"A Monthly Emagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today"

October  2003                 Vol. 2  No. 10


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

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Table of Contents:


I Believe . . . : by Walter B. Shurden

           Retirees in Residency: Resources for Local Churches

The Baptist Soapbox: by Melissa Rogers

          "A Baptist Is Grateful for Justice O'Connor"

BSB Book Review Specials: Roger Olson’s The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform

            Reviews by Molly Marshall, Jeff Pool, and Rick Wilson

Baptist Firsts: by Charles Deweese

             The First Baptist Persecutions in Virginia

Baptists in America and Church State Issues: by Brent Walker

            "A Setback for Separation of Church and State"

Baptist Women in America: by Carolyn DeArmond Blevins

             Two Baptist Women’s Private Writings

Baptist Spirituality in America: by Loyd Allen

             Roman Catholics and Baptist Spirituality

Baptist Hymnody and Worship in America: by  Harry Eskew

             "Baptist Singing School Teachers"

Baptist Articles: by Phyllis Rodgerson Pleasants

             Articles on Leadership

Baptist Books: by Bruce Gourley

             Two books by William P. Tuck

Baptistville: by Greg Thompson

             Happenings in Baptistville


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I Believe

Retirees in Residency: Resources for Local Churches


I believe . . .

            that an overlooked source of enormous potential for local churches are retired pastors and professors. And in that connection, I Believe . . . that one of the most courageous and creative approaches to staff ministry and Christian education in a local Baptist church that I have heard about comes out of Mountain Brook Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Pastor Jim Moebes, an obviously emotionally secure pastor, is the source and catalyst for this creativity. William E. Hull is the instrument of much of this creativity.

            In 1991 Moebes asked his former professor Bill Hull, at the time the Provost at Samford University, to join the ministerial staff as part time Minister-in-Residence at Mountain Brook. Bill Hull, a New Testament scholar of impeccable credentials, a classroom teacher of incomparable skill, and the popular pastor of the influential First Baptist Church in Shreveport, LA for 13 years before going to be Provost at Samford, acceded to the request of pastor Moebes. From all accounts it has been a happy and productive ministry arrangement.

            It is testimony to my provincialism that I cannot call the names of influential retired Baptist professors and pastors from among American Baptists, African American Baptists, and other such national Baptist groups. I am sure, however, that they have among them names similar to ones that I do know, names such as E. Glenn Hinson, Malcolm Tolbert, Randall Lolley, Elizabeth Barnes, Edgar McKnight, Hardy Clemons, Stan Lott, Robert Shurden, Furman Hewitt, Bill Tuck, Claude L. Howe, Jr., Vernon Davis, Rollin Armour, Jack McEwen, Dan Whitaker, Bruce Morgan, and at least a hundred others that I do not have time to list.

            I am aware that many of the retired pastors and professors are no longer looking for work; that is why some of them retired! I am aware that many of them are already very much involved in interim pastorates, teaching ministries of one kind or another, and other valuable types of itinerant ministries. I am aware that some of them have physical difficulties that would keep them from a new kind of part-time ministry. All of that to one side, would a church not be smart to try to get Glenn Hinson to be its part-time “Minister of Spiritual Formation” or Vernon Davis, long time Baptist pastor and educator, to be its “Theologian in Residence”? Would it not be wonderful for a Baptist congregation to sit in New Testament studies under a Minister-in-Residence such as Malcolm Tolbert? Wouldn’t you like to sit in on some of Bill Hull’s Wednesday night seminars at Mountain Brook?

            Keep the retirees at home in your local church; make them part-time; pay them well; utilize their enormous talents; watch good things happen.

            I believe . . . it is a humongous waste for retired pastors and professors not to be used in the ministry of local churches.

            I have email addresses and phone numbers.

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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 Melissa Rogers, former General Counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee.


 “A Baptist Is Grateful for Justice O'Connor”

by Melissa Rogers


         The U.S. Supreme Court has now convened for its 2003-2004 term. The Court may act on the Pledge of Allegiance case, and it has already agreed to hear what could be a very significant case regarding state constitutional limits on government funding for religious activities. The Baptist Joint Committee has filed an amicus brief in the financial aid case, and I commend it to your reading (

           In addition to anticipating specific religious liberty issues and cases that could arise during this term, I also am taking a moment to be grateful that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor remains on the nation’s highest bench. Toward the end of the last Court term, there was much speculation -- empty as it turned out -- that O’Connor would retire. While I part ways with Justice O’Connor on some church-state issues, I deeply appreciate the fact that, on many occasions, she has forcefully defended principles that are consistent with a traditional Baptist vision of religious freedom.  

