"A Monthly Emagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today"

December 2002              Vol.1  No. 12


Produced by The Center for Baptist Studies, Mercer University

Walter B. Shurden, Executive Director and Editor, BSB

Greg Thompson, Associate Director, The Center for Baptist Studies

Wil Platt, Associate Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin

Robert Richardson, Coordinator of the Certificate Program in Baptist Studies


Table of Contents:

        I Believe . . .: by Walter B. Shurden

                "If You Aren’t Through Shopping for Christmas"

        The Baptist Soapbox: by Alan Neely

               Shopping or not, "The Next Christianity" is provocative

        A BSB Special: by Robert G. Gardner

              If you are shopping for a biography of Shubal Stearnes!!!

        The Baptist Library: Baptist Books: by Rosalie Beck

              Beck on two books about Baptist women

        The Baptist Stacks: Perusing Periodicals for Baptistiana: by Pam Durso

              Articles about Baptist beliefs, Baptist Universities, Baptist missions

        Baptist Bits: by W. Loyd Allen 

              Bits of Baptist Freedom

        Letters to the Editor:  by Greg Thompson

              Send in your responses by email

        Baptistville: by Greg Thompson

              Happenings in Baptistville

"If You Aren’t Through Shopping for Christmas"

by Walter B. Shurden

I Believe . . .

       that the incomparable Baptist historian Edwin Gaustad deserves grateful accolades from all his denominational kinfolk. During the last half of the twentieth century Gaustad is to Baptists what Martin Marty is to Lutherans. Each is the very best American church historian and the most productive American church historian his denominations produced.

       Most readers of BSB would delight in Edwin Gaustad’s beautiful and inspiring book, Memoirs of the Spirit (Eerdmans, 1999). An anthology of excerpts from twenty-six American spiritual autobiographies, it is a book that fits handsomely on the coffee table but more happily and profitably on the soul.

       In Memoirs Gaustad included excerpts of Reinhold Niebuhr’s important 1929 autobiography, Leaves From the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic. After reading the passages from Niebuhr in Gaustad, I went to my library and pulled down my copy of Leaves. It contains only 198 small pages. Of those 198 pages, only 25 pages were left unsoiled by my pen from previous readings! My markings, underlinings, marginalia, and my running conversations with Niebuhr, are all in red. What a book is Leaves!

       Here are samplings of my red underlinings in Leaves:

       "It is after all a glorious tribute to the qualities of human nature that those who know us best love us most."

       "One who has lost his illusions about mankind and retains his illusions about himself is insufferable."

       "Some day he ought to have a lesson in ethics and learn how much easier it is to love those who acknowledge their inferiority than those who challenge our superiority."

       "It is so easy to repent of other people’s sins."

       "I declare that there is a quality in the lives of unschooled people, if they have made good use of the school of life and pain, which wins my admiration much more than anything you can find in effete circles."

       Much more awaits you in Reinhold Niebuhr’s old but valuable Leaves From the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic. Take and read.

       Also take and read Memoirs of the Spirit by Gaustad. If you aren’t through shopping for Christmas and the person you have in mind revels in the inspiring stories of others’ spiritual journeys, you will find Memoirs a lasting and blessed gift.

       "A lasting and blessed gift!" In those words you have an apt description of the contributions of Ed Gaustad to Baptists in America, as well as to all other people of the spirit.


Important Announcement !!!

Are you a Baptist Minister interested in a week-long sabbatical of supervised

reading in Baptist Studies? Click here for more detail.




THE BAPTIST SOAPBOX: Invited guests speak up and out on things Baptist (therefore, the views expressed in this space are not necessarily those of The Baptist Studies Bulletin, though sometimes they are). This month Alan Neely, the Henry W. Luce Professor of Ecumenics and Mission Emeritus, Princeton Theological Seminary, sounds off about a much discussed article and book.


