157 yes, 6 no

When I was a pastor in Wingate, NC, we took a vote on building a new fellowship hall.  Our old hall was a 40 X 40 foot room, and the new program we had started on Wednesday nights was bringing in well over a hundred people for supper.  There just wasn’t room for them all.  I can still remember the day somebody came into the church office and slapped down a check “for the new fellowship hall.”  “What new fellowship hall?” I asked.  “The one we need!” she said.

And so we started talking about it.

Just a few months later the church voted on a new fellowship hall estimated at $492,940, a staggering amount of money for that congregation.  But with the architect’s rendering on an easel at the front of the sanctuary and a surge of optimism sweeping through the pews the recommendation passed, 157 to 6.  The chairman of the deacons stepped down from the platform triumphant, the victory had been overwhelming, but all I could think about was those 6 people. 

I stepped up to the microphone and tried to say something comforting.  I don’t think I did a very good job.  When I stepped back down the deacon chairman said, “Jim, you don’t need to apologize.  The vote was 157 to 6!”  As if those six didn’t matter.  But they did matter, and I went looking for them.

I found one of them in the church annex as the crowd was dispersing.  He approached me and said, “Jim, don’t worry about it too much.  I voted against it, but only because I moved my membership here from a church that had just finished building a new fellowship hall.  It took us three years, and it was all anybody could talk about, and so, when my wife and I came here we were happy to be done with all that.  Now it looks like we’re right back in it.  But it’s all right,” he said, smiling.  “We supported that effort and we will support this one, too.”

“Now that’s the right spirit,” I thought, and frankly that’s my hope for Richmond’s First Baptist Church.  691 people voted on Sunday, and while 464 were in favor of the change in our membership policy, 221 were against it—a solid third of the voters.  Today it’s those 221 I’m thinking about.  They came and cast their ballots.  They did it on the strength of their convictions.  And yet the thing they didn’t want to happen happened: the motion carried.

I’m hoping that they will be able to see they weren’t alone in their views, not by a long shot.  But I’m also hoping that they will be able to accept the outcome of this vote, and recognize that some of the people they respect most in the church may have voted the other way.  Jesus didn’t tell us we all had to think the same way, he only told us that we had to love one another (John 13:35).

Today, even though we don’t all agree, I’m hoping we can all do that.

27 thoughts on “157 yes, 6 no

  1. In Touch With Angels

    When we go out into the world,
    angels watch us.

    When we learn life lessons,
    angels walk with us.

    When we excel against all odds,
    angels guard us tenderly.

    When we bow to thank our God,
    angels touch our souls.

    When we hurt, yet never lose our way,
    angels weep with joy.
    by Trisha Grizzard

  2. Well, I think it’s like our local, state and national elections. If my candidates win, I am happy, um, uh, more or less. If my candidates don’t win, I don’t try to start a revolt. I am still a Virginian and American Citizen. Life goes on and sometimes I even find myself warming up to an issue or candidate whom I had opposed. And as I have been studying church history, I find that any disagreements we have nowadays are as nothing compared to disputes the church had in it’s younger years. And, given the diversity of the Apostles whom Jesus selected, I think that He knew well that would happen and that it would actually help build the church and build people’s faith. By the way, wonderful poem, Trisha Gizzard!

  3. Thank you, Jim. I have been in the minority on church issues (in other places) with sufficient frequency to understand how the 221 must feel. While I disagreed with them on this one issue, I don’t want any one of them to be hurt as I have been hurt. Likewise, I hope I never hurt any one of them as I know I must have hurt others in other times and places.

  4. Whenever numbers come into play on a matter, several questions seem to come out of nowhere.
    For instance, suppose this vote had been executed on One Sunday, September 12, when there were twice as many in the congregation, 1,385. Of course, no doubt that all were not voting members. Even so, would the percentages have been the same?
    And suppose that a ruling was in place before the vote that no amendments would be in order. After all, the matter was supposedly discussed thoroughly prior to the vote. The amendment, allowed very little time to be properly considered.
    Yes, this is after the fact for sure, but I am a firm believer in the “What if” factor. That would have possibly have raised a good question in the minds of many.
    My decision making has always included this vital question when I think I am ready to act!
    So, “what if” I had not raised this quesion at all?

