Unconventional Baptists: The misunderstood controversy between New Spring and the Baptist Convention

Abbi Webb, Assistant Editor

Ever since the lead pastor of New Spring church, Perry Noble, claimed there was no Hebrew word for command and rephrased the 10 commandments as 10 sayings or promises from God at the church's last Christmas Eve service, people have been talking about the uncertainty of the mega church’s future. The primary confusion resides in whether or not the mega church will remain part of the South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC), but when considering the guidelines that the Convention bides by, New Spring is more secure than many people may think.

New Spring has caught the attention of thousands of church-goers and non-churchgoers with its unconventional methods of preaching the gospel, but the SCBC saw the need to interject and published a statement to the church condemning some of its practices.

Tommy Kelly, president of the SCBC, made public his disapproval of the mega church’s use of profanity, messy preaching and secular songs during worship experiences. He called for the church to develop more in-depth accountability among leaders and pastors as well as a stronger dedication to sound doctrine and teaching.

It is the following statement by Kelly that led people to believe that New Spring may no longer be able to associate with the Convention:

“Therefore, we as South Carolina Baptists must publicly state and remove ourselves from these positions and problematic statements and call for New Spring to correct these positions if it chooses to say that it affiliates with South Carolina Baptist churches.”

Although it would make sense that a convention would “kick out” any member that did not adhere to their guidelines, the SCBC works a little differently.

The SCBC is a fellowship of churches that choose to come together and support one another in missions and adhere to general doctrine. New Spring has chosen to be a part of that partnership and its ability to no longer fellowship with the convention would only occur under severe circumstances, like accepting homosexuality as a moral lifestyle, but never because of things like music or preaching styles.

Tony Beam, Vice-President for Student Services and Christian Worldview at North Greenville University, explained that the SCBC runs on a cooperative system where every church voluntarily fellowships with one another. Rather than kicking a church out, the Convention would have to withdraw fellowship and return cooperative program dollars that the church may be paying to the convention.

Beam added that there are no rules for member churches to follow regarding how to run their church. Each church in the Convention is autonomous. It is when an issue of heresy or false doctrine is presented that the Convention would have to step in and take action.

“It would be highly unusual for the SCBC to withdraw fellowship from New Spring because of worship style,” said Beam

Many people see the mishaps that took place at New Spring’s Christmas Eve service, where Noble claimed that there was no Hebrew word for command and therefore the 10 commandments were promises rather than commands, as an act of heresy, but because Noble apologized for his mistakes on his public blog and admitted that he needed more accountability in preparing his sermons, it would be unlikely that the Convention would withdraw fellowship from them.

When the way the SCBC works is misunderstood, people can easily take statements like Kelly’s to extreme measures.

Beam, who is a long time friend of Kelly’s said, “The president's remarks are not necessarily indicative that they’re going to throw New Spring out. I think he means that we as Baptists should not participate in these things… He may have that opinion, but I don’t think he means that the Convention is going remove them. There’s a difference between ‘we need to remove ourselves’ and ‘we are going to remove the church.’”