We Believe/Purpose Statement
Although Baptist congregations are self-governing and are not obligated to subscribe to an imposed “official” creed, we here at Richland Baptist Church link arms with our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world and throughout the ages in affirming as truth the statements found in the historical confession of faith known as the Apostle’s Creed: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic [that is, “universal”] Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.” We respect and honor the work of God as he relates to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit and we believe a healthy church will function in the responsible exercise of all the spiritual gifts given by God for the edification of the Body of Christ and the reaching of a lost world.
Richland is a congregation made up of believers from a variety of Christian traditions. As a Baptist church we embrace historical Baptist distinctives: among which are self-government of congregations through a “democratic” process under the leadership of the Holy Spirit; the responsibility of the individual before God in the exercise of his or her conscience; and “believer’s baptism” (the decision to be baptized as a follower of Christ made by a believer for himself or herself rather than by parents). Believers who come from other traditions and who do not desire to go through “believer’s baptism” are more than welcome and are able to actively participate in the life and work of this congregation in almost every way; the exceptions being certain leadership positions and the ability to vote concerning official decisions of the church.
We are a church seeking to operate in obedience to the Great Commission of our Lord (Matthew 28:18-20). As such, we have defined our “Purpose” this way: “The purpose of our church is to raise up a loving community of Christian disciples who seek to be like Jesus in every way.” What is a “disciple”? We have said: “A Christian disciple is one who has chosen a personal love relationship with Jesus Christ, God’s Son and Savior of the world, and is committed to trust and follow Him through lifelong spiritual disciplines (worship, prayer, Bible study, Christian fellowship, witnessing, service to others). A disciple continues to grow in intimacy with Christ and ministers through the power of the Holy Spirit to please God the Father.”
Baptists have been called a “peculiar people” in that we are very different from denominations which have official creeds enforced by hierarchical structures of authority. There is no Baptist Church; there are only Baptist churches. Each congregation is autonomous (self-governing) and we value the freedom of each individual’s conscience before God. Richland has historical ties to the Baptist General Association of Virginia, the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Fredericksburg Area Baptist Network (these entities are listed in chronological order according to the date of formation). Each of these is a voluntary association for the purpose of sending and supporting missionaries and extending and advancing the Kingdom of God in other ways at home and abroad. Being “Southern Baptist” is not at the core of Richland’s identity. We simply want to be the Church, representing our Lord well and carrying His great name with humility, grace, spiritual authority and power, as we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Every denomination has strengths and weaknesses, which is why we need the full expression of the Body of Christ. With all of that said, for those who want a more comprehensive statement of doctrine Richland is comfortable with, we point people to the 1963 iteration of the Baptist Faith and Message Statement. As already noted, this was not intended to be a creed. The committee which drafted the 1963 Statement as an update to the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message Statement describes it as a “consensus of opinion” most Southern Baptist churches could agree with. The 1963 statement is included below in its entirety, including the introduction by the Committee on Baptist Faith and Message.
Adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention May 9, 1963
The 1962 session of the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in San Francisco, California, adopted the following motion.
"Since the report of the Committee on Statement of Baptist Faith and Message was adopted in 1925, there have been various statements from time to time which have been made, but no overall statement which might be helpful at this time as suggested in Section 2 of that report, or introductory statement which might be used as an interpretation of the 1925 Statement.
"We recommend, therefore, that the president of this Convention be requested to call a meeting of the men now serving as presidents of the various state Conventions that would qualify as a member of the Southern Baptist Convention committee under Bylaw 18 to present to the Convention in Kansas City some similar statement which shall serve as information to the churches, and which may serve as guidelines to the various agencies of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is understood that any group or individuals may approach this committee to be of service. The expenses of this committee shall be borne by the Convention Operating Budget."
Your committee thus constituted begs leave to present its report as follows:
Throughout its work your committee has been conscious of the contribution made by the statement of "The Baptist Faith And Message" adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1925. It quotes with approval its affirmation that "Christianity is supernatural in its origin and history. We repudiate every theory of religion which denies the supernatural elements in our faith."
Furthermore, it concurs in the introductory “statement of the historic Baptist conception of the nature and function of confessions of faith in our religious and denominational life." It is, therefore, quoted in full as part of this report to the Convention.
"(1) That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for tile general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us. They are not intended to add anything to the simple conditions of salvation revealed ill the New Testament, viz., repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
"(2) That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.
"(3) That any group of Baptists, large or small have the inherent right to draw tip for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so.
"(4) That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.
"(5) That they are statements of religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures, and are not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life."
The 1925 Statement recommended "the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, revised at certain points, and with some additional articles growing out of certain needs . . ." Your present committee has adopted the same pattern. It has sought to build upon the structure of the 1925 Statement, keeping in mind the "certain needs" of our generation. At times it has reproduced sections of the Statement without change. In other instances it has substituted words for clarity or added sentences for emphasis. At certain points it has combined articles, with minor changes in wording, to endeavor to relate certain doctrines to each other. In still others—e.g., "God" and "Salvation"—it has sought to bring together certain truths contained throughout the 1925 Statement in order to relate them more clearly and concisely. In no case has it sought to delete from or to add to the basic contents of the 1925 Statement.
Baptists are a people who profess a living faith. This faith is rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ who is "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." Therefore, the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is Jesus Christ whose will is revealed in the Holy Scriptures.
A living faith must experience a growing understanding of truth and must be continually interpreted and related to the needs of each new generation. Throughout their history Baptist bodies, both large and small, have issued statements of faith which comprise a consensus of their beliefs. Such statements have never been regarded as complete, infallible statements of faith, nor as official creeds carrying mandatory authority. Thus this generation of Southern Baptists is in historic succession of intent and purpose as it endeavors to state for its time and theological climate those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us.
Baptists emphasize the soul's competency before God, freedom in religion, and the priesthood of the believer. However, this emphasis should not be interpreted to mean that there is an absence of certain definite doctrines that Baptists believe, cherish, and with which they have been and are now closely identified.
It is the purpose of this statement of faith and message to set forth certain teachings which we believe.
Herschel H. Hobbs, Chairman
Howard M. Reaves
Ed. J. Packwood
C. Z. Holland
W. B. Timberlake
C. V. Koons
Malcolm B. Knight
Dick H. Hall, Jr.
Charles R. Walker
Walter R. Davis
V. C. Kruschwitz
Luther B. Hall
Paul Weber, Jr.
R. A. Long
C. Hoge Hockensmith
Hugh R. Bumpas
David G. Anderson
E. Warren Rust
James H. Landes
R. P. Downey