Historically Baptists who desired to cooperate with one another have sought to unite around truths held in common, rather than seeking to divide over differing opinions on various matters of interpretation. Southern Baptists have agreed to cooperate together within a consensus statement, The Baptist Faith and Message. This confession provides precise language where needed, but is broad enough to allow for both Calvinists and non-Calvinists to cooperate together for the sake of the Great Commission. As a historian, I believe that by looking backward we can often find our best way forward. A clear example of the type of cooperation needed today is seen in the Terms of Union Between Regular and Separate Kentucky Baptists of 1801. This document facilitated the cooperation between Calvinists and non-Calvinists which eventually resulted in the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.
On the second Saturday of October 1801, the Elkhorn (Regular) and South Kentucky (Separate) Associations were reconciled together as a single body of Baptists in full correspondence and communion based on the following statement:
We, the committees of the Elkhorn and South Kentucky Associations, do agree to unite on the following plan:
1st That the scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the infallible word of God, and the only rule of faith and practice.
2nd That there is one only true God, and in the God-head or divine essence, there are Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
3rd That by nature we are fallen and depraved creatures.
4th That salvation, regeneration, sanctification, and justification, are by the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
5th That the saints will finally persevere through grace to glory.
6th That believers’ baptism, by immersion, is necessary to receiving the Lord’s Supper.
7th That the salvation of the righteous and punishment of the wicked will be eternal.
8th That it is our duty to be tender and affectionate to each other, and study the happiness of the children of God in general; to be engaged singly to promote the honor of God.
9th And that the preaching Christ tasted death for every man, shall be no bar to communion.
10th And that each may keep up their associational and church government as to them may seem best.
11th That a free correspondence and communion be kept up between the churches thus united.
Unanimously agreed to by the joint committee. Ambrose Dudley, Joseph Redding, Robert Elkin, John Price, David Barrow, Daniel Ramey, Thos. J. Chilton, Samuel Johnson, Moses Bledsoe.
This is the historic approach for American Baptists which has worked for over two hundred years. While each individual, church, association, and entity is free to retain its own distinctives, we are united because we have agreed to cooperate under the banner of the Southern Baptist Convention for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission together. The Baptist Faith and Message sufficiently defines the kind of doctrinal agreement that we need to be able to do this effectively. I believe that this historic approach continues to be the best way forward in the days ahead.