The deacons of Richmond’s First Baptist Church spent approximately three hours considering a motion that would allow Christians from other denominations to join the church without being re-baptized. It was a big decision for our church. As one deacon put it, it would break a 230-year tradition. But at the end of the night the deacons approved the motion, which will now go on to the church for final consideration.
One of the things that impressed me most about last night’s meeting was the spirit in which it was conducted. There were people who spoke for the motion, who were treated with respect and courtesy, and people who spoke against the motion, who were also treated with respect and courtesy. One of our veteran deacons spoke in favor of a motion to amend, a motion that was later defeated. As soon as the vote was counted he stood up and said, essentially, “It didn’t come out the way I wanted it to, but I’m going to live with the outcome: that’s the way Baptists do it.” And then we went back to considering the main motion.
No voices were raised. No threats were made. No one walked out. No one left in tears. Throughout the evening the deacons of Richmond’s First Baptist Church conducted themselves like real Christians, even as they wrestled with a big, tradition-breaking decision.
I’m proud of them.
At the conclusion of the meeting we sang, “The Church’s One Foundation,” and then we shook hands, hugged, and spoke to each other on our way out the door. I looked around for some I knew who would have been disappointed by the outcome but didn’t see them. I tried to think how I would feel if the vote hadn’t gone the way I wanted it to. I would have been deeply disappointed. I may not have wanted to stand around and chat afterward. But I think I would have appreciated the way the decision was made and on the way home I hope I would have had the grace to say, like that veteran deacon, “It didn’t come out the way I wanted it to, but I’m going to live with the outcome: that’s the way Baptists do it.”