"A Monthly Emagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today"

May  2003              Vol. 2  No. 5


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 Contents:

        I Believe . . .: by Walter B. Shurden

              Speaking Truth to Power

       The Baptist Soapbox: by G. Thomas Halbrooks

               Why Can’t Baptists Learn From Each Other?”

       Baptist Spirituality in America: by E. Glenn Hinson

              Strength to Love

       Baptist Studies Special: Edgar McKnight’s New Book on the Bible

               Professor Johnson and Pastor Somerville on McKnight’s Book

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

               Baptist Worship and Pastoral Care

       Baptist Women in America: by Carolyn DeArmond Blevins

              Virginia Broughton: Black Baptist Activist

       Baptist Books: by Glenn Jonas

              Is America Christian? Are Baptists Baptists?

       Baptist Firsts: by Charles Deweese

             The First Baptist Historian in America

       Baptistville: by Greg Thompson

              Happenings in Baptistville


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by Walter B. Shurden

I Believe . . .


                that Baptists have a long and enviable track record of speaking truth to power. The image of white Baptists in America today, however, is too much that of the religious lap dogs of culture.

            Church-state issues are among the most dangerous, incendiary, and knottiest Baptists face today. I am on record saying that “I believe with all my heart and soul that one of the most important religious organizations in this republic is the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs.” The BJC is not a religious lap dog. It is a Baptist bulldog. If you are a traditional Baptist and you are not a member of BJC, I urge you to join.

            Another crucial watchdog of our civil liberties in America and one in which Baptists have been very much involved  over the years is “Americans United for Separation of Church and State.” AU, like BJC,  is much more of a bulldog than a lap dog.  AU not only barks but bites at the heels of anyone who tries to do an end run around the Unites States Constitution on issues of religious liberty. Let me encourage you to become acquainted with that organization through its important Website, <>. For a nominal contribution you can become a member of AU and receive the very, very informed and helpful monthly magazine called CHURCH AND STATE. If you read the news releases of the BJC and AU, you will know what is happening in one of the crucial areas of our lives.

            In the April 2003 issue of CHURCH AND STATE, Rob Boston had an inspiring article on Roger Williams called “The Forgotten Founder.” Among other things, Rob Boston said, “Williams had a long track record of speaking truth to power.” “Speaking truth to power”— when at its best, that is what much of Baptist history is all about.

            John Smyth spoke truth to ecclesiastical power and called for a regenerate church.

            Thomas Helwys and John Clarke spoke truth to governmental power and called for liberty of conscience and religious liberty.

            William Carey and Luther Rice spoke truth to theological power and called for a commitment to Christian missions.

            Isaac Backus and John Leland spoke truth to oppressive state power and called for the separation of religion from government.

            John Clifford and Walter Rauschenbusch spoke truth to economic power and called for attention to the plight of the poor.

            Clarence Jordan and Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke truth to racial power and called for an end to racism.  

            And recently, forty-three (43) SBC missionaries who were either fired or resigned spoke truth to the power of Baptist creedalism.

            An observation: Baptists, like others, have been more successful speaking truth to power when they were in the minority rather than in the majority. Baptists: bulldogs or lap dogs?                   




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 G. Thomas Halbrooks, President of Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, NY. Dr. Halbrooks is also Professor of Church History at CRCDS.


Why Can’t Baptists Learn From Each Other?

by G. Thomas Halbrooks


          Baptists have never been shy about sharing their views. If there had ever been any doubt about that, the truth of it was made clear in Shurden’s Not a Silent People. Most of the time, however, their vigorous expression of views has led not to strengthening each other, but to dividing from one another—so much so that Baptists have often been characterized as multiplying by dividing.

In the mid-Twentieth Century, Northern Baptists suffered division, as did National Baptists. In the latter part of the century, Southern Baptists suffered division. And even some of the groups coming out of those divisions continue to be threatened by a lack of unity. No doubt, some of the divisions occurred because of significant differences of opinion on theology, social issues, and methodology. And, of course, some are unwilling to allow those who differ with them on these matters to be a part of their group. I seriously question whether those are genuine Baptists in the historical understanding of the term.

