I created a little content for an interested party a month back or so and I thought I’d test it out on open platform. Please, take a look, make a comment. Agree? Disagree? Make sense? Confusing? I’d like your feedback.
Who are South Africa’s Baptists?
The South African census of 2001 recorded that out of a population of 44,819,774 citizens 691,235 people identified themselves as Baptists in South Africa.
The Baptist Union of Southern Africa in 2010, held in association 524 churches with 43431 members.
I’m a member (ok, I’m the pastor) of a church which is in the Baptist Union of Southern Africa and I think it’s fair to say that even as I look to the interests of my own local church I also desire to see the Union of churches as a whole strengthened. I’m not a passive bystander.
Theological identifications within the Baptist Union
Two main theological camps have begun to emerge in the last 10 years within the Baptist Union.
Sola 5 Is a grouping of Reformed Baptists who are unified by their Soteriology (Reformed). They are a very well mobilised, cohesive group.
Isaiah 58 Is a grouping of Baptists who are unified primarily by their adoption of church growth strategies and – in lesser part – by their Pneumatology (Charismatic). It’s been pointed out to me that some in Isaiah 58 would see themselves as Reformed Charismatics, others Liberal Charismatics, still others not Charismatic at all.
The majority of the Union is not aligned to either of these camps but in our postmodern world, where truth is a grey substance that no one wants to be caught holding when the music stops, it is very interesting to me that groups are beginning to form which stand for anything. The church which supports me as a missionary is a member of Sola 5 and I actively foster relationships with churches in this group. Over time it seems inevitable that our church would seek dual membership with the Baptist Union and Sola 5.
Who’s networking with who?
Sola 5 churches have, and are developing, good relationships with paedo-Baptists. You can see these developing relationships in efforts like the Rezolution Conference and fraternal gatherings, like the recent visit by David Carmichael.
I’m a little far removed from Isaiah 58, however, I understand that they are developing relationships and holding joint conferences with a wide range of Charismatics. I hope I haven’t misrepresented them (anyone reading that can fill in the blanks?).
The Baptist Union ties two important Baptist groups together namely the Baptist Convention (former black union of churches) and the Afrikaanse Baptiste Kerke (Afrikaans association of churches).
Who’s training who?
There are four colleges producing pastors for the Baptist Union in South Africa.
Christ Seminary produces candidates for churches like mine, Conservative Evangelical (although one could go further and say they groom Dispensational graduates – anyone want to contend?). Cape Town Baptist Seminary and the Baptist Theological College provide graduates to a far wider Baptist pool of churches. The Bible Institute of South Africa services a Reformed base of churches and the Afrikaanse Baptiste Seminarium addresses the Afrikaans constituency.
SATS and UNISA as distance learning institutions are all things to all men and I guess pick up the rest, but play an important role in post-graduate studies.
The Reformed camp, which is notoriously untrusting of local institutions, sends a number of their most promising candidates overseas for university education (Master’s Seminary, London Theological Seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary… – is this a fair statement?).
It’s my opinion that the ratio of graduates to established churches in South Africa is mismatched.
That, in a nutshell, is how I see the lay of the land. Too simple? Too complex? Too pointless? Comment below.