I received a recent publication from First Christian Church in Canton, OH. It was interesting to me that the church has instituted a "baptism night" rather than immersing respondents the "same hour." An article telling about "baptism night" was pretty vague and generic causing me some concern for a congregation I grew to love during almost eight years of ministry.
I sent a quick e-mail to John Hampton expressing my concern and asking him if the church had changed their position on baptism for remission of sins. Not only did I get an immediate answer, I got a copy of a message John intended to preach Sunday, March 16. After reading it over I recognized a good part of it as part of a message I had preached myself years before. To be honest, we both borrowed from the same source. There could be no doubt left in my mind that John saw baptism resulting in "inner cleansing" because of faith.
How different from the response I got from the preacher of the new Stadia replant in Gil bert, AZ. Neither owed me a response, but one took the question seriously and moved to alleviate suspicion with an honest answer. The other -- the one who wanted me to "shoot straight with him beause he could take it" -- never bothered to affirm or deny.
There are many things causing concern in the Restoration Movement. (See some of the comments on earlier blogs.) If Stadia is not using some litmus test regarding the preaching of "baptism for the remission of sins" all they have to do is be honest and verify their honesty. Like Reagan, I trust but verify! If the preachers and leaers of some of our mega and not so mega churches aren't adopting Evangelical doctrine and approach, let them say so and demonstrate that they are telling the truth. Honest answers without dissimulation is the only way to alleviate the growing tension created by distrust. Churches and congregations must learn to demand accountability of their colleges and our brotherhood "somewhats." We've had too many in years past who hid their beliefs and their motives resulting in the encroachment of liberalism into our schools, open membership on the mission field, and the near loss of thousands of congregations when the Disciples hid the purpose of Restructure. What the liberals did to the Restoration Movement in the late Nineteenth and the Twentieth Centuries, Evangelicals are doing today.
Churches must remain vigilant in their teaching and in holding parachurch agencies accountable for their actions.