           For example, Justice O’Connor recently blew the whistle on an interpretation of the First Amendment embraced by fellow Justices Thomas, Rehnquist, Scalia and Kennedy, saying the interpretation would allow the government to provide “direct money payments to religious organizations (including churches)” and allow “the participating religious organizations (including churches) [to] use that aid to support religious indoctrination.” While O’Connor acknowledged that the opinion of these four justices did not expressly approve such practices, she noted that it clearly “foreshadow[ed] the approval of direct monetary subsidies to religious organizations, even when they use the money to advance their religious objectives.” 

           Baptists traditionally have been strong supporters of bars on the use of direct public subsidies for religious activities, arguing that the state simply has no business subsidizing religion. Moreover, Baptists have argued for centuries that these subsidies sap religion’s vitality and distract it from its mission.

           Justice O’Connor also has taken serious issue with the Court’s new standard for interpreting the Free Exercise Clause, an interpretation that seriously underprotects the crucial right to practice one’s faith. The Court’s action has been most keenly felt by minority faiths that have little political power to seek accommodation of their sometimes-unfamiliar religious practices. Having once been a religious minority, Baptists at their best have fought vigorously for the protection of the free exercise rights of all religions.

           On questions of religious speech, Justice O’Connor has articulated a distinction long championed by the Baptist Joint Committee: “[T]here is a crucial difference between government speech endorsing religion, which the Establishment Clause forbids, and private speech endorsing religion, which the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses protect.” Thus, she has upheld a law that allows students at secondary public schools to organize chess clubs and Bible clubs that meet during non-instructional time. On the other side of the coin, she joined a ruling majority that struck down a public school’s practice of organizing votes that allowed students to use the school microphone to offer prayers before high school football games. The Court held that the policy “establishe[d] an improper majoritarian election on religion, and unquestionably ha[d] the purpose and create[d] the perception of encouraging the delivery of prayer at a series of important school events.” 

           I had the rare opportunity to speak with Justice O’Connor on the day the Court handed down its ruling in the football prayer case. When I complimented her on the Court’s decision, she gave me a wry smile and said, “As you know, the decision is not universally admired.” She was right, of course. But I would argue that her embrace of these principles has shaped, and continues to shape, American religious freedom in a significant and profoundly positive way. 


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Quote of the Month by Tony Campolo

            "No matter how you cut it, whenever a faith-based organization does social work, it is either directly or indirectly propagating its faith, which is something the government should not financially support. . . . I think Christians, especially American Christians, should be stepping up to the plate and using their own vast resources to fund the vital social work of our churches and faith-based organizations.” THE PRISM E-PISTLE, October 1, 2003 (Vol. 5.20)


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BSB Book Review

BSB BOOK REVIEW SPECIAL: A Baptist theologian of significant accomplishments and enormous promise is Roger E. Olson, professor of theology at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University. BSB is offering three reviews of two of his major writings in its October and November issues. Molly Marshall, Jeff Pool, and Rick Wilson, all theologians, are the three reviewers. This month they review Olson’s, The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1999. Pp. 651. ISBN 0-8308-1505-8.


Reviewer: Molly T. Marshall, Professor of Theology and Spiritual Formation, Central Baptist Theological Seminary.


            In the face of postmodernity’s skeptical questions about meta-narratives, Roger E. Olson, Professor of Theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, offers a sweeping story of Christian theological construction from the second century to the present. Admittedly, the story weaves together God’s providence, human political machinations, and sheer fortuity—but it is the story of salvation, nonetheless. To his credit, the author does not try to domesticate bitter battles or ignore misguided cultural alignments, nor does he overlook the patriarchal hegemony that stains much of Christian history. He tells the story with delight and clarity, with honesty and critical assessment. He tells it with artistry, making illuminating connections for the reader. It is a story he loves to tell!

            Ancient figures come to life in this compelling rendering of the story of Christian Theology. Athanasius, “saint of stubbornness,” clearly a hero to the author, is cast in effulgent light; his notable contribution to incarnational Christology, Trinitarian theology, desert spirituality, and the formation of the canon moves the story of faith toward a more comprehensive articulation. An earlier hero, Irenaeus, traverses the cramped horizon of  moralism framed by the apostolic fathers and the  accommodating apologists of the second and third centuries. Others add their distinctive perspectives—Anselm and Abelard, Zwingli and Calvin, Puritans and Methodists—enriching the intellectual heritage of Christian theology.

One gets the feeling that Olson has spent sufficient time in the primary sources (the secondary literature is sparse) to know these figures well. Consequently, he renders their character with winsome regard—laudatory of their incisive perceptions, yet not chary to point out their regress from orthodoxy (the definition of which Olson little by little unfolds). He is a Baptist, to be sure, yet with an encompassing and appreciative catholicity. It is a generous theological hospitality for which all Baptists should strive.

