Category Archives: baptists

Pelikan on the Pedigree of Baptism

At a time when Baptists were contending for immersion as the only authentic form of baptism which “has its origin from God,” Eastern theologians also insisted on it, in opposition to the Latins, who were obliged to admit that immersion had been standard practice throughout most of the history of the church.

Jaroslav Pelikan, Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture (since 1700) The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine 5 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1989), 46.


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Baptists and Reformed Orthodoxy

Continuity between Baptist theologians and the Reformed confessional tradition is clear in the use of the Westminster Confession and the Savoy Declaration of the Congregationalists as the basis for large portions of their Second London Confession of 1677 and 1688. The point can also easily be illustrated from the thought of major English Particular Baptist theologians, whose thought apart from the question of baptism, remained in continuity with Reformed orthodoxy. The internal Baptism debates over open or closed communion and over the singing of hymns in worship also had clear parallels among the Reformed.

Richard A. Muller, “Diversity in the Reformed Tradition: A Historical Introduction” in Michael A. G. Haykin and Mark Jones eds., Drawn into Controversie: Reformed Theological Diversity and Debates Within Seventeenth-Century British Puritanism RHT 17 (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Reprecht, 2011), 28.


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Baptist Origins in Ireland

Crawford Gribben of Trinity College Dublin has posted a two-part article on Baptist origins in Ireland at his blog here and here. He argues that the Baptists there, although existent in small numbers, did not experience any revitalisation until men like Samuel Pearce and Andrew Fuller went on preaching expeditions there. The result of their efforts was what Gribben calls a “mini-revival.”

Of course, my interests are with the Baptist from Northern Ireland, Alexander Carson. Gribben says that in the beginning of the nineteenth-century, when Carson was pastoring in Tobermore, there were few churches in the North. By the end of the century, however, there was growth. Is this the result of the Pearce-Fuller excursions? Or is it Carson? Maybe it’s both? I’m interested to find out.

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Baptists and the Supper

Some of my more sacramentally oriented friends (i.e. Anglicans) think that we Baptists are mere Memorialists when it comes to the Lord’s Supper. But this ain’t so! Although most Baptists today are of the so-called “Zwinglian” variety (though Zwingli was no Zwinglian), this has not always been the case. Historically speaking, Baptists are inheritors of the Calvinian tradition, especially when it comes to the Eucharist. Therefore we take there to be a real, or spiritual presence of Christ in the elements of the bread and wine (not grape juice!); that we take spiritual nourishment from the Supper; and have true communion with Christ. Ours is not a “real absence” view.

For instance, the Second London Confession of Faith (1689) in Chapter 30.7 says,

Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible Elements in this Ordinance, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally, and corporally, but spiritually receive, and feed upon Christ crucified (l) & all the benefits of his death: the Body and Blood of Christ, being then not corporally, or carnally, but spiritually present to the faith of Believers, in that Ordinance, as the Elements themselves are to their outward senses.

l 1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:23-26.


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Starr Bibliography Online

SCORE! I just found Edward Starr’s A Baptist Bibliography online at the Baptist Heritage site. I love stumbling upon resources online. Starr is a classic reference for Baptist historians, but typically it requires finding it in a library and working through the massive mint green set. I am extremely happy to find it (PDF).

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Garrett’s “Baptist Theology”

I recently picked up James Leo Garrett Jr.’s tome (I use the word intentionally) Baptist Theology: A Four-Century Study (Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2009). Thus far I’ve only skimmed its over seven hundred pages, but it looks to be a treasure-trove of historical-theological material that runs the full course of Baptist history–there’s even a section on Don Carson. Founders Ministries Podcast interviewed Dr. Garrett about the book last April here.

