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.