  5. To compare building a fellowship hall with abandoning a core Baptist belief is beyond misunderstanding the depth of our sorrow and disappointment, Jim. Your comparison borders on mockery, and it is shamefully insensitive. Either you are deliberately trying to minimize the importance of our recent vote, or you just don’t get the gravity of the matter for true Baptists. Where we once uniformly celebrated our regeneration in Christ, we have now enshrined ambition, and regeneration is deemed quaint and inconsequential. A centuries old bastion of the Baptist faith has been turned into a liberal’s dream — a “hot tub church” — a “feel good” church of liberal political correctness where the Baptist faithful are pilloried as small-minded bigots, where doctrinal truth, understanding, humility and respect matter not, as long as everyone has an equal chance to rise in church government. We have become a social club with christian overtones, and we are now as polarized as ever Satan could wish, with no foreseeable remedy other than departure of the spiritual minority. Tozer would be appalled.

  6. Even if it had been on One Sunday, some might still be asking “what if?” And some others would have been unable to be in attendance. The issue before us now is, “What happens next?”

  7. Jim – I met with you for the very first time, just over two years ago. One of my first questions was, “Do I have to be baptized to become a member of First Baptist, Richmond?” Simple question, and the discussion began . . . I believe that the past two years have been more than ample time to discuss baptism requirements and to bring to a vote. I think that you handled this issue with extreme fairness, patience and sensitivity, and that you gave us all, every opportunity (and then some) to become involved and voice our opinions. I am grateful for your tireless efforts in this process.

    I say it again – now we can get on with the business of following Jesus.

    Bless you, Pastor Jim.

  8. Jane, pardon me if I missed something in Jim’s blog, but the point was clearly not about building a fellowship hall. In the midst of your extreme displeasure about the vote last Sunday you missed the whole point of the post. Someone that has enough consideration to reach out to less than 4% of negative votes on an issue certainly understands and cares about the disappointment of a third of a congregation that has taken a stand on an issue. In fact it sounds a lot like something Jesus might do if my understanding of the parable of the lost sheep is solid. Reaching out to those on the short end of the vote to try to begin healing, build Christian unity and chart a way forward after a multi-year process of discussion, prayer and attempted understanding of all sides of the issue does not rank in my book as mocking or insensitive. It looks to me like a complete understanding of the gravity of the situation, and a desire to truly heal and unite our church after such a passionate time.

    A lot of people have had very strong opinions and feelings on both sides of this debate, and I think this has been a needed and healthy discussion for us all. Too often our modern day churches get so caught up in maintaining a certain status quo that the real reason for the church to exist in the first place is lost. Contrary to your assertion that First Baptist has become what you label it, I think our church is going to emerge stronger and more united in the mission to which we have been called–loving our neighbors as Jesus commands and having a unity through being Christ followers first and foremost. (check out the church mission statement) We will always find a certain identity as Baptists on this journey, but that should never be the ultimate goal.

    I’m truly sorry that you cannot see a way beyond this issue short of departure by the minority. Such ways surely exist, but they will not come out of superheated rhetoric and heels hard dug in.

  9. Jane reminds me of one of my Christian heroes…Martin Luther. “Here I stand, I can do no other.” And I have a feeling the pope thought Martin had anger issues, too.

  10. Allen, surely you are the one who misses the point. Jim, an adept wordsmith and an intelligent man, could have chosen a more analogous comparison reflecting compassion and sympathy for the disappointed in this conflict, but he chose a light comparison to bring levity to the issue. It will not do. It is patronizing, as is his reaction to my response. Certainly you will not see this, being one of his rank of supporters, but I consulted some of the members whom I knew were going to vote against the membership change before I sent my “superheated rhetoric” to this site, and unanimously their reaction was that I had “hit the nail on the head.” In fact many feel not only disappointment but something more akin to betrayal! So please do not imagine that I am unique, or that I overstate the reaction and thoughts of those who oppose this membership change. Most cannot understand even considering such a thing, especially when there was so much to lose and so little to gain (only two or three a year, according to Dr. Flamming.) It’s not that this is the current trend, and you must either get onboard or make yourself irrelevant. I have heard the figure of 60 quoted as the number of churches statewide who have adopted this policy. To get a sense of proportion I counted the number of Baptist churches in the Richmond Yellow Pages, and there are over 440. There must be ten thousand statewide. This hardly indicates that the stance we’ve taken is a popular one. It is a very liberal one, and it leaves many of our members behind. And while we’re referring to our Lord’s thoughts on this subject, may I remind you of what He said about a house divided against itself. Charles Spurgeon had a few similar words to offer on the subject as well. Of course, I cannot predict what others will do in the short or long term, but I do know that each time someone is put forward for church membership who admittedly does not subscribe to Baptist beliefs these people’s spirits will die a little. This will never stop hurting. Even if many of them physically stay, out of habit or affection for friends, you’ve lost them spiritually. And I suspect you’ve lost them financially, for they will not be able to support this. For them, you see, the autoimmune disease of compromised faith has been introduced at First Baptist. Like all autoimmune diseases its progress will probably be incremental, but eventually it will take a toll.

