"A Monthly Emagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today"

August  2003              Vol. 2  No. 8


Produced by The Center for Baptist Studies, Mercer University

Walter B. Shurden, Executive Director and Editor, The 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 Content

Table of Contents:


I Believe . . .: by Walter B. Shurden

              Substance with Soul: A Wish for the Baptist Pulpit

The Baptist Soapbox: by Stan Hastey

         "Being Baptist: An Alliance Baptist  Perspective"

BSB Special: The Southern Baptist Tradition: Religious Beliefs and Health Care Decisions

           Paul Simmons Responds to Reviews of His Book

Baptist Firsts: by Charles Deweese

        The First National Body of Baptists in America

Baptists in America and Church State Issues: by K. Hollyn Hollman

        “Faith-Based Plan: Church Autonomy vs. Equal Employment Principle”

Your Opinion: Are Baptists Evangelicals?

          A Recent Letter Makes Us Wonder What Our Readers Think

Baptist Women in America: by Carolyn DeArmond Blevins

         A Sixteenth Century Baptist?”

Baptist Spirituality in America: by Loyd Allen

        Structure, Spontaneity and Baptist Spirituality

Baptist Hymnody and Worship in America: by  Harry Eskew

       “Isaac Watts, John Rippon and Others Influence Baptist Hymn Singing”

Baptist Articles: by Phyllis Rodgerson Pleasants

        Articles of Importance on Baptists and Education

Baptist Books: by Bruce Gourley

         New Books on Religious Liberty, Women and Creedalism

Baptistville: by Greg Thompson

        Happenings in Baptistville


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I Believe . . .

I Believe . . . by Walter B. Shurden

Substance with Soul: A Wish for the Baptist Pulpit

I believe . . .

           that some Baptist preachers have almost nothing to say and they say it marvelously! Unoriginal and uncritical thinkers with real flare! Tragically, that kind of preaching has great appeal to a microwave world where people want the gospel hot from hot shots and quality is not an issue. These preachers would do well to spend more time in the study, reading what Fred Craddock calls “Monday books.” Monday books are biblical commentaries and serious tomes of theology while Saturday books, said Craddock, are books of sermons and, even worse, books of sermon illustrations.

Other Baptist preachers, however, have much to say and they say it pathetically. Substantive and solid thinkers void of flare! These preachers think “preaching over somebody’s head” is a compliment. They tend to preach for the eye rather than the ear, for the head rather than the heart. They lack what African American people call “soul.” My experience in Baptist life suggests that most white, moderate/liberal Baptist preachers (my tribe!) stumble more at this point than the first. Our Achilles heel is not what we say, but how we say it. So we compensate and invite Campolo and black preachers to bring us to our feet at our meetings.

Baptists have a great heritage in the pulpit. At our best we have combined substance with soul. Of course, the really great African American Baptist preachers are our teachers here. No one ever accused Gardner Taylor or Samuel Proctor of being either superficial or boring. In The Preacher King, Richard Lischer wrote a stunning book on one of the greatest of all Baptist preachers, Martin Luther King, Jr. Lischer told of how many of King’s hearers, often common and uneducated people, did not understand some of King’s highfalutin, Boston University-trained kind of language. But even when they did not understand King, they could be heard to say, “I like the way he says it!” It may not be the highest, but it is certainly not the worst tribute you will ever receive for your pulpit work: “She is good on her feet."

“Substance with Soul”: that is what we are after at the Mercer Preaching Consultation to be held at the King and Prince Hotel on St. Simons Island, September 28-30. Sponsored by The Center for Baptist Studies and McAfee School of Theology, this festival of preaching features Tom Long of Emory, Guy Sayles, Jr. of First Baptist Church. Asheville, NC, and R. Kirby Godsey, president of Mercer University. Others to speak are Immanuel McCall, Doug Dortch, Alan Culpepper, Dock Hollingsworth, Connie Campbell, Sarah Jackson Shelton and Bill Coates. Instructions for registration are below. Come and join in the celebration of the Baptist pulpit!  


Mercer Preaching Consultation

Click here for schedule and registration details

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Baptist Soapbox

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 upon the Soapbox this month is Stan Hastey, Executive Director of The Alliance of Baptists. To discover more about the Alliance of Baptists go to

 BEING BAPTIST: An Alliance Baptist Perspective

By Stan Hastey


The Alliance of Baptists is an association of progressive congregations and individual members committed to historic Baptist freedoms, the larger church of Jesus Christ, servant discipleship and leadership, biblical authority and open inquiry, and the proclamation of God's good news to individuals and society.

To live up to these ideals, the Alliance seeks to make the worship of God primary in our gatherings, foster relationships within and beyond the Alliance, create places of refuge and renewal for those wounded or ignored by the church, side with the poor, pursue justice with and for the oppressed, care for the earth, work for peace, honor wisdom and lifelong learning, and hold ourselves accountable for equity and diversity in our membership and governance.

