Is It Time to Part Ways?

Is It Time to Part Ways?

“It’s difficult for me to imagine the Left and the Right of American Christianity ever meaningfully reconciling.”

It’s been a gripe of mine for some years now that our kind of Baptists have to explain and defend and qualify who we are to nearly everyone else: “Well, we’re not that kind of Baptist!”

This in a day when many of those churches who have given the name “Baptist” a black eye have decided to remove the B word from their name and church sign – leaving us who remain to suffer the indignities of being narrow-minded and judgmental, anti-gay, anti-women, anti-immigrant, pro-torture, self-righteous Bible thumpers – since that’s pretty uniformly what the word means to people on the street.

Every year or so, one of my church’s leaders, as a response to the most recent well-publicized “Baptist” soundbite and the latest embarrassment to real Baptists everywhere, says, “We should really talk about this ‘Baptist’ name. It’s doing us a lot of harm.”

Yes, but the issue is bigger than denominational identity.

More than 20 years ago a friend of mine, who had spent most of his career serving in “foreign missions” (as they called it those days) for the Southern Baptist Convention, said to me that he rarely called himself a Christian anymore; he preferred the term “Christ-follower.” Through his many relationships with Christians and leaders from the other major world religions, literally around the world, he had learned that “the word ‘Christian’ has become a political word.”

So, what does the word “Christian” even mean, if a Southern Baptist missionary can no longer use it?

The more time I spend as a Baptist Christian pastor in a world divided by angry religious differences, the more I wonder if “we” and “they” are actually part of the same religion.

The words and pronouncements I hear from many Christians in no way represent my theology (nor mine theirs). We clearly have different beliefs about our shared Book. Our approach to science-and-religion is incompatible. We have contradictory views of humanity and sexuality.

Regarding the role of the Church, we want to talk about what “evangelism” means and should entail; on “social justice” they will never talk at all! Interfaith relations means to them an opportunity for conversion; to us, it means the beauty of diversity and growth through dialogue. Nearly all of our common words have different meanings: creation, sin, salvation, redemption, heaven, hell….

The historical Jesus and the Christ of faith often represent different, often opposing, theological convictions. Even our basic concepts of God are frequently irreconcilable.

I don’t think I am overstating the case. When I listen to many Christians speak, more and more I respond with the thought, “Is it honestly fair to call what they believe and what I believe the same religion?”

I believe in reconciliation. I believe Christ’s life was a testimony to “breaking down every dividing wall between us,” as our scripture says. I also know some sectarian divisions cannot be healed. Maybe they should not be. In my active relationships with Muslim and Jews, Unitarians and Baha’is, we are able to work together despite our differences (and without the animosity that exists between some Christian groups).

Maybe, because we don’t pretend to hold the same views, we can appreciate our differences more, and more easily agree to work for a common good.

In her groundbreaking 2008 book, The Great Emergence, Phyllis Tickle makes the case that every 500 years there is a major revolution in the Church. There was the Christian emergence from Judaism, the creation of orthodoxy, the great schism between Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, the Protestant Reformation. It’s been another 500 years, and we’re in the midst of a volatile “culture war.” The crosshairs are on the Christian Church. What will come of us?

Is it time?

“So broken is our fellowship, so divergent our views, perhaps the name ‘Christian’ has ceased to mean anything helpful to the cause of Christ.”

Would it be easier for “us” and “them” to get along if we officially named our differences and amicably parted ways? It’s difficult for me to imagine the Left and the Right of American Christianity ever meaningfully reconciling. Maybe, like Paul and Barnabas, there comes a time when we must face the reality that we can do more and better things if we are not fighting each other for control of the name “Christian.”

As to the process and procedure, I don’t know who would “leave” or what it would mean to “stay.” As to the name, I have no idea who would become what. But, within the Christian Church and (especially) outside the Church, so broken is our fellowship, so divergent our views, perhaps the name “Christian” has ceased to mean anything helpful to the cause of Christ.

For the sake of Christ, the harmony of his church and the peace of our world, even if it meant someone abandoning the name “Christian,” maybe it’s time we had the conversation.

Photo by Vladislav Babienko on Unsplash

For One Whole Hour

For One Whole Hour

For one whole hour today I forgot all about the political strife in our country. For one whole hour today I forgot about mass shootings. For one whole hour today I smiled and laughed and felt light and unencumbered. For one whole hour today I attended the CDC’s summer camp talent show and I’m so glad that I did! 

Their performances seemed effortless; just kids being kids, enjoying themselves.  I am so thankful for the gift of that one whole hour that they gave me today. 

