"A Monthly Emagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today"

April  2004                 Vol. 3  No. 4


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

Table of Contents:


I Believe . . . : by Walter B. Shurden

            “What Church Growth Says”

The Baptist Soapbox: by Marion Aldridge

            “Women Pastors”

BSB Book Review Specials: Allitt’s Religion in America Since 1945: A History

            Review by Bruce T. Gourley

Emails from Baptists around the World: Roy Jenkins

            “Baptists in Wales and a Bitter-Sweet Celebration”

Baptists, the Bible, and the Poor: by Charles E. Poole

           “Reverse Migration of Baptist Churches”
Church and State Issues: by Hollyn Hollman

            “Religious Liberty Demands an Eye for Distinctions”

The Baptist Spirit: Strengths and Challenges: by Charles Deweese

             “The Nature of Baptist Authority”

Helpful Baptist Websites: by  Greg Thompson

             Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs

BSB Special: by Stuart Sprague

           "The Passing of a Generation of Baptist Leaders "


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I Believe

“What Church Growth Says”

by Walter B. Shurden


I believe . . .

            that church growth says almost nothing about a church’s faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ. Likewise, I believe that a church’s decline says almost nothing about that church’s lack of faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ. All of the contemporary talk about growth and prosperity and mega-isms needs to be set alongside the life of the young Nazarene Carpenter himself. They did not, for heaven’s sake, celebrate him as “the outstanding young man in Jerusalem” at the annual Chamber of Commerce banquet. They mutilated him! And Jesus’ followers, we should remember, had a very tough go of it until Constantine came along and baptized a whole culture with half a gospel. And the church has been “growing” and “declining” ever since, often dependent upon how it plays its life to the surrounding culture.

            One of my annual literary trips is to make my way through the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. I am very serious when I urge it upon pastors and professors and layfolk. These cold, statistical tables bear close, close study. In addition, you get from the Yearbook an efficient listing of names and addresses of religious organizations that will set your mind whirling and wondering and, at times, praising God.

            Here are some of my gleanings from the 2004 Yearbook:

·      215 North American church bodies report a robust membership of over 161 million people. A “secular society”?

·      Of the largest 25 religious bodies in the United States the Jehovah’s Witnesses had a 3.33% increase in membership, the best of all the rest. That was 2.12% better than the Southern Baptist Convention. Remind me again: church growth proves what theological point? And even though the SBC had a hefty 1.21% growth rate, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints bested that figure with a 1.88% growth rate. Again, what does “church growth” teach us when the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons lead the pack?

·       Of the top twenty-five largest churches in the U.S., the American Baptist Churches in the USA, had a 2.87% growth rate. The ABCUSA is a mainline Baptist denomination that has grown! Congratulations to Roy Medley and associates.

·      One wishes better for them, but can the decline in membership of The United Methodist Church (-0.57%), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (-1.21%), the Presbyterian Church USA

(-1.41%), and the United Church of Christ (-2.07%) be written off as simply “declining and dying” churches? Might there just be some “prophetic posture” in those churches that go unrewarded by quantitative assessments?

·        Of the top twenty-five churches in the U.S., seven have "Baptist” somewhere in their name. Four of those seven are predominantly African American. When thinking, teaching, and preaching “Baptist,” what color do you think?

·        Financial giving TO the churches is up. At the same time, financial giving BY the churches is down. The 2004 Yearbook marked a 14% decline of gifts by churches to benevolent purposes outside themselves.  And this downward trend has continued for the last three years. Should churches seek generosity without practicing it themselves? Is there a danger in the “localism” that says, “We need to focus on our local church and our local church alone"?

·        Counting “heads,” we now have in the U.S. and Canada 76,510 students in theological schools, the most ever! Of that number 27, 315 were women, 35.70% of the total enrollment. God is still calling! God is still calling all kinds!! But are local churches? See Marion Aldridge’s article below.

·        After scanning the descriptions of all the religious bodies listed in the Yearbook, I often winced in shame at the unapologetic narrowness and theological exactness of a few, some of which are growing. Mostly, however, I wanted to praise Christ for the Big Church and for all its myriad efforts at caring for the least, the last and the lost. Ironically, some of these efforts are not growing. I came away from the 2004 Yearbook again thinking of the best definition of the church I have ever heard or read: “All who love Christ in the service of all who suffer.” Church growth may, in fact, come from that understanding of church. But it is not inevitable. And that’s the fact that we need to remember after Easter.


