"A Monthly Emagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today"

February  2004                 Vol. 3  No. 2


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

         The Big Embrace

The Ecumenical Soapbox: Robert W. Edgar
        “An Invitation From Ecumenical Friends”

The Baptist Soapbox: by Hardy Clemons

         My Hope for Baptists in 2004”

Emails from Baptists around the World: by Bill Slack

        “An Email On Baptists in Scotland Today”

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

        “The Language of Scripture and the Lexicon of Revivalism”

BSB Book Review Specials: by E. Glenn Hinson

         Glenn Hinson reviews Robert Wilken’s new book

Church and State Issues: by Hollyn Hollman

          “An Event Worth Remembering”

The Baptist Spirit: Strengths and Challenges: by Charles Deweese

          “The Resiliency of Historic Baptist Principles”

Helpful Baptist Websites: by Greg Thompson

          The National Council of Churches (NCC)

Baptist Books: by Bruce Gourley

           BWA and Booklets by BHHS



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I Believe

The Big Embrace

By Walter B. Shurden

I believe . . .

            that you should know that I usually write this column only after I have read all the articles of other writers. I do so to see if I can piggy-back on some theme that appears in the other articles, even though we do not structure the BSB thematically. In this issue, however, quite unintentionally, the theme of “Baptists and Ecumenism” weaves its way through several of the following articles.

One might expect Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, to trumpet that theme as he climbs on our ecumenical soapbox. He does it masterfully, revealing a keen understanding of Baptists and how they live out their faith. And Hardy Clemons, former national moderator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and denominational guru, follows with twenty-one hopes for Baptists in the twenty first century. Read all of Hardy’s hopes, but feel the Baptist ecumenism in hopes 1, 6, 9, and 21.

In our “Emails From Baptists Around the World” section, Bill Slack gives us an update on the Baptist situation in Scotland today. He describes “a bruising debate” that Scottish Baptists experienced over the issue of ecumenism and how they will more than likely have to revisit the issue in the future. And while he does not spell it out, Chuck Poole leads us in an ecumenical direction by sensitizing us to a ministry that all God’s people should be able to join. Glenn Hinson has always called Baptists to an ecumenical posture, and in his review of Robert Wilken’s new book he bids us again to turn toward the broader Christian tradition for support and nurture.

Hollyn Hollmon, like Chuck Poole, provides us with a ministry about which we should become passionately ecumenical. Charles Deweese speaks to the cooperative spirit of Baptists through the work of the BWA and the appalling action of SBC fundamentalist leadership to disrupt that spirit. Bruce Gourley reviews a book entitled The Baptist World Alliance and Inter-church Relationships. Finally, Greg Thompson points us to the web site of the National Council of Churches. So, if you read this entire issue, you will be reading about Baptists and ecumenism in one way or another.

I give you two quick closing comments regarding Baptists and ecumenism. One, the Baptists of my denomination, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, are an ecumenical people, certainly in attitude if not in action. It is past time for us to act and to become involved with other Christians in the National Council of Churches. I, for one, will support any effort in that direction. I want us to join in the big embrace with anyone and everyone who is willing to work with us for the cause of Christ.

Two, some, out of a sectarian and narrow spirit, will not embrace most other Christians, even most other Baptists. It is time, therefore, for BWA-type Baptists to stop the hand wringing over the impending loss of the SBC money and the recommendation from the SBC committee that the SBC leave the BWA. Rather, lovers of the BWA and its wonderful ministry will have to dig down, ante up, and begin supporting the worldwide Baptist body in a more sacrificial way. The BWA will survive the same way that the Baptist Joint Committee survived when the SBC petulantly withdrew funding from that great agency, by new sacrifices on the part of old supporters.

Most Southern Baptists are good people who work cordially with other Christians at the local level. Even in the face of that fact, I fully expect that the SBC will follow the recommendation of their present fundamentalist leaders. I am sorry for the good people of the SBC to lose their valuable connection with Baptists of the world, a connection that the SBC spearheaded at the beginning of the twentieth century. In all candor, however, the BWA is probably better off. If the SBC fundamentalist leaders stay in the BWA, they will either wreck it or dominate it. They have no other strategy when they are not in control. Sadly, their theology, void of any humility, demands domination. The BWA cannot afford that domination, no matter how much money the SBC takes with it.    

