Norman Jameson At It Again

At the conclusion of the Building Bridges Conference, many Southern Baptists were encouraged by what took place.

Not Norman Jameson, editor of North Carolina’s Biblical Recorder, who took opportunity to misrepresent “creeping” Calvinists. As an alarmist, Jameson shared his “befuddlement” and overall disdain over what the Building Bridges conference represented. That was December of last year.

Today (June 12), Norman Jameson came out again, spinning the result of the resolution on regenerate church membership title with the alarmist title, “SBC Resolution Could Shrink Membership Rolls.” While his article addresses all the resolutions passed by the messengers at Indy, he focuses particularly on resolution #6, that is, on regenerate church membership.

Aside from his title, consider also how he refers to individuals in his article. Referring to Malcolm Yarnell, Jameson writes,

The first, offered by Malcolm Yarnell, a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, added to the definition of New Testament church.

Now consider how he identifies Tom Ascol:

Messengers adopted an amendment by Tom Ascol, prominent in the Calvinist Founder’s Movement in the Southern Baptist Convention . . .

So why could Jameson not identify him as, “Tom Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Cape Coral, FL” as any other news outlet does? That would be, of course, because Jameson is a spin-meister, ever hoping to alert unsuspecting Southern Baptists to the “agendas” of folks he finds problematic.

So now it is the Calvinists causing the reduction in membership rolls in SBC churches, according to Norman Jameson. It is not the fact that we have abandoned the historic practice of regenerate church membership with all Southern Baptists–Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike–have uniformly upheld. Jameson advertises this resolution as though the goal is to “shrink membership rolls” of Southern Baptist churches. The spinning of this resolution, then, is to say that this will take the SBC in further decline, causing churches to shrink as a result of its passing.

The fact is, a commitment to regenerate church membership is the very thing we need in order to revive our churches. In his book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever affirms,

“I’m convinced that getting this concept of church membership right is a key step in revitalizing our churches, evangelizing our nation, furthering the cause of Christ around the world, and so bringing glory to God (148)”.

Charles Deweese agrees, stating,

“A direct relationship exists between a regenerate church membership and five other areas of Baptist life–church covenants, the ordinances, church discipline, evangelism, and small groups” (Charles W. Deweese, A Community of Believers: Making Church Membership More Meaningful (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1978), 13.

The purpose of passing a resolution on regenerate church membership is that our churches would reflect what God has commanded in Scripture. There is no other agenda than to honor Christ by seeking to have a church composed of “Christ’s baptized disciples, united in the belief of what he has said, and covenanting to do what he has commanded” (J. M. Pendleton, Baptist Church Manual (Nashville, Broadman Press, 1966), 7. It is really disappointing to find state editors seeking to use such a historic moment in the life of the SBC to misrepresent the nature and goal of such a resolution. But the struggle to revive the issue of regenerate church membership will continue in spite of its detractors. May those who have the health and integrity of the local church on their radar continue to forge a convention-wide consensus on this cardinal belief of Baptists so that our churches can thrive for generations to come.

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23 Comments on “Norman Jameson At It Again”

  1. Brent Hobbs Says:

    Thanks Timmy, I’m pretty new to North Carolina, but it didn’t take me long to realize I needed an antacid before I opened each copy of The Biblical Recorder. The ironic thing is how loudly the BR trumpets the great astounding unity of all the CBF meetings and moderate Baptist groups, and then turns around with things like this so clearly aimed at division.


  2. Brent,

    Yeah, in fact, I do not think one time I heard the word “Calvinist” or “Calvinism” this year. Southern Baptists are seeking to work together on renewing our cooperation and confessions, and unfortunately articles like this have to come out.

  3. Sean Post Says:

    Unfortunately, it seems the CR hasn’t completely caught up to some of our state papers. I use my copy of the Western Recorder to help start fires in our wood-burning stove.

    Resolution #6 is not a “Calvinist” resolution. It is a “Baptist” resolution that is an attempt to bring “Baptists” back to the bedrock “Baptist” principle of regenerate church membership. It is disturbing and heartbreaking to have Baptists who can’t (or won’t) understand this.

    I am praying that the Lord will change hearts and minds on this subject.

  4. David Says:

    “And those pastors are being called to churches filled with what they now perceive as an unregenerate congregation. And thus begins another conflict.”

