THE BAPTIST STUDIES BULLETIN
"A Monthly Emagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today"
January 2004 Vol. 3 No. 1
Produced by The Center for Baptist Studies, Mercer University
Walter B. Shurden, Executive Director, The Center for Baptist Studies
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
The Baptist Soapbox: by Jimmy Carter
"My Hope For Baptists in 2004"
Baptists, the Bible and the Poor:
by Charles E. Poole
Dr. Nigel Wright describes English Baptists today
BSB Book Review Special: David T. Morgan’s Southern Baptist Sisters In Search of Status, 1845-2000
Reviews by Sarah Frances Anders and Catherine Allen
The Baptist Spirit: Strengths and Challenges:
by Charles Deweese
by Walter B. Shurden
I Believe . . .
that The Christian Century should be required reading for all, both clergy and laity, who care deeply about the church. “Thinking critically, living faithfully” is the motto of The Century. The other day I counted twenty-one journals and publications that we get at our house. Put a gun to my head and tell me I could have only one of these publications, and I would choose The Christian Century. My wife and I like it so much that we have a “hers” and “his” copy. She gets her copy at the house, and I receive mine at the office. She doesn’t mess with the one that has “Walter B. Shurden” on the label, and I handle very carefully the one that has “Kay W. Shurden” on the front. We give The Century as Christmas presents, hoping that others will become addicted to some of our passions and our prejudices.
Surely a person who deserves some credit for the current quality of The Century is John M. Buchanan, the editor/publisher since 1999 and pastor of the influential Fourth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Chicago. His brief editorials, along with articles by James Wall and Martin Marty are among my favorites in the magazine. But the feature articles are also usually very helpful for growing a soul.
In the 4 October 2003 issue Buchanan wrote an intriguing editorial titled “Start-up Faith.” Focusing on what it takes for young people to begin the journey of faith, Buchanan reminded me that some of us are good in church at helping others “get started” and others of us are good at “keeping them going.” Good friend John Alley put it another way: “Some are good at helping people with beginnings, others at helping with continuings.” Conservatives, Moderates, and Liberals really do need each other.
In his article Buchanan reminisced as to how Baptists helped him “get started.” He said, “My youth experience was considerably enriched by regular attendance, with my next-door neighbor chums, at Baptist Young People’s Union on Sunday evenings. The Baptists had lively music—‘I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart!’—as well as Bible memorization competitions, food and hay rides.” That quotation came, I remind my Baptist readers, from the editor/publisher of The Christian Century and one of the most significant Presbyterian ministers in America!
BYPU, as many of us Baptists remember, metamorphosed into BTU (Baptist Training Union). After that change it began dying, sometime in the 60s. It is now gone forever, or so it seems. However, we Baptists don’t have to have BYPU or BTU, but we do need to remember the importance of helping people, young and old and in-between, with a “start-up faith.” To deplore bad evangelism is one thing; to ignore helping people “get started” is another thing. My hunch is that most of the readers of this emagazine are good at “continuings,” but, like I, need to recommit themselves to the importance of the ministry of “beginnings.” 2004 gives us yet another year to work in God’s garden of planting and nurturing.
Concerning “beginnings,” we begin our third year here at BSB. And we begin with some new columnists and columns. One new monthly column will be a report from Baptists around the world, describing the Baptist movement in various countries. Nigel Wright starts us off with a report from England, the place of our beginnings. Charles Poole joins us also, writing a column on “Baptists, The Bible, and the Poor.” Brent Walker and Hollyn Hollman, leaders at the Baptist Joint Committee in Washington will continue the series on Church/State issues, which, because of the growing pluralism in American religion, we eventually must learn to call Religion/Government issues. Charles Deweese begins a new column on “The Baptist Spirit,” and our faithful colleague, Greg Thompson, will begin describing helpful Baptist Websites for us. A future colleague at the Center for Baptist Studies (he begins as our associate director in July, 2004), Bruce Gourley, will continue his helpful book reviews. Along the way we hope to spice things up with special book reviews, such as the one this month on women in the SBC. Also, we will continue to have “The Baptist Soapbox,” on which President Jimmy Carter graciously climbed this month to voice his hopes for Baptists in 2004. We will also occasionally run “The Ecumenical Soapbox,” so that our kinfolk from other Christian tribes can speak a word to our tragically divided tribe.
