"A Monthly Emagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today"

September 2002              Vol.1  No. 9


Produced by The Center for Baptist Studies, Mercer University

Walter B. Shurden, Executive Director and Editor, BSB

Greg Thompson, Baptist Studies Associate


Table of Contents:

        I Believe . . .: by Walter B. Shurden

                "Responding to SBC Fundamentalism"

        The Baptist Soapbox: by James Dunn, Wake Forest Divinity School

                Don’t miss Dunn on a very important church/state book

        Baptist History 101: by Bill Davidson

                Davidson introduces Free Will Baptists

        Baptists and Books: by Bill J. Leonard

                    Leonard gives stellar insight on three  recent books

        The Baptist Library: Baptist Books: by Rosalie Beck

                    Beck presents two notes on "old" Baptist books

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

                Durso culls important articles for you

        Baptist Bits: by W. Loyd Allen

               Allen provides preaching bits from several Baptists

        Q and A: by Greg Thompson

                What do you think of the new Texas missions network?

        Baptistville: by Greg Thompson

                Happenings in Baptistville


"Responding to SBC Fundamentalism"

by Walter B. Shurden

I Believe . . .

that recently some may have carelessly brushed aside one of the most strategic announcements in Baptist life in the United States in the new century. I refer to the proposal on the part of the Baptist General Convention of Texas to launch a new missions network. For our non-Baptist readers, and even for our Baptist readers in other countries and regions, this may sound like a ho-hum Baptist bureaucratic reorganization. Not so! This is no simple organizational Texas two-step. This is a positive and creative response on the part of Texas Baptists to SBC fundamentalism. What makes this announcement so crucial is that it is the second such announcement in the last few months. The Baptists of Virginia made a similar announcement a few months back. The announcement is also made more important by the recent decision of the International Missions Board of the SBC to reject two volunteer missionaries because their pastor is a woman.

Because it is such a critical announcement, I am reprinting below as part of this column two recent Associated Baptist Press (ABP) articles that will help you understand the developments. I urge you to read the two articles very carefully. ABP released the first article printed below on Friday, September 6, and the second article on Wednesday, September 4. Before you read the articles themselves, here are some hints for reading.

Texas Baptists to consider launching missions network (revised)

By Bob Allen


EDITOR'S NOTE: This story updates and replaces Wednesday's version. It includes responses from Daniel Vestal and Jerry Rankin in paragraphs 14-17.


       DALLAS (ABP) ---Texas Baptist leaders are proposing creation of a world missions network to help churches and individuals sponsor missionary work across the United States and around the world.

       The network, which would be established as a not-for-profit affiliate of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, does not replace existing relationships with mission boards of the Southern Baptist Convention, but augments them with "fluid and flexible structures" that are church--driven and responsive to changing needs.

       "Texas Baptists are interested in a bold new vision, not recreating what already exists through traditional missions--sending agencies," said Charles Wade, BGCT executive director. "This world missions network would create a way to connect churches and institutions with needs, opportunities and resources."

       The world missions network is the centerpiece of a 25-page report by a 24-member missions review and initiatives committee. The BGCT administrative committee gave its preliminary approval at an Aug. 29-30 meeting in Dallas.

       The BGCT executive board will vote on the proposal Sept. 24. If approved, it will go forward for final approval by messengers to the state convention, scheduled Nov. 10-11 in Waco.

       Sharp disagreements between leaders of the BGCT and SBC in recent years have led some to speculate that the state organization might begin appointing its own national and international missionaries. The report stops short of that, but it does suggest Texas Baptists will take more initiative in setting their own worldwide missions agenda.

       "Anybody who wants to come to the table can do so, but they can't set the menu for everyone else," said Clyde Glazener, pastor of Gambrell Street Baptist Church in Fort Worth and chairman of the missions review and initiatives committee.

       The report faults the SBC International Mission Board for asking its missionaries to affirm the 2000 "Baptist Faith and Message" and for its "New Directions" missions strategy that some complain diminishes cooperation with national Baptist conventions and de-emphasizes support for institutions and meeting human needs.

      It calls upon the BGCT to "find ways to enable missionaries" who refuse to affirm the "Baptist Faith and Message" as a matter of conscience.

       The report also takes aim at the SBC North American Mission Board for its decision to no longer appoint ordained women as chaplains and for attempting to control the spending of funds it gives to the District of Columbia Baptist Convention.