    I’m a Presbyterian looking in at you guys and it strikes my undeducated view that the point is precisely that churchs are empty of unregenerates. I didn’t see anything in the coverage and reading I did to suggest that regenerate folks who come to church every week ‘religiously’ (pardon the pun) were even in view; rather it was that huge membership lists filled with folk who never darken the door were being addressed.

    To my Scottish eye, the article seems more intent on disinformation … weird.


  5. Sean,

    It is disturbing. These state papers are funded by our Cooperative Program dollars. Surely we can do better with our money than sponsoring agenda-driven editorials.

    David,

    That’s right. The point was to address the issue of having huge percentages of members considered to be in “good standing” who bear no evidence of regeneration nor have they followed in obedience to the commands of Christ regarding corporate accountability–by that I mean, for instance, the “one-another’s” found in Scripture. The massive gap between the number we advertise and the number that represents reality would be lessened as churches (and their leadership) seek to care for the flock in such a way that they would be willing to leave the 99 to go after the one that has strayed. The problem right now is that we have not one in a hundred, but 70 in a hundred that we have admitted into membership but have gone astray. To not go after them in love, seeking to restore them, and to tolerate their noninvolvement, is a corporate endorsement of their disobedience and perpetuates the dangers of providing false assurances of their salvation.

  6. Justin Nale Says:

    Timmy,

    It is not normal for me to defend Mr. Jameson – his editorial about the Building Bridges Conference did very real damage to the pastoral ministry of some of my fellow Calvinistic pastors here in N.C.. That said, I do not know that Mr. Jameson was seeking to be offensive in his article in the Baptist Standard. As a lover of the Founders movement, I am also more likely to refer to Tom Ascol as a leader in the Founders movement than as pastor of Grace Baptist Church, just as I today would probably be more likely to refer to Johnny Hunt as President of the Convention rather than as a pastor. I would mean no offense in doing this. Quite frankly, my guess is that the vast majority of messengers who saw Tom at microphone 11 proposing his amendment immediately said to themselves “that’s the guy that leads that group of Calvinists”, not “that’s the pastor of that church in Florida.” Mr. Jameson’s piece seems to be written very objectively (it is not an editorial) and I did not take his description of Tom as a subtle jab.

    Also – I think it is excellent that the names “Founders” and “Calvinists” are being linked to the regenerate church membership issue. Yes, there are many who belong to neither of these groups who wholeheartedly supported the resolution. But no one will look back at history and be able to deny that it was the Calvinists in the SBC who led the charge to call our churches back to biblical faithfulness in this regard. I think this is a positive thing and would not want it to go unnoticed.

    I guess I’m saying all this to encourage us not to be overly sensitive concerning the comments people make. If Mr. Jameson lashes out against sound theology or biblical faithfulness, let’s respond. But let’s not go looking for small things that will make Calvinists look like they are always wanting to argue over something,

    I hope that makes sense – disregard this if it doesn’t. Thanks for all you do.

    Justin N.


  7. Justin,

    Thanks for your perspective. As you well know, the culture of the SBC has made it such that if you are a Calvinist, making it known is taboo, if not a cuss word to boot. Jameson is not unaware of the perception Calvinists get, as the Associated Baptist Press has often spun the Calvinism debate to turn conservatives against each other in years past.

    Jameson could have written his article that better reflected the nature of the resolution, the goals behind it, and I would add, mentioned Tom Ascol in reference to his church. That is not to say that he or anyone else in the Founders is embarrassed to be Calvinist; rather, I would argue that this is not an issue for Calvinists only, but all Southern Baptists of all stripes. Jameson knows the stigma as there (as seen in his previous writings). Not only was he not charitable, he was not accurate.

    I will let the discerning public to determine the quality of Jameson’s reporting; should my perspective be wrong, then I will admit to that. But I have good reason to believe i am not.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  8. Adam Winters Says:

    Although I find myself in line with Bro. Nale regarding this matter, if you want a blatant example of editorial “spin,” check out today’s headlines on the Associated Baptist Press page you referenced earlier. Here are the top 3 headlines as of 5 PM today:

    SBC officials reject idea
    of sex-offender database

    SBC business items include
    bids to re-join BWA, oust churches

    Establishment candidate Johnny Hunt
    wins SBC presidency on 1st ballot

    According to ABP, this year’s SBC was apparently about ousting churches, yearning for the old BWA, and saying “no” to sex-offender prevention. And in the midst of it all, the “establishmet” (i.e. over 2/3s voting majority?) election process. Oy!

