Religious liberty in ProvidenceOctober 22, 2008
Bill Webb has a good column in the latest issue of the Word&Way. The piece is entitled "Religious liberty in Providence" and reflects on a church sign outside of the first Baptist church in America, which was started by Roger Williams. Here are a couple highlights:
The commitment on the church sign is no small statement: "We reserve the right to accept everybody!" It was Baptists in Providence, after all, who insisted not only upon religious freedom for themselves but for all others as well.Amen! Although some Baptists today have taken another position, it is great to have reminders of the historical role Baptists have played in fighting for religious liberty for everyone.
The congregation today - like the colony 350 years ago - remains welcoming and committed to the principle of soul liberty.
... Williams - were he and other early Baptist champions of religious liberty to watch 21st century passersby - would likely be pleased that the stately white church with the tall, gleaming steeple hasn't lost its way.
Like the settlement of Providence and the colony of Rhode Island, the congregation keeps alive the principles some Baptists have been too quick to discard. For nearly four centuries, one of the very first First Baptist churches has maintained its Baptist bearings.
Perhaps the First Baptist Church in America still has something to teach other churches of the Baptist persuasion.