(Photo: The Elephant Room/Alyssa Armour)
Voddie Baucham, Pastor of Preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas, has released a blog post in which he explains why he turned down an invitation to participate in the second round of The Elephant Room, held Jan. 25, and left another conference hosted by James MacDonald without fulfilling his speaking duties.
The Elephant Room, a theological roundtable featuring blunt conversations among seven influential pastors, generated a noted level of controversy due to the invitation of Bishop T.D. Jakes, founder and senior pastor of The Potter's House in Dallas, to participate in the discussions. Jakes has been accused of heresy by some in the Christian community for his affiliation with modalism, which explains the Godhead in non-Trinitarian terms.
Modalism, a 3rd-century teaching accredited to theologian Sabellius, purports that the members of the Trinity are not three distinct, eternally co-existing persons, but that instead God, a singular spirit, manifests Himself at different times in three modes – a doctrine espoused by Oneness Apostolic Pentecostal and United Pentecostal Church International denominations.
Pastor Baucham described in his blog that it was that very issue that led him to decline the invitation by Pastor MacDonald, who moderated The Elephant Room discussions along with Pastor Mark Driscoll.
Baucham is also a member of The Gospel Coaltion, a committee of Christian leaders from which MacDonald resigned before The Elephant Room roundtable, amid speculation that his resignation was linked to Jakes' presence at the event.
Although the Grace Family Baptist Church pastor identified other concerns he had over participating at the conference, such as not "fitting in" with the other megachurch pastors due to his relatively small congregation of 500, and because he does not appear regularly on TV events and radio shows, his main issue was with being a part of a conference that welcomed Jakes as a "brother."
The pastor identified four main reasons for his opposition to Jakes' appearance at The Elephant Room, writing that Jakes has a history of "holding to, teaching, and associating with modalism" and that "ER2 was a forum wherein he would be assumed to be a 'brother.'"
Baucham also noted that the "Word of Faith" gospel that he believes Jakes preaches is "heterodox and harmful." The Southern Baptist minister also claimed that Jakes' influence in the Dallas Metroplex has been "negative, at best" and that The Potter's House bishop is an example of "the worst the black church has to offer."
"He has brought a charismatic, theatrical, excessive, 'Word of Faith' flavor to the city that permeates many churches (especially black churches)," Baucham elaborated, saying that he has seen firsthand the influence Jakes has had on Texas communities.
"Even if Jakes had come out with a statement on the doctrine of the Trinity, it would not have done anything to change the fact that he preaches 'another gospel.' (Gal 1:8–9) Having studied the 'Word of Faith' movement, and seen the devastation it leaves in its wake, I was disinclined to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the man who has been this country's most popular purveyor of this heresy in the past two decades," the pastor continued.
During The Elephant Room event, Jakes acknowledged that he once clung to a modalist position due to his background but he now affirms the conservative evangelical doctrine of the Trinity as one God, three persons. Attendees of the event also expected to hear Jakes address the controversy over the "prosperity gospel," or "Word of Faith," of which he is accused of teaching but that issue was not brought up.
Baucham revealed that he had not only been invited to The Elephant Room but also was scheduled to speak at MacDonald's Harvest Bible Chapel Men's Conference this past weekend, which had been arranged prior to The Elephant Room.
His decision to proceed with his appearance at the men's conference was "unwise," Baucham noted.
Having spoken out publicly about his observations of Jakes' appearance at The Elephant Room on his Facebook page and Jakes' "masterful dodge" on questions regarding his stance on the Trinity, Baucham claimed, "This did not go over well with James MacDonald."
The Texas minister, upon his arrival at Harvest Bible Chapel in Rowling Meadows, Ill., had a brief meeting with MacDonald in which the two men, along with several Harvest staff members and Baucham's assistant, had a "candid conversation" and mutually agreed that it would not be a good idea for the Texas pastor to speak at the conference.
MacDonald had already selected Baucham's replacement as a speaker, and Baucham and his assistant were escorted to a waiting car and taken back to the airport.
Despite their disagreement and his firm belief that Jakes is unorthodox in his teachings, Baucham insisted that he was not angry with MacDonald. "He's my brother, and I love him. We disagree. We both understand that. Ironically, that's what The Elephant Room is supposedly all about," the Grace Family Baptist Church pastor wrote.
"Brothers should be able to disagree with one another and still be brothers. There's just one problem: Embracing Jakes while rejecting others because we question his history of modalism and Word of Faith teaching... that's the real 'Elephant in the Room'? "
Read TD Jakes Breaks Down the Trinity, Addresses Being Called a 'Heretic' for a full report on Jakes' appearance at The Elephant Room roundtable in which he discusses his stance on modalism and being accused of heresy.