       It urges Texas Baptists to adopt a new cooperative agreement with NAMB that recognizes the state convention's right to reallocate funds to accommodate jointly funded state missionaries who object to signing the "Baptist Faith and Message."

       The report doesn't call for severing ties with those agencies, however. It instead pledges to "work closely with existing Baptist agencies," including the two SBC mission boards, the Baptist World Alliance and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and also with BGCT-affiliated ministries and institutions involved in missions.

       The study committee affirms relationships that exist between the Atlanta-based CBF and various groups, associations, churches and individuals in Texas. Citing "certain political facets of the relationship of the CBF with various Baptist bodies," however, the committee recommends that the BGCT continue to work with CBF on projects but not enter into a formal relationship.

       CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal said he had several discussions with subcommittees of the task force, which he described as "cordial."

       "I never expected this committee to recommend a connectional relationship with CBF like they've had in the past with the SBC," Vestal said. "I had hoped for and am pleased with their recommendation that BGCT find ways to partner with CBF. We look forward to that. We already partner with Texas Baptists in a number of ways."

       Jerry Rankin, president of the SBC International Mission Board, questioned the need for the new network. "Southern Baptists in Texas already have--in the International Mission Board--an excellent network for personalized involvement," Rankin said in a statement.

       "Rather than diverting missions gifts to create and maintain a new institution that duplicates work already being done by other entities, we encourage Southern Baptists in Texas to stand by their missionaries and press forward with them in taking the good news of salvation to a lost world."

       The missions-review-and-initiatives report cites scholars who point "to hands-on involvement as the future of missions." Many churches already sponsor volunteer mission opportunities, the report said. As a result, the distinction between local and worldwide missions is "blurring rapidly."

       "Texas Baptists need a mission vision that recognizes missions as the responsibility of every church and every Christian," the report says. "Churches increasingly want to own that vision, but they also want a collective vision of what Texas Baptist churches can do together. They see any vision that views missions exclusively in the context of institutions or boards that they only pray for and pay for as an incomplete vision. For many, the question is not only, 'How do we support missions?' It is also, 'How do we do missions?'"

       The proposed network would be responsible for facilitation and support of missions efforts; training; screening of personnel; establishing a database of missions opportunities, resources and activities; research; education; and helping churches develop missions strategies.

       Partial funding for the new network would come through Texas Baptists' unified budget, the Cooperative Program, along with direct gifts. Some work done through the network would be funded directly by churches.

       It would be structured as an independent non-profit, similar to other free-standing agencies like Buckner Baptist Benevolences and the Baptist Standard, to maintain a close working relationship to the BGCT while allowing quick response to developing global situations. Not-for-profit status would qualify it for recognition as a non-governmental organization, which in some cases gives credibility and better access.

       In a separate action at the same meeting, the administrative committee approved changes to a form it sends to churches to record the amounts they contribute to the BGCT.

       The new form removes a controversial cap on the amount of BGCT funding for SBC seminaries. It also ends negative designations against the SBC Executive Committee and Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

       Wade said the change is intended both to simplify the form and to promote peace with the SBC. Texas Baptists will no longer comment on how the SBC spends the money it receives from the BGCT.

       The new form increases the percentage of church gifts remaining in Texas in the BGCT Cooperative Giving Budget from 67 percent to 79 percent. Churches may channel their 21 percent earmarked "worldwide endeavors" to the SBC, CBF or BGCT world missions, including the new missions network. As before, churches can instead choose a designated giving option, in which they set their own percentage distributions between BGCT and global missions.

- Ken Camp and Marv Knox contributed to this story.


Recommendations of BGCT study committee

By ABP staff


       DALLAS (ABP) ---The following is a summary of recommendations of the Baptist General Convention of Texas missions review and initiatives committee. If approved by the BGCT executive board, they will be presented at the state convention's annual meeting, Nov. 10-11 in Waco.

       --That a world missions network be established to help churches, associations, institutions and individuals fulfill their missions calling through both short-term and long-term missions endeavors across the United States and the world.

       --That this world missions network connect churches, associations, institutions and individuals to available missions research, education, information, facilitation, training, screening, strategy development and support.