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February 1 was BAPTIST WORLD ALLIANCE SUNDAY, but it is not too late to celebrate Baptist World Alliance Day in your church.

For information go to <>

Ecumenical Soapbox

The Ecumenical Soapbox: Climbing upon our Ecumenical Soapbox by invitation is one of America’s foremost religious leaders, the Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches.


“An Invitation From Ecumenical Friends”

by Robert W. Edgar


Do Baptists and the National Council of Churches need each other? As general secretary of the Council, I may be biased, but I would answer with a resounding, “Yes!” And this is why.

Presently the Council includes six Baptist denominations, three of which were founding members of the Council in 1950. Therefore, I can say from experience that Baptist participation has strengthened us greatly.

Baptists have made special contributions to our historic work for religious liberty, which resonates with a principle basic to Baptist self-understanding. As mission-minded persons, Baptists have helped guide our efforts as the Council’s mission evolved over the last half-century—including mission education. (That program recently marked its 100th anniversary, as the work preceded the Council’s formation.) And as persons deeply rooted in Scripture, Baptists have rightly, helpfully and successfully joined with others in the Council to insist that our actions grow out of biblical understanding—lest we yield to the temptation to “proof-text” what we want to do. Not least of all we have benefited from the gifts of Baptists who have served as officers, committee members and staff, including two Presidents and two General Secretaries.

Our shared history with these Baptist bodies makes us more than open to relationships with others in the Baptist “family.” We know that the Baptist universe is complex enough that intra-Baptist relationships contain the seeds of ecumenism, preparing Baptists for wider engagement. The wider our circles are, of course, the more chance there may be for substantive disagreements. Yet if we avoid wider tables, we cannot hope to influence the conversation that takes place around them.

Ultimately, the reason for coming together as churches (while still preserving our distinctiveness and autonomy) serves a purpose even greater than enhancing the credibility and effectiveness of an organization like the Council. It is a response to God’s call.

When we think of prayer, we usually think in terms of divine response to our petitions. But we also remember that Jesus prayed. Before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed for his disciples “that they all may one … that the world may believe.”

This prayer recorded in John 17 has inspired many human attempts to realize the churches’ unity given in Christ—including the formation and development of the National Council of Churches. Many beautiful Bible passages speak about unity, but this one is perhaps most often quoted in ecumenical contexts because it contains the words of Jesus and because it links unity and Christian witness. The prayer seems to anticipate the “scandal of division” that has impeded Christian mission and witness in the world.

Despite their emphasis on soul freedom, congregational autonomy, and religious freedom in society, Baptists historically have joined with others for the sake of another high principle: the importance of mission. Baptists have formed associations at many levels, and it is perhaps their value as vehicles for greater and higher quality mission that keeps these connections going. Could participation in the NCC be an extension of such associations? Is there openness to this idea? One Baptist colleague tells me that, at the local level, her congregation is open to hearing Sunday sermons from persons of other denominations and that her church is not atypical. “The real question,” she says, “is not your affiliation, but ‘Can you preach? Do you have a Word from God?’ ”

I believe we at the NCC do have a Word from God and hope your readers might entertain the idea of closer associations with us. As someone once said, “Entertain new ideas! You don’t have to marry them. Just invite them in for a cup of tea.”


Note: Baptist bodies that belong to the NCC are: Alliance of Baptists, American Baptist Churches in the USA, National Baptist Convention of America, Inc.; National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.; National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc. For more information about the NCC log on to


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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 Hardy Clemons, retired pastor of First Baptist Church, Greenville, SC, and former national moderator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.  

My Hope for Baptists in 2004”

by Hardy Clemons


  1. That we realize it is more important to follow Christ as disciples than to be Baptists.

  2. That we make our number one priority the worship of God in spirit and truth.

  3. That we worship God in the mystery of the Trinity as Father, Son and Spirit rather than overemphasizing any one aspect of God’s three-in-oneness as we are so prone to do.

