Twenty-five hundred churches signed on in the first two days to a new network calling for a reboot of the “conservative resurgence” that four decades ago corrected a perceived leftward drift in the Southern Baptist Convention, the group’s spokesman said Sunday.
“There are a lot of great people in Southern Baptist life leading, but there are some very concerning things happening in Southern Baptist life,” Brad Jurkovich, spokesman of the Conservative Baptist Network of Southern Baptists, told his congregation Sunday morning.
Jurkovich, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bossier City, Louisiana, is the public face of the Conservative Baptist Network, a new group of pastors and laymen announced Friday who believe after two years of apologizing for past exploitation of women and discrimination against blacks, the Southern Baptist Convention is becoming too “woke” for its own good.
The Conservative Baptist Network describes itself and “the product of a grassroots movement that developed organically in the hearts and minds of devoted Southern Baptists who have become concerned about the current direction and perceived future of the convention.”
The group rallied around concerns about “the apparent emphasis on social justice, critical race theory, intersectionality, and the redefining of biblical gender roles,” terms they more typically associate with democratic socialism than with conservative evangelical Christianity.
The group also criticized a scene at the 2018 SBC annual meeting in Dallas when a group of messengers tried to keep Vice President Mike Pence from speaking and after failing in those efforts walked out in protest when the vice president began his address. The network called it a symptom of the SBC’s withdrawal from the U.S. culture wars and efforts by leadership to silence dissent.
Jurkovich told former Fox News pundit Todd Starnes the network is standing on “the sufficiency of the Word of God.”
“It speaks to every issue, and when you believe it cover to cover and preach the truth of the Word of God you don’t have to apologize for any of that, but you’re going to speak to these issues,” Jurkovich said Friday on Starnes’ radio show, now broadcast from the campus of Liberty University. “And maybe the culture wants to deem it ‘Oh, it’s too political; it’s too this.’ At the end of the day, we have got to speak the Word of God.”
The spokesman said a number of SBC pastors believe it is time for a second Conservative Resurgence.
“In the late ’70s early ’80s, there were some clear signs that the denomination was embracing some liberal ideologies and trends,” Jurkovich said Sunday at First Bossier Church. “There were men and women who took a stand in the Southern Baptist Convention and said while other denominations are veering left, we want to stay strong on the Word of God. And they prayed, from churches, galvanized themselves to take a stand for the Word of God, and God blessed those efforts in what became known as the Conservative Resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Jurkovich told Starnes it is “absolutely” time for a second Conservative Resurgence in the nation’s second-largest faith group behind Roman Catholics.
“Every generation is going to fight that battle,” he said. “At the end of the day, 30 years from now there’s going to be different things. Ten years from now there’s going to be different things.”
Jurkovich said for decades following the Conservative Resurgence, Southern Baptists could assume their leaders were anchored to biblical authority. “In the last five years, you cannot make that assumption now,” he said.
“For a variety of reasons there is a disconnect among Southern Baptists pastoring churches,” he said. “They are disengaging left and right across the country. They are saying ‘I‘m not sure I want to stay with this.’”
“Yes, what took place 30-40 years ago, [is] critically important,” Jurkovich said.
The Conservative Resurgence began in 1979 with the election of Memphis megachurch pastor Adrian Rogers as SBC president. Rogers used the power of the office to nominate trustees to denominational boards and agencies who were committed to biblical inerrancy, the idea that the Bible is literally true not only when it comes to faith and practice but also when it touches on matters such has history or science.
Houston layman Paul Pressler and theologian Paige Patterson mobilized conservative pastors across the country to bring their church’s full contingent of messengers to support a string of Conservative Resurgence candidates. By 1990 the SBC had changed so radically that about 1,800 moderate churches withdrew to form the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in 1991.
According to its website, the Conservative Baptist Network is not a new denomination or “blog or social media page existing solely to air grievances” but “an avenue where like-minded pastors, churches, organizations, and individuals can partner together voluntarily to influence the SBC to fulfill the Great Commission.”
Jurkovich declined to say whether Patterson – who lost his job as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2018 for transgressions related to the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements exposing mistreatment of women by powerful men – supports the new Conservative Baptist Network. The group is also not discussing sources of funding.
Chuck Kelley, retired president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Patterson’s brother-in-law, has endorsed the movement. Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, started in the 1970s as an alternative to moderate SBC seminaries prior to the Conservative Resurgence, also voiced its support.
“I am excited about the Conservative Baptist Network because it provides pastors and local churches a united voice to speak to our convention about the sufficiency of the Bible,” said Michael Spradlin, president of the seminary located in Cordova, Tennessee.
A formal launch event is scheduled June 8 prior to the 2020 SBC annual meeting June 9-10 in Orlando, Florida.
“In Southern Baptist life, we’ve got to have some honest conversation about what are we about, where are we going, why this is important,” he said. “We feel like God is going to use it in a fresh way.