My question is, “Why can’t genuine Baptists share their views in a constructive way?” Why do we seem unable or unwilling to learn from each other? I know there are real differences of opinion. But if we are genuine Baptists adhering to the freedom of conscience under the Lordship of Christ, such differences should not be an impediment. I know the traditional reasons of history and suspicions and prejudices. There are also the reasons of power and money. But can’t we make an effort to move beyond such barriers? In these troubled times, the portion of Christ’s church known as Baptists needs the wisdom and energy of all of us in all our diversity.

American Baptists are currently threatened with division from an internal faction. Some regions of the denomination have already been taken over. Why can’t Cooperative Baptists share with them out of their experience to aid them in their struggles? American Baptists and Cooperative Baptists struggle with how to deal with difficult issues on which there are deep differences of opinion. Why can’t the Alliance of Baptists share with them how they have tried to deal openly and redemptively with such issues? Why can’t we all learn from Progressive National Baptists about dealing with issues of social justice? Why can’t we all learn from American Baptists how they have reached out and become the most diverse denomination in America, and how they deal with such diversity? As American Baptists struggle with serious organizational issues, why can’t they talk with Cooperative Baptists who have struggled with such issues as well?

             In June American Baptists are holding their Biennial Meeting in Richmond, VA. It be an ideal time to bring some of our Baptists groups together to talk with each other. It is an opportunity missed. Such opportunities to learn from each other will not happen unless we are intentional about it. Let’s make such opportunities. The Baptist Joint Committee has engaged in some efforts in this area. The Baptist World Alliance tries to do work in this area. This Bulletin provides a forum for such dialogue. Let’s follow their examples. Let’s talk. Let’s listen. Let’s learn from each other.





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Register for the workshop by emailing Greg Thompson at
before Thursday, 4 September 2003, Macon, GA.


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.

“Strength to Love”

by E. Glenn Hinson


            Strength to Love is the title of one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s books, a collection of sermons, but it is also the key to the spirituality which undergirded the nonviolent approach to racial justice he fostered.  King himself identified some of its sources.  He got his first spiritual nurture through the spirited preaching and singing of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.  Brought up in such a conservative religious environment, at Colgate-Rochester Seminary he reveled in the discovery of Walter Rauschenbusch’s “social gospel” which showed how faith works through love.  Although he drew closer to Reinhold Niebuhr than to Rauschenbusch in his understanding of human nature, the Sermon on the Mount and Mahatma Gandhi supplied him a solution to the main dilemma African Americans faced: how to achieve justice without resorting to violence.  Two words-- agape and satyagraha--summed it up.  “We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love; we must meet physical force with soul force.”  Actual engagement, initially in the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, brought him assurance in an experience of “the presence of the Divine.”  In the midst of house bombings and threats and attacks, King said, he became “more and more convinced of the reality of a personal God” who “both evokes and answers prayers.”  He also learned more about how the love which God is works.  God suffers, and “suffering can be a creative and powerful force.”  The love which strengthens us in our weakness is not just sentimental love.  Rather, it is “the love of God operating in the human heart.”  We love others not because we like them but because God is loving them in us. In opening to the love of God, we will have strength to love and to act.


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BSB SPECIAL: Edgar V. McKnight is one of Baptists’ best New Testament scholars of this generation. A longtime professor at Furman University and a committed churchman of the First Baptist Church in Greenville, SC, McKnight recently wrote Reading the Bible Today: A Twenty-First Century Appreciation of Scripture. Published by Smyth and Helwys in 2003, the book has 151 pages. Professor Janell Johnson, professor of Old Testament in The Roberts Department of Christianity at Mercer University and Dr. Jim Somerville, pastor of First Baptist Church in Washington, DC, offer the following comments on McKnight’s book.

Professor Janell Johnson of The Roberts Department of Christianity of Mercer University wrote of McKnight’s new book:

            Returning to the ever-present question of how to interpret the Bible, McKnight provides a Twenty-First century approach that takes into account the trends of biblical interpretation today and argues that interpreters should attempt to blend together what are seen as disparate views of the Bible--text as oracle, text as object, and text as “literary art allowing readers to find and discover meaning and significance that match their need and competence” (135).  Such an approach allows the Bible to function as a relevant word in ever-changing contexts, a quality he labels as “errantry” after the “knight-errant” who willingly ventured into unknown territory (8).