  4. That we learn that Jesus the Christ is truly human and that the first real Christian heresy was seeing him as exclusively divine.

  5. That we relinquish our fear of God the Spirit, that we embrace God’s Spirit as the paraclete, guide and energizer God promised us in Jesus Christ.

  6. That under the Lordship of Jesus the Christ we will be . . .

    1. fundamental about basics without being fundamentalist reactionaries;

    2. conservative about values and resources without being obstructionists;

    3. moderate without being indifferent or idolizing the middle of the road;

    4. liberal in vision, giving, and grace without being extremists.

  7. That we learn that growth is more about spirituality than about size and numbers. That it doesn’t matter how big we get if big is all we get.

  8. That we discover person centered, biblically congruent, non-manipulative ways of doing evangelism by sharing God’s grace, forgiveness, and challenge for spiritual development with those who hunger for Good News.

  9. That we become more ecumenical and interfaith with our brothers and sisters in the Family of God. That we practice respect for, communication with, and learning from those who live in other rooms of God’s house as we mutually share our own faith and practice. And, that we discover how staggeringly wider, higher, broader, deeper is the Kingdom of God than any Baptist expression of it.

  10. That we read and study the Bible so as to truly listen for a Word from God for our nurture and correction, more than seeking a text from which to instruct others.

  11. That we be more assertive in helping gifted women get placed in pastoral ministry. That we encourage more churches to seek out and ordain women who have been doing the work of a deacon for years, and that we refuse to restrict women on the mission fields from any assignment to which God calls them.

  12. That we practice Partnership Team Ministry as taught by Paul in I Corinthians 12 rather than talking team language but not producing genuine partnership with laity and staff--and that we practice less egotism and arrogance, more humility and cooperation.

  13. That we discover that Church and Denomination is not about who gets on the platform or who gets elected to office as much as who “gets it” and “does it” with reference to servant ministry. To quote Paul, that we “think of ourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but . . . he didn’t claim special privileges. He emptied himself of his standing and took the nature of a servant.”

  14. That we clarify our identity and have the courage to be who Baptists always have been at our best, rather than try to be all things to all people.

  15. That having given our lives to Christ, we reject the temptation, as Jesus did, to build kingdoms for ourselves and our pet causes under the guise of serving God.

  16. That we live out the truth that the family and local church are the primary locus of Christian education and theological formation. And that living theology is never imprisoned in propositional creed or doctrine. Jesus said “I am the truth.” He did not say I have the truth.

  17. That rather than being so conformed to the values and techniques of this world, we become “transformed by the renewal of our minds” as Paul envisioned for the Church at Rome.

  18. That we discover that learning and faith are partners not enemies.

  19. That we learn to give generously of our time, money, and talents to God through the church and in our communities.

  1. That we learn that the local church is not just “another good community organization”--but a unique spiritual gathering of believers who worship and serve God.

  2. That we realize that our nation and God’s world need Baptist-Christians--our passion for freedom and justice for all, our sturdy commitment to separation of church and state--now as much or more than when the Bill of Rights was formulated.


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Baptist Emails

Emails From Baptists Around the World: Bill Slack, General Director of the Baptist Union of Scotland, writes about Baptist life in Scotland today.


  “An Email on Baptists in Scotland Today”

By Bill Slack


Warm greetings from Scottish Baptists! I’m glad to share something about our life and ministry with you.

After centuries as an independent country, Scotland became part of the United Kingdom in the early eighteenth century. After a recent a vote in favour of devolution, the Scottish Parliament was restored in 1999 and we now enjoy a measure of self-government. The 2001 census reports that our population currently stands at 5.1 million but is projected to decline to 4.87 million by 2027. This is due to a falling birth rate as well as the consequences of major decline within our traditional industries.

