If readers were to pick up a copy of the Baptist Bulletin from 25 years ago, they would immediately notice many articles about certain Christian colleges, mission boards, and social agencies. Back then, the GARBC had an “approval system” that identified institutions that shared similar beliefs and values with our association of churches.
But after the GARBC dropped its approval system in 2000, the task of the Baptist Bulletin editor became a bit more difficult. Should we continue to run news about institutions that formerly had official ties to our association? What about institutions that were never on our approved list, but seem to be “kissing cousins” when it comes to essential beliefs? And what about authors—who should we allow to write for our magazine?
On one level, this is the sort of question that has been a nonissue in our magazine since the very beginning. The Baptist Bulletin has always been happy to feature authors who may not have an organic connection to our churches, but who are well-qualified to address our ideas. We learn from such authors with humility, knowing that our movement of churches does not have a monopoly on the truth.
Recognizing this, my suggested solution comes from a basic idea that holds our association together: We are a fellowship of independent Baptist churches. We sometimes laugh about being “card-carrying Regular Baptists,” but in reality, there is no membership card. Individuals cannot join the GARBC, but they can join a GARBC church. Our content should reflect our churches because the Baptist Bulletin is the voice of our GARBC churches, and has been since 1933.
So readers may notice a few subtle answers in this month’s issue. For instance, we have a happy announcement about a new president leading Evangelical Baptist Missions. No, the mission agency has no formal connection to the GARBC—but its new president was pastor of GARBC churches for many years. Many EBM missionaries have been commissioned, sent, and supported by GARBC churches. Many members of the EBM family are ministering all over the globe to plant Baptist churches. There’s no need to search much deeper for connections. They are us!
In a similar way, we are running a story about the proposed merger of two seminaries, neither of which are “GARBC schools.” One of the seminaries once wore that label, but no such category exists anymore. Meanwhile, hundreds of association churches are led by graduates of these schools. And both institutions are absolutely committed to producing leaders who are regular Baptists. (I’m using the lowercase “r” to remind my Minnesota friends that we are all kissing cousins.)
For a final example, please read this issue’s “Is It Possible to Know Anything?” by Michael Wittmer. On the surface—when you notice the name of the seminary where he teaches—you might start to wonder how his article fits into our magazine. Here’s one important detail: Dr. Wittmer is an active member of West Cannon Baptist Church in Belmont, Mich. He originally presented this chapter to a conference of GARBC pastors in the Grand Rapids area, prior to publication in his new book from Zondervan, Don’t Stop Believing.
And here’s the best reason of all to include his article in this issue: He gives voice to an idea that is important to all Regular Baptists.
Kevin Mungons is managing editor of the Baptist Bulletin.