To quote George Castanza [sorry, Jeff Young, I couldn't help it :)], "I'm back, baby!" That's right, on Monday morning I'm moving back to the Big Easy. I'm leaving Ft. Worth behind in a cloud of dust and headed straight for Mardi Gras (ok, that's not true; I haven't been to Mardi Gras once in the five years I lived there, but maybe I'll go this year in honor of Katrina). I've finally received a FEMA travel trailer and I'm raring to go! I've never been more pleased to meet one of the qualifications for being 'white trailer trash' :)
This has been the most difficult time in my life. As I've told a few others, I have felt more alone and depressed since September than I've ever felt. Losing relationships, misplacing friends, viewing the annihilation of my neighborhood, and being displaced from my church and school have been anything but easy to deal with. I wish I could say that I handled this period in my life well, but I didn't. However, my faith never wavered and I can praise God for His faithfulness to me even when I wasn't so pleased with my own surroundings.
I do want to publicly thank two entities. First, SWBTS provided me with an apartment to rent when I moved to Ft. Worth in late October. I never once indicated that I wanted to transfer my studies to SWBTS, but they graciously housed me for five months. Second, I found a temporary church home at Meadowridge Community Baptist Church. One of my favorite parts of New Orleans, and most dearly missed, was my local church congregation. While I have been displaced from them, Meadowridge welcomed me into their fellowship and I was able to renew some old friendships and make many new ones. Thank you, Meadowridge, for your love to a fellow brother in Christ.
Well, you may be asking yourself, "Self, I wonder what Jason will be doing when he moves back to New Orleans." The answers to this question are as follows:
1. Waiting in long lines for everything. 2. Waiting in bad traffic everywhere he goes. 3. Paying outrageous amounts of $ for gas. 4. Did I mention the long lines and the traffic? 5. Serving as the Minister of Community Ministry at Edgewater (more on this in a moment). 6. Finishing up my coursework and cranking out the ol' dissertation for my PhD. 7. Oh yeah, one more thing, lots of long lines and bad traffic :)
Edgewater Baptist Church has a deep desire to impact our community, Gentilly. With so many churches willing to send down volunteers on mission trips to 'mud out' houses, there needs to be some sort of coordinator. In light of this, they have created a new staff position to facilitate relationships between the church and the homeowners in our neighborhood. That will be me. We are hoping to have between 500-750 people working with Edgewater Baptist Church in the month of March alone. Our goal is to gut out approximately 1000 houses in the month of March. This may be overly optimistic, but we think it can be done.
March will be such a huge month for us because it is Spring Break for high school and college students. However, we plan on carrying out this ministry for many, many more months. If your church, or a church you know of, is interested in sending a team, or teams :), to New Orleans to help with this ministry, please do not hesitate to email me. Our goal is to meet the needs of our community: their overwhelming physical needs (the gutting of their home and the provision of food) while asking for permission to share a cure for their spiritual needs. Now, more than ever, Baptists have an opportunity to minister effectively in New Orleans. Many of the Catholic churches are closing their doors permanently and Baptists have the opportunity to step in and share the good news of salvation by grace alone.
Please be in prayer for us as we face the privilege of rebuilding an historic city. I spoke with a very high up denominational leader last night and mentioned that I was returning to New Orleans. He said he heard the rumors that people should not return to the seminary and to the city, but he debunked them immediately. He said, "What better time to be in New Orleans and share the gospel than now?" I couldn't agree more. Won't you join us?
[Side note: Internet access in my part of town is non-existent. The only time I will have access to the internet is when I'm over in Metairie. This means posts will be less frequent. Maybe I'll install the rule of 'less in number, greater in quality' (some would say "That 's not saying much, the quality couldn't get anything BUT better!!). Unlike D.R., I'll have an excuse for the scarcity of my posts!]
One of the things that should characterize us as Christians is our integrity. We should be strong enough to stand up for our beliefs and we should have enough integrity that, if we are wrong, we admit it. I am asking, in the name of Jesus, for someone to speak the truth in integrity. Here is the context:
There is a very high probability that the BoT will agree to the executive committee's request to rescind the removal of Burleson. This, then, begs the question: What was it that Burleson did wrong? If the trustees do, in fact, rescind their proposal to the Convention to have Burleson removed, what then? Does this story just 'go away'? I can hardly imagine so. The BoT have accused Burleson, publicly, of very serious matters. Whether you take Burleson's terms (slander and gossip) or the BoT official press release ("broken trust and resistance to accountability"), such charges cannot, and for the sake of Christian integrity, must not be swept under the rug. The trustees, whether they like it or not, have made this a public issue. They should not be allowed to pull it back 'in-house', as if local churches and members of the SBC have no need to bother with such matters of accountability and discipline.