            The book’s strengths are significant.  It successfully addresses primary issues related to biblical interpretation today, and it is easily read and, therefore, accessible to a large audience.  Though useful to anyone attempting to improve understanding of the Bible, this tool also could be used in the classroom as an introduction to study of the Bible.  Used at the beginning of a course or semester, McKnight’s book would address issues regarding the nature of Scripture and introduce historical considerations.

            Cutting into a purely dogmatic approach to the Bible, McKnight delves into the historical process that influenced the original writings and their transmission from an ancient past to the present.  He explains (1) how methods of interpretation have shifted over the course of church history, (2) that “biblical books reflect their culture and circumstance of origin” (12), (3) that generations receiving the text tend to view the Bible through their own lens and seek its relevance for their own particular circumstances, (4) how geography affected the biblical writers and, therefore, their writings, (5) how contributions from the field of archaeology enhance our understanding of the texts and their original circumstances, and (6) the complexities of translating from the original languages into a variety of evolving languages.

            All of this serves his stated purpose, “an appreciation of the nature of the Bible as the ever contemporary word of God and the Bible as a collection of ancient writings” (viii).  However, the optimism communicated by the author regarding the book’s intended success is daunting.  “Yes! The Bible can be understood, and this volume is designed to serve as a guide to opening the Bible and learning from its riches.  The history of the reading of the Bible helps to explain and to mediate, if not to do away with, the conflict in interpretation” (2) [italics mine].  A goal of scholars particularly since the Enlightenment, time has revealed the failure of any approach to eliminate dissension when it comes to biblical interpretation.

            Practically speaking, “learn[ing] how to distinguish between the ancient culture and the good news” (viii) is a much more complicated task than this book may lead readers to believe.  When specific topics, such as slavery and the equality of women and men, are addressed, discernment of the historical package, which at times obscures God’s truth, is enormously simplified. Still McKnight’s book challenges readers to take up the discipline that will enable people to read the Bible with greater attentiveness to the historical issues.


Dr. Jim Somerville, Pastor, First Baptist Church of the City of Washington, DC, speaks of the use of McKnight’s book in the local church:

            The conflict among Southern Baptists in the last part of the last century was described by some as a “Battle for the Bible.”  Fundamentalists feared that the authority of Scripture was being diminished by modern interpretive methods and sought to reclaim that authority by appealing to a doctrine of inerrancy.  As McKnight characterizes their position:  “The Bible is either totally without any sort of error or it has no authority” (p. 7).  But inerrancy is not the only way, McKnight argues, and the authority of Scripture can be preserved without confining it to the narrow dimensions of the Fundamentalist mindset.

            His approach is to talk about the “errantry” of the Bible, in the sense of the knight-errant who “went out into the world with no other possessions than his horse, armor, and weapons and with no resources other than his skill and courage” (p. 7).  While McKnight wants to assert the freedom of the text and its refusal to be confined to any single interpretation, he is reluctant to refute the doctrine of inerrancy.  Instead he tries to re-define it, claiming that “the doctrine of inerrancy requires a doctrine of errantry” (p. 13), in a way that seems contrived.

            The bulk of Reading the Bible Today is a concise survey of the critical issues involved in biblical scholarship.  Chapter 3, for instance, is called “Geography of the Bible,” and includes maps of the biblical world and ancient Palestine.  Other chapters deal with the historical timeline of the Bible, biblical archaeology, the major theme of the Bible, biblical language, literary forms, the formation of the canon, and a survey of English versions of the Bible which ranges from Wycliffe to Eugene Peterson.  I found these hundred-or-so pages to be a very helpful review of what I learned about the study of the Bible in seminary and could imagine their usefulness in a church setting.  A Sunday School class could work through the book in a few months and come away with all the critical tools and vocabulary necessary for further serious study of the Bible.  Laypersons formerly limited to the scholarly range of the Sunday School quarterly might be heard discussing liberation theology or feminist hermeneutics in the hallway.

McKnight returns to his introductory concerns at the end of the book in his discussion of credulous, critical, and creative approaches of reading the Bible.  He affirms the legitimacy of each of these ways of reading, and urges his readers to “engage all of the different ways” (p. 150).  In doing so he steers us away from any single interpretation of Scripture and opens up the multiplicity of meanings in the text.

