Southern Baptists, as with any denomination, have distinctive characteristics. One of the distinctive traits is a belief in the autonomy of the local church. This means that every local congregation is invested with full authority to fulfill its ministry. Baptists do not believe in a hierarchical system above the local church because none is found in the New Testament. No earthly headquarters can exert authority over a local church. As a Southern Baptist, I affirm this view, though I may have some hesitations to the wording that are neither here nor there. Yet, under the umbrella of this distinctive, some personal concerns have arisen regarding whether or not autonomy of the local church can be taken too far. To be clear, there will objectors to my limited understanding that may assume that what I am suggesting is establishing an ecclesiastical hierarchy in the Southern Baptist Convention. This is by no means the case. I fully ascribe to the teaching that “a church should co-operate with others, but its affairs are never to be controlled by others.” I am in agreeance with Dr. J. Clyde Turner that, in its relation to other churches, “no church, however strong and influential, has any authority over another church, no matter how small that church may be. No group of churches can tell another church what it must, or must not, do. They may offer advice, but the individual church will decide what it will do.” I also concur that, in relation to denominational bodies, “there are associations and conventions in which messengers from the churches meet for counsel and co-operation, but these bodies can exercise no authority over individual churches.” I want to clearly communicate that I wholeheartedly affirm the following:
The local congregation is autonomous, that is, it derives its authority from within. In all matters of organization, polity, and general procedure the members of the body act in accordance with their own convictions and on the basis of their interpretation of the will of Christ. This, of course, should always be under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. No church or group of churches has any authority over any other church. Each church is free and independent. The members of the church meet in executive session and draft their own constitution, write their own bylaws, elect their own officers, and conduct their affairs as they choose.
My question of the autonomy of the local church is not a question of whether or not a church has the right to operate as they see fit. My question is more concerned with the cooperation of local churches. Specifically, what are the parameters for disfellowship with local churches who put forth false doctrine and are they too lax? Southern Baptists have historically risen to the challenge against liberal doctrines such as arguments against the authority, sufficiency, and inerrancy of the scriptures. For that, the convention must be applauded. They have also historically stood firm on convictions regarding a complementarian understanding of gender roles as well as a biblical understanding of marriage and human sexuality. Furthermore, Southern Baptist voices have grown louder in recent years concerning the rampant killing of the unborn. They have stood their ground, firmly planted upon the Word while a liberal society has made accusations against them. For this, I am very thankful. My concern is not with these issues. My specific concern is with a perceived quiet influx of mystical, charismatic, and word of faith teachings. (To be fair, this may be a skewed perception on my part.) My broad question is this: Where exactly do Southern Baptists draw the line for disfellowship?
*Please understand that this post contains no sarcasm or accusations. It does, however, contain concern. I genuinely desire to know the parameters of disfellowship within our Convention. I do understand that the pendulum could swing too far the other way resulting in nitpicking each local congregation. I simply have an honest desire to understand any policies in place.
 Kelley, Charles, Albert Mohler, and Richard Land. Baptist Faith and Message. Lifeway: Nashville, Tennessee. 2000. Pg. 88.
 Turner, J. Clyde. These Things We Believe. Convention Press: Nashville, Tennessee. 1969. 115.
 Ibid. 115.
 Ibid. 116.
 Tribble, Harold. Our Doctrines. The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention: Nashville, Tennessee. 1936. Pg. 109-110.