St. John’s Baptist Church

Worship | Sundays @ 10:30am

Baptist Champions of Religious Liberty 250 Years Ago and Today

Born in Grafton, Massachusetts, in 1754, John Leland was reading the Bible by the age of 5. When he was 18 years of age, while watching a baptism, he decided to seek a relationship with God through following Jesus Christ. Two years later, in 1774, he committed his life to Christian discipleship and was baptized. He became an outspoken abolitionist.

In 1776, Leland moved to Virginia and was ordained by a Baptist church. He became an influential preacher In Virginia and the Carolinas who introduced many people to Christ. Although he faced opposition, Leland had a significant impact and became widely valued for his trustworthiness. In part, due to his integrity, the Baptist witness spread through Virginia and the Carolinas. Leland baptized more than 1,500 new believers.

In 1788, John Leland was about to be elected to be one of Virginia’s representatives to the convention to ratify the United States Constitution. However, Leland withdrew his name in favor of James Madison because he had made an agreement with Madison and Thomas Jefferson that they would support Leland’s constitutional amendment on behalf of religious liberty. Leland wrote a petition to President Washington stating the concerns of Baptists in Virginia and the Carolinas regarding protections for religious freedom. The result was to propose words which became the first amendment to the constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of people to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” This principle of religious freedom is foundational to these United States. If we do not have religious freedom, we become an extremely different country. And this principle, carried to the new continent by Baptists, was introduced to the Bill of Rights by a Baptist champion of religious liberty.

On Sunday, May 19th, we will host Amanda Tyler. She is one of the primary leaders protecting religious liberty today. As executive director of Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty in Washington, DC, she stands in the gap promoting religious freedom for all citizens. Amanda will offer the message on Sunday morning and participate in a conversation with Landis Wade on Sunday evening at 5:00. Her message on Pentecost Sunday is ‘Holy Pluralism’ and her topic on Sunday evening is ‘Christian Nationalism as a Threat to Faith and Democracy.’ Invite your friends, colleagues, and neighbors to gather in the sanctuary at 5:00 pm as Landis Wade interviews Amanda Tyler in this presentation.

Amanda will draw on her experiences, conversations with pastors and people of various religions, research, scripture, her Baptist convictions, and her work as a constitutional law expert to help you understand why Christian nationalism is not only an oxymoron, it is a dangerous ideology. She will help you learn how to distinguish Christian nationalism from the teachings of Jesus and to demonstrate how Christian nationalism serves as a cover for white supremacy. You and people you know need this presentation to be better informed.

By participating in this presentation, you will better understand why patriotism is not the same as nationalism. Religious freedom only exists if it is a reality for everyone. She will offer strategies for holding hard conversations with loved ones and provide practical ways to protect faith freedom for all.