On Being a Moderate Baptist

In the most recent issue of the Campbell Divinity School newsletter, Dean Andy Wakefield discusses the difficulty that we moderate Baptists have in describing our position. “It turns out,” he says, “that it is hard to describe the middle ground in a single, exciting sound bite.” Wakefield is lamenting the fact that at present, everyone appears to be gravitating to extremes in the expression of Christian faith.

 

Wakefield summarizes the struggles that Campbell has in trying to be a community that is faithful to Christ and to scripture while at the same time trying to be open to diverse cultures and viewpoints. We find ourselves caught between being “pushed into a fundamentalist corner,” or “minimizing the importance of the core of orthodox Christian belief,” as he puts it.

 

This is exactly the struggle that many of us moderate Baptists find ourselves living with. We believe in the traditional Christian faith, but we also recognize and are sensitive to the complexities of life and the human struggle. We know that many questions are not answered in the clear-cut way we would like them to be. At least, that is where I find my own thinking and my own faith.

 

Wakefield concludes his article by saying that he does know of a simple slogan that embodies this way of faith. Of course, it is the motto of the Campbell University Divinity School: “Christ- centered, Bible-based and Ministry-focused.” If we can adhere to that core, I think we may find our way to being faithful followers of Jesus.

 

Love in Christ,

Greg W. Burriss, Pastor

Rocky River Baptist Church

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Calm

This week in my daily prayers I have been reading Psalm 131.

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up

My eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

Like a weaned child with its mother;

My soul is like a weaned child with its mother.

O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time on and forever.

 

In a world where there is so much noise and anxiety, the image of this Psalm gives great comfort. We might paraphrase it this way:

 

Lord, I’m going to let go of all my worry about the world,

Violence and war and economic depression for this little while

And sit in your lap and let you care for me like my mother would.

I’m not crying for milk,

Just a moment to be calmed by Your Presence.

And to all my sisters and brothers,

Don’t give up remembering that this calm you feel in God’s presence

Is the down payment on God’s promise of eternal peace.

 

 

Love in Christ,

Greg W. Burriss, Pastor

Rocky River Baptist Church

 

What Would Jesus Do about Easter Violence?

On Easter Sunday this year, almost 70 people, mostly women and children were killed in Lahore Pakistan at a public park. Militant Islamists, part of the Taliban in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the bombing. The bombing killed Christians and Muslims.
Christian journalists and preachers were quick to condemn this horrible attack. Many of them encouraging us to recognize the horror but also to add this to a growing concern about Islamist groups targeting Christians with violence.
This event is a tragedy that we rightly condemn. The fact that Islamist terrorists targeted a mostly Christian area on a Christian holiday leaves no doubt that this was an act of religious aggression. We join the world in condemning the violence and grieving with the victims and their families.
But we must not allow these extremists to draw us into their culture war. Human history is full of violent persecutions and oppressions. Perhaps, it always will be. Hatred and jealousy and greed are not limited to any one group or religious expression. As Christians, followers of Jesus, we should grieve equally with all people any time such violence occurs. When we allow ourselves to be drawn into the rhetoric of “us” vs. “them” we demonstrate that our hearts have not been surrendered to the Prince of Peace.
After the bombing, a mob of 4000 Christians gathered and part of them lynched two men who were suspected to be involved in the incident. Everyone understands the desire for vengeance when this kind of attack occurs, but we serve a Master who said that we are to seek forgiveness and truth. A mob mentality is not acceptable simply because you think God is on your side.
The Taliban think that God is on their side. They use that belief to justify their violence. Jesus calls us to a better way.
Love in Christ,
Greg W. Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church