"A Monthly Emagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today"

April  2003              Vol. 2  No. 4


Produced by The Center for Baptist Studies, Mercer University

Walter B. Shurden, Executive Director and Editor, Baptist Studies Bulletin

Greg Thompson, Associate Director, The Center for Baptist Studies

Wil Platt, Associate Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin

Robert Richardson, Coordinator, Mercer Certificate Program in Baptist Studies


Table of Contents:

        I Believe . . .: by Walter B. Shurden

              “CBF, The Alliance, and Mainstream”

       The Baptist Soapbox: by Charles Deweese

                 “The Baptist Soul”

       Baptist Spirituality in America: by E. Glenn Hinson

              “Heart Religion in Action”

         Baptist Studies Special:  Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context

                Glen Stassen Replies to Reviewers

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

                Durso discovers rich journal articles for Baptists

        Baptist Women in America: by Carolyn DeArmond Blevins

              Blevins Provides Resources for the Study of Baptist Women

         Baptist Books: by Glenn Jonas

              Jonas Reviews New Memoir by E.C. Watson

        Baptist Firsts: by Charles Deweese

             “The First Baptist Hymnal in America

        Letters to the Editor:


        Baptistville: by Greg Thompson

              Happenings in Baptistville


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“CBF, The Alliance, and Mainstream”

by Walter B. Shurden

I Believe . . .

            that there is a very important place for all of the major non-fundamentalist Baptist organizations that have evolved over the last few years among ex-Southern Baptists. I speak specifically of CBF, The Baptist Alliance, and the Mainstream Network. Candidly, I support each of these with both money and moral support when and where I can. But too often I hear Baptists of my ilk choosing sides, touting one of these organizations above another. Surely each individual Baptist has preferences, but must our preferences blind us to the genuine good of each of these Baptist movements? I hope not.

            I hear it often: “CBF: What is Daniel Vestal up to and where is he going with CBF?  I fear it has lost its original passion and becoming a bit bland."

            I hear it periodically: “The Alliance will never amount to anything for Baptists; Stan Hastey is too liberal and the Alliance is on the left edge of Baptist life.”

            I hear it from various corners: “Do we really need Mainstream? What is David Currie doing? Isn’t Mainstream going to hurt CBF? Why beat a dead horse and continue confronting SBC fundamentalism?”

            By the way, those are three very good Baptist names: Vestal, Hastey, and Currie. I served on the search committee (with David Currie, incidentally) that recommended Daniel Vestal to be the national Coordinator of CBF. I supported that recommendation enthusiastically because I believe in Daniel Vestal as an open Baptist and a devout Christian and a creative leader. I have known Stan Hastey since he was a graduate student and I a young visiting professor at Southern Seminary, and I have followed his subsequent work at the Baptist Joint Committee and The Alliance with profound admiration and deep gratitude. Stan Hastey personifies integrity! I have worked with David Currie in both CBF and Mainstream causes, and I applaud his grit and courage and determination. In particular ways, Currie is a Baptist prophet. Each of these good Baptists is in the right place doing good things for non-fundamentalist Baptists. They and their organizations are not perfect, but they deserve our support for the time being. One of the lessons I learned from the SBC controversy is that God’s people should always carry lightly their institutional loyalties.  

            I have not agreed with all that CBF has done or is doing, but I am glad that it provides a large umbrella for non-fundamentalist Baptists, that it has created a commendable missionary force, that it has affirmed women in ministry, that it honors the role of the laity, and that it has partnered with important Baptist outposts promoting good theological education, religious liberty, and other such issues.

            I have not agreed with all that the Alliance has done or is doing, but I am glad that it provides a Baptist voice for wholesome ecumenism without sacrificing historic Baptist convictions, that it fosters creative missionary enterprises without engaging in religious triumphalism, and that it pricks and pulls our Baptist consciences on hot button issues without imposing uniformity on those issues.