There are 177 churches in the Baptist Union of Scotland with a membership of around 14,000. A few independent Baptist churches also function but, with one notable exception, their numbers would be quite small. Our churches extend from Shetland in the north to the Scottish borders in the south, from the islands off the west coast to the towns and cities along the east coast. However, we are strongest in the central belt where there is the largest concentration of our population. Membership in Scottish Baptist churches reached a peak of 22,000 between the two World Wars but, along with other mainline Christian denominations, has been in slow but steady decline since 1945. For Baptists, this decline took place despite a significant church planting initiative from the 1950s to the 1970s. Of further note is the loss of a generation between the '70s and '80s to the house church movement because Baptists initially did not respond well to the challenge of charismatic renewal. However, the recent Church census published in 2003 showed that, while all the other mainline denominations registered significant decline during the last decade, Baptists registered a 1% increase in attendance. The census also revealed that Baptist churches have the lowest average age of people attending worship and the youngest leadership. These indicators make us cautiously optimistic that half a century of decline may have been arrested and that we may hopefully begin to see growth.     

Over the past five years we have refocused the Union’s priorities, moving from maintenance to mission and have restructured our work in order to better resource our churches. Over recent years we have welcomed new churches into the Union and there is a growing awareness that the Holy Spirit is really moving amongst us. At the grassroots there is a growing expectation of growth and a desire to see churches more effectively engaged in community life.

The issue of women in ministry was problematic to Scottish Baptists in the 1980s and early '90s and resulted in heated debates at Assemblies. However, in 1997 the decision was made to accredit women on the same basis as men, recognising that each local church has freedom to choose whether or not to call a woman to be their pastor. At the present time, we have one woman serving on a pastoral team and several women serving in hospital chaplaincies. The other issue that has proved problematic has been ecumenism. Scottish Baptists are generally suspicious of institutional ecumenism. We are not in membership of the World Council of Churches. When the Scottish Council of Churches was reformed into Action of Churches Together in Scotland in 1989, Baptists were divided on whether to participate. Eventually, after a bruising debate, they voted not to become part of the new ecumenical instrument. Nevertheless, Baptist churches usually do co-operate locally with the other churches in their community. It is likely that this issue will need to be revisited at some point in the future.

         Please pray that God will bless His people here and that Jesus will build His Church in Scotland for His glory.


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Baptists, The  Bible and The 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.

“The Language of Scripture and the Lexicon of Revivalism”

by Chuck Poole


            Last month, in this space, we surveyed the Bible’s terrain and discovered that the Bible slopes, tilts, and leans in the direction of compassion and care for the poor. When you take that fact about the Bible and add it to our Baptist love for the Bible, one might assume that care for the poor would be the great passion and hallmark of Baptist life and history. And, in some cases, one would be right. We Baptists have produced some great voices and heroic servants on behalf of the poor; some of whom we will identify in this space this spring.

            But, before we identify our Baptist heroes concerning the poor, we should probably acknowledge our Baptist irony concerning the poor. It is an odd, awkward kind of irony that manifested itself in something many of us grew up hearing at Baptist associational meetings and state conventions: Reports from “Christian Social Ministries” concerning numbers of persons helped with food or clothing always had to be accompanied by a tally of “souls saved” at the clothes closet or food bank. The clear implication and unspoken understanding was that it was the conversions, not the distribution of food and clothes, that justified keeping the “social ministry” in the budget for another year.

            It is interesting to note that justifying social ministries by their evangelistic results was most pronounced among the most conservative Baptists. We (I say “we” because I was one of them) claimed to require clothes-closet-conversions on the grounds of our biblical conservatism. But what we were most conservative about was not the language of scripture, but the lexicon of eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century revivalism.  By that, I mean this: We elevated extra-biblical phrases from revivalism; “Accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior” and “Ask Jesus into your heart” over sentences that are actually in the Bible, such as, “Share your bread with the hungry, bring the homeless poor into your house, and when you see the naked, clothe them” (Isaiah 58:7) and “Sell your possessions and give the proceeds to the poor” (Luke l2:33). We called ourselves biblical conservatives, but, the truth is, we engaged in a form of biblical picking and choosing that chose to elevate those verses that supported our passion for decisional regeneration over those verses that simply and plainly called us to divest ourselves of our possessions and spend ourselves on behalf of the poor.

            So we got awkward when it came to care for the poor, and we spoke with disdain about “bleeding-heart-liberals” and “social gospel” folk.

