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