The Alliance is both distinctively Baptist and deliberately ecumenical. Within the larger Baptist family, we have sought and maintained good relations with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, American Baptist Churches in the USA, and Progressive National Baptist Convention. We are longstanding institutional partners with the Baptist Joint Committee, the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and Baptist Women in Ministry. The Alliance founded Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond and helped establish programs of Baptist studies at four non-Baptist divinity schools and seminaries.

We have benefited from unanticipated opportunities to forge international partnerships with Baptist bodies in Cuba, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka determined to raise their voices in the context of a rising authoritarianism that tragically plagues Baptists around the world. We aim to establish three more such partnerships over the next three years and anticipate applying for membership in the Baptist World Alliance.

Three years ago the Alliance was received as the 36th member body of the

National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, the nation's flagship ecumenical organization. This year we have entered into an ecumenical partnership with the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), one of the principal purposes of which is the formation of new congregations in communities where none of these groups is sufficiently strong to start new churches alone.

We of the Alliance are equally committed to improving interfaith relations. As the first church body to support The Interfaith Alliance, we find great hope in the ground-breaking work of this preeminent interfaith organization. We maintain an ongoing relationship with the Institute of Christian and Jewish Studies in giving visibility to the Alliance's historic document, "A Baptist Statement on Jewish-Christian Relations." More recently we have adopted a similar document titled, "A Statement on Muslim-Christian Relations," which we hope will issue in a similar institutional partnership within the American Muslim community.


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A Pastor’s Workshop: Dealing With the Hot Potato Church/State Issues Today:

A Morning With Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee

Click for details


BSB Special

BSB Special: Last month Ron Sisk, professor at North American Baptist Seminary and Annette Hill Briggs, pastor of University Baptist Church, Bloomington, IN, each wrote a review of Paul Simmons’ significant book, The Southern Baptist Tradition: Religious Beliefs and Health Care Decisions. This month Dr. Simmons responds to the two reviews. Dr. Simmons is Clinical Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Philosophy. Without question, Simmons is one of Baptists’ leading ethicists in North America.


Paul Simmons Responds


I appreciate the time and energy invested by Ron Sisk and Annette Hill Briggs in reviewing my treatment of The Southern Baptist Tradition: Religious Beliefs and Health Care Decisions. I am pleased to be able to respond and continue the discussion.

Sisk is an expert in his own right on the issue of method in ethical decision making. He now shares his considerable abilities at North American Baptist Seminary in large part because of the shift among Southern Baptists that closed seminary teaching posts to those best trained in this tradition.

He is right to cite my error in referring to the ABC as “convention” instead of “churches” (p. 2). Another correction to make is in the opening line to the effect that the issue for Smyth and Helwys was believer’s baptism, not immersion (p. 1).    

            Ron rightly points to my effort to analyze the ferment among Southern Baptists and the confusion and acrimony involved among the various groups. We agree that the effort to enforce rigid doctrinal and ethical views on all Southern Baptists has failed.  Indeed as long as Baptists are Baptists it will never happen. The SBC is becoming a distinctively fundamentalist denomination, however, as the effort to impose the 2000 BF&M on everyone indicates. This major step toward theological dogmatism and ethical rigorism is demonstrably non-baptist in both theory and temperament.

The abortion issue has become one of the litmus tests for SBC orthodoxy. A legal ban except to save the life of the woman is central to the social agenda of the religious right in which the SBC is a major player. Polls still show more moderation among the wider constituency than is reflected by SBC resolutions, which are closer to Papal pronouncements than either Baptist tradition or Scripture. The Bible neither forbids nor prohibits the practice under the Covenant. Ron underscores my belief that emphases on grace, the priesthood of the believer, the freedom of conscience and fidelity to Scripture lead most Baptists to support the legality of abortion while emphasizing the personal responsibility of making the moral decision.      

            Annette Hill Briggs wanted a broader scope than was the purpose of the series for which I wrote. As the Introduction says, these booklets are “to provide accessible and practical information about the values and beliefs of different religious traditions.” Park Ridge is responding to the recent emphases on patient autonomy that are so central to medical ethics. In the clinical setting, differences of opinion regarding treatment options and their correlative religious beliefs, should be resolved in favor of the patient, not the care provider, or some outside agency, such as hospital policy. The focus on autonomy is entirely consistent with the Baptist belief that we should be able to live by our own religious beliefs, not by those of another person or religious tradition.  

There is increased interest in research into the “spiritual” components of healing, to which Annette points. Perhaps another series will be developed on that theme. Larry Dossey and others have written in the area but I know of no studies comparing or contrasting Baptist spirituality with the spirituality generated by other religious traditions.     

