Francis Wayland Case Study

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Francis Wayland’s Notes on the Principles and Practices of Baptist Churches is an extensive anthology of papers, essays, and instructions on Baptist faith and practice. The subjects of the work sprawl from specifically Baptist theological, ethical, and political commitments—i.e., principles—to concrete issues of polity, preaching, ordination, membership, theological curriculum, and sermon preparation—i.e., practices. What unites these essays, of course, is their Baptist distinctiveness, which, for Wayland, might be more particularly rendered as a commitment to the New Testament as the “only rule of faith and practice” (92). Rather than attempting to comment on all the papers assembled here, I will focus on a few select discussions that detail …show more content…
Wayland, however, leaves this question unaddressed in Notes. Additionally, it is unclear how Wayland would respond to the objection from creedal church traditions that although the New Testament may have divine standing, it historically emerged as a canon within the Christian tradition, and, in fact, because of councils. Would an acknowledgement of the New Testament’s historical genesis affect Wayland’s interpretation of its uniquely binding role as divine revelation? Or, less strongly, would it force him to reappraise the value of …show more content…
Resisting “the universal tendency of teachers of religion to constitute themselves into a priesthood [and] to assert dominion over the conscience” (131), Baptists refuse any ecclesial hierarchy or stratification between ministers and members, clergy and laity. This radical adherence to the priesthood of all believers is evident in the theme of education and ministry. Wayland wants to maintain something like a ‘preferential option for the commons’ (26-37), and to value the work of ministers who do not have a formal theological education. While Wayland is not antagonistic to formal theological education—and indeed comments on the need to adapt Andover Seminary’s Congregationalist curriculum to Baptist needs (cf. 72,76), prescribes the importance of a network or council beyond one’s own church in the ordination process (114-130), and offers his own teachings throughout Notes (cf. 300-330)—it is always rendered as incidental, and not necessary, to ministerial work. To make seminary or another form of theological curriculum necessary, or to give preference to the educated class, inevitably results in the bifurcation of clergy and laity, thereby weakening the value of the “private judgment” of every believer. The only criteria to

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