeffer's manifesto," Hankins said. "A Christian Manifesto is nothing if not militant. Culturally separatist it is not, but it is militant."
It would be interesting to hear Hankins' appraisal of the similarities and differences between Schaeffer's culturally engaged militant Christianity and that of R. J. Rushdoony.

Thought That I'd See You Again

Keith Smith, Oklahoma's leading gay rights activist died of pneumonia Monday evening at the age of 51.

It's easy to be homophobic when you've never met a homosexual. It's a lot harder when you've met one, engaged them in respectful dialogue, and worked together with them on issues of common concern.

Keith was an activist for more than just gay rights. He was a tireless advocate for the impoverished, the disabled, the working poor, the dispossessed, and the outcast. When he stands before his maker he will have no difficulty demonstrating that he fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, served the sick, and visited those who were in prison (Matt. 25:31-46).

Most of his religious critics don't come close to measuring up to the standard he set for responding to Christ's command. They act as if grace is cheaper for heterosexuals.

American Intelligentsia Studying Politics and Religion

I am finally back from the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature. This year's meeting was held at the Convention Center in Washington, D.C. and, fittingly, from start to finish there were speeches, papers, panels, and discussions of the role of religion in politics. There was literally no time for blogging.

The picture above is of Susan Thistlethwaite, President of Chicago Theological Seminary. She was one of the panelists at the Religion, Politics, and the State Group's Sunday Morning discussion on the theme "Progressive Politics and Religion: Has the Left "Gotten It"? Seated next to her is Amy Sullivan, editor of Washington Monthly, who presided over the discussion. Here's a link to Adelle M. Banks article for RNS about the conference.

Below is a picture of a different conference on "Theology, Critical Theory, and Radical Democracy" moderated by Corey Walker of Brown University that same day. From right to left in this picture are Victor Anderson of Vanderbilt Divinity School, Catherine Keller of Drew University, John Caputo of Syracuse University, Jim Wallis of Sojourners, and Obrey Hendricks, Jr. of New York Theological Seminary. Outside the picture, but also participating, was Graham Ward of the University of Manchester.

Friday, November 17, 2006

American Baptists Building Bridges in Lebanon

Ethics Daily has posted a story about "Baptists Building Bridges Between Muslims, Christians in Lebanon." Kudos to Roy Medley and American Baptists for working to foster understanding and peace between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon. Here's an excerpt:

Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., was part of a small delegation of church leaders to tour Lebanon Oct. 9-15 and meet with Christian, Muslim and national leaders.

"Over and over in our discussions with religious and political leaders and with everyday folk in the streets, the common sentiment was how important our coming was for Christian-Muslim relations," Medley wrote on the ABC/USA Web site.

One Muslim leader, Medley said, remarked to the group: "For you as Christians to be here, for you as Americans to be here, carries the message that Christians and Americans do not hate

Muslims or Arabs. You cannot imagine how important that message is for Muslims and Christians in this country!"

Medley said a recurring theme voiced by politicians, citizens, Christians and Muslims was that U.S. policies toward the Middle East undermine the peace that both sides seek. The overwhelming sentiment, he reported, is there will be no peace in the region without addressing the issue of a Palestinian state.

"The other factor which adds to the complexity is the role of Christian Zionism," Medley said. "This theological perspective is uncritically supportive of the modern state of Israel in all its actions. Many in Lebanon feel that U.S, foreign policy reflects such an uncritical support for Israel. Again and again, Christians and others here referenced the refusal of the U.S. government to call for an immediate cessation of hostilities."

The American Baptist leader said it is clear that Christians in the United States must become more knowledgeable about the perceptions and hopes of Muslims.

"There is not a single face to Islam--the face of--terrorism, just as there is not a single face to Christianity--Christian Zionism," he said. "The realities are far more nuanced than us against them."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Ray McGovern on Iraq Study Group

Former CIA Analyst Ray McGovern has been interviewed by Buzz Flash about what to expect from the Iraq Study Group. Here's a quote he cites from Leon Panetta:

Panetta has commented on what he learned from U.S. military, intelligence, and diplomatic briefers when the ISG spent three days in Baghdad in early September. "We left some of those sessions shaking our heads over how bad it is in Iraq," said Panetta, adding that private assessments are "much more grim" than what one hears from the administration in public.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Goldberg Speaks to Packed House at TFN

Michelle Goldberg autographs a copy (mine) of her best-selling book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, at the Texas Freedom Network Forum in San Antonio, Texas.

Not only does she write well, she speaks well.

Yep, she's a lefty.

