This post first appeared on the Sola Scriptura blog back in May
It is a reason for great joy that in our day the Reformed Baptist faith in its various forms, and particularly as articulated in the London Confession of 1689, is coming to more and more people around the world. It was my privilege recently to travel to Nairobi, Kenya, where a conference, attended by around 50 men, mostly ministers, was taking place. I was the main speaker and I endeavoured to bring before the men the wonderful but often misunderstood reformed doctrine of regeneration.
Also speaking was one of the pastors of the sponsoring church, Trinity Baptist Church, Nairobi. British born Keith Underhill was instrumental in planting the church and establishing the conference. He has now worked in Kenya for over 30 years. He also gave a number of messages at the conference, including one on the background to the history of the 1689 Confession.
As he did this, and in fine form I might add, I began to have a little twinge. Why do African pastors have to be exposed to all this? Why do they need to know, let’s face it, often difficult to follow, English history? Americans, yes I suppose. Ours is, in many ways, a shared heritage. Some naively optimistic Brits even see our little disagreement of a few years back one day being resolved by an American climb down! (Some hope I guess.)
But Africans? Yes, their history has become somewhat intertwined with Britain’s in the last 150 years or so but we are talking about 1689. Why would 21st century Africans need to wade through this stuff? (And let me add that for all its gelatinous properties the paper made it all seem remarkably straightforward).
And then I started to think straight. These byways in history may have occurred on English soil but the history itself is the heritage not just of British Baptists but of every Reformed Baptist the world over, whether in England, America, Africa or the far east for that matter.
When we learn about early church councils in Asia Minor or of Augustine preaching in North Africa; when we think of Luther in Germany or Zwingli and Calvin in Switzerland; when we think of Obadiah Holmes in America; of Carey in India or Judson in Burma – we don’t say “ah, that’s nothing to with us. Those places are far from where we live”. We don’t do that any more than when we read in our Bibles of things that happened in Egypt or Palestine or Rome, do we say that’s nothing to do with us. No, we embrace our heritage wherever it may accurately be traced.
What a joy it was then to be with these Kenyan pastors in the African heat considering things that happened long ago in Westminster and London and that are part of the wonderful heritage that all Reformed Baptists share the world over.