Ken Whitten: Tension caused by Calvinism nothing new

Ken Whitten, left, senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church, talks with FBW Executive Editor Kevin Bumgarner.“Some Baptists need to understand this: Calvinism has been a tension in our ranks for hundreds and hundreds of years.”

Now that Ken Whitten, senior pastor at Idlewild Baptist Church in the Tampa suburb of Lutz, has your attention, here’s what he means.

“There’s a lot of folks who don’t think anything happened before 1986,” he told me during a recent interview, only partly joking. “There’s a lot of things that happened before [conservative and moderate factions within the SBC started battling for control in] 1986. And church history will teach you that. It’s what we do with that tension that matters.

“And I think what’s being masked sometimes now as the Reformed movement and Calvinism have some other spider webs that come off of that that would be more divisive to us than the word Calvinism.”

For Pastor Ken, words don’t seem to matter as much as actions.

“I don’t care what you call yourself if you obey the Great Commission and take the Gospel and you tell it,” he said. “May we have more Calvinists if they’re going to share the Gospel.”

I’ll be sharing more tidbits from my interview with Pastor Ken on our website in the coming days. A video of our conversation will appear on later this month, and an edited version of our conversation will appear as the “Behind the Pulpit” feature in the February print edition of the Florida Baptist Witness.

Kevin Bumgarner is executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, the official news source of the Florida Baptist State Convention. He can be reached via email at or followed on Twitter @FBW_editor

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