At Baptists Today, we are busy planning a special April edition and a big celebration on April 3 to mark the 25th anniversary of this uniquely independent, national news journal.
It is staggering, however, to think of how the larger Baptist family might celebrate in 2009. That is the date to which historians trace the beginning of the Baptist movement.
Thomas Helwys (1550-1616) and John Smyth (1570-1612) led English Separatists to form what is considered the First Baptist Church of Anywhere around 1609 in Holland.
Then, in an act that would identify Baptists for 400 years, Helwys and Smyth split.
Helwys moved the congregation to London where he gave his life, literally, to the cause of religious liberty — a more noble mark for Baptists than church splits.
According to a story in Christian Today, European Baptists are already making plans for commemorations in July 2009 that are expected to draw many Baptists from across Europe — and likely from around the world.
At their best, Baptists are known for taking the Bible seriously while respecting individual interpretations, granting full freedom to individual congregations to choose their own leaders and chart their own courses, advocating for the religious rights of all persons of all faiths or none, and erecting no mediator between believers and their God other than Jesus Christ.
While Baptists are sometimes at their worst, these grand contributions to the Christian faith and larger society are worth celebrating at the four-century mark.
Several tour options to Europe or other places of significance to Baptist history will likely be offered.
Any other suggestions for how Baptists might otherwise mark this historic milestone?