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2BC BLOG

A Note from Pastor Jason-September Newsletter

A Historic Move

I’m so proud of you.

At our July Church Conference, we made a historic move toward greater inclusion and ecumenism. After voting to accept the Deacon Baptism Task Force’s report and recommendations, we voted to amend our church membership policy. Until now, our policy (like the majority of Baptist churches in our world) has stated that only followers of Christ who have experienced believer’s baptism by immersion could be church members. At our meeting, you opened the doors wide for followers of Jesus from any Christian tradition to become full members of our church by affirming both their commitment to Jesus as Lord and the present meaningfulness of their Christian baptism. Baptists strongly value soul freedom, so this decision is quite baptistic.

I’m as proud of the way we came to this decision as I am enthused by the decision itself.

Our recent process has been well documented. Following a retreat focused on baptism, the Deacon body engaged in a year-long study of baptism and church membership, which prompted them to develop a process for our church to engage this topic deeply as well. This included a Sunday lunch presentation, a Sunday morning Bible study series, a Wednesday night study series, numerous distributed baptism stories from our congregation, a formal survey of our congregation’s views on the subject, multiple Q & A sessions, a reflection time for the Task Force and then a formal report with recommendations (still available to you) which was formally accepted by the Deacon body, the Church Council and finally, the Church.

The process alone was impressive. It was thoughtful and thorough. It took time, but difficult issues are worth our thorough, thoughtful attention. We are well aware that some churches have lost many members and experienced much pain as they wrestled with these issues. Your grace and openness throughout was beautiful. And honestly, I wasn’t surprised.

I wasn’t surprised because this way of being is part of our congregational ethos and I wasn’t surprised because this process was actually prompted by your empathy and compassion long before that Deacon retreat in 2014. I specifically remember your feedback during our 2010 visioning retreat with Tom Sine. In public share times, people mentioned concern about loved ones who could not be members here because they felt a second baptism would diminish the meaningfulness of their first. For them, not being baptized again was a matter of Christian conviction. Months later, after we adopted our mission statement, values, and the B’s (Belong. Believe. Become), some of you came to me (and I assume to each other) and said things like “if we really mean “belong,” shouldn’t we amend our membership policy?” Many of you have been wrestling with this for quite some time.

Relationship and reflection led to questions of concern, rooted in compassion. This prompted study. So much study. So many conversations. So much processing, filled with so much listening. Real listening. And it was all, from beginning to end, rooted and grounded in love.

I’m so proud of you.

From beginning to end our Deacons have said they wanted to develop a model for how our church might engage in any difficult dialogue. I think they have. And I hope it will serve as more than a model for future congregational conversations.

In the midst of potentially conflictual conversations, I have observed a Spirit in you, and between you, our world needs to experience more often. Concern. Compassion. Thoughtfulness. Listening. Real Listening. Love. Grace. Our world desperately needs so much more of this. And, this is how Jesus wants us to embody life in this world. If this is not our normal mode of operation, perhaps we need to amend our policy.

With a grateful heart,

 

Senior Pastor

 

Posted by Jason Edwards at 9:29 AM
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