            One hopes that our Lord said of us as he said of others, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.”

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BSB Book Review

BSB BOOK REVIEW SPECIAL: This month the BSB highlights The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God, by Robert Louis Wilken. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2003. xxii +368 pp. ISBN 0-3000-09708-5. The reviewer is E. Glenn Hinson, one of the best scholars of any kind that Baptists have produced in the last half of the twentieth century and one of the very few patristic scholars Baptists have ever produced. Dr. Hinson, now teaching at Baptist Theological Seminary of Kentucky is emeritus professor at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond.


            A generation or two from their beginnings in the seventeenth century, Baptists, steeped in a scriptura sola mentality espoused by the magisterial reformers, stopped paying much attention to the Church Fathers. The epochal happenings in the Church’s last forty years, however, have given ample reason for examining whether the Baptist forefathers were too hasty in tossing so much overboard. Robert Wilken’s study of The Spirit of Early Christian Thought shows us why.

            In this important new depiction of early Christian thought Wilken, William R. Kenan Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Virginia, has put to rest Adolf Harnack’s thesis, which has long dominated early Christian studies, that the Gospel was “radically Hellenized” as Christianity moved out of Palestine into the Graeco-Roman milieu. Harnack’s object was, of course, to disenfranchise Roman Catholicism and thus to validate Protestantism. Convinced that church historians such as Harnack concentrated too much on ideas, Wilken contends convincingly that early Christians had a higher goal than expressing their beliefs conceptually; they wanted, rather, “to win the hearts and minds of men and women and to change their lives.” As they did this, they kept the scriptures at the very center of everything they did, and it would be more accurate to speak of a Christianizing of Hellenism than of a Hellenizing of Christianity. The goal of Christian intellectual effort “was not only understanding but love,” he has argued.

            Elaborating this perspective, Professor Wilken covers some areas readers won’t usually find in histories of Christian thought. His first three chapters deal with the foundations of Christian thought--how God is known, Christian worship and sacraments, and scriptures. The next three sound themes at the heart of Christian teaching--the Trinity, the work of Christ, and the creation of the world and human beings. From there he moves in an ever-widening circle to speak about faith as a way of knowing, the fellowship of believers, Christian poetry, and icons. Throughout the book he attempts to keep readers ever aware that the most astute and seminal Christian thinkers--Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, and Maximus the Confessor--sought genuinely to place everything under the searchlight of scriptures. Anyone who knows the Church Fathers well will be aware that they brought to the interpretive task attitudes which conditioned how they used the scriptures in formulating their thought, but such conditioning, Wilkens shows, did not divert them from faithful representation of the Gospel.

            The Spirit of Early Christian Thought deserves wide reading. Although Professor Wilken is a premier patristics scholar, he writes with a novelist’s skill. Although a product of a lifetime of intensive research, this is not for scholar’s only but for anyone serious about Christian theology.


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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.


“An Event Worth Remembering”

by Hollyn Hollman


By the middle of January, most people have fully recovered from holiday travels and are back to their usual work. Some are even starting to look forward to the next holiday, a reason to celebrate or cause to reflect upon a significant historical event or national hero. Most Americans probably think of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January and Presidents’ Day in February as the first such opportunities each year.

While it has not achieved the status of a national holiday, January 16 also marks a significant day in our national history, a day several presidents have proclaimed as Religious Freedom Day. On January 16, 1786, the Virginia legislature passed the Virginia Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom, a precursor to the First Amendment’s religion clauses. Drafted by Thomas Jefferson and promoted by James Madison, this important measure arose in the context of a debate over the funding of religious education, a context that is certainly relevant to some current controversies.

Of course, many Baptists already honor their religious freedom heritage by celebrating Religious Liberty Day as a time to focus on important Baptist freedom fighters and the theological underpinnings of our commitment to this principle. The Baptist Joint Committee encourages that practice by publishing a religious liberty sermon each spring. Acknowledging important dates in our nation’s history and the events that shaped the passage of the First Amendment is another way Baptists can defend our freedom.

