Associated Baptist Press
(ABP)'s John Pierce published an article
last week about Ron Phillips, pastor of Abba's House
, a "Spirit-filled Southern Baptist church" in Hixson, Tennessee. The story purports to be an anecdotal example of how those responsible for the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention are seeking to further narrow the paramaters of cooperation. The somewhat hyperbolic headline of the story is "Charismatic-leaning Southern Baptists being betrayed, excluded, says pastor." A careful reading of the story, however, reveals a man who has left the mainstream of Southern Baptist belief and practice. I respect his right to his convictions, but I think his cry of betrayal seems rather empty.
Of course this is part of ABP's campaign against the anti-charismatic policies adopted last year by the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention. In A Defense of the IMB Policy on Baptism
, a post by Hershael York on his blog Confessions of a Pastor
, Dr. York said the following about a hypothetical church that began to teach practices that were not in line with the majority of Southern Baptist churches:
"...that church would surely be dismissed from the local association and perhaps the denomination entirely. More likely, the church would voluntarily leave the denomination because it would be so radically out of step that the church would find little on which to base fellowship with other churches."
I would suggest that Ron Phillips' case is far more like that of York's hypothetical church than a case of betrayal. Surely Phillips, a lifelong Southern Baptist, knew how his charismatic practices would be viewed by fellow baptists. In the article, Phillips cites a quote from Judge Paul Pressler's 1999 book A Hill on Which to Die
in which Pressler assures a friend "that Paige, our friends, and I would not turn on charismatics after the battle over biblical authority was won. He trusted us, and he and others have now seen that this issue will not be a test of fellowship." I would suggest that Pressler could stand behind these words in the case of Ron Phillips. No one has turned on Phillips; it is he who has changed, according to the article. And while charismatic practice is, in my opinion, a warranted test for Southern Baptist missionary service or seminary professorship, it is not and should not be, as Pressler said, a test of fellowship.
Southern Baptists are not betraying Phillips or anyone else. Any sense of marginalization felt by Phillips and those of similar experience is due primarily to their divergence from the mainstream, not to any action of Southern Baptists, who have been nothing if not consistent. This is not betrayal by any definition, and the headline writers at ABP know that. How about "Charismatic-leaning Southern Baptists' views no longer fit in SBC, pastor admits." That's what this story is about.