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 former United States President Jimmy Carter.
“ My Hope For Baptists In 2004”
by President Jimmy Carter
A few years ago, I invited about a dozen moderate Baptist leaders and an equal number of more conservative ones to The Carter Center, including ten men who had been or would be presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention. My hope was that the two groups might be reconciled enough to work together harmoniously. There was no acrimony during two extended meetings, and we produced a positive public statement at the time.
Unfortunately, subsequent events have erased much of the good will we expressed, and we now find ourselves separated—or fragmented—over a few secular issues despite our common faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. Mission work suffers and our reputations are tarnished as a great portion of our attention is focused on the adoption of what some consider to be an imposed creed and others a necessary expression of common belief. There are sharp divisions over the "submission" of women or their equal treatment in church affairs. Some have exalted the sinfulness of homosexuality to the highest pinnacle of importance, while others point out that Jesus never mentioned this issue and it is a genetic or innate inherited trait that should not exclude gays from Christian fellowship.
It has become increasingly obvious that we cannot ignore or minimize these disagreements. I don't have any authority and lack the influence and objectivity necessary to initiate another reconciliation effort, but my hope for the New Year is that the differences might be relegated to a completely secondary status as we Baptists consider our obligation to work in harmony to fulfill the mandate given to us by Jesus.
There is a notable precedent for Christians to absorb strong differences and still work together to further God's kingdom. Some believers in the early church were convinced that the path to salvation had to lead through the adoption of Jewish religious customs including circumcision. Others thought that the eating of meat sacrificed to idols was very important, and there were divisive debates about whether Jesus could be both fully human and also the Son of God.
The church survived when the fundamentals of our faith offered an adequate bond to unite the fallible and argumentative Christians. Perhaps, once again, Baptists might be reconciled through emulating the actions and teachings of Christ, based on justice, peace, humility, service, forgiveness, and unselfish love. Is it too much to hope for this kind of miracle?
|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.
“Does Your Bible Lean?”
by Charles E. Poole
Back in the fall, when Walter Shurden asked me to write a series of brief articles concerning “Baptists, the Bible and the Poor,” I immediately thought of the way the Bible tilts, leans and slopes.
I’m sure you have already discovered that even if you place a perfectly flat Bible on a perfectly smooth table on a perfectly level floor, the Bible still tilts. A Bible always tilts, slopes, and leans in the direction of care for the poor. Exodus 22:25 says, If you lend money to the poor, you shall not charge them interest. Leviticus 19:9-10 says, When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the edges of your field. You shall leave the edges for the poor. Deuteronomy 15:7-11 says, Do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. The poor will always be with you, therefore I command you, open your hand to the poor. Proverbs 17:5 says, Those who mock the poor insult the Lord. Isaiah 58:7 says, Share your bread with the hungry, bring the homeless poor into your home. When you see the naked, clothe them. Matthew 25:34-36 says, Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. Luke 3:10 says, Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none. Luke 6:30 says, Give to anyone who begs from you. Luke 14:13 says, When you give a luncheon or a dinner, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. James 2:15-16 says, If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what good is that? And finally, I John 3:17 says, How can God’s love abide in anyone who has this world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help them? Apparently, the Bible is worried about those who are in need. The Bible tilts, slopes and leans in the direction of the poor.
For me, too many years of stumbling around on that slope led me to leave the pastorate for a full-time ministry with some of our nation’s poor families. In the coming months, I will use this space to talk a little about my work, and a lot about “Baptists, the Bible and the Poor.”
Emails on the Status of Baptists Around the World: Dr. Nigel G Wright, Principal, Spurgeon's College, London and President, Baptist Union of Great Britain, 2002-3, writes about Baptist life in England today.
“Baptists in England Today”
By Dr. Nigel Wright
Most Baptist churches in England are members
of the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB), although the truth is that
this is, for historical reasons, a misnamed body. England and Great Britain
are not identical, despite the fact that they are constantly spoken of as if
they were, to the offence of the Scots, Welsh and Irish! England is only
part of Great Britain, although in population terms certainly the largest.
also Baptist Unions in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. BUGB has in its
membership the English churches and the English-speaking churches in Wales,
but in both countries there is also a sizable contingent of independent
Baptist churches and there has been a considerable growth over the last 20
years of "baptistic" or Baptist-compatible churches. If the membership of BUGB is currently about 140,000, the total numbers related to Baptist
churches is considerably higher. Indeed, Baptists are now the fourth largest
Christian grouping in England.