The Virginia statute is particularly noteworthy because James Madison had a leading role in its passage. His famous Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments moved many to support the bill and he later became the primary force behind the adoption of the federal Establishment Clause. Substantively, it offers some great reminders about why we must continue to stand for religious freedom.

First, in its lengthy preamble, the bill reminds us of the basis for our commitment to religious freedom and church-state separation. It speaks of the belief that God created us free: “Almighty God hath created the mind free, and manifested his supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether insusceptible of restraint.”

Second, it provides strong historical support for the country’s longstanding commitment to keeping churches free from government aid (a commitment that is under attack by some so-called “faith-based initiatives”). It states that “no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever.” This provision is bolstered by the famous statement that “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.”

Third, it rejects the notion that one’s standing in the political community is tied to one's religious beliefs. Instead, it provides all “shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.”

While Religious Freedom Day may have just passed without note on your calendar, there are many reasons to celebrate and nurture what it commemorates every day.

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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 Resiliency of Historic Baptist Principles”

by Charles W. Deweese


Century after century, historic Baptist principles have survived mild tampering and deliberate manipulation in a no-compromise fashion. Their force and character have risen victoriously during times of persecution. They have hung tough when misguided leaders attempted to revise them for personal or institutional advantage. Their integrity and usefulness have persisted even when well-intentioned Baptists neglected them.

Direct assaults have not silenced these principles. Remember when Baptist fundamentalism began to deify biblical inerrancy, or when a Southern Baptist Convention president claimed that God does not hear the prayers of the Jews, or when the pastor of a major Baptist church asserted that church-state separation was a myth created by some infidel’s imagination? Or what about current SBC efforts to obliterate the cooperative spirit by defunding the Baptist World Alliance? These views and practices impinge on Baptist principles. Ultimately, however, Baptist ideals will prevail, though likely among a minority of Baptists, at least in the United States.

What factors account for the unbending resiliency of historic Baptist principles? Three seem especially obvious.

First, Baptists locate their historic principles in the life, teachings, and lordship of Christ, in the theology and practices of the early New Testament churches, and in the larger scope of biblical literature. These authorities comprise the primary sources for and ultimate models of Baptist faith and practice.

Second, for the most formative and ideal expressions and implications of their ideals, Baptists turn to the leaders, events, and writings of Baptist life in the early 1600s in Amsterdam, England, and America. Worship conducted by the first Baptist congregation in Amsterdam; leadership provided by John Smyth, Thomas Helwys, Roger Williams, and John Clarke, the earliest Baptist pastors in England and Colonial America; and principles enunciated in their writings and those of other early Baptists laid the essential groundwork for what could be called truly Baptist. Pivotal documents of this era shaped, provided direction for, and penetrated the Baptist future with an unbending resiliency.

Third, Baptists have discovered that their historic principles are enormously practical. Religious liberty and church-state separation work. Dedication to missions helps people. Voluntarism encourages personal decision-making. Believer’s baptism makes biblical sense. Congregational church government emphasizes fairness. The priesthood of all believers promotes access to God and engagement in ministry.

Biblically authorized, historically actualized, and practically capitalized, historic Baptist principles possess more strength than steel or titanium. They will persevere throughout history.



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Helpful Websites for Baptist Studies by Greg Thompson


Site of the Month: The National Council of Churches


        Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21 is “that all of them may be one.” The NCC website outlines the oneness of the church of Jesus Christ. A professionally designed site with a powerful search feature, the information is outlined and superbly presented for the user. A user cannot help but be struck by the array of issues the NCC faces and all individual churches face (Justice, Hunger, Housing, Heath Care, Human Rights, Political Involvement and many more). The NCC site has a valuable archive of their work and projects for users wanting to research trends in the Christian church. The best observation I can make is that you not listen to what someone else says about the NCC. Read it for yourself.

        Absent from this site are “pop crazes” toward church programming; rather, a user finds a carefully constructed and reasoned approach to church educational programming.

        Here’s a suggestion: A creative and educational use of the NCC website would be to do a presentation that reviews the major sections of the site. In a six week discipleship type class, one could highlight the major sections of this site, discuss appropriate biblical passages related to the topic, and analyze one’s own church and/or denominational stance on the issues. Wow!! That’s good use of web resources!!

