With all respect for my Presbyterian brothers and sisters, I do not believe that the â€œbaptismâ€ of infants is any baptism at all. I can say that with great love and respect, knowing that Presbyterians who love the truth in their own confessional standards will respect a Baptist who does the same. As I often remark to evangelical Presbyterians, we may be the last people on earth who can have a real disagreement. That said, baptism has been understood by all major branches of Christianity, throughout the centuries of Christian experience, to be a requirement for church membership and the fellowship of the Lordâ€™s table. Thus, for Baptists to receive into the membership of a Baptist church (or to invite to the Lordâ€™s Supper) any believer who lacks such baptism, is to receive non-baptized persons as if they were baptized. Any compromise of Baptist conviction concerning the requirement of believerâ€™s baptism by immersion amounts to a redefinition of Baptist identity. More importantly, it raises the most basic questions of ecclesiology. We must give those questions intent attention in these days. Otherwise, will there be any Baptists in the next generation?For an extremely well-written allegorical treatment of this issue, please visit Prayer and the Ministry of the Word, the blog of Jeff Richard Young, pastor of Corinth Baptist Church near Ravenna, Texas. Here is an excerpt from his excellent post titled Mr. and Mrs. Sprinkled Prospect:
Eventually Dennis restored order and said to the Prospects, â€œItâ€™s simple. You just have to be re-baptized to join the Baptist church. Thatâ€™s what our last pastor used to do.â€ That almost made me choke on my iced tea, but I managed to swallow, and said, â€œDennis, we Baptists recognize that baptism can only be by immersion. Therefore no one who has merely been sprinkled can be â€˜re-baptized,â€™ because he wasnâ€™t really baptized in the first place. The word â€˜re-baptizedâ€™ really shouldnâ€™t be used, at least among Baptists. â€˜Re-baptismâ€™ simply doesnâ€™t exist.â€
Resolution Affirming Scriptural Baptism as a Prerequisite to the Privileges of Church Membership
Whereas, Capital Baptist Association consist of Baptist churches in the Metropolitan Oklahoma City area which subscribe to the statement of "The Baptist Faith and Message" or similar articles of faith, and
Whereas, the Baptist Faith and Message adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention, June 14, 2000 states in Article VII.- Baptism and the Lordâ€™s Supper: Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; Being a church ordinance, it is a prerequisite to the privileges of church membership, and
Whereas, the Baptist Faith and Message adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention, June 14, 2000 states in Article VI - The Church: The New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, and
Whereas, Capital Baptist Associationâ€™s Constitution and By-laws states in Article III - Membership - item 3: The association reserves the right to determine its own membership and to refuse to seat messengers and/or withdraw fellowship from churches that may have become corrupt in faith or practice, and
Whereas, Henderson Hills Baptist Church will vote on the proposal of their Elder Council to eliminate baptism as a prerequisite for church membership during their services on the weekend of July 29-30, 2006, and
Whereas, the Elder Council of Henderson Hills Baptist Church has publicly announced this proposed bylaw change to eliminate baptism as a prerequisite for church membership, now therefore be it
Resolved, that the Executive Board of the Capital Baptist Association meeting on July 17, 2006 affirm the "Baptist Faith and Message" and similar articles of faith which state that Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and being a church ordinance, it is a prerequisite to the privileges of church membership, and be it further
Resolved, that we affirm that the New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, and be it further
Resolved, that we encourage the members of Henderson Hills Baptist Church to affirm and maintain their current bylaw requirements for church membership, and be it finally
Resolved, that we encourage the churches of Capital Baptist Association to pray for the leaders and members of Henderson Hills Baptist Church as they seek Godâ€™s will in this matter.
This is somewhat wordier than the resolution I will offer at the annual meeting of our state convention, but the intent is the same: to encourage adherence to our traditional and scriptural understanding of a regenerate, scripturally baptized church membership.
For a preview of this coming attraction, you can visit the Messenger's website, where there are already several articles posted which are not in the most recent print edition, and I'm guessing they will be a part of the pull-out mentioned above. Interestingly, the first item you will see at that link is a column by Rick Thompson, IMB trustee and pastor of the OKC metro's Council Road Baptist Church. The column is taken directly from his
Baptism. How important is it?In light of the impending action by members of Edmond, Henderson Hills to consider whether or not to remove from the church's bylaws the phrase "has been scripturally baptized" as a condition of membership, the Baptist Messenger will present a special four-page, pull-out section in a coming issue. It will include positional statements about baptism and church polity from the BGCO, Baptist Faith & Message, Oklahoma Baptist pastors and DOMs and national SBC leaders.
