"A Monthly Emagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today"

November 2002              Vol.1  No. 11


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


Table of Contents:

        I Believe . . .: by Walter B. Shurden

                "The Baptist Pulpit and the Dragons"

        The Baptist Soapbox: by Kate Harvey

                 On the dragon of sexism      

        A BSB Special: by James L. Evans

                An Alabama Baptist preacher slays a church/state dragon

        Baptists and Books: by Bill J. Leonard

                    A book on the dragons of sectarianism and secularism in colleges

        The Baptist Library: Baptist Books: by Rosalie Beck

                    Roger Williams as the prototype of dragon-slayers

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

                The scarcity of ministers, ethicists: baby dragons?

        Baptist Bits: by W. Loyd Allen 

              No dragons, just giants in the land who have fallen

        Q and A: by Greg Thompson

                Send your comments to the Editor. Tell us what you think of the BSB.

        Baptistville: by Greg Thompson

                Happenings in Baptistville


"The Baptist Pulpit and the Dragons"

by Walter B. Shurden

I Believe . . .

         that most of us who preach could be indicted on a charge of tiptoeing around the dragons of culture. Tolkien, I think it was, said that you should not leave a dragon out of your calculations if you live near one. You and I live near several fire-breathing dragons in this new century. These dragons are what my earliest church friends called "worldliness." They warned me of "worldliness." They implored me not to become "worldly." Their favorite text was 2 Corinthians 6:17; in the KJV it reads: "Wherefore come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing."

        Every now and then we preachers probably should be harangued for the failure to confront. But truth be told, I am not the one to do that. I am not a prophet or the son of a prophet. I am one of those itinerant preachers who, most of my life, has taken both The Christian Century and Christianity Today. After reading them, more often than not, I try to negotiate the middle of the road between those two, where "The yellow line is." So, some other Baptist preacher, one who has preached courageously in the face of flying shrapnel, will have to harangue other preachers for their cowardice in the face of the dragons of our culture.

       I believe . . . that I do recognize some of the dragons, however. And surprisingly, some are dragons that Baptists have historically and gladly slain from their pulpits.

       DRAGON ONE: ENCROACHMENTS ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AND SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: Are you aware that at one point in our history, and not too long ago, it was hard to be prophetic about these two subjects in Baptist churches? And it was difficult because Baptists appeared unanimous in support of religious liberty and separation of church and state. But today, if you "bring the sermon home" and speak against vouchers and the posting of the Ten Commandments and why we should not have prayer in public schools and the problem with faith based charities, boy oh boy!, you have really gotten prophetic. Preaching against encroachments on religious liberty and separation of government and religion was once a safe subject for Baptist preachers. No longer!

       DRAGON TWO: DENIAL OF THE PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS: Preach on the universal priesthood of all believers in Christ, of the equality of male and female and of the equality of the laity and the clergy and you become an unwelcome meddler in the affairs of a church that has become "worldly."

       DRAGON THREE: MONEY: I preached a very innocent sermon one day in a church where I was serving as interim. I was positive I was right in the middle of the yellow line and found out I wasn’t. It was, I thought, a tepid and limp stewardship sermon. Later that week, I got an email from a church member, commending me for my courage. "No one," she emphatically said, "has ever spoken that candidly about money in our church." I got a bit little puffed up after receiving that note, feeling courageous after the fact. But in my heart I knew it wasn’t a courageous sermon. Do you know how I knew it wasn’t a courageous sermon? I wasn’t afraid to preach it in the least. If I had really been fearful, I may have slapped at the dragon of mammon a time or two, but I certainly would not have screamed in its face!

       DRAGON FOUR: NATIONALISM: Of course, another area today for prophetic preaching is to challenge the unquestioned assumption on the part of many Baptist Christians that America embodies the chosen people of God. That would be a heady sermon in the jingoistic culture in which we live. Many a pastor in the last year and a half has gotten into very warm, even boiling, water by warning his people that the Kingdom of God does not come draped in the American flag.