-Leslie Gipple

I watched a diverse group of girls and boys sing and dance and rap and play the piano. Many days over the last few weeks I have seen them rehearsing in the gym, working diligently on their performances while being encouraged by teachers Teresa Gatewood and Kiera Gatewood. But today their performances seemed effortless; just kids being kids, enjoying themselves. 

I am so thankful for the gift of that one whole hour that they gave me today. 

It’s not that I want to stick my head in the sand and forget about mass shootings and the strife that permeates every stratum of our country. Rather, I don’t want there to be mass shootings and turmoil for us to have to contemplate every day! And today, for one whole hour, our children reminded me of what that FEELS like. That experience evoked in me, viscerally, a keen sense why each of us, using our own unique skills, must stay vigilant to stop gun violence, hate speech and continued social and economic stratification of our society. 

Everyone deserves to live free of pervasive fear, sadness, and anxiety — and it shakes me to my core to consider what growing up in this kind of atmosphere does to our children. We must do the work of creating a more perfect union. 

I sincerely thank the teachers and staff of our CDC for creating such a nurturing environment for our children and for reminding me today of the life-affirming, societal value of one whole hour, of unfettered peace and joy.

I'm Embarrassed by American Christianity

I'm Embarrassed by American Christianity

It happens more and more these days. I’m embarrassed by much of American Christianity.

I’ve spent a lifetime bring proud of the word, “Christian.” As a child, when other young boys were planning to grow up to be firemen, “army men” or professional football players, I was going to be a preacher “like my daddy.” But, too often these days, preachers make me cringe.

“Too often these days, preachers make me cringe.”

-Russ Dean

I hear anti-education views that are dishearteningly narrow. I hear views about women that are shockingly antiquated and reflect distorted interpretations of Scripture. I hear opinions about “homosexuals” that sound as if we’re still living in an Old Testament world (or that we ought to be). I hear evangelistic proclamations that exclude and divide, tone deaf exclusivism in a pluralistic world. I hear support for torture and detention and deportation and preemptive war, and I wonder where the heart of Jesus is in all of that aggression. I hear celebration for The Wall without the slightest irony that the whole movement of God is to unite us, that Jesus showed us that Way “by breaking down the wall of hatred that separated us” (Ephesians 2.14).

I was raised by Southern Baptists, proud to be a Southern Baptist and planned a career of service among Southern Baptists. I was educated in church-sponsored institutions (Furman University, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Beeson Divinity School). I was proud of their histories and their commitments to provide a “Christian education”; and I was excited to share those legacies.

But, as a Baptist educated by Baptists, I hear anger toward immigrants (as if the land under our feet could actually be called “our land”), and my heart aches for the lack of compassion and sympathy. I hear angry religiosity that is difficult to separate from self-righteousness. I hear “convictions of faith” that are deeply mired in blind and bitter partisanship – with no awareness of the dangers (if not the embarrassment) of needing the State to do the bidding of the Church. I hear hatred of difference, not hope in diversity. I hear fear of change rather than faith in the future.

I stand in the pulpit of a Baptist church every Sunday. I cannot imagine a better vocation, a more fulfilling calling. I get to bring the Gospel to bear on the important issues of the day, engage with people in life’s most joyous and sorrowful moments, welcome newborns, bury the dead. I am that preacher I longed to be, like my daddy.

“I just think the word from the Church should always sound different than the word from any White House.”

But I hear Christian people celebrating “a roaring economy” with no apparent awareness or concern for the larger, more important issue – that despite any economic success our civility is crumbling. Where is our shared sense of decency, our morality? The nation may be enjoying a moment of financial prosperity, but at what cost? Truth and integrity, and maybe democracy itself, are at stake. And yet some Christians want to cheer that their portfolio has grown a little?

I hear affirmations of our military strength, with no concern for Jesus’ warning that “the first will be last, the greatest will be the least.” I hear the arrogance of American “exceptionalism” instead of the biblical affirmation that all people are created in the image of God. I hear the praise of “God bless America” with no recognition that God blesses all, and that “pride goeth before the fall.”

I believe in the power of the Gospel. I believe Jesus changes hearts, and that his calling is a daring summons to a truly social justice – to a salvation that changes our minds as well as our souls, that dares us to put the good of all before the success of any individual. (How could any of us actually be “whole” otherwise?) I believe one sermon can change your life (because one sermon changed mine!). I believe the world still needs the Church. I just think the word from the Church should always sound different than the word from any White House.