"Philip Jenkins and 'The Next Christianity'"

by Alan Neely

       During the past thirty years, I cannot recall an instance when as many people have said, called, or written to me asking if I had read a particular article. The essay which incited such interest and alarm was Philip Jenkins’ recent piece in the Atlantic, "The Next Christianity" (October 2002), 53-68. I first heard about it from an enlightened Baptist lay leader, a member of our local Interfaith Alliance board who, making a brief presentation to our board, concluded saying that Jenkins prognostications disturbed, depressed, and frightened him. After the meeting, he passed the copy to me, and I read it the following morning.

       Jenkins, a Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies in Pennsylvania State University, says that we are on the edge of a second Christian Reformation, one unlike that of the 16th and 17th centuries which he regards as a reform characterized by an openness to reason, liberal minded, and progressive. On the horizon, however, Jenkins asserts, is a Christianity that is narrow, closed, fundamentalistic, and therefore extremely dangerous.

       His description of this coming Christianity, of the Church that appears to be the offing, and his depiction of what it represents along with its intent and potential for doing harm are sobering as well as accurate. But is he right in his augury and justified in his warnings? Who knows? Obviously, the tide of history seems to be moving in the direction he describes and has been for more than two decades. Perhaps we should be frightened by his warnings, even though they are long overdue.1

       Yet, a careful reading and reflection on what Jenkins says and on the principal thrust of his essay left me with a number of uneasy feelings. In the first place, it is alarmist. He reminds me of the many instances in the past when supposedly knowledgeable authorities warned us that the sky was falling, or was about to fall, and their dire predictions turned out to be less than accurate and often completely erroneous.2

       My more serious misgivings with Jenkins’ thesis, however, are deeper. (1) His conclusions are based on what appears to be a trend, but it is supported by questionable data—principally data collected by David Barrett who, though comprehensive in his research, employs techniques that are imprecise. Thus what he concludes and says about world Christianity is highly debatable and is at best indicative. For example, here in the United States we don’t even know how many Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, et al there are—in this country that is the research and data gathering Mecca of the world. Are you prepared to accept as trustworthy data generated out of countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Bolivia, Haiti, or even Indonesia—much less China or Azerbaijan—some of which are among the most technologically deficient countries in the world? (2) Jenkins also appears to ignore the principle of indeterminacy—in physics it is called the Heisenberg principle,3 in history unpredictability, and In theology and philosophy the principle of free will, i.e., what can happen, and what people can and often do that is not predetermined and therefore cannot be foreseen.4 (3) Finally, Jenkins appears to disregard altogether any involvement or intervention by God. History is God’s, not ours, but nowadays he, along with many others, seems to forget this.

       That we should be concerned about the direction the Church seems to be moving, yes. That it is inevitable or unavoidable, hardly.



(1) Jenkins reminds me of the current outcry about the IMB missionaries being forced to sign the 2000 version of the BF&M. Where have they been for the past 20 years? Why the sudden surprise and consternation?

(2) One memorable and inane example was Hal Lindsay’s The Late Great Planet Earth, and currently the seemingly unending "Left Behind" series is providing Tim LaHaye with a cash cow that he is milking for all it worth—all the while saying "the end is near!"

(3) Even within the minutest physical element, an electron, the direction the electron is moving does not necessarily determine the end result or it destination—especially when anything, such as light, strikes it.

(4) Who would have predicted six years ago the political downfall of Newt Gingrich or last week’s virtual collapse of Austria’s ultra-right wing Joerg Haider-dominated Freedom Party? George Will this week has predicted Republican domination of the Senate—and by implication of the national government"for many years" to come. We’ll see.

Editor's note: For a more expansive treatment of Philip Jenkins' article "The Next Christianity" see his book entitled The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Oxford University Press, 2002).




A BSB Special: Robert G. Gardner is Senior Researcher in Baptist History, Mercer University, Macon, GA, and the author of the very important Baptists of Early America: A Statistical History, 1639-1790. Here he gives us notes about a very significant book on one of the most important Baptists ever to preach in the South.

John Sparks, The Roots of Appalachian Christianity: The Life and Legacy of Elder Shubal Stearns, with a Foreword by Loyal Jones (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2001), 327 pp. (Religion in the South, John B. Boles, Series Editor).