         As a pastor, I would recommend the use of this book in the church.  I don’t want my parishioners to “battle for the Bible,” but to read it, learn from it, and come to love it.  McKnight provides even the disenchanted among us with a way of re-engaging the text, and sets before us the rich promise of “reading the Bible 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.


Baptist Worship and Pastoral Care

by Pam Durso


Stan Purdum, “Using the Lectionary in Non-Liturgical Churches,” Preaching 18:5 (March-April 2003): 30-33.

Today Catholic, Orthodox, and most mainline Protestant churches make use of the lectionary in worship, but most non-liturgical Protestant churches, including most Baptist churches, do not have an official lectionary nor do they use the available lectionaries. Stan Purdum suggests that perhaps it is time for the non-liturgical churches to begin incorporating the lectionary into their worship services. He offers several convincing reasons including: (1) the use of the lectionary forces pastors to preach from a broader range of scripture, (2) the use of the lectionary enables congregations to hear more of the Bible, and (3) the use of the lectionary offers a wide variety of resources for worship planning. 


Robert K. Martin, “Education and the Liturgical Life of the Church,” Religious Education 98:1 (Winter 2003): 43-64.

Like Purdum, Robert Martin, Assistant Professor at St. Paul School of Theology, suggests that churches need to reevaluate not only their worship practices; they need to integrate worship with all other aspects of the church life. Martin notes that too often in churches, worship and education are separated and compartmentalized, leading to  fragmentation in church ministries and to territorial divisiveness among church leaders.  Martin urges churches to construct a holistic vision of church life, and in his article, he explores how worship and education may be unified within the church and offers advice about the training of educational leadership in the church.


Paul Westermeyer, “The Voice of the People: Here, Now, and Beyond,” The Hymn: A Journal of Congregational Song 54:1 (January 2003): 14-20.

Any discussion of Baptist worship would not be complete without a reference to congregational singing. Paul Westermeyer, Professor of Church Music at Luther Seminary, insightfully points to the value of hymn singing in church when he writes, “The hymnal is one of the most global, multi-cultural products of the human species.  It brings together texts and music from many different times and places.” Westermeyer then offers several specific ideas that will allow even Baptists to “pick up, assimilate, use, relate to, and search out all manner of musical materials from the whole treasure of human life and culture.” 


Pastoral Counseling v. Pastoral Care

Thomas St. James O’Connor, “Pastoral Counseling and Pastoral Care:  Is There a Difference?” The Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling 57:1 (Spring 2003): 3-14.

A brief glance at the title of Thomas O’Connor’s article might led to the assumption that pastoral counseling and pastoral care differ greatly, but in reading his article, you will discover that O’Connor argues that throughout the history of the church there has been little difference between the two.  The value of this article for Baptists is the comparing and contrasting offered by O’Connor and his identification of the major scholars, their writings, and their emphases in each of these fields. The article is a welcomed brief, introductory overview of these significant fields of ministry.




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.


On Divine Authority of Woman's Work:

Virginia Broughton, Black Baptist Activist

By Carolyn DeArmond Blevins


Literacy is a scary development for people who depend on ignorance for their power. As black women learned to read, they began to insist that their pastors be literate and even theologically trained. Women began to claim the right to interpret the Bible for themselves. A key figure in the effort to teach women to read was Virginia Broughton.  In 1875 Broughton graduated in Fisk University's first commencement. While teaching in public schools in Memphis, Tennessee in the 1880s she assisted in organizing a Bible Band--a Bible study society for black women. So effective was she, that the Women's Baptist Home Mission Society, an American Baptist auxiliary, appointed her as a missionary in 1892. By 1894 she had Bible Bands in 57 locations in Tennessee.

            Black men, clergy and laity, opposed women learning to read and interpret the Bible for themselves. The more women learned about the Bible, the higher standards they had for their churches and their leaders. Virginia encouraged what she called a "general awakening" of Christian women. The Bible Bands led women to study both public and domestic roles of women, especially motherhood. That their first allegiance was to God and not husbands is illustrated in Virginia's personal life. Because she traveled so much, leaving her lawyer husband, John and five children behind, her husband asked her to stop her work. She replied, "I belong to God first, and you next; so you two must settle it." (Evelyn Higginbotham, Righteous Discontent: The Woman's Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993, p. 132.)

