Accountability and Scrutiny vs Obscurity and Obfuscation

Recently we have all heard the voices bemoaning the circulation of information about individuals, schools and other organizations regarding their activities, their associations and declarations. While this sounds all too much like a Washington D.C. scenario, we're talking about fundamentalist Baptist circles where some prefer obscurity to scrutiny by their peers. Those identified as compromisers and apostates have strenuously objected to the published reports as being inaccurate, unfair or excerpted out of a context that would reasonably explain apparent inconsistencies.

Surely accurate reporting is an absolute necessity, because there are some among us who have built their ministries upon straw cases against well-known figures and movements, needlessly inflicting suspicion and undermining established reputations. Where reports are in demonstrable error or when the information has been distorted and contrived to create sensationalism, which has been true even about the IBFNA, we need to mark those men as much as the compromisers and dismiss them and their publications as unworthy of our trust. Loose accusations of heresy and unworthy predictions of failure make them look foolish when they are proven to be false. Nevertheless, accurate information documenting compromise has become a necessity for pastors and local churches to help them correctly evaluate churches and other organizations, and to hold them accountable for deviations from historical standards.

It ought to be clear that we cannot be willingly ignorant of either the subtle or gross changes that are constantly going on around us. Willing ignorance is in itself a warning sign of apostasy in Scripture (II Peter 3) and can open the door to compromise today. Looking the other way while long-time friends compromise their doctrinal positions and ministries has never been proven to be beneficial to either them or us. Quite the contrary, our silence has more often been interpreted as tacit consent and approval, encouraging greater error rather than reproving it. We need to be reminded of Jude 16 which warns us of holding men's persons in admiration for the sake of advantage.

What Godly leaders have needed is "just the facts" about leaders and organizations undergoing changes. Contrary to the public media, we don't need to be told what to think about the facts, nor do we need anyone to tell us what we ought to do about the changes taking place. However, we do recognize the limits of our time and ability to research all the information necessary to make informed decisions and so these publications have arisen to provide a service of gathering pertinent information to help pastors and churches. Many of us have come out of the painful experience of awakening to our own ignorance when we suddenly discovered how far we were betrayed by blind trust in well-known leaders. While it was a hard lesson to learn, we are resolved now never to be embarrassed again.

We have also learned that our scrutiny must thorough as well as accurate. Even among fundamental Baptists there are money trails and so pastors should never hesitate to require audited financial statements from any agency or organization they employ or support. Any organization that benefits from you or your church financially, either directly or indirectly (as from the portion of missionary support that goes to the mission board), is accountable to you. Likewise, when we read accurate reports that raise concerns either about their ethics or about their doctrinal positions that appear contrary to the Scriptures, we deserve answers that are direct and honest. Obfuscation isn't a new phenomenon from inside the Washington beltway. Unfortunately, we've had it in our own circles for decades and pastors need to put agency executives on notice that we will not accept either double talk or lame excuses.

There is a clear difference between being thorough and accurate, and being clever and misleading. We see the latter every day in the public media but the fact is we are not immune from it among professing fundamentalist Baptists. Pastors and others need to know and discern, not look the other way when changes threaten the cause of Christ. In a day when a Roman Catholic can become the president of a "Baptist"University, we surely need to practice informed consent and support more than ever before.

Pastor Charles L. Dear

Moderator, IBFNA