            I have not agreed with all that the Mainstream Network has done or is doing, but I am glad that it still has passion for the Baptist principles that created the non-fundamentalist organizations. I am delighted that it stubbornly refuses to let go of those convictions with the passing of the years. And I am glad that it sees fundamentalism as a serious danger to both Baptist denominations and the American Republic, and I am glad that Mainstreamers are willing to say so publicly and clearly.  

            I don’t believe any one of these movements is the Kingdom of God. I do believe that all three participate in Kingdom work. I hope no one of them disappears anytime soon. Where you are able and where preferences lead you, I encourage you to support any one, any two, or all three of them. I choose the latter.




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 Charles Deweese, Executive Director-Treasurer of the Baptist History and Heritage Society.


“The Baptist Soul”

by Charles Deweese


           Historic Baptist identity faces unparalleled challenges today. Chiseled out of persecution in the 1600s, that identity emerged from and survived incredible odds. Because of Roger Williams's views about freedom, the General Court of Massachusetts banished him from that colony in 1635 soon before he founded the first Baptist church in America. The state church in Massachusetts publicly arrested, tried, imprisoned, and whipped Baptist pastor Obadiah Holmes in 1651. Other Baptists suffered severe consequences for their faith.

        How, one might ask, could Baptist identity today possibly be more at risk than that? Then, external forces worked against the Baptist spirit. Even so, Baptists hung together, unquestioningly endured the physical pain inflicted on them, and fought until their dying days for positive principles that shaped the early Baptist story in America. Today, numerous and dangerous internal factors puncture the Baptist soul. Consider the following:

                1. Baptizing three- and four-year-olds counters believer's baptism.

                2. Creedalizing confessions of faith contradicts voluntarism. Stifling dissent violates liberty of conscience.

                3. Advancing civil religion negates separation of church and state.

                4. Failing to educate new Christians neutralizes a regenerate church membership.

                5. Applying excessive Calvinism harms missions and evangelism.

                6. Exaggerating pastoral authority downplays the priesthood of all believers.

                7. Exalting biblical inerrancy works against the Lordship of Christ.

        Why do Baptists do these things to one another and to their historic ideals—especially since those convictions were hammered out on the anvil of personal sacrifice in the 1600s? Is it apathy? The need to control? The urge to make church statistics look better? Inadequate theological education? Personality conflict and/or disorder? Aberrations in leadership styles? The failure of denominational publishing houses to inject Baptist heritage into curriculum? The belief that being Baptist does not matter much anymore? Or a mixture of these and/or other reasons?

     Where is the prophetic voice in Baptist life today? Using Scripture, Roger Williams challenged the very fabric of New England religion with its "forced rape" of the faith of Indians, its requirement that infants be baptized, and its blatant intolerance of other expressions of spirituality, including that of Baptists. Like the Prophet Amos, he applied the word of the Lord to critical situations in which misguided forces of church and state manipulated others for personal and corporate good and denied them their God-given freedom. 

     Perhaps it's time to revisit the Baptist soul. Roger Williams was not some deranged individual who had nothing to do but play games with the state church of New England in the 1630s and 1640s. He stood that state church on its ear by undermining the entire thrust of New England religion—especially its emphasis on infant baptism, its intolerance for religious diversity, and its merging of church and state. He strongly influenced American civilization, preceding even John Locke, the Enlightenment, and the Bill of Rights with his rock-solid emphasis on the role of freedom in religion for all people. And Williams refused to back down at any point even though the state church fought him tooth and toenail for years. Bold, persevering, absolutely determined—that was Roger Williams.

     That's the Baptist soul. That's the Baptist spirit. That's the heart of Baptist identity. Radicality, serious commitment to the claims of Christ, and hearty defense of what is biblically right lie at the center of the Baptist dream. Those are the centers of action where Baptists have had their finest hours. That's the Roger Williams/Obadiah Holmes way of being Baptist and the way of hundreds of Colonial Baptists, lay and ordained.        

