This article probably will not matter much to readers who are not Southern Baptists. For those of you who are Southern Baptists, the actions of the Daviess-McLean Baptist Association in Western Kentucky should disappoint you. According to the Western Recorder (the news magazine of Kentucky Baptists), this association recently denied membership to another Baptist church. Pleasant Valley Community Church had applied for membership to join the work of Baptists in their geographical area.
Baptist entities, including associations, have the right to admit or deny any church so choose. However, having the right to do something does not make it wise. In this case I believe the exclusion is extremely unwise.
The primary reason for the exclusion was stated by the credentials committee:
Our concern in the initial stages of our investigation revolved around the fact that Pleasant Valley Community Church’s confessional statement is one that (is) Calvinistic in nature. It affirms the doctrine of election and grace.
–Quote taken from Western Recorder (October 25, 2011)
Let’s stop there for a moment. From the beginning of the existence of Southern Baptists, Calvinists have been a strong part of the identity of the denomination. Calvinists and non-Calvinists have joined together for the primary purpose of taking the gospel to the world. Why in the world would the folks in Western Kentucky try to change this now? My church is Calvinistic. So am I. Obviously, I would not be welcome in this association and neither would my church. That is sad.
What is even more puzzling is the statement that the confessional statement affirms the doctrine of election and grace. Really? Even if you define these words differently, surely you must affirm these doctrines. They are in the Bible.
As they went past the initial stages of investigation, they found another reason to exclude the church.
Ultimately, we were not satisfied that Pleasant Valley Community Church would be sympathetic with the purpose and work of the body of the DMBA.
Exactly what is the purpose and work of this association? If it is anything remotely close to what most associations state as there purpose, I would bet that this church would indeed be sympathetic.
The committee then had the nerve to say of the church that it had an overall lack of the key elements of cooperation found in patience, humility, kindness, compassion and gentleness.
I could write much on this, but will let this common saying suffice. That is the pot calling the kettle black.
In my pastoral experience, I participated heavily in the work of local associations. We were able to do more together than individually. I served as moderator of a metro association. In fact, I might have been the only Calvinist pastor in the association. My experience was richer because of the folks in these other churches.
I did have one negative experience similar to what has happened in Kentucky. When a church was considering me to become their pastor, the paid leader of that association lobbied the church against me. Why? Because of the seminary that I was attending. I did become the pastor of that church and eventually helped a few other churches select men from that same seminary.
Yet, it is actions like this that cause many to wonder if the day of Baptist associations is something that should be relegated to the pages of Baptist history books.