A Requiem for the Sanhedrin

Matthew 3:7

As I write today, I am in a far-away, large city for a professional conference.  I always enjoy the opportunity to have a break from my normal routine for a few days, and I always enjoy getting back to my routine.  As I attend educational conferences and their respective seminars and presentations, I often mull over the denominational conferences I attended for so many years. I like to compare and contrast in my mind the similarities and differences between these two groups of professionals and how they conduct themselves when away from home.  The presentations themselves aren’t really all that different. We are going to take this new and novel approach to teach ancient knowledge and skills. We are going to change the world!

My dad rarely attended conferences, with one exception. He and Uncle Glen always enjoyed attending the annual Evangelism Conference, sponsored by the Baptist General Convention of Texas.  He loved the testimonies, songs, prayer times, and preaching. He always seemed refreshed and energized after that meeting.  We, his three children, liked it too.  He never forgot to visit the exhibit hall, where vendors gave lots of free samples: pens, pencils, bite-sized Tootsie Rolls, and little plastic trinket toys.  We would mob him at the front door when we saw the car pulling into the driveway.  He would laugh as he parceled out the little nothings for us.  It was sort of like…Christmas!

In contrast, he did not care much for the annual Baptist General Convention of Texas (the meeting, not the organization), or the Southern Baptist Convention (the meeting, not the organization)…you know, the one where they take votes on officers and resolutions and committees.  (For God so loved the world, that He didn’t send a committee.) Although they too had exhibits and freebies, he usually came home frustrated. He would trudge in the front door muttering something about, “They act like a bunch of Sanhedrin.”


To refresh your biblical knowledge, the Sanhedrin was the body of Jews who would pass judgement on issues of disagreement.  They were much like the Supreme Court, although distant communities could have their own, smaller Sanhedrin, for minor issues.  The group usually consisted of influential leaders like the Scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, all the folks Jesus was especially fond of.  Eight times in the New Testament, Jesus referred to the Scribes and Pharisees, prefaced with “Woe to…” That’s not a good thing. When he mentioned the Sadducees, he usually said, “Beware…” Also, not good.

My father’s instincts were right on target.  In the 1980s, a decade after my father’s death, the Baptist Sanhedrin self-destructed.  The fundamentalists, conservatives, moderates, and liberals engaged in a bloody theological war with many casualties.  Some of those casualties were the lost, the un-saved, and the un-churched.  They really don’t care which side of these ecclesiastical issues we take.  (Of course, I was always on the “right” side.) As my father said, “We just need to show them Jesus.” And Jesus just wasn’t very fond of the taking sides thing.  He usually managed to rile up all of them.

My educational conferences also have exhibit halls, full of vendors with give-away gadgets. None of them are toddler-friendly, though, so I can’t get mobbed at the door for a couple more years. My conferences don’t usually include shouting matches and name calling as part of electing officers.  It’s all done in a fairly congenial tone.  It’s a shame that denominational meetings aren’t that way.  Maybe the problem is, there are no vendors treating the attendees to a free wine-tasting. (Just a thought.)

Published in: on November 1, 2017 at 8:50 am  Leave a Comment  

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