Monday, February 26, 2007

Baptist Resource Network vs State Convention

Relationship of Churches and State Conventions.

The State convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey is in the process of re-structuring how they minister to churches. If I understand it correctly, associations would be basically abolished. They are seen in this study as an anachronism.

Read the report at the following link and tell me what you think. Is this something worth pursuing in the Bible Belt, or below the Bible Belt, in South Louisiana?

I've thought for some time that the Associations could actually do everything the State Conventions are doing, and do it more efficiently. With today's technology, I wonder if we do need all the layers, but I wonder which is anachronistic. Baptist polity seems to be in conflict with the decision making in Pennsylvania/South Jersey because it appears that the state convention controls the associations, and they seem to have a layered bureaucracy.

Traditionally, Southern Baptist Churches relate to each entity individually because they are independent and autonomous. However, more and more often institutions require the local church to "go through" the state convention. I'm thankful here in Louisiana that we have a very responsive state convention which has worked diligently over the last six years to promote that autonomy. I have no "ax to grind" with a particular state convention.

If a church contacts the North American Mission Board, we're often told that they have partnered with the State Convention and everything must be approved by some individual in the State, making them the de facto bishops over those churches. This, for me, is a troubling trend.

Now, some will surely say, "But one needs accountability." Yes, we've all had domineering church members express that over the years when they were trying to control the activities or expenditures of the church. I fear we are in danger, as Southern Baptists of creating a layered hierarchy to which each church is made subservient.

While I have no problem with autonomous entities requiring accountability for the use of resources, I see great danger inherent in policy which requires the state convention to "approve" projects before they can be consummated between the local church and an autonomous entity. That is certainly egregious to any church which relates directly to the SBC, but is not a member of an association or a state convention.

The church is the highest entity in traditional Southern Baptist Life. Is that a non-negotiable doctrinal position? I certainly pray that it is so.

Is it not time for some open discussion about the nature of our relationships, and whether or not funds are better expended in other ways than by maintaining extensive administrative staffs? I often wonder just what the State Convention does which could not be achieved as efficiently and effectively at the local association.


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Writer, Splinters of said...

As man, we usually set up laws and governments, then stricter laws and more government. Then we fear the loss of control.