Baptist Freedom In Kansas
The Kansas Supreme Court has decreed that a Baptist church cannot withdraw from the national convention, no matter what the issue, no matter how large the majority vote to do so may be.
This means that the convention is the absolute master of the church — of its membership, of its treasury, of every brick and stone and nail and board of its buildings, of every foot of its grounds.
It means that the church must remain in the convention by force, not by choice.
And it means that Jesus Christ is not the Head of the local church; the convention is its head. And this means that the head in fact is a little knot of self-exalted ecclesiastics who have substituted humanism for Christianity, who have substituted the couch for the altar, who have substituted togetherness for separation.
As far as this Kansas writ runs, Baptist freedom is dead; not dead on the field with the scars of battle, but dead in its own house. Dead because its household demanded that it die.
Don't blame the court. The court did not ask for the case. The case came to the court and the judges had to decide it. They would have been criticized regardless of how they decided it. The presumption is that they decided it on what they considered to be its merits, and as free from prejudice as human beings are likely to be.
The guilty parties are the Kansas State (Northern) and the American (Northern) Baptist conventions. If these ecclesiastical bodies were not the palpable hypocrites they are, the case would never have gone to any court. They would have defended majority rule in the church, even though they had sincerely believed the majority to be wrong. They would have known and they would have clearly stated that the basic issue was the historic Baptist principle of church autonomy, and that that principle must be preserved if Baptist life is to continue. They would have taken the position that the affiliation of a local Baptist church with any body is voluntary; and that, on the same principle, such church could terminate its affiliation at its pleasure.
One of the most disturbing aspects of this case is that the Southern Baptist Convention must stand by with its mouth shut. That is, unless It wishes to be branded by every informed person, including its friends, as one of the most brazen hypocrites seen on earth since the last Pharisee died in ancient Jerusalem.
The Southern convention had an identical case in North Carolina. In 1954, the Supreme Court of North Carolina issued substantially the same decree as the Kansas court, with a minor and legally unimportant modification. The whole Southern Baptist hierarchy applauded the decision. The North Carolina convention refused to criticize it. A series of attempts to get the Southern Baptist Convention to make a clarifying statement were humiliating failures.
And now the Southern convention must look on in cowardly silence as Baptist freedom is struck down. It may shed tears; but they will be the tears of Esau, shed at the wrong place, at the wrong time.
What a price to pay for the lust for ecclesiastical power!
Don't be fooled. This is a revolutionary issue. It is not confined to Baptists. It goes far beyond that. For whatever else history may say about the great stream of Baptists, it will tell you that from the beginning Baptists have fought and gone to jail and died for religious and civil liberty — for everybody, everywhere, to the end of time. Read your history. How much religious and civil liberty would there be on this frightened and tormented earth were it not for the Baptists?
When you kill Baptist freedom you are going to kill, with the same blow — ultimately — civil freedom. The last serious and courageous voice for religious and civil liberty on this earth will be a Baptist voice, just as the last citadel of Christianity in the totalitarian world will be a local New Testament church — with the Son of God as its only Head, with the infallible Bible as its sole rule of faith and practice.
This issue is as plain as that.
Every genuine Baptist in this country should pray for the majority in the First Baptist church of Wichita. And every genuine Baptist in this country should offer this majority any aid within his power — not only to appeal for a re-hearing in the Kansas Supreme Court, but, if necessary, to carry the case to the Supreme Court of the United States.
There never was a worse time in the history of this country for Baptist freedom to die than now.
And Baptist freedom must not die.
And Baptist freedom shall not die!