A concern of mine, probably slight in a volume of this heft, is the truncated attention given to contemporary theology. Perhaps Olson has done what needs doing most for Baptists (and others); he has offered a critical historical retrieval of the centrality of Trinitarian theology, grounded in the historical life/death/resurrection of Jesus Christ and has amply demonstrated how these doctrines were forged in the nascent movements of early Christianity—epochs too often overlooked in the Baptist leap from the Bible to the present. Further, his scant attention to Pneumatology undercuts his accentuation of Trinity. In another vein, the voices from the margins are few, even though the author attempts inclusivity and globalization in the text. For example, to treat liberation theology with such dispatch as to mention only Cone and Gutiérrez and Ruether leads the reader to think they have contributed little to the story. That he continues to use only masculine pronouns for God suggests that he needs to drink more deeply of the wells of feminist and womanist theology. That orthodoxy eclipses orthopraxy indicates that the story of salvation lies more in thinking the faith aright than its practice.

          These criticisms notwithstanding, the charism of this text is that it is a remarkably accessible one-volume treatment of the winding road of historical theology. Less turgid that Pelikan’s five volumes, much richer in vivid portrayal than the primer of Gonzalez, Olson’s work will be a useful tool for college/seminary classes as well as reflective small group studies in the church. It is the fruit of mature scholarship and lively teaching, surely a significant gift to those whose faith seeks understanding.


Reviewer: Jeff B. Pool, Associate Professor of Religion, Director of the Campus Christian Center, Berea College, Berea, Kentucky.


        Presupposing that all Christians live from the same story, Roger Olson describes “[t]he Christian story” as “our metanarrative—the overarching story of God’s path with his people in creation and redemption” (p. 11). In this book, however, Olson limits his task to telling only a portion of that large story: “the story of Christian beliefs,” “the history of Christian theology,” or the history of Christian “faith seeking understanding of God’s truth” (pp. 11, 13). More specifically, Olson has written this book primarily as “a modest survey of the main highlights of Christian historical theology” for non-specialists in Christian theology, persons “with little or no previous acquaintance with the history and development of Christian theology” (p. 14).

        This book admirably fulfills Olson’s aims in several respects. First, although Olson certainly maintains his focus on the portion of the Christian story that involves beliefs, doctrines, and theology, he does not ignore the specific historical contexts in which those concepts and teachings developed. He provides excellent and understandable interpretations of the complex social and political situations in which Christian communities developed their theologies. Second, this book assuredly surveys the entire range of Christian history, touching on many of the well-known persons, concepts, and movements in the development of Christian theology. Third, Olson also has successfully related this history in a way that non-specialists in historical theology will appreciate. He has not burdened this story with laborious accounts of the complex conceptual subtleties about which historical theologians will have knowledge. Yet, he writes this careful account clearly on the basis of both an understanding of those complexities and a knowledge of the historical sources of those ideas. Like any ambitious and successful project, however, this book exhibits some weaknesses.

        First, one must seriously question the major assumption (article of faith) with which Olson begins his book: Does such a thing as “the” Christian story really exist, at least in a form that any historical theologian could reliably relate? This question raises the issue of whether or not a theologian from any single location in time and space can still claim credibly to relate the metanarrative that only God can know in its fullness, without excluding significant portions of the story through the biases of social, political, and economic locations and privilege. While Olson demonstrates sincere humility in these respects throughout his book, this faith in a metanarrative for all Christian communities causes stress on that humility. To some extent, however, Olson recognizes this issue in the final chapter of the book: “Where is the thread that is supposed to tie it all together as one story line?” (p. 590).

        Olson’s faith in “the” Christian metanarrative relates to a second major weakness of the book: his definition of theology. Olson begins his history of Christian theology in the second century C.E., defining theology as “the church’s reflection on the salvation brought by Christ and on the gospel of that salvation proclaimed and explained by the first-century apostles” (p. 25). By denying the status of theology to the writings of the New Testament, and by construing scripture as the basis on which later Christians developed their theologies, Olson indicates another of his doctrinal assumptions: the textual nature of divine revelation. After all, the writings of the New Testament represent the theological reflections of those first generations of Christians on their experiences with God in Christ. Furthermore, whether intentional or not, Olson’s comportment toward the Christian scriptures obscures the plurality of theological perspectives that reside within the New Testament itself.

       The strengths of Olson’s book, however, far outweigh the weaknesses of the evangelical doctrinal assumptions that inform and motivate it. He has written this complex history in a readable and interesting style. He is clearly an excellent historical theologian, even though he sometimes allows his conservative evangelical doctrinal commitments to obscure the historical objectivity that he claims for his perspective (p. 19). Professional theologians, theological students, and laypeople in churches will benefit immensely from reading this book.


Reviewer: Richard F. Wilson, Chair, The Roberts Department of Christianity, Mercer University.


            Roger Olson believes that historical theology can and should be “user-friendly” (14). Acting on that belief led to the writing of The Story of Christian Theology  (InterVarsity Press, 1999). Active parish ministers who read that claim might shake their heads in wonder and mutter something like, “That will be the day!” Lay people, too, who remember their college experiences with courses in history and, perhaps, theology, no doubt add to the head shaking. “Yeah, right!” they might say.

