JACKSON, Tenn. – Oct. 12, 2009 – Southern Baptists can look forward to a hopeful future if the denomination remains faithful to the Bible as well as open to change, seminary president Danny Akin said at Union University Oct. 8.
Akin, president of Southeastern Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., spoke as part of the “Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism” conference Oct. 6-9.
Akin noted four big changes in the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention over the past months, as well as the declining nature of many Southern Baptist churches.
“It would not be difficult for one to be less than optimistic about the future of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Akin said. “The fact is, I’m not optimistic, but I’m hopeful. And I’m hopeful not because of my confidence in Southern Baptists — sinners saved by grace though we are — but because of my confidence in our God, his word and his promises.”
Akin offered eight reasons he believes Southern Baptists have a “hopeful future.” First, and most importantly, he said, the SBC must “return to our first love and surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“It must set and establish the foundation for any future agenda for Southern Baptists,” Akin said. “Yet it has been passed over and quickly dismissed with the wave of a hand and words like, ‘We all believe that.’ However, the question is not ‘Do we believe it?’ but the question is, ‘Do we live it?’… If we fail here, we fail everywhere.”
Akin explained that, as a denomination, the SBC needs to unite around its statement of faith, the “Baptist Faith & Message 2000.” Before this, however, he said the denomination also must commit itself to a ministry based on the inerrant word of God.
“To deny inerrancy is to say Jesus was wrong, or that he willfully deceived,” Akin said. “That is both heresy and blasphemy, and it is spiritually suicidal.”
Akin acknowledged certain “essential, non-negotiable” beliefs of the SBC, but he discussed the importance of diversity within the denomination.
“Some things are worth fighting over and dying over,” Akin said. “Some things are not. Some things are worth dividing over; some things are not.”
Southern Baptists have a history of racism, Akin said, and the denomination remains mainly white and Southern. Akin encouraged Southern Baptists to have “a new vision” for planting churches in demographically diverse areas. He cited locations such as New York City, where there are far fewer SBC churches per capita than in the South.
Akin’s final point centered on cooperation and remaining gospel-centered as a denomination.
“What will unite Southern Baptists in the future?” Akin asked. “It will not be style, methodology and liturgy… How we do things will be expansive and diverse, and that’s OK. The key… will be that what we do is filtered through the purifying waters of Scripture so that we honor Jesus and glorify the Father in all that we do.”
Audio from Akin’s address and other conference speakers is available at www.uu.edu/audio/event.cfm?ID=2515.
By Katie Shatzer (’10)