Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I've been quite surprised by how several blogs have picked up my previous post about my changed views on women in life and ministry and linked their readers to the original. I've also been appreciative of the comments I've received on my own blog. It is obvious with my being a baptist that my view is a little different than some other baptists hold to. That may be a slight understatement. :)

Someone genuinely inquired of me how could anyone pastor a baptist church today and hold this view. Thanks for asking. My answer to that question is simple. The same way I've always pastored churches. That is, at least, for the past forty years of a fifty year ministry. [It took me a little while to move out of Fundamentalism.] In the fundamentalism I practiced during my first ten years of ministry what I said 'went' BECAUSE I was the pastor. [Positional authority you see..like home like church unfortunately. But that only lasted for about ten years thank the Lord.]

There have been several theological issues through the years that I've held to that were a bit different than the congregation that I pastored. Some of those differences were even written into the by-laws of some of those congregations. For example baptism. Several years ago I came to see that baptism, in my personal understanding, was an ordinance that testified a person had been identified/baptized by the Spirit into Christ __His life, death and resurrection__ and__ having experienced God's Grace in Christ__ was announcing/picturing that fact through water baptism [ immersion], whether done in a church, creek, by a Baptist, AG, Campus Crusade, or whomever. Having done so, they were now ready for local church membership if the congregation accepted their testimony. Were I the one to baptize them, I would do so, and I then asked all who wanted to receive them as members to shout 'amen.' [I called it 'greeting' them] You can see I came to believe that baptism IS NOT the door into local church membership. So I accepted one's testimony of their conversion and immersion [if mode and meaning were as I've stated] whether it was done in a church or by a baptist or not.

Not every church I pastored agreed with my interpretation of baptism. A couple of them had by-laws that stated otherwise. A large church I pastored in the eighties was one of those. With such churches I followed what had been accepted by the congregation as a whole and had been formulated into a guiding document of practice. I was able to lead some of them to change that document after a few years of teaching and building what I call high trust low fear with them. A couple I didn't even try to bring about a change of the by-laws for various reasons. In none was there a congregational split or a "my way or the highway" mentality on either side. For crying out loud we were all adults generally and certainly, beyond that, christian. We recognized there is only one Lord and His name was/is Jesus... not Paul Burleson. [Or theirs for that matter.]

There were some other theological issues in this category. For example....

Multiple Elders/Pastors
Divorced deacons/elders,
Gifts of the Spirit,
Ordination of men and women to ministries,
The Lord's supper and it's participants,
The five points of Calvinism

Several others could be named.

Those issues that became important enough, for whatever reasons, and needed to be decided on as a church body, we prayed, studied, debated, and came to a position and accepted it. If one or another of the staff held a different view than had been agreed upon, which happened occasionally, that person was able, in fact expected, to present their particular position when they taught on a passage or a subject but were always required to show the church had taken a position a bit different than theirs and that our congregational voice would be followed because the people believed they had heard from the Lord as a body about that particular truth.

This happened to me more than once. Divorce automatically disqualifying one for ordination is an example. I submitted to the congregation which had an adopted document stating a position other than mine but showed why I had a different personal view of the scriptures on it. Were it to ever have become too big a point of conviction for me I would have either asked the church to reconsider our official position [I did this a couple of times] or I would find another place to serve. [In all my years I never had to leave.] Sometimes I was able to live with it and sometimes they were willing to hear me. Remember that what the church decided as a position on a matter and wrote into a guiding document NEVER assumed the authority of scripture. It could be reconsidered. It was this Lordship thing. We had settled that. It was also this autonomy thing. We had settled that too.

You might be interested to know Mary and I finished a ten year ministry with a new start church [as members not pastor] a couple of years ago and were in the process of finding where we were to be in local church life. We heard of Henderson Hills in Edmond Oklahoma and their decision to examine scripture about this issue of baptism being the door into membership or not. We knew immediately they were courageous and were desiring to be biblical in whatever they practiced. The outcry from a few other baptist congregations and leaders was ferocious. We loved the spirit of HHBC as they responded and decided to visit. The worship, word and spirit blew us away and we had found our place of service. We're still there.