     It's time for Baptist pastors to study the Bible and Baptist history in concert, to resurrect the dominant emphasis on liberty in both, and to proclaim such freedom with prophetic urgency.

     It's time for Baptist historians to jump off the fences of neutrality into the trenches of advocacy.

     It's time for Baptist theologians to study the theology of the founders of the Baptist experience, explore the cracks in creedalism, and reconstruct positive patterns of confessionalism.

     Some readers may conclude that this liberty-thrusted article abandons the responsibility side of Baptist life. I understand the importance of accountability. I have written one book on Baptist church covenants, another on the responsibilities of church membership, and many articles on church discipline and regenerate church membership. Granted, these are critical concerns of the Baptist story. I believe in duty. But I am 100 percent convinced that the foremost contributions of Baptists to world civilization lie in the realm of defending freedom in faith for everyone.

          Oppression of freedom runs rampant in the Baptist experience today. Who, in God's name, cares? Do you care? Does your church care? I mean really care? A time has come for Baptists to rethink their values. That kind of thought, done with intensive reflection, could help lead us and our churches to hammer out new priorities—biblical, historical, theological, and practical. It's time to take a new look at Roger Williams, Obadiah Holmes, and other Colonial Baptists who subjected themselves to potential martyrdom defending the soul of Baptists.




Baptist Spirituality in America: a column on the distinctive spiritual emphases of Baptists in America by E. Glenn Hinson, Professor Emeritus of Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, Senior Professor of Church History and Spirituality at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, Visiting Professor of Church History at Lexington Theological Seminary, and Adjunct Professor of Church History at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary.


“Heart Religion in Action”

by E. Glenn Hinson


        The contemplative tradition which Baptists inherited from the Puritans lived again in Walter Rauschenbusch. Although he expressed reservations about mysticism and pietism, the great mystics would have felt at home in his company. He spoke about “a tender, mysterious experience” at age seventeen which “influenced my soul down to its depths.” Yet he confessed that “there was a great deal in it that was not really true,” and it was that which he spent his life addressing by putting heart religion into action. The inward looking spirituality of his early years underwent a major turn when he took up an eleven-year pastorate at Second German Baptist Church in the area of New York known as “Hell’s Kitchen.” He came to discharge his calling “to preach and save souls,” but he discovered that that calling directly connected with helping his people cope with poverty, disease, crime, and malnutrition. Life in the Spirit means not just saying yes to a dogma; it means, rather, to come to know and be known by the living God in the lives of others and in God’s creation. For Rauschenbusch prayer is the key just as it was for Bernard of Clairvaux and many another contemplative.

                    In the castle of my soul

                    Is a little garden gate,

                    Whereat, when I enter

                    I am in the presence of God.

                    In a moment, in the turning of a thought,

                    I am where God is,

                    This is a fact. . .

          In For God and People: Prayers of the Social Awakening Rauschenbusch showed how prayer touches all life and all lives--children working, women toiling, employers, artists and musicians, judges, doctors and nurses, writers and journalists, teachers, and mothers.  Yes, it speaks for the world and for humanity and for God.


Mini-Sabbatical !!!

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BSB SPECIAL: Glen Stassen of Fuller Seminary and David Gushee of Union University, both Baptists, have written a blockbuster book on Christian ethics (Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003. Pp. xii + 538. ISBN: 0-8308-2668-8. $30.00, cloth). Last month BSB asked four Baptist ethicists, Bill Tillman, Jr. of Logsdon School of Theology, Paul Lewis of Mercer University, Foy Valentine, retired Executive Director of the Christian Life Commission of the SBC, and Welton Gaddy, President, The Interfaith Alliance, to give us short reviews of the book. This month Glen Stassen replies to those reviews.


“A Response to Reviews of Kingdom Ethics”

by Glen Stassen


         Thanks so very much for inviting four such blockbuster Baptist ethicists as Bill Tillman, Paul Lewis, Foy Valentine, and Welton Gaddy to review what you have named our “blockbuster book on Christian ethics.” And thanks to them for writing such glowing reviews!

