When we took the Lord’s Supper together in our first Sunday gathering in June after our nation’s COVID-19 spring, one thing we rejoiced to do was recite our church covenant together once more.
From our very beginnings, in the early 1600’s, “Baptist” Christians have believed that the relationship that members of any New Testament church have is covenantal in nature. In fact, in our earliest days, we did not even use the word “Baptist” to describe ourselves. We just said we were New Testament Christians gathered into New Testament churches.
But what was dearest to our heart were always the two ideas that are at the core of who we are and why we do what we do. First, we believe the Bible alone speaks Jesus’ word authoritatively to the world about what mankind should believe and do. Second, we believe that people can only be part of a local church by agreeing with the rest of the church to believe and live by a common rule. Only God can reach and touch the heart, so only your free choice can show that it’s God at work in your heart. Parents can’t do it for babies, and governments can’t do it to citizens. So we have been writing confessional statements and covenantal agreements to describe what we believe the Bible tells us about how to believe and live, and asking individual people to consciously, deliberately choose to agree with those documents, since long before we were even called “Baptists.” A “church member” is simply someone who has agreed to that confession and that covenant, and the “church roll” is nothing more nor less than the list of the people who are committed to live in agreement with that covenant and in support of that confession.
You can read our covenant right HERE.
For millennia, since the time of Moses, God has spoken through the written word. We accept the sixty-six books of the Bible as the very Word of God, accurate and authoritative in all that it teaches. Only the Bible speaks with that kind of comprehensive authority, breathed out by the Hoy Spirit himself.
However, we know from centuries of experience that lots of people have lots of ideas about what the Bible means by what it says. So we just express in a written confession what we believe the Bible teaches on a few key issues. We’re happy to declare our colors! You can read our confession of faith right HERE. It’s basically just the Baptist Faith and Message of 2000, with a few little Dundalk tweaks.
The ultimate authority for the government of this church is our head, the Lord Jesus Christ, who communicates his will by his Holy Spirit through his written Word, the sixty-six books of the Holy Bible.
The earthly authority for the government of this church is the congregation itself, taught by the Holy Bible and led by the Holy Spirit. The congregation is in subjection to no other man, church, denomination, or government. We recognize only the appropriate authority of our own leaders, chosen by the congregation to provide servant leadership for the congregation. While we recognize the need of appropriate governmental authorities in this or any land, and gladly obey our Lord’s command that we honor such laws and leaders, and obey them where we can, we likewise affirm only our Lord Jesus Christ as our absolute authority, and strongly insist on our right and duty to obey his Word over any earthly authority.
So far during our life together as a church, we have freely cooperated with other churches through our affiliation with the Baltimore Baptist Association, the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, and the Southern Baptist Convention. We still treasure these longstanding relationships, and benefit from them greatly. In no case, however, would we allow those cooperative commitments to compromise our allegiance to the teachings of the Bible.