       It is easy to name the dragons, isn’t it? But to confront them on Sunday morning with the Sword of God’s Spirit—that’s the tough work. Thanks to all faithful Baptist preachers who do it.




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). Climbing on the soapbox this month is The Reverend Dr. Kate Harvey. Dr. Harvey has served since 1995 as Executive Director of the Ministers Council of the American Baptist Churches USA, a recipient of a $2 million Lilly Foundation grant for Sustaining Excellence in Pastoral Ministry. She served as pastor in the First Baptist Church of Providence, Rhode Island, from 1987-1995.


"Women: A Force to Be Reckoned With"

By Kate Harvey


        The other day I was making meeting arrangements with the woman who manages food service for the Mission Center of the American Baptist Churches USA in Valley Forge, PA. As we talked Donna told me how her perceptions have changed from the day when she first moved from a position as executive chef in a resort to her current work with us. The first day she entered the door she brought with her as baggage the assumption that Baptists require subservience of women. Now she has learned that within ABCUSA women are equal partners who pastor churches and lead organizations.

        Recently when an outside vendor came to her kitchen with a Bible visibly protruding from his pocket and accepted a cookie from one of my colleagues who happened to be passing through, Donna said to him, "An ordained minister just gave you that cookie."

"No," he said, "I can’t accept that. I’m a Baptist and we don’t ordain women. Our doctrines require women to be submissive."

Donna said she really wanted to snatch the cookie out of his hands. She now perceives not only injustice and ignorance in such a position but also perhaps a hint of fear.

       What might women do when they are no longer bent over, covered up, held down, kept back, confined to limited roles? Such a fear no doubt drove the mutawwa, the religious police in Mecca who last March prohibited rescue workers from saving students at a girls’ school there as they sought to flee a raging fire without wearing their abayas and scarves. That day fifteen young teenage girls died but the doctrine of female subservience was served.

       What might women do when at last religious bodies stop hiding behind proof texting selected passages and ignoring God’s overall message about human partnership, and when fear no longer forces women into narrow confines and everywhere full expression of our God-given gifts is authorized? My bet is that women will gladly hold up our share of the sky by taking on the burdens as well as the privileges that in too many places belong only to men. Isn’t that good news for all God’s people?




A BSB Special: James L. Evans, pastor of Crosscreek Baptist Church in Pelham, AL speaks out on Judge Roy Moore’s display of the Ten Commandments. This article was posted on "Sightings" that comes from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

"Judging Rightly"

by James L. Evans


         Judge Myron Thompson of the U.S. Middle District Court of Alabama may have one of the trickiest jobs in America right now. This federal judge has the unenviable task of presiding over a law suit filed by the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, against Alabama's Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore and his display of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the state courthouse.

        Testimony wrapped up last month and the decision now rests with Judge Thompson. If he follows the law and rules against the display, he is certain to draw the ire of a segment of the faith community who want the monument left in place. Using words from Judge Moore's testimony during the trial, there are believers who think the state should "acknowledge the Sovereign God" of the commandments.

        It is unfortunate that the debate over faith and its role in a free society has come to this. It is unfortunate that some in the faith community believe judicial sanction and the leveraging of secular government is the best way to express their religious commitments. In allowing this to happen, Judge Moore, the defendant, is guilty of a serious breach of trust. It is an indication of how Moore and those who support him have drifted from their authentic identity as members of a worshiping and praying community.

       I understand the underlying motivation. These are difficult and troubling times. There is a sense that a moral vacuum is at work in our culture, sucking away all that is good and wholesome and hopeful. People of faith believe God can do something about this situation -- that a relationship with God can bring healing and hope. To use Judge Moore's words again, that God is capable of returning to us "the moral foundation of law."

       But like so much of American culture, people of faith can fall prey to the lure of a quick and easy fix. Rather than spending hours in prayer and spiritual formation, rather than spending years rebuilding broken families and impoverished communities, we want something that can be done in a hurry, or better yet, something someone else can do. So here comes Judge Moore, ready to provide the remedy for his fellow Alabamans -- or at least the hope of one. Simple and easy is what he offers. All that is needed to restore the moral foundation of law is a monument to the Ten Commandments.