         Paul Lewis hit the nail on the head: “although the Christian churches confess Jesus as Messiah, they typically ignore or misinterpret the teachings and practices of Jesus, and Stassen and Gushee write ‘to reclaim Jesus Christ for Christian ethics and the moral life of the  churches.’" Foy Valentine likewise, noting we write out of our conviction that the moral witness of Jesus Christ our Lord has been neglected, misunderstood and even evaded, and this has resulted in nothing less than the malformation of Christianity. Foy concludes, “To which I lustily shout, Hear! Hear!”

          Foy tags it perceptively,  “The reign of God envisioned  particularly by Isaiah and the Sermon on the Mount as preached and taught by Jesus constitute the stackpole for this volume.” We believe we have a blockbuster insight that Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God has its context in the prophet Isaiah’s seventeen deliverance passages, and that this enables us to see the seven marks of the kingdom clearly in Jesus’ ministry. We show these seven marks in the chapters on the beatitudes and virtues, peacemaking, justice, prayer, and the book’s emphasis on grace as participative and Christomorphic.

          Another blockbuster inspiration, we believe, is that the biggest block of Jesus’ teaching--the Sermon on the Mount--is by no means “high ideals” or “hard teachings” but grace-based deliverance; it is by no means antitheses but triadic transforming initiatives. The first person I showed this to was Alan Culpepper, and then David Garland and Gerald Borchert, and then Richard Hays, Walter Wink, Willard Swartley, Rick Beaton, David Scholer, and a host of other outstanding New Testament scholars. They all gave it their support. It is about to be published in a large, technical article in The Journal of Biblical Literature. We hope and expect it to transform interpretation of the Sermon, and to get the way of Jesus back into Christian ethics.

          The main criticism is that we did not discuss enough historical thinkers, including some of our favorite Baptists. We do dedicate it to Henlee Barnette and Jim McClendon, among others, and do cite the ethics of Clarence Jordan, Walter Rauschenbusch, Henlee Barnette, T. B. Maston and Jim McClendon. If enough folks buy it and use it, we promise a second edition that broadens our Baptist references. My theme is that we need to pay more attention to each other. We were so focused on correcting the evasion of the teachings and practices of Jesus, and reclaiming the kingdom and the Sermon for Christian ethics, that we did pioneering biblical work in dialogue with biblical scholars, social science, current ethical issues, and a wide swath of current Christian ethicists. Some ethics textbooks emphasize history, tradition, and philosophy; others emphasize social science and current issues. We decided for the latter, and added our Baptist emphasis on biblical exegesis.

          Lewis writes that “Kingdom Ethics does not fit easily into normal categories. The authors take more liberal stances on some issues (especially matters of social justice) and more conservative stances on others (e.g., abortion),” although even there we do not fit into stereotypes but are attempting to steer discussion in a new direction guided by the transforming-initiatives approach of Jesus. On this we describe our intense personal experience. We avidly do not want to be categorized by the secular stereotypes, liberal and conservative. They produce thin, ideological, and unfaithful ethics. We seek faithfulness to the way of Jesus as best we can interpret it. We claim this leads to conclusions that burst stereotypes.

          We are writing for a wide believers’ church use, as Jim McClendon did. We write out of our own Baptist strengths, including our seriousness about the biblical text and the way of Jesus, about a hermeneutic of concreteness, about Jesus Christ as fully Lord and Savior, about yieldedness and surrenderedness--death to self and resurrection into a life in Christ. As we admit, our chapter on racial justice focuses mostly on African American relationships, rising out of our careers among Baptists in the South. (We need to beef up the Hispanic and Asian American dimensions, and I’m now working on that.) But Baptists have an important contribution to make to the wider believers’ church and Baptist discussion, and our aim is to make that witness. Accordingly, as Bill Tillman writes, “an extensive dialogue is carried on throughout the book with a broad group of Christian ethical thinkers.”

