Community, Commitment and Conflict … Church?

A long-time family friend e-mailed me recently. We had talked a few months ago about a matter in his local church rising to the level of denominational point of contention. Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond, OK made public a lengthy study into the relationship between church membership and baptism. Our state baptist paper waded into the discussion with a "special edition" – albeit a bit one-sided in the scope of its articles. I have been made aware this may in part be attributed to few who would write representing what appeared to be the church’s leaning. The local association of which HHBC is a part took a step to clarify its understanding of the matter. Since that time all has been quiet until last week.

The Elders of HHBC released a "Statement of Closure." Church polity remains the purview of a local congregation among Baptists. The community of faith that is HHBC trusts its leadership to its elders. This is an agreement of the community. It is a commitment. All communities, real communities, form around commitments. Agreement to these commitments may come in the form of taking up residence in a given local geo-political communnity – a town like Tuttle or Edmond. These commitments are both voluntary and involuntary. Since we do not move into a community under coercion – at least not in normal circumstances – the commitment to a community is voluntary. Once in the city limits of a given community, the new resident takes up the commitment to community and experiences the ethos of that community in which it now participates and may be involuntary. For example, if a community to which one moves is mono-cultural then the new resident involuntarily lives under the ethos of that culture. It may be the person grew up in a multi-cultural urban center.  His or her sensibilities  prefer a diverse culture. However, now living in a mono-cultural community  these sensibilities must be managed.

Reading an article Nathan recently pointed me to describes something of the resulting commitments made to community. Central to the development of community lie commitments to that  community. In a recent ETREK conference call Dallas Willard noted the commitment to the people of his church held his interest to continue participation. He acknowledged he could well find another church with which he might find greater agreement but he was called to the people with whom he continues to  learn to be a lover of God. In The Missional Church the writers quote David Lowes Watson, "we find narcissism … and individualism … masquerading as personal salvation and religious experience , … as privatized soteriology and spiritualized discipleship, … leaving the principalities and powers of the present world unchallenged." When our commitment is to ourselves we may well think we look for community and the greater good, but what we really look for is a therapeutic community in which we look to have not only our beliefs ratified but a place to continually be reminded we made the right decision at some point in time.

Conflict Eventually we face conflict. We all face the discomfort differently. We know the idiom, "Fight or flight." These polar opposites tend to undermine a third way – conversation. I am glad for the illustration of Henderson Hills. I am not naive enough to believe some people did not leave when the matter surfaced publicly. It appears however that after thoughtful discussion and prayer the community  found strength in its commitments to one another through the  conflict so that in the "Statement of Closure" it could be noted,

2. This difference  of opinion  does not indicate ill will, hostility, or a division among council members. It is simply different ways of looking at aspects of the subject of baptism.

3. We do not foresee a consensus of  understanding on this subject. Therefore, barring an unexpected and obvious divine  intervention, this matter must be dismissed in order for the council  and church to move on with helping people improve their relationship with God and each other.

Those who remained illustrated a commitment to one another. The matter is larger than any one individual’s opinion. Our greater allegiance is to the mission of God – bringing the realities of the Kingdom to bear in our communities and social environs in ways a the principalities and powers of the world may be challenged. When our ethics follow the virtues of the Kingdom the look, feel and experience of our relationships illustrate life under the rule and reign of God; a way of life calling others to join in the Kingdom of God.

Gerald, thanks for the e-mail. Henderson Hills we needed the  healthy illustration of commitment and conflict in the church for the glory of God and the blessing of the world.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

4 comments on “Community, Commitment and Conflict … Church?

  1. says:

    Twenty years ago this would have ended in a blood bath.
    It is nice to know there are people in charge with intelligence and leadership when it is needed.
    …The issue for me was ALWAYS, why did Baptists require a more stringent baptism than Jesus?

  2. says:

    If, as some assert, Baptists trace their history to the “Anabaptists”, the issue of baptism was hard fought and left many dead in the process. Hopefully the other Anabaptist thread of pacifism or non-violence will continue to hold sway the further we move away from the Baptists battles.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Todd…I thought you might pick up on the news. I was going to write and point you to the statement.

    All is well at HHBC. God is at work revealing Himself in very unique ways. More about that to come later.

    The Elder Council is strong and healthy. We’ve even added a new Elder to the Council. It was almost a unanimous vote for the man. Missed unanimous by one vote. Great sign of health we believe.

    Some good things have come from our struggle this past year. Our commitment to baptism is stronger than ever. We will not baptize someone JUST to join the church. We are more careful to make sure that those joining the church have a personal relationship with our Savior. Members have been encouraged to study what the Bible says instead of just relying on what one thinks, what tradition says, or a denomination states. Our commitment to ‘Semper Reformandum’ is still a major part of the DNA of Henderson Hills. These are just a few I can think of at 11pm.

    Please continue to pray for Henderson Hills. As my grandfather always said, “We need the prayeres and you need the practice.”

    Hope all is well with you and your family. Thanks for all the support during the last year.

  4. says:

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing from the inside. Glad to hear about the apparent health of the congregation. More than that, the third statement is one I do hope many pay attention to. Too many think “agreement” is the sign of health. A better sign is the ability to love when there are differences without feeling the need to jet and find another place. I really do think that posture is more Kingdom thinking and living than anything else.


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