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Baptists, Signs and Rationalism

I have a further thought regarding R. Scott Clark’s recent series on baptism that he posted on his Heidelblog. In the fifth part, near the end, he says, “Baptists know that they, like Reformed congregations, have unregenerate members but by administering baptism only to those who make a profession of faith they are doing what they can to ensure a regenerate membership. From a Reformed view of covenant theology it is quite difficult to see how this is not, at bottom, a form of rationalism. If it is rationalism that would not be surprising since an over-realized eschatology, which Luther called a theology of glory (theologia gloriae (sic) is just another form of rationalism.”

Knowing that Dr. Clark would disagree with paedocommunion, is he not open to the same charge? If the church only administers this sacrament to those who have been confirmed (or whatever the URC does in light of confirmation), is that also not a form of rationalism? Only in this instance the minister is making a decision to withhold the cup from someone who has actually been baptised and for all intents and purposes is “received into God’s church” (Belgic Confession, Article 34). If the minister can withhold this sacrament from a church member and not the other sacrament, this would appear, on Dr. Clark’s part, to be an even more insipid form of rationalism.

During the Halfway Covenant controversy it is well-known that Jonathan Edwards was removed from his charge in Northampton, Mass. This removal was instanced by Edwards’ refusal to allow members of a “halfway covenant” to the table. In his Distinguishing Marks of the Spirit of God he developed what he called “negative” and “positive signs” that demonstrated, for the sake of the church, whether or not the Spirit had converted someone. While Edwards recognised that the signs in and of themselves proved nothing in terms of whether a person was truly converted (i.e. it was not a sure sign for assurance), it did serve an ecclesiological function: namely, whether a person has given a credible profession of faith that would admit him or her to the privileges of the church. He delineates this in An Humble Inquiry where he says, “The question is not, whether Christ has made converting grace or piety itself the condition or rule of his people’s admitting any to the privileges of members in full communion with them: there is no one qualification of mind, whatsoever, that Christ has properly made the term of this; not so much as a common belief that Jesus is the Messiah, or a belief of the being of a God. ‘Tis the credible profession and visibility of these things, that is the church’s rule in this case. Christian piety or godliness may be a qualification requisite to communion in the Christian sacraments, just in the same manner as a belief that Jesus is the Messiah, and the Scriptures the Word of God, are requisite qualifications, and in the same manner as some kind of repentance is a qualification” (Works 12:176, emphasis mine).

Is Edwards here guilty of rationalism by seeking to “inquire” (pardon the pun) into the condition of a person’s heart in order to admit them to the privileges of the church? Worse, is Edwards not guilty of falling prey to the theology of glory as Luther would understand it in the Heidelberg Disputation? There Luther said, “That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which actually happened. He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.” Is Edwards a “theologian” or not? Are Baptists theologians or not? Is R. Scott Clark a theologian or not? If we peer into the “invisible things” such as whether a child is converted and can take the eucharist, are we not undeserving of the title “theologian”? In regard to Edwards, Stephen Holmes would argue the opposite, that rather Edwards actually pushed Reformed orthodoxy further away from the theology of glory into a more (but not totally) consistent theologia crucis–Edwards’ overall theological enterprise views God’s glory through the cross, which is the burden of Holme’s work to demonstrate (Holmes, God of Grace, 76, 122-123).

It would be a stretch to accuse Baptists of rationalism when baptising only those who have given a credible profession of faith. I bring this up not to single out Dr. Clark, but as a sincere request to have this matter cleared for my own convictions. The last thing I want, as a Baptist, is to be guilty of rationalism or theologia gloriae. At this point, admittedly, I’m not convinced that I am.


Filed under baptism, baptists, jonathan edwards, martin luther, reformed baptist, reformed theology

The New Covenant Community

R. Scott Clark, who teaches at Westminster Seminary California, has recently posted a series on the differences between paedobaptists and credobaptists on the New Covenant. I appreciate the series for its clearness in expressing his views–while not the standard interpretation from a paedo view (one thinks of Richard Pratt’s take)–it is nonetheless extremely clear. I’m also thankful that the rhetoric that can be so common to such debates is toned down to a dull roar. That often masks the argument to such a degree that I rarely continue to the end. In this case, I read all five points with profit.

