A Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
The mission of NorthHaven Church is to enable people to discover a loving and inclusive fellowship, connect them with the principles of free and faithful Baptists, and inspire them to be the presence of Christ to the world. To assist us in our mission, we have decided to partner with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma, and the Baptist General Convention of Texas. We believe these networks and partnerships will empower us to remain free and faithful to our stated purpose.
As far as Christian organizations are concerned, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is rather new. CBF was formed in the early 1990s as a reaction to the political takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. There were many free and faithful believers being pushed out of leadership and service within the SBC, simply because they did not submit their conscience to the authority of the new regime. With the handwriting on the wall, a group of ostracized ministers and laity decided a new movement could be formed from this sad ordeal.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is built upon the cherished Baptist principle of freedom and a strong commitment to missions and ministry around the world. Because of their stalwart support of freedom and innovative way of doing missions and ministry, NorthHaven is proud to call the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship a partner in ministry. We hope to inform readers about our congregational practices and how you and your family could benefit from being a part of our congregation.
The Importance of Freedom
Since our beginnings, Baptists have been the champions of religious freedom. Roger Williams, founder of the first Baptist church in America, wrote in 1640, “An enforced uniformity of religion throughout a nation or civil state…denies the principles of Christianity and civility.” Later in 1920, on the steps of the capital in Washington DC, George Truett, pastor at First Baptist Church of Dallas, TX declared liberty to be a “right,” “a matter of principle,” and “a gift from God.” In other words, Williams and Truett believed strongly that God created humanity with a free will, not to be coerced by ecclesiastical or civil authorities.
At NorthHaven, we still believe that the freedom of an individual and congregation is an important facet to the practice of faith. Walter Shurden identifies four freedoms that Baptists have championed throughout the years: Soul Freedom, Religious Freedom, Bible Freedom, and Church Freedom. Every individual and congregation preserves the right and responsibility to relate to God, or not to relate to God, without the dictates of an imposed creed, interference from clergy, or intervention from civil government.
Jesus never coerced or demanded conformity. He always encouraged personal submission to God, but always allowed for individual choice. He decried those who manipulated religious practice for their own political gain. Jesus knew that for true spiritual transformation to take place, individuals needed to decide for themselves and render a personal choice. At NorthHaven, we encourage every person to pursue their personal relationship with God as they determine through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We do not stress strict dogmas or demand blind loyalty. We promote and practice religious freedom, thus empowering individuals to work earnestly in developing their understanding and application of faith.
An Inclusive Congregation
NorthHaven Church exists for those individuals and families seeking a progressive Christian witness taking Jesus for his word, that all people are invited to follow him. Regardless of ethnic background, economic position, political affiliation, or past indiscretions, NorthHaven welcomes you to be a part of our family and experience the grace and love of God. For too long, churches have focused upon an exclusionist approach to faith. Instead of seeking ways to welcome people into the family of God, we have built doctrines and dogmas that have divided God’s children.
At NorthHaven, we want to be known for welcoming all people and empowering them to be disciples of Jesus. In addition, NorthHaven exists for those individuals and families that have felt the cold sting of hurtful religion. Unfortunately, there are too many stories where the church has failed to love as Jesus loved…too many stories where grace is only a word and not a practice…too many stories where the doors to the kingdom have been slammed shut and not thrown open. At NorthHaven, we offer an invitation to any persons who have suffered at the hand of hurtful religion. We welcome you, scars and all.
Finally, being an inclusive congregation means promoting and practicing an egalitarian view of family and church life. We believe men and women were created equal to serve as co-laborers in the home and church. We believe in a shared responsibility between husbands and wives; where mutual submission encourages humility and respect. As well, we hold that God calls and equips men and women for the purpose of service within his church. Gender should never be a factor in whether a person serves God in any manner of ministry. God loves every one of his children equally, so his church should seek to do the same.
Church and State Separate
Should church and state remain separate? Are you like us, do you feel like some churches have been turned into a strong-arm of a political party? Do sermons sound more like political stump speeches than prophetic messages? Has the term “evangelical” been turned into a political tool rather than describing believers seeking to spread hope to the world? Do you think people should be given the right to worship God and practice their faith freely without the interference of the state? At NorthHaven Church, we do.