            The truth is that parish ministers and lay leaders in the church have good reasons to doubt that any teaching theologian could cut through the fog of two thousand years of debate that shaped, and continues to shape, Christian theology. The surprising truth is that Roger Olson has accomplished the task. He really has.

            How does he do it?

            Three things, at least, make it possible for Olson to prove his case that historical theology can and should be “user-friendly.” All three are critical for ministers in the local church, whether they are professional staff or lay volunteers committed to the health and vitality of a community of faith regularly meeting in a certain place.

            The first is that Olson understands that theology is about more than ideas. Seminarians and undergraduates with a commitment to the life of the church often chafe under the notion that theology is a highly specialized activity for academics. Pastors and church staff members often carry with them a dichotomy between the “academic” and the “practical” sides of theology and history. Roger Olson declares that that dichotomy is false. He says that the history of Christians’ confessions of faith all are about “God’s redemptive activity in forgiving and transforming sinful humans” (13). The ideas are important, to be sure, but theology and history are about more than refining ideas.

            The second way that Olson realizes his vision is in pressing the case that theology is about more than personalities. He acknowledges that certain thinkers shape Christian theology, but Olson refuses to allow the people involved to become most important. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Barth, and Tillich have significant shaping influences in the history of Christian theology, but none of them becomes more important–at least they should not become more important–than the efforts to explore and confess how God is at work “reconciling the world to God” (2 Cor 5. 19).

            A final way that Olson is able to reclaim historical theology from the dry and dusty bins of the past is to remind his readers that the contexts of the story of theology always are changing. This final focus is the most important for Olson. The contemporary issues of Christian theology always are important, but the contemporary setting never eclipses the enduring confession that the work of God in history is the redemption of humanity and the world.

            All told, the three ways that Roger Olson demonstrates the “user-friendly” character of the history of Christian theology are particularly significant for active parish ministers and lay people committed to the life of the church. By blending the ideas, the personalities, and the contexts that shape the history of Christian theology, Roger Olson reminds his readers that the adventure of “faith seeking understanding” is renewed generation by generation. That renewal always is focused in the life of the local church.

            Roger Olson has done a great service for active parish ministers, including lay leaders. By focusing attention on the story of Christian theology he has reminded us all that Christian faith finally is about its power to transform the present. Ministers involved in the life of the local church will find focus and encouragement in The Story of Christian Theology.

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Baptist Firsts

Baptist 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 Baptist Persecutions in Virginia”

by Charles W. Deweese


        Baptists today owe a significant debt to David Benedict (1779-1874), pastor of the Baptist church in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. This pastor/historian wrote the invaluable two-volume work, A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America, and Other Parts of the World (Boston: Printed for the Author by Manning & Loring, 1813). Pages 64-67 of Volume II describe the first Baptist persecutions in Virginia.

        Baptists appeared in Virginia in the early 1700s. At first, the established church viewed them as "beneath their notice" since "none . . . but the weak and wicked join them" and since "they will soon fall out among themselves, and come to nothing." Later, "alarmed by the rapid increase of the Baptists, the men in power strained every penal law in the Virginia code, to obtain ways and means to put down these disturbers of the peace."

        Benedict claimed that "The first instance of actual imprisonment, we believe, that ever took place in Virginia, was in the county of Spottsylvania." On June 4, 1768, the sheriff seized John Waller, Lewis Craig, James Childs, and others. Two days later, they were arraigned in court as "disturbers of the peace." They were offered release "if they would promise to preach no more in the county, for a year and a day. This they refused, and therefore they were sent into close jail." They sang a hymn on the streets of Fredericksburg as they were moved from the courthouse to the prison.

        Lewis Craig was released after four weeks confinement. Waller and the others were released, with Craig's help, after spending 43 days in jail. Their imprisonments produced unexpected results. While in prison, "they constantly preached through the grates. The mob without used every exertion to prevent the people from hearing, but to little purpose. Many heard, indeed, to whom the word came in demonstration of the Spirit and with power."

        Further, after their release, "which was a kind of triumph, Waller, Craig, and their compeers in the ministry, resumed their labours with redoubled vigour, gathering fortitude from their late sufferings, thanking God they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ and his gospel . . . . The spread of the gospel and of Baptist principles was equal to all their exertions."

         Many more Baptists experienced persecution in Virginia in the 1700s. Baptists today, let's offer a prayer of thanksgiving for predecessors who laid it all on the line so that you and I can worship freely.


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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 J. Brent Walker, Executive Director, The Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, Washington, D.C.


“Mud Slinging Legislators Want Pastors to Join the Fun:

A Setback for Separation”

by J. Brent Walker


            When religion is dragged through the mud of a political campaign, no one should be surprised when religion itself gets soiled. For the second time, Rep. Walter Jones (R- N.C.) has introduced a bill in Congress that attempts to breach the wall of separation between church and state and threatens to sully the firm foundation of independence upon which churches have long stood.

