FAITH MATTERS PASTOR KAREN E. STEWART – Published in the Arizona Republic (c)12 2017
“Baptists: We are many, but we also are one”
If you do a Google search on the word “Baptist,” your results will have a list of many types of Baptists! Wow! It almost leads you to believe that Baptists are many different religions instead of being one Body of Believers.
In the USA, we are listed from Free, Reformed and Independent Baptists to Southern Baptist all the way to National and American Baptists. And this names only a few!
We may be many, but we are one! Today, more than 100 million Christians identify themselves as Baptist. Of that, the Berna Group identifies Baptists as the largest denominational grouping of born-again Christians in this country. As Baptists circle the globe, we are bound by one fundamental belief; that is, a believer’s baptism by immersion.
A believer’s baptism is when an individual makes a profession of faith in Jesus Christ and is then baptized. We model Jesus, who was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. Because he was immersed, we, too, are immersed. So, whether you are in a baptismal pool located in a church, a swimming pool in a back yard or at a lake or river, Baptists will find some water for your baptism by immersion.
Yearly, Baptists from all over the world gather throughout the globe at the Baptist World Alliance’s Annual Meeting (www.bwanet.org) to study God’s word, to fellowship and hear about and discuss the condition of not only Baptists from around the world, but the condition of the Church worldwide.
Baptists in America are privileged to be able to worship free from the threat of persecution and death. Even with the horror that was perpetrated on the unsuspecting church members at Greater
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Emmanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina, and most recently at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, American Christians do not face the struggles or the life-and-death decision to worship as our fellow Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world face daily.
We can choose to worship and are free to worship.
This freedom to worship is also what sets us apart.
Each Baptist church is autonomous. That simply means that each local congregation has its own governing structure.
Although the local church may be affiliated with a larger denominational body, the local church decides on its policy and practices.
This structure allows the individual Baptist church to make an impact in the community it is a part of. It is the local church that puts “boots on the ground” to mobilize and be a part of social and political movements that impact persons of all races, colors and creeds.
The Baptist preacher not only can serve his or her congregation from the pulpit on Sunday, but can also be a champion for justice and liberty for all every day of the week.
Baptist churches have been a hub for social activism all throughout American history. From slavery, through Jim Crow, to our current national political crises, the Baptist Church has been a part of shaping our American history. And, we endeavor to be a voice and a movement in global history.
I can guarantee you that where there is a justice movement, Baptists are a part. If there is march for freedom, Baptists are there.
If people are being persecuted and need a voice to cry out for them, Baptists will sound the clarion call.
We have been there and will be there.
We fight for justice and equality together.
Celebrate New Year’s Eve in worship at 9:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. at 1141 E Jefferson St., Phoenix. Then toast the new year with a spaghetti dinner, paint and sip and so much more. Visit www.fibcaz. org for details.
Pastor Karen E. Stewart is director of Evangelism and Discipleship at First Institutional Baptist Church in Phoenix. Email her at KStewart@fibcaz.org.
Copyright The Arizona Republic 12, 2017