Physicians are now trained to take a “spiritual” or religious history of their patients as they do medical and sexual histories. Being somewhat familiar with the various religious traditions enables physicians better to deal with the patient as person. Patient advocacy forbids imposing treatments the patient says are unacceptable, or refusing to treat in ways patients request but find refused because of an alien religious or moral commitment. Reproductive issues and end-of-life decisions are major areas of contention.  

            She rightly says my research was a bit sparse in support of my comment that Baptist physicians had undoubtedly assisted patients to die. There simply are no studies that indicate whether or how many Baptist physicians have engaged in the practice. I used the seventeen year-old survey only to show that physicians assist patients in spite of laws to the contrary. It said nothing about Southern Baptists or any other religious group.

My point was that “it is reasonable to assume that . . . Southern Baptist physicians and others [who] have assisted persons to die,” and that for three reasons:  1) I know Baptist physicians who have done so--how many there are, no one knows, and few care for precise figures; 2) “others,” i.e. nurses, friends, etc. have assisted loved ones in dying; 3) Baptist theological and ethical beliefs would lead logically and contextually to taking such actions. Death is no absolute evil in Baptist theology but dying a horrible death is an evil that may be mitigated by actions motivated by mercy. 

            She rightly says that I “cite works that are forty and fifty years old”! Three are cited in the history section, including M. Patterson’s refutation of Landmarkism. Some of the early works of Wayne Oates in health care now also fall into that time frame. I also cite authors that are several centuries old, howbeit by references to the collections by Leon McBeth. Baptists have been shaped by a history that began long before the last two and a half decades—a point we ignore to our own detriment.  

My hope is that this handbook will enable physicians better to relate to Baptists in terms of personal autonomy, the first principle of medical ethics. The primary duty of the physician is to respect the patient as the subject of care. The task will be to negotiate treatments consistent with the patient’s own religious and moral commitments. No single pattern of medical interventions or options will fit all Baptists. Each must be treated as a person in his or her own right to uniqueness and integrity of belief and action.


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Baptist Firsts Baptists Firsts: Charles W. 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 National Body of Baptists in America”

By Charles W. Deweese


Baptists experienced a miracle on May 18, 1814; thirty-three delegates from throughout the country, meeting at First Baptist Church, Philadelphia, unanimously agreed on something.

That day, these delegates created the first national body of Baptists in America: The General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States of America for Foreign Missions (later shortened to Triennial Convention). Richard Furman, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina, and the leading Baptist in the South, chaired the five-person committee that drafted the constitution.

According to the constitution, the delegates in attendance represented "Missionary Societies, and other religious Bodies of the Baptist denomination, in various parts of the United States." Their clear purpose was to organize "a plan for eliciting, combining, and directing the energies of the whole denomination in one sacred effort, for sending the glad tidings of Salvation to the Heathen, and to nations destitute of pure Gospel-light."

What an achievement! Baptists nationwide, representing a cross-section of various Baptist traditions, joined hands to support a common cause. Baptists trusted one another. They cooperated with one another. They united their resources.

In sharp contrast, Baptists nationwide today (fractured by theology, polity, and control issues) do not meet in joint sessions to achieve common goals. The article on the Southern Baptist Convention in the Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists (Vol. 2, 1958) stated that "it was no obsessional exclusiveness which prompted the organization of the Southern Baptist Convention." Little did the writer know what the future would hold. In fact, the SBC is choosing to disenfranchise itself from the entire world of Baptist relationships by reducing its support for the Baptist World Alliance. 

The 1814 constitution listed only four qualifications for persons desiring employment as missionaries: membership in a Baptist church, evidence of "genuine piety," "good Talents," and "fervent Zeal for the Redeemer's Cause." Notice that there was no mention of a confession of faith. No one had to sign a creed. No instrument of doctrinal accountability dominated the process. On May 24, 1814, the convention's board chose Luther Rice and Adoniram Judson as missionaries simply because of their commitments to the Lord, to Baptists, and to people in need—nothing else mattered.


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Church State Issues

Baptists in America and Church State Issues: a column on hot button issues related to religion and government written by K. Hollyn Hollman, General Counsel, The Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, Washington, D.C.


“Faith-based Plan Pits Church Autonomy Against Equal Employment Principle”

By K. Hollyn Hollman


            Recent events highlight one particularly troubling aspect of the so-called faith-based initiatives. While government funding of churches raises many concerns for Baptists (see last month’s article on faith-based funding), the prospect of government-funded employment discrimination may be the most troubling to the general public.  Indeed, polls indicate overwhelming opposition to government funding of groups that hire on the basis of religious beliefs. Allowing religious entities to hire based upon religion with government money challenges our nation's commitment to equal employment opportunity in publicly funded positions and our Baptist commitment to church autonomy. 