A Lonely Samurai

A Blogger who uses the name Spiritual Samurai has been blogging criticizing the BGCT Executives, the Executive Board, President Michael Bell, the Mainstream Texas organization, the messengers at the convention, and Baptists who did not attend this year's annual meeting.

The scope and breadth of his criticisms ought to give some idea of how isolated he has made himself.

Underlying his sometimes paranoid rants is his desire to limit the Convention's response to "Valleygate" to prosecuting those who defrauded the Convention. The Executive Board recommended that both the option of seeking restitution be considered and that prosecution be considered. The Executive Board would decide the full range of the response after further research.

My experience with District Attorney's in the state of Texas is that they have no inclination to pursue criminal prosecutions when the goal is restitution. They will refer complainants to civil courts when that is the goal.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Goldberg Responds to Christian Nationalists

Michelle Goldberg, author of Kingdom Coming, has an essay on the Huffington Post entitled, "What, Me Worry? The Christian Right and Theocracy 'Hype'" that addresses critiques of the plethora of recent books about the Religious Right.

Here's a quote with some good advice for those tempted to think that the last election buried the Religious Right:

Perhaps the Christian nationalist movement has peaked once and for all. It's a good idea to keep in mind, though, that obituaries for the Christian right have been written many times before -- after the televangelist scandals of the late 80s, for example, and after Clinton's election and reelection. The movement has been rejected by a majority of Americans, just as it was in the 1990s. That didn't stop it from forcing the crisis of impeachment, and I doubt it will neuter it now.
Michelle Goldberg is one of the brightest lights among journalists writing about the Religious Right. I'm making plans to attend hear her speak at a Texas Freedom Network forum tomorrow evening in San Antonio.

Live from Dallas, Texas

I'm blogging live from the workshop on "Developing a Webcast Ministry for your Church" at the Baptist General Convention of Texas Annual Meeting in Dallas, Texas.

I am here as a Messenger from NorthHaven Church in Norman, Oklahoma.

I'll write more later.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Elton John Would Outlaw Religion

AFP is reporting that musician Elton John says religion should be outlawed.

John is frustrated by the role of religion in promoting violence. Here's a quote:

"Organized religion doesn't seem to work. It turns people into really hateful lemmings and it's not really compassionate. The world is near escalating to World War Three and where are the leaders of each religion?

"Why aren't they having a conclave? Why aren't they coming together? I said this after 9/11 and people thought I was nuts. Instead of more violence why isn't there a meeting of religious leaders?" he said.

He is particularly critical of the role of religion in promoting violence against homosexuals. While his frustration is understandable, his proposed solution is counterproductive and would inevitably lead to an escalation of violence.

Elton John needs to realize that 9-11 did prompt religious leaders to be more conscientious about promoting dialogue between people of different faiths. Here are some of the efforts that have begun in Oklahoma:

Within a week of 9-11 leaders from different faith traditions in Oklahoma had a day of "unity" and held a press conference in front of the survivor tree at the memorial for the victims of domestic terrorism in 1995 at the federal building in Oklahoma City. Unfortunately, the leader of the largest faith group within the state -- the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (affiliated with the fundamentalist Southern Baptist Convention) -- refused to participate. My good friend and colleague, Dr. Rick McClatchy from the moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship was pressed into service hours before the event to represent Baptists at the press conference. (See article in the 9/18/01 Oklahoman on "Religious leaders ask for Unity")

9-11 prompted David Boren to start a Religious Studies Program at the University of Oklahoma. Since that very popular program began in 2002, Dr. Allen Hertzke, and Dr. Barbara Boyd and Dr. Tom Boyd have worked tirelessly to promote interfaith dialogue and understanding -- particularly with Muslims. A couple years ago, they took students to the World Parliament of Religions where some were featured in the Independent Film "Freaks Like Me" about the work of Rabbi Brad Hirshfield. Last spring they helped organize a Renaissance Week at OU and brought Dr. Charles Kimball, author of When Religion Becomes Evil, to speak on campus. A couple weeks ago they sponsored the Second Annual Fetulah Gulen Conference at OU and brought in scholars from around the world to discuss the teachings and influence of a Turkish Muslim leader who promotes peace and tolerance through interfaith dialogue and education.

9-11 also prompted the founding of the Institute for Interfaith Dialog led by Mohammed Cetin, a student of Fetulah Gulen, in Houston. Dr. Cetin and others have been sponsoring interfaith dinners, organizing trips to Turkey, and organizing conferences to promote dialogue and understanding between people of all faiths.

In addition to these developments, an Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection has been organized on the steps of the state capitol in Oklahoma for the past three years to celebrate religious diversity and promote tolerance and understanding.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Theocon Offers Democrats A New Faith-Based Agenda

Newsweek has published and essay by "Theocon" Michael Gerson, former speech writer for President Bush, entitled "A New Social Gospel."

