As I read the letter, I had mixed emotions. Before I get into that, let me tell you enough about me so that you know to take everything with a grain of salt.
I am 34 years old. For some, that qualifies me as a young Baptist. For others, not so much. I consider myself a young Baptist, however misplaced that opinion of myself may be.
I’ve pastored a Southern Baptist church for over 5 years now (other major experience is hospital chaplaincy). We are uniquely aligned with the BGCT and SBC. However, I have been a personal financial and vocal supporter of the CBF for over 10 years. I’ve been blessed to attend CBF conferences, even to volunteer during their last General Assembly here in Texas. Even though my church does not endorse the CBF, I do. In my heart, I am solely aligned with the CBF. Perhaps I shall tell the specifics of that another day. I’ve often prayed that my church might align itself with the CBF, but that has not happened, and I don’t expect it to. God’s answer has thus been, “no.”
I apologize for the length of my response.
To David Burroughs, Scott Ford, Nikki Hardeman, Jeremy Lewis, Brent McDougal, Christina Whitehouse-Suggs, and Mike Young,
I’m sorry that I don’t know who you are. I’ve heard that you may not be young, but ages are relative…no? I must admit that I read your “Open Letter to Dr. Cecil Sherman” with mixed reactions, feelings, and thoughts.
First, was the positive reaction. I spend time with some that others may consider “older” moderates, here in Fort Worth. I’ve been on the side you are on. Seemingly a lone voice, asking if there is anything else we can talk about other than the fall of the “seminary on the hill?” Unless you are here, you have no idea how often that is spoken about. People here are still grieving deeply over the conflict that erupted in Fort Worth.
I’ve been to Texas Baptist Committed meetings, seemingly the youngest one there. When asked for opinions on our future, I stated that I believed we should become more of an educational movement than political (This was around 3 years ago). One of those same Fort Worth Elder Moderates, stood up right after me, and in no uncertain terms told me to be quiet and be grateful for my “moderate” education (I’m a HPU and Truett graduate)…and the funds that provided it. I’m still a little sore about that one, thus I’ve never written about it. I’ll say this much though, a scholarship does not put freethinking Baptists into indentured servitude to any Baptist Institution, moderate or fundamentalist. Perhaps more on that another day.
I’m saying this to say, I’ve had similar thoughts and I’ve had the arrows of my elders pierce my chest. I sympathize with you and your desire to “embrace new opportunities for ministry and discipleship.” I agree with you that the Holocaust “analogy was misguided.” I would go a little bit farther than that if I had the proper words for it. For anyone to compare the Holocaust to any pain and hurt that doesn’t include the death of millions of people is more than wrong. Compare it to genocide, not denominational wars.
However, I find myself also reacting in a negative fashion to your letter. If you are truly young, then you’ll have little to no memories of the actual fundamentalist takeover of the SBC. Perhaps your dad, or even grandfather, was fired from a position in the late 1970-1980s. I’ve met at least one person that fits that category, and he doesn’t consider himself a young Baptist. He’s around 10 years my senior. From my experience with him, I don’t think that he would be in agreement with your letter.
If you are a young Baptist, then how can you say with any certainty that our forefathers suffered a “…relatively small amount of pain…?” Having spent many a day and night with people in pain, both physical and emotional, I find that statement arrogant, patronizing, and utterly reprehensible. One thing I’ve learned is to not degrade another’s pain, especially when you’ve little to no experience with it.
You made a remark that I believe you meant with the best intentions. The remark was, “…we recognize those wounds are real. They are also wounds that need healing, and for some the grieving process is not over yet.” I find this to be a misrepresentation of grieving. For those people that have suffered a loss, you never quit grieving. Please note my post about this years Father’s Day. Gray’s Anatomy speaks more truth than their writers probably know. We never get over loss. We should strike the words, “get over it,” from our pastoral care language. They are horribly crass, uncaring, and show a lack in the area of pastoral care. If you truly have little to no understanding of the pain suffered by those that have gone before, then I can understand why you use such inappropriate language.
I’m afraid that those of us that are young have a larger than unusual lack of sensitivity towards our elders. After all, we’ve seen our parents put our grandparents into the warehouses known nursing homes. It just makes sense that we’ve an over developed callousness of heart.
This brings me to my next negative reaction. Even though you seem to couch the letter in language of respect, and perhaps you genuinely think you are being respectful, the things of substance that you say (as per above), shows your lack of respect and honor for people like Dr. Sherman.
Hear me, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t say anything. I believe that dissent should be even more welcome in our midst. We need to be able to speak freely about our differences, especially when it is about the future of the CBF. But, perhaps there could have been a better way to go about the conversation. Here is where my inexperience truly shows itself. I’m not sure how we could have gone about it a different way. Maybe some of the forums through the CBF-wiki pages would have been appropriate? Perhaps on a smattering of blogs would have been a good start?
I digress though. I hope you know that people can’t just “lay down the pain of the past.” Paraphrasing Captain Kirk, it becomes a part of us and makes us who we are. Our past is important, and I think that is something most young people don’t get until they are much older. History helps define who we are. Regardless of what some of my peers said in college, identity really does matter. If we forget our history, we forget our identity.
Now, to you Moderate Elders that may be reading this. As much as it is the younger generations responsibility to learn from your experience, your lack of mentoring is appalling. You don’t want to listen to the younger generations, and your denigrating speech towards them will not help. It will take all of us, intergenerationally speaking, to make the kind of difference we need to make in God’s Kingdom. The old ways have failed, just look at our failing churches. It is time for something different. Help us to find out what it is. One reason the young lack respect for their elders is that it was never reciprocated.
Finally, back to the authors of the “Open Letter.” My main negative reaction was due to a sense of arrogance that came through in the letter. It is hard to pin down just where it comes from. Perhaps is that it feels like your are lashing your grandfather with a willow branch. Perhaps it is that there is a sense you are claiming to speak for all young CBF geared Baptists. But, at the end of your letter, you end with: “Respectfully submitted,” …That left an ashy taste in my mouth. In the end, I just didn’t have that feeling at all.
FBC, Lake Worth, TX