    Sally, God bless you, my sister. Your words are sorely needed balm. We battle not with men but with powers and principalities, and you can bet they’re rejoicing.

  11. Jane, I am praying for you and others whose emotions are still raw.

    Please take Jim up on the opportunity to meet. I do think a very important part of “one anothering” is reconciliation, and I hope you’ll seek and find it.

    Our pastor is walking humbly right now, as he has had you and the other 220 of our church family on his mind. Truth be told, it’s not about his feelings or mine. It’s about continuing to discern the heart of Christ as we walk alongside one another to give Him glory and bring His Kingdom to earth. He’s the one I want to please as I continue my Christian walk within a Baptist church.

  12. Thanks JANE for truly understanding the issue. If only the pastor understood at that same level. I would give you a big hug of Baptist love if I could.

  13. Annette, I hear you passion on this issue but I don’t believe that one must AGREE with your point of view in order to “Truly” understand the issue. Does True understanding only come with agreeing with your point of view?

    We have studied this issue and prayed about this issue as a church for two years. A day for the vote was announced months in advance. Following the “Baptist Way,” we voted. Now it is time to let go and move on. My Christ preached a faith of love, not anger and bitterness and name calling. Please, let us all be a better witness of Christ.

  14. Geri, I had a reply to your above comment that Jim, in his current attitude of reconciliation, did not find appropriate to include on this site. (I am duly chastened, Jim. That comment was indeed a bit too biting!) Yes, I am angry and I am hurt, but you may be sure that I speak for many who are too afraid of stepping on the toes of people they care about to publicly voice thier feelings. There is a large segment of this congregation whose feelings are exactly what I have described above, however. Annette feels stricken, and if my comments help her to know that someone else understands the issue of how this decision will effect her, then she and others like her deserve to find solace in that. I wrestled with whether or not to leave such comments on this site, but finally I believed that if we should consider the feelings and convictions of the few Watchcare members who had something at stake, we should no less consider the hundreds of our full members who have lost something precious to them. I must in all honesty add that I sympathize with the few who have remained on Watchcare for many years rather than compromise their convictions or make their convictions a focus of our attention — I only question the wisdom of bringing this issue to the fore since it could only bring division on a much greater scale than previously existed. I never saw, and still do not see, the necessity of undermining many to elevate a few. In the greater scheme of things, of course Jesus Christ loves us all, no matter how we approach him, and we all love Him and try our best to love others even though at times the powers and principalities put stumbling blocks in our paths. Centuries ago christians saw the wisdom of worshipping with like-minded people so they wouldn’t have to go through this sort of thing and could get on with higher purposes. I pray for First Baptist Church, and I pray that its members will not marginalize or trivialize the hurt sensibilities of those who feel that their friends have left them behind and that their church has let them down. Their foundational beliefs have been voted down as intolerant, and they will be struggling for a long, long time to come. Had the vote gone the other way we would have to pray for a different set of folks who would have been left with the impression that they are not good enough to be fully side-by-side with us. There was no way to win with this decision as it was framed, and the outcome was always going to leave wounded fellow christians in its wake. Was it worth it? That is the question we all have to decide for ourselves now, individually and corporately. My personal opinion is that it was best left alone, for the sake of the unity of this body of believers, but each must come to terms with this question with the reality of the aftermath in full view. Reconciliation cannot even begin until you can grasp the reality of what you’re trying to reconcile. I do not believe I was wrong to bring that truth to this site, offended as many undoubtedly are. Even in a church, where we profess to seek truth, the truth you find is not always a pretty thing. But until you can face the truth you cannot begin to grapple with putting this church back together. May God bless all who sincerely try to do just that, with FULL understanding and patience and every fruit of the spirit.

  15. I agree with Geri, Allen and the others. We need to let go of all the bitterness, anger and name calling. We are still Baptist and we are all good christians. As Baptist we are a faith of Love. Lets agree to disagree and move on.

