Yesterday I turned 45. I’ve lived a lot of life and experienced quite a bit in those 45 years. When I said in a recent post (Mark Driscoll Says Macho Men and Dudes are the Key to the Future of the Church) that I believed we were going to see a person’s views on the roles of men and women in the church become a measuring stick for being a true believer, I think some who read here might have been skeptical. So today I’m going to address that point a bit more. In order to get to my point, I hope you will indulge me in a little background storytelling.
I grew up in the Baptist church. If you grew up in the Baptist church, you knew that anyone who baptized a baby was just wrong, wrong, wrong. You were even suspicious if they were really a Christian because baptizing an infant is just so wrong. The Bible clearly teaches that baptism is by immersion according to Baptist doctrine. I was very much an immersionist. Through a long series of events, David and I ended up attending a Christian Reformed church. We were childless and didn’t know if we would ever be blessed with a child. I was still not completely sold on the infant baptism thing, but since we had no children the issue wasn’t completely relevant to us. I had decided that if I was going to spend eternity with these people, then I certainly could attend church with them. I knew that salvation was not dependent on the mode of baptism.
When we discovered we were expecting on our ninth wedding anniversary, we had to make a decision. Do we stay in a Reformed church and baptize our baby or not? We decided to move to a Baptist church and Caroline was dedicated in a Baptist church. Through another series of events, we left the Baptist church and returned to the CRC church where Caroline was baptized as a toddler when we all became members. (I had been immersed already and David has been both sprinkled and immersed.)
So my views on baptism have been somewhat fluid. I went from being a strong immersionist to becoming rather pragmatic about the whole thing. Frankly, the women’s issue became more important to me than the baptism issue. In other words, it was more important for me to be in a church where women had freedom than it was to practice a specific mode of baptism. That was the main catalyst for our return to the CRC from the Baptist church where Caroline was dedicated.
If you’ve been a Christian long in either the Baptist or Reformed traditions, you will know that baptism has been a divisive issue for a very long time. It still is in some circles. Should it be that way? No. Anyone who confesses Jesus as Savior and Lord will be in heaven regardless of whether they were sprinkled or immersed.
Given that background I find it very interesting that in order to become a member of Mark Driscoll’s Acts 29 Network, there are four areas that church planters and churches must agree on according to their doctrinal statement. One of them is that you must subscribe to the Reformed doctrines (which is another post to come). You must also be Christian, Evangelical and Missional. There is no requirement concerning mode of baptism and they go to great pains to list all of the other areas where they do not have requirements such as views on the end times, alcohol, etc. I do think that is great. I don’t think modes of baptism should divide Christians as is evidenced by my own life.
But there IS a requirement about complementarian versus egalitarian. They say in the list of things they are not:
We are not egalitarians and do believe that men should head their homes and male elders/pastors should lead their churches with masculine love like Jesus Christ.
Interestingly enough, in another letter posted by Mark Driscoll he wrote:
The following is a list of items I want focused on this year and would appreciate prayer for. As you read them, you will recognize we are not changing our beliefs or brotherhood. I just want to help promote and tell the stories of changed lives to help our churches grow by focusing on the air war and trying to catch it up with our ground war:
A manifesto on our core convictions: gospel-centered theology, Spirit-filled or empowered lives, complementarian relationships, and missional churches.
Yes, complementarianism is as important to them as gospel-centered theology and Spirit-filled lives. You can believe anything you want about baptism, the end times, alcohol, speaking in tongues, etc. Think about that. These have been some of the most divisive theological issues amongst denominations over the past one hundred years and they have no requirements about them at all. As long as you subscribe to the rest of the doctrinal statement, you are good to go. But there is no leeway when it comes to men being the absolute leaders.
That might not seem like a big deal at first glance. The concern I have with it is that their take on complementarianism is much more extreme than that of the average Christian. In Mars Hill women have multiple restrictions on them. As Wade Burleson detailed the other day in Memo to Mars Hill: The Suppression of Church Women is Not the Cure for the Feminization of Church Men:
Only males compose the church’s legal standing. Only males vote on church business. Only males serve on leadership teams. Only males determine pastoral salaries. Only males convene for business meetings. Only males determine matters related to the church. Only males are the true members of the church. Females, for the sake of ‘spiritual standing,’ can be called ‘members’ and have access to the church’s website, but females cannot be, in any form or fashion, in leadership at Mars Hill or considered as people with legal or moral authority.
Women cannot vote. Women don’t even attend the business meetings which follows that they do not speak about issues in the church, even if they have the gift of discernment. Women are not allowed to serve on leadership teams. Is your church this restrictive? Even the most conservative Baptist churches I participated in were not this restrictive. And this doesn’t even begin to address the fact that they believe it is the responsibility of men to read their wives’ emails in order to “protect them.” Is that your view of complementarianism? That a man should censor his wife’s personal email to “protect” her?
Again, people might think that this isn’t a big deal. After all, this is just a small group of churches out on the left coast, Seattle no less. What else would you expect? No, it isn’t just the Mars Hill campuses. The Acts 29 network currently has 400 churches. Unfortunately it isn’t going to end there. Do you have any idea how widely they are already reaching into churches and their vision for the future? From a memo posted by Mark Driscoll:
Last year, 157 US churches were planted by A29. Last year we had 382 church-planting applicants, and right now we have 550. At our current pace, Lord willing, we could be over 1,000 US churches running perhaps 500,000 people on Easter 2016, if not earlier.
Their application has buttons to choose USA-Canada, Western Europe, Australasia, and South Africa. They plan on exporting these teachings around the world.
Not only that, their reach is wide through conferences, books, broadcasts, and other materials. Young men who aren’t even officially part of the Acts 29 network are taking these ideas with them into local churches and causing great upheaval in congregations.
This is the vision Mark Driscoll has for churches. Egalitarians and soft complementarians need not apply. If you think a woman should vote in church, forget it. If you think a woman should be involved with the general business of the church, forget it.
My heart breaks for the unsuspecting couples and families who will be impacted by this movement.
One last visual to leave you with. While researching for this post, I went to the WayBack Machine. I thought for sure they had listed something else on their Doctrine statement so I went back to check if it had recently changed. Apparently I was thinking of something else. But what I did find astonished me. On their previous doctrinal page, there was a photo at the top. I’m sure if you think of the topic of doctrine, all sorts of possible images might come to mind. I am going to guess you would never think of what they posted on their doctrine page. You can check it out here: Acts 29 Doctrine. (It takes a few seconds to load, so be patient!) I’ve also added it here.
Still think I’m overly concerned? Who in the world would put that on their Doctrine page? And what not-so-subtle message are they sending?