On April 14, 2012 I was received into the Eastern Orthodox Church through chrismation. Below is the letter that I wrote to my family to share news of this life-changing event.
The context of the letter is rather specific. My family consists of primarily Southern Baptists who have become either independent Missionary Baptists or nondenominational Charismatics. I wrote trying to build some bridges with those traditions, and as a result, left out many of the finer points of Church history and theology. But I post it here in case it’s helpful to anyone else.
In a previous entry, we ended on the question of whether a denomination that includes many Protestant streams that see baptism as either a sign of incorporation into a covenant community or as sign of previous regeneration can honestly claim baptism is a sacrament within its bylaws.
The gulf between views of baptism as imparting a gift from God (sacramental) and outward sign of covenant community (Zwingli, Congregationalist) or a sign pointing to an inward act of faith that has already transpired (Baptist, Anabaptist, Pentecostal/Charismatic) becomes even broader when we begin to discuss the ontological meaning of baptism.
Since the time of Constantine, baptism has often been one of the strands holding together the knot of national identity and Christendom.
In other situations, the fear that a child, tainted by Original Sin, might end up in hell for all eternity if she were to die before being baptized has led parents, grandparents and other guardians to seek out baptism in churches as though it might provide some sort of magical fire insurance.
In my previous blog entry I stated that MCC’s bylaws refer to baptism as a sacrament. But what does that mean?
When the New Testament was written, its authors referred to the mustēria or "mysteries" of God — thoughts and plans that are beyond human understanding unless God reaches out and gives us the gift of understanding and participation.*
In the early days of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, the first Bylaws published by the movement had the following to say about baptism:
The Church shall embrace two Holy Sacraments:
1. Baptism by water and the Spirit, as exemplified by Christ at the hands of John the Baptist. This baptism shall be a sign of the dedication of each life to God and His [sic] service. Through the words and acts of this baptism, the words, ‘God’s own child’ shall be stamped upon the recipiant [sic] (UFMCC 3).
But shortly thereafter, John the Baptist disappeared from the Bylaws. What happened?
Bryce E. Rich
AAR 2009 Annual Meeting
8 November 2009
Over the past couple of decades the Church has been increasingly pulled into the conflict over homosexuality. As Christians rush to take up sides in arguments over scriptural authority, cultural norms, scientific data, and theories of social justice, debates have become increasingly polarized, with both sides engaging in polemic that dehumanizes their opponents and incites some to physical violence. Indeed, not a month goes by without reports of intimidation, assault, and murder of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people caught in the crossfire. Many LGBT Christians have found themselves separated from family, friends and communities of faith.
In the third installment of factors leading to seminary, it seems good to talk about the denominations along the road and the gifts that each one gave me for the journey.
But as I started writing this entry, I realized it was waaaaaay too long. So I’ve divided it into two parts. The second half will come soon…
Now that I’ve had a break from school for a couple of months, I think it’s time to reflect on some of the things that nudged me toward the seminary in the first place. Atonement immediately springs to mind.