As a Southern Baptist, and as a Christian, I am requesting that the BoT make public the facts that substantiate their claims against Burleson. If you are going to accuse him in public, then present your evidence in public. If he is guilty of slander, gossip, broken trust, or resistance to accountability, then he should be dealt with. However, if there is no evidence of wrong doing on his part, then there should be a public apology by the BoT.
There will be a decision made at some point during the next trustee meeting. The IMB trustees will either decide to press on with their charges against Burleson or they will drop them. If they press forward with their charges against him, then they are obligated to inform the entire convention of the justification for their accusations. If they decide to drop the charges, than anything less than a public apology should be grounds for an investigation into the integrity of the BoT.
It is unconscionable for a person, much less a Christian, much less trustees in our denomination, to make slanderous claims against a fellow Christian and trustee and, if then dropping those charges, do not provide a sincere apology for their actions against his character and his name. What will it be? Will you press on with your charges against Burleson or will you drop them? If you press on, when will you inform us of his sins? If you drop them, will you act with integrity and give him the apology he deserves as your brother in Christ?
This morning, in my quiet time, I read portions of Scripture from Robert Murrey M'Cheyne's Bible reading plan. This plan has been incorporated by D. A. Carson in his book For the Love of God, Vol. 1 (there is also a volume 2, in case you are wondering). In M'Cheyne's Bible reading plan, there are four portions of Scripture for each day. Carson (usually) takes one of the first two portions and writes a brief *commentary*. This morning's exposition was on Luke 9. I found it to be very insightful and wanted to share it with you. The following is lifted directly from Carson's book:
One of the tasks imposed on those who wish to read the canonical Gospels sensitively is to see how the various units are linked. Casual readers remember individual stories about Jesus from their Sunday school days, but do not always reflect on the links that weld these stories into a complete Gospel. Moreover, the individual evangelists did not arrange their material exactly the same way as the others, so the special flavor of each gospel is often lost unless the distinctive links are thoughtfully pondered.
An instructive example is found in Luke 9.49-50. The preceding verses (9.46-48) find Jesus' disciples arguing as to which of them would be greatest (in the consummated kingdom, presumably). Knowing their thoughts, Jesus teaches them an embarrassing lesson, employing a little child to make his point. Important people honey up to even more important people. Those who follow Jesus welcome the least powerful members of society--the little children. What Jesus demands is an outlook fundamentally at variance with that of the world: "For he who is least among you all--he is the greatest" (9.48).
It is at this juncture that 9.49-50 comes into play. John comments that he and the other saw a man driving out demons in Jesus' name, "and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us." Jesus forbids them this course of actions, "for whoever is not against you is for you." At first glance this is a somewhat different topic from that of the preceding verses. Then again, maybe not: the connections call for reflection. John's complaints no longer sound like godly concern for orthodoxy, but like power-hungry moaning more concerned than those who preach and heal belong to the right party than that the mission itself be advanced. So this is pathetically tied to the debate over who would be greatest. Personal aggrandizement will inevitably prove an unstable base for making wise assessments of the ministry of others.
The following verses (9.51-56) find Jesus in Samaria. When the Samaritans prove inhospitable, Jesus' disciples are quite prepared to call fire down upon them. Jesus rebukes them. Since these verses follow the themes already elucidated, the attitude the disciples here betray is clarified. Their passion for judgment against the Samaritans is motivated less by a genuine grasp of and devotion to Christ Jesus, than by a power-hungry self-focus.
The closing verses of the chapter highlight the same contrast (9.57-62). The three who protest the loudest about how eagerly they will follow Jesus are firmly put in their place: the have not counted the cost of discipleship, and so their pious protestations take on the ugly hue of self-love.
Marty Duren, in his latest post, has announced that the Second Annual Younger Leaders Conference will be held on Monday, June 12 at 9.30 PM, the evening before the first day of the 2006 SBC Annual Convention in Greensboro, N.C. It will be a time to meet and fellowship with younger leaders, as well as a chance to hear Wade Burleson, Oklahoma pastor and IMB Trustee, speak on polarizing issues that affect our convention.