Having said that, I believe that I am not alone in my understanding that our historic Baptist practice of requiring baptism as a prerequisite to church membership is, in fact, thoroughly biblical as well. While no single passage of scripture exists that directly and explicitly requires baptism to precede church membership, it is nonetheless thoroughly scriptural, being the logical outworking of a systematic approach to an ecclesiology that requires a regenerate church membership. This distinctive of a regenerate church membership is one for which many have suffered, and many have died, and I don't wish to see it further devalued.
Paul Littleton, in the post linked above, is frankly dismissive of what he calls "denominationalism," on the grounds that it is a historical novelty. He correctly points out that it was a phenomenon unheard of in the first century. He admits to being puzzled by a concern for Baptist distinctives, and indicates that to point out that one should belong to a church where they are in agreement with that church's theological positions is "an American cultural" phenomenon, and "not mature." I respectfully disagree.
While it is true that denominational distinctness is a relatively recent development, I don't see this as a reason to dismiss it out of hand. First century churches had the presence of the Apostles to force them to deal with issues that would divide them. Today, we have the written Word of God, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and a conscience under the lordship of Christ. When Christians, with these things in common, come to very different understandings, denominationalism is the predictable and necessary result.
I am concerned for Baptist distinctives. I am thankful for those early Baptists who stood, often with the certainty of persecution and death, for what they believed to be a biblical ecclesiology, and specifically for a membership composed of regenerate souls who have testified of that regeneration through baptism. I believe a church that is led to a different understanding should also be willing to separate itself from those of us who hold that distinctive.
Are we perfectly modeling this belief? Obviously, we are not. No one but God can know the heart, and any fair look at our attendance relative to our membership will lead to the conclusion that we have many unregenerate members. We need a revival of church discipline in order to return more closely to the standard of a regenerate church membership, but that is another discussion, and to bring it up in this discussion is to change the subject. Our inability to meet the standard is not a reason to lower that standard.
While Pastor Newkirk has expressed his sincere belief that the action he proposes will make baptisms performed in their church more meaningful, I am afraid it will instead make membership less meaningful.
Why not any baptism?
People seeking membership in a Baptist church must be baptised by the authority of the local church. Why? It is easy to see that other churches have not followed the teachings of the New Testament on the matter, therefore we believe they have not been baptised - because we believe in the authority being proper - and these other churches that practice sprinkling and teach that you can lose your salvation are not teaching fully the New Testament. I realize that you, as the subject, could be a believer, but you see, the authority is not proper.
These people say that they want the church to receive them but they are actually asking the church to come to their terms. Instead of joining the church, they are asking the church to join them.
Chuck Says: July 2nd, 2006 at 7:53 am e Wes et al, I am one of the elders and teaching pastors at Henderson Hills. It has been interesting to read your comments on this blog. Thank you for grappling with this important issue. Iâ€™d like to offer a few comments in response to what has been recorded. Please understand my goal is not to be defensive, argumentative, or stir up more controversy. My heart in responding on this blog is to try and adequately express our position, and respond in love to some of what has been said about us. If anything in my reply appears to be defensive, arrogant, or disrespectful, please forgive me. That is not my intention at all. Let me state our position succinctly: 1) Baptism is a vital act of obedience every Christian is commanded to follow willingly. Its mode is immersion, its candidate is a believer, and its meaning is to identify with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It should take place as close to oneâ€™s salvation experience as possible. Any mode of baptism other than immersion is not baptism. 2) Church membership is vital to the growth, health, and protection of every believer. Every believer should commit themselves to a local church, making the commitment before God and other believers to pursue spiritual transformation and help others do the same. Other than salvation, we can find no list of prerequisites or qualifications for church membership in Scripture. For this reason, any local church can determine what requirements seem best in their particular setting. We believe to deny fellowship to any genuine believer desiring membership should only be done with great caution and scriptural support. 