       --That this world missions network, like other existing Texas Baptist entities, be established as a not-for-profit [501(c)(3)] affiliate of the Baptist General Convention of Texas with a permanent, strong connection to the BGCT, and that the director of the network serve on the BGCT Leadership Council.

       --That this world missions network be governed by a 32-member rotating board, all of whom are Baptists; and that the BGCT elect through the committee on nominations for institution boards three-fourths of the board members and the board choose one-fourth.

       --That the initial board of this world missions network be chosen by the president of the convention, the chair of the BGCT executive board, the chair of the administrative committee, the chair of the missions review and initiatives committee, the president of Woman's Missionary Union of Texas, the president of Texas Baptist Men and the executive director of the BGCT.

       --That this world missions network establish an advisory council to bring together missions experts and representatives of Baptist conventions from across the world on a regular basis to work on further missions endeavors, and that the executive directors of the BGCT, Woman's Missionary Union of Texas and Texas Baptist Men serve on the advisory council.

       --That the Baptist General Convention of Texas affirm all Baptist missionaries and express gratitude for their commitment to follow God’s call upon their lives and appreciation for their service.

       --That the Baptist General Convention of Texas encourage Texas Baptist congregations and pastors to educate and nurture a vision of missions and the call to career missions.

       --That the Baptist General Convention of Texas continue to offer help in the transition of Southern Baptist missionaries who cannot, in good conscience, affirm the 2000 "Baptist Faith and Message."

       --That the Baptist General Convention of Texas find ways to enable missionaries to serve who cannot, in good conscience, affirm the 2000 "Baptist Faith and Message."

       --That the Baptist General Convention of Texas seek fraternal relations with Baptist conventions and unions in other countries for mutual growth and the extension of the Kingdom of God.

       --That the Baptist General Convention of Texas continue to work on specific missions projects with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, without entering into a formal relationship.

       --That the 2002 Cooperative Agreement between the North American Mission Board and the Baptist General Convention of Texas be adopted.

       --That Texas Baptist churches pray for the District of Columbia Baptist Convention and its valiant efforts to win people to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and minister to the needs of those who live in the nation's capitol.

       --That the Baptist General Convention of Texas urge the North American Mission Board to reconsider its action regarding the District of Columbia Baptist Convention and that NAMB take strategic action that will enable it to work with the District of Columbia Baptist Convention in ways that will advance the cause of Christ.

       --That the Baptist General Convention of Texas encourage churches to express their obedience to the Great Commission through prayer, sacrificial giving and active participation in missions.


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’s soapbox is a review by James Dunn of Philip Hamburger’s new and highly controversial book, Separation of Church and State (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002). The popularity of Hamburger’s book is reflected in the fact that Pam Durso suggests for your reading an article in her section of this issue of BSB, written by Brent Walker on the same book. So we have the former and the present executive director of one of the most important religious organizations in the land getting in the ring with Hamburger. You deserve to know what they say. Read both Dunn and Walker carefully.

Dunn on Hamburger

       Mr. Bumble in Oliver Twist says, "The law is a ass. . . a idiot." The federal courts in this country sometimes tempt us all to similar sentiments.

       On June 26 and June 27, 2002, in amazing sequence the Ninth Circuit Federal Court reached way beyond what history, law or common sense have ever said concerning church-state separation and made it mean much more than we ever thought: no "under God" in the pledge of allegiance. The next day, The United States Supreme Court decided the law means much less than one can reasonably assume: that all taxpayers must be prepared to fund the religious education, support the religious institutions and underwrite the religious preferences of church people.

       Then, we see in Hamburger’s book a scholarly but strained revisionism that would denigrate the separation of church and state which has been so good for the church and so good for the state. Ordinary mortals who might take Hamburger seriously would conclude that "the law is a ass."

       For the informed reader, it seems that Hamburger is wrong about religion, lacking in his understanding of politics, and putting his own spin (even if well-documented) on history.

       One must accept the reality of a religion in America that is more personalistic than propositional, more experiential than cognitive, more dynamic and dialectical than locked into creedal conformity, and more active than passive. Martin Marty described this brand of faith as the "baptistification" of America in a 1983 article in Christianity Today. The eminent literary critic, Harold Bloom, in The American Religion, exposes an understanding of the competency of the individual before God, popularized by the Baptist theologian E. Y. Mullins, that in Bloom’s words "vaporizes fundamentalism." Many American Christians insist that for religion to be vital it must be voluntary and that requires a free church in a free state protected by separation. We understand that the state is and must be coercive and the church must always be persuasive. In the current crisis in Roman Catholicism lay persons will not rely on their own Church’s ancient authority when it violates their consciences. Professor Hamburger seriously misreads religion in America.

