Pastor’s Friday Comments (06.21.19)

This week the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has been meeting in our annual General Assembly in Birmingham, Alabama. Several members of our church, including Linda and me, are attending. Last week another group of Baptists met in the same venue (what are the odds?) and, unfortunately, people who don’t know better might confuse the two. In case someone you know has that problem, here are some ways you can be sure that you are at a CBF meeting.

You will see women and men equally open to and equally accepting of leadership within the organization and in congregational life. You will not hear any insistence on women remaining subservient to men or of the restriction of pastoral leadership to males. We will honor the historic Baptist practice of allowing each congregation, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, to make its own decisions in such matters.

You will see all welcomed. Everybody. We will not be wasting time with matters of who is in and who is out of the kingdom of God, especially when criteria relate to private practice. We consider that to be above our pay grade.

The Bible will be front and center in our worship, but it will be used as a tool of enlightenment and pathway to faith, and not weaponized to condemn anyone with whom we disagree.

There will be no cries for allegiance to a particular political leader nor support for a partisan political agenda. We will insist on freedom from interference by the state while affirming the right of individuals to participate in political life as they see fit. We will remind each other that one of the bedrock beliefs of Baptists has historically been the separation of church and state.

While we will be grateful for our good fortune in being citizens of the United States, we will not be promoting some misguided vision of American exceptionalism that confuses our great country with the people of God. We will not seek to become the State Church. That’s the situation our forebears fled in the Old World.

We will allow Galatians 3:28 (providentially the Epistle Lectionary text for this Sunday) to guide our relationships: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ.”

We will not be a perfect organization. We will not make perfect decisions. We will not follow Christ perfectly. But I can guarantee that, under superb leadership and with the most sincere intentions, we will seek to show the love of Christ to the world, both as we gather and as we disperse back into the world.

If you tell someone that you are a Baptist, there is a good chance that they might assume some things that might be true of others but with which you simply do not identify. Then tell them that, though your Christian faith is most important, you choose to be a member of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. You could use some of the ideas above to tell them why.