       Elder John Sparks, a United Baptist preacher, hospital laboratory technician, husband, father, and gardener, has written an impressive book about Shubal Stearns and his Appalachian followers. The first six chapters tell Stearns's story, based on a close reading of Morgan Edwards, Robert B. Semple, and relevant later sources and the addition of numerous suppositions that usually appear to be valid. The last two chapters follow Stearns's disciples and semidisciples into Kentucky, western Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee, recounting a bewildering tale of divisions, subdivisions, and sub-subdivisions (and maybe a few others) that will surely confuse any reader lacking omniscience. Sparks is prone to craft intricate Germanic sentences, but they always come out "right" and are sometimes even quietly humorous. When I first saw an advertisement for this book several months ago, I said to myself: "It can't be done." Now I know better.



The Baptist Library: Notes of books, past and present, by and about Baptists, by Dr. Rosalie Beck, Associate Professor of Religion, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.


Two Books on Baptist Women of the South:

Allen, Catherine B. A Century to Celebrate: History of the Woman’s Missionary Union. Birmingham: Woman’s Missionary Union, 1987. ISBN . 515 pages.

Scales, T. Laine. All That Fits a Woman: Training Southern Baptist Women for Charity and Mission, 1907-1926. Macon: Mercer University Press, 2000. ISBN 0865546681. 287 pages.


       Catherine Allen and Laine Scales have written about women in Southern Baptist life. From very different perspectives, but telling the same story of commitment, Allen and Scales introduce the reader to what women have been able to do for the Lord in a restrictive environment.

       Catherine Allen, retired from her position at the Woman’s Missionary Union [WMU] national headquarters, offers a detailed and multi-layered history of that organization. Begun in 1888 in a Methodist church building during the Southern Baptist Convention [SBC] meeting in Richmond, the WMU grew into the largest single contributor of funds, persons, and education to missions, both home and foreign. Allen’s presentation is sometimes strident as she rehearses the struggles competent women faced, and face, to be heard in the counsels of the SBC. But overall, her treatment of the rich story of the women who formed and form the WMU helps the reader to appreciate incredible work for the Kingdom of God that these women have done. Anyone who takes SBC history seriously needs this book in their library. It is the single most complete source for facts relating to the WMU and for the remarkable story of women who built a national organization to teach about missions, raise up missionaries, witness to the Lord, and collect funds for SBC mission efforts. To date the WMU has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for missions—may it always be so.

       Laine Scales, an Assistant Professor at Baylor University, provides a very different story about women in SBC life. Scales charts the history of the Carver School of Social Work, founded in 1907 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Prior to this time, Baptist women who wanted education for missionary work or for the new field of social work had to attend a school in Chicago or Philadelphia. Baptists in the South finally determined they needed a school that provided quality education from a southern perspective. From the day its doors opened, until the massive structural changes of the 1990s, Carver provided high-quality training for women devoted to professional ministry among Baptists. Scales details the struggle for funding, for support in general, for this educational effort for women. She notes the difficulties between Carver and the Seminary about the educational opportunities afforded to the women. Told with sympathy and empathy, Scales’ narrative leads the reader to understand the commitment of the men and women who supported the idea of higher education for women in ministry, but also the barriers they had to overcome to accomplish their goals. Well-written, and very readable, Scales’ work brings to life an important chapter in the story of women in Southern Baptist life.




The Baptist Stacks: Perusing Periodicals for Baptistiana: Notes of journal articles: what they say, don’t say, almost say, and mis-say about Baptists by Pam Durso who is Assistant Professor of Church History and Baptist Heritage at Campbell University Divinity School at Buies Creek, North Carolina.


Roger Williams Revisited

Rob Nash, "The Relevance of The Bloudy Tenent for Our Time," The Whitsitt Journal 9:2 (Fall 2002): 18-20.

The recent reprinting of The Bloudy Tenent by Mercer University Press has resulted in many good Baptists rereading or perhaps reading for the first time the writings of Roger Williams. Most who have read Williams have found that his writings are greatly instructive for modern-day Baptists, including Robert Nash, current president of the William H. Whitsitt Baptist Heritage Society. Nash produced this essay about the relevance of The Bloody Tenent of post-September 11th America. Reading Nash’s reflections will make you want to wade through Williams’s hastily and poorly written book in order to get to the great Baptist messages found there.