       By embracing this quick fix solution, the faith community loses credibility and abandons its own legitimate contribution to our nation's problems. After all, it is not as courthouse decoration that Scripture has its effect: it is in living out the meaning of the words that their power is demonstrated.

       It is also troubling to see how the actions of Judge Moore and the legal proceedings that accompany it diminish the language and symbols of faith. By offering up the Ten Commandments for public debate in the hopes of gaining secular approval, Judge Moore and those who support him allow the symbols and language of their faith to be stripped of their sacredness. They are content to have Scripture added to the public record, losing all distinctiveness and holiness.

       That is a high price for low visibility. If people of faith really understood the profound influence that they already possess, influence that flows naturally from authentic worship and service, they would realize the futility of Judge Moore's monument. In fact, they may even find on the monument words that condemn its use.




Baptists and Books: Notes of books on American religion, what they say, don’t say, almost say, and mis-say about Baptists, by Dr. Bill Leonard, Dean of The Divinity School, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC.


Faith and Learning

Richard T. Hughes, How Christian Faith Can Sustain the Life of the Mind (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001). 172 pp.

       Great energy and discussion has been given to questions regarding the "Christian University" and the role of faith in higher education. In fact, it has become something of a cottage industry. These days, colleges and universities with Christian origins struggle with identities across the spectrum of secularism and sectarianism. Few people have examined these questions more than Richard T. Hughes, Distinguished Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University, Malibu, California. Hughes and his colleague Bill Adrian edited an earlier work on Models of Christian Higher Education that surveyed histories and agendas at 14 diverse colleges and universities with Christian backgrounds.

       In this work he sets forth an excellent argument for the role of Christianity in pursuing "the life of the mind." Hughes insists that Christianity can nurture such pursuits but calls Christians to step outside sectarianism toward the diverse heritages and theologies available in multiple traditions. He suggests that the "founders" of the Republic offered a "universal vision" that would sustain a variety of faiths without an establishment of official religion.

Hughes avoids the debate as to what the founders intended regarding Protestantism's public power in the state and instead suggests that there are multiple Christian visions and versions of education, each with particular values for engaging intellectual life. These four include Catholic, Reformed, Mennonite, and Lutheran traditions, each with different approaches that can benefit the entire community. He then suggests that amid all the debates about secularizing the academy, the genius of good classroom teaching and the willingness to engage students in theological discourse has been seriously neglected or overlooked. He concludes that one way to engage students in theological discourse is in confronting the reality of tragedy and suffering in life. These ideas were written before September 11, 2001 and are thus made even more significant.

       This is a brief but extremely helpful book that extends the discussion of Christian higher education, with a call to the best of its origins -- an education that engages persons in public discourse on the great ideas of faith, life, and community. Hughes resists the tendency to cast aspersions on educational or political systems and instead turns to the best of the church's pluralism as a guide for developing multiple responses to the needs of a new generation of students, many of whom do not know how respond to the presence of religious ideas in the marketplace. After 9/11 they'd better know. Hughes helps us all "think on these things" with new insight and vigor. This is an important work.




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.


Roger Williams as the prototype of dragon-slayers

Byrd, James P., Jr. The Challenges of Roger Williams: Religious Liberty, Violent Persecution, and the Bible. Macon: Mercer University Press, 2002. ISBN 086554771. 286 pages.

Gaustad, Edwin S. Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams in America. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991. ISBN 0802801536. 229 pages.


      Having gone through an election, now is a good time to reflect on one Baptist distinctive: true religious liberty. The history of this distinctive is under revision by some academics in Baptist life, but two books by Baptist scholars remind us of the roots of this belief in our own country’s history. James P. Byrd, Jr., an Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt, gives us a glimpse into the life and times of Roger Williams. Although a Baptist for only a few months, Williams articulated the American Baptist claim to “soul liberty” and “religious liberty” with precision and passion. Byrd looks in depth at many facets of Williams’ life and intellectual work; in chapters 3 and 4, Byrd provides fresh insight into Williams’ commitment to religious liberty, with emphasis on how Williams used the Bible and understood the Bible as it related to soul liberty and civil governance. Bringing fresh interpretations, and tapping new sources for Williams’ thought, Byrd presents us with a passionate plea for religious liberty that is not dimmed by time or space. We cannot claim Williams as a life-long Baptist, but his fire certainly lit a responsive flame in New England who continued the fight for religious freedom after Williams’ death. We need to be reminded, in this age of a blurring between church and state and of growing religious intolerance, how deeply the roots of religious freedom penetrate into the heart of American life and history—because of the efforts of people like Roger Williams.