As Baptists, we have a cherished history on these issues. On July 16, 1651, three Baptists set out for Massachusetts where they would be arrested and imprisoned for preaching a baptism contrary to the state church. Obadiah Holmes was publicly whipped for his crime. Their story would be told to revolutionaries like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, as America began to create a foundation to build upon. Baptists John Leland and Isaac Backus championed religious liberty for every person, regardless of religious affiliation. Because of their determination, the free exercise of religion and the non-establishment of religion by the state were included within the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
With freedom as our foundation, NorthHaven believes every person has the right to worship, or not to worship, God as they feel convicted. To ensure this right, we promote the principle of separation between church and state. Roger Williams was the first to use the image, calling for a “hedge” to exist between religious and civil authorities. Thomas Jefferson built upon this image when he wrote to the Danbury Baptists and championed a “wall of separation” between church and state. Both men understood the importance of keeping church and state separate. If they are allowed to merge, both will suffer great consequences. At NorthHaven, we believe both institutions are important for the greater good of society, but must remain separate to be successful. From the pulpit, you will not be told what candidate to vote for, which party to give your allegiance, or that your faith may be in doubt because you support someone different than the norm. NorthHaven believes everyone is entitled to their opinion, as they read Scripture for themselves and apply those principles to their life.
A Missional Congregation
NorthHaven is committed to making a difference in the community and world. We are constantly looking for local and global opportunities to embrace people with the hope of Jesus. We are a missional congregation engaged in the culture and dedicated to working with others. We forge networks and partnerships that share our passion for helping the poor, the needy, and the sick. We take Jesus at his word when he said, “whatever you do for the least of these, you do it for me” (Matthew 25:40).
NorthHaven offers missional opportunities to members and non-members through sending teams to Africa with HisNets to distribute mosquito netting, gathering supplies for displaced veterans, sending care packages to soldiers serving in Iraq, feeding the homeless in Norman, repairing homes in the Rio Grande Valley, adopting local students through the Regional Food Bank, and many more ventures. NorthHaven is committed to being the presence of Christ where we discover needs. If you, or your family, wants to be part of this new and exciting missional strategy, please join us this Sunday and get plugged in to the excitement.
FOUR FRAGILE FREEDOMS
Freedom is our watchword. We have a rich heritage of freedom that was won at great cost. We cherish certain ideals that have helped define Baptists.
Baptists have always upheld the liberty of conscience. This simply means that genuine faith is voluntary, not coerced. Each individual is directly responsible to God in matters of faith. And each person has the equal right of direct access to God. Our concept of the “priesthood of the believers” grows out of this.
On any list of historic Baptist principles, the authority of Scripture will have a prominent place. From the Anabaptists of the 16th century, to British Baptists of the 17th century, to Roger Williams and John Clarke in the New England colonies, the Bible – especially the New Testament – has been the sourcebook of belief and practice. Each individual is free to read, study and interpret scripture for himself/herself. No man-made creed can replace the Bible. No person or denomination can coerce belief in a certain interpretation.
If freedom is best for individuals, it is also best for churches. This is called the “Autonomy of the Local Church.” Baptists have always insisted on independent, self-governing congregations. No general body outside the church can dictate, make policy, or write creedal statements that are binding on the local church. Each local church, by majority vote, manages its own affairs, calls its own pastor, selects its own officers, and cooperates with other groups.
Baptists have historically held that “Separation of Church and State” is best for both. Baptists added their influence to the writing of the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This is America’s unique contribution to the world. Yet, W.R. Estep, Baptist historian writes concerning our present situation, “never, since the writing of the First Amendment, has separation of church and state been under such intensive attack.”
Historically, Baptists have been persecuted, whipped, imprisoned and banished for standing by these ideals.
Empowering individuals and families to develop their spirituality is a priority at NorthHaven. Through meaningful worship, insightful Bible study, challenging book studies, reflective small group discussions, strong binding relationships, and exciting missional endeavors, individuals are encouraged to reflect upon their spirituality and connectedness to God. At NorthHaven, we believe the mind, body, and soul are the three essences that make up our individuality. However, through the pursuit of our individual spiritual formation we recognize the importance and necessity of being part of a community. Whether it is family or church, we move forward together in an effort to bring glory and honor to the name of Jesus.