McLean Bible Church is listed as a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. McLean Bible Church is also a member of the SBC of Virginia state convention. Such memberships are prohibited by the church’s Constitution, according to current church members, staff, and former staff of the influential DC area church.
The church experienced significant turmoil when David Platt became lead pastor. The church forced its leadership to accept Social Justice and Woke thinking. Also, the church leadership quietly affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
According to Article I, Section 2 of the McLean Bible Church Constitution, “AFFILIATION This church shall not, and cannot, be affiliated with any denomination, but shall remain independent for the promotion of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This specific claim became a flashpoint during a recent congregational business meeting at the church. Church leaders were challenged about the constitutional violation—and resorted to arguments made by David Platt that it depends on what your definition of affiliation is.
Southern Baptists like to claim that it is not a denomination in the classic sense because it is not hierarchical. The preferred description is a convention of likeminded churches.
However, McLean Bible Church members are skeptical if that makes any difference. The McLean Bible Church Constitution makes clear the church “shall not” and “cannot” be affiliated and “shall remain independent.” There are also concerns about the SBC’s sex abuse scandals and its woke leftward move on Critical Race Theory.
Is McLean Bible Church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention?
Yes. McLean Bible Church is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Virginia State Baptist Convention.
The Southern Baptist Convention publishes Annual Church Profile data for its affiliated churches—it shows McLean Bible Church gave $100,000 in 2017, $100,000 in 2018, and $100,000 in 2019 to the Cooperative Program through the SBC of Virginia. No data was available yet on 2020.
McLean Bible Church is confirmed as a member of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist State Convention of Virginia.
Emails with the SBC Executive Committee also confirm that McLean has all three levels of affiliation with the SBC.
According to one email exchange between the SBC and a McLean member, “Yes, McLean Bible Church (David Platt, senior pastor) is affiliated with the SBC. In our database of record, the data field, ‘affiliation status’ shows McLean Bible Church as affiliated at all three levels of affiliation/cooperation, national convention, state convention and local association.”
Also, the SBC confirms that McLean has affirmed the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 as a basis of cooperation.
In this regard current and former members of McLean Bible Church believe David Platt and current church leadership are being disingenuous, misleading and lying.
David Platt and the elders were confronted about McLean Bible Church’s membership in the SBC during the March 2021 congregational meeting. In that meeting, the below exchange happened:
Church Member: “Ok, so just, let me ask my question just one last time. Is McLean Bible Church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, yes or no?”
Answer by David Platt: “I’m not sure, I’m honestly not sure how else to answer your question. Like, if what you mean by affiliation is, or if what I mean, if what anyone means by affiliation is working together with other churches to plant 43 churches in metro DC, uh, to send missionaries, including some from our church family overseas to support disaster relief in response to hurricanes, to support Yemeni refugees, then the answer is yes. If you or anyone else, or I, by affiliation in thinking we are submissive to a denominational structure, that we are helping direct and guide, the answer is no.”
Church Memeber: “Ok, so you are making a distinction between affiliation and partnership, correct?”
David Platt:” I’m giving anyone the freedom to make that distinction. I am saying we partner together in all these ways that I’ve just mentioned.”
In other words, Pastor David Platt tells McLean Bible Church that it depends on what the definition of “affiliation” is.
Is the SBC a denomination?
So, is the Southern Baptist Convention a denomination? In a book published by B&H, a publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, the SBC is repeatedly described as one of many uniquely American denominations.
In the Preface of Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism is this quote, “What is obvious at this time in Southern Baptist life, and in that of many other denominations, is a numerical decline in membership and a seeming disconnect from the denominational traditions for the generation of younger leaders.”
In the book endorsement is an even clearer declaration: “There can be little doubt that the two great movements that have shaped American religious life are evangelicalism and denominationalism. And the largest and most influential American denomination is, without a doubt, the Southern Baptist Convention.”
And in another chapter of the book, “A handful of denominations, including the Southern Baptist Convention, have reaffirmed their commitment to theological orthodoxy.”
What this shows is that the common and even the technical users label the Southern Baptist Convention a denomination.
In emails between representatives of the SBC and concerned McLean members, the SBC affirms that it is a denomination:
“To your second question, through affirmation of SBC’s BF&M 2000, and by a strict definition of a denomination, ie. “…a distinct religious body within Christianity that comprises all church congregations of the same kind…” the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention would comprise a denomination. Let me know if I can help.”
And now recent court filings made on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention are raising the alarm even more among McLean Bible Church members.
The recent ERLC amicus brief filing claimed the Southern Baptist Convention (despite its historic claims) is a hierarchy.
The NAMB filing to the Supreme Court that claims state conventions are all Southern Baptist entities. According to some, it raises the specter of ever growing centralized denominational control over supposedly autonomous organizations.
Sex Abuse scandals and Southern Baptist Leftward Drift worry McLean Bible Church members
The Leftward Drift of the Southern Baptist Convention is another concern for McLean Bible Church members. They wonder if the use of Critical Race Theory and other secular ideologies along with division, allegations of corruption and sex abuse might tarnish the good name of McLean Bible Church.
“This is why we were and want to be independent,” one McLean insider said.
And it highlights why some current and former McLean Bible Church members do not trust David Platt.
One former member said this violates not only the spirit of the Constitution but its very letter.