I'm hopeful there will be a time for questions and answers, as well as the distillation of information on the seminal issues. Make plans to be in attendance. I'll see you there.
Sometimes we just need to laugh, especially us bloggers. I love this cartoon strip. It's called "Pearls Before Swine". I saw this particular 'installment" the other day and laughed hard. I've just been a few days 'long' in posting it. If you know the personality of the characters, it's even funnier, but even a 'first time reader' should laugh. [The text in the cartoon is probably too small to read as is. Click on the cartoon and it will enlarge for the purpose of reading.]
1. In Wade Burleson's most recent post, he lays out five themes for the upcoming SBC Annual Convention in Greensboro, NC.
2. Art Rogers provides a post on his personal analysis of the recent decision announced by IMB Trustee Chairman Tom Hatley to recommend rescinding the motion to remove Burleson from the IMB BoT.
3. Jason Shepherd calls for a much needed apology from Chairman Hatley and the entire IMB BoT for their treatment of Burleson.
4. I would be remiss if I didn't point out that my friend D.R. has broken his almost one month "blog silence" and has posted again. Of course, he hijacked his material from my blog so it's not really adding anything new to the mix (wait, isn't that exactly what I'm doing in this post? Oh well)
II left my apartment in Ft. Worth on Saturday, January 28. I returned home last night. Wow. What a 2.5 weeks. I traveled to OKC, Alabama, Atlanta, Lexington, Frankfort, and Louisville, KY, and New Orleans. I saw my best friend, spent time with my brother, drank lots of coffee in New Orleans, visited with lots of friends, and had a great time. The highlight, of course, was last Sunday. It was the first Sunday worship service Edgewater Baptist Church held since Hurricane Katrina. There were over 50 people in attendance. Someone donated a tent and, for the foreseeable future, we will be having services outdoors every Sunday.
It was cold that morning. The wind was blowing pretty hard and being under a tent blocked any warmth the sun was providing. In the pictures, you can see many people wrapped in blankets or wearing toboggans. The first picture is of Justin Fernandez as he leads the congregation in singing and the second is of our new pastor, Kevin Lee, as he preaches. It was so good to be back in New Orleans. More than ever, I consider it to be my home. As I've said previously, I lived in New Orleans (5 years) longer that I have lived in any other place. I build great friendships there, have received a great education from NOBTS, and have served on staff at Edgewater Baptist Church. I can't wait to return.
I am waiting on FEMA (pause for laughter for those who have shared this experience with me) to place a trailor on Paris Ave right in front of Edgewater's building. I am hopeful that the trailor will be put in place within the next week or so. If not, I still believe I will be back in New Orleans by the first part of March. A friend has offered to let me stay at his apartment when he gets some furniture. The people I've met while in Ft. Worth have been nice to me, but I can't explain why I want to leave here so badly and return home.
My community, Gentilly, is leaps and bounds ahead of other neighborhoods who received similar damage from Katrina. Edgewater is hopeful that we can be part of the rebuilding of our community, as well as to minister to many who would never have given us a thought. There is real excitement in the air that we can have an impact upon our neighbors as we help them gut out and rebuild their homes. Meeting physical needs is the only way they will let us meet spiritual needs. Please pray for Edgewater, for our pastor, and for our Passion Team (for those not familiar with Edgewater, the Passion Team is similar to elders or a planning committee) as they lead in thinking and making decisions concering our future in the Gentilly area.
Also, continue to pray for our city as a whole. 5 1/2 months after Katrina, there are still vast parts of the city that are yet to be touched. Homes are still in the middle of streets, cars are still piled on one another, and people continue to be disappointed with the Federal Government's response. New Orleans will come back, but we pray that it will be quicker than the current pace.
Well, in the 2.5 weeks that I was traveling, I got 'tagged' by multiple bloggers. I've only now gottent the chance to respond, so here goes:
Four Jobs I've Had: (I've had way more than 4 jobs, but I'll list my four favorites, in no particular order) School bus driver (while an undergrad) Pastoral Intern/Building and Grounds Intern (at Edgewater Baptist Church as a PhD student) Interlibrary Loan worker at NOBTS Library (had a great boss, and loved the job) Adjunct instructor at NOBTS
Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over: Braveheart Tombstone Monty Python and the Holy Grail The Sandlot
Four Shows I Like To Watch: (I don't watch much TV, but these are my favorites) Seinfeld, of course Law and Order (all of them) PTI (man, I wish I had cable for this one) Friends
Four Goals For This Year: Move Back to New Orleans Pass my Oral Exams for PhD Help rebuild houses/lives in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans Meet my wife (doubt this will happen, but it can't hurt to make it a goal, right???)
