Authority and Power in the Free Church Tradition: A Social Case Study of the American Baptist Convention

Authority and Power in the Free Church Tradition: A Social Case Study of the American Baptist Convention

Authority and Power in the Free Church Tradition: A Social Case Study of the American Baptist Convention

Authority and Power in the Free Church Tradition: A Social Case Study of the American Baptist Convention

Excerpt

Baptists are proud of their history and devoted to the principles of their faith. They justifiably boast of great fighters for freedom in America, England, and Holland. They have advocated the principle of separation of church and state and have been in the forefront of the struggle for independency in the secular as well as the religious world. Many of the assertions of the early Baptists were treated as blasphemous and presumptuous and some of the leaders of the movement were unmercifully persecuted as religious fanatics dedicated to the destruction of the true faith.

Their emphasis upon the competence of the individual to discern the mind of Christ within a community of worship and discipline has produced some of the greatest preachers in the history of Protestantism. The Baptists were in the vanguard of the modern missionary enterprise and they contributed important leadership to the Social Gospel movement. They have labored to meet the needs of disinherited people everywhere in the world and have fostered the idea of the gathered church where all who have faith in the gospel shall unite for mutual inspiration and service to the kingdom of God.

This study is written by one who is dedicated to the purpose of the Baptist witness, by one who is profoundly indebted to those leaders of the past and present who have suffered for the principles of their faith. For it is only within a religious environment where free and mutual criticism is respected as a fundamental element of church polity that an effort such as this can be accepted in the spirit in which it was written.

The problem which this study seeks to analyze arises from a discrepancy between the Baptist doctrine of the church and the polity of the American Baptist denomination. For more than a century the Baptists have emphasized the freedom of the individual in all matters of faith and practice. In addition, they have insisted upon the autonomy of the local church . . .

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