Here We Go Again
William F. “Bill” Harrell, pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, is the new chairman of the SBC Executive Committee, the elected body of state convention representatives that develop policies and attend to Convention business between the annual sessions of the Southern Baptist Convention. Morris Chapman, the former Chairman of the committee had this to say of Harrell:
“ . . . He makes it a priority to know the issues and allow the facts to guide his decisions.”Well, it looks like Mr. Harrell has gotten off on the wrong foot. In his first new article, Harrell argues that there are two “important issues to solve” in our Convention. The first is worship style (gasp), and the other is Calvinism. Here is his quote:
“Second,” Harrell continued, “we must deal with Calvinism. I have solid Christian friends, some of them pastors who are Calvinists, but I think they are wrong about the tenets of five point Calvinism. In my opinion too much of the New Testament must be ignored or radically interpreted to embrace the five points of Calvinism.” (emphasis mine)This has to be one of the most misinformed statements I have ever heard coming from a leader in our Convention. While I want to give Mr. Harrell the benefit of the doubt, having someone in such a powerful position as the chairman of the most influential committee in the Southern Baptist Convention, there is no excuse or justification for such erroneous comments. In the article, the reporter was quick to know the size of the church’s weekly budget, the value of the church’s property, and their television ministry (as though these were important and prerequisites of being a chairman), but it says nothing about his knowledge of Baptist doctrine or church history. All Mr. Harrell needs to do is take a brief glance at our roots as a Convention and find that we have been Calvinistic from the beginning. The article continues:
Harrell further explained, “I think the problem of Calvinism in the SBC could be solved if we establish one ground rule. If a man wants to start a Calvinistic church, let him have at it. If a man wants to answer a call to a Calvinistic church he should have the freedom to do that, but that man should not answer a call to a church that is not Calvinistic, neglect to tell them his leanings, and then surreptitiously lead them to become a Calvinistic church. That is not to suggest that all of our Calvinistic friends do that, but when it is done it is divisive and hurtful.“The problem of Calvinism?” It is a problem to those who don’t want Calvinism in our Convention. Notice how the anti-Reformed are framing the public discussion of the doctrines of grace. Jerry Vines calls Calvinism a “Baptist battle” and here we see it a “problem.” They see it either as a fight or a problem to fix, but either way, if you are Southern Baptist and a Calvinist, you are lampooned and stigmatized as though we should be walking around the convention floor with out scarlet “C” on our chests. The SBC is cycling through new leaders, and one would hope that for once, one of these men appointed to lead our Convention will get it right or at least be fair in their dealings with their Reformed brothers. If what Morris Chapman said of Mr. Harrell is true, then he should not be stating his opinions, but "make it a priority to know the issues and allow the facts to guide his decision." I don’t know where Mr. Harrell gets his idea that “five-point Calvinists” either ignore or radically interpret the New Testament, but mark it down: he did not get it from the New Testament or Baptist history.