A faction of Southern Baptists hoping to combat what they feel is a leftward theological drift in their convention has launched a new conservative initiative. The Conservative Baptist Network of Southern Baptists launched Friday, February 14, and has stirred some disagreement among Southern Baptist leaders.
The network’s website affirms the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and insists the initiative is not a new denomination, a “blog or social media page existing solely to air grievances,” nor a competitor to any other like-minded ministries.
Instead, the network stressed its mission is to gather “like-minded Southern Baptists for the common goal of heralding the inerrancy and sufficiency of God’s Word and reaching the lost for Christ.”
“We are concerned about the current road our Southern Baptist family is traveling. It is a road that is twisting what God’s Word is saying about things like human sexuality, biblical racial reconciliation and socialistic justice,” stated Brad Jurkovich, spokesman for the Conservative Baptist Network and pastor of First Baptist Church in Bossier City, Louisiana, in an official press release.
According to the press release, the Conservative Baptist Network was largely created in response to the past two annual meetings of the Southern Baptist Convention and an increased “emphasis on social justice, Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and the redefining of biblical gender roles.”
In 2018, some convention representatives, or Church Messengers as they are called, were especially frustrated after a motion aimed to prevent Vice President Mike Pence and future political figures from addressing the convention. According to the network’s press statement, the motion was disrespectful and in opposition to I Peter 2:11-17, instructing submission and respect to government authorities. The motion failed.
“As Southern Baptists can we not love both Jesus and America? Is it no longer okay to be a pastor and a patriot?” asked Jurkovich in the press release.
After the 2019 annual meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, some Southern Baptist clergy and lay leaders expressed concern over the passage of Resolution Nine on Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality. The resolution states that critical race theory and intersectionality should only be used as “analytical tools subordinate to Scripture” and “alone are insufficient to diagnose and redress the root causes of the social ills that they identify…” However, the Conservative Baptist Network argues the ideologies’ roots in a Neo-Marxist, postmodern worldview are incompatible with Christianity.
During an interview with Christian Post, Lorine Spratt, executive assistant to Jurkovich and an African-American layperson in the SBC, emphasized her opposition to Resolution Nine.
“I say absolutely no. The Gospel is totally sufficient. Totally sufficient,” she told CP, “and the fact of its origin should tell anyone that we don’t need that in the Southern Baptist Church or in the church realm at all.”
“I really am embarrassed that they would insinuate that an analytical tool needs to be used to deal with me. I’m insulted that they would think to use something like that to say that my culture or ethnicity … that we need extra care,” She explained. “What it does is seek to make us a victim so they can then rescue [us], so they can make themselves feel good about helping [racial minorities]. Well no, you’re not helping me if you’re not pointing me to the Lord Jesus Christ. And I am not a victim. I am victorious in Jesus Christ.”
The Conservative Baptist Network plans a launch event for June 8, 2020, the evening before the opening session of the 2020 SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Florida.
Long-respected Southern Baptist leader Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, seemingly opposed the launch of the Conservative Baptist Network on Saturday with this tweet:
The real network of Southern Baptists is called the Southern Baptist Convention. It’s going to meet June 9-10 in Orlando. I look forward to joining you there.
— Albert Mohler (@albertmohler) February 15, 2020
On Monday, Mohler published an article titled “The Convictional Cooperation of the Southern Baptist Convention,” in which he outlined the foundations of unity for the Southern Baptist Convention.
“The SBC has never been marked by doctrinal uniformity on every point, and that has never been the point of our cooperation. At the same time, there must be adequate common ground on which we stand. Our cooperation is conventional, but not comprehensive,” Mohler wrote.
He stressed faith and obedience to Jesus Christ as the anchor of Southern Baptist unity. “Within that unity, Southern Baptists do the most amazing things in obedience to Christ,” he explained. “When that unity is questioned, Southern Baptists must think clearly, talk openly, pray earnestly, and love one another eagerly.” (I encourage you to read Dr. Mohler’s article in its entirety, here.)
Women’s roles in leadership continue to be at the center of SBC contention, with the Conservative Baptist Network expressing concerns over “the redefining of biblical gender roles.” Bible teacher and a prominent voice among Southern Baptists, Beth Moore, has continuously found herself at the center of the debate.
On Sunday, Moore seemingly responded to the Conservative Baptist Network controversy with this Twitter thread:
Compelled to bring a public service announcement I hope might bring some measure of peace to the SBC this Lord’s Day. There are no women trying to take over SBC pulpits, least of all me. It’s a straw woman. One woman speaking on Mother’s Day 2019 does not a takeover make. PEACE.
— Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) February 16, 2020
Truly, that’s the last thing I hope to say as an insider. As I watch the devil tear apart a denomination I loved so much & served so long, witch hunting, & so in need of a fight they have to make infidels out of Jesus loving, Scripture-believing people, it’s hard to be silent.
— Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) February 16, 2020
If this all sounds messy and confusing to you, then you’re not alone. Despite where our sympathies might lie, may we Southern Baptists heed Dr. Mohler’s advice to “think clearly, talk openly, pray earnestly, and love one another eagerly.”