3) We find no concept in Scripture that baptism must be a criteria, qualification, or prerequisite to membership. Even theologians most adamant about its necessity in that role seem to use little or no biblical support to assert their view. We are troubled that using baptism as an initiatory rite may downgrade its importance, confuse its true meaning, and puts some desiring membership (i.e. â€“ believers who were sprinkled after conversion, believing this was â€˜baptismâ€™) in a situation where they might get baptized for the wrong reasons or violate their current interpretation of Scripture, therein violating their conscience. We are also concerned that such a requirement unnecessarily bars some genuine believers from our membership. In order to restore the biblical motivation for and purpose of baptism, we propose de-linking baptism from membership. In order to provide the blessings, responsibilities, and protection of membership to those not yet convinced of their need for baptism by immersion, it seems wise to us to remove this prerequisite. We also intend to discover ways to make baptism and membership even more meaningful in the life of Henderson Hills. Both are vital to the health of believers. Please understand, weâ€™ve not said to our church, â€œThe Bible demands we remove this prerequisite for church membership. Hereâ€™s a list of requirements to join the local church, from Scripture, and baptism is clearly not on it. Therefore, as a church we must remove this sinful, grotesque, awful requirement, in order that our church can be restored from heresy.â€ Iâ€™m being a bit ridiculous to make a point. Weâ€™ve tried really hard not to communicate that the Bible expressly demands this change. What weâ€™ve tried to say is something like this: â€œWeâ€™ve studied the Bible extensively, looking closely at baptism, church membership, and any biblical connection between the two. After hundreds of hours of study, weâ€™ve come to the conclusion that Scripture itself does not say that baptism is the credential to church membership. We are concerned that using baptism as a prerequisite downgrades its importance, unnecessarily bars some genuine believers from our fellowship, and encourages incorrect motives for baptism. Both baptism and church membership are too important to ignore our current bylaws. Yes, this is a departure from Baptist history in America (weâ€™ve found many examples of open membership in Great Britain and Australia), and we want you to know that. However, our focus here must be first on Godâ€™s authority through Scripture, not on Baptist history or current trends. We might be wrong. Please pray about this, study the issues, and express your understanding of Godâ€™s leadership in late July.â€ If anything other than that type of dialogue is being heard, itâ€™s not what we meant to communicate. Itâ€™s not sinful for a church to require baptism, but I cannot say in good conscience that it is wise for our church either. Iâ€™ve talked to too many people over the years who say things like, â€œAlright, Iâ€™ll do it because you require me to do it to join; however, I canâ€™t say I thought my â€˜baptismâ€™ (after salvation, just by a different mode) was wrong.â€ Personally, I cannot baptize someone who feels that way. Itâ€™s troublesome to me to have any church practice that puts people into that kind of situation. Paul brought up a very important question in one of his blog entries. How do we deal with the fact that sincere believers from other denominations are coming to our churches, desiring membership, but have not been baptized by immersion? There are scenarios that happen today, that were non-existent in the first century. In order to understand our times and lead with prudence, I believe we canâ€™t ignore these scenarios. Let me illustrate what I mean: For example: A guy named John grew up in a Christian home. At the age of 14 he accepted Christ. It was the defining moment of his life. About six months later, he was â€œbaptizedâ€ by sprinkling to identify himself with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It was a meaningful event in his life, which he understood as fulfilling Jesusâ€™ command to be baptized. Now, John is 40 years old. He and his family would like to join our church. He is a godly father, husband, and employee. He wants to help his kids grow in Christ, just like his parents did for him. He spends time in the Word every morning. He and his family want to be a part of a Bible-believing church, where they can invest their time, talents, and treasures. Everything appears to be a â€œgoâ€ â€“ but then, when asked about his baptism, he describes the event. He is asked if he was immersed, he replies, â€œNo. In my church baptism was done by sprinkling, but we did not see it as salvific. I understood why I was being baptized and am so glad I took that step.â€ In response, we explain to him that every time baptism is discussed in Scripture, it is clear immersion is the only mode. We ask him to prayerfully consider being baptized by immersion to follow the biblical pattern. A week later he comes back and says, â€œMy current understanding is that my baptism was valid. It would violate my conscience to be baptized here, since I believe I have already been baptized. Although it is an infrequent use of the word, I understand â€˜baptizoâ€™ can mean to sprinkle, so it seems to be that the biblical evidence is not conclusive. Although we disagree on this one issue, I still very much desire to join this church.