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OPINION

Calvinism team listens, learns at first meeting

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- An advisory team on the issue of Calvinism met "to listen, to learn and to hope," SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page reported after the 16-member group met Aug. 29-30 in Nashville, Tenn.
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The goal for the meeting, Page said in an Aug. 31 statement to Baptist Press, "was not to argue theology or to try to change each other's minds. ... I was greatly heartened by the civil tone that marked the meeting."

Page named the advisory team -- "not an official committee" -- in mid-August to develop, as he told Baptist Press at the time, "a strategy whereby people of various theological persuasions can purposely work together in missions and evangelism."

When he announced the advisory team, Page said at some point in the coming weeks and months he is hoping for "the crafting of a statement regarding the strategy on how we can work together."

The full statement issued Aug. 31 by Page after the advisory team's initial meeting follows:

"My goal for this initial meeting was not to argue theology or to try to change each other's minds. It was to listen, to learn and to hope. My hope is that we as a diverse body of Baptists can agree to a genuine, joint acceptance of Great Commission responsibility.

"We must reclaim the principle of respect in our dealings with others. A common theme around the table is that we need to stop the exaggerations and caricatures of those whose perspective on the extent of the atonement is different from ours. We must avoid the twin ditches of anger and arrogance that threaten to pull us off the road of cooperation.

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"I was greatly heartened by the civil tone that marked the meeting. As you can expect, the personalities and theological positions represented in the room are vastly different. But the meeting was permeated with a spirit of reverence for the Lord and a shared passion for the preaching of the Gospel and witnessing to the lost in our own nation and around the world.

"I have no interest in changing the Baptist Faith and Message. It has been wisely crafted by previous generations of thoughtful, thinking Baptists to allow for a breadth of interpretations about God's purpose of grace. It was written so that Calvinists and non-Calvinists can join hands and hearts for the common cause of world evangelization.

"This is not a new issue. Debates over the nature of election and the extent of the atonement predate us and will not be resolved by us. Our goal is not to solve this issue; it is to rediscover ways we can work together for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

"Again, this was a listening and learning session. I'll be working to distill my thoughts from this initial meeting to begin framing a suggested model for discussion in our next meeting."

The advisory team will meet next in early November at a yet-to-be-determined site.

The meeting was conducted on background rules involving no quoted statements by or attribution of comments to advisory team members. By consensus, the advisory team agreed that Page would issue a statement after the meeting.

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In announcing the 16-member advisory team in mid-August, Page said additional names could be added to the "group of helpers helping Frank Page come up with some sort of strategy document."

SBC President Fred Luter was not in attendance due to Hurricane Isaac's impact in the New Orleans area. Luter is senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church.

In addition to Luter, advisory team members in alphabetical order are Daniel Akin, president, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C.; Mark Dever, senior pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington D.C.; David Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn.; Leo Endel, executive director, Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention; Ken Fentress, senior pastor, Montrose Baptist Church, Rockville, Md.; Timothy George, dean, Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, Ala.; Eric Hankins, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Oxford, Miss.; Johnny Hunt, pastor, First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga.; Tammi Ledbetter, homemaker and layperson, Inglewood Baptist Church, Grand Prairie, Texas; Steve Lemke, provost and director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; R. Albert Mohler Jr., president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.; Paige Patterson, president, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas; Stephen Rummage, senior pastor, Bell Shoals Baptist Church, Brandon, Fla.; Daniel Sanchez, professor of missions, associate dean and director of the Scarborough Institute of Church Planting & Growth, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas; Jimmy Scroggins, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, West Palm Beach, Fla.

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Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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