Some 'Spirit-Filled' Baptists Feel Targeted in SBC

By Pierce, John | The Christian Century, March 7, 2006 | Go to article overview

Some 'Spirit-Filled' Baptists Feel Targeted in SBC


Pierce, John, The Christian Century


When Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson launched a revolution within the Southern Baptist Convention, they found an eager soldier in Ron Phillips.

Phillips, 58, has been pastor of Central Baptist Church of Hixson, Tennessee, near Chattanooga, since 1979--the year the so-called "conservative resurgence" began within the SBC. In the early 1990s, Phillips served as chair of the Home Mission Board, since renamed the North American Mission Board.

But in 1989 he had "an experience with the Holy Spirit" that changed his life and ministry significantly. Though once an insider in the conservative movement, Phillips now sees himself as excluded from SBC life. "I do believe Paige [Patterson] and others have betrayed every one of us," said Phillips, whose church is now known as Abba's House and draws about 3,000 worshipers each Sunday.

The congregation identifies itself as "a Spirit-filled Southern Baptist church" that "operates in the gifts of the Spirit while holding to the Word of God." Phillips said his congregation affirms biblical authority--what he had thought was the sole issue in the SBC conflict.

"We thought it was a commitment to a higher view of scripture, rather than a narrowing view of fundamentalism," said Phillips, who helped carry out the radical reshaping of the convention as Horne Mission Board chairman.

The suggestion that he is now on the receiving end of what he helped create is certainly "fair," Phillips confessed. He said he has apologized to many who were excluded from SBC life in past years. "I was much younger," he said. "But I was very serious and sincere."

Phillips was elected president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention in 1991, even after his "experience with the Holy Spirit." There were no problems, he said, because "I didn't get up and talk about it."

In his book Awakened by the Spirit, Phillips shares his emerging theological and historical perspectives as a "Spirit-filled" Baptist. He said his passion for evangelism and missions remains high, but he is finding it harder to support the work of Southern Baptists.

He said convention policies--including the one recently adopted by the International Mission Board that excludes missionary candidates who use a "private prayer language" are pushing more good Baptists away.

Like others, such as Oklahoma pastor Wade Burleson, who was threatened with removal as an IMB trustee because of his outspoken criticism, Phillips sees the new restrictions on overseas missionaries as an assault on IMB president Jerry Rankin. who admitted to having a private prayer language.

Terming the latest restrictions on missionaries "horrible," Phillips said private prayer practices "should be nobody's business. …

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