            I agree powerfully with Welton Gaddy’s review: we need a much more extensive examination of the proper relationship between Christians, politics, and government. I think our insight into the meaning of the mysterious “giving holy things to dogs and pigs” passage will be one key for that. God is Lord over government and only God should receive absolute obedience, and support for religious liberty and for a democracy that may not always reflect the ethical conclusions Christians advocate is crucial. Churches are now in the midst of an enormously powerful empire that makes claims to be Christian. Empire like this has proved historically very dangerous for the faithfulness of churches. I am writing a book that I hope addresses exactly that threat.




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.


Baptists and the Old Testament

          I received my copy of the most recent Baptist History and Heritage journal in which all the articles are devoted to the topic “Baptists and the Old Testament.”  I proudly took the journal to show to a colleague who teaches Old Testament, and her first response was, “Are Baptists now claiming to have written the Old Testament?”  Read the journal and you will discover that while Baptists have made many claims over the years, they have never claimed that they played a role in producing the Hebrew Scriptures.  Baptist scholars, however, have studied and written about the Old Testament, and this issue of the journal contains six articles highlighting the contributions Baptists have made to the study of the Old Testament.  Following are highlights of two of those articles.    


Nancy L. deClaissé-Walford, “John Richard Sampey:  Shoulders on Which to Stand,” Baptist History & Heritage 38:1 (Winter 2003): 66-81.

          There are hundreds of thousands of Baptists who, like Crawford Toy, are largely unknown in Baptist circles. Nancy deClaisse-Walford introduces John Sampey, a Baptist giant who has been forgotten over the years, but whose legacy continues to have a profound impact on Baptists of the twenty-first century. In 1885, Sampey began a fifty-seven-year career at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He taught Old Testament and Hebrew, served as the librarian, and concluded his tenure by serving for thirteen years as the seminary’s president. Two of Sampey’s contributions that continue to have influence today are (1) the Review & Expositor, which was birthed as the Baptist Review and Expositor during a meeting in his office in 1903, and (2) the Baptist World Alliance, which he helped to organize in 1905.


Dan Gentry Kent, “The Saint’s Suitor: Crawford H. Toy,” Baptist History & Heritage 38:1 (Winter 2003): 6-18.

          Every Baptist in the South knows the story of Lottie Moon, but Dan Kent offers information about the love of Lottie’s life: Crawford Toy. In 1881, the two made plans to marry, but the wedding never took place. Their broken engagement was, in part, due to Toy’s theological position, a position that led him to become a central figure in Southern Baptists’ first theological controversy. In his article, “The Saint’s Suitor,” Kent recounts the events of the controversy that arose as a result of Toy’s application of the “new” critical methods to Old Testament interpretation. Kent concludes his article by making some pointed comparisons between this late nineteenth-century Southern Baptist controversy and the doctrinal controversy of the late twentieth-century.


Review & Expositor

Nancy L. deClaissé-Walford, “Beginnings and the First Issue of the Review & Expositor,” Review & Expositor 99:3 (Summer 2002), 323-328.

          A few days after my Baptist History & Heritage journal arrived in the mail, I received a copy of the most recent Review & Expositor.  This edition of Review & Expositor is devoted to a retrospective look at the history of the journal.  Nancy deClaissé-Walford provides the background for the beginning of this journal and then leaves the rest of the journal’s story to be told through the biographical sketches and the writings of several of the past managing editors. These editors and their articles are E. Y. Mullins, “Is Jesus Christ the Author of Religious Experience,” W. O. Carver, “Jesus Christ the Answer to Modern Need,” Glenn Hinson, “Christian Teaching in the Early Church,” and Dan Stiver, “Much Ado about Athens and Jerusalem.”


Conservatism and Baptists

Leonard J. Moore, “Approaching Conservatism” Magazine of History 17:2 (January 2003).