       Then, regarding politics, Hamburger correctly and ad nauseam pictures the muddle of political activity regarding church-state separation in this country. He is right when he describes the anti-government, anti-religion, and anti-Roman Catholic motivations of folks who have coalesced with Baptists, Jews, Quakers, Seventh-Day Adventists, and all sorts of others in church-state battles. So what? That is politics. Overshadowing much of this activity has been the awareness that church-state separation is always a means, never an end, just a hedge, a guardrail, just the process that protects religious liberty.

       When it comes to history, Hamburger plays the spin-doctor. The word "God" is not in the Constitution, nor "Trinity" in the New Testament. That doesn’t bother one unless he is more concerned about text than context. His reading of our Baptist forebears, Isaac Backus and John Leland is grossly distorted. He needs to read T. B. Maston on Backus and Bradley Creed on Leland.

       Hamburger has read much and written much. His perspective, or spin, needs to be understood. But the book is not for the uninitiated.


Baptist History 101: This column features a different Baptist denomination in America each month. Dr. William F. Davidson taught church history for twenty-nine years at Columbia Biblical Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and he is the author of The Free Will Baptists in History, published by Randall House.

Baptist History 101: The National Association of Free Will Baptists

by William F. Davidson


        From its headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, the National Association of Free Will Baptists represents some 2470 churches and 206,021 members in forty states and ten countries.

       As late as the third quarter of the twentieth century, the denomination was assumed to be directly descended from Benjamin Randall’s Freewill Baptist movement in New England. Recent research, however, has recognized that this northern group was just one part of a far richer heritage that included the General Baptists in eastern North Carolina, the United Baptists of the western part of that state, and the Separate Baptists of Kentucky and Tennessee.

       The General Baptist group begun by Paul Palmer in 1727 would, by the beginning of the eighteenth century, become the nucleus of the Free Will Baptist movement in that area. By 1790 the two names were used interchangeably and by 1828 the newer name had been officially adopted. Documents from England as early as 1660 indicated that the General Baptists there had been called "Free Willers" and that they occasionally used the title themselves. The new evidence demanded that the denomination’s history be rewritten and that the birth date be moved at least back to 1727.

       The Randall group was lost to the denomination in a merger between the New England Freewill Baptists and the Northern Baptist Convention in 1910-11. Remnants of the merger in the mid-west—Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, Missouri—gave birth to the Co-operative General Association in 1916, while others from that heritage—Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia—joined to form the Tri-State Association. These two, along with the General Conference of the South, descendents of the Palmer work in eastern North Carolina, would finally become one family through the founding of the National Association of Free Will Baptists in 1935.




       It’s all in the name. Free Will Baptists have, from the beginning, faithfully taught "free will," "free grace," and "free salvation." General Atonement must be considered the denomination’s identifying distinctive. While other Baptists later would adopt this provision of free grace, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it marked the Free Will Baptists as opponents of the more popular "reformed" Baptist persuasion. Today, the name is somewhat irrelevant since the majority of contemporary Baptists embrace the doctrine of general atonement.

       Two other distinctives, however, would mark the denomination as a different breed of Baptists. "Washing of the Saint’s feet" as a third ordinance of the church, and the possibility of apostasy for the believer would serve to set the movement apart.

       Foot washing was practiced by Benjamin Randall at the beginning of the New England movement, but had fallen into disfavor by the mid-nineteenth century. It was far more popular in the South and continued to be the practiced in most of the churches in that area until the late twentieth century. While still part of the National Treatise, it is not as universally popular among the churches as it once was.

