Minnesota Baptist Association Board Withdraws Approval from NIU

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mmartin's picture

I don’t believe the MBA has as much influence as it once had so this decision may not carry much weight in the grand scheme of things related to NIU.  However, I don’t think this is an insignificant decision either.

Don Johnson's picture

that this includes the men who invited Phil Johnson to speak to them, I think it has some significance.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Don Johnson's picture

KTB posted the notice on Religious Affections, he might know. Greg probably knows the answer to that one also.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Jay's picture

1.  It would be good for the Minnesota Board to explain why this step is necessary.  Otherwise, people will take from their position whatever they already see or believe to be true.  Perhaps a statement is forthcoming?

2.  It would be good to know who exactly is on the Board, and how they get there.  Is their structure similar to the FBFI, where the Board selects their own members, or are the Board members elected by the membership?  If the former, I wonder if the position of the Board lines up with the constituency.

 

As for me, I find this act grievous, although I certainly do not expect everyone to cheer the direction Northland has taken.  I think it widens an artificial chasm between Christians without addressing the underlying issues that cause the division.  It simply reiterates that there are sides on this debate and makes clear where they have chosen theirs.  It is, of course, their right to do so.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jim's picture

From a Facebook post by Greg L: "[The MBA] had a list of three schools- Northland, Maranatha, and Faith- and that was only because the ladies fellowship (the only scholarship offered in the MBA) didn't know what to do with collected monies after Pillsbury closed. Even BJU didn't make the original list. I strongly suspect the whole list will be gone in 2014, as will the lone scholarship.

Greg Linscott's picture

  • The board is suggested by a nominating committee, and approved by the messengers (representatives sent from member congregations). Terms are 3 years. One can serve 2 consecutive terms before taking a mandatory 1 year off. 
  • I am a board member, but my explanation is informal and indicative of my personal perspective, and not the official position of the Association or Board of Trustees.
  • The only reason we began to approve schools was because the Annual Ladies Fellowship has for years taken an offering for a scholarship awarded to one or two (I forget) young women. This always used to go to Pillsbury students before it closed. Since its demise, the ladies fellowship (affiliated with the Association, but like the men's fellowship, a distinct entity with its own board and budget) asked the MBA board of trustees for direction. The solution arrived at was a short approval list- Northland, Marantha, Faith- three schools that were geographically local and deemed to be in general harmony with the positions and direction of the Association.
  • I strongly suspect that the approval list (and for that matter, scholarships) have a short shelf life expectation.
  • While this was a decision of the board, I strongly suspect that had the matter been posed to the messengers, the outcome would have been no different.
  • The Phil Johnson invitation was made by the Men's fellowship board (which is elected by the men who attend the event, and I currently chair), and approved by the MBA executive committee, but not unanimously. It is a topic of some discussion. I believe Phil will be a blessing to our men. He was able to sign our position statement "without reservation" (his own words), a document that dates back to the mid-1990s, and contains some rather pointed statements on separation (including defining what a "disobedient brother" is), among other things. As I mentioned to an inquiring individual last fall, Phil has said, "I’m a young-earther, a cessationist, and a pre-trib premillennialist." His public statements (such as this recent one) identify him as one who takes a clear position against doctrinal compromise. This is someone the Men's Fellowship committee think is worth identifying as a friend and collaborator, though we realize there will also be occasions where we differ on issues (something which is true even between  churches in the Association). The pastors and churches who have most consistently taken advantage of the Men's event over the last 3-5 years were consulted before the invitation was extended. Many (not all) of those who find the decision most controversial have also been conspicuous in their lack of representation in the Men's meetings of the last several years.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Ron Bean's picture

Can individual churches in the MBA still support NIU? If there had been a vote by the membership, what would have happened if the vote hadn't been unanimous?

Baptist associations are interesting things to observe.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Greg Linscott's picture

Can individual churches in the MBA still support NIU?

Sure. There are several examples of schools individual churches support or identify with that aren't on the list- BJU, Clearwater, PCC, Baptist College of Ministry, Ambassador... some examples that immediately come to mind. 

The "approval list" was in itself somewhat controversial among the board as a concept when it was introduced- many were reluctant to the very notion at its inception. But it was the solution arrived at by the board at the time. 

To answer Ron's last question, majority vote wins. Another observation: though this was a board vote and not messengers,  I would also say that most of the churches with messengers at the meeting this year also had representation on the board (and not all of the board members are active pastors). This is the group that attended:

 

More photos: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151503690521769.1073741825.6...

 

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

DavidO's picture

Greg Linscott wrote:
. . . and a pre-trib premillennialist.

Is this point a test of fellowship for the MBA or would it depend on the "whole doctrinal package" more than one point?

Greg Linscott's picture

DavidO wrote:

Is this point a test of fellowship for the MBA or would it depend on the "whole doctrinal package" more than one point?