Dr. Clark is right to point out that the issue between the two groups really centers on the question, “In what sense is the New Covenant new?” I’ve had a number of discussions over the years with good friends who are paedobaptists and I’ve found that our disagreements almost always find their root at this point.

In Clark’s understanding, the New Covenant is entirely new in relation to the Mosaic Covenant, but is not entirely new in relation to the Abrahamic. In fact, the blessings of the New Covenant, that were first announced in Jeremiah 31:31-34 are all found substantively in the Abrahamic Covenant. He says in Part 4: “In Jeremiah 31 the prophet anticipates five great blessings of the new covenant,” although he goes on to list only four: 1) an immutable covenant; 2) an interior piety; 3) an immediate knowledge; 4) an iniquity forgiven.

While I do not disagree that such blessings were indeed found in the Abrahamic Covenant–I would argue that they were found even before in the over-arching covenant of grace beginning at Genesis 3:15–the question is, “Are these blessings constitutive of the entire covenant community, or just those within the community who were ‘saved’ (for lack of a better term)?” For the believer, pre or post-Abrahamic Covenant, indeed they received such blessings. But what of the Jew who performed all of the ceremonies in a perfunctory manner, yet whose heart was not circumcised–an “unbelieving Jew” if you will–is he a recipient of these four blessings outlined by Jeremiah?

The argument for the credobaptist is that the blessings of Jeremiah 31 are for all of the members of the New Covenant. I don’t have to turn to fellow covenant members and tell them to know the Lord, because they already do. I don’t have to tell them to repent because they already have forgiveness of sins. This is so because they are members of an immutable covenant, have the law written on their hearts and have their sins forgiven in Christ.

So, while the issue between us is indeed the New Covenant, to be more specific, it is this: “Are the blessings of the New Covenant, promised by Jeremiah, for the covenant community as a whole?” If yes, then the difference between the Abrahamic is apparent, because this is not the case for that covenant. If the answer is no (to preserve the absolute correspondence with Abraham), then explain the language of law written on hearts, forgiveness of sins, etc.

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Canadian Baptist Historical Society 2011

5 March 2011


Tyndale Seminary
25 Ballyconnor Ct.
Toronto, ON

The Canadian Baptist Historical Society (CBHS) traces its origins back to the nineteenth century when Baptists passionate about their heritage began a process of preserving critical documents and studying the Baptist presence in Ontario and Quebec. Its primary focus is on the history of all Baptists in the Canadian context, but the study of Baptists around the globe is also a part of its mandate. Scholars, pastors, students and those interested in Baptist history are all warmly invited to attend meetings of the society. The CBHS is always interested in paper proposals for its meetings, and if you have a proposal for next year’s meeting please send it to Gord Heath.

The CBHS has also recently started to publish a series of books on Baptist history. Volume one is Baptists and Public Life in Canada (anticipated publication 2011). Volume Two is Baptists and War (anticipated publication 2012). Other volumes are expected in subsequent years.

This year’s annual meeting is at Tyndale Seminary.

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Treatise of Church Discipline – Chapter Five – Settling a Minister

I was reading through some of the documents in Mark Dever’s edited volume Polity: A Collection of Historic Baptist Documents–an indispensable resource for pastors and churches–and came across the following statement by Welsh Baptist Samuel Jones. This helps give some perspective for both aspiring pastors and churches looking to call said pastor. My heart especially resonates with the last line:

1. A person having been regularly ordained a minister of the gospel, as we have seen in Chap. II, he is qualified to become a pastor or minister of any destitute church.

2. This is done in consequence of a call and invitation of some church, and his accepting of the call on the terms proposed, or such as they may agree upon. Calling of him to preach, ordaining of him, and his being even a member of said church, is not sufficient, there ought to be a mutual agreement between him and the church, whereby he becomes theirs, and they his. Col. i. 7.

