Panama City pastor submits SBC resolution seeking ‘unity’ in midst of Calvinism debates
Apr 30, 2012
By JAMES A. SMITH SR.

PANAMA CITY (FBW) – A Panama City pastor has submitted a resolution for consideration at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in New Orleans seeking “unity” in spite of theological differences, especially concerning Calvinism.

The proposed resolution comes in the midst of heightened discussion in Southern Baptist life about the controversial theological system named for John Calvin, a 16th-century French theologian and a key leader of the Protestant Reformation.

The goal of the resolution, submitted by Chris Roberts, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Panama City, is to “reduce some of the tension that currently exists” in the SBC, he told Florida Baptist Witness on April 27.

“The resolution would help accomplish this goal by providing a public declaration that Southern Baptists will cooperate with other Southern Baptists even if we do not see eye-to-eye on all matters of theology,” he said.

ROBERTS
Although Calvinism is not explicitly mentioned in the statement, Roberts acknowledged it is the “primary issue behind” the resolution, entitled, “On A Spirit of Cooperation in Missions and Evangelism Despite Theological Differences.”

Roberts, a Calvinist who pastors a “predominately non-Calvinist church,” authored the resolution in collaboration with others who share his concerns. He said his church, which he has pastored since 2008 and averages about 75 in Sunday morning worship, unanimously – with one abstention – voted to affirm the statement.

He said he has never preached on “Calvinism as an isolated issue” and his members “may look at me funny whenever Calvinism comes up, but despite these areas of disagreement, we recognize our essential unity.” Most SBC churches are like his, Roberts believes, in that no “official” position on the issue has been taken, “leaving room for members to disagree.”

Since publicly releasing the statement April 25 and receiving reactions to it, Roberts said good points raised by others might have resulted in some adjustments if the resolution had not already been submitted, although the “substance” would remain the same.

The proposed resolution:

--affirms the “right and responsibility” of individuals to interpret the Bible “under the leadership of the Holy Spirit;”

--affirms the autonomy of churches to hold views “not contained in, yet consistent with” the Baptist Faith and Message;

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