  16. I have just read this blog entry and all the comments and am reminded of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military. Long before Jim Somerville came on the scene, there have been discouraged Watchcare members of FBC who knew they were Christians through and through, and yet, as much as they loved FBC and wanted to participate as full members, without immersion, their status remained that of a second rate citizen. Some have left, and some have stayed, but Jim has done nothing more than bring the issue out of the closet and try to let love lead him and his congregation to a more honest solution about an issue that has presented itself to him behind closed doors for some time. It seems to me that in considering WWJD, he decided the Jesus would ask his followers their opinion. He did and we voted. Blame us, but, for Lord’s sake, leave Jim alone!

  17. Well said, Jeannie. I recommend reading Ephesians to start the reconciliation process…..for all of us….pro and con.

  18. I was out of town on the day of the vote or it would have been 222, not that one more vote would have mattered… But it would have been very telling if just 19 more people had been there early to vote. 666 votes total, whichever way it fell. This entire episode has the mark of evil on it and the destruction or at least weakening of a once great congregation. The human founders of FBC are rolling in their graves, and Christ is weeping, not about how the vote came out, but for the damage that has been done to this congregation.

    Another member discussed the need for like minded christians to worship together. I agree. I don’t believe that anyone was trying to say one way of expressing our faith is more valid in God’s eyes than another. But believer’s baptisim is how the specific group of Christians this church is descended from, practiced their faith. Not that long ago, in the 1770’s some of them were jailed for it, but they continued to worship anyway and preached from the jailhouse window.

    I don’t believe those who voted no were saying they thought themselves better than those who worship a little differently than the others do; or specifically who practice a different manner of baptisim than we did; but they chose to worship together in that manner.
    There are a number of Christian, non-denominational churches out there, that are bible based and love the Lord. And since the vote, I believe there is now one more.

    The congregation meeting at Monument & Boulevard, no longer has the right to include Baptist in the name of the Church. That doesn’t make its members any better or worse followers of Christ, but it does give them an identity crisis. It also opens the congregation up to a lot more potential bickering, just like the early churches. Now that a core practice has been voted down, what’s next?

    I may be wrong, but I don’t believe that separating into denominations was evil. It just allowed like minded individuals to worship together and to concentrate on doing God’s will with less distractions from the day to practices like when will we celebrate the Lord’s Supper next, and what will we serve?

    While looking for a new church, I’ve noticed that most of them have a written constitution and bylaws. Many include wording similar to this: “Christian Baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried and risen Savior, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony of his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of the church membership and to the Lord’s Supper. ”

    First Church has no similar constitution. When I searched First Church’s website for our constitution, I found that we don’t have one. This is what I found at http://www.fbcrichmond.org/pastorsearch/operations.htm

    It states “FBC does not have a constitution or bylaws. This does not present itself as a problem, due to the combination of reference to precedent and strong institutional memory.” The page header indicates it is from the 2006 pastor search.

    What a difference a few years makes. I assume whomever wrote that would like to take that statement back, whichever side of this discussion they are on.

  19. Jeannie, I love you, my friend, but I cannot think of a single example of Jesus consulting his followers for their opinions about what they should all do. He instructed and He led, but forgive me if I cannot think of Jesus as leading by committee or by majority rule. Can you please direct my attention to the scripture that relates such an example? Jim Somerville is my christian brother and he’s perfectly sincere and well-meaning, but he’s not Jesus Christ, as he would quickly confirm. Can we please treat him as if he is a fellow human who does not walk on water but who wants to be dealt with squarely and honestly by his church? Don’t you think we owe him that?

    Allen, I have a question about the parable of the lost sheep as it relates to this issue. Do you think the Watchcare members we have been discussing these two years would like to be characterized as lost sheep? It seems to me that they are not lost — they’re just sheep that have been guided by a different shepherd in another pasture and have wandered into our flock and liked it enough to stay, but not enough to transfer their beliefs and allegiances to our flock and to identify themselves fully with us. What we’ve done is impose those beliefs on this flock, which already had agreed upon beliefs in place. Nobody we have discussed in the past two years should be characterized as lost if they accept Christ as lord, but a third of us have been willing to stand up and say that neither are we willing to have someone else’s differing belief structure imposed on us.