  9. Adam Winters Says:

    Oops, better make that establishment = over 1/2 voting majority instead of +2/3. My mind is slipping…


  10. Adam,

    Yeah, ABP has never been a credible news outlet in my mind. But at least they do not pretend to be legit (everyone knows they are the propaganda wing of the CBF). State papers, on the other hand, conceal their bias a little more and should have a little more journalistic integrity. So in other words, were Jameson writing for ABP, I don’t think I would have read past the first sentence; in fact, I don’t I would have even read it at all.

    BTW, good to hear from you. Still workin’ it out there in the archives with Dr. Wills?

  11. Adam Winters Says:

    No more assignments in the archives, though I hang out there when I get the chance. It’ll be all work in his office from here on out.

  12. Matt Privett Says:

    I actually wrote the editor of ABP regarding the use of the term “establishment.” That’s not to say Hunt isn’t an “establishment” candidate, but the use of that term in a news story, much less the headline, is inflammatory in my mind. The editor, of course, didn’t agree.


  13. So Dr. Wills is through with his book, eh? Man I really miss the second floor of Boyce Library. The smell of thousands of old theological journals was nostalgic for me; plus, I think I hold the record for the most xeroxed copies of articles on that first copier (my Shield card informs me that I spend over $1,000 in xerox copies there!). I will miss my second home in Louisville to say the least.


  14. Timmy,

    After reading your last comment above, I’m just not sure how much you actually read the state papers. Word & Way, Religious Herald, Baptist Standard and ABP have a partnership together called the New Media Group. If you notice, all three of those state papers (including the Recorder?) carry articles written by ABP staff members. Those state papers and ABP work together on many joint efforts including article sharing.

    In the larger world of religion journalism, ABP has much much more credibility than Baptist Press. I’m rather sure award-winning religion reporters like Sam Hodges of the Dallas Morning News and Terry Mattingly of Howard-Scripps would attest to that fact.

    And in what way does ABP “not pretend to be legit”?? You’re just making stuff up there.

    Have you read what non-Baptist religion journalists are saying about this year’s SBC? Are they off base too? I’m sure you don’t like what they have written either.

    Give Mr. Jameson a break. Not everyone has an anti-Calvinist agenda. I’ve read your blog for quite a while. It’s a rare day when you give an A+ to the writings of a non-Calvinist on the subject of Calvinism. Quit being a nit-picker.


  15. BDW,

    No, I do not read all the state papers. I do also realize that there is a partnership there between the two; however, it is no secret that ABP is run and operated by the CBF, and the state papers are supposed to be held to a high standard of journalism (at least in my mind).

    Whatever I have read from ABP now and in the past has been driven by a consistent antagonism against the stated leadership within the CR SBC. Do you contend that ABP represents journalism that is fair? I can attest that, in the few times they have referenced my blog in their reporting, it has been a cut-and-paste job of my words that were poorly handled.

    So, I am speaking from my own personal perspective. I understand your perception that I am making this all up, but I am not. And for the record, I am not a big fan of Baptist Press either (as one could have easily determined from their reporting both prior and during last year’s annual meeting).

    Thanks for reading the blog, and I hope that I will present my case in a fair and even-handed manner.


  16. Hey Timmy,

    As a secular journalist who is very sympathetic to Founders, and am excited that the RCM passed, let me just say that I think it’s better to give the guy some slack on this one.

    The people in my newsroom, myself included, get accused of bias every day, and often-times it’s laughable. What looks like bias can be a variety of things. I’ve been accused of being biased when I was just sloppy or not as clear as I should have been because of a tight deadline. I’ve been accused of bias when I’ve racked my brain to think of the most fair and accurate way of describing someone or something. Apparently, I still failed. One of my co-workers was accused of flagrant and obvious bias against one side not long ago, when her only bias was that she thought the story was really, really boring.