Churches, as well as secular non-profits, cannot presently endorse candidates without threatening loss of their tax-exempt status. The latest version of this bill, the so-called “Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act,” would revise the Internal Revenue Code to allow churches to endorse political candidates from the pulpit without losing tax-exempt status. Under the pretense of doing a favor for churches and religious organizations, proponents of the bill pursue an unwanted, unnecessary and dangerous revision of the law.

            Proponents erroneously claim religious institutions are barred from speaking out on the moral issues of the day. In fact, church leaders, including preachers in the pulpit, are free to speak out on today’s pressing moral and ethical issues with impunity. Moreover, the prohibition on electioneering does not abridge the rights of religious organization to encourage voting and good citizenship and inform congregants about candidates’ positions. The current law even permits churches to publish unbiased voter guides to educate their members.

The bill also draws a line between secular and religious non-profit organizations. Although religion sometimes deserves an exemption from laws that apply to others, generally religious speech is entitled to no greater protection than secular speech. This bill would violate that principle by allowing religious organizations, but not secular ones, to engage in electioneering activity. At least this is unfair and it may raise constitutional issues.

            Baptists understand what a toxic concoction is brewed when we mix the church and electoral politics. This new aggressive bill would dangerously blend the spheres of church and state and open church doors to something worse than merchants and moneylenders. Electioneering by churches would compromise their prophetic witness. When a church throws in with a particular candidate or political party, it becomes nearly impossible to maintain a vibrant prophetic voice. Thus, not only is the Jones bill not needed to preserve religion’s prophetic voice, ironically it would put in motion forces that will surely weaken it. As conservative columnist Cal Thomas has written:  “When churches become … appendages of political parties and politicians, they tend to depart from their primary obligations … and become identified with earthly causes and political kingdom-building.”

The Jones bill would do America’s churches no favor. It would compromise their autonomy, turn pulpit prophets into political puppets and invite them into the political mud pit.

No thank you, Mr. Jones. We don’t need that kind of “protection.”

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Baptist Women

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


Two Baptist Women’s Private Writings

By Carolyn DeArmond Blevins


        Diaries and letters provide valuable primary material for those interested in exploring the heritage of Baptist women. Two recent publications of women’s letters provide first-hand accounts of the lives of two Baptist women—one a missionary and one a layperson.

        Send the Light: Lottie Moon’s Letters and Other Writings by Keith Harper (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2002) is a well-organized collection of material from the pen of Lottie Moon. Her candid correspondence with Foreign Mission Board officials reveals her influence on and frustration with the board’s policies as well as her frustration with the tensions among missionaries in China. Through her articles in the Foreign Mission Journal she speaks directly to Southern Baptists about the needs in China. At the same time her letters to family and friends provide a window into her personal life.

        Baptist Faith in Action: The Private Writings of Maria Baker Taylor, 1813-1895 by Kathryn Carlisle Schwartz (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2003) is a remarkable collection of the letters, diary entries, and writings of Richard Furman’s granddaughter. Maria Taylor’s careful recording of her thoughts from childhood into old age gives readers unique insight into the mind and heart of a nineteenth century woman of the planter class who understood what it meant to be Baptist. As Schwartz says, through these writings “Baptists can witness the workings of their faith.”

        Both Harper and Schwartz provide helpful biographical information and explanatory notes that give context to the primary material.

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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.


“Roman Catholics and Baptist Spirituality: Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due”

by W. Loyd Allen


The terms "spiritual formation" and "spirituality" are borrowed with varying degrees of exactitude from Roman Catholic usage. Generally speaking, Roman Catholics use the term "spiritual formation" to refer to the shaping of believers through spiritual disciplines such as attendance at mass and individual spiritual direction. The study of this process, they call spirituality. In simplest terms, spiritual formation is the practice of disciplines related to the larger academic or theological field called spirituality. We Baptist Protestants have used these terms imprecisely, but spiritual formation and spirituality are becoming familiar words to an ever-increasing number of Baptists.

This column is evidence of that, as are the spirituality readings required in the Mercer Certificate Program in Baptist Studies (see and click “Certificate”). Baptist ministers in training frequently have professors who teach spirituality and spiritual formation. Here at the McAfee School of Theology, one of my titles is Professor of Spiritual Formation; at The Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond my counterpart is Professor of Spirituality. One or the other is used of teaching offices at Baptist schools such as The George W. Truett Seminary at Baylor University, Central Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, and Wake Forest University Divinity School, among others. Conservative Baptist schools including Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City and the General Baptists’ Bethel Seminary in San Diego also pay spiritual formation faculty. A number of local Baptist churches, such as Northminster Baptist in Jackson, Mississippi, have created staff positions in spiritual formation as well. Many of these spiritual guides join with other Baptist clergy and laity annually at The Gathering of Baptists Interested in Spirituality, which is organized by the Advent Spirituality Center based in Mars Hill, North Carolina.