Now that a reaction to the Religious Right has set in, the theocons are attempting to set the agenda for the Religious Left. Only the political parties have changed, the agenda remains the same -- to "Catholicize America."

Thecons rarely express their agenda openly. Instead, they are working with anyone they can to undermine the First Amendment. They do that by challenging the "liberal" idea of secular government and personal religion. Here's a quote:

Modern liberalism has defined the belief in truth as the enemy of tolerance because absolute claims of right and wrong lead to coercion. And religious claims, in this view, are the most intolerant of all, and should be radically privatized so no one's morality gets "imposed" on another. It is difficult for liberals and Democrats to appeal to religious people while declaring their deepest motivations a threat to the republic.
This passage downplays the threat of division that arises when different religions seek to impose competing absolute truth claims on all society by force of law. It presumes that a society that was united by guaranteeing persons of diverse religions the right to hold different convictions about absolute truth and to freely pursue different visions of the common good will remain united when a single version of absolute truth and one vision of the common good is imposed on everyone.

Another frequent tactic is to portray "liberalism" and "secularism" as hostile to religion. Liberal "secular" government, when defined by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, is not hostile toward religion. It is "neutral" toward religion.

This is the classic American "liberal" position. There is no way to deny that a nation founded by way of revolution is "liberal" and there is no legitimate way to deny that a nation that refused to establish any religion is "secular." The classical conservative position would preserve the Monarchy and its English Church establishment.

Our "liberal" First Amendment makes government "secular" by prohibiting the government from establishing religion (-- giving it special status and privilege by law), and it prohibits the government from impeding religion (-- denying its free exercise).

For Theocons, the free exercise of personal religion is too "autonomous" and "individualistic." Baptists like Roger Williams, John Leland, E.Y. Mullins and those who think faith must be voluntary and that entrance into community is by covenant have got it wrong. Catholicism holds that religion must be expressed corporately in the public square, officially within the halls of government, legally in legislation, judicially imposed in the courts and socially privileged throughout the entire culture. In their eyes, this is not the definition of theocracy; it is the definition of the common good.

The Theocons are right about at least this much: as long as American government remains liberal and "secular" -- separating church and state, it will be an impediment to their desire to "make America Catholic."

Friday, November 10, 2006

First Baptist of Dalton Georgia joins Virginia Baptist Convention

The Virginian-Pilot reported today that First Baptist Church of Dalton, Georgia became the second Georgia church to join the Baptist General Association of Virginia.

Bill Wilson, co-chair of the Mainstream Baptist Network, is pastor of First Baptist Church of Dalton, GA. That church joins First Baptist Church of Rome, Georgia in leaving the fundamentalist dominated Georgia Baptist Convention and joining the BGAV.

Contemplating Armageddon

Today's Jerusalem Post quotes Israel's Deputy Minister of Defense openly contemplating a pre-emptive strike against Iran. Here's a quote:

What should be done to prevent the nuclearization of Iran?

I will divide my answer into different layers. I still hope the international community will take effective sanctions against Iran, though the chances are not high. We should explain to the [western] nations that they are the next targets on Ahmedinejad's list, and the dangers he poses to western democracies cannot be ignored. My working assumption is that they won't succeed. Then I have to think about what the Jewish state can do about the danger. The danger isn't as much Ahmadinejad's deciding to launch an attack, but Israel's living under a dark cloud of fear from a leader committed to its destruction. He is inspired by a mystical Islamic belief. He thinks he will bring the Muslim messiah, the 12th Imam. I am afraid that under such a threat, most Israelis would prefer not to live here; most Jews would prefer not to come here with their families; and Israelis who can live abroad will. People are not enthusiastic about being scorched. I am afraid Ahmadinejad will be able to kill the Zionist dream without pushing a button. That's why we must prevent this regime from obtaining nuclear capability at all costs.

How do we do that?

First of all, by improving our defense systems. We developed and produced the Arrow, the only system that can intercept nuclear missiles. Depending on the altitude, when intercepted, the warheads do not detonate. But Israel needs to substantially improve its indigenous long-range capacities. This is a system against ballistic missiles and not the cheap, stupid rockets that cause all the problems in Sderot. To target those rockets, Peretz asked Defense Minister Director-General Gabi Ashkenazi to submit to him recommendations among four existing anti-missile systems that could be developed and produced. He will submit his recommendations quite soon. I am not advocating an Israeli preemptive military action against Iran, and I am aware of all of its possible repercussions. I consider it a last resort. But even the last resort is sometimes the only resort.