       The most telling distinctive is the doctrine of possible apostasy for believers. Noting Hebrews 3:6b, 12-4, 6:4-6 and 10:26-29, Free Will Baptist theologians argue that Scriptural warnings clearly suggest that true believers can fully reject the Christ of their salvation and lose their relationship to Him. Recognizing that some in the denomination have followed a Wesleyan approach to the doctrine, more recent theologians—Leroy Forlines, Matt Pinson, Stephen Ashby—have defended "Classical Arminianism" or even "Reformed Arminianism" as better representing the thinking of the majority of Free Will Baptists. In this case, man is seen as totally depraved and helpless. He can do nothing regarding his salvation apart from the work of Christ. Like the Reformed faith, this argument would demand a "penal satisfaction" view of the atonement. God’s holiness could only be satisfied through a payment made for man’s sin, the payment made by Christ at the Cross. But there, similarities end.

       Classical Arminianism suggests that nothing hinders God from sovereignly offering enabling grace to all. The fact that the grace is not irresistible protects the faith from universalism. Grace is conditional, conditional on the individual’s response to God’s offer of salvation. And if grace is conditional before salvation, it must also be so after salvation. While Wesleyan theology seems to infer that a person has lost his faith after one sin and that he regains it upon repentance, Classical Arminianism would declare that apostasy only comes when a believer willfully rejects the Christ of his salvation. This rejection is irrevocable.

       It would be less than accurate to suggest that other practices of the Free Will Baptists—religious liberty, separation of church and state, autonomy of the local church, believer’s baptism—are distinctives but they do clearly mark the character of the movement.

       While rapid growth has eluded the small denomination, it can point to an honorable heritage that dates back at least 275 years. The present National Association can be characterized as conservative and Arminian in theology, somewhat rigid in lifestyle, committed to biblical authority, active in world evangelization, and open to the possibilities of the future as an older generation gives way to a younger, vision-oriented leadership.



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.

Michael W. Casey and Douglas A. Foster, editors, The Stone-Campbell Movement: An International Religious Tradition. Knoxville: the University of Tennessee Press, 2002, 605pp.

       This book is a collection of diverse and outstanding essays published in books and periodicals over the past two decades and dealing with the Stone-Campbell Movement. This indigenous American religious tradition represents one of the most significant Restorationist movements in Christian history. In diverse ways, its supporters sought to reestablish the New Testament church beyond denominations and "the traditions of men." Chapters are written by a group of outstanding scholars who explore various aspects of the tradition set in motion through the work of Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell. Essays reflect the ideological divisions inside and outside the Stone-Campbell movement that led to schisms with the Baptists as well as the development of groups including The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), The Christian Church, and the Churches of Christ. They also describe ideological distinctives in millennialism, agrarianism, democratic idealism, ethnicity and the "woman’s sphere." While these materials have appeared elsewhere, as published here they provide a fascinating analysis of historiography, theology and cultural context for this important tradition. The opening essay by editors Casey and Foster is worth the price of the book. It sketches the historiography of the movement and provides analysis of the various analysts of the Stone-Campbell tradition. Essayists David Edwin Harrell, Richard Hughes and Tony Dunnavant are among the stellar group of individuals who contribute to the volume. I am particularly grateful to the editors for publishing Dunnavant’s essay on David Lipscomb and American democracy; it was first published in a volume to which I contributed. Tony was a great friend of mine, and his untimely death was a blow to all who knew him. Students of American religion will long use his insights into and commitment to the tradition.

       This is a fine book that helps us understand the Stone-Campbell movement in new ways.


Mark A. Noll, The Work We Have to Do: A History of Protestantism in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, 154pp.

       Mark Noll is one of the most widely published historians of American religion. This brief volume, no doubt intended as an introduction for church groups and undergraduate classes, surveys the Protestant presence in the United States from the colonial period to the present. The first chapter sets the scene with a description of the nature of Protestantism itself. Noll follows a chronology that also highlights movements, ideas and individuals in cursory but helpful ways. Each chapter ends with a short primary source including excerpts from Pilgrims Progress, Pentecostalism, a Fanny Crosby hymn, and an Anne Bradstreet poem. The chapter on Protestantism in modern America gives attention to evangelicalism including the rise of the "megachurch" and particular types of evangelicalism. This is a useful work of particular value to congregational groups interested in an introduction to American Protestantism.


Larry G. Murphy, Down By the Riverside, Readings in African American Religion. New York: New York University Press, 2000, 495 pp.

