Influential Baptist Layman Challenges Emerging Church

An influential Baptist in Missouri believes the Emerging Church movement is one of the most dangerous and deceptive movements infiltrating Southern Baptist life and he's out to stop it.

Roger Moran, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, is a conservative layman at First Baptist Church in Troy, Mo. But he's also considered the most powerful Baptist in the state, St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper reported Monday.

Moran's driving concern is the rise of the emerging church and its threat to the future of the Baptist church in Missouri and across the nation.

"Not since the stealth tactics of the CBF (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship - a group of more moderate Baptists which left the SBC) have we seen a movement operate so successfully below the radar of rank and file Southern Baptists," said Moran at an SBC Executive Committee meeting earlier this year.

While Moran says the issue of emerging churches is one facing the entire Southern Baptist Convention – the largest Protestant denomination in the United States – the matter is being played out in the local Missouri Baptist context.

"In my home state, the Missouri Baptist Convention is on the brink of a near civil war – and at the heart of our struggle has been the blatant dishonesty of those who are determined that Missouri Baptists will embrace this new postmodern approach to ministry," said Moran in his speech to the committee.

The Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) – the state arm of the SBC – claims the affiliation of nearly 2,100 churches across the state. In recent years, a church called The Journey was launched in St. Louis and has grown to 1,300 members today. The latest controversy surrounding The Journey is serving alcohol during services and theological discussions. The church also hosts film nights where attendants can watch R-rated movies.

The Journey, which is "inter-denominational," has ties to the Missouri Baptist Convention, which provided a $200,000 loan for the new church. Its use of alcohol is contrary to SBC's traditional stance opposing alcohol as a beverage and its "uncompromising hostility to the manufacture, sale, importation and transportation of alcoholic beverages," according to one of 57 resolutions on the issue in the denomination.

Responding to Moran's comments on the emerging church movement, the Rev. Darrin Patrick, pastor of The Journey, told St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "When you're stricter than God about what He commands and permits, younger pastors are not going to play ball. They're not going to take one for the denomination."

Moran's main concern is for these young emerging church leaders who are training church planters in SBC's North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the young leaders that the SBC "[seems] to be pursuing" for leadership positions in the denomination.

"For within this group of young SBC leaders are those who strongly oppose the SBC's long standing position on alcohol," said Moran, "and those who now want us to move toward embracing the charismatic practice of speaking in tongues; and those who are now telling us that CBF really wasn't that much of a problem; and those who are now calling for a 'revolution' to move the SBC back to what they call the 'center.'"

Moran called for a "full and thorough investigation" of the degree to which the emerging church movement has "infiltrated" the SBC.

The NAMB released a statement in February showing the same concern of some elements of the Emerging Church movement that conflict with solid doctrine and biblical practice, but also expressing confidence that NAMB church planters are not violating policies prohibiting the use of alcohol. The domestic mission agency further pointed out young leaders that are keeping with traditional views while in the postmodern movement.

"It is important to remember that there are many young leaders in SBC life today who hold to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, distance themselves from views like those found at Emergent Village (considered the far left wing of the emerging church), but consider themselves part of the 'Emerging Church,'" stated the NAMB. "For that reason, we are confident that the needed research into this important area will be conducted in a way that is respectful of all and motivated by a desire to keep our convention focused on its Christ-centered, biblical foundation."