Nevertheless, powerful forces are pushing to exempt religious organizations that receive government funds from certain anti-discrimination rules. They argue the need to clarify conflicting rules. To be fair, the issues are complex, but this reflects the intrinsic difficulty of reconciling conflicting policy priorities.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects against employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. It applies to any employer with 15 or more employees, but it exempts religious organizations (a broader category than churches) from the ban on religious discrimination. 

The exemption, which the Supreme Court upheld in 1987, is quite broad. It applies to all employees of qualifying entities. It not only provides that a Baptist organization (for example) can hire only Baptists (the right to hire co-religionists), but that it could also choose to hire only Baptists whose specific beliefs are acceptable (the right to hire based upon teachings and tenets). 

Title VII's exemption is a legislative accommodation of religion that enjoys wide support in the context of privately funded entities. Since direct federal funding of pervasively religious organizations is a relatively new (and constitutionally questionable) idea, there is little case law on how it applies in that situation. The only case directly on point rejected the organization’s claim to the exemption in the context of a government-funded position. To complicate matters, many state and local laws provide even more stringent rules against employment discrimination. For example, some add sexual orientation to the list of protected categories. While some laws exempt religious organizations, others do not.

Statute-by-statute efforts to lift civil rights protections that apply to faith-based organizations are the tactic of the day. If these efforts succeed, employees hired with tax dollars to provide needed social services, such as job-training and early education, can lawfully be fired because of their religious beliefs. 

Defending this policy, the White House released a glossy brochure in late June. Its position is clear, but the document obscures crucial policy trade-offs. It fails to acknowledge any tension between the nation’s commitment to equal employment opportunity and the autonomy of religious organizations. Why prize the latter exclusively if the real goal is to provide social services? Should the federal government override employment protections that reflect the values of state and local governments?

For those who would dismiss these concerns, the question remains: If the government is not funding faith, why is it necessary to allow religious litmus tests for employment?

For further information, or to get involved with the Baptist Joint Committee, contact us:  website:; mail: 200 Maryland Ave., N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002; phone: 202-544-4226.

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Your Opinion



Give Us Your Opinion: Editor’s note: Ron Freyer Nicholas recently wrote BSB a thoughtful and substantive letter. We are interested in how some of our readers would respond to Mr. Nicholas. Please feel free to answer this letter in 100 words or less, and we will publish a few of the responses.


Letter to BSB: “Are Baptists Evangelicals?”


I grew up as a Southern Baptist in Virginia, but became an American Baptist upon moving to Pennsylvania; so I've been in the ABCUSA for almost 30 of my (so-far 55) years. I was ordained in 1988 and have served as pastor and copastor (with my wife) in ABC churches across the USA.

Growing up Southern Baptist and, from the time I joined the ABC in 1974 until about 1996, I never heard any Baptist in person, or read in print, of a Baptist referring to her/himself as "an evangelical." In fact, as I was growing up in the Virginia SBC, I was specifically taught that "evangelical" was not a word Baptists used to describe themselves, though we frequently referred to ourselves as being "evangelistic" and were concerned for "evangelization." Evangelicals were Lutherans, Methodists, Nazarenes, COG, AOG, etc.

What has prompted my letter to you is that, as a long-time reader of BSB and BAPTISTS TODAY, I'm seeing an increasing number of Baptists refer to themselves as "evangelicals" and, occasionally, as "Evangelicals."  I can understand the "big-E" label for those who follow and subscribe to American "Evangelicalism" but am amazed, surprised, and shocked to think that even in the CBF and the ABC there are those who now prefer to label themselves as e- or E- vangelicals rather than as Baptists, since in my understanding there are many things which separate and distinguish a theology/practice of authentic Baptist principles from the theology/practice of American Evangelicalism. I've also become increasingly alarmed as three of the six ABC-related seminaries now identify themselves as "Evangelical" rather than as "Baptist"--in fact in some cases, if you visit their websites, you will find that the only place the word "Baptist" now appears is in the name of the school, while the rest of the descriptive material about the institution is termed "Evangelical" or "solidly Evangelical."

Also, since the time that the SBC takeover was finally accomplished, I've been one of those who have opined that, in honor of truth-in-labeling, the SBC should relabel itself as the SREC (Southern Reformed Evangelical Convention). (Please--they're Evangelicals, not fundamentalist Baptists!)

A reading of Reformation history will reveal that the Protestants (read "evangelicals")--Luther, Calvin, Knox, and especially Zwingli--knew the difference between their evangelical doctrines and Baptist/anaBaptist doctrines. They knew that they WERE evangelicals and that the Baptists/anaBaptists WERE NOT evangelicals. And, from that time until just recently, it seems, so did Baptists/anaBaptists. Remember that when his students began professing Baptist/anaBaptist views, Zwingli signed their death warrants--because he well knew the difference.

