Why do we believe what we believe? Some people just feel what they believe is true. Others weigh evidence before deciding what they believe. Feelers rarely change their minds because, let’s face it, their feelings are all internal, i.e. something inside of them would have to change for them to change their minds. Thinkers change their minds when new evidence contradicts what they believe, and they have to reason again through all the evidence before deciding what to believe.
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is meeting this week in Nashville. Full disclosure, I belong to a Southern Baptist Church. For what it’s worth, all churches affiliated with the SBC are autonomous, i.e. congregations and local leaders determine local church policies.
Every year in June churches send messengers to the SBC to elect officers and committees (what would Baptists do without committees?), and to approve programs, policies, and the budget. This year news outlets have been predicting heated debate over social and cultural issues like Critical Race Theory (CRT), LGBTQ, women’s roles in the church, and national politics.
Here’s where the feelers and thinkers come in. Feelers will have a range of feelings about the topics with which they are familiar. Thinkers have likely already investigated the topics, considered pros and cons, and may have changed their positions based on conversations with others or their own research.
Feelers who have questioned the need of the SBC to develop positions on these issues likely view them as highly personal and probably don’t want the SBC to write anything in stone.
Thinkers, on the other hand, are … thinkers, so of course they have very likely considered whether each of these issues should be on the agenda, whether and how they should be debated, and whether resolutions should be written in stone or clay.
Contrary to the biblical exhortation not to “love the world nor the things of the world,” many Baptists have strayed into social and culture wars as well as politics. Being Baptist hardly immunizes anyone from saying what they think or feel! Churches have split over paint color, pew cushions, and carpeting!
SBC churches are more diverse than one might think, and are located in all 50 states. In 2018 total membership for the SBC was around 15 million with just over 900,000 Black members. Out of around 50,000 churches, nearly 4,000 congregations were majority Black. For the past 20 years white membership has declined, but Black membership has grown along with growing numbers of Asian and Hispanic members.
What will be the outcome of the SBC this year? Will it split the convention? Will churches split over the outcome? Or, will peace and brotherly/sisterly love break out? Four men, all white leaders in the SBC, but with strikingly different positions on the issues, are vying for the position of president. Some messengers have already vowed that they will leave the SBC if so-and-so wins the presidency.
In other news, our pastor is in the middle of a series on redemption based on the Ten Commandments which were written in stone! He reminds us each week that God is working in and through us, individually as well as corporately through His body the church. When we think about God and feel His presence, we should realize His redemption is near.
Daniel L. Gardner is a syndicated columnist who lives in Starkville, MS. You may contact him at [email protected].