This is a question asked by my non-Baptist supervisor on reading my essay. It's a good question - why does it matter? We think it does (or we think it doesn't) but do we think about why?
From my perspective as someone who is pretty committed to being a Baptist, it does matter (though twenty years ago I'd have said it didn't). It matters, I think, maybe more in our post everything age, and perhaps especially in a Christian tradition where local autonomy and freedom of conscience are foot stamplingly defended.
It matters, for example, because we are a tradition that affirms the ordination of women but respects the freedom of local congregations not to allow women to hold preaching or teaching roles. It matters because we see ordained ministry as having a translocal element (we are accredited by the Union) and that somehow creates a tension with congregational autonomy. If we are to handle this tension well we need to understand ourselves and how we came to this strange situation.
It matters, for example, when ministers transfer in from other traditions - perhaps because they have shifted their views on Baptism - and bring with them, subconsciously the baggage of another tradition in which, for example, governance is not congregational.
It matters , for example, when individuals come from other traditions - perhaps because of a congregational fall out or perhaps because they like our worship style better - because they (as I did when I was part of a Methodist church) assume a whole heap of things that just aren't so.
But, is this enough of a reason for it to matter? Does it help or hamper mission? Was Jesus a Baptist? No, (old jokes notwithstanding) he was a Jew. I think that I think that it matters (yes there are two 'I think that's there) because I need to know who I think I am in order to be able to critique that. How can I comment on the strengths or weaknesses of being a Baptist if I don't actually know what a Baptist is? I do, like many others, cringe at the expression 'Baptist DNA' because I don't really think I know what it means. I like 'Baptistness' better because, I think, it is a little less determinist (I don't think that needs -ic on the end) in its intent. I'm not really sure there is 'Baptist DNA' - we are too interbred with ideas pinched from other traditions and ideas, and I think that is a good thing (everyone knows that to much inbreeding makes for mental incapacity.. Hmm. Discuss!) but we do still, at least officially, hold to some central principles.
All of which gets me no further in addressing the comment on the essay, but does make me wonder what other people think. So, why does denominational identity matter to you (or not)?