Perhaps I'm making a mountain out of the molehill, but the encroachment of Evangelicalism, first in the SBC and now in the ABC (with the rise of the American Baptist Evangelicals organization), I feel that this use of terminology is more than a quibbling over words. My concern is that, if the trend continues, Baptists will completely leave their Baptist Distinctives in the dust.

Grace & Peace

Ron (Ron Freyer Nicholas, OSL, Saginaw, MI, USA)


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Baptist Women

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


“A Sixteenth Century Baptist?”

By Carolyn DeArmond Blevins


Few Baptist historians place Baptist roots earlier than 1609. However, Joseph Ivimey in his History of English Baptists, Volume I and E. B. Underhill in his Tracts on Liberty of Conscience include the story of Joan Boucher, also known as Joan of Kent. Joan Boucher was labeled a “Baptist” almost a century before the term was used for a group of English dissenters.

First known around Colchester in 1539 for seeking pardons for those “seduced by Anabaptists and Sacramentaries,” she moved to Canterbury and created quite a stir by distributing Tyndale’s New Testament. She even tied the books under her clothes and secreted them into the court of Henry VIII. Boucher was tried as a heretic because of her unorthodox views such as the belief that Christ was not “incarnate of the virgin.” But Ivimey notes that she was also charged with being a “Baptist” and that this was likely the sin for which she was not forgiven.

Henry VIII could not bring himself to sign the order for her execution. It was left to Archbishop Cranmer to persuade him. According to several accounts Henry signed the order with tears in his eyes, telling Cranmer that if this act was wrong, Cranmer would have to answer for it. Cranmer was so horrified by that statement that he delayed the execution, took Boucher into custody and tried in vain to persuade her to recant her views. In the meantime Henry died. Joan Boucher did not recant, so on May 2, 1550, during the reign of Edward VI, Joan Boucher of Kent was burned to death.

            Ivimey concludes that during her life she “infected few with her opinions” but notes that the extraordinary efforts to get her to recant her beliefs indicated that she was a person of note whose beliefs carried weight and respect.


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Baptist Spirituality

Baptist Spirituality in America: a column on the distinctive spiritual emphases of Baptists in America by W. Loyd Allen, Professor of Church History and Spiritual Formation, McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University, Atlanta, Georgia.


“Structure, Spontaneity and Baptist Spirituality”

By W. Loyd Allen


            Christian spirituality traditions, including Baptist spirituality, can be plotted along a continuum. Pairs of terms expressing something of the opposite ends on this scale might include the following: structured and spontaneous, creedal and charismatic, speculative and affective.

Baptist historian E. Glenn Hinson uses the image of a four-legged stool to describe a balanced spirituality. Two legs, the institutional and experiential, correspond most directly to the two poles of the scale considered here. When the scale tips too heavily toward one pole or another, spirituality becomes unbalanced.

            This tension can be seen throughout Christian tradition.  The structured ethic of the Hebrew Torah and the unprompted grace of the New Testament gospels complete each other. Neither alone can represent the totality of Christian faith.  (God’s justice and mercy are present in each, but not fully visible until seen in contrast to the other.) Jesus’ personal charismata found institutional expression in the "Body of Christ," Christian communities organized by institution builders such as Paul. 

The cathedral-like order of the medieval Christian hierarchy preserved the prophetic simplicity of Francis' and Clare’s Christian witness.  (See Jeffrey Burton Russell, A History of Medieval Christianity: Prophecy and Order.)  Martin Luther taught the Christian life as submission to God’s word, which is both law and gospel, total demand and complete forgiveness.

             Baptists entered history in the early seventeenth century dissenting against the structured institutionalism of the Anglican establishment, most clearly represented in required uniformity to the Book of Common Prayer. The original General Baptist congregation, presided over by John Smyth and then Thomas Helwys, put their weight firmly on the side of the spontaneous and charismatic. As an Episcopal friend says, they did not hold the view that God liked to be read to.  They neither composed public prayers in writing nor allowed the minister to take the Bible into the pulpit, lest the presence of even this holy text quench the Spirit’s leading in “prophecying.” (See my article “Worship, Baptist” in the Dictionary of Baptists in America, 1994.)

            The other indigenous original Baptist branch, the Particular Baptists, proved more open to written structures as symbols of the faith.  This group produced the First (1644/46) and Second (1689) London Confessions of Faith.  The second closely follows the Westminster Confession, including a stronger emphasis on the Old Testament law as the model for Christian discipleship than the first.  Nonetheless, Particular Baptists also rose as a form of dissent against the forced institutional forms of the Anglican establishment.

