I had goose bumps, tears, and hope as I watched this video of James Merritt make a historic amendment from the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention.
In 1987 my father, trying to unify the Convention, tore it asunder by nominating Richard Jackson (a known conservative but moderate affiliate) as President to the Convention. Our own civil war as Baptists ensued; and as a young man I was a casualty.
Later, I would surrender to the call of ministry; but only after experiencing the shunning of my father by the notables. I grieved the fall-out in my home, my church, my state, and my life. I attended a non-SBC seminary and tentatively served in Baptist churches.
While in seminary, around 1993-94, I remember sharing a meal with my dad at my first Southern Baptist Convention. It was a stomach turning event full of show boat righteousness and bigoted resolutions. I was still struggling with the strangeness of the dichotomy of Baptist life.
I was glad to go with my dad, who was healing from the shunning. He has cautiously being embraced again by the notables after launching, what would be, the first multi-site church among Baptists in 1992.
It was at that table, with the fine suits and perfectly coifed hair of the decision makers, I met a passionate young up and comer, James Merritt. As he walked by our table saying hello, he was glowing with joy and enthusiasm having just led his cabbie to faith in Christ. It stood out to me as a seminarian amongst the peacocking (no offense O.S.) and number sharing – that as a young and idealistic pastor I longed for substance, unity, and cultural engagement. It gave me hope that Baptist might mean something more than division and bigotry, inane resolutions resulting in irrelevance and isolation.
Yesterday, watching that video of the same passion and courage James Merritt displayed all those years ago has inspired me. It has reignited that rare emotion of my Baptistic life…Hope.