The General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC) voted in June to sever ties with Cedarville University. GARBC said the school's "public relationship with Southern Baptists was not considered to be in harmony with the GARBC purpose statement."

Earlier this year, the Council of Eighteen, the GARBC governing body, adopted a statement on why the association should separate from the Ohio school. At the 2006 annual conference in June, GARBC messengers ratified the statement 311 to 283. They concluded that "Southern Baptists are inclusivists and permit the presence and ministry of liberals within the convention."

In 2000, the GARBC discontinued its approval system for partner ministries, which included Baptist Bible College and Seminary near Scranton, Pennsylvania. Cedarville and other schools maintained ties with the GARBC through displays at the annual conference and a scholarship program. In 2002, the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio (affiliated with the SBC) decided to recommend Cedarville to the state's Southern Baptists. When Cedarville applied to display at the 2005 GARBC conference, the GARBC declined, because of the school's new SBC affiliation.

John Greening, GARBC national representative, said during the June conference that Cedarville's relationship with the SBC would change the association's boundaries. The GARBC has 1,359 churches in the United States, Canada, and overseas. Greening declined to speak to CT, saying the decision was a "family matter."

Greening noted theological differences as a key reason for separation from Cedarville. "It is obvious the [conservative resurgence in the] SBC is a work in progress," he said. He applauded the SBC International Mission Board for deciding missionaries would not be permitted to practice a private prayer language. But he lamented that the change did not merit unanimous support. Greening also said no evangelical has done more to "blur the distinction between evangelicals and Catholics than Billy Graham," whom the SBC recently honored with a statue in North Carolina.

David Warren, a Council of Eighteen member and Cedarville trustee, said council members disagreed on the issue of second-degree separation. "The other side—the side I took—was that Cedarville was not associating with or assisting liberals in the convention," Warren told CT. "Rather, they were helping conservatives."

Craig Miller, senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cedarville, said the decision will make his and other local churches' affiliation with the GARBC problematic. "It is difficult for us to maintain membership in an organization that has broken its ties with the alma mater and employer of half the congregation," Miller said. "The issues discussed [during the conference] sounded ludicrous. Second-degree separation isn't biblically warranted."

Cedarville has been associated with the GARBC since 1953, when the Baptist Bible Institute took over the college from its Presbyterian founders.

Related Elsewhere:

On its website, Cedarville has a page explaining its relationship with the GARBC, and one regarding the SBC.

The Council of Eighteen's statement on separation and John Greening's statement on Cedarville are available from the GARBC website.

More articles on church life and higher education are available on our site.

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