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Los bautistas del sur pierden otra megaiglesia: Elevation Church abandona la SBC

Por Bob Smietana
elevation church steven furtick
Pastor Steven Furtick preaches at Elevation Church in North Carolina. (Video screen grab)

A North Carolina megachurch, known for its popular music and charismatic pastor, has left the Southern Baptist Convention.

In a letter sent to the SBC’s Executive Committee in Nashville and to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, Charlotte-based Elevation Church said it was “withdrawing its affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention effective immediately.”

The letter was published by Baptist Press, an official SBC publication. A spokesman for the North Carolina Baptist Convention confirmed receiving the letter.

“We have no plans to make a public announcement on this decision — we have too much to do in reaching a world that needs the love of Jesus,” the letter reads. “Should your Credentials Committee decide to make this decision by Elevation public, we will only respond with a copy of this letter to anyone inquiring about the notification.”

The SBC’s Credentials Committee is charged with determining if churches are in “friendly cooperation” with the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. That cooperation includes giving to SBC causes and closely following the SBC’s doctrine.

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Earlier this year, five congregations — including Saddleback Church, which was one of the largest SBC churches in the country — were expulsado from the SBC for having women pastors.

The SBC’s statement of faith says only men can hold that office.

During their recent annual meeting, Southern Baptists aprobado a proposed constitutional amendment that would bar churches that have women pastors of any kind. That amendment must be ratified in 2024.

By some estimates, about 2,000 SBC churches have women serving in pastoral roles — including supporting roles like associate pastors, children’s pastors and music ministers.

Elevation’s letter gives no reason for the church’s departure after more than two decades in the SBC. However, Holly Furtick, wife of Elevation pastor Steven Furtick, is descrito as a church co-founder and preaches on a regular basis. A number of SBC leaders, including prominent seminary President Albert “Al” Mohler, believe the Bible bars women from preaching in worship services.

According to data submitted by the church to the SBC, Elevation averaged 10,185 attendees each week and had $103 million in donations for 2021. The church gave $10,000 to the SBC’s Cooperative Program.

A recent study found that Elevation is one of four megachurches whose songs dominate the market for contemporary worship music.

Ryan Burge, a political scientist from Eastern Illinois University, señalado that Saddleback Church and Elevation — which reportedly baptized 1,725 people in 2021 — accounted for about 2.5% of the baptisms for the entire SBC, which has more than 40,000 churches.

The SBC has seen declining baptism and membership numbers for more than a decade. The SBC lost nearly half a million members from 2021 to 2022 and 1.5 million in the last three years. In 2022, the SBC reportado 13.2 million members, down from 16.3 million in 2006.

Despite leaving the SBC, Elevation plans to keep partnering with Southern Baptist churches, Chunks Corbett, a leader at Elevation, wrote. 

“Please know that our withdrawal from affiliation in no way means that we will withdraw from praying for you and your ministries and mission work in the future — we are all on the same side!”

Bob SmietanaBob Smietana es reportero nacional de Religion News Service.

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19 Respuestas

    1. Interesting timing, given recent events and headlines. By the way, Elevation’s reasons for leaving aside, this is exactly how to deal with the SBC if you find yourself at odds with them over a non-essential matter they’ve decided to make essential. Not saying that’s what’s going on in this specific case, but the this letter does provide a model for graceful exit.

      At some point, a congregation and its elders have to do some cost-benefit analysis: Do SBC doctrinal and practical guardrails help or hinder your mission? At what point is it best to just let go? To let the SBC be the SBC without you? Why waste any more time or energy on disagreements turned disagreeable? Freedom of religion cuts both ways for Baptists, especially if the local church owns its own assets.

      For a large church like Elevation, there’s probably not much benefit to continued affiliation. They can continue to partner with whomever they want, including SBC ministries, unless the SBC’s credentialing committee decides to pull a truly fundamentalist move at some point and start threatening their remaining affiliates over continued associations with former adherents.

      My guess is they probably didn’t even talk much about being Baptist at Elevation. I know of many more recent NAMB church plants around the country who burry their Baptist identity and seem to go to great lengths to appear nondenominational to the newcomer or seeker. To figure out these churches’ affiliation, you would have to know the lingo, or what acronyms to look for in the links at the bottom of the right page on a church website. Why is this? Are they running a secret society over there, or are they somehow ashamed of who they really are?

