Task Force releases 'myth busters' clarification By Joe Westbury, Managing Editor Published November 5, 2009
DALLAS, Texas — Taking on the role of myth busters, the Great Commission Task Force released a statement following their Oct. 27 meeting clarifying their role in calling for denominational renewal.
The series of year-long meetings, which originally were to be open to the public, have been closed to media and others and resulted in widespread speculation about the group’s dealings – especially when it comes to restructuring the Southern Baptist Convention.
Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd, chairman of the group, said the press release was meant to clear the air on a half-dozen high profile myths that have been circulating since the Task Force’s first meeting in Atlanta in early August. The myths have been so rampant, Task Force member and Southeastern Seminary President Daniel Akin recently began a myth-busting blog and Index Editor Gerald Harris addressed the issue in the Oct. 22 issue of the paper in an editorial titled “You’re only as healthy as your transparency.”
BPSouthern Baptists start churches among a variety of people groups ranging from ethnics to cowboys to the homeless in North America. The GCR Task Force, meeting in Dallas on Oct. 27, went on record to say that it has no intentions of partnering with non-Southern Baptist entities, such as Acts 29, to further its church planting efforts. Cody Huffman, above, prepares to share a message with the crowd gathered just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, for a worship service coordinated by Circuit Riders Motorcycle Ministries and Rushing Wing Church.
The six myths addressed in the document dealt with the role of the Cooperative Program; partial out-sourcing of the denomination’s role in church planting; influencing the presidential search committees for the North American Mission Board, International Mission Board, and SBC Executive Committee; diminishing the role of state conventions or associations; addressing theological issues such as Calvinism; and the timing of the release of the Task Force’s findings.
The statement, as released by Floyd, said the Task Force:
1. is not considering any abandonment of the Cooperative Program.
“We are asking questions about how the Cooperative Program can remain our central system of missions funding, not whether it will remain so. We were charged to ask the hard and most strategic questions about how Southern Baptists can more faithfully fulfill the Great Commission together – and together means together. We want to encourage churches to give even more enthusiastically and to see and celebrate a great increase in stewardship at every level.”
2. is not considering any recommendation that Southern Baptists partner with any parachurch or non-Southern Baptist ministry, specifically Acts 29.
“We are thankful for what every Great Commission church, denomination, and ministry is doing for Christ,” Floyd said, “but we are assigned the task of looking at how Southern Baptists – very specifically – can work together more faithfully.”
3. is not trying to determine the work of search committees and trustees currently seeking new leadership for their SBC entity.
“Presidential searches are now underway at the North American Mission Board, International Mission Board, and the SBC Executive Committee. Given our assignment, we can’t ignore the obvious,” asserted Floyd.
“This is an historic moment for Southern Baptists. We have an assignment focused [on being released at] the SBC in Orlando [in June 2010]. These boards have their own ongoing assignment, leadership, and stewardship. We will do our own work, and pray for others as they do theirs.
“Will our work as a task force have any effect on these entities? Our determined goal is to do more, not less, for the Great Commission in every area. I am sure each of these boards shares that very same goal.”
4. is not seeking to diminish the work of either state conventions or local Baptist associations.
“To the contrary,” Floyd corrected, “we want to forge a future that maximizes Southern Baptist work at every level – and change is happening at every level. Our concern is to see every Southern Baptist work encouraged and even more fully engaged for the Great Commission.”
5. is not devoting its time or energies to a discussion about specific theological issues discussed within the Southern Baptist Convention.
“This is not about Calvinism, anti-Calvinism, or any other ‘ism.’ This is about faithfulness to the Great Commission – period. That is our theological agenda,” he reiterated.
6. is not planning to wait until Orlando to release its report and recommendations. “Our avowed intention is to bring as much as we can to the February meeting of the SBC Executive Committee,” Floyd continued in the prepared statement.
“This is a huge challenge, but we are pushing ourselves hard. Orlando is our ultimate deadline, but only for the final form of our report.”
Open discussion, huge responsibility
Also during the meeting, Task Force members received input from state executive directors who released their own set of concerns. Twenty-two of the denomination’s 42 state leaders attended the meeting at the Grand Hyatt Hotel at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. See related story on this page.
Bill Mackey, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, chairman of the Fellowship of Southern Baptist State Executives, introduced David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, who made a major presentation to the Task Force. Members then entered into a period of open discussion with the state executive directors.
Speculation about the work of the Task Force and questions about its eventual recommendations framed at least part of the background for the discussion with the state executives, Floyd acknowledged.
“We were looking for an honest conversation and a meeting of hearts and minds. The state conventions are vital to our total Southern Baptist work, and this dialogue was vital to the work of the task force.
“Let me be clear. We are dealing with big questions and big ideas here,” Floyd said. “We need every consecrated Southern Baptist mind and heart sharing with us in the process.
“We will be listening to Southern Baptists all the way to Orlando, and we welcome every voice. This is a huge responsibility.”
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