But I hear preachers gloating over the meanness (they call it “toughness”) the current administration boasts, with no acknowledgement that Jesus’ calls to self-abasement and self-sacrifice invite us to a completely different approach to human relations – a “more excellent way.” I hear exhortations to domination and submission (in marriage and in foreign diplomacy), power and a “theology of victory,” with no evidence of humility or kindness.

I hear 30 years of preaching about the utter and complete abandonment of personal morality, while the same preachers bemoan that American culture is going to hell in a handbasket, turning its back on the Church and forsaking God for, you know, Sunday baseball, kids soccer matches and the like. (But shouldn’t even Sunday baseball be preferable to hypocrisy?)

More and more these days, I’m embarrassed by Christianity.

I’m just not ready to give up on Jesus.



It’s an old saw for me at this point, one of my favorite soap boxes. I’d apologize for talking about it again, but I hope you can appreciate your pastor’s vocal advocacy for THE CHURCH! I am an unapologetic fan, and I worry about what it will mean if we as a nation let it slip away.

Last summer prior to that big Scottish wedding, Amy and I met friends from England along the first 12 miles of our 61-mile pilgrimage from Edinburgh to St. Andrews. We were introduced to Kate and Tony when we walked 70+ miles of El Camino de Santiago together. He’s a retired barrister; she’s a former teacher, and we have a lot of common convictions, though active church life is not one of them.

They were both raised in the Church of England, but like most folks there they have moved away from institutional religious life. So, when I asked them, “So… is there anything missing in British life and culture because the Church no longer plays a prominent role?” I braced for either polite criticism or enthusiastic ambivalence. Instead, both responded immediately: “Yes!”

She correlates the demise of church attendance with the loss of family, and the structure that it brings to school children, adolescents, and the youth of England. Attuned to the laws that lead to order and the structured conduct of a society, Tony said, “We have no codes.”

He didn’t mean they have no laws. He meant there were no longer any underlying ethics, no un-written rules, no universal convictions of etiquette or courtesy, much less of right and wrong, good and bad, generosity and vulgarity. According to our British friends, their people live any kind of way they want because there is no longer a basic, shared order – which the Church once gave to their society.

 When Notre Dame went up in flames, a world-wide congregation wept with Paris. It reminded me of the global attendance at Megan and Harry’s royal wedding at Windsor Castle, and, in a different way, the sense of global community we experienced after 9/11. But, what were the French masses actually mourning as the cathedral’s spire collapsed, and why did that largely unreligious nation gather to light candles and sing hymns?

My strong conviction is that we are spiritual creatures at heart, embodied souls who long for mystery, transcendence, “God” – whether our Enlightened intellect or our jaded experience will let us admit it or not. The proof I offer for my conviction is that the great tragedies and celebrations of life speak to human beings on such a deep level that no ordinary response will suffice. The Psalmist says, “Deep calls to deep” – so we cry out in ways that are undeniably religious.

 People filled churches after 9/11, lit candles, kept silence, sang songs together, made commitments to live and serve better. Bishop Curry’s homily at that Royal wedding evoked a world-wide response – because it was much more than a great speech. As a sermon, it invoked the transcendent conviction of love (born of God!), in an ethic called marriage. Parisians sensed in that uncontrollable inferno much more than the loss of a 900 year-old building.

 I’m sure many would disagree with me, but I believe the response of the world proves otherwise. God is real. You can feel it in the deepest longings, the pure emotions, the native utterances of people when the grip of pain or the flight of ecstasy reveals our instinct to worship.

I hope you will be in church on Sunday!!

Welcome Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte

Welcome Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte

The Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte is THRILLED to be a PRBC campus partner and has had an amazingly warm welcome so far! We are excited to sponsor two plots in the PRBC community garden this year, too. We look forward to getting to know you all better. Feel free to stop by our offices on the First floor of Milford Chapel Building. 

Now, a little bit about who we are and what we do…

The Down Syndrome Association (DSA) of Greater Charlotte is a non-profit, family support organization founded in 1986 by a group of local parents. The goal of the DSA of Greater Charlotte and its families is to enable people with Down syndrome (Ds) to reach their full potential and become respected members of their community. Our mission is to enhance the quality of life for all people with Ds by empowering individuals, families, and professionals with information and support through education, social programs, and community partnerships. We serve 10 counties in North Carolina and 2 in South Carolina. 

Our supports and services span the lifespan of those with Down syndrome, including families and community members. Through our First Call Program, we work with new parents who receive a diagnosis of Down syndrome (prenatally or postnatally). We offer day and overnight camps for campers with Ds (ages 5-21): Camp Holiday and Camp Horizon. 

