Presbyterian Members in Baptist Churches?

This is a question primarily for Reformed Baptist pastors, but I’ll take answers from anyone. Imagine you are a pastor of a 1689 Reformed Baptist church in an area where there are no conservative, confessional, Calvinistic Presbyterian churches for miles. Now, imagine further that while pastoring in this town Presbyterians start to migrate in for college, work, etc. These Presbyterians will not be baptized (as Baptists understand baptism) nor will they allow their children to be. Do you allow them into the membership of your church?

o-BABY-BAPTIZED-facebookFor those who will say, “Yes.”

  • How do you deal with the inconsistency between your church’s membership practices and your church’s view of the covenant?
  • How do you deal with the inconsistency of the requirements you would put on Baptist members vs. the requirements you put on Presbyterians.

For those who will say, “No.”

  • How do you refuse someone membership who is clearly functioning as a member in your church, and is theologically hindered from doing so with a good conscience elsewhere?

5 thoughts on “Presbyterian Members in Baptist Churches?

  1. This is a good question, and one we asked ourselves a few years back when starting our church. We have a policy regarding this, and it may not be perfect, but it is the best way we have come up with to handle this issue. I am interested to see if other Reformed Baptists comment here. The conclusion we came to was this: We want the doorway to the church to be the same shape as the doorway to the kingdom. At the same time, the doorway to eldership is much narrower, and requires full subscription to the LBC1689.

    We require baptism for membership. We only teach and practice credo-baptism by full immersion, so we do not sprinkle babies. However, our policy is that we will accept a Presbyterian with a credible profession of faith into membership, if they have a clear conscience regarding their own paedo-baptism. We would not force them to be baptized again by immersion if they think their baptism is sufficient to be obedient to the command to be baptized. They also must accept that we are Baptists, with a Baptist view of covenant. They must agree to be taught according to the LBC1689, and they need to understand that we will not baptize anyone who cannot make a credible profession of faith in the eyes of the elders (with all charity), including their children. And neither would we approve of their children taking the Lord’s Supper if we don’t think they have a credible profession, even if they were sprinkled as an infant.

    That’s policy. In practice, we have seen several Presbyterian brothers and sisters come to our church. What we have found is that they may hang around for a long time, but they generally don’t seek membership, and they are respectful of the fact that we are Baptists. They just want to fellowship among Reformed brethren where they can until they find a better fit somewhere else, and we are okay with that. I think if I were in their shoes, I would do the same thing. If I moved and only had the choice of an Arminian Baptist church or a Reformed WCF Presbyterian church, I would probably attend the latter as a non-member, and continue looking for a good Reformed Baptist church (or work to start a new one).

    This may not be a perfect solution to the problem, but I hope it is helpful in some way.

  2. I appreciate your response, Jason. I know and respect others who would definitely agree with this. I don’t necessarily agree, but that’s because there is no all-satisfying answer to this question. When considering the issue of membership, it seems as though we Baptists have a much more difficult dilemma than do our Presbyterian brothers. We don’t treat our understanding of covenant membership and baptism like a conscience issue when dealing with new believers and fellow Baptists, but we almost feel forced to when dealing with our Presbyterian brothers. Interestingly, I have heard the same from other pastors about Presbyterians not seeking to join Baptist churches. I would also add that I agree with your final statement about regularly assembling and fellowshipping with Presbyterians while seeking to start a 1689 church, not seeking to take any of the Presby members, though, as that would be divisive… devious even.

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  4. Upon further reflection, I’d like to clarify some things. First, I did not mean to sound contrary in saying that I disagree with Pastor Jason above. I was merely stating that I find the issue to be so complicated that it is hard to find a solution with which I do agree. Second, I would like to clarify that I don’t believe Pastor Jason would seek to take any Presbyterian members from their churches. I merely added that as an aside assuming that he would agree with it. Cheers.

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