What about the warnings from people who have said that Iran learned from Iraq's mistake 25 years ago, and instead of one reactor, it has 80?

I will not discuss such operational issues in public. I didn't as an MK, and I won't now. I have said the maximum I can say. On the Iranian threat, I prefer fewer declarations and more deeds.

Ray McGovern on Robert Gates

Tom Paine has posted an essay by Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst, about the suggested replacement for Secretary of Defense entitled "The Cheney-Gates Cabal." Here's a quote:

Gates is the one most responsible for institutionalizing the politicization of intelligence analysis by setting the example and promoting malleable managers more interested in career advancement than the ethos of speaking truth to power. In 2002, it was those managers who then-CIA Director George Tenet ordered to prepare what has become known as the "Whore of Babylon" -- the October 1 National Intelligence Mis-Estimate on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He instructed them to adhere to the guidelines set by Vice President Dick Cheney in his infamous, preemptive speech of August 26, 2002, and complete it in three weeks -- in order to force a congressional vote before the mid-term election. To their discredit, the managers complied and issued the worst NIE in the history of American intelligence.

All those quoted in the press yesterday and this morning regarding the Gates nomination seem blissfully unaware of this history -- all, that is, but Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., who sits on the House Intelligence Committee. Pointing out Gates' reputation for putting pressure on analysts to shape their conclusions to fit administration policies, Holt told the press yesterday that the nomination is "deeply troubling," and stressed that the confirmation hearings "should be thorough and probing."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Required Reading

Damon Linker's book, The Theocons: Secular America Under Seige should be required reading for all moderate, Mainstream Baptists. It helped me understand some of the reasons for the recent convergence between Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist thought.

I nearly didn't buy the book. The title put me off. I'm not a "secular American," I am a "religious American" and a Baptist minister. The book did not appear to be addressed to me. If fact, however, the book is essential reading for all who value the Baptist legacy of religious liberty and separation of church and state. Everyone who values pluralistic democracy is "under seige."

Linker is the former editor of the very influential "theoconservative" flagship journal, First Things. He came to realize that the ideology being promulgated by that magazine "was having a significant negative influence on the country" and decided that he had to do what he could to counteract that influence.

What he did was to write the definitive expose of the efforts of Richard John Neuhaus, Michael Novak, George Weigel and others involved with the Institute for Religion and Democracy who are working "to make America Catholic." (p. 67) The chief impediment to their efforts was the promise Catholic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy gave to Baptist ministers in Houston in 1960. Kennedy said,
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute -- where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be a Catholic) how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishoners for whom to vote -- where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference. . . . I believe in an America . . . where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials. . . . I believe in a president whose views on religion are his own private affair, neither imposed by him on the nation nor imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.
Linker documents four decades of work that has reframed Catholic thought and theology for the consumption of conservative Protestants and evangelicals and made them allies in their political struggle to "Catholicize" the United States. Their influence on the fundamentalists who took over the Southern Baptist Convention, on other conservative evangelicals and moderate Protestants, and even on moderate Baptists has been profound.

Here's a quote:

At a series of discreet meetings beginning in September 1992, Neuhaus, Weigel, Jesuit theologian Avery Dulles, and four other Catholics worked on drafting a statement of common cause with (Chuck) Colson and seven other conservative Protestants, including representatives of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Pentecostal Assemblies of God, and the World Evangelical Fellowship. . . .

Although much of the statement sought to find common ground on theological and doctrinal matters, the document's longest section -- titled "We Contend Together" -- set out an ambitious political agenda using concepts, terms, arguments, and rhetoric unmistakably derived from the writings of Neuhaus, Weigel, Novak and Pope John Paul II.

Podcast: Paul Weller Interview

Dr. Bruce Prescott's 11-05-06 "Religious Talk" radio interview with Dr. Paul Weller, Professor of Inter-Religious Relations at the University of Derby. We talk about Dr. Weller's book "Time for a Change: Reconfiguring Religion, State and Society" and about the second annual Fetulah Gulen Conference that was held at the University of Oklahoma on Nov. 4-5, 2006.

Stepping Away from Armageddon

A news story in Israel gives hope that Israel will not bomb Iran's nuclear facilities.

Today's Jerusalem Post is running a story that "US Official: Israel won't bomb Iran."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Religious Left Plans Tele-Conference

Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo and other progressive religious leaders have planned a tele-conference tomorrow to discuss the impact of progressive religious voters on this year's elections.

I have to confess that, at the moment, I am less than enthusiastic about this dueling God-talk between political parties.

My attitude may change when we see how serious the voting irregularities are in this election. Greg Palast is already predicting that this election will be stolen.

