Baptist Ecclesiology – The Reaction
This is Part Three of series, for part one click here, for part two click here. Faced with a situation in theological college that I was unprepared for I thrust myself into a activist response, trying to create a “Baptist discourse” amongst my fellow students and to some extend, the faculty as well. In hindsight […]
Faced with a situation in theological college that I was unprepared for I thrust myself into a activist response, trying to create a “Baptist discourse” amongst my fellow students and to some extend, the faculty as well. In hindsight I must have come across as something of prat.
Being involved in editing the College student magazine, I co-wrote, with two fellow students an extended discussion of Baptist Ecclesiology in a contemporary context. That seemed to generate zero response from the fellow students and not a little sarcasm from the faculty.
Not long after I presented a paper on Baptist Polity at a major conference on Christianity and Politics at a nieghbouring college. Not one fellow student or member of faculty came, despite attending other sessions. The disappointment of that cut very deep and would later be critical in my relationship with my peers.
I had several experiments with email groups and lists (what us oldies used to do BB – before blogs) over the course of nearly five years and lists on contemporary Baptist Ecclesiology that all failed to fly (though some struggled hard). That left me with the impression that those who wanted to talk on the issue were mostly interested in historical arguments and those that seemed to have really interesting things to say about the contemporary scene, didn’t want to get caught up in “dead debates.”
But along with those false starts on the academic front, there were real misfires on the practical ministry side of things as well. I was starting to bear the scars caused by the friction between my ecclesiological idealism and the harsher realities of ministry in churches that were somewhat more pragmatic about their governance.
But however much I was feeling the pinch, it was more acute for a number of my friends and peers in the ministry. I was seeing some ugly things.
Once I was in London, my ministry was as a University Chaplain and there I noticed something rather odd. A very significant number of people I met who were mature switched-on believers had been Baptist, or involved in the Baptist church at some stage in their early journey of faith but had “moved-on.” This was both surprising and thought-provoking. Why had the Baptist “vision” that had inspired and enmeshed me not satisfied these folk?
Around the same time my thinking about faith and mission in the postmodern context started to develop, deepen and mature, moving away from the “concepts” I had inherited at theological college. I was becoming aware again that many of the core “ideas” of the Baptist faith (especially if we get past congregational government), notions like soul-competence, independence of the local church, freedom of religion could very easily resonate with our moment in history.
So I was faced with a very real tension, between the conceptual appeal of the Baptist vision, especially the potential for a new Baptistic Theology for the postmodern/cosmopolitan/global moment and the harsh sociological reality of Baptist life with the hurt and dissatisfation it was often creating.
To bother doing the theology, it seemed clear I needed to look deeper into the sociological abyss…
[tags] Baptist, Ecclesiology [/tags]