Is Chuck Kelley a Prophet?
Months have passed since retired New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary president Chuck Kelley began asking publicly the audacious and absurd question of Southern Baptists: Are we the new Methodists? Dr. Kelley has clearly made far too many visits to Cafédu Monde in the New Orleans French Quarter and imbibed far too many cups of café au lait, so that his judgment has been impaired. That New Orleans coffee is so strong that the customer doesn’t have to ask for a waiter to bring the brew. He whistles, and the coffee comes under its own locomotion! But if you drink too much of the chicory-injected substance, you may begin making the kind of observations coming from Dr. Kelley.
Come now, Dr. Kelley, Baptists will never be Methodists! Almost every Methodist seminary has pivoted decidedly away from the Bible. In many Methodist pulpits, where once stood prophets of God proclaiming the necessity of repentance, there is now a culture warrior lending her shrill voice to the latest social justice movement. The auditoriums once filled with weeping sinners are increasingly empty, and mourner’s benches exist for all practical purposes mostly in the museums of Wesley.
Back to Dr. Kelley, perhaps the learned president-evangelist did not drink too much coffee after all. In fact, maybe Dr. Kelley is actually a prophet! Just maybe he saw it all coming. And perhaps we Baptists delighted too much in the virtual demise of our Methodist friends. The circuit-riding Methodist evangelist, riding alone through the bleak high plains weather to bring the gospel to the tough, resistant Westerners, is a figure we are all beginning to miss.
The announcement of a breakaway denomination, the Global Methodist Church, splitting from the United Methodist Church, was hardly a shock. Biblically concerned Methodists can no longer support the LGBTQ “gospel” proclaimed by some of Wesley’s errant successors. The problem is that the Global Methodists love the LGBTQ contingency far too much. They are not interested in watching the slow death of their church, particularly at the hands of a movement that will make its advocates miserable, assault the homes of young people who still want to try God’s ways, and engender upheaval in the political status of their country. Their love leads them to preach the truth, confront the lost, care for the wounded, and assist every soul in coming to Christ.
Wait just a moment. Am I describing the plight of Methodism, or was I talking about Southern Baptists? And while our “gospel” is becoming a cry for “social justice,” are we also in danger of losing our two most precious, blood-bought freedoms: the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech (and the press)? Yes, now we are ashamed of the name “Baptist.” Historically its meaning is far too certain. Try something like Watermark Church, Mosaic Church, or Dream City Church. How do you know what these churches espouse and believe? Even the Methodists avoid that tendency, and few in the Roman tradition fear identification as Catholics!
Institutions have forfeited evangelistic fervor, and a generation of culture warriors has ascended to denominational hierarchy and ascended into many church pulpits. Predictably, like the trailblazing Methodists, numbers are falling, and baptisms are cascading to new lows. Biblical postures on gender, the purpose and plan of marriage, and the importance of manhood are nothing more than echoes of the distant past (twenty years ago); and now, we Southern Baptists are, in fact, the new Methodists. Dr. Kelley, we owe you a collective apology. And we owe you the prophet’s mantle, which you have surely earned. Thank you for exhibiting the courage, which you modeled; and thank you for loving lost people – and the church of God – enough to tell us the truth.
Southern Baptists, the future is in your hands. If you do not approve of your role as the new Methodists, then you will have to assume responsibility. The next three months are vital in the discussion of whether we shall be Baptists or a pale reincarnation of the United Methodist Church. The choice is yours.