The Association is committed to Dispensationalism, and a pre-trib/pre-mil position in its documents, yes. It is conceivable that a speaker could be approved who was not in wholehearted agreement with a specific articulated position of the Association.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Jay's picture

Thanks for the answers.  I appreciate it.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Jim's picture

Seems like a weird way for the MBA to issue a news item ... via the Religious Affections site. Is R/A the "the official organ" of the MBA?

Also ... so easy to be misunderstood.

Comments?

Don Johnson's picture

As I understand it, Kevin was just reporting on the decision the board made. He is a board member along with Greg and your pastor if I read their website correctly.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Greg Linscott's picture

Jim wrote:

Seems like a weird way for the MBA to issue a news item ... via the Religious Affections site. Is R/A the "the official organ" of the MBA?

Also ... so easy to be misunderstood.

Comments?

Kevin reported on his own. We haven't issued anything official publicly. Kevin didn't do anything inappropriate, but I suppose no one in the MBA leadership (President, State Missionary) found the matter significant enough to intentionally publicize the decision online. 

If anyone cares, we also started funding a church planter (Steve Gilbertson- http://www.pouredoutforhim.org/about/the-gilbertsons/). This is somewhat significant because he was originally sent out from a Regular Baptist congregation and still has Regular Baptist connections (http://marbc.org/church-planters.html), though he now has transferred his membership to an MBA church.

We also have a state missionary who has expressed his desire to retire. Oh, and two new pastors of MBA congregations were introduced. One isn't even a Central grad. Smile

But there you go.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Rolland McCune's picture

RE the significance/insignificance question concerning the MBA Board decision not to approve NIU, I would agree with mmartin and Don Johnson that there is significance here. On the surface there would appear to be some inconsistency or discrepancy especially, as Johnson says,  some of the men on the board approved Phil Johnson for the men's fellowship group.  I realize that Phil would "be a blessing" to the men, but undoubtedly so also would NIU be to its students, if receiving a blessing is the criterion. It was once held in Minnesota that the MBA, Pillsbury College and Central Seminary were somewhat the "three-fold cord that was not easily broken" (Ecc 4:12). Obviously it has been broken, perhaps not always easily, given its long history of activity, standing resolutions and the like. I confess that it has been personally painful for me to watch the fragmentation of the "cord."

Rolland McCune

Jim's picture

As Greg L explained above:

  • The MBA really doesn't approve schools (my comment about approved schools being on their website ... and Greg L's comment that the concept has a "short shelf life"
  • The MBA really doesn't give scholarships - again Greg L: "the Annual Ladies Fellowship has for years taken an offering for a scholarship awarded to one or two (I forget) young women." Conclusion: not significant
  • Not an action by the messengers but a board decision to deal with a specific situation with probably a small amount of money
  • Not announced by the MBA. Indeed it strikes me that some in the MBA surprised it was even announced at all.
  • You could just as well spin this as "The MBA board chooses NOT to approve of BJU"!

It's a non-story!

The MBA and educational institutions .... the Pillsbury debacle (my characterization).

 

Don Johnson's picture

Why did you post the link?

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

GregH's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

Why did you post the link?

Why is it so important to you to be a "story"?

Greg Linscott's picture

Rolland McCune wrote:

I realize that Phil would "be a blessing" to the men, but undoubtedly so also would NIU be to its students, if receiving a blessing is the criterion. 

Dr. McCune,

That is an intentional oversight- mentioning only one portion of a larger statement. It would be just as easy to read some kind of negative inference into the "somewhat" comment in this sentence: 

It was once held in Minnesota that the MBA, Pillsbury College and Central Seminary were somewhat the "three-fold cord that was not easily broken" (Ecc 4:12).

I choose to read it charitably, though, because I respect you and your contribution to the cause of Christ. If you choose not to read mine in kind, that is fine.

It seems to me, though, when people express concern with the decision/invitation, it boils down to the associations of John MacArthur. An example of  documented reasoning goes something like this (from John Ashbrook's The New Neutralism II):

John MacArthur’s contribution to new evangelicalism is to cross all barriers and bridge all gaps in diverse fellowship. He has spoken in Southern Baptist circles at such places as Memphis’ Bellevue Baptist Church with Dr. Adrian Rogers and in the First Baptist Church of Atlanta with Dr. Charles Stanley, He was a Pastors' Conference speaker prior to the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans, He serves on the Board of Moody Bible Institute and has been a frequent speaker at Moody Founder's Week and Pastors' Conference. He has spoken for R.C. Sproul, Jerry Falwell and various General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. He has been a featured speaker at Wheaton College, Cedarville College, Dallas Theological Seminary, California Graduate School of Theology, Word of Life, Tennessee Temple University and the National Fellowship of Conservative Baptists. I list these names to show that his speaking engagements range from supposed fundamentalists to confessed new evangelicals.