Through our Together in Education Program we offer consultation, professional development, and technical assistance to area schools so they are empowered to support learners with Ds in their classrooms. We host an annual symposium for regional educators featuring local, regional, and national experts. 

New in 2019 are programs and support for adults with Ds – focusing on increasing independence and preparing them for the world of work. We are hosting our first Independent Living Retreat May 17-19, 2019 at Camp Thunderbird. 

We rely heavily on volunteers and welcome members of PRBC to join us as we work to grow our impact and meet our mission every day in the Greater Charlotte area. For details, visit 

Holly Zipperer,
Executive Director
Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte 

The Walls Within Us

The Walls Within Us

The question posed to our group that stuck with me is one which will be important to consistently revisit. During her remarks, Paulina Olvera, a young activist and community leader in Tijuana asked, “which walls within us or in our hearts perpetuate the physical walls being built in our communities?”  

10 Positive Ways to Address Immigration

10 Positive Ways to Address Immigration

Recently, I gave a presentation to our church about my recent Immigration Immersion trip to Tijuana, Mexico. There were many photos to share and stories to tell, but I started with the end in mind.

I tried to answer the burning question: What are the solutions?

I came up with a Top Ten list and thought I would share those ideas here.

Not Now, Not Ever

Not Now, Not Ever

Did a mother just justify sexual assault and attempted rape because “ALL boys do it?” And have I really heard fathers and grandfathers laughing recently: “If they only knew what all I did. HaHa... It’s a wonder any men get jobs!”

For the record, let me state unequivocally: Not me. Not ever.

Losing Our Humanity

Losing Our Humanity

Sadly and ironically, as studies show, the more we get, rather than opening our hands even wider, self-sufficiency tends to foster selfishness. Affluence begets anxiety – rather than having too little to share, it seems we have too much to be willing to share. Abundance often turns in on itself, sometimes even to the point of greed.

The Beauty of Relentless Discipline

The Beauty of Relentless Discipline

We’ve just gotten back from an amazing week of vacation.

We were at the theater. It was Broadway and Holly wood, the Silver Screen and the community playhouse all on one stage. The stories were raw and moving, each one unfolding a deeply spiritual saga. There was wisdom from ancient lore, contemporary dramas enacting the eternal human predicament of sin and redemption, and there were modern, avant-garde tales filled with ecstasies of joy and the blinding pain of suffering and death.

Interwoven into the theatrics was the festive panoply of a grand parade. There was pageantry to beat the band: flags and rifles and batons, spectacular dance and intricately woven choreography. The colors bespoke the spectrum of emotions told in all of the stories: lush, dark shades and somber earth-tones, a rainbow of vibrant hues and the soft tones of the pastel spectrum. The stage was a visual carnival, a feast for the eye.

Tying together the message and the color was the music, and it was a concert venue to beat all concert venues. In one arena we heard it all: the driving, edgy pulse of rock-n-roll, the fanciful melody of the musical stage, the triumph of classical harmonies, the syncopation and dissonance of the big band, the proud patriotic anthem, the soaring strains of the opera house, the cadence of the marching band, and the brash brilliance of the brass band.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, put all of this in a covered dome big enough for a franchise in the National Football League, and wrap it all into a national championship, and you get 25,000 screaming fans and all the excitement befitting such a competition – all the athletic strain, all the strategy, all the tension, all the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

Someone with an untrained eye might scoff: “It’s just a bunch of marching bands. Sissies… band geeks… music nerds…” The operative word there would be “untrained” – through it doesn’t take much training to recognize that the 154 competitors that make up a Drum Corps International corps are anything but sissies.

Our younger son just completed his second DCI summer, and the rigor and discipline and stamina and perseverance and coordination and strength required to run and jump and plank and leap-frog and dance – while playing a trumpet in a DCI-inspired show – far out-pace any athletic discipline he has ever faced, even as a high school baseball player.

The season started in mid-May, and from the first day of move-ins until that championship night in Indianapolis, he spent 77 days of toil and travel, all the while practicing perfection. In those 77 days, the corps enjoyed a full 3 days off. Practice days consisted of 12 hours of rehearsal, most of it outside in scorching summer temperatures. Show days included 3 to 6 hours of rehearsal, and after the evening competitions the 10-vehicle entourage would travel overnight, so the corps didn’t miss any daylight rehearsal time. This summer they covered 8,600 miles, zigzagging the U.S. in the dark. When corps members did get “floor time,” they slept on the gym floor of some local high school. When they had the luxury of a shower, it was usually cramped and cold.