            Baptists in America continued to reflect the structure versus spontaneity tension in the Charleston (British) and the Sandy Creek (indigenous Great Awakening) Baptist traditions proposed by Walter Shurden in his article “The Southern Baptist Synthesis: Is It Cracking” (Baptist History and Heritage, 1981).  Shurden says ORDER characterizes the Charleston tradition, but ARDOR best describes the Sandy Creek revivalists. 

            In the twentieth century, the Fundamentalist movement brought the polarities to the surface.  At one end of the spectrum stood strict inerrantists with their insistence upon intellectual allegiance to a written authority as the only sure safeguard of orthodoxy. At the other, charismatic Baptists and contemplative Baptists stressed the experiential, often non-verbal, leading of the Holy Spirit through ecstasy or silence. 

            Historic Baptist tradition includes both the structured and the spontaneous poles of Christian spirituality, but most of the weight of the tradition has been placed on the spontaneous side of the scale as a counterbalance to dogmatic, systematic orthodoxy enforced by hierarchical institutional powers. 

            Perhaps the controversy that split the Southern Baptist Convention in the final decades of the last century can be understood partly in the context of a Baptist spirituality becoming unbalanced. 


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Baptist Hymnody Baptist Hymnody and Worship in America: a column on historic worship practices of Baptists in North America and their contemporary relevance for Baptist life written by  Harry Eskew, Emeritus Professor of Church Music, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.  Dr. Eskew taught at NOBTS for almost four decades and is a prolific writer on Baptist hymnology.


“Isaac Watts, John Rippon and Others Influence Baptist Hymn Singing”

By Harry Eskew


Two English clergymen, Congregationalist Isaac Watts (1674-1748) and Baptist John Rippon (1751-1836), exerted a major influence on the hymns sung in worship by Baptists in early America.  Watts, known as the “Father of English hymnody,” wrote about 600 hymns published mainly in his Hymns and Spiritual Songs (London, 1707) and his Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament (London, 1719).  Watts’ Psalms was first reprinted in America by Benjamin Franklin in 1729, and the first American reprint of his Hymns was published in 1741.  In the latter half of the century Isaac Watts’ hymns became widely sung in America by Baptists and others.

            Much credit for enlarging the hymn repertory beyond Watts, especially among Baptists, goes to the London Baptist pastor John Rippon, who in 1789 published A Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors, Intended to Be an Appendix to Dr. Watts Psalms and Hymns.  Rippon sought to provide selections for the “Hymn after Sermon,” and made full use of the hymns of the Wesleyan and Evangelical revival.  Singing a hymn to emphasize the pastor’s sermon was a widespread practice.  (Invitation hymns developed later as a product of American revivalism.)  Rippon’s Selection was reprinted in America as early as 1792.  In addition to introducing hymns of the Wesleys and other evangelicals, Rippon published hymns by English Baptists from what has been called the “Golden Age of Baptist Hymnody,” including Samuel Stennett’s “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand,” Robert Robinson’s “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” Anne Steele’s “Father of Mercies, in thy Word,” and Samuel Medley’s “I Know that My Redeemer Lives.” 

            Hymns sung by early Baptists in America reflect the influence of Calvinism, later modified by the Wesleys’ Arminianism.  Calvinist Watts wrote of mankind’s utter depravity:


Would he devote that sacred head,

            For such a worm as I [Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed]


Charles Wesley, projecting the Arminian view of free will, proclaimed God’s grace extended to all:


Let us all thy grace receive. [Love Divine, All Loves Excelling]


In addition to Rippon, one of the most popular of American hymn supplements to Watts, especially in New England, was compiled by James Winchell, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Boston.  Known as “Winchell’s Watts,” this collection of 1818 contained more than 300 additional hymns.

            Baptist churches in early America were divided on whether or not to engage in congregational singing.  Baptist churches did not have hymnals provided in pew racks as we do today.  In a time when many could not read, a singing clerk lined out the hymns without instrumental accompaniment one line at a time, followed line by line by the congregation.  Lining-out is still practiced in some Primitive Baptist and African-American Baptist churches.

            In an attempt to improve congregational singing, pastors in New England organized singing schools, which in time led to the organization of choirs in many churches.  Much is yet to be learned concerning the beginnings of choirs and the introduction of musical instruments in Baptist churches in early America.

            Baptist pastor John Leland (1754-1841) of Virginia is well known as a champion of religious freedom.  Less well known is Leland’s significance as a writer of hymn texts.  The soon to be published Dictionary of American Hymnology (DAH) of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada shows that Leland’s hymns were widely known.  One of Leland’s hymns encouraged new Christians being baptized in an icy pond or river in winter with the lines, “Christians, if your hearts are warm / Ice and snow can do no harm.”  It was published 42 times from 1794 to 1961.  Much more widely used than this special occasion hymn were two other hymns by Leland.  Leland’s evening hymn “The Day Is Past and Gone,” published 493 times from 1793 to 1946 according to the DAH, emphasizes the transitory nature of life on earth and the certainty of death:


1.         The day is past and gone

                          The evening shades appear;

                        O may we all remember well,

                         The night of death is near.