Editor’s note: Be sure and follow up this article with Bruce Gourley’s review below of a book on Baptists in England in the twentieth century.
|BSB Book Review||
BSB BOOK REVIEW SPECIAL: This month the BSB highlights David T. Morgan’s significant new book Southern Baptist Sisters In Search of Status, 1845-2000 (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2003). The reviewers of this work are Sarah Frances Anders, a distinguished Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Louisiana College, a popular speaker on ethical issues, and a dedicated collector of data on women in the SBC, and Catherine Allen of Birmingham, AL, who is the treasurer and a founder of Global Women, author of historical and biographical books about Baptist women, and former President of the Women's Department of the Baptist World Alliance.
Sarah Frances Anders’ review:
Drawing heavily on 155 years of Southern Baptist Convention annuals, records in the SBC Historical Library, journals/newspapers, and over seventy-five twentieth century authors, this author traces the position of Southern Baptist women in the Southern Baptist Convention up to the twenty-first century. To observe that the journey of Baptist women toward equality in church life has been rocky, vacillating or uphill is an understatement.
Whatever freedom the Separate Baptists had allowed women in the eighteenth century churches soon disappeared and missions became the open door to service and ministry in the nineteenth century. While some women were in the suffragist, temperance, or anti-child labor movements, after 1845 SBC women were headed for China in the pattern of Harriet Baker, Martha Foster Crawford and the Moon sisters (Edmonia and Lottie). This author relies heavily on the works of WMU authors such as Catherine C. Allen, Alma Hunt, and Fannie E.S. Heck to recount this period of growth for the Woman’s Missionary Union. The author pays homage to a long list of WMU staff members, officers and members of all ages who furthered the cause of missions, especially in education and financial support of missions through the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offerings. The slow-coming opportunity for women to speak and serve on state and national convention committees is dealt with in depth.
Morgan points out trends in the last half of the twentieth century. Women staff members in SBC churches were accepted during the mid-century, during successive war years, but ordination was taboo. Attention is given to the pattern that developed after a North Carolina Baptist church ordained Addie Davis in 1964, but then she had to go to an American Baptist Church to find an open pastorate. The diaconate became more open to women and by 1979 there were at least fifty clergywomen within the SBC. Many of these moved into the chaplaincy and counseling ministries.
Associations often voted to withdraw fellowship from the churches which ordained women to be deacons or clergy. This was the beginning of the surge of Fundamentalism which was expressed in periodic convention resolutions negating the right of women to be ordained and the growing tendency to remove mission decisions and policies from W.M.U. Ironically, following such SBC tactics, there appeared to be surges in the number of clergywomen. The ultimate Fundamentalist move was through the two revisions of the Baptist Faith and Message (1998, 2000), which strongly spelled out the secondary roles of Baptist women.
Catherine B. Allen’s Review:
This book is a rare attempt to study the status of women in the Southern Baptist Convention. In contrast to histories which ignore or undervalue the presence of women in Baptist tides, Morgan’s volume gives much insight.
It is heartening to find an author who stands on history in behalf of the battered and ignored women in the SBC. Morgan looked at the available histories and emerged with sympathy for women. Some will surely welcome his indignation against an abusive system.
Morgan states in his introduction that he is not undertaking a complete history of women in the SBC. He states that such a “long and arduous undertaking” is needed. For 224 pages, he undertakes to explore “their role in promoting the denomination’s growth and development in the face of male fears….” He identifies the 1978 Consultation on Women in Church-Related Vocations as a historical watershed for his subject, and I concur with this analysis.
Morgan relies primarily on published works for his analyses. In so doing, he provides more or less a digest of previous studies. His work will be a handy starting point for students of women in SBC life.
His conclusion states that women had no status at the beginning of the SBC in 1845, and still had no status in the SBC at 2000.