Four Places I've Lived: (this would be easier if it was "Four Places I Haven't Lived"; I will put my four favorite places) New Orleans, LA Weatherford, OK Blair, OK Monument, CO
Four Foods That I Like: Red Beans and Rice My mom's Chicken Fried Steak Chimichanga's Thai food
Four Places I've Been On Vacation (or Mission): Bangkok, Thailand (missions) Wittenberg, Germany (also went to Berlin, Zurich, and Geneva on the same trip; was educational in nature) Washington, D.C. (only spent one night, but it was great) Cooperstown, NY (Baseball Hall of Fame)
Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now: (anywhere but Texas!!!) New Orleans, LA Washington, D.C. Charlottesville, VA The Northeast (NY, Boston, Philly, etc.)
Four Things I Want To Do Before I Die: Get married Finish my dissertation Get a full-time, 'real' job Get married
Four People I'm Tagging: I'm opting out of this one; sorry, but I'm not much for continuing a chain thing. Does this mean I am breaking the chain and I won't receive $100 or that my prayers won't be answered???
A response to Drs. York and Caner, and a word from a Landmarker (not me, of course)
There is, no doubt, some debate as to whether the new IMB policy on baptism flows from Landmark theology. I have no desire to sling mud or call names at anyone. Such is neither a Christian method of interaction nor responsible academics. Instead, I wish to deal with the issues. I am grateful that in recent days two respected members of the "SBC academy" have weighed in on this issue. Dr. Hershael York and Dr. Ergun Caner have both issued statements or arguments in favor of the new policy. I am grateful that they have entered into this dialogue, but I fear they have missed the main point of contention. In this instance, the primary issue (contra Dr. York and Dr. Caner) is the intimate relationship the new policy sets up between acceptable baptism and the doctrine of eternal security.
From the outset, let me say that I hold Dr. York in very high regard. Although I've never met him, we have exchanged very friendly emails on certain topics over the last few months. I find him to be a very warm-hearted pastor who loves his Savior and his congregation. I consider him to be a friend who I've never had the pleasure to meet in person. I have never had contact with Dr. Caner, but I have no reason to think anything but high thoughts of him. I am grateful for his service as a Southern Baptist and as an educator. However, I regretfully disagree with their takes on the issue of the IMB policy on baptism. If I have read their posts properly (and I graciously submit to correction from either of these men if I have misread their works), I understand them to say two things. First, most Baptists suffer from extreme ecclesiological ignorance. While this may be the case for many in our churches, those of us who have been blogging on this issue are anything but ignorant of Baptist ecclesiology. We are seminary graduates, pastors, PhD students, and even leaders of denominationally affiliated organizations. We are anything but ignorant on this issue. I do not believe their comment was meant to be demeaning, but I do think it was misguided. Second, they are arguing that primary issue is that baptism is a church ordinance. This is correct, but it misses the main objection to the new policy. No one is arguing whether baptism is or is not a church ordinance. The main discrepancy is the tying the doctrine of eternal security OF THE BAPTIZING CHURCH with the legitimacy of the baptized candidate.
The problem is that no Baptist writer, Southern or otherwise, has ever tied baptism and eternal security so closely together as to argue against the legitimacy of a person's baptism due to the theology of the baptizing church. I am not arguing, necessarily, that we must always kept to the 'traditions' or 'theology' of our forefathers, but I think it is safe to say we must look to Baptists of the past for guidance. What have others said about the legitimacy of Baptism? In recent posts, I have quoted Southern Baptist theologian E. C. Dargan here and here. I have read extensively J. L. Dagg's ecclesiology, though I have yet to post his thoughts.
In this post, I wish to cite a very controversial Southern Baptist ecclesiologist, J. M. Pendleton. Many know him as the second part of the Triumverant, the group of three that led the Landmark movement in the nineteenth century (along with J. R. Graves and A. C. Dayton). Now is not the time for a history lesson on Landmarkism (and I'm assuming most of my readers already have a base knowledge of this movement), but it should be noted that Pendleton was the least radical (or least conservative) of the three. He often disagreed on certain Landmark 'points' such as historical successionism and strict local communion. Nevertheless, Thomas White recently completed a fine Ph.D. dissertation at SEBTS titled "James Madison Pendleton and his contributions to Baptist ecclesiology". If I remember the thesis of his work, he argued that Pendleton's main contribution to Baptist ecclesiology was his doctrine of baptism.