This rapidly expanding interest in spiritual formation among Baptists in America owes an often unacknowledged debt to the history of the Roman Catholic Church. In the sixteenth century, Protestants cut themselves off from much of the history and tradition of Christian Spirituality by rejecting monasticism. Many riches in the area of prayer and devotional disciplines remained on the Roman Catholic side of this divide for almost five centuries. Then Pope John XXIII opened up this treasure chest of spiritual resources to the Protestant churches through the Vatican II Council. Before the early 1960s sessions of this council, mutual dialogue between Roman Catholics and Baptists were rare, and exchanges concerning spiritual formation even rarer. Baptist historian and spirituality scholar E. Glenn Hinson, reflecting on his career, said:


I feel blessed that my career has coincided with John XXIII becoming pope. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to teach church history before John XXIII, anymore. In a day when Protestants didn’t say anything good about Catholics, and Catholics didn’t say anything good about Protestants, John so changed the scene.


            Hinson proved to be one of the main conduits for the flow of more ancient Christian spiritual formation practices from post-Vatican II Catholicism into the Baptist mainstream. The genesis of this ecumenical enrichment is told in a narrative well known to those who know Hinson.

In the academic year of 1960-1961, his first year as a history professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, Hinson took his church history class to visit the Roman Catholic Trappist monastery of Gethsemai in central Kentucky. He hoped to “expose them to the Middle Ages.” Instead, he was exposed to a spirituality that has become influential far and wide in Baptist life.

A student in the class asked their host, the spiritual writer Thomas Merton: What’s a smart fellow like you doing throwing his life away in a place like this?”  Merton’s reply bowled Hinson over. He said, “I am here because I believe in prayer. That is my vocation.” Hinson realized he “had never met anyone who believed in prayer enough to think of it as a vocation.” Merton’s reply kept pounding away inside the young professor’s head alongside the current Protestant rubric: “God has no hands but our hands, no feet but our feet, no voice but our voice.” Eventually, Hinson concluded that Merton’s view was right in regard to Christian prayer and the reigning Protestant practicality of the 1960s was shallow in comparison. This set Hinson on a lifelong vocation of bringing the deeper knowing of classic spiritual disciplines to his Baptist tradition.

Though others discovered the same truth in similar ways, none has had as great an impact for contemplative prayer upon Baptist life as Hinson. Most of the Baptist schools listed at the beginning of this article as institutions teaching spiritual formation can trace its origins in their curriculum to someone who learned from Hinson what Merton was permitted to share by virtue of Pope John XXIII calling Vatican II.

        One thing that is being gradually realized in this exchange of ideas is the connections between Baptist spirituality and monastic life. In my church history classes I teach that the desert monks as early as the fifth century C.E. were marginalized Christians whose faith was voluntary, lay centered, Bible focused, and more gender and class inclusive than the imperial norm, and congregationally ruled. Perhaps the opening made at Vatican II is a gateway into some Baptist commonalities with ancient Christian spirituality that have not been understood as such. Time will tell.



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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.


“The Amazing Gifts of Baptist Singing School Teachers”

By Harry Eskew


            Baptists often take their musical heritage for granted. Many of us hardly have an inkling of the kind of contributions our fellow believers made to worship as we know it today and to the worship repertoire of many other denominations. Some of our hymns and hymn tunes have gained great acceptance in our churches and in other churches and have even spilled over into the non-religious venues of our society. Especially the Baptist singing school teachers of the nineteenth century made rich deposits into our treasury of hymn tunes.

In the early 1800s, before the development of music education in public schools, the most common means of learning to read vocal music was the singing school. Singing schools were taught by itinerant teachers who held schools of a week or two in churches and other community buildings. About 1800 the invention of shape notes enabled beginners in singing schools to learn to read music more quickly. The shapes stood for the solmization syllables, either the earlier fa-sol-la system or the later do-re-mi system. By learning the shapes, singers were able to avoid the complexities of mastering key signatures and the letters of the lines and spaces. A typical singing school textbook, called a tunebook, consisted of an introduction explaining the rudiments of music and an anthology of up to several hundred pieces of music, mostly settings of sacred texts. Tunebooks were not commonly used in worship services, but they nevertheless contained music suitable for church use.

            Beginning about the second decade of the nineteenth century, along with the earlier mixture of psalm and hymn tunes, fuging tunes, and anthems found in singing school tunebooks of the Northeast, there appeared a fresh type of tune based on Anglo-American folk tradition commonly known today as a folk hymn. Based on a style derived from oral tradition, folk hymns were notated and harmonized in a sturdy pioneer style of harmony and published by singing school masters in shape-note tunebooks, especially in the South and Midwest.

            As the shape-note tradition moved into the South from Pennsylvania through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia into Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia, two of the most significant of the shape-note tunebook compilers were Baptists. In a sense, what Bach and Palestrina had done by creating their great choral masterworks for Lutherans and Roman Catholics, Baptist musicians William Walker and Benjamin Franklin White accomplished by providing miniature masterworks of congregational tunes for rural and small-town America.