On the Baptist Vision for Religious Liberty

Dr. Paul Weller, a Baptist minister and Professor of Inter-Religious Relations at the University of Derby, contends that the continued establishment of the Church of England is both theologically and politically inadequate for twenty-first century England.

His book "Time for a Change: Reconfiguring Religion, State and Society" draws on the resources of the Baptist ecclesiology of "covenantal voluntarism" and on Baptist advocacy for religious liberty as models for the increasingly diverse religious, social and political landscape of the United Kingdom.

After briefly recounting the history of England's established Church, Weller describes the Baptist struggle for religious liberty in two clear and succinct chapters. One chapter on the struggle in England and another on the struggle in America.

Then he documents the burgeoning religious diversity within the UK, summarizes his previously published research on religious discrimination toward minority faiths in England and Ireland, and discusses more fully the need for a change toward a more Baptist model for church-state relations.

Here's a quotation from Weller's discussion of the Baptist vision for society:

For the Baptist vision, the promotion of religious freedom has been, and is, a theologically grounded conviction and practice. While the promotion of religious liberty has opened up possibilities for religious toleration, the commitment to religious liberty is basically different from toleration. While in many social contexts toleration represents a significant advance, it continues to reserve to itself the right not to recognize other groups, and in fact, sometimes exercises this option. Toleration implies retention of imbalances in religious power and tends to be based upon political pragmatism rather than theological principle. In addition, as the Mennonite writer Harold Bender pointed out, it can be the product of religious indifferentism:
It is a deeply disturbing fact that the victory for toleration in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries was to a large degree due not to the will of the dominant Christian Churches, Catholic or Protestant, but to the will of rulers exhausted by religious wars and determined to find a basis for peace in the European community which would transcend the warring religious parties; or to the growing rationalism, secularism and materialism of the politically ever more powerful upper middle class, which placed religion low in the scale of cultural values and, in the words of Frederick the Great, was quite willing to have everyone 'saved after his own fashion' -- or in the words of Theodore Beza a century and a half earlier, 'to go to hell in his own fashion.'
The strength of the Baptist vision of religious liberty is that it is not a product of religious indifference. Rather, it is theologically based. As a contemporary theological resource, the Baptist tradition's commitment to religious freedom thus provides a basis for Christian acceptance of the fact of religious plurality understood as a theological imperative. This contrasts with the approach of granting recognition of such plurality merely as a grudging concession consequent upon increasing pluralization of the social context and the privatization of religion. The Baptist vision of a theologically grounded commitment to religious freedom enables the possibility of maintaining distinctive and passionately held religious convictions alongside a deep concern for the promotion of the religious rights of others.
Reading Dr. Weller's book about problems with the established church in England might prove sobering for those "values-voter" Baptists in the United States who, drunk with the wine of political power, are jettisoning the Baptist legacy regarding religious liberty and working to establish religion in America.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Terminal Conscience, Part 2

Editor and Publisher has posted a second essay by Greg Mitchell about the tragic death of Alyssa Peterson. Click here for part 1 of this story.

Mitchell tells the story of another soldier who knew Peterson to discover what she was asked by her superiors to participate in during interrogations. Here's an excerpt from his report about Kayla Williams, another Arabic-speaking female soldier in Iraq:

Williams (a three-year Army vet at the time) was sent to the 2nd Brigade's Support Area in Mosul, and she described what happened next in her book. Brought into the "cage" there one day on a special mission, she saw fellow soldiers hitting a naked prisoner in the face. "It's one thing to make fun of someone and attempt to humiliate him. With words. That's one thing. But flicking lit cigarettes at somebody -- like burning him -- that's illegal," Williams writes in he book. Soldiers later told her that "the old rules no longer applied because this was a different world. This was a new kind of war."

Here's what she told Soledad O'Brien of CNN on Sept. 26 of this year:

"Actually, my job was not as an interrogator. So, I didn't know what their usual rules were. I was asked to assist. And what I saw was that individuals who were doing interrogations had slipped over a line and were really doing things that were inappropriate. There were prisoners that were burned with lit cigarettes. . . .

"They stripped prisoners naked and then removed their blindfolds, so that I was the first thing they saw. And, then, we were supposed to mock them and degrade their manhood. And it really didn't seem to make a lot of sense to me. I didn't know if this was standard. But it did not seem to work. And it really made me feel like we were losing that crucial moral higher ground, and we weren't behaving in the way that Americans are supposed to behave."

As soon as that day ended, after a couple of these sessions, she told a superior she would never do it again.