       This book is intended to provide a "vista" into the "mosaic" of African American religion. It provides an outstanding array of essays written by well known scholars including Albert Raboteau, James Cone, Leon Litwack, C. Eric Lincoln, Scott Mamiya, Gayraud Wilmore, and Mary Sawyer. Sections survey themes in African American Religion, the beginnings of the movement in antebellum America, slavery’s aftermath, the rise of the Negro Church, Social Advocacy, liberationist and womanist theology, and a reflection on the future. The work is a feast that offers special studies of specific issues and topics broadly described and documented. Chapters on "ministerial activism," "black denominations and the ordination of women," "conjure and medicine" in black communities, and the "roots of Black Pentecostalism" are particularly fascinating.

       This is a valuable contribution to African American studies and the breadth of black religion in the United States.




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

Armitage, Thomas. The History of the Baptists. 2 Vols. Chicago: Morningside Publishing Co., 1887. Reprinted by James and Klock Christian Publishing Co., 1977.


Vedder, Henry C. A Short History of the Baptists. Rev. Ed.

Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1897. Reprint by

Judson Press, 1907.

       Strident voices sound throughout Baptist life in the South: "Listen to us. We represent the ‘true’ Baptist heritage," or "Do not listen to them. They pervert our history for their own ends." Just who are Baptists? What is their "true" history? This month I suggest two 19th century works that tell the same story from different perspectives. By reading these books, a 21st century Baptist realizes that presenting our history fairly is no easy task, that all writers have biases that affect the selection of and interpretation of historical "facts." In  the late 1800s, Thomas Armitage, pastor of the Norfolk Street Baptist Church in New York City, wrote a two-volume history of Baptists. He wanted to show, through his work, that "what Christ’s churches were in the days of the Apostles, that the Baptist churches of today find themselves." Although not an "organic" successionist, as were the Landmarkists, Armitage believed in the succession of "principles" from the time of Jesus to the modern Baptist church. His historical understanding of how Baptists originated, and where they fit into the scheme of God’s work in the world, affirmed an exclusivistic view of Baptist life. Yet, his history is filled with superb historical vignettes and is well-researched.

       A few years after Armitage published his work, Henry C. Vedder, a church history professor at Crozer Seminary, published his history of Baptists. Vedder wanted to approach the issue "scientifically" and not with a goal to "prove" that Baptists were the only true church.

       Employing the best historical methods available, Vedder wrote a concise and readable history of Baptists. He deliberately set aside the agenda held by Armitage, and completed a still-useable history of Baptists. Both scholars strove to produce well-written and well-researched books.

       Armitage wanted to prove that Baptists were the only heirs to the New Testament Church. Vedder wanted to show they were part of the mainstream of Christian life, springing from post-Reformation England. Was one wrong and one right? Good question. Read both and see what you think. These two works exemplify the need for each of us to read widely before deciding who we are historically and what role our history should play in our lives today.


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.

Canadian Baptists Fight Too!

Pamela Cullen, "The Women’s Baptist Home Missionary Society of Ontario West, 1925-1927," McMaster Journal of Theology and Ministry 4 (2001). See mjtm/4-6.htm

       Controversy among Baptists is generally accepted as the norm, and the good news (or is it bad news?) is that denominational controversy is not strictly confined within the borders of the United States. Canadian Baptists also have had their share of controversies, and Pamela Cullen offers a new look at the controversy that occurred in the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec in the 1920s. Cullen’s thesis is that women participated in and were greatly affected by that controversy. Her article presents an opportunity for us to learn more about our Baptist neighbors to the north, and she introduces us to a number of influential women whose voices and stories have for the most part been neglected in the writing of Baptist history.


David A. Sherwood, "Ethical Integration of Faith and Social Work Practice: Evangelism," Social Work & Christianity 29:1 (Spring 2002): 1-12.

       Some of the best advice that I have run across recently with regard to effective and ethical evangelism is found in the journal of the North American Association of Christians in Social Work. In his article on social work and evangelism, David Sherwood argues that in order for social workers to provide competent and holistic guidance for their clients, they may and perhaps should address spiritual and religious issues. Sherwood warns, however, that engaging in direct evangelism is almost never ethical because it involves the risk of exploitation of vulnerable relationships without the integrity of informed consent. Sherwood’s advice to social workers is useful for Baptists as they reevaluate how to share the gospel in the twenty-first century.


J. Brent Walker, "Hamburger Wrong about Founders 'Early Baptists' View of Separation," Report from the Capital 57:16 (August 7, 2002): 2-3.

