Some thoughts on being Baptist
At Metro Baptist Church we take pride in the "Baptist" part of our name and the heritage it reflects. "Baptist" is a wide category that can mean a lot of different things depending on who you ask. The Baptist historian, Bill Leonard, has written an entire book about all the varying ways of being Baptist. When we say "Metro Baptist Church," here's some of what I think we mean...
As Baptists, we stand in a long line of people who are passionate proponents of the priesthood of every believer. God speaks to all of us individually, so it is the right and responsibility of every person to have a personal relationship with God that is voluntary and not dependent on any institution, clergy or creed.
Being Baptist means that this freedom of every individual believer extends to every individual church. This principle, often called local church autonomy, means that our individual church must constantly seek God's will and follow in the way we determine God is leading us. No larger body or denomination determines our membership or leadership, tells us who we can or cannot ordain for ministry, orders our priorities, or defines our mission and vision. Under the lordship of Christ, we make these decisions on our own.
Given the importance of individual freedom, another vital part of our Baptist identity and heritage is the affirmation of Religious Liberty and the Separation of Church and State. Our long-time relationship with the Baptist Joint Committee has reminded us of the importance of these tenets and their continued relevance today. For centuries, Baptists have argued that government must not interfere with the free exercise of religion. In the same way, even as our faith shapes our individual political values, our church is not a forum for political posturing or promotion.
These commitments represent our best understanding of Scripture, as the centrality of Scripture is another core Baptist belief. Each individual is responsible to interpret the Bible dilligently and freely. Given its importance in our lives and in our church, we work hard to be responsible in our interpretations of the Bible.
Finally and most importantly, being Baptist means affirming the lordship of Christ. We are followers of Jesus, doing our best to follow in his ways and live out his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
There are many ways of being Baptist. At Metro, the defining characteristic is freedom - of the soul, the church, the individual. This freedom is vibrant and visible at Metro. In fact, we see the extension of this freedom in the commitments to justice, openness, innovation and social engagement that are so much a part of our church. These values come not in spite of the fact that we are Baptist, but - we believe - as a graceful and compelling expression of what "Baptist" means.
For an intro of Baptist heritage and identity, check out Walter Shurden's book, The Baptist Identity: Four Fragile Freedoms.