Update on Baptist Universities

Dan Carnevale, "Virtual Faith: A Christian University Tries to Preserve its Values as it Moves into Distance Education," The Chronicle of Higher Education 49:15 (November 22, 2002): A51-A52.

Most major universities and seminaries, including Baptist schools, are now faced with the expectation that they provide some form of distance education. Distance learning generally involves internet-based programs, with e-mail correspondence between professors and students and chat-room class discussions. Dan Carnevale describes the attempt of Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania to put together a small but growing distance education program. Eastern historically has been affiliated with the American Baptist Churches, USA, but just last year the university ended denominational ties in order to market itself to Christians of all denominations. The other marketing tool that Eastern adopted has been its distance education program. The real question for schools such as Eastern is whether on-line education can replicate the faith-based, fellowship-oriented education provided through the on-campus experience. Baptist educators are going to be forced to struggle with that question as they seek to stay true to their school’s mission.


Randall Balmer, "A School Odyssey," Christianity Today 46:12 (November 18, 2002): 62-69.

Baylor University, the largest Baptist university in the world, has even bigger aspirations. Randall Balmer takes a look at the goals and plans that the school’s president, Robert Sloan, has put together. The plan is carefully spelled out in a forty-two page document which concludes that "Within the course of a decade, Baylor intends to enter the top tier of American universities while reaffirming and deepening its distinctive Christian mission." The plan, Baylor 2012, is an ambitious attempt to integrate academic excellence with faithfulness to the Christian tradition, yet Balmer reports that not all faculty members have embraced the new plan. Baptists will want to watch the progression of the Baylor 2012 plan.


American Baptist Home Missions

Fran Homer, "In Our Time: Faithful to the Call," In Mission (Fall 2002);

The American Baptist Churches, USA are celebrating 170 years of involvement in home missions, and in honor of the occasion Fran Homer has provided a helpful overview of the mission work done on the domestic field. She offers a brief chronological listing of the projects, ministries, and goals adopted by American Baptists, and she concludes with a description of the new "old" approach being taken by American Baptists to church planting. This approach is an 1800s style of building new congregations which relies on lessons learned from the earliest Baptist home missionary, John Mason Peck.




Baptist Bits: Anecdotes from the Baptist archives with relevance for preaching and teaching today, by Dr. Loyd Allen, Professor of Church History, McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University, Atlanta, GA.


Baptists: Fomenters of Diversity !!

As establishment Puritans argued that civil and church unity could only be found through religious uniformity, Baptist John Clarke sought a charter for Rhode Island, a colony based on diversity in union through religious liberty. Doubtful Cotton Mather, in his Ecclesiastical History of New England, wrote despairingly of this Rhode Island experiment: "There never was held such a variety of religions together on so small a spot of ground: Antinomians, Familists, Anabaptists, Anti-sabbatarians, Arminians, Socinians, Quakers, Ranters—everything in the world but Roman Catholics and real Christians."


Baptists: United by Love of Liberty !!

Baptist farmer Obadiah Holmes, brutally whipped by Massachusetts authorities in 1651 for refusing to surrender his religious freedom to that colony’s established church, saw an inseparable link between that freedom and evangelism: sinners must be persuaded to love liberty rather than lawfulness; only God’s free grace freely received frames true conversion. In his final testimony, Holmes wrote: "It is, therefore, the love of liberty that must free the soul."


Baptists: United by Doctrine ??

Not all agree with Obadiah Holmes’s view that liberty is the key to authentic churches. For a contrasting view, read the president’s address at the 2002 Georgia Baptist Convention in which these words appear: "If we are going to be united, we must think alike, united around the Word of God . . . The only thing that will bring unity is doctrine . . ."


Baptists: Freeing the Children !!

The Maryland Baptist Union Association’s closest tie to the Southern Baptist Convention prior to the Civil War was Noah Davis, a minister and former slave sponsored by the SBC Domestic Mission Board. He was never able to fully focus on his Baltimore ministry because he was distracted by his efforts to raise funds to free his three children still enslaved in Virginia. Defense of slavery brought the Civil war; the war’s deprivations killed Davis’s church; and he died a few months later, worn down by years of unceasing strain.