          The last thirty years of Southern Baptist life have been complicated by controversy, but perhaps a broader understanding of the growing power of political conservatism in the United States during those years would help Baptists to understand themselves a bit better.   Magazine of History’s guest editor Leonard J. Moore asserts that “teachers and historians would benefit from thinking broadly about the role of conservatism in twentieth-century America, seeing it as having a deeply rooted history of its own, evolving alongside and not simply in response to twentieth-century liberalism.”  Moore has pulled together three articles which assist us in gaining that broader perspective:  “The Rise of Conservatism Since World War II” by Dan T. Carter; “Women, Domesticity, and Postwar Conservatism” by Michelle Nickerson; and “Laying Up Treasures in Washington and in Heaven: The Christian Right and Evangelical Politics in the Twentieth Century and Beyond” by Clyde Wilcox.




Baptist Women in America: a column on the specific role of Baptist women in America by Carolyn DeArmond Blevins, Professor of Religion, Carson-Newman College, Jefferson City, TN.


“Three Resources for the Study of Women in Baptist History”

by Carolyn DeArmond Blevins


          Published resources on women in Baptist life are not abundant, but are worth discovering. Baptist women have made their largest contribution to the denomination through their mission work.  Many of the books give solid accounts of that work. A few record a broader story. When learning about women in Baptist life the following are good places to start:

          Leon McBeth, Women in Baptist Life. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1979. 190 pp. Leon McBeth, Professor of Church History at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote the only book which attempts to examine the variety of roles and contributions of Baptist women from missionaries to ministers. Written in a very readable style and including a fine bibliography, McBeth’s book is a must for anyone interested in Baptist women.

         Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993.  xii + 306 pp.Evelyn Higginbotham is Professor of Afro-American Studies and African American Religious History at Harvard University. She gives a careful account of the significant role black women played between 1880 and 1920 in transforming the black church into an influential agent of political and social change. Weaving the stories of individual women into the larger story of change and exploring the implications of the “politics of respectability,” Higginbotham makes a crucial contribution to the story of Baptist women. Detailed notes provide a wealth of additional information and resources.

            “The Role of Women in Baptist History,” Baptist History and Heritage 12:1 (January 1977) The entire issue with the exception of one article is devoted to the exploration of these topics: a brief survey of women’s role, mission support, suffrage, the status of women in the Southern Baptist Convention, and deaconesses.




Baptist Books: Notes of books, past and present, by and about Baptists, by Dr. Glenn Jonas, Charles Howard Professor of Religion and Chairman of the Department of Religion and Philosophy, Campbell University, Buies Creek, North Carolina.


Jeremiads of the Takeover

E.C. Watson, Call Me Jeremiah!: A Memoir Response to the Takeover, Dismantling, and Restructuring of a Christian Denomination, Brentwood, TN, Baptist History and Heritage Society and Fields Publishing, Inc., 2003, 48 pp.

            During the late seventeenth century, when Puritanism began to decline, Puritan preachers began to preach sermons called “Jeremiads.” These sermons lamented the decline of the Puritan tradition as well as the general moral collapse of Puritan society. There’s a sense in which E. C. Watson’s book could be called a “Jeremiad.” The author gave much of his career to denominational life, serving from 1970 until 1990 on the staff of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Before his years of service with the South Carolina Baptist Convention, Watson served as pastor of three North Carolina Baptist churches, director of missions for two North Carolina Baptist associations, an associate secretary for the Sunday School Department of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and a consultant for the Home Mission Board.

            Watson is from the generation of Southern Baptists who participated in the denomination in its heyday. During the middle of the twentieth century the Southern Baptist Convention became the largest Protestant denomination in America. Southern Baptists were dominant in the South and its mission sending agencies boasted of thousands of missionaries sharing the gospel worldwide. There was also a strong sense of “bravado” among Southern Baptists, almost to the disdain of other denominations. So, how does someone who worked within a system like that process the demise of the very denomination he helped build? The answer for Watson is found in these pages. 

            In a sense there is nothing new in this book. He does not reveal any new theories or information about how the Southern Baptist Convention was captured by Fundamentalists.  However, it does represent his account and feelings about the matter. And that in itself makes this a valuable historical document. It is good reading for today’s Baptist generation and necessary reading for tomorrow’s.