In Pendleton's 1879 work Christian Doctrines, he lays out his theology of baptism. On pg. 342, he defines proper baptism as "the immersion in water, by a proper administrator, of a believer in Christ, into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Two salient observations are blatantly absent in his definition of baptism: 1. He in no way equates the doctrine of eternal security of the baptizing church with the valid baptism of a new believer; 2. He in no way argues that baptism unites a person with a particular church; instead, baptism is identification with Christ.
Taking up the first 'absent objection', Pendleton clearly defines the object ("a believer in Christ") mode ("the immersion in water") of baptism. However, he makes no mention of the theology of the baptizing church. If he believed that the doctrine of eternal security was vital for the baptizing church, then he would have included such a provision in his definition. However, there is none. For the IMB policy to contain such a provision is clearly outside the bounds of historic Baptist theology. Second, Pendleton is very clear that baptism is identification with Christ, not with a particular church. Note his language: "into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." There is no hint that baptism is "into the name" of a particular church, Baptist or otherwise. Elsewhere, Pendleton is even clearer on this issue. Elsewhere, Pendleton is even clearer on this issue. He argues that "membership [in a church] is preceded by important qualifications. These qualifications may be considered moral and ceremonial" (331). Pendleton lists the moral qualifications as "Regeneration, with its attendants, Repentance and Faith" (331). He goes on to say that "baptism is the ceremonial qualification for church membership" (331). The point I wish to stress here is that baptism precedes church membership. One is not baptized into a church, but into Christ. One may be baptized by a church, but not into it. Therefore, the new IMB policy is taking extreme liberties that neither Baptist history, confessional documents, nor the NT seem to allow. If baptism is into the name of the Trinity, then our identification is with the Father/Son/Spirit. There is no need for rebaptism on the occasion that one's baptism was not performed by a church that advocated eternal security. Rebaptism (or rightly stated, proper baptism) is needed only when mode, meaning, or object have been misunderstood.
I have great respect for the trustees of the IMB. I do not think they flippantly chose to enact new policy on a whim. I know for a fact they spent two years investigating and discussing this. In addition, I am grateful for men such as Dr. York and Dr. Caner, who have been the only people (that I know of) who have provided any sort of defense for this policy. Nevertheless, I still find the policy out of line with Baptist ecclesiology and the defense by both York and Caner to be missing the main objection I/we have on this policy.
I would love to hear from any IMB trustee who voted in favor of this policy. Please dialogue with me and give a biblical/historical reason for your policy. Dr. York or Dr. Caner, I humbly invite you to dialogue with me on this issue. I find this to be very dear to my heart, and to my mind, as I am writing my dissertation at NOBTS on the relationship in Baptist theology between the ordinances. This is a subject I have spent much time reading and dialoguing about. I would love to have educated interlocutors such as yourselves join me in this discussion.
May our God bless us as we endeavor to know Him more, as we submit to His teachings, and as we seek to treat others better than ourselves during the process.
Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 30. I tried not to make a big deal of it. However, some people found out and told others. I got calls from family and friends. I guess it was a good day, though I didn't have a birthday cake or any presents (which is fine by me; well, maybe I'm not so pleased about no cake!!!) .
I've been traveling for the last week and was able to have lunch yesterday with a really good friend of mine, and then had dinner with my best friend. Currently I'm in Kentucky and I'll be here for a few more days. On Friday, I'm heading to New Orleans. I'll be glad to be back in the city, though I am quite disappointed in the lack of progress in the city (but that's another story).
As yesterday came and went, I really didn't have any deep thoughts about turning 30. I'm not where I thought I would be, but in some respects I'm much farther along than I ever expected. I'm on track to finish my PhD before my 33 birthday. I continue to branch out into various areas of reading. I may have more 'adopted' nieces and nephews than anyone I know (that is, I'm an "uncle" to all the children of my friends). This is good because it means I can play with them, but then leave before the diaper needs changing!!!!
I suspect when life settles back to normal when I am able to end my 'evacuee' status and move back to New Orleans sometime in the next few weeks, I'll have more time to digest the meaning of turning 30. Until then, I just keep on reading for my dissertation, formulating my thoughts on baptism and the Lord's Supper, and moderately staying in touch with all my friends.