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Pastor Challenges Large SBC Membership

A Southern Baptist pastor wants his denomination to ensure that its large membership consists of people who have been born again.
( [email protected] ) Jan 16, 2007 02:37 PM EST

A Southern Baptist pastor wants his denomination to ensure that its large membership consists of people who have been born again.

The Southern Baptist Convention claims 16 million members and is the largest Protestant denomination in the country. Thomas Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Coral Gables, Fla., plans to introduce a resolution at SBC's annual meeting in June, according to Agape Press, that may challenge the claimed membership.

"The church ought to be made up of regenerate church membership – those who really have been born of God's Spirit," he said.

Ascol drew attention to a 2005 survey taken by SBC's LifeWay Christian Resources which found that only 37.2 percent of Southern Baptists attended church in a given week.

Given the low number, Ascol urges the practice of church discipline to ensure integrity in church membership, Agape reported.

Ascol had introduced a similar resolution at last year's annual meeting but it was refused consideration to present to the denomination.

Early last month, a group of pastors backed the Rev. Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, and encouraged the drafting of a resolution regarding the use of "private prayer language" to present at the 2007 annual meeting.

McKissic had drawn controversy when he spoke of his experience of speaking in tongues at a chapel service at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary last August. Seminary trustees banned speaking in tongues and its promotion in an overwhelming vote in October.

Given the absence of a formal position on spiritual gifts within the Southern Baptist Convention, McKissic requested for the adoption of the group's stance on charismatic practices. His request was not addressed at the Executive Committee meeting in September.

Pastors supporting McKissic and those who practice charismatic practices, however, plan to draft resolutions for the upcoming meeting in San Antonio, Texas, and lead a study on the views of Southern Baptists on speaking in tongues.

The resolutions process does not open until a couple of months from now, said SBC Executive Board spokesman John Revell.

In the meantime, Ascol enforces measures at his church to ensure integrity in membership. Elders interview prospective members who are also required to attend a new members class.