Dear Brethren,

     Before I had the privilege of joining this symposium, I felt that I knew quite well what a Baptist church was. My simple definition was that a Baptist church consisted of a body of believers who had joined together in fellowship, chosen a pastor and deacons, preferably out of their own midst, and decided, on what they held to be Biblical grounds, to require water baptism as an expression of their belief in saving faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ given to them as a gracious act of God.

     After over six months of fellowship within the symposium, I find that my simple view is hardly accepted by any member of the various Baptist churches represented in the symposium. The matter appears to be much more complicated according to the majority’s view which I find very confusing. It appears that the general consensus views a Baptist church as standing on four pillars, namely a. Scriptural reasons, b. Historical succession, b. A special church order, c. A complicated system of views regarding the Kingdom, the Church and the Bride of Christ, and d. Certain linguistic reasons for defining baptism as a submersion in water and a lifting out again. I acknowledge that I am possibly simplifying views here and that the picture may even be more complicated.

     What strikes me as surprising and even alarming is that there appears to be no one interpretation of these four pillars which claims general acceptance by those who call themselves Baptists. Thus the question of what a Baptist is, is left wide open. Though certain members would agree to drop claims concerning one or several of these pillars for the sake of fellowship, this act alone would place in doubt that there could be a common consensus as to what a Baptist is apart from having to compromise with one’s own personal faith under some kind of lip-service to one or more or all of these pillars.

     Is thus the Baptist Church as seen by the members of the symposium merely a ecumenical title for a group of churches of different persuasions who feel that they can call themselves Baptist churches because they are members of this ecumenical association and have thus the right to derive their title from this ‘Mother’ organisation?

     I am wishing to be didactic in raising this question, in an effort to find out what is truly a Baptist church and to entice members into formulating definitions of a far simpler and more practical form so that simple souls as myself may have some idea of what is going on in the churches of which they are members.