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Positive

John Piper's church, Bethlehem Baptist, has lowered its requirements for church membership (while simultaneously raising the bar doctrinally for elders). Hopefully this will lead (in its own small way) to greater unity among Christians who may disagree with one another on less than essential points of doctrine (e.g. baptism). From desiringgod.org:

After more than three years of study and prayer and discussion of this issue, the Council of Elders believes that membership requirements at Bethlehem should move toward being roughly the same as the requirements for membership in the universal body of Christ. That is, we have come to the conclusion that it is seriously questionable to say to a person who gives good evidence of being a true Christian and who wants to join Bethlehem: you may not join.

This conclusion raises problems of consistency for our present Constitution and By-Laws and our present church Affirmation of Faith and Church Covenant. These documents hold up some less than essential beliefs that must be affirmed in order to be a member at Bethlehem. Thus the door to membership at Bethlehem at the present time is significantly narrower than the door to membership in the universal body of Christ. The elders believe this should be changed because of how serious it is to exclude in principle any truly born-again lover of Christ from membership in the local church.

The most obvious change this involves is allowing the possibility that a person may become a member who has not been baptized by immersion as a believer but who regards the baptismal ritual he received in infancy not as regenerating, but nevertheless (as with most Presbyterians) in such a way that it would violate his conscience to be baptized as a believer. The elders are proposing that under certain conditions such persons be admitted to full membership.


Read the rest of the article.

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That's really cool. It's always heartening to see examples of churches exhibiting the love of Christ and opening their arms, rather than shutting down the doors and setting up dividing lines.

I agree with Bethany, but my reading of this seems to say that Christians baptized as infants within the Lutheran and Anglican tradition are still ineligible for membership:

"The most obvious change this involves is allowing the possibility that a person may become a member who has not been baptized by immersion as a believer but who regards the baptismal ritual he received in infancy not as regenerating, but nevertheless (as with most Presbyterians) in such a way that it would violate his conscience to be baptized as a believer. The elders are proposing that under certain conditions such persons be admitted to full membership."

If they want the requirements to membership to be "roughly the same as the requirements for membership in the universal body of Christ," are they saying that the Lutheran and Anglican idea of regenerative baptism (i.e., the idea that paedobaptism washes away a child's original sin--this is much different from the Reformed idea of paedobaptism, which says that such baptism marks a child as a member of the covenant, but has no regenerative qualities) takes those traditions outside the scope of Christianity?

Or am I reading too much into this?

I think they were just giving an example of a common situation that will now be different. Not ruling out everything else.

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