(In the Life of the Church)
May 30, 2014
(While Josh is away on sabbatical, Craig will be writing the newsletter. Which means you should expect less Harry Potter and more Hank Williams.)
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The "B" Word
If you'll forgive me, I've got a little bit of a Baptist chip on my shoulder.
Almost all the pastors of UBC, past and present, who have seminary educations have received them from Baptist seminaries.
We give money annually (albeit a very small amount) to the Waco Regional Baptist Network, the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Every year in the spring we spend a significant amount of time signing church certification forms for Truett and undergraduate ministry students to verify that they attend a Baptist church so that they can receive scholarship funds from Baptists who are committed the furthering theological education.
When we started as a church in 1995, we did so with the blessing and financial backing of area Baptists who fell in love with the dream of reaching students who were not attending church anywhere.
Oh, and by the way, we are University Baptist Church.
Yet I often here this from people when describing UBC, "Oh, it's not really a Baptist church."
I never really know if this sentiment is misunderstanding or wishful thinking. It's probably a little of both.
I can think of a couple of reasons people make this mistake. For one, even though we are Baptist, we are not Southern Baptist. The Southern Baptist Convention is not only the largest Baptist group in the country, it's also the largest Protestant denomination. It's so big and such a significant presence in the landscape of our country that it is easy to assume that if you do not associate with it, then you aren't really Baptist.
Also, Baptist churches are so incredibly diverse that if your experience with a Baptist church is limited then you may not be aware of the vast array of different kinds of Baptist churches out there. If you grew up at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, and attended there every Sunday of your life, then visited Dayspring Baptist in Waco one Sunday, it will definitely be an exercise in "one of these is not like the other."
In Baptist life there is a phrase that makes possible this diversity. It's called "The Autonomy of the Local Church." It means that every local congregation, made of of people who have equal access to the wisdom of God, makes its own decisions, chooses how it will govern its affairs, what it teaches, who can participate, etc. None of this is determined by an institution outside of the individual church. In associating with larger Baptist bodies (denominations, associations, fellowships,) we are agreeing to partner with other churches in endeavors such as missions and social justice issues. However, those institutions do not then have the ability to dictate in any way what our church will look like. Because of this, every Baptist church has the potential to be EXTREMELY different from every other Baptist church.
(This isn't to say that a larger Baptist group can't disassociate with an individual Baptist congregation, or vice versa, because they disagree with the other on something. But in the disassociation, the congregation is free to continue to use the term "Baptist," something that would not be allowed with other denominations.)
But I think there's something larger at work in the feeling that UBC isn't "really" a Baptist church. There is a general sense of antipathy that has grown in our culture for labels. The feeling is that once we place a label on who we are then we have robbed ourselves of the ability to be unique and to write our own narrative outside the lines of the label. Many Christians have even shed the term "Christian" as a self-descriptor because of all the baggage that term carries, opting instead for the more active term "Christ Follower."
I understand the desire not to be boxed in or limited. But unless we all decide to stop using language altogether, or to describe everything with the excessively annoying "it is what it is," then we can't really get away from labels. "Christ Followers" begin to fit a certain mold with specific characteristics (one of them being an aversion to labels,) and like "nondenominational churches" start to be every bit as distinct as the labels they are reacting against.
Among the many great things about being Baptist, one of them is the freedom to create and to recreate what a Baptist church looks like, being the presence of Christ in our community in a way that fits us and that makes sense within our unique context. And it is something I'm proud to call myself.
I'm proud that we are associated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship who, among other things, works in the poorest of communities in the country to effect lasting change through the Together for Hope Program.
As a Texas Baptist, we are connected with an organization that is at the forefront of disaster relief. (Chances are if you are watching a disaster on the news such as the West Explosion or a tornado rip through a community, there is a disaster relief crew on their way to the site, often arriving long before anyone else, including the U.S. Government.)
By associating with the Waco Regional Baptist Association, we partner with churches passionate about restorative justice, hunger and collegiate ministries.
For me, being Baptist is not a straitjacket that limits our ability to be ourselves. Rather, it is a term that allows us to be ourselves while recognizing that there is work to do in the world that we can't do on our own. It doesn't define us, but it does connect us to a long line of witnesses that have been faithful to the gospel in particular ways throughout history.
Work is Worship for June
This Sunday Sarah Joyave and Vince Cooley will be making coffee. Aside from that, we have no slots filled for the rest of June to clean up coffee mugs and to greet people as they come in. If you are around we would LOVE your help. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to sign up for any of these tasks.
UBC Guys Trip to Franklin BBQ
The big day is upon us! On Friday, June 13th the guys of UBC will head down to Austin to experience the goodness that is Franklin BBQ. We will leave from UBC at 6:30, hoping to arrive there at 8:00. (There will already be people waiting in line at this time.) Bring a lawn chair and your beverage of choice. And sunscreen. There will be a sign-up in the foyer this coming Sunday.
(Don't believe me about the line? The following picture was tweeted at 8:54 this morning...)
Waco Dives Returns!
We will be resuming Waco Dives this Summer! Toph is dubbing it #wacoclassics. This is open to EVERYONE. Our first lunch will be this Wednesday, June 11, at Dubl-R at noon.
Leadership Team If you have a concern or an idea for UBC that you’d like to share with someone that is not on staff, feel free to contact one of our leadership team members. Chair: Jana Parker email@example.com Kristin Dodson firstname.lastname@example.org Kaley Eggers email@example.com David Wilhite firstname.lastname@example.org Austin Tiffany Austin_Tiffany@baylor.edu Byron Roldan Byron_Roldan@baylor.edu Teri Walter email@example.com UBC Finance Team Do you have a question about UBC’s financial affairs? Please feel free to contact any of your finance team members. Tom Haines: firstname.lastname@example.org Paul Taft: email@example.com Josh McCormick: Josh.McCormick@dwyergroup.com Chris Kim: firstname.lastname@example.org Tom McCarty: email@example.com UBC HR Team If you have concerns about staff and would like contact our human resources team, please feel free to email any of the following members. Lacy McNamee: Lacy_McNamee@baylor.edu Callie Schrank: Callie_Schrank@baylor.edu Jeff Walter: firstname.lastname@example.org Michael Heins: email@example.com