  20. I have been silent during this two-year period, but I feel that I must share my thoughts now. Verse 3 of “In Christ There Is No East or West” resonated with me this morning. As we sang “Whoever serves my Father as a son is surely kin to me,” I thought about our vote and the welcome it sent to many practicing Christians who have been a part of our congregation and the many practicing Christians who will come to serve with us. We will still baptize new believers as we have for 200+ years.

    Christ’s Church, the Church of the first century, was one church, and it splintered into many different denominations as men began to interpret and argue about theological matters over the years. And Christ did weep for the hurt among His people. I believe He weeps now for us also because we refuse to reconcile our difference and get on with His work for us. Before we are Baptists, Methodists, Catholics or any other denomination, we are God’s, and His commands are that we love Him and we love our neighbors. Can we do that? Will we do that?

  21. The problem with voting is it creates winners and losers.

    Was it the plan of Jesus to create losers?

    I believe the only vote in the New Testament is the one Jesus lost.

    Followers of Jesus cast lots to determine a replacement for Judas, but they didn’t vote.

    When we vote in church, we create losers.

    A better choice is to simply discuss, to respond to the Holy Spirit, and to come to an agreement over issues. And if there is no agreement, then there’s no reason to make a change.

    Voting is ‘Democratic,’ but it’s not Christian.

  22. I literally almost cried reading some of these comments to this post.

    It hurts me to see the amount of anger over an issue that literally comes down to whether or not our church should accept everybody. I feel like this is the simplest question that Jesus answered over and over again to the church of his time, and yet thousands of years later we seem to not have learned. When Jesus ate with the sinners and tax collectors, the people who looked at him and said “Why are you eating with THEM?” are exactly like the people who look at Christians from another denomination and say, “Why do we want to let THEM in?” The answer is so simple: we let them in because we let everybody in. Jesus would never have turned down anyone who genuinely wanted to be with him, no matter what the laws or traditions said.

    Or like the Christians that Paul was writing to in Galatians, who didn’t want to let the gentiles into the church unless they followed the old Jewish rules and traditions. I understand their frustration, because their church had lived with that law and those rules for years, and suddenly these gentiles were coming in without a full understanding of what the law really meant or a respect for the tradition that those members had had for so long. And so even though they knew they shouldn’t, they were making these new people follow their own rules and traditions in order to become members, rather than those that Jesus had shown them. It may have even been a genuine feeling of love, a desire for these new members to experience the kind of amazing faith that they themselves had experienced in the church when it was run their way. But Paul was downright angry with these people. He couldn’t believe that the church, that Jesus’ Church, was turning people away unless they followed the very same rules that Jesus himself broke many times when they got in the way of showing love and acceptance for His people. Our church is acting just like those Christians Paul was writing to. We are the ones telling new members, “No no, you’re only a true Christian when you become a Baptist, when you do it our way,” while Jesus is screaming at us from the Bible that it’s HIS way that matters. And I am certain he’d have invited everyone to his church, no matter what.

    I see you say things like, “abandoning a core Baptist belief”, “you just don’t get the gravity of the matter for true Baptists”, “the Baptist faithful”, and even “a big hug of Baptist love” – And I have to wonder: are you even interested in Christianity anymore? Or is it just being Baptist? Did being Baptist somehow become an idol? Does it mean more to be Baptist than to be Christian? I am not trying to criticize you or condemn you, because God knows I am extremely far from being a ‘good’ person and I cannot judge the splinter in your eye while I still have the plank in mine. But that is even more to the point of why this whole thing upsets me… because I hope that the one place that I can go no matter what is the church. And I promise you that when you tell a person that they can’t be a member because they aren’t “Baptist” enough, they are wondering whether or not they even want to be a Christian.

    My girlfriend is Catholic, and although I laugh it off without much concern, I am not invited to communion by that church’s rules. I still go, because I know that Jesus would rather me accept communion as a Baptist than sit in the pews as a Christian rejected by my own fellow Christians. I have asked many times to those Catholics that I know, “Why do you not invite other Christians to your communion?” and so far I have never received a good answer. Well, besides the usual one which is, “I don’t know, you should just go up there anyway, no one will mind.” And to me that is an extremely Christ-like answer – it is what Jesus would have said. In fact it practically is what he said when he sat down with sinners and tax collectors and ate a meal, showing them kindness, love, and acceptance against the all the rules of the church at the time. Or when he touched the dead body of that church leader’s daughter and brought her back from death, despite the rules that he would be unclean after touching her body for 7 days according to the traditions. Now I know we always allowed these “non-Baptists” into the church, but it’s almost worse that we let them in but then tell them they can’t be full members. It would be like if I got up to the front of the church to take my bread and wine from the priest and he told me to wait in the back of the line until all the Catholics were through. It would isolate me, make me different than the rest of the church, and more than likely make me feel like I wasn’t as important to the church as the other people. I’d almost rather not have been invited at all.

