There’s a good chance that in the near future I’ll say something that some of you might not agree with. I mean, it’s happened before, right? So before I do, a brief primer in Baptist theology and practice is in order.

Let us begin with the premise that we who have joined together as the family of Parkway Baptist Church are Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, saved by his grace. That supersedes any denominational loyalty. Today most people have little interest in denominations anyway.

Nevertheless, every church must be organized along some principles and ours are decidedly Baptist. We affirm what have become known as the “four freedoms.”

Soul freedom — the right for each individual to approach God without an intermediary

Bible freedom — dependence on the Bible as the fundamental document of our faith and practice, without the requirement of agreement on human-created creeds or summaries of belief

Church freedom — the ability of each congregation to make whatever decisions it believes best, with no authority other than God dictating what it should do

Religious freedom — no dependence on the state for support, no tolerance of the state telling us what to do in spiritual matters

When I make statements, either in print or orally, these elements often come into play. As much as I would like it to be different, it is almost impossible for me to separate my private opinions from my pastoral pronouncements. So here is how I work this out:

Being as careful as I can be to state only what I believe is biblical (see Freedom number 2), I offer through preaching, writing, and conversation my understanding of how one conducts oneself as a Christian in the world (see Freedom number 1). Whether you choose to agree with that stance or not is not a matter of your submission to my pastoral authority, but of your personal conscience (again, see Freedom number 1). I am happy to advise, counsel, and pray with you, but what you do with your life is between you and God.

In a similar way, regardless of my personal interpretation of Scripture or its application to life in the world, I do not dictate the stance the congregation takes on any issue or any decision we might make together, nor does anyone else (see Freedom number 3). We abide by congregational majority without yielding our right to personal conviction.

With regard to the last freedom, resistance to state interference in religious matters, my personal feeling (Freedom number 1) is that, rather than concerning themselves with state interference, today too many Christians are more concerned with seeking state support for their cause, but that’s a subject for another day.

I have the great good fortune and privilege of serving a congregation where these principles are more than theoretical. We are respectful of each other in every situation, even those extremely rare occasions when, as a matter of conscience, we choose to disagree.

We live in difficult times, an era of change and conflict. There are issues over which we may disagree, but our Christian responsibility in every situation is to show unreserved love for others. I’m confident that will continue to be the stance of the great family at Parkway and, in times such as these, I’m glad to be a member of the family.