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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 an old Soapbox friend, Marion Aldridge, State Coordinator of CBF South Carolina


“Women Pastors”

by Marion Aldridge


            CBF churches have preached a better game than we have practiced with regard to women in ministry, especially female pastors. We agree with the principle of women in ministry in theory and in theology. We send them off to seminary to be educated, and we even ordain them. But when it comes time to call a pastor for our own congregation, we say, “No thanks.”

            Our practice is both wrong and foolish.

            It is wrong because Jesus was absolutely clear that our walk should be consistent with our talk. Our actions should match our beliefs. The word “hypocrite” comes to mind. There are already too many places where there is a disconnect between what we say in church and how we actually live. This sin does not need to be added to that list.

            Qualified women are graduating from seminary who would be delighted to start their pastorate at a small church, just as their male counterparts do. Other women have impressive resumes as experienced “Associate Pastors” and are ready to pastor a larger church. If they were male, they would have that opportunity. What business would not value a person who has performed successfully and long and is now prepared for a larger role?

            In an article in the Christian Century, a denominational executive was quoted as saying, “If I send out a profile of a pastor who is mediocre along with a picture of him with his family, and he is 35 years old, has a cute wife and two beautiful children, I guarantee he will be interviewed if not called.” That is my experience exactly. The same profile of a woman will be ignored.

            The common excuse by members of a pastor search committee is something like this: “I am for it, but I don’t think the church will accept it.” I like Terry Brooks’ response. Terry, who handles the reference and referral opportunities in our office, reminds these search committees that they are the church! The church has elected them to bring back the best candidate. If they fail to do that, they have failed the church of Jesus Christ they have been elected to represent.

            That brings us to the foolishness of selecting a second-tier option when there is a better candidate. I remember the first time, decades ago, when I assisted a woman minister in a Methodist wedding. She was magnificent. She was caring, thoughtful, sensitive, clear-headed, and compassionate. I reflected on her gifts and how she represented so many of the very positive attributes we typically associate with women. Those characteristics sound to me just like the kind of person I would want as my pastor. I remember thinking, only half jokingly, that if word of this female alternative to male ministers gets out in the churches, no man will ever be called again to be a pastor.

            To their great credit, Methodist churches have paved the way. Some congregations kicked and screamed as they were assigned their first female pastor, until the members discovered that she turned out to be the best pastor who had ministered in their community for at least two generations.

            Is there a downside to this? Yes. Women will make mistakes and fail. I have noticed that happens with men, too.

            If your church needs a pastor, consider a woman. It may be the best decision your congregation ever makes


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BSB Book Review

BSB BOOK REVIEW SPECIAL: This month the BSB highlights Patrick Allitt’s new book that describes American religion in the last half of the twentieth century. Allitt’s book demands the attention of Baptists. 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 of Auburn University critiques Allitt’s book for BSB.


Patrick Allitt, Religion in America Since 1945: A History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003) 313 pp.


Reviewed by Bruce Gourley


        What would the religious scene in modern America look like if Baptists did not exist? As difficult as this may be to envision, Patrick Allitt, Professor of History at Emory University, has managed to write a history of modern American religious life while virtually ignoring Baptists. In one of his few references to Baptists, Allitt makes the sophomoric mistake of referring to “the Southern Baptist Church” (148). The bulk of the Baptist material in this volume revolves around Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

         Furthermore, having written previously about Catholics, Allitt tends to lump all Protestants together. Upon elaboration, Protestants are often broken down into “evangelical” and “liberal” camps. Non-denominational fundamentalist activism, such as the anti-abortion movement, receives significant attention. Among Protestants, Methodists and Presbyterians, like Baptists, are almost invisible. Pentecostals, the fastest growing Protestant group in America, are also largely overlooked. Overall, Catholics receive the most detailed treatment.

A more appropriate title for this volume may have been, “Catholicism and Alternative Religion in America.” Black Theology, Feminist Theology, Mormonism, Islam, Asian spirituality, and environmentalism as spirituality receive as much or more attention than Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Pentecostals. Remarkably, the Heaven’s Gate cult of the late 1990s garners almost as much attention as any one Protestant denomination. On the other hand, Hinduism is barely mentioned, and Judaism is explored somewhat in-depth.

Perhaps the volume’s most insightful contribution is the chapter on religious materialism, which includes a stimulating analysis of modern church architecture. Otherwise, this is a troubling book. In addition to an obvious bias against traditional Protestantism, Allitt seems to be constructing the American religious scene as portrayed through popular media, as he repeatedly references film, television news reports, print journalism, and popular books. 