With due respect to any who hold a position one way or another on that issue of the door to church membership it is for a congregation to search the scriptures and make such decisions. That's being baptist as well as biblical.

A decision about that issue has unofficially been made at HHBC. You may ask whether I agree with it or not. It doesn't matter. When I speak, and I have, I teach what I believe about whatever text I'm dealing with at the time and abide with the congregation on any positions [official or unofficial] that have been taken for whatever reasons they've been taken. Well...you get the picture. I love it.

By the way, my present fellowhip [HHBC] does NOT hold to the position on women in ministry I hold to. But that's OK on both sides. I''ll bet, if I were a betting baptist, we differ on several of those ever present truths that are non-salvific. But we love studying the text and finding the meaning together. It's called "koinonia" and it's great.

I'm presenting this because there is abroad in the SBC, of which I'm a part, a mentality that seems to be saying you have to agree on all issues to truly be a baptist. I think being a baptist is tied as much to the spirit I saw in the local churches I pastored and in my present fellowship as it is in creating a catalogue of things that must be believed in order to be a baptist in good standing. Then we can cooperate with other baptist churches in a missionary endeavor and a convention experience annually if we choose.

Being a baptist is fine. I am one as I've labored to show. Being a New Testament christian and a Kingdom person by loving anyone who names the name of Jesus as Lord and discussing different views of non-salvific matters with grace, is more than fine. It may be as/more important than being a baptist. I am the former by personal choice and conviction. I am the latter by personal conversion and want to show it by character and koinonia as well as belief and behavior.

Nuff said. Back to the drawing board on what we're presently looking at next time.

[Next time Old School/New School thinking on worship.... the Lord willing.]

Paul B.


Bob Cleveland said...

Amen all the way. There are a ton of statements there to which I said "Hey ... that's me & my pastor he's talking about ...".

Paul Burleson said...


I know from experience it is guys like you that make pastoring easier and more fun.

Lin said...

"I'm presenting this because there is abroad in the SBC, of which I'm a part, a mentality that seems to be saying you have to agree on all issues to truly be a baptist. I think being a baptist is tied as much to the spirit I saw in the local churches I pastored and in my present fellowship as it is in creating a catalogue of things that must be believed in order to be a baptist in good standing. Then we can cooperate with other baptist churches in a missionary endeavor and a convention experience annually if we choose."

The SBC churches I grew up in had many people who disagreed on secondary doctrines. It was normal and considered part of being in the Holy Priesthood. The focus used to be Jesus Christ, scripture, narrow gate and Grace.

It was always the Presbyterians down the street that got caught up in hierarchies and doing things just so. We always felt sorry for them ;O)

Paul Burleson said...


Both of your paragraphs are so true of what I experienced as well.

By the way, as I said on your blog, that is a GREAT series you have done on 'Elders.'

Anonymous said...

This post made my cry...I long to have such a heart as yours in pastoring...filled with such grace. I am a few years behind you but believing God for it! Thanks for being so inspiring. I agree with most of your theology...but I always agree with your loving, kind, graceful spirit!
I will be in Yukon tomorrow through next Wed. Expect my call.


Paul Burleson said...


I'll look forward to your call.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday! Can't believe you are 68...that means that I am...well, never mind.
Hope your day was great and that you have many, many more.
Ken Colson

Paul Burleson said...


Thanks. Whatever your age, you're still a young whipper-snapper compared to me. Good to hear from you.

Anonymous said...

I think the best part of your whole post is the phrase, "For crying out loud, we were all adults, generally, and certainly beyond that, Christians."

I think, if we trust each other and we realize that interpreting scripture is not an exact science, and we realize that salvation is not dependent on getting our doctrine in lock step with what someone else thinks is right, we can all get along.

Alyce Faulkner said...

Paul, Mackey just yesterday celebrated his 68th as well. Happy B-day and we are eagerly awaiting your arrival in Sherwood.
Needless to say "AMEN" what a refreshing joy you are to us.

Paul Burleson said...


I think you are right on.


See you very soon and looking forward to it.