Southwide Baptist Fellowship

The following is excerpted from Biblical Separatism and Its Collapse among Fundamental Baptists, which is available as a free eBook from Way of Life Literature, --

Southwide Baptist Fellowship, founded by Lee Roberson of Highland Park Baptist Church and formerly one of the largest independent Baptist networks, was rocking out by the mid-2000s and had begun to capitulate to the New Evangelical philosophy.

Many of the speakers who preached at Southwide in October 2003 were from churches with contemporary rock worship services. Bo Moore, the moderator of Southwide that year, is the pastor of Heritage Baptist Church of Kentwood, Michigan, which advertised itself at that time as “a progressive independent Baptist church” with a “High Impact” Sunday evening service consisting of “praise and worship choruses led by our worship leader, praise team and band.” Another Southwide speaker that year, Johnny Hunt, is pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Georgia, a rocking Southern Baptist congregation that decidedly rejects “separatism.” A man wrote to me in 2003 and testified, “I visited there [Hunt’s church] and got up and left because of the wild, party-like atmosphere in their ‘worship’ service.”

By 2007, the number of Southern Baptist speakers at Southwide equaled the number of Independent Baptists, and two contemporary musicians provided music, including one who had appeared on the Crystal Cathedral television program with Robert Schuller (Don Boys, “Rise and Fall of Southwide,”, May 16, 2007).

In 2009, Southern Baptist Ed Stetzer was invited to speak at the Southwide Baptist Fellowship meeting. They even sent a plane to fly him from Nevada, but because of severe weather he was forced to land in Albuquerque and missed the meeting (Stetzer, “Wednesday: Southwide Baptist Fellowship and Independent Fundamental Baptists,” 2009, Stetzer, head of the SBC LifeWay research department, holds to the “in non-essentials liberty” philosophy, despises separatism, and associates with pretty much anybody and everybody. He is a bridge to the “broader church” that is filled to the brim today with ancient and end-times heresies (such as baptismal regeneration, popery, Mariolatry, sacramentalism, anti-Trinitarianism, universalism, Catholic mysticism, kingdom now reconstructionism, Charismaticism, theistic evolution, fallible inspiration of Scripture, panentheism, the non-judgmental “Shack” god, and Christian homosexuality). As far as I know, Stetzer , as a “conservative evangelical,” doesn’t hold to these heresies, but he is a bridge to the broader “evangelical church” where an individual can easily be influenced by any and all of these. (Most of these things are represented in any LifeWay Bookstore.) Consider some of Stetzer’s direct associations. He is closely affiliated with Mark Driscoll, who is “culturally liberal” (e.g., ushering in the New Year through champaign dance parties), hates the doctrine of the pre-tribulational Rapture, and promotes Catholic contemplative mysticism, among other things. Stetzer is affiliated with fellow Southern Baptist Rick Warren, who in turn is closely affiliated with many New Agers and universalists (e.g., Tony Blair, Mehmet Oz, Daniel Amen, Mark Hyman, and Leonard Sweet) and promotes Catholic contemplative mysticism. Stetzer is non-critically affiliated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, who in turn is affiliated with the papacy, praises the pope, and has turned thousands of “converts” over to the Catholic Church. Stetzer is also affiliated with the most liberal of emergents, who deny the infallible inspiration of Scripture, the substitutionary atonement, a literal Hell, and many other fundamentals of the faith. Though Stetzer criticizes their heresies, he does so in gentle terms and refuses to disassociate from them. For example, Stetzer participates in Shapevine, an emerging church blog that features liberal emergents such as Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Sally Morganthaler, Alan Hirsch, and Leonard Sweet. Shapevine is called “a global community of collaborators”; and “conservative Southern Baptists” like Stetzer are right in the middle of this unscriptural collaboration (Romans 16:17; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 2 Timothy 3:5).

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