One Sunday in September

Today at church we celebrated “One” Sunday: a big, happy unity rally intended to pull us together before a vote next week threatens to pull us apart.  That’s right, next Sunday—September 19—we are voting on whether Christians from other denominations can become members of First Baptist Church without having to be re-baptized. 

We’ve been talking about it for almost two years.  We started with some “Holy Conversations” in October of 2008, where the congregation shared its views, both pro and con, and then the matter was referred to the deacons.  After some initial study and prayer the deacons formed a sub-committee that studied the issue for more than a year.  They brought their report back to the deacons who eventually agreed (in an 80 to 20 vote) to recommend to the church that we change our membership policy.  Next Sunday we’ll find out what the church thinks. 

I’ve been told by some who are against it and by others who are for it that this issue has the potential to “split the church.”  I hope not.  I don’t want that to happen any more than they do.  But I was encouraged by an episode from the church’s history that I stumbled across only this afternoon.  I was reading The World in His Heart: the Life and Legacy of Theodore F. Adams (one of the church’s legendary pastors), and found a description of the church’s 150th anniversary.  Dr. R. H. Pitt, in an address delivered on that occasion, took note of some of the characteristics that had marked the church in its history.  After observing that there had been “no taint of radicalism from its pulpit,” but rather “a fine spirit of high adventure,” Dr. Pitt observed that the congregation had evidenced a substantial unity and had settled “vexing, disturbing, and divisive issues of doctrine and practice” without permanent rifts in its fellowship. 

I’m hoping that we can live up to that reputation next Sunday, and that the day will be remembered not only for the decision we make, but for the spirit in which we make it.

5 thoughts on “One Sunday in September

  1. What a glorious service we had this morning! & I can remember a lot of “glorious” times in my 67 years here at FBC. At many high points, I have thought that it doesn’t get any better than this, and we really couldn’t do without ___, who led us to this point. However, Bill Doub, with whom I shared 30 great years before his death in ’77, once gave me an insight I’ve shared with others often —“put you thumb in a bucket of water, pull it out, and then watch how long it takes to fill up the hole!” The analogy I see in that for this (& other times we might have) is this: no matter what paths we humans take, God is always with us; His Son has showed us so much about how to live a life of service & love; and the Holy Spirit will be our refuge and strength throughout the whole journey. I do believe that God will guide First Baptist people to make a good decision next week, and that He will be with us as we live with whatever that decision turns out to be. My gratitude goes to all who contributed today to such a beautiful worship service this morning, and to those who made possible the wonderful fellowship we experienced during the “dinner on the grounds” — even the weather turned out OK, Jim!

  2. As a “born and bred” Southern Baptist, baptized at ten by immersion, I have to say I’ll be voting “yes” to change our policy in order to accept dedicated Christ-followers who may have been baptized by another means.

    My brother-in-law, a dedicated Christian and successful businessman who has been recognized by his city for his Christian influence in the community presented himself years ago to a Baptist church for membership. Because he had been baptized by another means as a child, they insisted that he be “re-baptized”. He felt that to be an insult, questioning his commitment so went elsewhere. Today he is an active Methodist, along with my sister (who like, me was born and bred SB). My brother-in-law was not looking for Baptist church, he was looking for a place to serve. He found it in a church who recognized his commitment, not his mode of baptism. It just happened to be Methodist.

    I don’t want us to make baptism a test of faith. The world of Christian disciples is bigger than Baptists. Rather than require a certain kind of baptism, let’s require active service as proof of commitment!

    This issue will only be divisive if we let it be so. I’ll vote yes. If the rest vote no and we don’t change the policy, I’m not going anywhere.

  3. It is my feeling and prayer that the members of our church can agree to disagree agreeably and respectfully on the matter of baptism. I do not believe that the different opinions will cause a split the church; it is God’s church, and we are one in the Spirit of God/Love. I believe we shall act in the spirit of love.

    Maxwell Cumbia

  4. I was baptized, as a teenager, by imerson in another denomination similar to the Baptist denomination although they felt that salvation occurs in the baptistry. They said that they were not sacramental but seems to me that was a sacramental view. Anyway, when my wife and I were married, I went forward to join her home Baptist church, one Sunday, and was afterwards told I’d need to be rebaptized, they did not recognize my baptism from another denomination. I dunno, go figure! I went ahead and was rebaptized as a testimony to them of my faith. Anyway, we moved to Richmond, VA where I learned that First Baptist would have accepted my first baptism. That it was from another denomination was not a problem for First Baptist. Seems to me that First Baptist already, to a certain extent, has this tradition going and is just extending it a bit to those from other denominations. Seems to me that the Baptist perspective of faith being the key to salvation justifies this. In my humble opinion.

  5. Mmmm…..It`s water…. always wet:) Please do not split His church over “wet”! Lead on Jim!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Steven Netcott

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