      Edwin Gaustad, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of California, Riverside, wrote his biography of Roger Williams in 1991. A very readable book, Gaustad’s biography has the right amount of detail mixed with the perfect amount of analysis. A great story-teller, in the best scholarly tradition, Gaustad lays out the life of Roger Williams and takes us into the world in which he lived. Focusing on the idea of “Exile” and how that word applied to every phase of Williams’ life, Gaustad introduces us to Williams as a man who was decades “ahead of his time” intellectually. At a recent meeting, Gaustad described Williams as the most prolific “Baptist” writer of the seventeenth century, and one who wrote in unedited, torrential prose. Using violent and shocking language, Williams caught people’s attention, but he was so very far ahead of anyone else in his thoughts on religious liberty, and other topics, that it took generations for others to pick up where Williams left off.

      If you have not read about Roger Williams, you need to. Start with Edwin Gaustad’s book to become acquainted with this complex Christian. Then move on to James Byrd’s volume to gain a more specific understanding of how Williams relied on the Bible as a foundation for his thinking. Both books deserve to be in your library.




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.


Diversity in Baptist Beliefs

Fisher Humphreys, "Theological Variety in the Baptist Experience," Baptist History and Heritage 37:3 (Summer/Fall 2002): 48-61.

Baptists are truly a diverse people, and in some ways, Baptists have thrived because of their differences. The lack of a creedal statement or a book of order along with the idea of individual interpretation has ensured that there will be always be a wide range of ideas and thoughts within Baptist denominations. That diversity was explored and celebrated at the recent 2002 meeting of the Baptist History and Heritage Society, and the presentations given at that meeting are published and now available in the Society’s journal. At the meeting, Fisher Humphreys’ presentation gave insight to the theological variety within the Baptist experience. Humphreys described the theology held by the majority of Southern Baptists up until 1979 and then described seven clusters of beliefs held by minority groups in Southern Baptist life prior to the controversy. The information is helpful in understanding the present-day Baptist landscape.


Recruiting New Baptist Ministers

Kenneth Briggs, "Go Out Into All the World: How to Attract Those Who Would be Doers of the Word," In Trust 14:1 (Autumn 2002): 14-18.

In the last few years, the process of locating the "called" and steering them toward seminary has become a much more complex task. Kenneth Briggs explores the factors that have complicated the identification and recruitment of persons called to ministry, including the postponement of religious maturity among Gen-Xers, fractious theological disputes within denominations and especially within the Baptist denomination, and the need to "go global" with regard to the theological and denominational diversity in our culture. Included in the article are details about the attempts of three seminaries to deal with the challenges. Briggs’ message about the need to attract "the called" is one not just for seminaries or divinity schools but also for the local churches. Baptist churches have traditionally excelled at helping young people discern whether they have a call, but in the past decade, most Baptist schools have found themselves in the position of having to recruit students and get involved in the "calling out" process in order to fill the growing need for local church leadership.


The Need for Baptist Ethicists

Foy Valentine, "Ethics East of Eden," Christian Ethics Today 41:4 (October 2002): 10-12.

When Foy Valentine speaks, Baptist should listen! And Foy Valentine has been speaking some much-needed words of advice. At the Texas Baptist Committed Meeting in June, Valentine addressed the need for Baptists to reevaluate the role of ethics and ethicists. His address was reprinted in Christian Ethics Today. In the address, Valentine lamented the lack of emphasis on ethics in preaching, in church music, and in evangelism. He concluded with this challenge: "The people of God need to discipline ourselves to preach, teach, and write ethics so as to communicate the full gospel that reaches out with relevance to touch the needy world."