Baptist Firsts: Charles Deweese, Executive Director-Treasurer of the Baptist History and Heritage Society, writes this section of BSB. He identifies some of the “firsts” in Baptist life in America.


The First Baptist Hymnal in America

by Charles W. Deweese


         Hymns and Spiritual Songs, collected from the works of several authors (usually called the Newport Collection) was published in 1766 in Newport, Rhode Island, as the first Baptist hymnal in America. Two persons listed on the title page as sellers of the hymnal were William Rogers and Clarke Brown, both of whom were apparently members of the Second Baptist Church of Newport.          Founded about 1656 when a group broke away from First Baptist Church, Newport (partly over the mother church's adoption of singing), Second Baptist Church remained songless until 1764. In 1765 the church voted to sing on every public day of worship. Singing developments in this church may have led to the publishing of the first Baptist hymnal.

          The Newport Collection contained words only, no tunes. Divided into three sections, the hymnal included 141 hymns. Section 1, "Hymns for Baptism," included 16 hymns; section 2, "Hymns for the Lord's Supper," 75 hymns; and section 3, "Hymns and Spiritual Songs," 50 hymns. Many early Baptist hymnals were compiled primarily to provide hymns for the two church ordinances.

         The Newport Collection freely used hymns from other collections: 36 from the non-Baptist Isaac Watts's Hymns and Spiritual Songs, the most popular hymnal of the 18th century in England and America; 36 from Scottish hymn writer James Maxwell's Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1759); and 62 from two hymnic collections prepared for the Lord's Supper by the British Seventh Day Baptist hymnist Joseph Stennett (published in 1697, 1712).

         The influence of this first Baptist hymnal in America is difficult to judge. It was never reprinted in a second edition. However, it set the pace for the publishing of many Baptist hymnals that would powerfully affect the worship and theology of Baptists.

         A STRIKING POINT TO CONSIDER: 64.5 percent of the hymns in the first Baptist hymnal in America focused on baptism and the Lord's Supper. In sharp contrast, The Baptist Hymnal (Nashville: Convention Press, 1991) contains 625 hymns, praise songs, and amens. The topical index lists 4 hymns under baptism and 15 under the Lord's Supper. Thus, less than 1/2 of 1 percent (.03 percent) of the hymns relate to the ordinances.

        QUESTION: If hymnals shape congregational theology as much as some claim, is it possible that the demise in hymns relating to baptism and the Lord's Supper could help account today for increasing patterns toward a non-regenerate church membership?


        Editor's note: This article is based heavily (and with permission) on the excellent, and lengthier, article titled "The Newport Collection (1766): The First Baptist Hymnal in America" (to be published in the Spring 2003 issue of Baptist History and Heritage, journal of the Baptist History and Heritage Society). David W. Music, the author, is professor of church music at Baylor University.


Last Month's Letters to the Editors

Email your letters to  <> by 8 May 2003.





Baptistville: Goings-On Among Baptists

Conferences and Lectures:


         Baptist History and Heritage Society Annual Meeting

          May 22-24, 2003

          University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Belton Texas

          Theme: Baptists on the Frontier

                          For further details including registration, click here

                            or visit <>



        Fellowship of Baptist Historians


          Program and Dinner May 22, 2003

          Speaker: Dr. William H. Brackney,

                         Professor, Department of Religion, and

                         Director, Program in Baptist Studies, Baylor University

          Topic: "What Does It Mean for an Institution to Be Baptist?

                         Some Historical Meanderings Around the Family"

          Program and Dinner:

                         Shelton Theater, Mabee Student Center University of Mary Hardin-Baylor

           Visit <> for registration and details.



         The 2003 General Assemble of the

          Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

                                  June 26-28

                      Charlotte Convention Center

                                Charlotte, NC

           Theme:  It’s Time! Being the Presence of Christ

                For more details click here or visit: