By Emily Holladay
I have always been Baptist; I was born Baptist, raised Baptist, went to Baptist camps, and attended a Baptist University. Before I even celebrated my first birthday, I enrolled in my first class at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where I spent four years in day care and preschool before entering public school. My parents hosted many Baptist heroes in our home, and many people whom I look to with great admiration today knew me when I was in diapers. To say I was immersed in Baptist life would be an absolute understatement. In fact, I think I was Baptist first and child second.
As I got older, the tides of Baptist life changed dramatically in my hometown. My understanding of what it meant to be Baptist shifted from supporting missions and Bible drills to attacking others and belittling women. By middle school, I added a new word to my vocabulary – “dually-aligned.” As a youth, I spent one week of every summer at the SBC-sponsored GA (Girls in Action) camp, and one week at CBF-sponsored Passport camp.
Many of my friends who grew up in Louisville, also children of ministers and seminary students, left Baptist life completely. They lost their Baptist home early in life and decided to seek Christian community elsewhere. I chose to stick around in large part, simply because I didn’t have anywhere else to go. Being Baptist was all I knew and I couldn’t imagine any other way of expressing my faith.
Eventually, like my friends, I couldn’t be content living in two zip codes anymore. Dually-aligned wasn’t working for me. Leaving my parents house for the first time to venture into the brave new world of college, I needed to find a faith home.
As a highly driven and independent woman, the decision was easy for me. I grew up believing I could be anything and do anything. I have always sought leadership roles, and I wasn’t going to attend a church that wouldn’t let me serve as a deacon or teach Bible study. Though at the time, I didn’t want to be ordained, I wanted open doors, and didn’t want to be a part of a denomination that wouldn’t ordain me. I chose the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, because it seemed to be the more accepting half of my dual citizenship.
In the years since, I have come to own and value my place in the CBF zip code. It’s been a long time since I’ve been CBF by necessity or process of elimination. I choose to be CBF, because, yes, it is the Baptist home where I feel I can most fully express who I am and who I am called to be, but that’s not the end of my story. I choose to be a CBF Baptist, because it is the Baptist body that remembers and fights daily for what it truly means to be Baptist and the freedoms inherent therein.
I continue to be a CBF Baptist, because I am inspired by the passion, dedication, and commitment of past and present leadership. I am a part of CBF, not just a bystander, because I can be. There is room for me in CBF. And I truly believe that the work we do together is life-changing, transformative, and a faithful testament to the God who created and loves this world.
I am a CBF Baptist, because CBF is my home. I am a CBF Baptist, because CBF is making a difference. I am a CBF Baptist, because I know God is at work in and through this movement.
Read Emily’s blog at RevOnTheEdge
Emily Holladay serves as Associate Pastor for Children and Families at Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky. This column is part of a yearlong series sponsored and hosted by the Baptist History & Heritage Society, one of the Fellowship’s partners, exploring and celebrating why young Baptists identify with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Keep up with this “Voices of Young Baptists” series throughout 2015 by signing up to receive the Baptist Studies Bulletin, the free monthly online journal of BHHS providing articles, editorials and book reviews on Baptist history and issues of importance to Baptist individuals and congregations.