By a loose estimate Bennett’s corps, “Spirit of Atlanta,” rehearsed 680 hours in 77 days. That’s 24-hours-a-day for one solid month – or, 61.8 hours for each minute of their 11-minute competition performance. An old band director of mine once said, “Practice does not make perfect. (You only get what you practice.) Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

The members of Spirit of Atlanta, and the 154 members (each) of the 23 other DCI corps spend their summers practicing perfection. The end result for 3,696 teenage musicians and staff members and volunteers is the satisfaction of cooperation, the creation of a show of amazing beauty, a feast to sate the senses.

We traveled with the corps for one week, working on the food truck, helping with repairs, driving one of the overnight equipment vehicles. Behind the scenes it’s just as crazy as it sounds from a distance! Some might wonder why: what’s the appeal of such relentless discipline? Asking the question might provide its own answer – and,

Who knew relentless discipline could be so beautiful?

Quoting the Bible Without Understanding It

Quoting the Bible Without Understanding It

It’s easy, and it appears sadly enjoyable for some people of faith to read the Bible in a way that gives “legitimacy” to pointing the finger at other people. If that is the result of your reading, please, read again.

What is Missing Without the Church

What is Missing Without the Church

Before we parted I had taken the opportunity to ask a daring question. “No preacherly pressure or guilt intended,” I said, “But I need to ask about the English Church. Many people feel the US is going the way of European secularism, and the US Church may also become a casualty. So, I need to know what is missing from England without the influence of the Church. Is anything missing?”

Unwilling to Remain Silent

Unwilling to Remain Silent

So, any nation that can stare into the faces of children, afraid and alone, orphaned by a policy designed to deter by terror, and argue only about our politics instead of their protection is in danger of losing its soul. We are there.

A Baseball Parent's Prayer

A Baseball Parent's Prayer

Amy and I don’t pray about baseball.

We have consistently taught our children two key elements about prayer: Prayer is not magic. God is not Santa Claus.

God doesn’t score winning touchdowns at the Super Bowl, no matter what the quarterback who threw the pass says. With starving children and natural disasters and the again-increasing threat of global nuclear war in the wind, we believe God has much more important things to do than worry about whether Jackson gets a “W” in the stats book today when he steps onto the mound to pitch for Presbyterian College.

But we’re his parents. And we happen to pray.

One of the last times he stepped onto the mound, Bennett was sitting with his mother who said a little more loudly than under her breath, “Lord, help him to do well.” B quickly jabbed his preacher-mother, “I thought you didn’t pray about baseball!?”

So, what to do…?

He has worked so hard. I mean so hard. Hours and hours and hours on the field, in the weight room, running, throwing, listening to coaches. Hours and hours and hours riding a bus – and then studying organic chemistry through coffee-drenched wee-hours of the morning.

He spent his first year as a very-disappointed “red shirt.” He doesn’t want to spend a fifth year in college, so that was a season of wasted eligibility. He didn’t play that year, but it didn’t decrease the time on the field, in the weight room, running, throwing…

Then he worked last year, all season, working, hoping, waiting for a chance to show himself. And it finally showed up.

There are about 18 pitchers on most college baseball teams. And there’s only one mound. So, you do the math, and figure in a bit of the maddeningly-frustrating coaching Zen, and you realize how hard it is to claw your way up to a starting spot. But that happens. Today.

So, his father, the Baptist minister is typing these words on a Sunday morning from a Starbucks in Asheville, NC. Since Amy was scheduled to preach, I’m playing hooky, but will slip in to the back of the sanctuary at First Baptist, just down the street. I’ll be one of those guests that the ministers, sitting on the podium see and ask, “I wonder who that guy was, and why he came late and left early?” And while I’m there, maybe I’ll pray.

Which is a tricky thing for a Baptist minister, a father of a pitcher, who honestly doesn’t pray for baseball. But maybe my prayer will sound something like this…

God of all good things
from saving grace to a well-timed curve ball
Be with Jackson today
as he climbs onto that mound –
not unlike others
who have gone up the mountain in hopes of seeing glory
You know that I know that you don’t care who wins baseball games
But you know that I’m a father of a son
and you know that he does care
You know that I know that you have more important things to do today than worry
whether one player, throwing a round, white ball 60-feet, 6-inches at a time
can throw it straight and fast or twisted and off-speed
all in the right combinations
all for the meaningless glory of
"strike three and you’re out!"
but I believe you grace this world with beauty –
beauty that shows itself in many different ways
and I believe you intend good health for the people of this world
and that healthy bodies and some drive down in the core of our souls
calls us to compete
so this day, I hope you can hear a father’s prayer
not for a win
but for a son
If you can strip away the selfishness of such a silly prayer
(Which you’ll have to do, because I can’t)
Hear my prayer.


ps God… Go Blue Hose!