            2.         We lay our garments by,

                           Upon our beds to rest;

                        So death will soon disrobe us all,

                           Of what we here possess.


Leland’s “O When Shall I See Jesus,” published 373 times from 1793 to 1968 (DAH), deals with the joys of heaven:


1.                  O when shall I see Jesus,

  And reign with him above,

And from the flowing fountain

  Drink everlasting love.


This hymn was further developed by revivalists of the camp-meeting tradition, who added a refrain [italics mine] between Leland’s lines.


1.                  O when shall I see Jesus,

  And reign with him above,

    And shall hear the trumpet sound in that morning?

And from the flowing fountain

  Drink everlasting love,

    And shall hear the trumpet sound in that morning?


Although John Leland’s hymns rarely appear in Baptist hymnals of today, both “The Day Is Past and Gone” and “O When Shall I See Jesus” are in the repertory of Sacred Harp singers.  We shall deal with The Sacred Harp later in this series.


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Baptist Articles

Baptist Articles: Notes of journal articles: what they say, don’t say, almost say, and mis-say about Baptists. The following periodical notes are written by Phyllis Rodgerson Pleasants, John F. Loftis Professor of Church History, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.


In the fourth century of the Common Era the Christian bishops and the Roman Emperor, Julian, argued over who had the right to use Greek literature as an educational tool. Education always has been very important to Christians for passing on the faith, something worth fighting for. Baptists are no different in seeing education as something so important to the faith it is worth fighting about. John Pierce’s article in the August 2003 issue of Baptists Today (Vol. 21, No.8), “Education Journal Examines Growing Tension Between Baptist Colleges and State Convention,” reports on a July 4 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education examining Georgia and Missouri as illustrations that Baptist academic institutions and Baptist state conventions are “increasingly at odds over trustee control and academic freedom (p.26).”

Educating for the faith is about more than fighting for control. It is an on-going process. There is much still to be learned as evidenced by other articles in the August issue of Baptists Today. Marv Knox reported on Bill Leonard’s address where he emphasized that people need to learn the difference between pluralism and syncretism. Leonard said, “Pluralism requires respect, not capitulation of conviction (p. 12).”  Learning how to respect religious differences in our pluralistic world, remain true to what one believes, and work with others for the good of the greater community is the subject of another article by John Pierce. Pierce reported on Jewish, Muslim and Baptist congregations in Athens, GA who began learning with interfaith dialogue and progressed to share ministry through working on a Habitat for Humanity project (p. 38). 

Educating for the faith is an on-going process that also involves re-learning, as a survey of other journals reveals. We need to re-learn how to be on mission in the 21st century according to the July/September 2003 issue of Baptist World (Vol. 50, No.3). The entire issue is devoted to the summit in Swanwick, England where the who, what, when, where, why and how of mission was challenged by Baptists from around the world. No one is exempt from being a missionary, neither is any culture exempt from needing Christian mission. We need to re-learn our history to understand whom we are today according to two other articles. David Killingray in his article, “Black Baptists in Britain 1640-1950,” (Baptist Quarterly, vol. 40, April 2003, pp. 69-89) challenges the assumption that Black Baptists are a 20th century development in Britain. Killingray demonstrates the contributions of Black Baptists in Britain as pastors, missionaries and evangelists before the racism of empire building kept their contributions out of the history of the Baptist Union and relegated them to separate churches.

Wayne Flynt, “Not an Island unto Itself:  Southern Baptists and the New Theological Trends (Liberalism, Ecumenism, and the Social Gospel), 1890-1940,” in American Baptist Quarterly, Vol. XXII, No. 2, June 2003 challenges the hypothesis of a homogeneous SBC until it was threatened by “liberals” at the end of the 20th century. Flynt concludes from his research that Southern Baptists have been diverse and differed in their understanding of the Bible, the role of women, and relationship to society far longer than 1979 or even World War II.

           In order for education to facilitate new ways of understanding our Christian faith, it is imperative to have good teachers. Educational Leadership, Vol. 60, No. 8, May 2003 devoted the entire issue to “Keeping Good Teachers.”  Understanding how institutions can set teachers up to fail, why teachers stay and why they leave, and how to keep good teachers teaching are necessary issues for church leaders as well as academic administrators to consider for education to continue being important in transmitting our faith from generation to generation.