       In his recent book, Separation of Church and State, Philip Hamburger contends that our nation’s founders and early religious dissenters avoided using the word "separation" and never intended to establish the concept of separation in the First Amendment. In reviewing Hamburger’s book, Brent Walker reminds us of early Baptist views on that subject. Walker calls on the words of Roger Williams, Isaac Backus, and John Leland to assure us that our early Baptist forefathers did indeed champion religious liberty and separation of church and state. Walker also notes that for early American Baptists the idea of separation did not involve segregation of religion from public life.


Gordon MacDonald, "Speaking into Crisis," Leadership Journal 24:1 (Spring 2002): 62-79.

       How are we to preach when the world seems to be falling apart around us? Gordon MacDonald reminds us of two insightful voices that spoke out in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s: the voices of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Helmut Thielicke. Baptist pastors have longed relied upon the writings of Bonhoeffer as they have sought to preach in troubled times, but for most Baptist preachers, the work and writings of Thielicke are less familiar. Thielicke’s calling was to sustain people during World War II and then to help them rebuild their lives after the war. MacDonald offers us a brief glimpse into the life and words of Helmut Thielicke, and this article prompts us to take a closer look at this man who served as a both an encourager and a prophet for the people of Germany.


To Ordain or Not to Ordain?

Alistair Stewart-Sykes, Vigiliae Christianae: A Review of Early Christian Life and Language 56:2 (2002): 115-30.

       Ordination practices have shifted dramatically in Baptist churches in the past few decades due to the growing number of women being ordained as well as the proliferation of ordination for non-preaching ministry positions. Yet many Baptist churches have not taken the time to review their motivations for ordaining people nor have they researched the biblical and historical understandings of this practice. In his article, Alistair Stewart-Sykes offers a historical description of the ordination rites of third century Africa. His focus is primarily on ministry and patronage in Cyprian’s Africa, and he concludes that the church of Cyprian’s time adopted the social norm of patronage but inverted the values and practices of the patronage system. The complexities of ordination rituals in third-century Africa may provide Baptists with insight as they reevaluate and perhaps restructure current ordination practices.


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.

Caesaer’s Limitations:

In his classic The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience, Roger Williams wrote that force might appear to moralize and civilize a people, but could never Christianize them, for the "arm of flesh and sword of steel cannot reach to cut the darkness of the mind, the hardness and unbelief of the heart." Williams didn’t believe that the state shouldn’t use its powers to Christianize society so much as he believed it couldn’t.


The Wealth of our Children:

Because they sometimes know what is really valuable, Baptists often have been attractive to the poor. Church historian Hugh Wamble remembered his mother, dressed in a chicken feed sack dress, taking along five barefoot children on their first visit to FBC Cairo, Georgia. She found the courage to keep coming because of a woman’s kind words to her about the great wealth she possessed in those five children.


The Leadership of our Children:

In weakness God is strong. Birmingham Baptist minister John Porter recalled that when the Civil Rights movement in his city was at a crisis point, he approached Miles College, hoping to enlist the teachers and students in the march for justice. He remembers: "Miles College was in the process of a fund raiser and therefore felt it better that they not participate. In frustration we went to the high schools and the high schools just poured out in support. We even went to the elementary schools and the kids likewise just poured out. The use of the children was a genius that we just sort of stumbled on." Sometimes, a little child shall lead them.


The Larger Story:

What a disservice many Baptist churches have done their members by not teaching them the larger Christian story we call church history. Former Baptist missionary Anne Neil recalls her daughter returning from school and asking her with an accusing look: "Momma, why am I a cut flower?" Shallow roots (or none) produce little fruit.


Inerrancy. . . With a Basket of Qualifications

The Dean of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in an article in the Kentucky Baptist Western Recorder, September, 1994, summarized inerrancy this way: "Thus, we can define inerrancy as the idea that when all the facts are known, the Bible, properly interpreted in light of the culture and the means of communication that had developed by the time of its composition, is completely true in all that it affirms, to the degree of precision intended by the author's purpose, in all matters relating to God and his creation" [italics mine]. Is it any wonder that so many look askance at Baptist arguments over the nature of the Bible’s authority?


Q and A: We Ask, You Tell

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

Question for October 2002:  What do you think of the new Texas missions network? Respond to  <> by 8 October 2002.