    There are a hundred different reasons why something is written the way it is. It’s quite possible that the writer didn’t even pen the headline; that’s often done by another editor. And the description of Dr. Ascol is accurate. I dare say if you asked 100 Southern Baptists who Tom Ascol was, the vast majority of those who know would say he’s that Calvinist Founders guy. That’s not a slam. That’s how I think of him, and I have a great deal of respect for him, and am in agreement with him most of the time. I mean, his blog is http://www.founders.org/blog. I think it’s a great thing that something as good as the RCM is being linked to Calvinists.

    I don’t know this guy; I did read the opinion piece he wrote about the Building Bridges Conference, and disagreed with it very much. And I’m not saying that those examples you gave were not example of bias. I’m just saying I think you should give him the benefit of the doubt. Being objective is harder than it looks, and I think a little bit of charity for him might be in order.


  17. Wade,

    Perhaps you are right. I want to believe you are right. As I stated earlier, I have a hard time being convinced of it. It may very well be that the title was not penned by Jameson, but it, along with the attribution to Tom, are loaded and with intent. Perhaps I do have my guard up and what is needed is a little slack. Indeed, if I didn’t feel like it wasn’t a curve ball, I would not have stepped up to the plate.

    Simply stated, the title and attribution were not needed at best and served to question the author’s agenda at worst. Part of being a fair journalist is knowing not only what is appropriate in accurately presenting the story, but also having an acute sense of how it is going to be received by the audience. Due to previous engagement with Jameson, I am convinced he missed on both points, and thus, I find it hard to be convinced otherwise.

    Thanks for the comment, Wade, and I appreciate your good words of caution and gentle rebuke.

  18. Adam Winters Says:

    The book isn’t quite done. It’s getting there. We research assistants use three different work stations inside his own small office to do database work which he will draw from as he writes.

    $1000 in copies is alot of money, but yeah the 2nd floor is for the hardcores!


  19. That’s good to hear Adam. Blessings on you and Dr. Wills (and others) with your work. Please keep us informed on the release of the book as i know many will be interested in it.


  20. Thanks Timmy,
    Let me add this. I’m not saying this isn’t bias. But even if it is, that doesn’t mean it’s intentional bias. Everyone has biases, and it’s not always easy to put them aside, or even know when they’re coming out. That’s what I think the main problem with many in the national media is. If they realized when they were being biased, they wouldn’t do it. They don’t want to be biased; they desire to be fair. But their own personal views are so strongly and deeply felt, that it doesn’t seem like bias to them. They don’t even notice it. I’m sure I’m the same way about some things, as hard as I might try to be otherwise.


  21. Wade,

    I agree. I think the Enlightenment lie was the idea that any of us could achieve blissful neutrality or total objectivity. As moral creatures with a trained conscience, we are going to respond certain ways as filtered by our own predispositions and control beliefs. However, there comes a point in one’s professional career where one practices distanciation–where you willingly distance yourself from your known control beliefs–in order that the horizon under which you write includes a picture much broader, and not limited to, oneself. In a sense, that is one mark of journalistic professionalism.

    It is assumed, at least to some degree, that a journalist would understand the nature of his work in order to protect the integrity of the story from a dominating control belief or bias. Herein is where I believe Jameson has failed, as I have aforementioned in both the post and comments. Ergo, my issue is not that Jameson has personal convictions on the matter (i.e. control beliefs, presuppositions, etc.), but that he has allowed them to influence the nature and tone of his article which I find unprofessional and inaccurate.

    Anyway, I hope that makes a little sense. I am not a journalist nor a professional (stuck in the “cult of the amateur” I guess), so take it with a grain of salt.


  22. One more comment:

    Timmy, you wrote:

    “it is no secret that ABP is run and operated by the CBF,”

    ABP is run and operated by Greg Warner (a former BP reporter) and Rob Marus.

    Not the CBF. The CBF only supplies a percentage of the ABP’s budget. As of a few years ago, the CBF, BGCT, BGAV, and BSNC (all combined) provided only half of the ABP’s total budget. If you read the ABP’s website, you’ll see that they generate revenue by selling advertisements.

    The CBF doesn’t control anything. They don’t control the seminaries either. The national CBF is really a small missions organization (compared to the SBC) that gives a small percentage to the budgets of organizations like ABP, Bread for the World, Baptists Today, Baptist Joint Committee, Baptist World Alliance and provides scholarships to students at “CBF-affiliated” seminaries, divinity schools and Baptist studies programs. Their operating budget is only 17 million dollars.


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