I just got back from the Baptist General Association of Virginia. Over 1000 of us met in Hampton, VA for two days of worship, business, and fellowship. It is always good to go and catch up with folks from the state that I have known through the years and to spend time learning about what we are doing as we serve in the BGAV and to be reminded of our mission.
There is so much good about being in the BGAV and I just want to brag for a moment.
Our church belongs to this state convention that predates the Southern Baptist Convention. The BGAV and the state convention in Texas remain the only two historic state conventions that were not overthrown by the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC in the 1980s and 1990s. Both of these states did not give in and the fundamentalists left and formed their own state conventions. The SBC of VA met the same week we met in a different part of the state.
Having said that this doesn’t mean everyone thinks the same at the BGAV. This state group of Baptists are diverse and yet what makes us work is that we allow for such diversity. The BGAV allows Baptist churches who are SBC and those who are CBF and those that are neither to come together to do global missions, resourcing, and minister as one. Our BGAV president is currently the president of the global Baptist World Alliance (BWA). The BGAV resisted the takeover because VA Baptists value freedom and cooperation with others who may differ. Fundamentalism strives for uniformity and has a problem with such cooperation. VA Baptist history gives many examples of those who were willing to be beaten, jailed, and persecuted for freedom and toleration. As someone who is not originally from this state I was drawn to this state because of her love for religious freedom and cooperation with others. I went to seminary in the 90s in VA, moved away, and find myself back serving a church here. I’m glad God led me this way. I know how hard it is to be a authentic Baptist in other places.
In these changing days churches outside VA are joining the BGAV and this ‘state’ convention is moving beyond state boundaries. BGAV is now becoming a national if not global organization and yet allows for partnership with other ‘larger’ bodies such as the SBC and the CBF (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship- the moderate Baptist group that pulled out the SBC after the takeover). Moderates in other states no longer have the resources and networking to the same level that we have in BGAV and we are blessed for this.
The BGAV may be struggling financially as all religious bodies are doing but it is clear that there is a desire to do missions and to be proactive and to work together. It is evident from walking through the resource fair and from those who are involved. I’m thankful for this.
And if you were there you will find not all agree on everything. Not all votes are 100 percent. There is a variety of expression around and that is good. That is healthy and that is welcome.
I’m glad to be a Christian who is a Baptist who serves in VA.