      1. Those are very good points, at the beginning, and interesting questions at the end! I live just minutes from Elevation’s main facility. I was here when Mr. Furtick just had a little office in a little shopping center and held services at a school. Nobody I’ve talked to in the last decade knew it was a Southern Baptist church. As I said, I don’t know if their congregants do.

        Why would they hide it? One thing that comes to mind is that Mr. Furtick might have made a decision not to be in nose-to-nose conflict with First Baptist Church of Indian Trail, which is very large and whose members are very influential in local towns.

      2. Pretty sure that was more of a business/face saving move in order to avoid being disfellowshipped for having holly furtick preach

      3. That’s interesting that you mentioned changing the church name. I use to go to Temple Baptist Church they changed their name To Uptown and I always wondered why. I decided to leave the Baptist started going to Southern Baptist than to Non-denominational and then to 5 Fold Ministries and now I go to a Messianic Jewish Synagogue because I am a Jewish Believer part of leaving the Baptist is because they taught Replacement Theology and left out the HOLY SPIRIT The whole thing is just sad seeing all this infighting, abuse ect ect. O well I suspect it will be the WHOLE Church Jew and Gentile alike going through a severe cleansing seeing how it is the LORD exposing all of the garbage to make HIS Bride Pure and Clean before HE comes.

    2. Cynthia. I used to go to saddleback church before moving out of state. I can almost guarantee most people at saddleback were not aware we were part of the SBC. I didn’t know until the whole woman pastor issue arose last year.

      1. I think it’s understandable that people assume that a church with a sporty name, that doesn’t state a denomination – like “First Baptist” or “Faith United Methodist” – is nondenominational.

  1. In this case, I assure you that the blessing is to the SBC and not to the Elevation crowd. Steven Furtick is a Heretic without question! Nothing he says has any Biblical basis, and quite frankly, the SBC should have initiated the move to expel him years ago!

    1. For decades, the SBC knowingly turned a blind eye to sexual abuse within its member churches because they did not want to expose themselves to financial liability. At the same time (and still), they were disparaging abuse victims who spoke out about what happened to them. The SBC was founded because of its members’ unrelenting support for slavery. To the contrary, they have nothing on Steven Furtick, and it’s a wonder anyone would want to affiliate with them.

  2. Certainly agree with Michael on the importance of being gracious on the way out. That said, I also agree (more or less) with several posters who suggest that Elevation and Furtick are not entities with which the SBC should be in cooperation in the first place.

    I honestly have been dismayed that the SBC and the local association have not pursued disaffiliation from their end.

  3. I have no dogs in this fight (except I am a Christian). But when the word “megachurch” is used, my radar goes up. For what reason is a church to become “mega”? Is the Holy Spirit exceptionally active in such a church? That seems to be the assumption when we use that word.
    But OTOH, is that really what is happening when a church has a “charismatic” preacher? Rather, could it be that because the pastor has the “gift of story telling”, he (or she) draws in crowds who want to be entertained?
    Sadly, the typical American congregant is biblically illiterate and just uncritically accepts whatever is preached from such preachers. The result is that many come to hear, but how many actually change their lives? I won’t judge individuals, but I can do as Jesus told us “By their fruits you shall know them”

  4. I am not a fan of Elevation and have some serious theological questions about how they practice ministry. At the same time, why would any evangelical church want to be part of the SBC–a denomination founded on African American chattel slavery who was a driving force behind Jim Crow. My guess is that when you peel the layers here, you’ll find that it is all about money and power.

  5. I do not see scripture as the basis for these decisions Women were recognized as a prophetess in the New & Old Testament. What will we do with the scripture, “in Christ there is no male nor female, . . .?

    1. All I can say is I went yo Elevation church 2× and actually had a holy spirit moment the first time I was there I was also given a Bible that I opened as the one I had only opened to a few pages because it got flooded in my tent . Just think WHAT WOULD JESUS DO ?
      Wasn’t Jesus himself not Homeless? I’m getting my soul fed at Elevation church !
      Let HE who is without sin cast the first stone!

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