As reported by the Baptist and Reflector, the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s state newspaper, David Platt issued an apology related to the International Mission Board’s (IMB) 2016 support of an amicus brief supporting the construction of a New Jersey mosque. (For more on the mosque issue, see HERE.)
According to the report, Platt, President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s IMB, issued the apology February 15, 2017 while at a meeting of The Association of Baptist Publications in California.
Prefacing his apology, Platt said “I grieve how the amicus brief in the recent mosque case has been so divisive and distracting.” The IMB’s signatory alliance on the amicus brief, joining a vast array of ecumenical signatories – including the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission – indeed sparked consternation within the Convention.
The issue was brought up by a pastor from the floor of the SBC Annual Meeting in St. Louis. The question, cited below, was directed at Russell Moore, President of the ERLC.
“I would like to know how in the world someone in the Southern Baptist Convention can support the defending of rights for Muslims to construct mosques in the United States when these people threaten our very way of existence as Christians and Americans. They are murdering Christians, beheading Christians, imprisoning Christians all over the world. Do you actually believe that if Jesus Christ were here today, He would actually support this and that He would stand up and say, well, let us support the rights of those Baal worshippers to erect temples to Baal? Do you believe that Dr. Moore?” (Source)
Dr. Moore gave a terse, smug, belittling response to the pastor.
“You know sometimes we have to deal with questions that are really complicated and we have to spend a lot of time thinking them through and not sure what the final result was going to be. Sometimes we have really hard decisions to make. This isn’t one of those things.”
Moore’s arrogant answer, which also included the “What it means to be a Baptist is to support soul freedom for everybody” line, did not quell the more than obvious and unbiblical alliance of “light with darkness,” of “righteousness with lawlessness,” that the ERLC’s and IMB’s actions reflected. It would be hard to imagine what further could be done to visibly defy to the commands of Scripture “not be unequally yoked.” (2 Corinthians 6:14) Perhaps the only thing worse would have been if the two SBC agencies had organized a short-term missions trip to New Jersey to labor alongside Muslims in a mosque-raising.
By January 2017, the unacceptable alliance of the IMB particularly reached a further point of denominational stress. An IMB trustee, Pastor Dean Haun resigned his position in protest to the IMB’s actions and his inability to receive a satisfactory answer to his concerns.
“When I look at our IMB mission and purpose statements, I cannot see how this action meshes with them … If we defend the rights of people to construct places of false worship are we not helping them speed down the highway to hell?…I want no part in supporting a false religion even if it is in the name of religious freedom…Our Baptist institutions’ names will be on this brief setting legal precedence and supporting the right of mosques to be built all over our nation for years to come.” (Source)
Haun, former president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, and his 2,000 member church took further action by escrowing their financial support to the Convention’s Cooperative Program.
Though Haun’s actions were not cited by Platt as instrumental in his apology, it seems clear that a convention with agencies eager to disregard the clear instruction of Scripture seem to suddenly be all ears and apologies when the purse-strings are snatched closed. Further evidence, of course, of the true priorities of a denomination that is, almost by the day, redefining the notion of “downgrade.”
Platt’s apology for his agency’s participation is as follows.
“All this to say, in short, I apologize to Southern Baptists for how distracting and divisive this has been. I am confident that in the days ahead, the IMB will have better processes in place to keep us focused on our primary mission: partnering with churches to empower limitless missionary teams who are evangelizing, discipling, planting and multiplying healthy churches, and training leaders among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God.” David Platt
Though Pastor Haun has not publicly commented on Platt’s apology, it’s curious to note that it’s not really an apology for what the IMB did. Platt didn’t acknowledge that his agency had made a grave error in supporting the Muslims in their legal proceedings. He did not apologize for disregarding God’s perspicuous commands in Scripture. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) What Platt apologized for was the “distracting and divisive” result such participation generated.
It seems not altogether unlike the cookie-thieving child who is sorry for getting caught, not for actually committing the crime. Or perhaps like the adulterous husband who regrets the repercussions of his sin more than the sin itself. It just doesn’t seem to evoke authentic “godly grief.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)
But in the case of much of the SBC, it seems that Biblical disobedience isn’t all that much of a crime, isn’t a sin, and isn’t an issue. When you get caught, apologize for the confusion, not for the transgression.
However, Platt may at least be credited for issuing an apology – of sorts, something Moore and the ERLC have yet to do. And, to his credit, Platt seems to be implementing protocols within the IMB that might preclude such future violations of Scriptural prohibitions. If anything, Platt’s actions in that regard alone may hopefully ensure that at least his CP-funded agency won’t be engaged in the future in building temples to Baal.
And that is the kind of Scriptural obedience that is much needed in the SBC.
[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]