Can Going to the Movies Improve Preaching?

Brett Younger, "A Preacher’s Guide to the Movies," Review and Expositor 99 (Winter 2002): 51-58.

The Winter 2002 edition of the Review and Expositor addresses the topic of "The Preaching Ministry in a Movie Culture." Every article reminds us of the need for preachers to understand current events and today’s culture. How better can preachers grasp the issues of our time than by spending a few hours at the movies? Brett Younger, pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, offers a brief survey of recent films that deal with spirituality, and he then provides questions that preachers should ask as they view films. Finally, he explores in greater detail one of these films: Cast Away which starred Tom Hanks. Younger’s article and this entire edition of the Review and Expositor convinced me that a night at the movies is time well spent for a preacher.




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.


Findley Edge:

Findley Edge, one of the great lights of Baptist Christian education, died October 26, 2002. Describing his emphasis on the calling of each baptized believer, an Associated Baptist Press report contained the following quote: "‘A lay person cannot pay someone else to fulfill his or her ministry to God,’ Edge wrote. ‘God has called his people to ministry, and the ministry belongs to the laity whether they know it or not, and the ministry belongs to the laity whether they fulfill it or not.’"


Curtis Lee Laws:

Many know that Curtis Lee Laws, Baptist editor of the New York Watchman Examiner, coined the term ‘fundamentalist’ for those who held the fundamentals of the faith; few know that he coined the term to replace popular terms such as "landmarker","premillennialist," or "conservative," because he viewed them as too rigid. Soon, his new title for "those who still cling to the great fundamentals and who mean to do battle royal for the faith" itself became widely identified with belligerence and a closed mind.


Annie Armstrong:

Annie Armstrong was an assertive Baptist woman. One of her pastors said the six-feet tall Miss Annie had "a will as impervious as Julius Caesar’s." She had the stamina to go with it, too. In 1894 she wrote, typed, or dictated 15,255 letters, working sixteen-hour days every day of the year except Christmas Day, sometimes skipping church to do so. Though submissive to her male counterparts, she did chafe at their lack of receptivity to her suggestions. She sometimes called the Baltimore pastors of the 1890s the "boys brigade" or the "juveniles" in her letters.


Ann Baker Graves:

Before Annie Armstrong and the WMU there was Ann Baker Graves and the WMW (Woman’s Mission to Woman) in Baltimore. The WMW supported Rosa Guerizini as a missionary in Rome. In 1873, after a change in administration, Guerizini’s supervisor, George Boardman Taylor, released her and suggested the WMW money be spent to support his theological school. The WMW responded by placing all their funds in escrow "until needed for the specific purposes to which they shall be donated by vote of the Society." By February 1874, Boardman quietly agreed to rehire Guerizini.


Kennie Read Williams:

Ann Graves’s closest friend was her pastor’s wife, Kennie Read Williams, who chided the male leadership of her day for seeming content to use the "exquisite powers" of women as "a toy for their entertainment, or in frivolous self-gratification." Ann and Kennie Read gave foundation to Southern Baptist women’s work in a congregation that was derisively called "The First Female Church of Baltimore." Its pastor didn’t seem to be intimidated; he once preached, "Old Simeon, when he saw the child Jesus, wanted to go right up. That’s man. Anna wanted to tell all the glorious news. She would rather preach than go to heaven."




Q and A: We Ask, You Tell

We ask in one sentence, you tell in four sentences.

Question for November 2002:  Tell us what you think of the Baptist Studies Bulletin.

Email your reply to  <> by 8 December 2002.

Here are a few responses to the question "As a Baptist, what is your attitude toward the proposed war on Iraq?"


Jeff Wilkinsons writes:



George Hawkins said:

        President Bush has not made the case for Iraq being an imminent threat to our security. For this reason we should let the UN send in inspectors. If Iraq interferes with the inspections in any way the UN and the United States will have adequate reason to invade. At the moment we do not have that reason.



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


        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.



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