Here is what a few of you wrote concerning the September question: How should Baptists respond to Open Theism?


 Jeffrey D. Vickery, Pastor, Cullowhee Baptist Church, Cullowhee, NC:

    "When philosophers referred to the "Death of God" and Carter Heyward to the "Redemption of God," they drew attention to old images of God that no longer seemed relevant or necessary. Since Baptists cherish freedom, perhaps we could speak of finding new ways to think about and speak about God as the "Freedom of God." To free God from our imposed constraints (whether they be theological, philosophical, or political) we actually free ourselves. "


Roger E. Olson, Professor of Theology, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University:

    "Baptists should respond to Open Theism by studying it carefully and making sure they understand it correctly before affirming or denying it. The only way to do that is to read the books of the open theists such as Gregory Boyd's The God of the Possible. Baptists should affirm the right of fellow Baptists to hold unusual interpretations of scripture that do not deny the gospel and the authority of the Bible or the basic truths of orthodox Christianity such as the Trinity. Baptists should recognize that diversity of opinion--including about God's attributes and God's sovereigny--has always existed among Baptists and respect that diversity today."


A. J. Conyers, Professor of Theology, George W. Truett Theological Seminary:

    "I would agree with those who say that Open Theism is not a heresy, but for reasons that do not at the same time recommend this approach to theology. Bad theology is always harmful. Heresy, of the kind that has plagued the church from its early days--such as Christian Gnosticism and Pelagianism--is an energetic and seductive statement of an error, one that is deceptive but admirably creative: it always states the truth--but a truth taken in isolation from other truths. Open Theism does not rise to that level. Rather than being seductively aimed at energetic minds, it is perfectly suited for lazy minds, for the kind of bourgeois temper that afflicts the American middle class. It does not engage the best thinking in Christian history: typically, the Open Theists allude to Augustine and Aquinas but do not carefully (or sometimes responsibly) analyze their work in detail. Instead they engage the theology of popular maxims and the surface notions of "classic theism." Perhaps later writers in this genre of theology will take their task more seriously; but so far I have not seen one come up to the level of those serious heretics of old, much less to the level of those theologians who have made it possible for us to love God even with our minds."


Michael Helms, Pastor, Moultrie, Georgia:

    "The proper response for Baptists on the subject of Open Theism is to have an open mind. Most will not. Intellectual Christianity is threatening to many Baptists. A prominent Alabama pastor recently resigned under pressure and one member was quoted by the secular press that the pastor wrote too many papers and spoke at too many functions on controversial topics, like Open Theism. The pastor doesn't embrace the theology. He's like Fisher Humphreys. He thinks Baptists need to be aware of the debate. Unfortunately, too many will beware of any theological idea that makes them think."


Dr. Richard Pierard, Scholar in Residence and Visiting Professor, Gordon College, Department of History, Wenham, MA :

    "I think we should not be in such a hurry to rush to judgment on the issue of Open Theism (that is, against) but listen carefully and thoughtfully to the arguments the advocates of this are making. I think the jury is still out on this one."



Baptistville: Goings-On Among Baptists

Conferences and Lectures:

A Preaching Workshop for Baptist Women and (Men) in Ministry, October 18, 2002, 9:00am - 4:30pm.

Sponsored by The Center for Baptist Studies.

Leaders: Dr. Fred Craddock, Bandy Distinguished Professor of Preaching and New Testament, Emeritus, Candler School of Theology, Emory University and Mary Wrye, Minister to single adults, First Baptist Church, Greenville, SC.

Location: Religious Life Building, Mercer University , Macon, GA.

Registration fee is $50 and is due by October 4.

Make checks to "Mercer University" and mail to:

The Center for Baptist Studies

Mercer University

1400 Coleman Ave.

Macon GA, 31207

Contact Greg Thompson (478) 301-5467 , email or see for more details.


Baptist Freedom in the 21st Century: Engaging the Post Modern Culture

Sponsored by : Roger Williams Fellowship, Alliance of Baptist, and Baptist Joint Committee, October, 8-10 2002, First Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.

Contact any of the following for registration:

Roger Williams Fellowship - 785-267-0380 email

The Alliance of Baptists - 202-745-7609 email

Baptist Joint Committee - 202-544-4226 email


Special Note:

The Whitsitt Journal is available on-line at <> (then click "Resources")