Thursday, July 22, 2010

Baptist Bishops?

Stranger things have happened, I guess...

Baptist Bishops
From left, Bishops Rodney S. Sampson, John M. Borders III, and Edward Stephens Jr. at Border's ordination ceremony in Memphis. (Pretrinia Martin)

The Rev. John M. Borders III approached the pulpit at Morning Star Baptist Church on a recent Sunday wearing his usual suit and tie. He adjusted his glasses, as he often does, and proceeded to deliver to the packed sanctuary a thunderstorm of a sermon on a theme from Revelation: “No more delays!’’

In the pews, some sobbed. Some shouted, “Yes, Lord!’’ Some just breathed, until Borders concluded with a hushed prayer.

The only outward sign that something was different was the new ring on the pastor’s finger, a thick gold ring with a purple stone. It symbolized his recent elevation, in a ceremony in Memphis two weeks before, to the position of bishop.

The title of bishop, accompanied by such emblems of authority, was uncommon among hierarchy-spurning Baptists until recently, but it is being adopted by a growing number of Baptist pastors, most of them African-American. Borders and other new bishops have acquired some of the ceremonial garb — croziers (pastoral staffs), zucchettos (skullcaps) and chasubles (robes) — that their spiritual forefathers left behind when they broke from the Church of England in the 17th century. Some, including Borders, have even embraced the doctrine of apostolic succession — the belief in an unbroken line from Jesus’ apostles to today’s bishops.

Borders, a sober man who regards his flock with obvious affection, spoke lightly of his role as shepherd during his sermon.

“When I watch you,’’ he said with a smile, “I see a congregation of miracles.’’

Read the rest of it in the original article:

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