Perhaps modern American religion has been defined by popular media. If this is the case, Allitt’s volume may be one of the more penetrating analyses of modern American religion, and should serve as a wake-up call for Baptists and other Protestants. Regardless, Allitt successfully argues that between “Hiroshima and Ground Zero,” American religion has become more diverse, politicized, and complex. His unorthodox manner of reaching these conclusions readily serves as a testimony to their validity.

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Baptist Emails

Emails from Baptists Around the World: An Email on Baptists in Wales Today.


Roy Jenkins, a former newspaper journalist, held Baptist pastorates in North and South Wales before spending eleven years as senior producer of religious programs for BBC Radio Wales. He is now a freelance broadcaster.


“Baptists in Wales and a Bitter-Sweet Celebration”

by Roy Jenkins


Christians in Wales are preparing to mark a religious revival that shook their nation to its core exactly a century ago. It will be a bitter-sweet celebration.

The events are reckoned to have changed the lives of 100,000 people. For eight months from September 1904, the revival packed chapels night after night with services of high emotion, often lasting into the early hours. It reduced sales in public houses and charge lists at magistrates’ courts. It confused pit ponies working underground when miners no longer swore at them. It fired both enthusiasm and controversy, and it is credited with inspiring awakenings in several other countries.

Churches of all denominations were touched, and Baptists welcomed many thousands of converts. Their successors today will give thanks for that movement of the Spirit. But they will do so wistfully, painfully aware that many of their churches are facing acute crisis.

            Like other denominations, Baptists have experienced massive and accelerating decline in the century since the revival. Their membership - 27,000 in 640 churches - is now a quarter of what it was 50 years ago. The Baptist Union of Wales has just under two-thirds of these members (though nearly three quarters of the churches): most function in Welsh, though many are bilingual or use only English. Congregations whose main affiliation is to the Baptist Union of Great Britain are all English-speaking. (In the same half-century, Welsh-speaking Methodists have gone from 25,000 to fewer than 3,000). A small minority of churches in both unions remain numerically strong, but few have escaped the general recession.

            Baptists have been active in Wales since the mid 1640s, but the warning of a recent report was stark: “Unless we seek renewal in every aspect of the life of the denomination during the next few years, the Baptist Union of Wales will fade away into obscurity within ten to fifteen years.”

            Factors in the decline are numerous, among them disillusion following both world wars, economic depression, migration, a parallel decline in the Welsh language, and, with greater prosperity, a wide range of alternatives to the educational and cultural provision which helped to make churches centers of community.

            Some commentators blame churches for concentrating on personal faith and social relief while failing to articulate politically the needs of their impoverished communities; others alternatively claim that attempts to apply a social gospel, commitment to theological liberalism and emphasis on language and culture, subverted historic evangelicalism, and produced a diluted and ineffectual message.

               Whatever the reason, people in Wales are now as secularized as in much of western Europe: wary of any authority claims, distrusting institutions, yet still hungering for spiritual experience, and influenced both by the new age and by old superstitions.

            Much church life has retreated into survival mode, short of ministers and of money.  Both Baptist unions are in the process of reorganizing in an attempt to address their mission (though prospects of a merger seem remote).

Yet a great deal of life remains: faithful worship is offered, often with music and styles affected by renewal movements. Many churches employ imaginative forms of evangelism through sport, after-school clubs and Alpha courses. New congregations are being planted, and new alliances formed with churches of other traditions. Baptists are among those engaging with the neediest in their communities in homelessness projects, luncheon clubs for the elderly, and family counseling. Many share a vision for a more just world, with groups campaigning for human rights, fair trade and peacemaking.

            The events celebrating the revival are unlikely to shake the nation like those in 1904: Wales is now a very different place. But if they call Christians back to a lively dependence on their Lord, and prompt a deeper concern for contemporary needs, they might yet mark an important turning point.      


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Baptists Bible and Poor

Baptists, The Bible, and the Poor: Charles E. Poole is a Baptist minister with Lifeshare Community Ministries out of Jackson, Mississippi where he delights in ministering alongside the poor. “Chuck” Poole, a provocative preacher and servant pastor, served Baptist churches for twenty-five years. Among the churches he has served are First Baptist Church, Macon, GA, First Baptist Church, Washington, DC, and Northminster Baptist Church, Jackson, MS.