3. How unanimous the church ought to be in the choice and settlement of a minister, it may be hard to say. On the one hand, a bare, or even a large majority, will not be sufficient, while, on the other hand, an unanimous vote may not always be obtained, and, perhaps, in some cases, may not be absolutely necessary. The more unanimous, however, the better.

4. The congregation also is not to be neglected in this business. For, as their good is to be kept in view, and as part of the support is expected to come from them, it ought to be known, that the person proposed to be settled gives pretty general satisfaction. I Tim. iii. 7. 3 John 12.

5. In settling a minister, having appointed a time and place, and invited a council from one or two of the neighbouring churches to assist, and to witness the transaction, one of the ministers, after praying and singing should preach a suitable sermon. Then he, or another of the council, is to put such questions to the minister to be settled, and to the representative of the church appointed for that purpose, as will draw from each of them promises to fulfil their respective parts of the covenant and agreement between them, upon which he pronounces him, in the presence of God and of the whole assembly, to be the pastor and overseer of that church, and said church to be his flock and charge. Then the settled minister and representative of the church give each other the right hand of fellowship, with expressions of mutual joy and congratulation.

6. After this a charge should be delivered to the settled minister, Col. iv. 19. [sic.] and his church; and then, prayer, singing, and a benediction, will close the service.

7. The transactions of the day, and particularly the terms of agreement between the settled minister and the church, should be entered at large on the records of the church.

8. Some may say, that so much formality in the business, with witnesses, is unnecessary, and that a private agreement between the parties is sufficient. But as a public form of marriage is indispensable; so the above is expedient and useful, as might be shewn were it necessary.

9. The duties incumbent on the pastor of a church, are many and great, and blessed is he who is found faithful therein.

10. He is to exercise love, care, tenderness, watchfulness, and diligence, in all the duties of going before, feeding and defending the flock, the sheep and the lambs, the strong, the weak and diseased, John xxi. 15, 17. Acts xx. 29. I Pet. v. 2. Jer. iii. 15. He is to preach in season and out of season?attend funerals?administer the ordinances of baptism and the Lord?s supper6?take the lead in church government?visit the flock?particularly the sick?pray for and with them?catechise the young, and defend the faith: besides the duties of the closet, of the study, and his frequent calls abroad, to visit and supply the destitute, settle differences, attend at ordinations, associations, &c. “And who is sufficient for these things,” 2 Cor. ii. 16.

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Alexander Carson on Baptism

The recent issue of The Gospel Witness has kindly published an article of mine entitled “‘Defending Truth at Every Expense’: Alexander Carson (1776-1844) on Baptism.” I’ve uploaded a PDF of it: Alexander Carson on Baptism.

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American Theological Inquiry’s New Issue

The latest issue of the excellent journal American Theological Inquiry is out and available both in print and online. For the Reformed there are some noteworthy articles:

Preaching as a Means of Grace and the Doctrine of Sanctification: A Reformed Perspective
J. V. Fesko 

‘He Went About Doing Good’: Eighteenth-Century Particular Baptists on the Necessity of Good Works
Michael A. G. Haykin

Stephen Charnock’s Doctrine of God: An Anthology of The Existence and Attributes Of God
Ken Deusterman

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Narrowing an Appelative

The debate is as old as the hills – are Baptists to use the historical moniker “Reformed”? It was recently picked up by James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries who offered some critiques of R. Scott Clark. Clark, who teaches at Westminster West, in turn responded and most recently Michael Haykin of Southern Seminary has weighed in. You can check each out at their respective links.

I would like to reprint in full a comment made on Clark’s blog by Bob Gonzales of Reformed Baptist Seminary. I think he makes a lot of sense:

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New City Baptist Church – An Expose (John Bell)

This is the interview that John Bell did speaking about New City Baptist Church and his role with it:

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New City Baptist Church – An Expose (Ian Clary)

This is an interview that I did last week speaking about New City Baptist Church and my role with it:

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Post-Conference Thoughts

The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies, housed at Southern Seminary, held their annual conference on August 24-25 in Louisville, KY. The conference was entitled “Baptist Spirituality – Historical Perspectives.” Keynote speakers included Greg Thornbury, Malcolm Yarnell, Crawford Gribben, Robert Strivens, Kevin Smith, etc. On the afternoon of the first day there were breakout sessions that included papers given by Stephen Yuille, Steve Weaver, Gordon Heath, Al Mickle, Aaron Menikoff, myself and others. All in all, the conference was excellent.