In some ways, I understand the concern. At the same time, my understanding is JMC is on record saying he will speak the truth anywhere. I can understand the discomfort some have- but at the same time, speaking does not mean you endorse everything an institution stand for. I have heard you speak, for example, at an ACCC meeting- and I was blessed by what I heard. I didn't assume, however, that you endorsed the variant positions on eschatology and baptism held by some in the room. 

In the quote from Dr. Ashbrook above, JMC speaking in "various" GARBC venues is mentioned as a concern. Yet, less than a month ago, Inter-City was hosting the National Talents for Christ GARBC event, and Dave Doran is a headline speaker at the National Conference in Dearborn. Is that "cord" unraveling as well?

It seems to me that we can recognize that  we may not parse separation out as precisely alike as the other, while still appreciating and benefiting from the contributions they might have (especially in a conference kind of setting). To argue that JMC and those who identify with the congregation and schools he serves in ought to be dismissed as being in the same broad, compromising category as Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer is just bad reasoning. It's akin to saying that Dave Doran and Fred Phelps are both Fundamental Baptists.

MacArthur and company have been about as outspoken on defending important aspects of the faith as anyone could be in our setting over the last 20-30 years- issues like Charismatic/cessationist theology (recent case in point), Young earth Creationism, Biblical Counseling, Expository Preaching (who has championed it more, I ask you?), dispensational eschatology... and that's just a start to the list.

In a broad movement that has room under the tent for variant positions on Baptism, Soteriology, Bibliology (just to name a few), I find it confusing that we demand so much consistency and adherence to how separation is applied to determine who is "in" the movement. At the end of the day, I don't know how comfortable I would be at Grace Community Church. I am reasonably certain, however, that I would be more comfortable there than at a church like Danny Sweatt's, let's say.

Separation is an important issue- but the application of it is complicated. 

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Ron Bean's picture

I agree that separation is an important issue. It's just that when I read statements like John Ashbrook's I find myself asking which kind of separation? Statements like that seem to strongly suggest that separation from "disorderly" brethren is just as important as separation from apostasy. I would hope not, but I've seen certain separatists apparently make no difference between JMac and Joel Osteen.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Jim's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

Why did you post the link?

Why? Courtesy to Don Johnson who submitted it 

Seemed like something but upon further review it is insignificant

 

GregH's picture

Jim wrote:

Don Johnson wrote:

Why did you post the link?

Why? Courtesy to Don Johnson who submitted it 

Seemed like something but upon further review it is insignificant

 

LOL. Now this makes more sense. I did not realize that Don Johnson himself had submitted this "story."

Jay's picture

Fundamentalism by blunt instrument, indeed.

Of course, Don's already gone on record as telling people not to send their kids to Northland, so this story/nonstory was probably welcome news to him at the time.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Don Johnson's picture

Jim, if you had put an HT to me at the beginning or not, it doesn't matter. It really isn't important who called the matter to your attention. I am sure that many of your Filings items are brought to your attention by others.

And it may be that this story isn't that important in the overall scheme of things. It may not be a big story. But to call it a non-story?

KTB thought it was a story, he posted the link to it on Religious Affections. I think there is something to it. I posted a link to KTB's post on P&D and forwarded it on to you.

I'll admit that I didn't notice it directly, someone forwarded the link on to me. Doesn't matter who. Does it make it any less of a story?

It sounds like Greg doesn't think it is that big a deal, but the fact remains that a change was made. I see nothing in what Greg has said here to assume that there was no reason for the change. It wasn't just "oh well, we probably won't be giving out scholarships at all in a few years, let's start whittling down the list of schools... any ideas who to start with? Northland, OK, got to start somewhere..."

Instead, a change was made in response to the current specific situation that NIU finds itself in. The MBA is sufficiently concerned to remove NIU from its list.

As I said, maybe its not a big story, but it is a part of the bigger story of the current controversy over NIU.

Have you asked your pastor what he thinks of it?

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Greg Linscott's picture

I didn't say there weren't concerns. I just don't think the issue is as significant as other events that have happened in the larger story- such as Olson's removal from the GARBC conference docket, let's say. In the interests of full disclosure, I voted in favor of the decision. This is a low-profile matter, though. I would guess that the majority of people in MBA congregations weren't even aware of the scholarships being offered, much less that we are no longer letting them be applied to NIU.

This isn't something that we're hiding- it's just not something that's been considered to this point something we felt was worthy of a great deal of attention. We have a resolutions committee, and nothing has been stated on it there. We have a publication, and it has not been addressed in its pages. We have a website, and nothing and been posted on the matter there. If we wanted to censure or "mark and avoid," we have the venues to do so at our disposal.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Ron Bean's picture

The MBA is sufficiently concerned to remove NIU from its list.

Actually the leadership of the MBA did this. It was not an action taken by the MBA as a group.

I do agree that there is nothing to see here.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

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