In another CNN interview, on Oct. 8, 2005, she explained:

"I sat through it at the time. But after it was over I did approach the non-commissioned officer in charge and told him I think you may be violating the Geneva Conventions. ... He said he knew and I said I wouldn't participate again and he respected that, but I was really, really stunned and struggled a lot with whether or not I should do anything about it because I don't know whether or not it's appropriate technique."
. . .

"It also made me think," Williams says, "what are we as humans that we do this to each other? It made me question my humanity and the humanity of all Americans. It was difficult and to this day, I can no longer think I am a really good person and will do the right thing in the right situation." Such an experience might have been truly shattering to the deeply religious Peterson.

On Saddam's Verdict

If ever there was a tyrant who deserved to receive the death penalty, it is Saddam Hussein.

Reuters, however, reports that Saddam's lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi says, Saddam's verdict date was "rigged" for Bush and will "plunge the region into wider bloodshed."

Throughout the trial, a number of lawyers for Hussein have been assassinated. Defending Saddam does not make Dulaimi a celebrity in Iraq. It makes him a target.

Civilization requires the rule of law. The rule of law requires that every effort be made to assure that Saddam receives a fair and impartial hearing. Otherwise, defenders of Saddam and his regime -- mostly the Sunni's in Iraq -- will never believe that he received a fair trial. If dates can be "rigged," they will reason, so can verdicts.

If might makes right. It is each man, or each tribe, or each religious sect for themselves. Why not assassinate lawyers who defend criminals and judges who render verdicts with which you disagree? It is survival of the most ruthless.

This is not the way to impede the spread of sectarian violence and the threat of civil war in Iraq. It merely adds fuel to the flames.

Regarding Ted Haggard

I don't know Ted Haggard and don't know much about him except what has been recently published and broadcast.

I have been silent about this incident and see no value in addressing it at this time.

Jim Wallis knows Ted Haggard. His essay, "We are all sinners" is one of the best attempts to address this issue that I have seen.

Terminal Conscience

Common Dreams has posted a report about the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Alyssa Peterson, an Arabic-speaking interrogator who was one of the first female soldiers to lose her life in Iraq.

This story is too grave for an excerpt or a quote.

Click here read the entire story.

Click here to read more about the tragic death of Alyssa Peterson.

A Check List for Voters

Ken Massey, pastor of First Baptist Church of Greenville, North Carolina offers a valuable checklist for "Voting Baptist Convictions":

--Distinguish between convictions. Baptists feel strongly about believer's baptism but we would not let this position determine our vote. Truth is, most of our biblical convictions are meant to be established and expressed in our faith communities, not cities, states or nations (Acts 5:29).

--Distinguish between means. The Kingdom of God is advanced by the work of the Holy Spirit through followers of Jesus who use the methods Jesus employed, not through governmental policies or power. If our convictions are meant to build the Kingdom, we will need to do something about them other than voting on Nov. 7 (John 18:36).

--Respect the Baptist notion of soul competency and religious freedom. If our religious vote must be paid for with someone else's religious freedom, including the freedom to have no religion at all, the cost is too high. If we turn purely religious convictions into law, we deny the convictions of others and take God's place as the only judge (1 Cor. 5:12)/

--Vote for the good of all, not the good of a few. Too many Christian political advocates are drunk on the heady wine of power--majority power. But we are aliens in this world called to pray for and work for what is good for everyone, not just what is good for us (Jeremiah 29:7).

--When you have voted, turn your attention back to living your convictions. That's what our country really needs.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

On Baptist Voter Guides

A few weeks ago I challenged the Baptist Messenger for publishing a voter guide that gave skewed survey results from Oklahoma political candidates.

The editor of the Baptist Messenger has responded to criticisms of his voter guide with an editorial entitled "Are You a Political Party-Pooper?"

David Flick, former Director of Missions of one of Oklahoma's Baptist Associations, has written a response to that editorial.

Here's a letter to the editor regarding voter guides from Richard Kahoe that the Baptist Messenger did not print:

Editor, Baptist Messenger
3800 North May Avenue
Oklahoma City, OK 73112

Dear Editor:

Recently I read a criticism that Southern Baptists are more concerned about "truth" than about Christian "ethics." I hate to see Cooperative Program dollars going to violate both. I refer to the 2006 Oklahoma Voters' Guide under the name and apparently funds of the Baptist Messenger.

As for "truth", the front emblazons "Impartial" and "Nonpartisan." A quick review shows both to be distortions (does "lies" sound too harsh?) I have done survey research both for the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board (old name) and as a research psychologist, but I claiming no corner on working of truly "impartial" survey questions. Any unbiased reader could find abundant evidence of partiality in the Voters' Guide questions. I could write reams o this supposedly impartial Guide, but just a few examples. Why must the question on casino-style gambling have to add: "despite its high social cost"? I?m personally not for gambling and certainly agree with its social costs. But, any rule of impartiality would omit the tag-on. Or, to give balance, the question on revising the U.S. constitution to define marriage "as between a man and a woman" should tag-on something like: despite its violation of centuries-old states' rights to define and control the institution of marriage.?

