A Southern Baptist leader who is part of a task force that was recently set up to move the denomination toward a missional resurgence has been hard at work dispelling myths about the panel's work.
The latest rumor Dr. Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, threw out was: "The Great Commission Resurgence is actually a grand Calvinist plot to infiltrate the Southern Baptist Convention and gain control or at least greater influence in the Convention."
"This may be my favorite of all the myths. The wild imaginations that have produced it are a wonder to behold," he wrote on his website.
Akin was appointed, along with 17 others, in June to form the Great Commission Task Force, which was charged with compiling a report on how Southern Baptists can work more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.
Earlier this year, Akin had introduced a Great Commission Resurgence manifesto to help move Southern Baptists away from factionalizing and toward a missional resurgence. The manifesto reaffirms core Christian doctrines and commits to being missionaries in non-Christian cultures, among other things.
Southern Baptists should be known as Jesus people, Akin has stressed, rather than known for their traditions, legalisms, moralisms and "sourpuss attitudes." He has also emphasized that a Great Commission Resurgence is neither a moral reformation nor a revival of political activism. It is simply a call to proclaim the Gospel.
But following the creation of the GCR task force, there have been a number of "false rumors and misinterpretations" that have been attributed to the panel's work and its members, Akin lamented.
To set the record straight, the seminary president has released a series of blogs to put to rest some of the "untruths."
"There is too much mistrust that unfortunately characterizes Convention life at this time. We must be better than this. Jesus deserves better than this," he said.
Regarding the myth about Calvinists taking control of the denomination, Akin noted that the "axioms" he outlined for a Great Commission Resurgence contains "only one passing and playful reference to Calvinism." And that reference was placed there to drive the point that they do not have to agree on the specifics of Calvinism to work together in obeying the Great Commission.
The more formal 10-point GCR Declaration, meanwhile, contains no mention of Calvinism.
Akin stressed, "[T]he GCR is not about Calvinism."
Moreover, clearing up misunderstandings about task force members, Akin said he is not a classic Calvinist. Neither is SBC president Johnny Hunt or task force chairman Ronnie Floyd, he pointed out.
"[O]f all the members of the GCRTF that was appointed by Johnny Hunt, I know of only one person who is a Calvinist," he noted.
Another myth that Akin tackled was the rumor that the goal of some members of the task force to get more money to the nations is only a smoke screen to get more money to the seminaries.
"The GCR is not and has never been about getting more money to the seminaries," he stated.
"There are approximately 1.6 billion people who have no access to the gospel and 3.4 billion with limited or no access to the gospel. There are major population centers in North America, most of which are not in the South, that are bereft of strong evangelical churches and gospel witness. This is what inspired the genesis of the GCR in the first place. This is what is occupying the time and energy of the GCRTF."
During the panel's first listening session in August, Floyd told the group that their commission "is to reveal the honest and true status of this denomination," as reported by Baptist Press. The current reality is that baptisms fell for the third straight year in 2007 to the denomination's lowest level since 1987 and total membership also declined for the first time in years. Growth over the past few decades has plateaued, many have acknowledged.
The panel is expected to bring a report and any recommendations to the SBC's meeting next summer.