I recently had the privilege of preaching at Oakhurst Baptist Church in Atlanta for Religious Liberty Sunday. It was a great opportunity to revisit our Baptist heritage fighting for the separation of church and state and religious freedom for everyone, not just Baptists, and how that legacy has been forgotten by so many.
In the wake of a General Assembly in which progress is being celebrated on bettering the relationship of the CBF with the LGBTQ community, with the announcement of the Illumination project and the statement in the wake of Orlando, I want to feel some joy, but I can’t help but feel some sense of reservation. Everywhere I looked, I saw nametags showing solidarity with the LGBTQ community, and a statement making the rounds on social media rapidly garnered hundreds of names of individuals willing to take a stand while also showing they were committed to remaining with the CBF in this effort. It gives me hope, and I think we’re finally making moves in the right direction, but, I can’t celebrate, not yet. Three particular issues stand out to me in reflecting on the week.
The book I’m looking at today is Reimagining Zion: A History of the Alliance of Baptists, by Andrew Gardner. This is the first book-length history of the Alliance of Baptists, and represents the fulfillment of a promise to Alan Neely made prior to his death by Mahan Siler that a history of the group would be completed.
The book is divided into three sections: Leaving Zion, Reimagining Zion, and Living Zion. Leaving Zion (Pt. 1) provides a broad historical overview of the Alliance of Baptists. This is done by first placing the Alliance within the context of Baptist history through an examination of the earliest Baptist movements. Particular emphasis is placed on the values and characteristics of those groups, whose identity as religious dissenters with a passion for liberty was central to the formation of the Alliance. The overview then turns to an examination of the Southern Baptist Convention and the string of controversies leading to the eventual decision to form the Southern Baptist Alliance in 1987. The discussion next focuses on the history of the Alliance since its formation and into the present day. Reimagining Zion (Pt. 2), presents a more in-depth look at the work and ministry of the Alliance since its founding. This is done through first examining the drafting of the Alliance Covenant. The seven chapters which follow each focus on a specific tenet addressed in the Covenant and the ways in which the Alliance has worked to embody these principles as an organization through descriptions of the group’s efforts in ecumenism, education, gender and sexual equality, social justice, religious liberty, and missions, to name a few. Finally, Living Zion (Pt. 3) turns to an ethnographic analysis of eight Alliance churches. Each chapter in this section presents a brief history of the church being addressed, a description of the congregational makeup and worship space, and an account of the worship experience at that church. This analysis, while brief, provides insight into the diverse congregational makeup of the Alliance.
This week, in a Washington Post editorial, Russell Moore, chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, explained why the current election cycle has led him to reject the label of “evangelical.” Given the way in which the term has been co-opted for political expediency, Moore has opted to distance himself from the term altogether, instead referring to himself as a “Gospel Christian.” While I appreciate what Moore is saying, and that is something I can rarely say, I also find myself somewhat frustrated. Continue reading “My Response to Russell Moore”
I’d like to take a few moments to talk to you about everyone’s favorite subject: heresy. It’s not a term we hear all that often anymore, but the meaning behind it still appears every once in a while. Christians in America today seem to spend half their time debating who’s right and who’s heretical. As Baptists, the idea of heresy should seem completely foreign to us. To accuse someone of heresy would be utterly hypocritical on our parts. Continue reading “Heretics On A Quest For Truth”
I just wanted to pass along a post I wrote which is currently being run by Baptist News Global. You can see it on their site here.
So much death. So much hurt. We look around now, and it’s all we see.
State-sponsored executions, with more to come. Mass shootings. A plane crash in Afghanistan.
It’s hard to come away from this with any feelings of hope. It’s hard to come away from this singing joyfully of the love and peace of God. The pain felt by our country and our world makes it difficult to feel any joy. The only emotions to come naturally are anger and sadness, even toward God.
So, this past Sunday I was the on-call chaplain at the hospital. The Sunday on-call, in addition to typical chaplain duties, also leads two chapel services. So, naturally, I had to prepare a sermon. I more or less follow the Revised Common Lectionary; but, I am a Baptist after all, so I reserve the right to reject the establishment whenever I feel like it. So, I tweaked some parts of the reading and decided to do my sermon on Job 2. The Power of Presence. Good title, right? It was too bad there were no bulletins or anything, so nobody in the congregation saw the title unless they looked at where it was scrawled across the top of my notes. But, it didn’t really matter, because I never got to preach. I was halfway through the Psalm reading when my phone starts going off in my pocket. I was really hoping it was just one of my friends asking why I wasn’t at church. No such luck. I was needed in ICU to work a case that wound up lasting well into the afternoon. So, my sermon never saw the light of day, although, it really could be said that I practiced what I never got to preach. All the same, since I really kinda liked the message that I almost delivered, I thought I’d share a brief version of it here. Still a bit of a lengthy read, but stay with me. So, on to Job…
Continue reading “The Power of Presence”