â€ Under our current bylaws, we would have to decline his application for membership. This would mean John would probably either: A) Choose to be baptized to â€œjoin the churchâ€, still believing it isnâ€™t something he needs to do (a very awkward scenario for us as a church to put someone in); B) Decide not to join the church and leave. Neither of these seem like good answers to us. It would seem most Christian for us to accept him as a member, assign a pastor or elder to follow up with him on his need to be baptized, pray for him to come to the point of seeing he has not be scripturally baptized, allow him to sit under godly teaching (part of which includes baptism), and let him enjoy the blessings, accountability, and protection of church membership. This is the kind of situation we are concerned with. Why deny John the opportunity to be a part of a church that teaches the Bible; why deny him the opportunity to hear the biblical mode of baptism, and bathe him in prayer, sincerely anticipating that over time, he will decide to be baptizedâ€”for the right reasons? We, the elders, cannot in good conscience tell someone the Bible demands their membership be denied over baptism. Now, one might say, â€œIn Scripture, believing and being baptized seem to happen on the same dayâ€, and that be completely true. However, in the 1st century, there were no churches practicing sprinkling as a mode of baptism after salvation. There were no Christians having conflicting things being taught to them about baptism. So, we have to reason from what seems wise to us today. Please know we are not saying sprinkling is baptism: it is not. Nevertheless, we do not see Scripture requiring baptism as a prerequisite to membership. The Bible does not directly address what the requirements for church membership are (except salvation); however, it does address baptism and as far as we can tell, never does so in such a way as to give any indication its purpose is to serve as an initiatory right into local church membership. If someone can show us that from Scripture, weâ€™ll withdraw this proposal. Also, Scripture clearly gives teaching regarding being committed, active, and involved as an appendage in the local church (Rom 12, 1 Cor 12, etc). Church membership is a method to help people do that. The nature of and purpose for membership is something Scripture does speak to, even though membership qualifications do not appear. For these reasons, it seems to us we need to make this change. One of the beautiful things about the Bible is it gives us a great deal of freedom to decide how practical issues should be handled in the church. This is one of those areas where it seems we have some freedomâ€”freedom to prayerfully decide what prerequisites are needed for church membership. Guys, perhaps we have a slightly different view of church membership itself. My guess is that we donâ€™t disagree, but that perhaps our semantics about membership leaves some things unclear. What is the purpose of membership? What is the nature of it? Let me explain. Several people seem to assert that since not being baptized is sin (which it is, of course), and if someone is in unrepentant sin, then it automatically follows then that he cannot become a church member. One person wrote that someone who wants membership but does not consent to baptism is â€œunregenerate or disobedient, and in neither case are they a candidate for church membership.â€ While I appreciate the heart of these statements, the logic does not seem to hold water (pun intended). Is baptism the litmus test of salvation? Can we tell if someone is a believer merely by looking at one act, or lack of act? If churches were to restrict membership from people with unrepentant sin, people who were disobedient in some area of their lives, our churches would have very few, if any, members. In other words, if we told people, â€œHey, membership is only for the mature in the faith. Itâ€™s only for those who have conquered all areas of sin.â€ , then where would we be? Most of us would be without a church home. Do we deny membership to people who want to join but do not give financially to the church? Do we deny membership to people who are not planning to serve in an area of ministry? Do we deny membership to a person who struggles with the sin of alcoholism? Iâ€™m sure you see my point. Yes, absolutely, we are to call people to repent of their sins, come under the Lordship of Christ in all areas of their lives, and stand against easy-believism, yet isnâ€™t a commitment to a local church (church membership) imperative in the sanctification process of every believer? Isnâ€™t one of the primary purposes of church membership to help people grow up in their faith? We are troubled that our current bylaws prohibit from our membership some people who are clearly part of the universal Church. How could we stand before Jesus as His under-shepherds and say, â€œThey could get into the Heaven but Iâ€™m sorry, they canâ€™t get into this local churchâ€? We believe if you can get into Heaven, you ought to be able to get into this church. We will then take responsibility to teach, develop, hold accountable, and so on. Baptismâ€™s biblical purpose seems to not be to identify with a local church; it is to identify with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Paulâ€™s baptism and the Ethiopian officialâ€™s baptism are clear examples of baptism having nothing to do with local church membership. Again if someone can show us where Scripture even implies that baptism is to be used as a prerequisite we would gladly withdraw this proposal and admit our mistake. However, to date, no one has argued that from Scripture. Weâ€™ve heard lots of arguments