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8.06.2005    |    Note to a Baptist Minister-turned-Episcopal Priest
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.

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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.