Baptists: Contradictory Freedom ??

In 1892, twenty-five years after Noah Davis died, Harvey Johnson, political activist and Baltimore pastor, wrote a letter of protest to the Maryland Baptist Union Association, which he served as an officer. He could not reconcile his inclusion at the Lord’s Table during official functions with his exclusion from the dinner table after the business was over. (Johnson and other African-American leaders were directed to segregated tables at the MBUA’s social functions.) After considering his letter, a committee advised no change in the usual procedures, adding the following to appease Baptists offended by Johnson’s letter: "As long as the colored churches are in special need of help and show appreciation of what is done for them, so long will it be the duty of the Board to extend pecuniary help as well as Christian counsel."




Last Months Letters to the Editors

Email your reply to  <> by 8 January 2003.


Ed Simons - Many thanks for adding my name to the list for the Bulletin. I look forward to receiving it. Though I am not a Baptist by denomination, I do enjoy reading it and, find it incisive and stimulating. Seriously, you do a good job with the Bulletin.


Gerald Kersey - The Baptist Studies Bulletin is like a cool, bubbling artesian well on a hot, arid summer day. Thanks for sending its flow in this direction.


Carolyn B. Edwards - I love it! For awhile there, I was afraid I was the last Baptist alive who still believed in the separation of church and state. It's nice to know I am not alone.


Deniese Dillon - The Baptist Studies Bulletin is a breath of fresh air for me. It makes me want to dance in the streets sometimes, especially when I read a quote from Findley Edge about laity and its calling to ministry or about Annie Armstrong calling SOME men the “boys brigade” or “juveniles.” It give me sanity in a Baptist world that is insane a good deal of the time. Thank you, thank you!


Marilyn Broome - I have been riveted to your web site for several hours. I am an American Baptist attending an American Baptist Seminary. My professor, Dr. Tim Tseng, also on our national board, directed me to your site. I was looking for further resources for my paper on Baptists and Creeds. Fortunately, I found many items of use on your site. Unfortunately, I found so many other incredibly applicable topics, I am afraid I have not been concentrating on the paper as I should. Thank you for a wonderful trip into Baptist polity.


John Tyler, former moderator of the CBF - I read every word of your Baptist Studies web site when the e-mail reminder hits my screen. What a great service to us all.


Martin Sutherland - Greetings from New Zealand. I have been enjoying your web-site for a while and Dick Pierard has reminded me of your e-newsletter, to which I have now subscribed.


Leon Johnson - I think it doesn't come out often enough! I truly appreciate the introduction to new books and resources as well as the thoughtful ideas and opinions presented. Keep up the good work! Seu servo no Cristo.


Margaret P. Moore - It is excellent, interesting, and informative. The articles and information are so important for Baptists and your bulletin is the only source that I have for them. I have shared them with my pastor and hope he is on your email listing.



Baptistville: Goings-On Among Baptists

Conferences and Lectures:


       Conflict in the Church: Doing Ministry in Tough Times

         A conference sponsored by The Center for Baptist Studies, Mercer University on March 6, 2003.

         Leaders: Dr. Larry McSwain and Dr. Kay Shurden

         Registration Fees $25

         Mail checks (payable to "Mercer University"):

         The Center for Baptist Studies

         Mercer University

         1400 Coleman Ave.

         Macon, Georgia 31207

         Click here for more details


       When Religion Becomes Evil

         With Dr. Charles Kimball, Chair of the Department of Religion, Wake Forest University

       April 22, 2003

        Cost: $25 (Registration and refund deadline April 15, 2003)

        To register: Contact Greg Thompson (478) 301-5467

        Mail checks (payable to "Mercer University") to:

        The Center for Baptist Studies

        Mercer University

        1400 Coleman Ave.

        Macon, GA 31207


        The John A. Hamrick Lectureship

          January 26-27 2003

          Delivered by Martin E. Marty, noted preacher, author and historian and Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago Divinity School will be held at First Baptist Church, 61 Church Street, Charleston, South Carolina.