Thursday, August 03, 2006
Follow Up on Henderson Hills BC and Baptism
Following up on Henderson Hills BC's consideration of removing believer's baptism as a requirement for church membership (see my previous post), Pastor Dennis Newkirk announced on his blog on Monday (7/31) that he and the elders decided to "stop" consideration of the vote. In that post he mentions a meeting he and four other HHBC elders had with an unnamed, out of town theologian/author (Piper?) last week that lasted from 9am Wednesday morning till 4 am Thursday morning. Now that's a theological discussion! He then returned for seven hours of meetings over two days with the rest of his elders!
The end result: they did not put the vote forward. This was the same outcome Piper's Bethlehem BC had last December. In both cases the proposal is in limbo. It seems a problem of conscience is created where you have leaders who have gone on record as not being in agreement with their church's doctrinal stance (in this case men who do not believe believer's baptism by immersion is essential for church membership when their church's doctrinal statement teaches this very thing). By the way, despite the fact that this decision was "shared" with elders, note how Newkirk is still the lightning rod on this. It seems that replacing Solo Pastor/deacons with Pastor/elders does not necessarily change things.
One major caution evangelical churches (like HHBC) should take on this issue is that they are choosing to do the same thing that many moderate/liberal CBF affiliated churches are doing. They are eliminating believer's baptism by immersion as a test of membership and adopting "open membership" (in our community, University Baptist Church has recently adopted just such an "open memberhip" policy). The only difference is that in liberal Baptist churches their members, theologians, and sister churches are not opposing it. The problem is that once you do this you make baptism a secondary matter and essentially cease being a Baptist church (except in name) and become an Evangelical Free church or a non-denominational church or some such. I, for one, do not think denominationalism is bad. Someone is right and someone is wrong on baptism. I do not think my Presbyterian friends are not Christians, but I do think they are mistaken on baptism. There is nothing wrong with people who find agreement on the New Testament practice of baptism coming together to form a distinctively "Baptist" church.