Dr. Chapman's Memorandum
Date: May 29, 2009
To: Executive Committee Members
From: Morris H. Chapman
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Greetings in Jesus’ Name! As most if not all of you have read, the SBC president, Johnny Hunt, has called upon the Southern Baptist Convention to approve the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Declaration authored primarily by Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Both men have given a number of interviews to Baptist state papers. At the bottom of this memo, I have provided a few links to related articles. In recent weeks, I have been in a several conversations with Dr. Hunt and we have exchanged letters on two occasions. With each conversation and letter, we have both been candid about our convictions. At the same time, our conversations have been as brothers in the Lord and have been marked with civility and Christian brotherhood. The president of the Convention is to be respected and lifted up in prayer. I gladly do so. As is often the case, especially about policy matters in the SBC, he and I differ about Article IX of the Declaration (the web page on which the declaration can be found is www.greatcommissionresurgence.com/.) He has asked individuals who supported the Declaration to sign their names on the page.
After weeks of prayer, thorough study of the Declaration, reading quotes by Drs. Hunt and Akin, and listening to people reflect on their thoughts about the Declaration, I have notified the president that I cannot sign the Declaration due primarily to the existence of Article IX. This afternoon, I released a First Person article to Baptist Press. I would encourage you to read it. In the article I explain some of the reasons I cannot sign the Declaration as long as Article IX and Dr. Hunt’s request to appoint members of a Convention-sanctioned task force remain in his proposed recommendations. The president is not following established procedures and thus bypassing responsibilities assigned to the SBC Executive Committee. Please do not forget the importance of your Bylaw 18 assignments. They exist for the continued health of our Convention. As you read this memo and the materials attached, please be reminded that your responsibility as a member of the Executive Committee may be circumvented and/or marginalized if Dr. Hunt bypasses the Executive Committee altogether. In the BP article, I have tried to explain to the best of my ability why I wholly support the Declaration with the exception of Article IX.
Twice the president has revised the GCR Declaration and the one presently on the web site is the third version. Some of those who signed early are struggling with the fact that what they signed is not the language in the present version. Furthermore, although the language has been softened, the original meaning and intent remain.
I realize that some of you have signed the Declaration on the web site and I want you to know that I have no problem whatsoever with any of you signing the document. I fully realize that my permission is not necessary, but so that you are not left to wonder, any of you who feel led to sign the document have my full support for doing what God leads you to do.
I identify with many who have signed the Great Commission Resurgence Declaration because they so greatly thirst, as do I, for revival. But we cannot overlook statements in the Declaration that are highly critical of the Convention and could possibly allow the Cooperative Program to be redefined in principle or practice. If we jettison the Cooperative Program and go back to the societal funding model, we will get the same results we did before 1925 – bankruptcy and failure. If we bypass the trustee system by adopting presidential fiat, we replace our cooperative methodology with the vagaries of personality. And if we wed our autonomous partners together unintentionally by tying structure across the board to the preferences of a single committee recommendation bereft of thoughtful Executive Committee review, we render the entirety of the Convention and its kindred bodies vulnerable to the assault of any single attacker on any missiological, doctrinal, legal, philosophical, or functional front.”
SBC Bylaw 18 (5) states that the Executive Committee is, “To act in an advisory capacity on all questions of cooperation among the different entities of the Convention, and among the entities of the Convention and those of other conventions, whether state or national. “ SBC Bylaw 18 (13) b states that “The Executive Committee shall present to the Convention recommendations required to clarify the responsibilities of the entities for ministries and other functions, to eliminate overlapping assignments of responsibility, and to authorize the assignment of new responsibilities for ministries or functions to entities.” In other words we exist for the purpose of maintaining “checks and balances” in the Southern Baptist Convention between annual meetings.
The Executive Committee is just that; a committee of the Southern Baptist Convention and the only organization in the SBC whose assignments are written in the form of SBC Bylaws. In other words, the work of the Executive Committee is unique in function to any other SBC entity. Our primary responsibility is to guard the welfare of the SBC, always keeping uppermost in our minds that the Executive Committee is to think first about what is best for the Convention as a whole. No other organization has that responsibility. We are charged with providing the larger Convention with research and recommendations since the messengers attending an annual meeting do not have the time to perform these tasks. Prior to coming to the Convention in Louisville, I encourage you to review carefully all of SBC Bylaw 18 that explains the duties of the Executive Committee.
If you should like to do so, I invite you to call or email me. I will be glad to answer any question you may have. I look forward to seeing you at the Executive Committee meeting in Louisville and pray you and any who accompany you will have a safe trip. Because the president has proposed a GCR Declaration that has drawn significant interest, both pro and con, the annual meeting stands to take on an importance of historic proportions. Drs. Hunt and Akin have expressed a desire to begin counting designated local church missions giving as Cooperative Program receipts. As you know, only undesignated gifts from our churches are presently considered CP giving. If this change is enacted by the task force to be appointed by the SBC president, the Cooperative Program will be decimated in only a very few years. These are the kind of decisions that can alter even the greatest strengths of our Convention.
I am praying for our SBC president as he prepares for the Convention and his President’s Address. Although I disagree with Dr. Hunt on several points in his proposed recommendation, we are Christian brothers and both want God’s Will to be accomplished. The decision to interpret God’s Will rests with the messengers who attend the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention on June 23-24 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Whatever your position may be on the Declaration, I ask you to pray for Dr. Hunt and for me. In a non-hierarchical convention, we need to state our convictions, bathe the decisions we face in prayer, be kind to one another, and trust God’s Will to be done. I praise the Lord for you and rejoice in God’s blessings upon this Convention. God bless.
Sincerely in Christ,