I never thought it would happen, but I am becoming a baptist — that is, I am becoming a member of an American Baptist Church.
The church I have been attending is affiliated with the American Baptists and I have decided to become a member because (a) a Christian not part of a church is like an orphan; (b) I want to be able to serve and use my gifts at the church more; (c) I believe in the vision and mission of the church; and (d) I am drawn to and excited by the work of church planting.
But as I have learned more about American Baptists, I can honestly say that it is about as close to who I am theologically as any denomination I have seen and I excited by their history and to be a part of the movement.
For those not familiar with American Baptists, here are ten facts about them:
1. American Baptists believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, and that the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God that serves as the final written authority for living out the Christian faith.2. For American Baptists the local church is the fundamental unit of mission in denominational life. Baptists always have maintained the need for autonomous congregations. 3. American Baptists partake of two ordinances or sacraments: believer’s Baptism and Holy Communion. 4. American Baptists believe that the committed individual Christian can and should approach God directly, and that individual gifts of ministry should be shared. They have rejected creeds or other statements that might compromise each believer’s obligation to interpret Scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 5. American Baptists take seriously the call to evangelism and missionary work. 6. American Baptists support religious freedom and respect the expressions of faith of others. This includes support for the separation of church and state. 7. American Baptists acknowledge that God’s family extends beyond our local churches, and that God calls us to cooperative ministries. That outreach extends worldwide through our relationships with the Baptist World Alliance, the National Council of Churches of Christ, the World Council of Churches, and other groups. 8. American Baptists have been called to be Christ’s witnesses for justice and wholeness within a broken society. As Part of that wholeness American Baptists support the Civil Rights Movement and the role of women to minister in the church as equal partners and servants with men. American Baptists have ordained women to ministry for 125 years! 9. American Baptist Churches USA celebrate the racial, cultural and theological diversity witnessed within its membership. American Baptist Churches USA is the most racially inclusive Protestant body. 10. American Baptists heed the biblical call to renewal and the need for a vital witness in a new millennium.
When we first planted a church in Storrs, we actually wanted to affiliate with a denomination but could find none that worked. We didn’t look closely at American Baptists because there was already an ABC church in town.
All American Baptist churches are independent and congregationally governed, led by am pastor/elder. I think it is a strong governance model.
The ABC denomination is one of the most diverse in America — both in terms of ethnicity/race and in theology. Some churches are quote liberal, others quite conservative. The church I am joining is a socially progressive evangelical church — something pretty unique on the church landscape. It is a church I am excited to be a part of.