On Becoming un-Baptist Part 1: Ecclesiology
I am the son of a Baptist pastor. My parents even have a picture of me as a baby at my dad’s graduation from Seminary with his M.Div. My dad pastored in various baptistic denominations through my youth and young adult life. These were the circles I grew up in and the doctrines within which I was raised.
Like most others, I viewed the context of my upbringing as the standard from which others deviated. I did not consider ecclesiology (the study of the Church) in any real sense until I was in my master’s degree. There I encountered other points of view with a semblance of seriousness. At the same time I sought to form a robust defense of my position against those who held contrary opinions. (It is a very useful exercise to take the best argument from an opposing view and fairly critique it upon its merits.)
I was decidedly not attempting to leave my tradition during my studies. However, I was rarely content to just accept an answer without support. Upon reflection, I was probably an annoying student who asked odd ball questions because I was thinking odd ball thoughts. I was always trying to think outside of the boxes to see if things actually made sense from every perspective I could consider.
This mode of operation was applied to my thinking about what I believed about the Church. I remained a firm Congregationalist until a moment I still vividly remember, when my professor said that Titus 1:5 meant that Titus was to have the churches in Crete hold elections to determine their elders. The problem is that this is not at all what was written in Titus 1:5
“For this reason I left you in Crete, so that you might set right the things that are lacking and appoint elders in each city, just as I commanded you.”
The word “appoint” in the Greek means “to appoint” (among other meanings which would not fit the context). “Appoint” does not mean “elect” (there is another Greek word which means “to elect”). All this Greek knowledge left me thinking that the Apostle Paul actually wanted Titus to travel around to all the churches on Crete and to select the men who were to be elders. No congregational voting; just appointment by Titus.
At this point, I realized that I had tacitly accepted the idea of a monarchial bishop in the time of the Apostles, appointed by an Apostle. Therefore, in principal though not in practice, I became okay with bishops. Besides, the cool Baptist churches with multiple campuses already had a lead pastor functioning as a quasi-bishop. The argument that each church in a town was somehow a separate entity functioning independently and solely under the authority of God’s word, could no longer pass the test. Especially when I looked at Acts 15 and found that the Council of Jerusalem wrote commands to all the churches in “Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia” (15:36). The churches in these places are not treated as one individual entity, but they are all given the same (apparently binding) command from the council.
Therefore, it made sense to me when I read the Church Fathers speaking about bishops. It made sense that they would write about bishops because I had already seen the Apostle telling people to act as a bishop (Titus and Timothy being prime examples). When they had councils, it made sense that they would hold a council and issue a decisive ruling for the faithful. I did not cease to be a Baptist at this point because I was still firmly convinced of believer’s baptism (the idea that only those who believe in Christ ought to/ could receive baptism). Therefore I became a Baptist with serious questions about polity.
 My own translation.
 I generally affirm Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles. If such were to be incontrovertibly proven otherwise, my world would not be too greatly rocked though.