The Baptist “brand” has fallen on hard times. The image many people have of our churches and worship are a hindrance to many people looking for a place to grow faith. Each year more churches have removed the word from their name. Yet, Baptists have a rich heritage. No faith tradition did more to secure religious freedom during the formation of our nation. Baptists taught that individuals could seek and find their own connection with God. They could seek God’s guidance in their decision making.
Has their ever been a more pressing time for Christians to seek the leadership of God than the day in which we find ourselves? We need God’s guidance to chart the path God wishes for us, without deferring our responsibilities to others.
The quotation from Roger Williams contains language we would not use today. But he captures the Baptist ideal that each of us are free to practice faith as God leads, not as directed by government or society.
There goes many a ship to sea, with many hundred souls on one ship,
whose weal or woe is common, and is a true picture of a
commonwealth, or a human combination or society. It hath
fallen out sometimes that both [Catholics] and Protestants,
Jews and Turks, may be embarked in one ship; upon which
supposal I affirm, that all the liberty of conscience, that ever I
pleaded for, turns upon these two hinges: that none of the
[Catholics], Protestants, Jews or Turks be forced to come to
the ship’s prayers or worship, nor compelled from their own
particular prayers or worship if they practice any.
Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island