In order to save some jack, I drove down to Louisville in an RV with my good friend Greg McManus, pastor of Grace Community Church in London, ON. I would say getting to spend that time with Greg was one of the best parts of the trip. It was a twenty-hour round trip and we slept in the RV on the campus of Southern. The “rig” was awesome and had all of the comforts of home. Shower, microwave, oven, fridge/freezer, washroom, and it slept something like eight people. We bought groceries and ate most of our meals there. The weather was so nice in Louisville that we didn’t even need the airconditioning!

A number of highlights from the conference itself were: Kevin Smith’s paper called “A Distracted Piety: African American Baptists.” It was moving and quite informative. He traced the role of race and it’s relation to theological orthodoxy in the early African-American Baptist movement, showing that issues of race – while important – were subsurvient to doctrinal fidelity. The questions after the paper were also quite informative – if only from my observations as a Canadian. I was struck both from this lecture and Tom Nettles’ on J.P. Boyce that race was and still is an issue in the States. It is deeply entwined with their history, which of course includes the church’s history. I could not wrap my mind around the fact that Christians kept slaves. Dr. Smith did a great job at conveying the need for being Christians first and black, white, hispanic or whatever a distant second.

Greg Thornbury’s paper was also a major highlight for me. I had the delight of sitting next to Dr. Thornbury (dean of Union University) at the conference banquet. In fact, our whole table was great: Thornbury, Aaron Menikoff (and a friend), Malcolm Yarnell, Crawford Gribben, Greg McManus and myself. Greg, Crawford and I didn’t know any of them when we sat down. To see the interchange between Thornbury and Yarnell was extremely entertaining! It was also a delight to meet Aaron Menikoff whom I’d heard so much about. He’s an extremely nice guy.

Thornbury’s paper was on spirituality and theological education. He elucidated what he called “Personal Las Vegas” moments – or PLV’s. This is where a person moves from the Tupelo to the Vegas, using Elvis Presley as an example. Where one dawns the rhinestones in favour of the denim shirt. We all have these PLV’s, where we think something better of ourselves, when really we’ve just chumped out to a cliche. Thornbury applied this to institutions and people who have done this in baptist life, looking at Francis Wayland and his experiences in particular. It was well presented, humourous and indicting – to others and to myself. Thornbury is a scholar to watch.

The conference was timed to coincide with The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s convocation. Southern is celebrating their sesquicentennial this year, marking 150 years of their existence. Therefore convocation was especially poignant. I can’t tell you the feeling that surged through me when the massive congregation arose to sing “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” and the whole faculty processed through the chapel. Looking over to see top evangelical theologians like Tom Schreiner, Stephen Wellum, Michael Haykin, Denny Burk, Bruce Ware, Tom Nettles, Brian Vickers, etc., being led by Albert Mohler and Russell Moore to their seats at the front gave me goosebumps. Being there really made you feel like you were a part of something big. When Dr. Mohler announced the signing of the Abstract of Principles – Southern’s faith statement – the gravitas and solemnity was everywhere in the air. Chip Stam and Brian Vickers signed the statement as new full-time faculty. With quill in hand, they signed the 150 year old document with pride.

Dr. Mohler preached a great sermon from Revelation 1 on the eschatological nature of Christian ministry {here’s the video you can see Greg, Crawford and I at the bottom left of the screen}. He reminded us that Christ is sovereign over time, over kingdoms and over the church. And keeping this in perspective will only envigorate ministry and keep us in the faith. It was a great way to start the school year.