Photo by ALP STUDIO on Unsplash



CBF Hiring Policy Discussion: Background Materials

What is the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship anyway!?
A very brief history…

In 1979 fundamentalist leaders in the Southern Baptist convention began and organized movement to take over the agencies of the convention. In the annual meeting in Houston, delegates from fundamentalist church is arrived in mass to vote for Adrian Rogers, a fundamentalist pastor from Memphis, Tennessee. This began a 20-year organized effort, electing fundamentalist pastors, who appointed fundamentalist to trustee positions in seminaries, hospitals, mission sending agencies, children's homes, retirement centers, the publishing enterprises of the convention. In about 20 years the effort was complete, and all of the agencies were controlled by fundamentalists.

The Alliance of Baptists…
In 1987 a group of concerned, moderate Baptists gathered at Providence Baptist Church in Charlotte to form the Southern Baptist Alliance. This group represented Southern Baptist churches, but not the new, fundamentalist values of the convention. Some years later the name of this organization, which from the beginning has been open to women and all roles of church leadership, and to the inclusion of homosexual persons in the life of the church, changed its name to the Alliance of Baptist.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship…
In 1991, out of concern that the Southern Baptist Convention was too conservative, but also sharing the concern that the Alliance was too liberal, a centrist group gathered to form the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Baptist churches across the country have found their way along this divisive path, often aligning with the SBC and the CBF, or with the alliance and the CBF. Over the years Park Road has chosen to affiliate with the alliance and CBF, as well as with the Baptist Peace Fellowship and our local association of churches, The United Baptist Association.

The alliance has always been more of our home, representing more of our theology and our style of ministry. The more conservative leaning of the CBF has been problematic for many of us, for most of its years.

The origin of the hiring policy…
In the annual meeting of the CBF, 20 years ago in Atlanta, a hiring policy was adopted that excluded homosexual persons from service with the CBF. This issue has caused friction from the very beginning. Eighteen months ago the CBF formed a committee to lead what was called the Illumination Project. The committee sought feedback from churches and agencies that are part of the CBF network, and recommended a new hiring policy at the last meeting of the Governing Board in the spring of 2018. The Governing Board adopted this policy, which eliminates discrimination based on homosexuality (from the policy itself).

In an associated document, however, the Implementation Plan for this policy, makes clear that homosexuals who practice celibacy......

There's been quite a bit of fallout from this new policy. A number of conservative churches have already announced their withdrawal from the CBF because the hiring policy allows some homosexuals to serve in some roles in the CBF. Churches from the left have been frustrated by the policy because it still discriminates, prohibiting full participation of gay members.

Our ministry counsel discussed the new hiring policy, and whether or not this should alter our churches association with the CBF. Deacons also discussed this issue on Sunday morning. We are soliciting your input, and will provide further notice of any church discussion, and a culminating vote on our relationship with the CBF.


CBF Hiring Policy (Adopted February 9, 2018) 

CBF employees serve as co-laborers with the Holy Spirit in God’s mission, striving to be Christ-like, innovative, authentic, globally focused, committed to hearing and respecting diverse perspectives and to pursuing excellence. Employees will also be committed to CBF’s mission of serving Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission while working together to renew God’s world by cultivating beloved community, bearing witness to Jesus Christ and seeking transformational development in the contexts of global poverty and global migration and in partnership with the Global Church. 

Because of our compelling mission and vision, CBF will employ only individuals who profess Jesus Christ as Lord, are committed to living out the Great Commandment and Great Commission, and who affirm the principles that have shaped our unique Baptist heritage. Preference in hiring will be given to applicants who are active members in good standing of CBF churches as well as those who have demonstrated an active participation and contribution to the missions, ministries or other initiatives of the Fellowship and its partners. 

CBF employees are expected to have the highest moral character, displaying professionalism and a commitment to the highest ethical standards. These include: acting with integrity, being a faithful steward of resources, speaking truth in love, embracing accountability, facilitating fairness, supporting and encouraging peers, nurturing a community of respect, and establishing collaborative relationships. CBF employees are expected to live out their Christ-centered relationship both inside and outside the workplace, serving as active members of their local church as well as through service to their community.