            William Walker (1809-1875) of Spartanburg, South Carolina, is best known for his tunebook, The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion (1835, later eds. to 1854). Among the folk hymn tunes Walker published for the first time in The Southern Harmony are RESTORATION, the tune to “Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,” WONDROUS LOVE, to the text “What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul” (1840 ed.),  and THE PROMISED LAND,

the original minor-key setting of “On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand.”  Perhaps Walker’s greatest contribution in The Southern Harmony, however, is his wedding of the text of “Amazing Grace” to its now familiar tune from the folk hymn tradition, which Walker named NEW BRITAIN.

            Walker’s brother-in-law, Benjamin Franklin White (1800-1879), born near Spartanburg, moved about 1840 to Hamilton, in western Georgia, where in 1844 he published with Elisha J. King The Sacred Harp, which after the Civil War became the South’s leading shape-note tunebook. King died shortly after The Sacred Harp was published. White, however, lived more than three decades after its publication and exerted considerable influence on the revisions (in 1850, 1859, and 1869) and on the establishment of singing conventions to support Sacred Harp singing. The Sacred Harp is by far the most popular of shape-note tunebooks, and in the closing decades of the twentieth century its use spread from the South to practically all of the United States and into Canada. In contrast, Walker’s Southern Harmony is used mainly in a famous annual singing at Benton, Kentucky, and his later tunebook, Christian Harmony (1867), is used in singings in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and western North Carolina. Two folk hymn tunes which were first published in The Sacred Harp are WARRENTON ("Come, thou fount of every blessing") and "BEACH SPRING, a melody now used with a number of hymn texts, including “Jesus, at your holy table,” “Come, all Christians, be committed,” “Lord, whose love in humble service,” and “We are trav’lers on a journey.”

            Other shape-note tunes of the Anglo-American folk tradition published in The Southern Harmony, The Sacred Harp, and other early tunebooks found in hymnals of today include FOUNDATION ("How firm a foundation"), "HOLY MANNA" (“Brethren, we have met to worship” and “God, who stretched the spangled heavens”) and "NETTLETON ("Come, thou fount of every blessing").

          The amazing impact of these Baptist singing school teachers on our worship becomes clear when we realize that practically every American hymnal published in the last thirty years includes a number of folk hymns from Walker’s Southern Harmony, White and King’s The Sacred Harp and other early shape-note tunebooks. The legacy of Baptist singing-school teachers such as William Walker, Elisha J. King, and Benjamin Franklin White has immeasurably enriched the music of congregational song in America today. Who could have foreseen that at least one of the folk hymns of that era would cross all social and educational lines, be embraced by presidents, pop artists, opera singers, jazz musicians, and prison choirs, and become the subject of books and documentaries?


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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.


Periodical Articles on Leadership

By Phyllis Rodgerson Pleasants


        Gathered communities need leaders and leaders need communities in order to lead. For Baptists seeking to define leadership in the 21st century the following articles are worthy of perusal. As these articles make clear, leadership is necessary for our journeys as Christian communities in the uncertain terrain of technology, community and identity.

        The accelerated use of technology for instructional purposes by churches, seminaries, colleges and consultants still requires leadership to structure online classes in such a way to foster community. According to Donald A. Stepich and Peggy A. Ertmer (“Building Community as a Critical Element of Online Course Design,” Educational Technology, Sept-Oct 1003, Vol. 43, No. 5, pp. 33-43) students who do not feel a part of a community of learning will be less willing to take the risks necessary to learn. Their article describes the leadership necessary in structuring the course in order to encourage community that enhances learning.

        Leadership is necessary in how technology is understood, interpreted and incorporated into life, as Elaine Graham makes clear in her article for Studies in Christian Ethics (“Frankensteins and Cyborgs:  Visions of the Global Future in an Age of Technology,” Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 29-43). After describing several different proposals for “the global future of humanity in an age of technology” Graham points out that humans also construct symbolic worlds, “a need to embed our technological creations in deeper narratives of hope, anxiety, transcendence and ultimate value.”  For Graham “the choices surrounding the design, construction and implementation of technologies carry far-reaching political, ethical and theological consequences” (p.41). Making these choices requires leadership in multiple arenas of life, including Baptist congregations and institutions.

        Curtis Freeman highlights another area where leadership is needed, Baptist identity. Freeman describes what it was like to read a statistical report on theological education and discover that he did not fit any of the denominational categories, but, instead, found himself in the category “Other Baptist” (Baptists Today), “Confessions of an ‘Other Baptist’,” September 2003, Vol. 21, No. 9, p.9). Freeman writes that Baptists in this category are experiencing “alterity–the quality or condition of being different or other.”  He provides a checklist of criteria for being an Other Baptist and recommends that congregations and individuals who find themselves in this category join together “in worship, work and witness.”  Leadership is essential for people to define who they are and live out their identity in worship, work and witness.

