Baptist Faith and Message
The Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) is the "statement of faith" of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The BF&M is not a formal confession or creed, as Baptists in general do not hold to such (accepting only the Bible as their standard), and furthermore the SBC (being congregational in organization) has no authority over any individual congregation. However, adherence to it is required for SBC-sponsored missionaries and faculty members at SBC-sponsored universities. In practice, most Southern Baptist congregations adopt the BF&M as their Statement of Faith (liberal congregations adopt the original 1963 version without the 1998 amendment, while conservative ones adopt the 2000 version).
The BF&M originated in 1925 out of the much older New Hampshire Confession of Faith. It has been amended three times: in 1963, 1998, and 2000.
The 1998 version consisted of a single change: an entire new section (Section XVIII) on The Family. The 2000 revision added, among other notable changes, a sentence in Section XV (The Christian and the Social Order) supporting the sanctity of life and disavowing all forms of sexual immorality, homosexuality being specifically named.
The 1998 and 2000 revisions were controversial among the liberal elements of the SBC (most of whom were supporters of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a liberal splinter group) for the following changes:
- The new section on The Family specifically held to the view of traditional marriage, and furthermore the BF&M added a sentence in Section XV denouncing all forms of sexual immorality which specifically referenced homosexuality.
- A sentence in Section VI (The Church) specifically limited the role of pastor to men only.
- Finally, it removed the statement from Section I (The Scriptures) that Jesus Christ was the standard by which the Bible was to be interpreted, in response to liberal groups which were elevating the "red letter" words of Jesus (and, in some cases, what He specifically did not say, an example being the subject of homosexuality) over the remainder of Scripture (the traditional view of the SBC has been, and is, that all Scripture is equally inspired by God).
The BF&M is arranged into 18 individual topics, one of which (God) is divided into three sub-sections, one for each Person of the Trinity. Each section is followed by Bible verses supporting the statement (the online version has links to the Bible text, using the SBC-published Holman Christian Standard Bible as the official version).
|A. God the Father|
|B. God the Son|
|C. God the Holy Spirit|
|V.||God's Purpose of Grace|
|VII.||Baptism and the Lord's Supper|
|VIII.||The Lord's Day|
|XI.||Evangelism and Missions|
|XV.||The Christian and the Social Order|
|XVI.||Peace and War|
- The BF&M did not, however, mention anything about limiting the roles of elder -- mainly because Southern Baptists have traditionally considered elder and pastor to be the same office -- or deacon to men only. In practice, those SBC congregations which have elders limit them to men, while those SBC churches allowing female deacons have generally limited them to women who are married to male deacons or who were such but now widowed.