What Happens When Baptists Gather

Nearly a full week of Baptist meetings, first at CBF and then at ABC, prompt me to reflect on the significance of these gatherings.  Of course we eat too much, interrupt normal sleep patters, and spend too much money.  Yet, there are incalculable outcomes from taking this time to be together.  I will list just a few; I am sure you can think of more.

 

CBF Photo – Flickr

 

ABCUSA Photo – Facebook

 

1.  We recognize that the mission of God is so much larger than our own piece of the action.  Remarkable initiatives are afoot–from combatting poverty, to assimilating immigrants, to practicing diversity, to proclaiming and enacting justice throughout the world–these Baptist bodies are seeking to be faithful in our time.
Learning of the work of other kindles new resolve to expand our reach.  It matters that we not be insular.

 

2.  We realize afresh the ties that bind our hearts in Christian love.  Colleagues and students, students now colleagues, missionaries we pray for, ministries we support, leaders we respect, all converge in these gatherings.  We scrutinize each other’s name tags then proclaim “you haven’t changed a bit.”  It is renewing to see friends, our kin in the venture of faith to which we are summoned.  It especially fun to welcome the little ones.

 

 

 

At Central’s breakfast at CBF, one of our students brought her five year old nephew.  She introduced me as President, to which he retorted: “the Pwesident?  I hope she’s nicer than Twump!”  Out of the mouths of babes, truly.

 

3.  We engage the growing diversity of Baptist identity, both ethnically and theologically.  Of course we are aware of the shifting demographics in American citizenry; ABC has long been more diverse than CBF, but change is coming to this younger body, too.  How beautiful is the Body of Christ as our richer and paler hues are aligned and our languages prompt common praise.

 

CBF Photo – Flickr

CBF Photo – Flickr

 

On Saturday morning, Central convened leaders of the Burma Diaspora to talk about new initiatives in theological education.  What else is needed beyond the collaboration with Myanmar Institute of Theology and our FOUNDATIONS Judson Communities work?  These leaders had perceptive ideas for next steps.
 

 

Baptists are not uniform theologically, yet we believe in key principle such as liberty of conscience that can out us at odds with one another.  We are not a “silent people,” in the words of Walter Shurden.  Yet, we pray that our noise may be quieted by listening and seeking common ground.

ABCUSA Photo – Facebook

 

4.  The Spirit of God breathes fresh life into us.  There is a clear recognition in each Baptist organism that the Spirit is continually empowering us to move into God’s future.  Clearly, without the imagination of the Spirit, who is always transgressing human boundaries, we would shrink back from the enormity of what God is calling us to do.  Although we leave wearied by the crammed schedules, we also depart with gratitude for God’s vulnerable and powerful nearness to God’s beloved.

ABCUSA Photo – Facebook

 

CBF Photo – Flikr

 

Thanks goodness ABC only does this every other year.  It might be a good idea for CBF to recalibrate its assembly schedule, alternating years with its Baptist cousins.  That way some of us might be able to attend the full meeting of both.  My two cents worth.  Selah.

 

Molly T Marshall

 

Central prepares creative leaders for diverse ministry contexts.