Elbert White

With this letter I am submitting my resignation. Over the past few years, the Southern Baptist Convention has taken a theological leaning to the left. At the same time, I have taken a theological turn to the right.

It really wasn’t that quick and easy of a decision, but that sentence embodies my basic reason for leaving a Southern Baptist Church and the Southern Baptist Convention.

I wasn’t born a Baptist. As young adults my wife, Patty, and I joined Boyd Avenue Baptist Church in Casper, Wyoming. That was over fifty years ago. I recommitted my life to Christ, and Patty joined by profession of faith. We were both baptized on a Sunday night a couple of weeks later and can almost say, “We haven’t missed a service since!” We grew rapidly through sound Bible teaching, preaching, and on-the-job training; we were both put into service while we were still green behind both ears! Over the next couple of years, I was ordained a deacon and licensed to preach the gospel by Boyd Avenue.

In 1966, I enrolled in Southwest Baptist College, now University, in Bolivar, Missouri, and juggled family – two children to begin with- school, work, and a college pastorate. I graduated in 1969, enrolled in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, moved our family of three children to Fort Worth, Texas, and graduated in 1972. I’m thankful to Southern Baptists for the investment they made in my life and ministry by providing a first rate education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.  Believe me, by this time I was Baptist to the bone! I often remarked that when I gave blood, they automatically sent ten percent to the Cooperative Program!

After seminary graduation, I went on to pastor three great SBC churches in New Mexico. I loved it!

However, even during our seminary days, we had known the call to International Missions. In 1986, we were appointed by the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board) of the SBC as missionaries to Zimbabwe, Africa, where we served for the next ten years. When our work permit was not renewed, we went to Southern Asia and, later, to Central America.

In the early 90’s, changes that had taken place in many churches of the Convention began to be implemented into the strategy of the International Mission Board. The convention as a whole was moving from a New Testament pattern of approaching church ministry and missions to a more pragmatic, business culture approach. The theme of developing a world mission’s strategy became a “What’s it going to take?” mentality. It sounds good, but it’s not a biblical approach. The Bible gives what it takes to do ministry God’s way, and that narrows the options considerably! It also builds doctrinally sound believers and churches. This shift in approach was probably our primary impetus for leaving the IMB.

In 1999, we returned to the U.S and to a pastorate in Houston, Texas. It was a good experience. During this time, I began to demand of myself a more disciplined study of God’s word. I retired from the pastorate in 2005, and we moved to Katy, Texas, and became part of the First Baptist Church in Katy where our son was the pastor. I volunteered there as Minister of Adults and Patty taught women’s Bible studies.

At First Baptist Katy, we grew under the verse-by-verse teaching and preaching of our son, Dr. Randy White. I also returned to my dispensational roots and began to “question the assumptions!”

In the last few years, it has become evident that Southern Baptists have turned away from some key doctrines. Just walk through a LifeWay Christian Bookstore and look at the titles of prominently displayed books: “The Circle Maker,” “Jesus Calling,” and “The Shack,” and the list goes on! Or, look at the Bible study resources promoted by the denominational publishing house, such as studies by pop-theologian -“ette” Beth Moore.

Why did I leave?

I left because of theology

I left because my beliefs and those being preached from the majority of Southern Baptist pulpits were no longer in agreement.

I have a firm belief that a church should be driven by Biblical doctrine. The majority of SBC churches are driven by pragmatics: “If it grows (i.e: gets people in the door and down the aisle) the church, we’ll do it.” The SBC and its members have adopted a church growth model that shuns doctrine in order to increase numbers. Whatever happened to Paul’s instructions to Timothy to “study to show thyself approved unto God a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” and to Titus, saying, “Holding fast the faithful word…that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” (II Timothy 2:15; Titus 1:9; c.f.Titus 2:1, KJV)?

I left because of Scripture

I believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. The English translations of the Bible all end with a big black dot called a period. It means stop. Yet there is an unbiblical teaching in SBC churches today encouraging its members to hear a fresh word from God or to receive a new vision. I believe that Revelation is closed. If you want a fresh word from God, pick up your Bible and read it!

I left because of the doctrine of salvation

I believe the Bible is clear on the way of salvation: “…whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16b, KJV). Its a one-step deal. His grace is received through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. That settles it for now and eternity! Too often in Southern Baptist churches, it is a works plus faith bargain. And now, with the bent toward Calvinism, it gets even more complicated. John wrote his gospel that “ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name” (John 20:31,KJV). It is so simple that it is called “amazing grace!”

I left because of Kingdom theology

I believe in a coming Millennial Kingdom that will be established the moment the Lord’s toe touches the Mount of Olives. It will be a literal, not a “spiritual,” kingdom. Today, I have the sovereignty of God, the Lordship of Christ, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in my life. He has saved my soul forever. He is in the process of sanctifying my life through His written word and the work of the Spirit. He will glorify my life when He comes. But the throne of David is empty and the King sits at the right hand of the Majesty on High until His enemies are made His footstool {see Luke 1:32-33; Psalms 110:1; Hebrews 1:3}. I’m not building His Kingdom (and neither are you); He alone will do that. I’m not expanding His kingdom (and you aren’t either) – He will establish it full blown. I’m not working in His kingdom (and, once again, neither are you). I labor in and love His church, and I will do so until He calls me home or raptures His Church out of here. Yet the emphasis in SBC churches and convention meetings is to build His kingdom, expand His kingdom, and serve in His kingdom.

The Impact

I know my leaving won’t leave a mark in the gigantic Southern Baptist Convention. It will go right on. Patty and I are moving on to what the Lord has in store for our lives and service. The SBC and especially those special churches and mission points where we served will always have a special place in our hearts and in our prayers. One of our ongoing prayers is for the convention to return to its Biblical roots. Whether or not that will happen remains to be seen, but for the years that remain in my life and ministry, I’ll be serving the Lord, with joy, outside of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Thank you, SBC, for a life of good ministry and opportunity to serve the Lord. I wish you no ill and only pray that you will begin to question your own assumptions and return to being a people of the Book.

Elbert F. White

Note: Elbert White is father of Randy White, and serves as Director of Church Relations for Dispensational Publishing House