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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.


Ken Manley, The Baptist World Alliance and Inter-Church Relationships (Falls Church, Virginia: Baptist World Alliance, 2003), 43 Pp.


This slender volume is the first in the Baptist World Alliance’s “Baptist Heritage and Identity Series.” Ironically, this booklet, which focuses on unity among Baptists and ecumenical relations with other Christian communities, was published just months before the Southern Baptist Convention leadership announced their decision to withdraw from the BWA over alleged liberalism.

Beginning with an overview of ecumenical “conversations” which the BWA has participated in throughout its nearly one hundred years of existence, the booklet then examines the implications for Baptist identity. Much of the content of the booklet arises from actual BWA reports, and thus gives the reader a brief survey of the fruits of organizational initiatives. On the other hand, Manley laments that the work of the BWA is often little known, and notes that Baptist groups too often do not “follow up on the many fine suggestions contained in the reports” (35).

This booklet is especially significant in light of current debate over Baptist identity, and is an easy read for anyone who is interested in this important subject.


Various Authors, 5 Volumes, Baptist Heritage Library Booklet Series (Brentwood, TN: Baptist History and Heritage Society, 2003).


Following in the footsteps of two recent, popular pamphlet series, the Baptist History and Heritage Society has released a series of five booklets that address “significant” issues in Baptist life in America today. Addressing biblical authority, Baptist polity, missions, religious liberty and church-state separation, and women’s roles, these five short volumes, authored by well-known and respected scholars, are both easily readable and academically sound.

E. Glenn Hinson’s, Who Interprets the Bible for Baptists?, offers an excellent, brief introduction to historical and present struggles over interpretive approaches. In so doing, the volume provides the reader a glimpse into the heart of the fundamentalist-moderate debate of the 20th century.

In Issues Testing Baptist Polity, William M. Pinson, Jr., examines modern trends which are fraying historical Baptist organizational models and functionality at the local, associational, state, and national levels. This volume dispels the myth that local Southern Baptist churches can remain insulated from changes at the national level, and challenges Baptists to intentionally examine congregationalism, autonomy, and cooperation.

William R. O’Brien’s, Challenges Confronting Baptist Missions, surveys the 21st century global landscape and concludes that cultural, technological, and societal hurdles present new opportunities and perils for the modern mission enterprise.

In Religious Liberty and Church-State Separation, J. Brent Walker seeks to bring clarification to issues which have become muddled by the convergence of fundamentalist Baptists and Republican Party politics. Clear and concise, Walker’s treatment of this complex subject dispels myths and challenges Baptists to reclaim their heritage.

In Women’s Place in Baptist Life, Carolyn D. Blevins offers a historical survey of women’s role in Baptist life and challenges contemporary Baptist women to boldly and unashamedly seek their own place, individually and corporately, in the Baptist family.

In short, these booklets are suitable for the Baptist family in general–clergy and laity, individuals and groups, churches large and small–and serve to challenge Baptists in modern America to eschew the troubling winds of religious legalism and secular seduction while reclaiming and re-imaging a biblical Baptist heritage rooted in the free church tradition.


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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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An Announcement: A Sacred Harp Singing!!!


        The First Mercer University Sacred Harp Singing will be held on Saturday March 20, 2004 in Newton Hall on the Macon campus. It will begin at 8:30AM with an abbreviated Singing School taught by Mr. Hugh McGraw of Bremen, Georgia, legendary leader of the Sacred Harp singing movement. The singing will begin at 10:00 following a welcome by President R. Kirby Godsey of Mercer University. After the morning session, there will be a noonday break for an old fashioned Dinner on the Grounds. Singers are asked to bring a favorite dish for the table. The afternoon session will begin at 1:00 and continue until mid-afternoon. A special feature will be a tribute to Mr. Raymond Hamrick of Macon, a renowned current composer and leader of Sacred Harp music. Copies of the current edition of The Sacred Harp will be available at the singing.


For further information contact,

Dr. Harry Eskew 

or  Dr. Stanley Robert

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