Concerns over theology and politics lead likely presidential candidate to back out of major Southern Baptist conference.
[ POSTED 4/24/2015 02:13PM ]
Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon turned pundit, has backed out of plans to speak at a major gathering of evangelical pastors this summer.
Carson, who will likely run for president, had been scheduled to appear in June at the annual Southern Baptist Pastors Conference in Columbus, Ohio.
But a group of young ministers, known as Baptist21, raised concerns this week about his appearance.
The mostly Calvinist preachers objected to the beliefs of Carson’s booming Seventh-day Adventist Church—including the claim that worshiping on Sunday is sin and the idea that sinners who are barred from heaven will be annihilated rather than sent to hell.
They also objected to a statement made on Easter by Carson that Jews, Christians, and Muslims are all God’s children.
“Certainly, we do not all worship the same God—we worship the Trinity whom Muslims and Jews would deny,” leaders of Baptist21 wrote on their blog. “And, the idea that we are all God’s children is at best the type of liberalism the Conservative Resurgence sought to address, and at worst, it is universalism.”
Politics also played a role in Carson’s withdrawal.
Jonathan Akin, a leader of Baptist21 and pastor of Fairview Church near Nashville, said he was concerned about Southern Baptists being too closely tied to the Republican Party.
“I’d suggest that we not invite any politicians to speak in the future,” he said in a phone interview.
That concerned was echoed on the Baptist21 blog.
“We are concerned because in our evangelical climate it is often easy to confuse what it means to be a follower of Christ with what it means to be a patriotic American,” the blog read.
Several Southern Baptist professor weighed in as well on Twitter.
“Stop inviting politicians and wanna-bees!” tweeted Kevin Smith, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) in Louisville. Denny Burk, a blogger and professor at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of SBTS, also tweeted his support.
Willy Rice, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater and president of the pastor’s conference, said Carson’s appearance had become problematic. The decision to withdraw was mutual.
“It had become a distraction,” Rice said in a phone interview. “He didn’t need that and we didn’t need that.”
Rice posted a blog on Friday, explain his rationale for inviting Carson.
“He has spoken at the National Prayer Breakfast twice (the only other person to do so was Billy Graham); he was a frequent guest of James Dobson; he has spoken at several Southern Baptist churches for major events,” he wrote. “He loves Southern Baptists and considers them friends. I believe most Southern Baptists equally respect and appreciate him.”
Rice said that Carson was not a candidate for president when he was first invited to the conference and that he still is not a candidate.
“It now appears likely that he will announce his candidacy and, though he has never held political office nor to my knowledge engaged in a political campaign, many have voiced their objections at having a declared candidate speak at our conference,” he said.
Politicians have spoken at the Southern Baptist pastors conference and the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in the past.
Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas and former Southern Baptist pastor, spoke at the conference in 2009 and in 2013.
CT recently explored how Adventists, growing at a rate of 1 million members each year, have been wrestling with their identity, trying to keep their distinctive beliefs while also moving closer to other evangelicals.
A Seventh-day Adventist church in Alabama recently even started a Sunday service as an outreach event.
“There has been a continuing tension about whether [Adventists] see themselves as distinct, or as one among many evangelical denominations with a few special emphases,” said David Neff, former CT editor and a former Adventist minister, told CT. “There’s a dynamic that moves back and forth between those poles.”
RELATED TOPICS:Adventists; Politics; Southern Baptists
POSTED:April 24, 2015 at 2:13PM
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