We have people from a range of denominations and backgrounds at Roomfield Church, reflecting the fact that we have an open, thinking and questioning approach that is not about sticking to a rigid denominational identity. In fact, Baptists are strictly speaking not a denomination but a union of autonomous churches. You may find very different Baptist churches from one place to another, and thus it is difficult to define a specifically Baptist doctrine or style of worship.
The Baptist Movement
When those who later became known as ‘Baptists’ withdrew from the state church of their time, back in the 16th century, it was not because of their baptismal practices per se, but because of their understanding of what the church is. Infant baptism was one issue, but the bigger issue was a state church to which everyone was forced to belong. They felt that the church should consist only of committed believers, who had made a personal decision to be baptised. Today Baptists continue to believe that church membership is entered into voluntarily, symbolised most powerfully by believer’s baptism.
As we noted above, Baptists are not a denomination but a union of churches, although over the years, for practical reasons, they have tended to operate as a denomination. The reason Baptists are not a denomination is because each local church is autonomous; that is, they are self-governing, though they are expected to make a financial contribution to the local and national Baptist bodies, in our case the Yorkshire Baptist Association (YBA) and the Baptist Union (BU). There is however a difference between being ‘autonomous’ and being ‘independent’. Because Baptist churches are members of a local group and association, as well as the BU, they are accountable to the other churches for their actions. So they are ‘interdependent’ rather than ‘independent’. The most important position in a Baptist church is that of a church member.
Baptist churches are part of the group of churches known as ‘congregational’, where there is no hierarchy and the task of discerning the will of Christ is shared by all members by participating in the church meeting. This includes all practical decisions including election of deacons and the selection and appointment of a minister.