“Reverse Migration of Baptist Churches”

by Charles E. Poole


The William H. Whitsitt Baptist Heritage Society, at last year’s annual meeting, presented the 2003 Whitsitt Society Baptist Courage Award to Walter Rauschenbusch. Rauschenbusch (1861-1918) was arguably the greatest Baptist embodiment of the Bible’s consistent and persistent call for God’s people to care for and stand with the poor.

            In accepting the Whitsitt Award for the Rauschenbusch family, Paul Rauschenbusch recalled that his great grandfather once wrote that his passion for the poor “did not come from inside the church but from outside, from personal contact with poverty.” Reflecting on that confession, Paul Rauschenbusch then offered this commentary: “It was intimate contact with people who were being crushed by . . . the world’s principalities and powers that made [Walter] reexamine his faith and approach to the Bible with this question in mind: What does the Bible have to say about the plight of the poor and oppressed?”

            When I read these words about finding our passion for the poor in the presence of the poor, they rang true to me. My own calling to spend my days alongside those who struggle (though much the miniature to that of Rauschenbusch, needless to say) began to germinate when we served a church in Washington. One day I went to visit a patient at D.C. General Hospital, the hospital which, at that time, served the poorest urban communities in our nation’s capital. Walking the halls of that huge hospital, seeing the faces of struggling families trapped in cycles of despair and poverty, I heard a voice. (Okay, not really a voice, but you know what I mean.) The not-really-a-voice I didn’t hear said to me, as clearly as anything I’ve ever heard, “These are your people.”

            Much to my surprise, the corner of Washington many people find hard to go to, I found hard to stay away from. I was caught in a calling to the poor that germinated there and escalated here, in Jackson, MS. My experience was like that of Rauschenbusch: Passion for the poor came from personal contact with poverty.

            If there is a lesson for the church in general and Baptists in particular to glean from all that, it might be a lesson concerning the practice of churches fleeing “bad neighborhoods” and relocating to “nice suburbs.” Let’s think this through: Jesus said that He came to bring good news to the poor (Lk 4:16). If Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, and if the church is in the world to follow Jesus, then doesn’t that mean that the churches in the most deteriorating neighborhoods are actually already in the best locations? In fact, maybe we should see an occasional reverse migration. You know, a church in a “nice neighborhood” relocating to a “bad neighborhood” in hopes of having what Rauschenbusch called “intimate contact” with those who struggle to survive. There’s a thought: reverse migration. It’s not for all the churches, of course; just one or two, here and there, now and then. You never know what sort of difference such an odd move might make in a hard, harsh, hungry world, because you never know what might happen when serious Christians get close to serious poverty.

            (Actually, I take that back. The truth is, we do know what happens when serious Christians get close to serious poverty.)

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Church And State

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.

“Religious Liberty Demands an Eye for Distinctions”

By K. Hollyn Hollman


“Discriminate” can be and often is an ugly word. The dictionary offers two meanings. The first is to make a clear distinction or to differentiate. This definition implies the use of good judgment. Being able to understand differences is a virtue.

The second definition has negative, politically charged connotations. “Discriminate” also means to treat differently on an uninformed, unjustified basis. It implies being unreasonable, acting according to preconceived, prejudicial notions. No one likes being discriminated against in that sense.

When considering the role of religion in America, these linguistic distinctions are important. It is certainly wrong to discriminate (using the second meaning) against people because of their religion. In fact, the constitutional right to free exercise of religion at the very least protects against discrimination. Many of our civil rights laws also reflect that value, listing “religion” among the protected categories of race, sex and national origin — categories that generally should not be taken into account in employment, for example.

Yet, we cannot ignore that religion is distinct from other aspects of our culture, our history and our constitutional framework. Moreover, not every instance of differential treatment amounts to unlawful, or even unwanted, discrimination. The First Amendment singles religion out, requiring it to be treated differently:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” No comparable provisions apply to other topics.

In its recent decision in Locke v. Davey, the State of Washington scholarship case, the Supreme Court rightly demonstrated that not all distinctions carry the negative freight often associated with “discrimination.” In that case, the student seeking state funding argued that Washington law discriminated against him by denying him a scholarship to train for the ministry. He asserted that the treatment was unfair, prejudicially based on the fact that he was religious, since other students could receive tax-funded scholarships to study secular subjects.

The Court, however, denied his claim, recognizing that the distinctions made by the State of Washington served a positive policy goal: the promotion of religious liberty. In the words of Chief Justice Rehnquist, “Training someone to lead a congregation is an essentially religious endeavor. Indeed, majoring in devotional theology is akin to a religious calling as well as an academic pursuit. And the subject of religion is one in which both the United States and state constitutions embody distinct views — in favor of free exercise, but opposed to establishment — that find no counterpart with respect to other callings or professions. That a State would deal differently with religious education for the ministry than with education for other callings is a product of these views, not evidence of hostility toward religion.”

