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Sovereign Grace Polity versus Southern Baptist Polity

The following statement sets forth what Southern Baptist churches and seminaries believe about the autonomy of the local church and the need for cooperative efforts in advancing the gospel.  It is part of The Baptist Faith and Message (for entire text) 

VI. The Church 

A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth.  Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes.  In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord.  Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons.  While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture. 

The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation. 

Matthew 16:15-19; 18:15-20; Acts 2:41-42,47; 5:11-14; 6:3-6; 13:1-3; 14:23,27; 15:1-30; 16:5; 20:28; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 3:16; 5:4-5; 7:17; 9:13-14; 12; Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:19-22; 3:8-11,21; 5:22-32; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:18; 1 Timothy 2:9-14; 3:1-15; 4:14; Hebrews 11:39-40; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Revelation 2-3; 21:2-3. 

XIV. Cooperation 

Christ’s people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God.  Such organizations have no authority over one another or over the churches.  They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner.  Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom.  Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ’s people.  Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament. 

Exodus 17:12; 18:17ff.; Judges 7:21; Ezra 1:3-4; 2:68-69; 5:14-15; Nehemiah 4; 8:1-5; Matthew 10:5-15; 20:1-16; 22:1-10; 28:19-20; Mark 2:3; Luke 10:1ff.; Acts 1:13-14; 2:1ff.; 4:31-37; 13:2-3; 15:1-35; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 3:5-15; 12; 2 Corinthians 8-9; Galatians 1:6-10; Ephesians 4:1-16; Philippians 1:15-18.  


The Southern Baptist Convention has been extremely effective in reaching the world with the gospel through their cooperative union.  Sovereign Grace Ministries is opposed to Southern Baptist polity and has so argued in the SG Book of Church Order and on its website.  Many of the churches that left SGM agree with our Southern Baptist friends.  

The polity timeline for SGM moves ahead this week.  Here are some upcoming highlights. 

  • February 10th [this past Sunday] the Polity Committee submits its recommended revisions for Board approval. 
  • February 15th (or thereabouts) the Board will send out the Revised Polity Proposal to all of the SG elders. 
  • Soon after that we will send out a final survey on your thoughts about the Revised Proposal. 
  • March 15th (or thereabouts) a provisional Council of Elders will vote on the ratification of the Polity.  We’ll give you more details of how that vote will take place.  We are not envisioning a convention, but rather a written or electronic ballot.  If the Polity fails to garner a majority, the existing polity remains intact until the Board gives further direction. 

Here are a few observations. 


  • The Board of Directors will unquestionably approve the Revised Polity Proposal that C.J., Phil Sasser and the Polity Committee put forward this Friday. 
  • The subsequent survey is meaningless in terms of any further revisions.  It is meant to discover how much support or opposition exists to the Revised Polity. 
  • A “provisional Council of Elders” will vote next month on whether to ratify the Book of Church Order.  SGM has not said who will be on this provisional Council but one assumes it will be comprised of all the senior pastors under the circumstances given this definition.      

“The Council of Elders is a representative body made up of one ordained elder from each church in SG.  It will meet to approve changes to the Statement of Faith and the Book of Church Order, to confirm the removal of a church from SG, to confirm members of the Governing Board, and for various other reasons included in the Book of Church Order.” (BCO, p. 7)


Those churches that don’t believe they should be governed extra locally by SGM will be forced to leave.


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