And, on impartiality, why does a Lieutenant Governor candidate get credit for having negotiated tax cuts, while the standing governor at the time gets no such credit? And, of course the governor's contributions are not-so-subtly smirched by noting his "approval" of state-sponsored gambling. Or, why not note that another candidate for governor had repeatedly and publicly contradicted virtually all scientific knowledge (and the opinion of two-thirds of U.S. citizens?by a recent poll) to deny the reality of global warming, possibly the greatest threat to humankind of the 21st century?

So much for "impartiality"! Is the Guide nonpartisan? Anyone who glances over the survey questions with any knowledge of the two major political parties' platforms, will recognize that the questions are virtually all part of the platform of one party. A Martian picking up the Baptist Messenger Voters' Guide, without any knowledge of current U.S./Oklahoma political issues would surely note another anomaly. Why did virtually all candidates from one party return the surveys, whereas about 95% of those from another party smelled something fishy and chose not to get burned by the stench?

Any student of political surveys, such as this from the religious-right-wing-affiliated "Oklahoma Family Policy Council," knows that there are two reasons for such surveys. The secondary is to convince voters that one group of candidates is anointed by the "right" (no pun intended) party. The primary purpose is to try to embarrass another group of candidates, by making them appear to be against all that is right, godly, Christian, and Southern Baptist. The rigid wording of questions makes it virtually impossible for a candidate of discernment to qualify his or her opinions. The bellwether question on abortion defines life from "conception," whereas many biologists and Christian ethicists make a better argument that meaningful human life begins at implantation. But how can such a subtlety be expressed in this poll? Then the one exception for abortion is to save the life of the mother. Decades ago Southern Baptists recognized validity of an abortion if, for example, a thirteen-year-old retarded girl became pregnant when raped by her step-father. The Family Policy Council would obviously vote, "tough luck!"

Other questions are more political than moral, e.g., repeal of the inheritance tax. The Old Testament recognizes the responsibility of the state to look after the unfortunate. It gives no sanction to a tax cut that would affect only the very, very, very, very rich, and thereby miss revenues that could be expended for the sick, poor, disabled, or Old Testament "widow, children, and strangers in your land."

Continuing with Old Testament ethics, I don?t have space to cite all the references that a ten-minute perusal of Nave?s Topical Bible reveals on the treatment of those ?strangers in the land.? Certainly those scriptures (whether taken literally or in social context) would never justify the Family Policy Council suggestion that we "Deny publicly-funded benefits and services to illegal immigrants." Imagine a publicly-funded ambulance service called to the scene of an auto accident. They find four apparently Mexican men injured. Two have "Green Cards," showing legal status. The other two have no identification and speak only Spanish. So the publicly-funded ambulance presumably would have to leave them by the side of the road. Or an illegal-immigrant woman presents herself at a municipal hospital emergency room, in advanced labor. Do they let the woman deliver on the sidewalk, or maybe they can compel a private ambulance or taxi to give her a free ride across town to the Catholic hospital?

Then what do we do with the school-age children of such illegal's, who are also illegal? Perhaps they can form elementary-school age gangs to learn the finer points of packet-picking and burglary. Or wait until First Baptist Church opens a five-day, all-day Sunday School for them. Now that would be the day!

Conclusion: There is nothing impartial about the Cooperative Program funded Voters' Guide. It is blatantly partisan, and I will not specify which party it obviously caters to. And, finally, in ways I have pointed out, and reams more I could delineate, the ethics it implicitly promotes not only are not Christlike nor New Testament, but even violate more primitive ethics of the time of Moses and the giving of the Old Testament law.


Richard D. Kahoe, Ph.D

Licensed Psychologist

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Shifting Landscape of Baptist Missions

T. Thomas, Coordinator for the Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma, has an outstanding article in the current issue of the Baptist History and Heritage Journal.

He identifies eight shifts over the last century in the way Baptists have been doing missions. There was a shift from rural to urban missionaries, from countries to people group outreach, from holistic to evangelistic ministries, from denominational to relational resourcing, from field workers to entrepreneurial efforts, from boat-mail to cyberspace communications, well-schooled to Bible schooled missionaries, and from co-workers to second class work for women.