The Implementation Plan…

About the Proposed Hiring Policy

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Implementation Procedure

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For further background…

Denominational Affiliations
An initiative of the 2003 Diaconate
August 25, 2003

(Note: In contradiction to this statement, Park Road Baptist Church officially severed ties with
the North Carolina Baptist State Convention on January 31, 2007.
See below for information concerning this decision.)

One of the major initiatives of the Diaconate of the Park Road Baptist Church for the year 2003 is to evaluate the church’s denominational relationships, and to make recommendation(s) to the congregation concerning these (or perhaps other) denominational entities. Mack Duncan and Ken Godwin were appointed to lead this initiative, and after some dialogue with deacons and ministerial staff, the decision was made that we not establish any new relationships at this time. In evaluating our current affiliations, both Daniel Vestal, Executive Director of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Stan Hastey, Executive Director of the Alliance of Baptists made presentations to the congregation concerning their organizations. Materials were distributed to deacons and the congregation, and all church members were urged to explore these materials and related websites in order to gain further knowledge of these affiliates. 
Six different denominational affiliations are recognized below, all of which our church currently maintains, with some level of participation. The subcommittee recognizes that in a “post-denominational” age, multiple relationships such as these are valid, and can be maintained without consuming energy distracting our congregation from its primary mission. The subcommittee sees its most important contribution through this process as having increased the congregation’s awareness of a need for networking with other churches and agencies, and the partnerships which denominational agencies can provide to this end.
After the two presentations and ensuing conversation with the Administrative Deacons, a three-tiered approach to our currently held affiliations is recommended:

1. That Park Road Baptist Church pursue its relationship with the Alliance of Baptists, the United Baptist Association, and the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America.
A. In our evaluation of the Alliance of Baptists, we have come to believe that the theology and mission emphasis of the Alliance most closely resembles our congregation’s own theology and mission, and that this organization, therefore, is the affiliate with which we can most fully participate. “Pursuit” of such a relationship includes, but is not limited to:
* Encouraging church members, especially church leadership, to subscribe to the Alliance newsletter, Connections, for information concerning the Alliance of Baptists;
* Encouraging congregational participation at state and national meetings, and striving to contribute leadership from within our congregation to the leadership committees of these bodies;
* Encouraging an increasing level of financial support for the Alliance and its missions and ministries;
* Encouraging active participation in the missions and ministries of the Alliance of Baptists.

B. Since the founding of the United Baptist Association, our congregation has enjoyed a strong association with our partner churches in the association. Through this association our church has opportunity to participate in a multi-racial climate of fellowship and collaboration, supporting a number of local projects, such as Hope Chapel for homeless men, and a Vacation Bible School program for under-privileged children. We recommend a level of continuing support for the UBA through:
    * Encouraging participation in the monthly associational meetings;
    * Encouraging church members to participate in UBA sponsored ministries;
    * Encouraging a continuing level of financial support.

C. Given a globally-charged political climate and, especially in light of what appeared an immanent invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003, our church engaged in a partnership with the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, which is housed in Wedgewood Baptist Church. Comprised of Baptist congregations from Canada, Central America, and the United States who are interested in Jesus’ call to be “peacemakers,” the PBFNA is a vital resource for congregations who take such a challenge as a corporate calling. Because our relationship with the BPFNA is new, and because the political climate is still highly charged, we recommend pursuing this relationship through:
* Encouraging church members, especially church leadership, to subscribe to the Peace Fellowship newsletter, Peaceworks, for information concerning the PBFNA;
* Encouraging congregational awareness of issues relating to peace and justice;
* Encouraging financial support for the BPFNA.

2. That Park Road Baptist Church maintain its relationship with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Our congregation has used continues to use the CBF as a valuable ministry partner and resource. In this regard, we recognize the validity of continuing to partner with the CBF, making use of their resources, and contributing resources to the CBF. Our evaluation, however, also revealed significant differences with the CBF, made evident especially by their recent funding policy which denies the funding of universities and divinity schools which admit homosexual students, and which prohibits the hiring of homosexuals. As a congregation which is welcoming and affirming of all persons, we recognize the inherent contradiction of values within our organizations. The policy decision is of concern not solely due to the issue of homosexuality, but due to the implication for future decisions. Recognizing the theological tensions that exists, then, maintaining a relationship might include, but not be limited to:
* Encouraging church members, especially church leadership, to subscribe to the CBF newsletter, fellowship! for information concerning the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship;
    * Encouraging congregational participation at state and national meetings;
    * Encouraging some financial support for the CBF;
* Recognizing that one of our congregation’s valid offerings to the CBF is to model inclusion and to present a dissenting voice on issues that discriminate against the recognition of the infinite worth of all persons as the children of God.

