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Unique former southern baptist church profiled in Charlotte Magazine

Unique former southern baptist church profiled in Charlotte Magazine

Update: The word “former” was added to the headline, and “Southern” has been removed from the closing paragraph because they confused some readers. -DS

Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC, has been featured in a local profile because of their inclusive and tolerant environment and service to their neighbors. The church is led by a husband-and-wife team, Russ and Amy Jacks Dean, who recently performed a marriage for a same-sex couple and have kept a congregation with diverse political and theological views together.

The church has a traditional worship service, without contemporary music or A/V aids, but has a theology focused on social justice and equal rights, which led to their  disassociation from the North Carolina Baptist Convention in response to the Convention forbidding acceptance of LGBT relationships and same-sex sexual orientation.

Members of the church disagreed with each other on some of these decisions, but have remained members, and the church has continued to grow. The magazine notes that the Deans have held funerals for unknown and impoverished people, and that they’ve demonstrated a deep faith and love of God to their neighbors, even neighbors who protested or criticized them.

The Deans maintain a blog on their church site, where Russ wrote about Franklin Graham and opposition to Muslim prayer at Duke University.

The Deans believe that they may have a hard time finding another church if they ever leave Park Road Baptist; do you know of other Baptist churches that may welcome their revolutionary ministry?

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Russ Dean

Yes, Baptist life is confusing -- even for Baptists! Park Road was established as a Southern Baptist Church in 1950, but it has been almost 40 years since the church participated in any meaningful way, or identified as "Southern Baptist." We affiliate with the Alliance of Baptists and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship -- both groups which grew out of the SBC as that convention became too conservative in its theological orientation.

And, yes, progressive Baptists are not unique -- a number of other, like-minded congregations have been identified in the comments above. We know of a number of other churches/pastors who could have been featured in the Clt Mag article!

Regarding sacraments... I actually prefer that word to the more sanitized "ordinance," and I understand our rituals as sacramental -- as I was taught to define the word: "an outward sign of an inward grace." But at the root of what actually happens when we partake of the sacraments... my guess is that I'm more Baptist than Episcopalian. (A friend talks of eucharist as "real presence,"which doesn't resonate very well with me. I distance myself from Zwingli's "hollow symbol," but can't quite get to "real presence" either.)

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Bruce Holliday

Many thanks to Episcopal Cafe for sharing our story with your readers! I had to smile at some of the comments about "southern Baptist". Our Baptist heritage and progressive theology often leave people a bit confused - at first. But make no mistake, Park Road proudly claims a heritage of “free and faithful Baptists”, emphasizing historic Baptist principles such as the autonomy of the local church, the freedom of scriptural interpretation, the freedom of believers to minister to themselves and to one another, and the separation of church and state.

Grace and peace to you and all your readers.

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James Yazell

Out of curiosity, as a liturgical baptist church what are your views on the sacraments? Do you view the Eucharist and Baptism in the traditional baptist manner of being an ordinance? How does that relate to being liturgical?

Thanks,

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John Chilton

For completeness, here's their full statement about their affiliation(s):

Because of our longstanding commitment to the ordination of women into all forms of Christian service, and due to the increasingly conservative movement of the Southern Baptist Convention, Park Road withdrew all formal support for the SBC in 2007.

In 2003, Park Road decided to adopt multiple affiliations that better represented the diversity of thought, inclusive nature, progressive theology of our church. Our current denominational affiliations are Alliance of Baptists, United Baptist Association, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, and The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

http://www.parkroadbaptist.org/#progressive-baptists

It wasn't so long ago they were keeping one foot in the SBC.

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Randall Stewart

I'm sorry, but there were so many issues that jumped out to me immediately in reading this that it was a little breathtaking.

Respectfully, while I understand the volunteer aspect, as a reader, there is a credibility aspect too.

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Christopher Adams

As a former Baptist minister in NC, now an Episcopal priest in NM, I'm excited by this church. I was ordained in the CBF, the denomination which split from the SBC in the early 90's over Scriptural interpretation and the issue of women's ordination. Millbrook Baptist Church in Raleigh is also another like minded church, as well as Binkley Baptist in Chapel Hill, NC.

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