As our Founders wisely recognized, the protection of religious liberty requires some discrimination, in the positive sense. Religion is and should be treated differently. We all benefit when religion is free from government support and free from government’s control.

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The Baptist Spirit

The Baptist Spirit: Strengths and Challenges Charles W. Deweese, Executive Director-Treasurer of the Baptist History and Heritage Society, writes this section of BSB. He identifies the Baptist Spirit in America.


“The Nature of Baptist Authority”

By Charles W. Deweese


"Where does spiritual authority lie in Baptist life?" is a question Walter Shurden asked in the Winter 2004 issue of Baptist History and Heritage. He answered helpfully by pointing to Christ, the biblical canon, the local church, the individual conscience, and the charismatic authority of powerful individuals.

Now for a follow-up question: What is (and should be) the true nature of Baptist authority? Four contrasts may help to illustrate the character of this authority.

Spiritual/Cultural—Yielding to a constant siege of cultural temptations can tear big holes in all types of responsible authority for Baptists. Raw secularism constantly tries to rip out the heart of Baptist convictions. Real Baptist authority needs a spiritual basis—originating with God, grounded in the best values of Baptist heritage, and dedicated to accomplishing God's purposes.

Personal/Impersonal—Impersonal authority, suffering from a lack of relationships, inevitably results in negative consequences. Personal authority originates with God. Authority is most meaningful when its personal nature takes precedence. For example, it is one thing to study about Christ; it is quite another to accept him personally as one's Lord. One can view the biblical canon as simply 66 ancient books or as one's sole written authority for faith and practice. The local church can be merely a building down the street, or it can become a source of highly personal relationships with God and Christian friends.

Voluntary/Forced—Authentic spiritual authority assumes voluntary intentions and acceptance. Forced evangelism, legalistic approaches to scripture, violations of human conscience, and the absconding of church power by CEO pastors and denominational leaders should be fought tooth and toenail; all are worthless. Demanding, conforming, compliance-oriented religion takes the soul out of the Baptist spirit. Authority with a voluntary base can make a positive difference in Baptist life by appealing to individual choice. And Jesus invited people to make personal choices throughout his earthly ministry.

Balanced/Unbalanced—Proper perspective and balance should be given to the five aspects of authority Shurden identified among Baptists. Landmark Baptists ascribed too much authority to the local church. Fundamentalist Baptists give too much authority to an inerrant Bible. Some "freed-up" Baptists may allow the individual conscience to run roughshod over all other sources of authority. And some non-thinking Baptists may allow charismatic individuals to wield far more authority than they should. Baptists must carefully protect the unique aspects of each kind of authority and find constructive ways to tie these aspects together.

            Baptist authority, at its most meaningful level, is spiritual, personal, voluntary, and balanced. Such authority works best when Baptists internalize and individualize it. Perhaps H. Wheeler Robinson, noted English Baptist scholar, was correct when he claimed while commenting on the historic Baptist emphasis on individualism that "Baptists might fairly claim to be the extreme representatives, the very lance-head of the Reformation impact"—The Life and Faith of the Baptists (London: Methuen & Co., 1927 p.2).



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Helpful Web Sites for Baptist Studies by Greg Thompson

 Site of the Month: Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs


        The website for the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs is must reading during this presidential election year.  Issues like faith-based funding, court cases like Locke v. Davey, and hearings like the Supreme Court and the Pledge of Allegiance are just a sampling of the rich discussions one finds at this website. Brent Walker and staff provide the most helpful and insightful perspectives on current church-state issues. With the election year rhetoric heating up, Baptist voters need to know how the “election year talk” and consequent policies will affect our cherished Baptist value of separate of church and state.

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BSB Special

BSB Special by Stuart Sprague from Anderson, South Carolina.


“The Passing of a Generation of Baptist Leaders”

by Stuart Sprague


            I read a recent account of the passing of Albert McClellan. In honor of the occasion an article he had written in 1980 was republished. It had been written originally at his retirement from the work of the Executive Committee of the SBC. He recounted a number of important milestones during his tenure, including the 1968 passage of a statement regarding the “Crisis in Our Nation” at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Houston. Reading his account prompted a flood of memories from that time and the recognition that his generation of leaders in the SBC represented much that was good from our tradition and an element which was lost, to our detriment, in the takeover of the Convention by those who wished to take it away from its roots.