            The teachings of Virginia Broughton, as well as Mary Cook and Lucy Wilmot Smith of Kentucky, significantly shaped the theology of black women in the National Baptist Convention. Virginia told one audience that if any one there was not convinced of the divine authority of woman's work, she would gladly give them the Bible passages to support it.

            Virginia served in official positions also. When the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A. was formed in 1895, the women proposed a woman's auxiliary, the Woman's National Baptist Convention. Virginia was elected the recording secretary of the new national organization, a position she held for over twenty years.




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.


Is America Christian? Are Baptists Baptists?

by Glenn Jonas


Mark Weldon Whitten, The Myth of Christian America: What You Need to Know About the Separation of Church and State, Macon, GA, Smyth and Helwys, 1999, 122 pp.

            For the last several decades, the Religious Right has effectively engaged in revisionist history with its claims that America was founded as a “Christian” nation.  Mark Weldon Whitten rightly calls this notion “myth.” In this brief, yet powerful book, he tackles the Religious Right notion that America is a “Christian” nation and that the concept of separation of Church and State was never intended by the founders of the American republic. On the contrary, Whitten argues that separation of Church and State is at the very heart of the intention of the founders who penned the First Amendment.  This book is particularly recommended for lay people, bible study groups and others who might not be as aware of the subtleties of the academic discipline of Church and State studies.


Fisher Humphreys, The Way We Were: How Southern Baptist Theology Has Changed and What it Means To Us All, Macon, GA, Smyth and Helwys, 2002, 145 pp.

            I am delighted that Smyth and Helwys chose to publish a revision of this wonderful little book by Fisher Humphreys. I read the first edition of this book back in 1994 when it was first published by McCracken Press. Almost as soon as it appeared it ceased to be published and many Baptists were deprived of being able to own this good analysis of Baptist theology. The key to this book’s value is its readability and the fact that it can easily be used in small group settings such as a Sunday School class. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the theology of the diverse group of Baptists in the South. Humphreys describes the beliefs that Baptist share with other Christians and then those beliefs unique to Baptists. He then examines the various traditions from which Baptist theology is drawn. Finally he concludes with a section which looks toward the future. This is a highly readable, easy to understand primer on Baptist theology. It is one of my favorite books. 



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 Historian in America”

by Charles W. Deweese


           Today, large numbers of Baptist historians teach in divinity schools, seminaries, schools of theology, and religion departments; they serve on the staffs of heritage centers, commissions, and societies; and some pastor churches. Who cut the initial trail for this profession in America? His name was Morgan Edwards (1722-1795).

Edwards made major contributions to Baptists of the 1700s, and all subsequent historians of Baptists in America owe him a big debt. A multi-talented individual, he served as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia in 1761-1771. He conceived the idea of forming the first Baptist college in America—Rhode Island College, founded in 1764—and traveled north and south soliciting money for the school. He served as clerk, moderator, evangelist, and historian of the Philadelphia Baptist Association. In 1774 he wrote The Customs of Primitive Churches; this church manual mirrored many Baptist practices of the day, but only a few copies were distributed.

Baptist historians best remember Edwards for his untiring work in collecting the historical data of colonial Baptist life on a state-by-state basis during his extensive travels. States included Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Rhode Island, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The first-hand primary-source documents created by Edwards comprised his "materials towards the history of Baptists."

Edwards was a dissenting Baptist historian. He received sharp criticism for being a Loyalist to the British cause during the Revolutionary War (he had been born in Wales and educated at Bristol Baptist College in England, and he subscribed to the Particular Baptist London Confession of 1689). He stood his ground on this issue whether his fellow Baptists liked it or not.

Morgan Edwards did not spend his life as a Baptist historian simply spewing out the views of second-hand-account Baptists. Instead, he forged his professional discipline into uncharted territory, paid attention to what was going on in Baptist life, and compiled his own accounts. Those accounts provide the stuff that helps Baptists today understand the internal dynamics of colonial Baptist life in America.


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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 Assembly 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:




            American Baptist Churches USA

                    2003 Biennial Meeting


                        Theme: Centered in Christ


                                June 27-30, 2003
                              Richmond, Virginia

                           Click Here for more details