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Ambassador Baptist Church
1926 Babcock Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15209
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clear.gif - 808 Bytes Question:

clear.gif - 808 Bytes What do you believe about "church succession"?
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clear.gif - 808 Bytes I believe that a New Testament church should be reproduced only by another New Testament church, and I believe that the only person qualified to baptize a believer is one who not only has local church authority, but also has Biblical baptism themselves.

However, where I might differ from some is that I do not know that you must be to be able to trace your "pedigree" clear back to the Jesus, the apostles, and the first church. Quite frankly, I believe that it would be almost impossible to do so, and any such lineage is ultimately based on faith and supposition anyway. For example, what if a pastor who was involved in our church's heritage several generations ago really was not even saved? It is certainly a possibility, for I know of several Baptist pastors and missionaries who got saved after years of ministry, including having baptized converts and, in some cases, having started churches. If my baptism goes back through that pastor, then, according to some, any one that I baptize does not have valid baptism. Any one who goes out from under my ministry into the pastorate would be baptizing without proper authority, and all their baptisms would be invalid.

So, instead of being a pure successionist, I hold to more of a "spiritual kinship" position. To the best of my knowledge, I was baptized by a pastor who had Biblical baptism. The church that authorized him was, to the best of my knowledge, a New Testament church. The church out of which that church was started was, to the best of my knowledge, a New Testament church. The church which served as the reproducing (mother) church for Ambassador Baptist was, to the best of my knowledge, a New Testament church, and was in turn started in a Biblical manner. These men and churches were, and are, functioning according to the New Testament. That is good enough for me.

The Bible tells us in I Timothy 1:4,

"Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies which minister questions rather than godly edifying which is in faith..."
I understand that the context of that passage probably has reference to Jews who felt it important to trace their genealogy in order to show their spirituality based upon their lineage. However, there may be an application there to Baptists (or anyone else for that manner) who feel that a strong genealogy gives greater spirituality, or greater standing with God. If a church can trace its lineage directly back to the apostles, that is wonderful. However it is our personal relationship to the Word of God, not our ancestry, that matters.

The great Baptist historian Thomas Armitage wrote:

"The attempt to show that any religious body has come down from the Apostles an unchanged people is of itself an assumption of infallibility, and contradicts the facts of history. Truth only is changeless, and only as any people have held to the truth in its purity and primitive simplicity has the world had an unchanging religion. The truth has been held by individual men and scattered companies, but never in unbroken continuity by any sect as such. Sect after sect has appeared and held it for a time, then has destroyed itself by mixing error with the truth; again, the truth has evinced its divinity by rising afresh in the hands of a newly organized people, to perpetuate its diffusion in the earth.
It is enough to show that what Christ's churches were in the days of the Apostles, that the Baptist churches of today find themselves. The truths held by them have never died since Christ gave them, and in the exact proportion that any people have maintained these truths they have been the true Baptists of the world. The writer, therefore, refused to be bound in his investigations by an iron obligation to show a succession of people who have held all the principles, great and small, of any sect now existing--no more and no less.
"When Roger Williams left his followers they were in great trepidation lest they had not received baptism in regular succession from the Apostles, as if any body else had. They heard, however, that the Queen of Hungary had a list of regularly baptized descendants from the Apostles, and were half persuaded to send their brother, Thomas Olney, to obtain it at her hands. Still, on the second sober thought, they could not swallow this dose of the essence of popery, and concluded not to make themselves ridiculous. Whereupon Backus solemnly says, that at length they "concluded such a course was not expedient, but believing that now they were got into the right way, determined to persevere therein." Thus, once more, wisdom was justified in her children, UNDER THE APPLICATION OF THE RADICAL ANTI-ROMISH PRINCIPLE THAT THE NEW TESTAMENT IS THE ONLY TOUCH-STONE OF CHRISTIAN HISTORY"
(Thomas Armitage, A History of the Baptists. Vol. 1, 1890, preface, pp. iii,iv).

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Pastor Dr. Mark Montgomery
Ambassador Baptist Church
1926 Babcock Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15209

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