            The personal experience which is most vivid in my mind is the meeting of the Convention in June of 1968. Much had happened in the nation in the months leading up to the annual meeting. There truly was turmoil among us, and it was an important time for churches to let their sentiments be known and to take public stands against racism, poverty, and the war which had overwhelmed us. I was a part of a group of college students that had made plans to attend the convention meeting. We had all been elected as messengers by our churches, and we hoped to raise awareness by picketing in front of the convention hall. We had many wonderful, and some not so wonderful, encounters with messengers who were coming to the meeting. The generation of leaders represented by McClellan, Foy Valentine, Porter Routh, and others went out of their way to welcome us and give us a platform from which to voice our concerns. They stood for open dialogue among all Southern Baptists, including those in my generation who had a desire to see some changes. Foy Valentine even arranged a press conference at which we could speak openly of our concerns.

            One vivid memory was of a phone conversation with Porter Routh. We had picketed one day, and we knew that the vote on the important “Crisis” statement was to take place the following day. We debated whether we should continue picketing or not. One thought was that we might negatively influence the vote by continuing our efforts in front of the convention hall. Porter Routh’s daughter was one of our active members. She had been asked by her father to be one of the ones who passed out the convention program and daily bulletin. She also made sure that a copy of our handout was put into each program that she gave to a messenger. As we debated what to do, someone suggested that we call Dr. Routh and ask his advice. (As you can tell we were not the most radical movement of that period.) We had one of the few people who knew his telephone number at the hotel, so we called. The conversation with him was very helpful. He did not presume to tell us what to do. As adults, barely, with a free conscience, we were taken seriously. Dr. Routh said that whether to picket the following day was a decision we should make in light of our reasons for coming and our desire to make our positions known. Having talked to him we felt freed to do as God led us. We decided to picket again, and the resolution passed.

            I do not believe that such an experience could be repeated in the current climate of Southern Baptist polity. The generation of McClellan, Valentine, Thomason, Routh, and others were ignored soon thereafter, and the turn of the Convention in another direction began. The thing that I remember is not that we agreed on every point, for surely we had differences. What mattered most is that all Baptists were free to respectfully say what they felt and believed. Freedom of conscience was what mattered most. For that legacy, I am grateful to the generation just ahead of me. May we exemplify and support that legacy in the same way and to the same extent as they did.


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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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PRESS RELEASE February 19, 2004


Advent Spirituality Center at Mars Hill, NC Offers Two Unique Summer Programs


          Mars Hill, NC – The Advent Spirituality Center, dedicated to nurturing Christian spirituality in a Baptist setting, is offering two special programs this summer for those seeking a deeper spiritual life.  “The E. Glenn Hinson Spiritual Formation Institute” takes place June 6-11 at Mars Hill College.  “Creating Space: A Experiential Prayer Retreat,” occurs July 21-24 at Sterchi Lodge near Max Patch in Hot Springs, NC.

The E. Glenn Hinson Spiritual Formation Institute will provide a setting for the spiritual formation of seekers after mature faith.  The purpose of the Institute is to help seekers better prepare for ministry to others being mindful that ministry looks many different ways to different people.

The faculty for the 2004 Institute includes E. Glenn Hinson, retired Professor of Spirituality, Worship and Church History at Baptist Theological Seminary, Richmond, VA.  He is a pioneer in the modern awakening of spiritual development and a powerful speaker.  Dr. Stephanie Ford, professor at Earlham School of Religion, will join Hinson on the faculty.  Dr. Ford was a former student assistant of Hinson’s and now teaches spirituality.

The theme for this year’s Institute is “A Spiritual Heritage.”  Dr. Hinson will focus on historical figures in Baptist life who represent the evolution and variety of Baptist spirituality, and Dr. Ford will focus on approaches to the life of prayer.

The theme for the 2004 Creating Space Retreat is “Spiritual Odyssey: Using Creativity in Our Soul’s Journey to the Face of God.”  Retreat leader Lynda Poston-Smith will guide the retreat using meditations, exercises, movement and music.  Lynda Poston-Smith has studied and taught music at the graduate level for over 20 years.  Since 1994 she has pursued a life of singing and recording, arranging and composing, facilitating workshops and retreats, and teaching privately.  She will be joined by Joyce Rawlings-Davies who will offer a workshop on mask-making.

For more information on both programs, visit on the Internet; or contact Paula Dempsey (e-mail:; phone:  828-206-0383).