Hear or download this post: Not A Black Eye in the House (mp3 file – 3:01)
Some of you may be eager to hear how the second round of Holy Conversations came out. Let me give a brief summary and then we can move on to other, less important, things (like my next trip to the DMV).
We had another overflow crowd in the Dining Hall at Richmond’s First Baptist Church last night. I started by thanking everyone for following the ground rules I had laid out the week before, and then asked them 1) to tell me how they felt about the idea of changing our membership requirements to include Christians from other denominations who had not been immersed, and 2) to try to do it in two minutes or less. You could almost feel the tension in the air. It was one of those moments when everyone sensed that things could either go very well, or very very badly.
I tried to set an example, saying that I felt we should change our membership requirements, and that I felt that way because I knew too many sincere Christians who were hurt because they were being denied full membership in the church. The next speaker said he didn’t feel we should change our requirements because believer’s baptism by immersion was the New Testament model, and that’s what we should follow. With minor modifications to those two essential arguments (and occasional rhetorical flourishes), the rest of the evening’s speakers followed suit.
Someone noted that if the Greek word baptizo had been translated (“immersed”) rather than transliterated (“baptize”), we might not be having this conversation. Someone else noted that we welcome Christians of other denominations to take communion with us, but not to be on our church rolls. One person said that the answer to the question “I’m not Baptist, may I join your church?” should be “Yes, if you want to be Baptist.” Another implied that we are living in a post-denominational era, and we need to get over ourselves.
The remarkable thing, to me, was that the arguments didn’t get louder and louder, no one offered to punch anyone else in the eye, and we finished the evening with a sense that we had talked about a divisive issue without being divided. It was what I had been praying for–a truly holy conversation.
From here our feelings (which were carefully recorded on a flip chart) will go to the deacons, who will pray over this issue for a month or more, discuss it, and decide whether or not it needs to go on to the church for a final vote. If that happens we will vote as a congregation and live with the outcome. I will live with the outcome, even if it’s not the outcome I was hoping for. To me that’s just part of what it means to be Baptist, and it may be an even more important part than how much water we use when we baptize.
If you’d like to weigh in on this topic, please click on the word “comments” below and tell me how you feel. And if you are a member (or think you might want to be), I will be glad to pass your feelings on to our deacons.