Ahh, denominational tussles. Gotta love them. I came across this essay, “Episcopal and Baptist Christianity — The Essential Difference”, by the Rev. Dr. Richard Laribee. Rev. Laribee is a former Baptist pastor who left the Baptist fold because he could not, with integrity, continue to preach in the Baptist tradition of soul liberty. But he takes us Baptists to task as being too individualistic. Naturally, I couldn’t let it just lie there, unanswered. Here’s my brief response to Rev. Laribee.
Rev. Laribee: Your essay is both interesting but ultimately mischaracterizes Baptists. At least those Baptists I worship with. Two things I pose for your consideration. First, you wrote,
The Baptist focus on the individual, symbolized by the carrying by each individual of their own, personal copy of the Bible, looks at evangelism as getting people to become individual disciples.
Yes, and no. We are all called to carry out the Great Commission, both as individuals and as a member of the body of Christ, i.e. the church, regardless of denomination. This is as true for Episcopalians as it is for Catholics as it is for Methodists as it is for us pesky Baptists.
And this leads rather directly to your second mischaracterization, when you wrote:
We [Episcopalians] read the Bible in community, pray in community, serve Christ in community, and worship in community, not primarily because these help the individual (which of course, they do!!), but because these are our responsibilities as members of a community of faith. We are not our own: we belong to one another, and collectively, we belong to Jesus Christ.
This is exactly how I would characterize my Baptist church. Any Baptist who would say that he is only a disciple of Christ by and for himself is rather confused, and needs to be better informed.
Baptists were formed out of respect for the individual’s conscience; out of respect for our need to make up our own minds about how we worship God through Jesus Christ. We are every bit as much a community of disciples as the Episcopalians. Do not confuse a less formal liturgy with a lessened sense of community.
On a personal note, I’m a refugee from the ECUSA, having left in sadness at its lack of biblical faithfulness. I’m not angry; just realized that while there may be three legs on that stool (Scripture, tradition, reason), many in ECUSA had completely divorced their sense of church from Scripture. And no amount of reason, nor of tradition, can replace the Word of God.
| technorati tag | Christianity|