ARLINGTON, Texas (ABP) — Benjamin Cole, a young pastor who is one of the most vocal critics of some Southern Baptist Convention leaders, is leaving to join the Oklahoma church staff of fellow reform-minded blogger Wade Burleson.
Cole, who currently leads Parkview Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, will join the pastoral staff of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Okla. As the church's associate pastor for discipleship and media, Cole will help with small-group formation and media ministries.
Burleson, who operates the “Grace and Truth to You” blog (kerussocharis.blogspot.com), is Emmanuel's senior pastor.
In a statement released to Associated Baptist Press, Burleson said Cole's arrival in Enid will allow the two “to continue our primary commitment to the local church, as well as afford greater opportunity for collaborative efforts in other kingdom objectives that we share.”
Emmanuel's personnel committee unanimously approved the hiring decision, Burleson said. Cole will be introduced to the church Aug. 19 and begin work on “technical and structural changes” needed to launch new ministries Sept. 2. His last Sunday at Parkview will be Aug. 26.
“Wade Burleson is a model pastor, a powerful preacher, and a visionary kingdom servant,” Cole said in a statement to ABP. “The invitation to work on his team at Emmanuel is one that any minister should accept, and I am grateful that he has asked me to serve alongside him in these great days of growth at Emmanuel.”
Cole and Burleson have worked closely — along with other bloggers — in their criticisms of some SBC policies. In 2006, Cole railed against Burleson's fellow International Mission Board trustees in response to their proposal to remove Burleson from the board. Early that year, a majority of trustees had voted to unseat him for “broken trust and resistance to accountability.” Burleson had used his blog to criticize some recently adopted IMB policies, as well as the manner in which the board had conducted some of its business.
Since then, both Cole and Burleson have continued to speak out about what they perceive as narrowing parameters for participation in the denomination's leadership. They have also attacked what they see as an insular culture among the long-time conservatives who wrested the denomination's leadership away from moderates in the 1980s and '90s.
Cole's upcoming move will enable them to continue that mission, both men said.
“For nearly two years, Ben and I have worked closely together to renew the founding vision of the Southern Baptist Convention and preserve our convention ministries from the inordinate influence of eccentric theologies,” Burleson said.
Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, has been a frequent target of Cole's blog. Most recently, Cole parodied the school's homemaking degree, which he called a “Mrs. Degree,” in several posts on his personal blog, Baptist Blogger (baptistblog.wordpress.com).
Cole has also joined other Baptist bloggers critical of the SBC establishment who have created a cooperative blog aimed at becoming “the premier site for Southern Baptist news and commentary.” Burleson has said he will not be closely associated with the collaboration, called SBCOutpost.com.