Tuesday, July 18, 2006


One of the great things about being a Baptist is, when scriptures do not articulate with exactness a particular position of truth, such as this thing of the standard for recognizing a person as a member of a local congregation, we can decide our standard through the study and voice of the leaders and people of a fellowship. The present day culture of legalities and taxes and a ton of other things unknown to the original Church of the NT era have certainly created a need for some kind of statement.

It seems to me HHBC is giving serious thought to two principles as they decide their standard. One is the NT text. They are going to obey whatever is taught there. The other is they are going to meet people where they are and help bring them to where it is good for them to be in areas where some growth and understanding are perhaps needed. Both of these simpified objectives are my interrpretation of their hearts as I've read, heard, and spoken to several from that fellowship personally. They are to be commended for this IMO whether you agree with their decision or not. They are fulfilling what I observed and wrote in the first paragraph of this post.

If I understand their statements correctly, they would never receive anyone who refused to be baptized. They are choosing whether or not to receive some into membership, very few perhaps over the course of the years, who, for whatever physical reason, cannot be baptized by immersion. Then, were some to come who, after years of walking with the Lord, believes their baptism, after conversion, for a testimony of their personal faith in Christ, albeit by sprinkling, which they believe to be scriptural, is genuine, they would be received as members. Whereas, upon instruction and understanding of immersion as the best mode, were that time to ever come, can then be immersed as a conviction, not to comply with a standard for church membership that is not given with exactness in the text anyway.

This would build church membership upon scripture when it speaks clearly, and principles that guide them in relationships with God and with each other where clear instructions are not given. You may disagree with them, as I said, but you have to respect their tenacity in obeying scripture as they see it, and loving people without compromising the gospel. This is assuming baptism is not regenerational or salvific but testimonial in nature which assumption we Baptists would certainly embrace because of the text of scripture.

I've not said where I fall on every point here and for good reason. My thoughts are not that important to their discussion unless requested for one thing. But another thing comes into play for me as a Baptist. While I believe certain things that many local baptist fellowships would disagree with, such as elder leadership, reformed doctrine, and the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit till Jesus comes, I believe in the right to come to those positions of truth as a local congregation without outside interference. It would be an egregious offense, it seems to me, were I, or anyone else, to attempt to sway or lead the congregation a certain direction because of disagreeing with the leaders of that fellowhip. That would undermine the foundation of a local church totally.

Remember we're not talking about matters of salvation here. Or even the integrity of the text as infallible and inspired, or, with the new buzz word, inerrant, which I hold to. We're speaking of a regenerate body fleshing out their standard for relating to the Body of Christ and any of those who desire to congregate with them.

Also remember, these are my interrpretations of what I've heard them say. Where I misspeak their position, it is my error. Only they can adequately state their hearts. This is simply a brother trying to see where they are and express a respect for them and their willingness to travel the journey. Would that every church would take seriously obeying scripture and loving people. And if yours does, even from a different perspective of church membership, God bless you in the Kingdom's work.

Singing in the Reign

Paul Burleson


Bob Cleveland said...


Wish I'd said that. (I probably will at some future date).

It's amazing where it leads, when you simply insist on scripture .. not only its inerrancy, but also its applicability and its authority (over us). I finally understand what Paul said when he wrote "The doctrine I preached to you, I received from no man". That's a great place to be, albeit it lines you up, completely, with no one else.

And the really funny part of it is, that place is where we REALLY find unity in the faith.

I think I just learned something. That's a side benefit of saying things you never thought of, before.

Wes Kenney said...


I appreciate your thoughts here; there is much wisdom. I also have great appreciation for the way HHBC has gone about this. While I disagree with the proposed action, I think they have certainly approached it in the right way, and Pastor Newkirk has gone well beyond what could rightfully be expected. He has maintained his blog, and engaged in debate with commentors, all while on vacation. I imagine this drove his wife nuts.

I would like to gently take issue with some of the things you said in one of your paragraphs. You mentioned some of the things you believe that are not necessarily majority viewpoints among Southern Baptists. While it is true that they might place you in the minority, they are still clearly within the paramaters of the Baptist Faith and Message, which is wisely non-specific on those issues. But the BF&M, affirmed by the BGCO and the Capital Association, is quite specific on the issue in question at HHBC.

As to influence, I think it is entirely proper for those with whom HHBC is associated (BGCO & CBA) to make their views known on the matter. Both of those organizations have done so, with articles in the Messenger and a resolution adopted by the CBA Executive Board. The membership of HHBC certainly needs to understand the potential impact of their actions on their relationship with these organizations.

I have written that I would not want to see that communication become threatening, and I'm afraid some of what has been written in the Messenger this week crosses that line. But knowing how HHBC's elders have prepared thus far, I'm sure the congregation has been told to expect such rhetoric, and they will be able to take all this into account as they seek God's will by following their leadership and the Scriptures as the Spirit gives them understanding, which is what they should do.

Thanks, Paul, for continuing to make me think regarding these issues.

God bless.

Paul Burleson said...


You and I have a mutual admiration society going here it seems to me.
That's true in spite of the fact that we come down on differing sides of a point of doctrine. Thanks for that.

I would agree that Capital Baptist Asso. and even the State Convention
have the right as per bylaws to fellowship or disfellowship for what ever reason. HHBC can live with that though they desire it not happen.

I would say two things here, one is to adopt a resolution days before a vote with the words,"encourage the members of HHBC to maintain their current bylaws," steps over the line,IMO, to interference. There are times and places to debate and decide as an Association where we stand. But to move to encouraging members to do something specific is inappropriate to me. That would be my take if I pastored a church and a fellow SBC pastor of a neighboring chuch, days before a vote on a difficult issue, distributed a paper encouraging the members to say yes or no.

A second thing is, Dr. J M Curry, a trustee of Southern seminary in 1889 said this, "No religious denomination has a moral right to a seperate existence unless it springs from profound doctrinal differences. [so far so good -baptists/church of Christ etc] "To divide christians except for reasons of gravest import is criminal schism." He goes on to say, "to suppose we are kept apart from beloved brethren solely by our view on baptism and the Lord's supper is a grievious misapprehension." "The wall of partition IS NOT built of water, MUCH OR LITTLE, of rites or robes or ceremonials."

I appeal to baptists in history not because they are authoritative but to show that even in our history there were differences. I do not agree with all said in that article by Dr. Curry, but use it as an illustration of the fact that differences exit and have for years. But be careful of making anything non-related to salvation a point of fellowship. We fellowship around the person of Christ and Him crucified, and a mission program.

My final word in response is this, someone asked, "show me one person in the NT who was accepted into fellowship of a local church before being baptized." The response was, "show me one person in the NT who was accepted into a local church after being baptized." The point being this issue was not addressed in the NT because they were added by the Holy Spirit, they didn't join. They were an Organism not an organization as we are today. That's not to say what we have is wrong just different. Each group has to hammer out their standard for joining up. Let's just don't make it a point of heresy, or bad theology, or I'm right you're wrong so says the text when it doesn't say.

Thanks for weighing in Wes.

Paul B.