    Honestly what upsets me the most though is to see my home church in this state. To see that there are people who are so angry with each other and with Dr Somerville. We should be loving each other and trying to get through our everyday lives worried only about the things that really matter. I listen to the sermon from Dr. Somerville called “From Black-and-White to Color” every so often to hear one line that I think is extremely important to be reminded of regularly. He is paraphrasing Jesus talking to the Pharisees when he says, “The truth is people around you are drowning in sin, and you won’t even stick out a hand to save them. You’re afraid you might get dirty.” Take a look around. There are people who would give anything to have one of us stick out our hand and offer them a chance to feel forgiven, to feel at peace, and most importantly, to feel loved. Are you too busy arguing amongst yourselves to do it? If we could just start reaching out and spending our time and effort now on bringing these people to God through our church instead of arguing about whether or not we should allow them in, I think we can rectify all that has happened. I want you to know that I love all of you at my home church, I don’t know you all, but I do know that you are expressing your beliefs because they are strong, and I know your faith must be all that strong and some. So I just hope that regardless of what you feel about this decision at FBC Richmond, you will turn that passion and love back towards bringing all of our brother’s and sister’s on this earth to God.

  23. OK, let me see if I’ve got this right: as long as my line in the sand is located at the same point as your line in the sand, we are reasonable people. But, if my line is slightly in front of your line, then I’m suddenly unreasonable. The immersers know where their line is located. Apparently, Dr. Somerville’s line is immersion of new believers based on the statement he made before the vote; “As long as I’m pastor, new believers will be immersed in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.” I assume from that comment that he would step down if the church ever vetoed this requirement for membership. So, I ask those in the majority–Where is your line in the sand?

    1. Requiring the recitation of a creed?
    2. Expansion of the church hierarchy?
    3. Denying the priesthood of the believer?
    4. Recognizing the divinity of Mary?
    5. The authority of the pope?

    Until you truly know what you believe and why you believe it, until you know where your line in the sand is located, you do not understand how the minority feel, you do not understand why theological reconciliation is impossible and you cannot understand their emotions. Once again I defer to Martin Luther, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” Was he wrong when he drew his line in the sand?

  24. Sally: You say, “Until you truly know what you believe and why you believe it…you do not understand how the minority feel.”

    For two years we have talked about baptism and church membership. I think every member of the church has given thought to what they believe and why they believe it. Some of them did it till their heads were hurting. I’ve been proud of them for the seriousness with which they took up such an important theological issue. On September 19 they voted their heartfelt convictions and a majority of them voted to change our membership policy. That doesn’t mean they were right and the minority was wrong; it only means that a majority thought we should make a change. This is the way Baptists make decisions, and though we don’t always agree, we do try to “disagree without being disagreeable.”

    I’d like to think that we could bring the debate to a close at this point. Our heads are hurting and, obviously, some hearts are hurting. It would help to let those wounds heal. One of the things I’ve learned in all this is that it is possible for people of deep faith and dazzling intellect to be on opposite sides of this issue. I respect you as one of those, Sally.

  25. Praise be to God! I publicly proclaimed my faith today at FBC. After 16 years of giving back to the community of Faith that loves me, prays with me, celebrates with me, comforts me, and walks beside me on a continual path toward my personal relationship with God, I continually feel blessed! To my family in Christ, I say thank you for acceptance. I LOVE you ALL….

    “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

    —1 Peter 4:8

  26. Because of the baggage of my own past experiences in (mostly Baptist) churches, I find myself fighting an instinctive urge to run like a rabbit. One of the factors in my decision to join FBCR in 1999 was its stability and its history of managing contentious decisions without splitting.
    I know that those who stand in opposition to the decision feel that they have lost something very dear. The anger that has been expressed originates from the intensity of their grief as they mourn that loss. My first prayer is that, however uncomfortable it may be, those who have favored the change will be strong enough to withstand the anger without abondoning the binding principle of love. My second prayer is that those who are grieving might accept whatever attempts at reconciliation may be offered. My counsel is that we all endeavor to love and forgive one another as God loves and forgives us so that, in time, the healing may begin.

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