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Baptist Books Baptist Books: brief book notes written by Bruce Gourley, a former campus minister, author of The Godmakers, the present Online Editor of Baptists Today, and a Ph.D. student in Southern History, Auburn University.


Walker, Brent J., Editor, The Trophy of Baptists, Macon, GA, Smyth & Helwys, 2003, 120 pages.


            During the 1920 annual SBC meeting, upwards of 15,000 Baptists listened eagerly as George Truett lifted high the Baptist “trophy”– religious liberty for all.  During the 2003 annual SBC meeting, less than 8000 messengers voted to distance Southern Baptists from the Baptist World Alliance because that world body of Baptists advocated freedom within the Baptist family. This small volume edited by the Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee celebrates Baptists’ greatest contribution to the world, even while defending religious liberty from a new generation of fundamentalist Baptists who fear and oppose freedom.  Comprised of 23 short sermons written by Baptists and originally appearing in Report from the Capitol, this book encapsulates the essence of the Baptist championing of religious liberty for all from the perspectives of Scripture and Baptist heritage. Pastors and laypersons alike will find themselves repeatedly reaching for this timely volume both as a Baptist resource and as a personal challenge to consistently champion freedom.


Audra and Joe Trull, Editors, Putting Women in Their Place: Moving Beyond Gender Stereotypes in Church and Home, Macon, GA, Smyth & Helwys, 2003, 150 pages.


            “I am a pastor, not in spite of what the Bible says, but because of what the Bible says,” (26) proclaims Julie Pennington-Russell in her essay, “One Woman’s Response to the SBC.”  Intended as an introduction to the present debate among Southern Baptists concerning gender equality, this volume of 12 essays edited by the husband-and-wife team of Audra and Joe Trull is a scriptural defense against the weak exegesis which undergirds fundamentalist opposition to gender equality in church and home as expressed in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Respected Baptists from throughout Baptist life examine biblical injunctions to ascertain the “place” of women both in biblical days and modern times. Deserving a close reading, this book successfully cuts through fundamentalist rhetoric and agendas as it champions the Bible and encourages women to respond to God’s calling within the context of the Baptist family. “I am a Baptist because of who I am … Baptist is my name,” (50) proclaims Gladys S. Lewis in “Still a Baptist Woman.” This book provides hope and a solid foundation for Baptist women.


Robert O’Brien, Editor, Stand with Christ: Why Missionaries Can’t Sign the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, Macon, GA, Smyth & Helwys, 2003, 156 pages.


            The fundamentalist suspicion of the Bible became evident with the passage of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. Belief in a human statement replaced belief in the Bible. In 2002, fundamentalists completed their ideological purge of Southern Baptist international missions by requiring missionaries to sign their creed. Edited by long-time Baptist journalist Robert O’Brien, this volume of 13 essays written by prominent Baptist leaders, including Russell H. Dilday and Catherine B. Allen, examines the historical and theological context of the abandonment by SBC leaders of Baptists’ reliance on the Bible and opposition to creeds. Collectively documenting how Baptist history, the Bible, and Jesus have all been cast aside in the rush to creedalism, this volume provides an excellent accounting of history in-the-making– the SBC becoming something other than Baptist. This book sounds the alarm for all true Baptists to Stand with Christ.


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Baptist Myths: A New Pamphlet Series

A series of eleven pamphlets that address negative perceptions held towards Baptists in popular American culture. These pamphlets are suitable for individual study, church classes, and academic courses. They are jointly published by the Baptist History and Heritage Society, The Center for Baptist Studies of Mercer University, and the Whitsitt Baptist Heritage Society. Editor: Doug Weaver; Associate Editors: Charles W. Deweese & Walter B. Shurden. The pamphlets will be available for distribution by August 15, 2003, in time for fall church and school classes.

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Baptistville Baptistville:

Conferences and Lectures:


A Pastor’s Workshop: Dealing With the Hot Potato Church/State Issues Today:

A Morning With Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee

Sponsored by

The Center for Baptist Studies

Mercer University

Thursday, 4 September 2003


Vineville Baptist Church
2591 Vineville Avenue
Macon, Georgia


Cost: Free

For more details, go to our Home Page, click Conferences.


Mercer Preaching Consultation


 The Center for Baptist Studies

and McAfee School of Theology


September 28-30, 2003


St. Simons Island, Georgia

King and Prince Hotel


Cost: $50

(Registration and refund deadline September 15, 2003)

For more details, go to our Home Page, click Conferences.


Teaching and Preaching the Baptist Heritage in the Local Church

 October 17, 2003

 Mercer University

 Macon, Georgia

Religious Life Building


Leaders: Dr. Walter Shurden,

                The Reverend Greg Thompson

                Dr. Pam Durso

                The Reverend Robbin Mundy

                Dr. Quinn Pugh


Cost: $25

For more details, go to our Home Page


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