‘For’ is not a word often used to describe Baptists. More often, I hear Baptists described by what they’re against. But I think ‘for’ is a word Texas Baptists can and should rally around. After all, Texas Baptists are for more than they are against if we just consider things.
Texas Baptists are for Jesus
First and foremost, Texas Baptists are for Jesus. They are for the gospel, the good news that sin and death are dealt with and conquered in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This kind of language increasingly is strange to the surrounding world, but it’s the core of what Texas Baptists are for.
To say Texas Baptists are for Jesus is not to say they are the only people who are. Our discourse today has programmed us to think such assertions are some sort of passive-aggressive self-congratulation, a sly reference to our superior theological, political or social position in which we don’t name the inferior position.
Simply stated and simply meant: Texas Baptists are for Jesus. That’s worth rallying around.
Texas Baptists are for working together
Texas Baptists also are for working together. Together, Texas Baptists have promoted evangelism and engaged in mission all over the world. They have built universities to empower people’s futures. They have provided human care through hospitals, social service agencies and disaster relief to improve communities. They’ve been able to do all of that—and more—because they’ve worked together.
Just because Texas Baptists have not always communicated the importance of working together in a way that explains when working together becomes difficult or impossible doesn’t mean Texas Baptists aren’t for it.
As is true with all groups of people, simply working together is one of people’s greatest challenges. And yet, all the things Texas Baptists have managed to do by working together is evidence of how for it they are.
Texas Baptists are for women
Speaking of when working together becomes difficult: It is true that many Texas Baptists—though not all—are for women in ministry, by which is meant women holding leadership positions in the church.
There is great variation among Texas Baptists who are for women in ministry. Some are fine with women leading in children’s ministry. Some are fine with women leading music in worship services. Some ordain women as deacons. Some allow women to preach, and some call women as pastors. Some even celebrate and advocate for women leading in ministry—which is different than ‘being fine with it.’
Other Baptists in Texas are for only men leading in ministry. Some of those Baptists are Texas Baptists. And while it can be difficult for Baptists holding such different convictions about women in ministry to do some things together, it’s not impossible to do other things together.
So, while some Texas Baptists are for women in ministry and others are for only men, being for Jesus and for working together is something all Texas Baptists are for.
Texas Baptists are for marriage
Another place where working together becomes difficult is the line between being for a traditional view of marriage and being for affirming same-sex marriage. This is a line where ‘against’ rings loud and threatens to overshadow and undo ‘for.’
That the vast majority of Texas Baptists are for marriage between one man and one woman does not mean they are perfect at being married to one man or one woman. They aren’t.
That the vast majority of Texas Baptists are for the traditional definition of marriage does not mean they are against those who are for affirming same-sex marriage, though some Texas Baptists indeed have said and done things that are ‘against.’
That most Texas Baptists are deeply convicted about being for traditional marriage doesn’t mean they aren’t for the love and grace of Jesus and aren’t for caring about people.
It does mean the strength of being ‘for’ is being tested.
Texas Baptists are for
Texas Baptists are for Jesus. Texas Baptists are for working together. And Texas Baptists are for people. The first one is easy. The second can be challenging. The third one—when you get right down to it—can be agony.
Nevertheless, all three are worth rallying around. If nothing else, we can be for that.