based on polity and tradition, but very few based on theology. This is unfortunate. Regarding whether or not we can remain a Baptist church if this proposal is affirmed, there are a number of things I feel compelled to say here. First of all, we have no desire to depart from the CBA, BGCO, or SBC. Wes, to be frank, I find your clear statement that we are being dishonest about that troubling (â€œtheir assertions to the contraryâ€). Itâ€™s one thing to question on understanding of Scripture, our polity, and our process. It is another thing altogether to assert our motives are impure, mixed with selfish ambition, or dishonest. Please donâ€™t spread that type of thing. It is gossip and hearsay. It does nothing but harm the Kingdom of God. While you might perceive our actions say otherwise, I give you my word that is not our desire and intention. Second, we do not believe this action constitutes a departure from Baptist theology and life worth dis-fellowship. I will explain below. In one post it was said, â€œOur convention should not, in my opinion, take action, but rather confirm their action.â€ We respectfully disagree, and others in our denomination have too. In fact, a former leader in the BGCO and an annuity board representative both told us ahead of time that they did not believe this issue would come down to terminating our participation in Baptist life. Furthermore, since the proposal has gone public, weâ€™ve had Baptist pastors tell us several interesting things: some have said this (our proposal) is what practically happens at their churches, even though the official position of the church contradicts it; others have told us that the linkage between baptism and membership has bothered them for years but they just didnâ€™t know what to do about it. So, we arenâ€™t the only Baptists who feel this way. We figured there would be some conflict, but the jury is still out on how this whole thing will turn out. Weâ€™ve merely asked our church to pray, read the materials, and search the Scripture to see if we are wrong. We arenâ€™t doing away with the distinctive from which we get our name. What we are proposing is to do away with is the concept we were unable to find in Scripture â€” that baptism should be used as a prerequisite to church membership. It would be a huge disappointment if we can agree on the candidate (believers), mode (immersion), meaning (symbolizing the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ), and disagree on one point (whether it is best to use it as a prerequisite to church membership), and that one point be worthy of dis-fellowship. That is not our desire at HHBC at all. It is a misrepresentation and misinterpretation of our clear statements and actions to assert otherwise. Prior to taking this issue before our congregation, we met with the executive director of the BGCO, the executive director of the Capital Baptist Association, the director of missions in our area, and several others. We expressed our respect for them, desire to stay affiliated, and process by which we came to this proposal. If we did not wish to stay affiliated with the SBC, BGCO, and CBA, we obviously would have taken none of those steps. Out of respect and courtesy, we informed denominational leadership, so that they would not hear of it second-hand. Our hope and prayer is that no matter what the outcome of the proposal, we can stand shoulder to shoulder with fellow Baptists for years to come. We arenâ€™t doing away with baptism, and in fact, we are working at discovering ways to make it even more meaningful. Thereâ€™s no loss of the Baptist commitment to baptism by immersion, for the purpose of identifying with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ in our plans. Brothers, at our core shouldnâ€™t the first question be: â€œWhat does Scripture say?â€ not, â€œIs it Baptist?â€ Isnâ€™t that very question the thing that has united us around the Book? What I love about Baptists through the ages is our love for Scripture. We are famous for our commitment to the Book. If at any point we superimpose Baptist tradition over the text of Scripture, we are in big trouble. It is very Baptist to go the pages of Scripture, see what it says, then change as necessary. For our local church, we simply donâ€™t find the scriptural meaning of baptism to be an entrance requirement into the local church. We believe baptism ought to be lifted out of that and placed back on the beautiful ground of proclaiming the death, burial, and resurrection of our Savior. That is our heart. We may be wrong, but it is only out of an intention to try to be a thoroughly biblical church. All of you have the right to interpret Scripture, and all it implies, in your own setting. We are not telling other churches what they need to do, only what seems right to us for Henderson Hills. Based on the above, I would ask you who seem to want us dis-fellowshipped: On what basis do you believe it is a godly, scriptural, and Baptist course of action to aim to remove us from the BGCO? Some are appealing to the Baptist Faith and Message. We could do that too. Iâ€™d encourage you to read the preamble if youâ€™ve not does so recently. It is true that the proposal we are praying over does differ with the Baptist Faith and Message at one point: that baptism as a church ordinance is a prerequisite to church membership and the Lordâ€™s Supper. We simply donâ€™t see that concept in Scripture; however, that doesnâ€™t mean it is necessarily sinful or unwise. In fact, there may