NOTE: The North Carolina state CBF does not maintain the policies concerning homosexuality, which the national organization adopted, nor are they pressured to follow the national organization in any such decisions. Though the study committee is not recommending an increasing level of participation with the state organization, we recognize that at some point in the future, NC CBF may replace the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina as the best entity through which our congregation can partner with other like-minded NC Baptist churches, and most effectively support our long-standing relationships with Baptist institutions and agencies such as Baptist children’s and retirement homes, Baptist hospitals, and Baptist colleges, universities, and divinity schools.

3. That Park Road Baptist Church acknowledge its historic relationship with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. 
Park Road Baptist Church was established as a Southern Baptist Church, and, though the congregation severed ties with the SBC many years ago, we have maintained a relationship with the Baptist State Convention for 53 years. Through the state convention the church receives its status as an IRS 501-c3 (charitable) organization, utilizes the resources of the Annuity Board for retirement contributions for auxiliary staff, and continues to benefit from convention resources, such as Caswell Conference Center for retreats and camps. Though the state convention is not directly tied to the SBC, the obvious and implicit connection of these organizations will, rightly, pose similar tensions for our congregation, as concerning the CBF, above. There may come a time when Park Road Baptist Church chooses to actively disassociate with the state convention on theological grounds (see note, above, concerning NC CBF), but there will be legal and procedural ramifications if that decision is made. It is not our recommendation to officially disassociate at this time, though we recognize that there are more theological differences than commonalities between our congregation and the state convention, and that these differences will render our effective partnering minimal. Acknowledging our historic relationship might include, but not be limited to:
* Encouraging church members, especially church leadership, to subscribe to The Biblical Recorder for information concerning the Baptist State Convention;
* Encouraging the requisite level of financial support for the Convention, which will allow for our participation in the annuity program for our auxiliary staff;
* Recognizing that one of our congregation’s valid offerings to the BSCNC is to model inclusion and to present in appropriate ways a dissenting voice on issues that discriminate against the recognition of the infinite worth of all persons as the children of God.

NOTE: The subcommittee recommends that we establish our church’s own 501-c3 status, and that the Personnel Committee review our current retirement options for staff and strongly consider redirecting Annuity Board contributions, in the event that a dissolution of relationship becomes necessary, this procedural matter would not hinder such a decision.


On January 31, 2007, in a unanimous vote of the church in conference, the almost fifty-seven year relationship with the North Carolina Baptist State Convention was severed. The following document was sent to the Executive Director of the convention, explaining our actions:

To Whom It May Concern:

For many years Park Road Baptist Church has been frustrated and disappointed by the continuously narrowing stance of the Southern Baptist Convention, and many of its state entities. Though founded as a Southern Baptist church, and having served as an active participant for many years, it has been quite some time since this congregation supported the SBC. Our support of our historically moderate state convention has also diminished over the last decade, though as recently as four years ago Park Road Baptist Church chose (despite many voices to the contrary) to continue to affirm our nominal, but important, historic relationship to the state convention. We still affirm much of the work of Baptist agencies and institutions, and know we have kinship with many North Carolina Baptists, even many with whom we may disagree theologically.

The unfortunate action of the November 2006 convention, however, has caused us to reverse our stance in relation to the convention.

In good faith and conscience we can no longer continue to be affiliated with an organization that officially sponsors the condemnation and alienation of individuals and churches who dare to offer a full welcome to every child of God. Park Road Baptist Church welcomes as full participants in our congregation all who wish to join in our convictions and fellowship. We wish not to wait until we are reported to the convention to be sanctioned for our action, which we believe in all faith and earnestness is in keeping with the mind of Christ. Such action as was embraced by the convention is embarrassing to us, and serves as yet one more indication to much of the world that the Church is often out of touch with the reality of humanity and many of its deepest needs. 

After a unanimous vote from our Diaconate, the recommendation to officially separate from the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina was unanimously affirmed by our congregation in our most recent church conference, January 31, 2007. 

Though it is often difficult for us to do so, we continue to bear the Baptist name, recognizing and relying on our historic principles of individual freedom and corporate autonomy for which many our forebears died. We will continue to strive to be “Baptist,” in the best sense of the word, and will continue to offer the welcome and embrace of a God of unconditional love, which we understand through the person of Jesus Christ.


The Members of Park Road Baptist Church