In seminary I searched for my denominational identity. I had always been a Baptist, but that label came with a lot of baggage. I tried on a few other denominations that first year, but none of them really fit. It was only when I attended a local congregation’s Bible study on Baptist distinctives that I realized I was – am – in fact a proud Baptist.
The struggle then was being a future-oriented Baptist in the south, where many of my progressive peers were expending a lot of energy mourning a pre-fundamentalist Southern Baptist Convention that I had never known. I tried to understand their pain, but it was tough. There was no pendulum swing coming in the SBC, and new networks were emerging for centrist and left-leaning Baptists. There was clearly a new normal at play, one that I was enthusiastic about.
I heard echoes of my experience in this blog post by a new(ish)comer to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which gathered in Ohio last week. (Discipledom is my second home these days.) Sara Fisher writes this about the passion and faithfulness she witnessed at her first General Assembly, even as longtime Disciples grieved the shrinking attendance:
“As a new-ish Disciple, this IS normal….This is what I signed up for.”
Yes, newbies need to be historically aware and sensitive to those who see demise where we see life. But as long as people are joining us and saying, this IS what I signed up for , the church has a future. May those with institutional memory allow the whippersnappers to infuse some energy into the system, and may we young’uns remember that the longtimers still have vast knowledge and needed leadership to offer.