If you know me, you know that I pastor a Mennonite church. They are really an amazing congregation. I’m not just saying that, either! They believe in women’s leadership, they are welcoming and affirming, and have a really strong commitment to peace. It’s not final yet, but we have a tagline at my church. It’s “cultivating faith, committed to peace, and engaged in justice.” And it’s all true.
But you also know that I consider myself Baptist. Because I’ve found a home with my Mennonite congregation, why would I still be Baptist? Well, let me tell you.
First, because I believe in congregational polity. In the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, it says,
This church is an autonomous body, operating through democratic processes under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In such a congregation members are equally responsible.
Congregational polity means this: no ecclesial body can tell you what your church is going to do. A denomination can “disfellowship” with you, meaning that they will no longer relate with you, but they can’t excommunicate you or force you to act the way they want you to act.
Second, I believe in the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” That’s what they called it in my childhood. Surely there’s a fancy theological term for that doctrine, but I still like calling it, “Once saved, always saved.” What’s that? Well, it means that you’re in no danger of losing your salvation once you’ve got it. For me, it speaks to the nature of God: God has us in God’s hands and holds on to us. God’s love endures.
The 1963 Baptist Faith and Message says this:
All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, bring reproach on the cause of Christ, and temporal judgments on themselves, yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Third, I love the doctrine of soul freedom. Again, from the 1963 BFandM:
God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has Left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it.
And today, after reading the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, I feel a little more closely aligned with my Baptist-ness. Because of this:
It is the duty of Christians to seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness. In accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ they should do all in their power to put an end to war.
Christians work to end war.
After spending two weeks in the Deep South, hearing a sermon about why boys are better than girls (see here) and having my grandmother exclaim that people who believe in same sex marriage can’t be Christian, I needed this reminder.
I am a Baptist.