It was also a tremendous delight to spend time with Crawford Gribben. He’s a good friend and one who’s company I truly enjoy. I was glad that he and Greg to meet. I love it when I can introduce friends and the time spent hanging out with both of these men was fun; especially our breakfast at Lynn’s Paradise Cafe in Louisville where my friend John Tucker joined us. This place was ciche to the core – very Americana. I had the biggest breakfast I’d ever seen in my life – complete with grits and biscuits. I couldn’t finish it because it was so big! But man was it good.

In terms of my own paper, I think that it went well. From what I gather, most people came to my session, which was encouraging. I chalk that up to people being attracted to the name of Jonathan Edwards in the title: “Alexander Carson (1776-1844): Jonathan Edwards of the Nineteenth Century.” The response from people afterwards was humbling and deeply encouraging. I got a charge out of presenting the paper, although the Q&A left something to be desired (thanks Crawford!). Many thanks to the Center for allowing me to present, it was my first time doing something like this and they made it a great experience!

Steve Weaver, who ran the conference, did an excellent job. I remember running those conferences when it was the Jonathan Edwards Centre for Reformed Spirituality. We did them on a much smaller scale, and that was tough! Steve ran a massive conference at a huge campus with lots of attendees. I was impressed. Dr. Haykin was a great host, both of the conference in general and my own break-out session. So congratulations to both of them for a job well done. Hopefully the conference audio will be available at the Fuller Center website and you can listen to all of the talks. I highly recommend the Smith paper and Thornbury’s.


Filed under al mohler, andrew fuller conference, baptists, church history, conferences, crawford gribben, friends, louisville, michael haykin, southern seminary

Andrew Fuller Center Conference

The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies is holding its annual conference next week at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. This year’s topic is “Baptist Spirituality: Historical Perspectives.” The Center has just published the flyer for the conference, which you can download here. Key note speakers include Michael Haykin, Malcolm Yarnell, Crawford Gribben, Thomas Nettles and other notables. Not in the latter category (!) is myself, whose ugly mug you see there on the second page.

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American Theological Inquiry 2.2 (July 2009)

The new issue of American Theological Inquiry is out. Here are the articles. You may also want to check out the review of Michael Haykin and Kenneth Stewart’s book The Advent of Evangelicalism. Scroll down to the reviews, it’s the first:


Paul D. Janz
Glenn B. Siniscalchi
Ian Hugh Clary
Sister J. Sheila Galligan, IHM
Stephen M. Clinton
14:15-24) AND ‘THE MARRIAGE FEAST’ (Matthew 22:1-14)
J. Lyle Story
Richard H. Fitzgerald
Jack Van Marion


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Review: The Baptism of Disciples Alone (Malone)

Here is a review that I wrote of the first edition of Fred Malone’s book The Baptism of Disciples Alone: A Covenantal Argument for Credobaptism Versus Paedobaptism (Founders Press).

On a related note, I recently listened to an awesome debate between Thom Schreiner of Southern Seminary and David Van Drunen of Westminster West on the subject of baptism. Schreiner was very good – and though I’m a biased Baptist – I believe he won the debate.

Schreiner on Credobaptism
VanDrunen on Paedobaptism
Interactive Forum


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Spiritual Disciplines

Yesterday was the second meeting of the Toronto Pastors Fellowship, that group of pastors from the Toronto area and beyond who gather together for fellowship and learning. Dr. Michael Haykin spoke, giving an excellent talk on the need for Spiritual Disciplines. He highlighted three particular areas – preaching, baptism, eucharist, prayer – and illustrated them from church history. As always, it was fantastic and very encouraging.
It was also incredibly encouraging to meet with other pastors, many of whom inquired about our church planting and offered support. That, I must say, was humbling.
So, if you’re a pastor and are interested in getting together for mutual encouragement and intellectual stimulation go and register for the next meeting! Next month’s speaker is Stephen Kring and he will be discussing giving guidance.

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