Those of you who have been following the discussion of baptism and church membership at First Baptist will want to know that the question of whether or not Christians who have been discipled in other traditions must be immersed in order to become full members of Richmond’s First Baptist Church is being referred to a team of 12 deacons who will study it over the summer and bring a recommendation back to the deacons in the fall. At this point those deacons have not been named, but Deacon Chair Lee Stephenson is busy making those appointments.
Most of the big decisions that have come before the congregation in recent years have come in just this way. For example, the question about whether or not we should ordain women as ministers (we agreed that we could and should), and the question about how to allocate our mission offerings (through the Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, at the giver’s discretion). A group of deacons studied those issues, brought recommendations back to the board, and from there they went to the congregation for a final vote. It only makes sense that this question, too, should follow that pattern.
Those of you who have been holding your breath should probably let it out and pray for patience as we seek resolution to this issue in God’s good time. As I have told the deacons from the beginning, I am not in a hurry, but I am determined that we carefully and prayerfully consider this question. As it has been important to ask ourselves at other times in the church’s history, “Who can be a member here?” (like when those two Nigerian students wanted to join in 1965), it seems important to ask it now.