        The Summer 2003 issue of Leadership: A Practical Journal for Church Leaders (Vol. XXIV, No. 3) includes two articles that describe the characteristics of leaders shaping Christian ministry. Brian McLaren (“Emerging Values,” pp. 34-39) writes that there are three rivers currently “shaping the contours of ministry”–the spiritual formation stream, the river of authentic community, and the missional current. According to McLaren, authentic community is a byproduct of the practice of love and will require a different kind of leadership. Leadership in this community will be important, but not dominating, and will, he says, “increasingly resemble the lead seeker in a journey, not possessing all the answers, but possessing a contagious passion to find a way home – and to bring others along in our common search for love, courage, wisdom, and home” (p. 38-39). Andy Stanley (“The Uncertain Leader,” pp. 86-90) writes, “Leadership is all about taking people on a journey,” which, he says, creates the tension every leader experiences of “negotiating uncertain terrain while casting a clear and compelling vision.”  Stanley argues that leadership is not getting rid of uncertainty, but articulating a clear vision with confidence and humility “in spite of limited information and unpredictable outcomes.”


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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.

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The Baptist Heritage Library

A New Booklet Series

 The Center for Baptist Studies enthusiastically recommends a new series of five booklets that describe selected Baptist heritage topics that bear heavily on significant issues Baptists face today. Each booklet contains valuable study suggestions. These booklets are suitable for individual study, church classes, and academic courses. Booklets will be available for distribution by November 1, 2003.


Who Interprets the Bible for Baptists?—E. Glenn Hinson

Issues Testing Baptist Polity—William M. Pinson, Jr.

Challenges Confronting Baptist Missions—William R. O'Brien

Religious Liberty and Church-State Separation—J. Brent Walker

Women's Place in Baptist Life—Carolyn D. Blevins

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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.


The Lord’s Prayer Today, by William Powell Tuck, Smyth & Helwys, 2002.

Authentic Evangelism: Sharing the Good News with Sense and Sensitivity, by William Powell Tuck, Judson Press, 2002.


            William Powell Tuck pours four decades of preaching, teaching, speaking, and writing into these two slender volumes. Readers who are unfamiliar with this Virginia native will quickly recognize that Tuck is an excellent communicator who is able to address effectively crucial issues with simplicity and honesty.

            These two volumes complement each other quite well. I would recommend reading The Lord’s Prayer prior to, and as a way of preparing for, Tuck’s call to Authentic Evangelism. Both books are saturated with helpful biblical and contemporary illustrations, a few of which are repeated in both volumes to good effect. Both works offer practical spiritual advice gleaned from Jesus’ words and deeds and targeted at individual believers, rather than presenting rote and rigid formulas.

             The Lord’s Prayer is a study of the relationship between God and humanity. Paradoxes abound, including those of God as Father and Holy, as well as judge and forgiver. Tuck sees the Lord’s Prayer as primarily about the not-yet-fully-arrived Kingdom of God, a Kingdom present wherever Jesus is, and a Kingdom which cannot be built by the efforts of humans. Rather, the Kingdom consists of revolutionaries (followers of Christ) who have entered via the doorway of humility. In short, this volume calls for believers to live the Lord’s Prayer by focusing on God and loving others.

            At a time when militant tactics by some evangelicals are running roughshod over the Gospel, Authentic Evangelism restores a biblical, balanced approach to the New Testament message. Stressing the necessity of evangelism, Tuck looks to Jesus’ methods rather than modern models, calls for genuine motives rather than guilt-induced efforts, and notes the necessity of concern for the total person. Evangelism has many faces and takes place in a variety of contexts, but for Tuck the importance lies in simply obeying the call to share Christ. To that end, this volume offers practical advice for those seeking to effectively share their faith.

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Baptistville: Conferences and Lectures



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


The Baptist History and Heritage Society invites submissions for papers for a session of its May 27-29, 2004, annual meeting (to be held at the Northwest Baptist Convention Building in Vancouver, WA). The session will be titled ETHNIC BAPTIST HISTORY. Proposals on all Baptist heritage topics will be considered, but special consideration will be given to those relating to the assigned topic.

The Society is particularly interested in receiving proposals from graduate students and from First and Second year professors; however, proposals from all scholars will be considered. Each paper proposed should be a maximum of 1,500 words. Each presenter will be given a maximum of 15 minutes on the program. Selected papers may be published in the journal Baptist History and Heritage. Each person accepted will be asked to provide a vita and a photo for use in promoting the meeting and for possible use in the journal.

Send all proposals to Dr. Wayne Flynt, Auburn University, History Department, 2227 Haley Center, Auburn, AL 36849-5207. His e-mail is

            The deadline for proposal submissions is January 15, 2004. All participants accepted will pay their own expenses to attend the meeting.