have been a time in history when it was important to think of membership in that way. There may be churches where it is still important. Nevertheless, if Scripture doesnâ€™t give a list of qualifications for membership, then we should be free to disagree on them and still fellowship together. The Baptist Faith and Message was never intended to be a creedal document by which we all must agree with every word in order to remain Baptist. Hereâ€™s a portion of the preamble, written in 1925, and used in every revision since then. You can view this by following this link. Statement of the historic Baptist conception of the nature and function of confessions of faith in our religious and denominational lifeâ€¦ (2) That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future, Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time. (3) That any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so. (4) That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience. (5) That they are statements of religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures, and are not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life. Baptists cherish and defend religious liberty, and deny the right of any secular or religious authority to impose a confession of faith upon a church or body of churches. Those who accuse us of being un-Baptist because we are proposing a slight conflict with the BF&M (which we concede), are actually in slight conflict with it themselves as well. That document was never meant to be creed by which exact belief is required in every Baptist church. Iâ€™m afraid we are on a slippery slope if we begin to use it in a way never intended. Our hope is that in the end these wise words from the preamble will still be heeded. Our desire is to continue to stand alongside you, brothers, as HHBC has done for 42 years. We had a great deal of respect for our heritage. I was saved in a Baptist church, baptized in a Baptist church, called to ministry in a Baptist church, met my wife and was married in a Baptist church, ordained in a Baptist church, attended a Southern Baptist seminary, dedicated my daughter to the Lord in a Baptist church, and serve in a Baptist church. There are many things about Baptists I love. I love our commitment to Scripture. I love our commitment to the priesthood of the believer. I love our commitment to reaching people for Christ â€” no matter what it takes. I love our commitment to biblical baptism. I love our commitment to the autonomy of every local church. But, as I hope is true with all of you, when Iâ€™m cut, I bleed Christian, not Baptist. My core identity is a follower of Jesus Christ, whose name I bear. My allegiance is ultimately to Him and His Word. But please donâ€™t misunderstand me, our hope is that you all would not see this proposal as a stepping away from Baptists, but a desire to help our church interpret and apply Scripture in a way that remains faithful to the text and relevant to the circumstances we find ourselves in. We simply want to be a church that is constantly reforming into more and more of a biblical church. We arenâ€™t there yet, but we believe this is one more step in that direction, for us. We do not and will not judge any other church for not taking this step nor for disagreeing with us. Letâ€™s stand together for the sake of the Gospel. If youâ€™ve not yet done so, Iâ€™d encourage you to go to our website, listen to the sermons, and read the documents. Weâ€™ve tried to do this in the open so it would be clear we have nothing to hide. Again, please read our proposal closely. If you disagree, that is fine. As we are telling people in our church, â€œIf you read the material, search the Scripture, give this issue to God in prayer, and you vote no to the proposal, we will be very satisfied with how this process played out in your life. This is something we can agree to disagree on.â€ In a spirit of love and unity, we would say the same thing to you. Please pray for us as we seek Godâ€™s leadership. We have no desire to stir controversy, be disobedient to the Lord, or miss His guidance for our fellowship. Have a great Lordâ€™s Day, Chuck Kevin Bussey Says: July 2nd, 2006 at 9:06 am e Chuck, Thanks for sharing your story. It helped me see things a little differently. Blessings to your church! Wes Kenney Says: July 2nd, 2006 at 9:08 am eChuck, First of all, thank you for taking the time to read the discussion here, and to comment so extensively. Much good must necessarily come from our having a more complete understanding of your thinking and process. Let me say that I did not intend to make any assertion about your motivation in this. You said, â€œIt is another thing altogether to assert our motives are impure, mixed with selfish ambition, or dishonest.â€ If I have said this, directly or indirectly, I apologize. I do not question your sincerity in seeking to be true to your interpretation of scripture. I simply meant to communicate that if your interpretation leads your congregation to forsake the distinctive of a regenerate, baptized church membership, which baptist confessions have articulated since at least 1644, then that action will speak louder than any professed desire to remain a part of a group or groups with which you have declared such fundamental disagreement. Again, I truly appreciate your willingness, and that of your brother, to engage in debate in these forums. Your willingness to follow your convictions is an example for leaders throughout the body of Christ.
