The February 22, 2005 airing of the 700 Club featured a story entitled “The Osteens on the Power of Positive Believing.” Lisa Ryan interviewed Joel and Victoria Osteen from their Houston home. They talked about how Joel reluctantly inherited the ministry after his father, John Osteen, passed away in 1999. The discussion centered around their feel-good positive message, the run away growth of the gigantic Lakewood Church, and Osteen’s recent New York Times best seller. When the pre-taped segment cut back to the studio, Pat Robertson said, “That’s amazing. ya know, John Osteen was a good friend. He was a Southern Baptist minister, who was baptized in the Holy Spirit, and the Southern Baptists kicked him out – bottom line.” (mp3 audio clip)
The statement seemed odd since, contrary to their narrow-minded reputation, the Southern Baptist Convention doesn’t make a habit of kicking people out. Unlike other denominations, the SBC holds no authority over its pastor’s or the autonomous local churches that they serve. Baptists believe that Christ alone serves as the head of His church and therefore, they resist denominational hierarchical structure. In Southern Baptist life, church discipline takes place within the local church because no higher authority exists. The SBC could not have defrocked John Osteen because the convention does not have the jurisdiction to do so.
I decided to do a little checking into the matter. Shortly after his death, Charisma Magazine published an article that mentioned the debacle. they reported:
“The explosive growth and freedom in the Spirit that have characterized Lakewood Church from its beginning did not come without a price. Joel’s father had been a successful Southern Baptist pastor throughout the 1950s – until he was baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1958 while pastoring Hibbard Memorial Baptist Church in Houston. Southern Baptist officials subsequently put him on trial for heresy. Rather than battling it out and furthering division, Osteen chose to leave the denomination and start his own church.
I’d be interested to know the identity of these so called “SBC officials.” The Southern Baptist Convention does not hold heresy trials. The more likely scenario probably involved fellow pastors, at the local association level, who called into question Osteen’s aberrant theology and practices.
Charisma has a history of spinning their stories to make the SBC look extremely antagonistic to their cause. Even so, they state here that John Osteen did not get kicked out. He left Baptist life under his own accord, in order to avert any theological accountability.
Ironically, Pat Robertson’s 700 Club airs on FamilyNet, the broadcasting network owned by the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. For some reason Pat Robertson, Charisma Magazine, and others who give a voice to these circles like to paint Southern Baptists as anti-Holy Spirit. Nothing could be further from the truth. I personally know of at least one church where this gross misconception has caused division and strife. Robertson’s words serve to deepen the wounds and hamper understanding. Whatever the motivation, the evidence indicates that John Osteen did not get kicked out of the SBC for being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Pat Robertson has his facts wrong and owes Southern Baptists an apology – bottom line.