The Southern Baptist Position Paper
Rebuttal by Russell Earl Kelly
IN January 2010 a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention commented to me that he was not aware of the existence of the official Position Paper on Stewardship and Tithing. If this is true (and I believe it is) then it is proof of how far this paper has been hidden from the people.
(1) This Paper was adopted in 1997:
"The Covenant for a New Century adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in June 1997 assigned stewardship education to the Sunday School Board as a new area for our ministry to the churches. With this new assignment, Lifeway Christian Resources, formerly the Sunday School Board,
(2) The purpose of the Position Paper was to make that document the "basis for our ministry in stewardship education."
"… wants to identify clearly the biblical stance related to stewardship and tithing that will form the basis for our ministry in stewardship education.
(3) The Position Paper TELLS SBC employees what they must write and teach.
"will guide those working in the area of stewardship education as well as employees who produce programs, materials, and other resources for the churches.
Lifeway Christian Resources ministries, programs and materials will affirm the following principles on stewardship and tithing:"
(4) The following paragraphs tell SBC employees what "we will" do. There is no option to exercise freewill. This is contrary to the original purpose of the Southern Baptist Convention which gives autonomy to the local church.
(5) What MUST be taught by SBC employees and evangelists:
a) Tithing is the biblical standard for the stewardship of possessions.
b) Giving the first and the best of possessions to God
c) [This] is a biblical model that must not be supplanted by any other standard.
d) Believers may fall short of biblical standards, but the standards themselves must not be compromised by implying that something short of the standards is acceptable and pleasing to God.
e) We will focus stewardship education on tithing as the standard and the beginning point that God has established for believers in their stewardship of possessions.
f) Tithing is an act of obedience to God. Like all of God’s commands in the Bible, it is meant for the believer’s good.
g) Tithing is not a legalistic standard that is pre-gospel, pre-Christian, or sub-Christian. Instead, it is a means by which God’s people acknowledge that everything ultimately belongs to God and that what we have, we receive from God’s gracious hand.
h) We will focus stewardship education on tithing as an expectation God has for obedient believers.
i) The tithe is not intended to limit the limit the believer’s giving. Voluntary giving over and beyond the tithe will often serve as an expression of the believer’s love and gratitude to God..............................
From pages 269, 270, Should the Church Teach Tithing, Russell E. Kelly
The Southern Baptist’s official statement of faith, The Baptist Faith and Message, is widely distributed for all to read. This document still does not contain the word, tithe! However, behind this outward statement is the controlling, yet almost unknown (to most parishioners) Stewardship Position Paper, adopted in June 1997. The Position Paper is the current leadership’s interpretation and application of the general stewardship statement. It is clearly an effort to usurp the local church’s authority to determine its own doctrinal stance in matters of giving principles.
It is the Position Paper, and not the Faith and Message statement, which MUST be followed for all stewardship-related teaching and publications such as Sunday School literature. Since partial quotations are forbidden, I shall summarize what it says. The first of seven paragraphs says that tithing is the clear biblical stance which must be used as the basis for all denominational employees who write denominational literature on stewardship. (You will have to go out of your way to read this for yourself.) In other words, hidden behind the officially distributed Faith and Message, the Position Paper compels employees who produce the unofficial literature to teach tithing. However, while tithing is "fair game," the Convention leadership would not dare issue position papers on other current divisive issues such as the inspiration of the Bible, prophetic interpretations, biblical hermeneutics, or hierarchy-controlled leadership.
Referring to tithing, the fifth paragraph of the Position Paper uses the word, standard, six times and the sixth paragraph uses the word, expectation, once. Denominational employees are thus ordered to teach tithing and they "must not" replace it with any other approach to giving. Therefore, unofficially, tithing is the only acceptable standard and expectation of giving.
Any person who has read the introductory pages of The Baptist Faith and Message will see in the Position Paper a forcing of the conscience contrary to the very nature of Baptist churches. Although there have been many Baptist statements of faith since the first one in 1644, it took over 300 years for merely the tithing texts like Genesis 14:20, Leviticus 27:30-32 and Malachi 3:9-10 to first appear in the 1963 The Baptist Faith and Message! Why? The previous Faith of 1923 did not include any tithing texts! Again, Why? Although brochures on tithing overwhelm the literature rack inside most Southern Baptist Churches, the word, tithe, still does not appear in the 1998 revision of the Faith and Message! Why? Yet an Internet search on the S.B.C. site produces articles about some of their churches which already require church members to "tithe."