There has been a lot of discussion in recent months about baptism. We have discussed its mode (dunking), its meaning (obedience), its proper administrator (me), the correct water temperature (58â—¦ F), and how long the one being baptized should be held under (until there are no more bubbles). Okay, so I made some of that up. The point is, we have discussed this issue until I was sure there was nothing left to discuss. I was wrong about that.
A while back, Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota caused something of a stir in baptist circles by discussing the possibility of accepting into their membership those who were "baptized" as infants in another denomination, if they viewed that infant "baptism" as a fulfillment of Christ's command to be baptized. While I haven't kept up with the disposition of that suggestion, I seem to remember that they have backed away from it, and they were wise to do so in my opinion. I was pretty confident that this experience would discourage other churches from considering a move so out of step with baptist history and, I believe, with scripture itself. I was wrong about that, also.
Right here in my home state, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain, we have a church that, it seems, is attempting to go Bethlehem Baptist one better. The members of Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond will vote, at the end of July, on a bylaw change proposed by their elder council (a whole other post) that would allow the acceptance of members who have never been baptized at all.
On their website, hhbc.com, you can read for yourself all of the background material and studies with which they support this change. Their pastor, Dennis Newkirk, also has a blog where he addresses these issues, and if you're interested, I encourage you to read their materials. Here is an excerpt from one of their documents justifying this change:
We see that it would be a tragic mistake to exclude Christians from membership, solely on the basis of baptism, who may potentially have a great impact on the Kingdom of God. For example, under our current rules, great theologians such as John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, Sinclair Ferguson, R.C. Sproul, and J.I. Packer would be considered unqualified for church membership
Now, I'm no expert, but it seems to me that these great theologians would clearly understand that, should they desire membership in a baptist church, baptism by immersion would likely be involved, yea, even required. And I also do not see how their "impact on the Kingdom of God" is in any way lessened by being ineligible for membership at Henderson Hills Baptist Church.
The only conclusion I can draw from this episode is that, their assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, Henderson Hills no longer desires to be a baptist church. And I certainly hope that the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, and the Capital Baptist Association will interpret this move, should the congregation affirm it, as an expression of this desire, and take appropriate action. Yes, in case that was too vague, I am hereby calling on their local association and their state convention to refuse their contributions to our cooperative efforts. Not that it would be that great a loss. As you might imagine, I have reviewed their Cooperative Program participation, and their 1.3% CP participation and 0.3% associational giving will scarcely be missed.
I am drafting a resolution which I intend to submit to the 100th Annual Meeting of the BGCO this November which, if adopted, will have our convention affirming our commitment to a regenerate, scripturally baptized church membership. Please, kind reader, feel free to offer suggestions on this resolution or, if necessary, to point out the errors in any of the above.
So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them. - Acts 2:41 (HCSB)
In a Baptist congregation, every believer is in covenant with brothers and sisters in Christ. Believer's baptism by immersion, faithfully following the example and instruction of our Lord, is the sign of that covenant, and is prerequisite to membership. (p. 64)What Dr. Mohler ably articulates leads me to wonder: How can this baptism be a sign of that covenant if the administering church believes very differently about such an important doctrine as salvation? If someone presents themselves to us having been baptized in such a fellowship, is it too much to ask of someone wanting to covenant together with us to submit to baptism as, in Dr. Mohler's words, a "sign of that covenant"? This leads me to consider my conclusions in light of the aforementioned controversy. Wade Burleson recently proposed replacements for the newly adopted policies on tongues and baptism, but as I argued in the comments on the tongues policy, it seems to me that these are vulnerable to the same objections as the current policies, specifically that they impose restrictions where the Baptist Faith and Message is silent. As to solutions in the current controversy, the only thing that suggests itself to me is for the trustees of the IMB to implement a policy that makes the local church which recommends a candidate the sole determiner of the validity of their baptism, allowing the IMB to ask no questions beyond determining whether the recommending church has validated their baptismal experience. I don't know what the unintended ramifications might be of such a policy, but anything else would, it seems to me, require setting policy that necessarily exceeds the BF&M, and that apparently isn't acceptable, either. Please feel free to correct me (gently, please) if you feel I am in error with any of my conclusions here. I said at the beginning that these are conclusions I have reached. In reality, they are conclusions and not yet convictions. I am open to being moved from them if I am convinced by Scripture and conscience to do so. I continue to pray that our convention will focus on positive, constructive debates that sharpen our minds and deepen our faith in God and our love for one another.