And now, the second part of my multi-part post concerning the evolution of the Southern Baptist Convention into something unholy, quite catholic, but rather unapostolic:
4. Opulence and indifference to the plight of the poor
The disparity between the haves and the have-nots became increasingly pronounced during the years of medieval hegemony for the Roman Catholic Church. As feudal ways of life gave way to the age of Renaissance art, and after the Crusades had effectively bankrupted the kingly courts of Europe, the Catholic Church emerged as the last bastion of aristocracy. So rich were the Roman pontiffs in lands and luxuries, and so great were the economic advantages of papal favor that the ordinary wealth of earlier fiefdoms seemed paltry and pathetic.
The splendor of Roman Catholic architecture and commissioned art has surpassed anything before or since. The Renaissance and its chief artisans would have starved to death if not for the church’s insistence on having the finest, best, and most expensive frescos, sculptures, and paintings. Truly, the vicar of Christ was a king of kings, and his heavenly city – The Vatican – had gates of pearl and streets of gold.
In the darkened shadows of those magnificent ecclesiastic edifices, ghettos grew like mushrooms on the soil of papal waste. The Jews, the prostitutes, the stonecutters and the merchants struggled to secure a place within the crowded city of once glorious Rome. It was among these that the plague reached epidemic proportions. It was there that the rats ran free. And betrayed by the Holy Apostle sworn under sacred oath to preach the good news to the poor, these huddled masses faithfully paid their tithes and purchased their indulgences to adorn the papal palace with gold and silver and precious stones.
By the time Roman Catholicism had taken root in South America through plundering the native wealth of Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans, there was little hope that the Church would even recognize her Lord whose head could find no place to rest. Nevertheless, the Church justified her opulence and preached the gospel of prosperity long before American Protestants adopted the heresy as their own.
The ground for reform was fertile by the time Martin Luther began preaching justification by grace. The peasants, though eventually overcome with reforming zeal, were the footsoldiers of the reclaimed gospel proclamation. Luther tapped into their growing resentment of the Church’s worldliness and channeled their hostilities toward his reforming agenda.
The parallel between what the Roman Catholic Church became and what the Southern Baptist Convention is becoming demands examination. Denominational elites are sheltered from the fiscal oversight of the people who pay their salaries. The costs associated with executive travel, perquisites, benefits, and emoluments are hard to come by. As always, the chief offenders are among the slowest to provide information.
Last January, I sent certified letters to every Southern Baptist executive whose agency or institution receives Cooperative Program support. As of this morning, I have sent follow up letters and emails to those seminary presidents and mission board leaders who have yet to honor the Business and Financial Plan of the Southern Baptist Convention that necessitates their compliance with my request.
To date, only the following men have responded, and each has responded in full: Morris Chapman, Jerry Rankin, Jeff Iorg, Danny Akin, and Richard Land.
Paige Patterson, Chuck Kelley, Al Mohler, Phil Roberts, and Geoffrey Hammond have withheld any response.
Some denominational salaries are insufficient. Some are incredibly inflated. Some presidential expenses are modest. Others are downright ungodly. Yet the palaces which house our Southern Baptist pontiffs expand across the street from lean-to, rotten shanties, and convention trustees refuse to address the disparity.
Meanwhile, the appeal for churches to increase their Cooperative Program giving keeps coming, and the money keeps rolling in. Perhaps, however, the convention messengers need an opportunity to hear about these abuses; and soon, perhaps, they will.
*Cue ominous-sounding music*
5 thoughts on “Roman Baptist Convention, Pt. 2…”
The word Marcos comes to mind in some of these descriptions.
Well…is this information that will be publicly shared, or is each individual Southern Baptist to repeat the certified letter exercise?
Ok, I admitt it. I’m sure that Ben has already intuited it from our get-togethers.
I am woefully ignorant… Who is “Marcos?”
Tim L. Dahl
The reference is to Ferdinand and Imelda.
Marty, is the rumour true that Ferdinand “eshoed” Imelda? ;^)
In His Grace and Peace,
T. D. Webb