Thursday, February 25, 2010


As many of my readers know, I have been through three different denominations. While I have left two for very specific reasons, I try not to speak too disparagingly of my time in either of them. When I joined The Episcopal Church my mom asked me what I was looking for. Two years later, I think I've found my answer, and it comes from looking at comments in a blog a few weeks ago. I've been looking for identity within a denomination, identity that is honest to itself and with its members about who and what it is. I've already written about why I'm an Epsicopalian at length (here and here). Essentially, we have an identity that is ours that we live and share (although there needs to be a lot more sharing. This using the term "identity" is a new usage for me, although I've been saying it for awhile in different ways.

A few weeks ago I was fascinated as I read through the comments on this blog. I was learning from the essential post about controversy and gatekeeping and rigidity of professors. But then as I read through the comments my eyes just got wider and wider. The blog is a Southern Baptist blog, and I was finding out all kinds of things about the Convention at the Convention level. I had no idea that certain things happened, or that the congregationalism I was so used to wasn't how it always entirely played out. I don't remember specifics not, but there was stuff about the International and Domestic Missions Boards, disagreement at the national level about missionaries and cessation of gifts. I was clueless about that stuff!

I remember being in seventh grade, or maybe just a little earlier, when there was a unit in my Discipleship Training Union book about what it meant to be baptist. There wasn't a lot of information in the student book, and we never got there as a class, so I never got the information. I knew the way we did things differently than other denominations (we only immersed, and the Methodists sprinkled), but I didn't know what made us distinctly us; I wanted something other than the way we were different than others. That isn't to say we were cast against them, but there were definitely times that we learned that we were right and others were wrong (baptism for example).

From the time I saw my grandmother's Book of Discipline I was fascinated, especially by the Social Principles. An entire denomination had adopted statements about what it believed on social issues. At that point in my life I had never seen or heard of The Baptist Faith and Message. I don't recall seeing it until Timothy joined Crawford Road after we all pretty much stopped going to Cascade Hills. As I was growing I was growing dissatisfied with congregationalism, although I didn't know that word for it. I wound up in a United Methodist Church looking for a friend of mine, but finding new friends who played a big part of my life through high school.

There was identity, though. The United Methodist Hymnal has information for learning/teaching about baptism and sacraments, I feel like I read. I borrowed Books of Discipline and flipped through Grandmother's whenever I was at her house. I got very involved, I went to Annual Conference, I bought a Book of Discipline of my own, I graduated from high school and got plugged in to the Wesley Foundation. Then I started reading more United Methodist resources and finding my experience dissonant with teaching and directives from the denomination. I don't have a problem with congregationalism as an idea, but it's not a practice for me to engage in. I got more liturgical and more frustrated with suspicion of being "too Catholic." I got tired of not feeling like identity was being reflected around me.

I am where I'm supposed to be, and the places I've been have shaped me and given me lenses through which I view life. They've impacted my ecclesiology, liturgical sensibility, biblical knowledge, and relationships, relationships, relationships. I don't know if I'd stayed Southern Baptist if I'd known about the higher up machinations of the Convention, but I doubt it. If I'd known that there were liturgical baptists as I was getting more liturgical I might've lasted a little longer. Some experiences in college did a lot of shaping me, which I think would've pushed me out of the SBC.

I feel like this a Debby Downer post, but it's not meant to; it really starts with and continues with a fascination from reading Wade Burleson's blog once and checking back in periodically, actually reading the comments. Stuff that I had no idea happened that as a now-outsider looking in is just fascinating. I get the polity (in large part) of two different denominations, but didn't realize at all that the church of my founding had similarly elaborate polity as well.

Trying not to run this race in vain.

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