Here's an excerpt:

From Holistic to Evangelistic

Another significant change in overseas missions work came with the shift from holistic to evangelistic ministries. While Baptist missionaries have always had as one of their priorities the sharing of the gospel, they also met human needs whenever possible. Just as Lottie Moon gave up her own food to keep others alive, Baptist missionaries through the decades have been involved in agricultural, educational, and other helping ministries.

During the last thirty years or so, Southern Baptists began pulling back from costly institutional ministries such as schools and hospitals. The primary focus shifted solely to evangelism. This shift has led to a "numbers' game" of counting new church starts and converts, and such a change at times is difficult to comprehend or endorse. The stated rationale was that Southern Baptists wanted to fulfill the Great Commission, but the emphasis seemed to be more on baptism numbers and "counting coups." The emphasis seemed to shift away from "making disciples," which is the true aim of Mathew 28:19-20, and missionaries began to neglect Matthew 25 and the obligation of ministering to "the least of these."

Fortunately, American Baptists have continued their holistic approach to foreign missions, as have many others. The emergence of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) in the early 1990s added another organization dedicated to holistic missions. CBF's Rural Poverty Initiative, for example, illustrates a commitment to being the presence of Christ and to ministering in Christ's name to those in need.
Here's a link to the complete article "The Shifting Missions Landscape in Baptist Missions During the Twentieth Century." It is reproduced on the Mainstream Baptist website by the gracious permission of the Baptist History and Heritage Society.

BHHS does not publish its popular and valuable journal online. It is well worth the annual $40.00 membership fee.

Moyers on America's Isolated Elites

Common Dreams has posted an essay by Bill Moyers on "America 101" in which Moyers discusses a warning from Pulitzer Prize winning anthropologist Jared Diamond. Here's a quote:

Any society contains a built-in blueprint for failure, Diamond warns, if elites insulate themselves from the consequences of their decisions. Then he describes an America in which elites have cocooned themselves in gated communities, guarded by private security patrols and filled with people who drink bottled water, depend on private pensions, and send their children to private schools. Gradually they lose their motivation to support the police force, the municipal water supply, social security, and public schools.

Iran Fires Missiles in Persian Gulf

The Sydney Herald is reporting that Iran has fired three missiles into the Persian Gulf as a warning for the U.S. to cease military maneuvers in the area.

Right on schedule for the elections next week.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

What Miguel Learned From Tommy

Miguel De La Torre has posted a thought provoking essay on Ethics Daily about "What I Learned from Tommy."

Jerry Falwell has a friend named Mel who has been trying to teach him the same thing.

Miguel and Jerry both read the same Bible, worship the same God, and try to follow the guidance of the same Holy Spirit. One is better than the other at following the Holy Spirit's guidance on this issue.

Another significant difference between Miguel and Jerry is the weight they are willing to give to recent evidence like this when they are trying to discern God's voice.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

On the Mishandled Baptist Mission Money in Texas

ABP and Ethics Daily have posted stories about an investigation revealing mishandling of money and bogus mission starts in Texas.

I have ignored this story until now. I didn't think there was anything to it. That assumption has proven to be mistaken.

A sizeable sum of money appears to have been mishandled. As Jim West says on the Mainstream Baptists weblog, "What's tragic here is that well meaning, hard working, devoted Baptists were defrauded of a lot of money. And worse, the Convention in Texas was either unwilling, or unable, to exercise any sort of oversight of those funds."

While pastoring a church in Houston with several missions of its own and serving for a number of years as a member of Union Baptist Association's Missions Committee, I worked closely with two of the BGCT executives mentioned in the reports.

E.B. Brooks and David Guel are both men of high integrity and competence. I have no personal knowledge of any of the other men mentioned in the reports.

In hindsight, I must admit that there may have been warning signs that were overlooked even in the Mission work in Union Baptist Association. Everyone was eager to encourage new church starts. We were often working with people with minimal formal education and training. We were relating to people cross-culturally and trying to build trust.

Many ethnic pastors are totally unfamiliar with accounting proceedures and, at times, seemed to suspect that requests for reports, receipts and other forms of documentation demonstrated a lack of trust in them. Many seemed to feel that a handshake agreement is all that should be needed.

On more than one occassion I heard an ethnic pastor make a comment about denominational executives holding anglo pastors and ethnic pastors to different standards. Some didn't believe for a moment that mission starts and projects by anglo churches or megachurches were being scrutinized in the same way or to the same degree that they were being questioned. At times, such allegations led to some relaxing of oversight.

Those days are certainly over. Unfortunately, two very fine men have had their reputations sullied to get there.

Missouri Baptist Convention Boots Moderates

ABP reports that the Missouri Baptist Convention booted 19 churches with moderate ties out of that state convention.

Most had already left it anyway.