From the Pastor….

If I were departing a house, still furnished and with other people still living in it, I would hope to leave it in as good a condition as possible. I wouldn’t want to leave anything unrepaired or untidy. I’m trying to approach the end of my tenure as your pastor (whenever that may come) with the same attitude.

With that in mind, there are a couple of issues that I should have addressed much earlier, but with which I feel we, as a congregation, need to deal before a new pastor comes on board. Both of them are, in my mind at least, formal recognitions of who Parkway really is, but they should be stated more clearly than they presently are. 

One issue has to do with our Baptist connections. Since its inception, Parkway has identified most closely with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, both nationally and in Georgia. However, for various reasons that no longer apply, we have had some tenuous connections with Southern Baptists as well. It does not need to be a matter of contention for us to state that those reasons no longer exist and to recognize that we are solidly a CBF church. 

One of the practical results of making this statement clearly is that the Pastor Search Committee can avoid any confusion regarding our affiliations and, by extension, the “kind of Baptist” that we are. I can tell you from personal experience that this is very helpful information for anyone who would consider becoming your pastor.

Soon I will be making a specific recommendation to the Church Council for their approval that will then be passed to the congregation for a vote. You will receive plenty of advance notice before any proposal is brought forward.

The second issue may not be as clear cut but is actually more important. While accepting that we are in fact a Baptist congregation, we have to be clear about our openness to those who come from other denominations or faith traditions. There are many others who share our theology, our ethical concerns, and our worship preferences, but who have not previously been part of a Baptist church. 

From the founding of Parkway, we have only accepted people who fit this category into full membership if they were willing to go through the formal process of “becoming Baptist” through baptism by immersion. Though we have always tried to explain to potential members from other denominations that we were not saying that their prior Christian experience was invalid, this insistence on following through on our mode of entrance into a church has always felt to me like we were saying, “Now you’ve finally gotten it right.” 

A more open membership policy would in no way undermine the importance of the need for a personal relationship with God through acceptance of Christ as one’s Savior. It would only open the door to other ways of expressing that experience than through baptism by immersion.

I am going to propose, again through the Church Council, that we revisit the issue of how we accept members into our fellowship. I don’t expect this to have as clear a consensus as recognizing our denominational affiliations, but I think it is even more essential that we deal with this before you call a new pastor. There will be ample time for thought, prayer, and discussion before any action is taken.

On both of these matters, I fully concede that I should have brought them up earlier, but, frankly, neither has had a strong practical effect on how we conducted ourselves as a congregation. I simply think we should deal with them near the end of our time with me as your pastor rather than leaving them for new leadership. It’s just good housekeeping.