Image Credit: Carly Geis Photography
Black Sheep Baptist?
A fair warning.
I’m still understanding what a black sheep Baptist is myself, so this explanation will probably change from time to time.
*This is MY definition and understanding of being an outsider in the faith community I'm in while also representing that same faith to those outside of the "Baptist fold." I'm aware that my definition is not in any way exhaustive. The term black sheep has been used over the centuries to be both a label of praise and one of disenfranchisement and I want to be respectful to those who have a different definition of this term. While I hope to offer a positive perception of what a black sheep is in my specific context, I sympathize with those for whom this word is beyond redemption.
Since referring to myself as a black sheep Baptist I’ve had to try and unpack what’s behind that label. For me, a black sheep is someone who’s on the fringe of a particularly group. In my case, I’m talking about the good ole’ Baptist faith. Now let me be clear, I’m not a renegade type person in anyway. I work in the institutional church, which for all it’s faults, is a beautiful and wonderful thing. My presence there is to be "detached voice, offering criticism that is provocative yet rarely heeded."* However Will D. Campbell, you’ll hear me mention Campbell A LOT if you stay connected with me, says you can work within an institution or a system but always be aware that you’re in it. What Brother Will I believe alludes to is the notion of the institution becoming a voice and motivating force instead of the individuals and communities that reside under those steeples (you see, Baptist are pretty big on the individual divine experience). So in a not so short answer, I work for the institutional church, but operate through an individual freedom of calling that my faith demands. Sometime that puts me on the fringe of things. Not a bad place to be since it allows me to move and shift from one fringe to another. I often tell people, in my default setting I’m uneasy around church folks. I say that not to imply I’m a sketchy person or I’m trying to hide something, but to say I didn’t grow up around Sunday morning church attenders (my great aunt Emmie being the exception). I feel more at home with those who spent their lives nursing hangovers on Sunday mornings, always being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and speaking more like sailors than deacons. This is where being a black sheep helps me because I get to be in both of these communities. I get to walk in the church with saints whose life stories are those of sanctification, and I get to spend time with those saints whose lives are still “under-construction.” I’m privilege to be able to have a foot in both worlds.And sometimes, as much as we black sheep try to fight it, the rest of the flock invite us in. They bring us into the fold and remind us that although we might appear different we are still moving in the same direction. We are grazing in the same spaces. We are all sheep being looked after by the same Shepard.
*Will Campbell: Radical Prophet of the South, Merrill M. Hawkins, Jr.
The question of ‘Who are you?’ always feels so daunting. A few shorts words would never be able to describe who I am or what my purpose in this world might possible be. However, an introduction I suppose is in order.
Until recently, I spent my entire life in the South of these United States, particularly in North Carolina where I was born and raised. The land and region played a huge part in my development in ways I am now just discovering. The Old North State is the source of my nature, while my family shaped the nurturing aspects of my upbringing. Flannery O'Connors description of a "Christ-Haunted South" couldn't be more spot on.
Through a series of events too long to share here, I, in my mid-twenties began to visit many different kinds of churches. And somehow (providence?) I ended up in the Baptist faith where I was ordained. I have received theological training/degrees from both Campbell University and Wake Forest School of Divinity. I have served congregations in NC for the past 6 years, but my family and I recently became “flatlanders” as of June. I’m currently the Senior Pastor of an American Baptist Church (with Methodist heritage) in the “Green Mountain State.”
I'm married to a wonderful wife, Lauren. I have an adorable daughter, Violet. I'm constantly vacuuming up the hair of two cats and Fred our Golden Retriever.
Six Sips in the Spirit podcast is a unpretentious experimentation for those interested in holding dialogue around the role of faith leaders in today’s public square. In the suggested time it takes to enjoy “six sips” of a well-crafted bourbon or cocktail, half an hour, listeners will be exposed to slightly inebriated ministers and activists who are speaking to social issues both behind and out from under their pulpits. Our hope is that you’ll engage us for these crucial conversations and the much needed stiff drinks that go along with them.
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