Papers on Baptist Identity
Sean Winter (a.k.a., the biblio-blogger “Sean the Baptist”) notes that a recent conference on Baptist identity was held at the Baptist seminary in Estal, Germany. You can find authors, titles, summaries, and links to the papers at Sean’s post here. A recurring theme of these papers is the extent to which Baptist churches are “autonomous.” This is an old issue. We Baptists were born with a congregational polity, allowing each congregation the freedom to call its own ministers and seek to order its life for Kingdom work as it discerned the leading of the Holy Spirit. But we also quickly exhibited a spirit of interdependence (traditionally called the “association principle”), creating ties and “intermediary structures” between congregations for work together in mission, but also mutual aid and fraternal admonition. These two impulses have not always pulled in the same direction; in fact, they have often stood in tension. In different times and places in Baptist life, local church “autonomy” been stronger and at other times and places, the intermediary structures (sometimes functioning in a synodical or even episcopal fashion) have been stronger. Here are some good scholarly papers reflecting on these tensions and seeking normative parameters from the historical descriptions. Fascinating.
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