I hoped to find that Morgan had unveiled two important aspects of the subject, but both are largely missing from the book. One aspect would have been to document carefully the subject during the 1990s. That was the decade of devastation. Morgan had little published work upon which to draw for the 1990s. He cites a few interviews. He describes the attitude of the WMU CEO as “resignation” to the SBC. He describes another WMU administrative era of the '90’s as “straddl[ing] the fence.” These conclusions need proofs and analysis.
Another area left behind the lace curtain is the newly defined official status of women in the SBC. From the early 1980s onward, fundamentalist male leaders of the SBC, often through their wives, were developing “the godly women” of the SBC. They in fact staged conferences, publications, and even academic programs to promote permissible roles for women. The women face-cards in this movement are very influential, but mostly underground, as befitting submissive wives. While claming to be subordinate, they successfully subverted WMU and women in ministry within the SBC.
Today’s historical writers must be careful to acknowledge and to capture the history of the SBC women’s counterculture, and it won’t be easy. A historical look at the “denominationally correct” status will show that women have officially, actively adopted the passive and irresponsible life, codified by the Baptist Faith and Message amendment and commentary of 1998, and ratified by the BFM rewrite of 2000. Their status is about equal to what Morgan describes for women in his chapters 1 and 2, dealing with the nineteenth century.
Morgan has provided a “first course” to whet the appetites of new historians, who can now make a hearty meal of Baptist women’s history on the cusp of the twenty-first century.
|Church And State||
Baptists in America and Church State Issues: a column on hot button issues related to religion and government written by Brent Walker, Executive Director, The Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, Washington, D.C., and Hollyn Hollman, General Counsel for the BJC.
“A Warning to Progressive Baptists”
by Brent Walker
I have written previously in this series about the dangers of the church electioneering bill—a measure pending in Congress that would allow churches to endorse candidates for office while enjoying tax-exempt status. The politicization of our churches poses grave dangers and must be avoided.
But there is nothing wrong with individual people of faith—even clergy—getting involved in politics, as long as they do not purport to represent churches and other tax exempt organizations under section 501(c)(3). In fact, responsible Christian citizenship—if not Jesus’ mandate to be salt and light—arguably requires it.
In this spirit, a new group recently has been formed by a number of religious leaders—including some Baptists—to weigh in on political and social issues in the upcoming elections. Called the Clergy Leadership Network, the group says it will not endorse candidates; but, as an organization formed under section 527, it will be able to engage in political advocacy in ways that tax-exempt organizations cannot. It wants to offer a progressive religious voice as a counter point to the religious right on issues such as the war in Iraq, economic justice, environmental sensitivity and, to some degree, church and state.
So far, so good. I applaud more religious voices in the public square, even during elections. But the same warnings some of us have issued to the religious right should be heard and heeded by the left as well.
Any foray into politics with a focused religious motivation ought to be tempered with a dose of humility. None of us should claim to know for sure the mind of God or baptize our policy aims in the sacred waters of divine approval. As our Baptist sister, Barbara Jordan, once said, “we are servants of God, not spokespersons for God.”
Moreover, any temptation to elevate ones views to “the
Christian” position must be held in check. People of faith can and often do
disagree over how their religious beliefs play out in the political arena.
As someone once observed, there is no “direct line from the Bible to the
ballot box.” The right wing has fallen victim to this temptation.
Progressive religious voices should not repeat their mistake.
So, yes, speak out boldly on public policy issues—even political ones! But do so in a way that preserves religion’s moral high ground and avoids its becoming simply cheerleaders for political parties.
The Baptist Spirit
The Baptist Spirit: Strengths and Challenges: by 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.
"Ten Traits of the Baptist Genius"
by Charles W. Deweese
Baptists will celebrate their 400th birthday in 2008-09. For four centuries, Baptists have sometimes resorted to false authorities, violated their heritage, twisted their principles, trashed their historic polity, defied common sense, and turned against one another. And they have endured their share of controversies, crises, organizational fractures, misplaced priorities, leadership vacuums, and ecumenical provincialism. So Baptists stand on a weak foundation for deifying their theology and practices, throwing critical darts at other denominations, and resting easy on their achievements.
Simultaneously, a certain genius has permeated Baptist development, has sustained Baptists through thick and thin, has enabled Baptists to make major contributions to human civilization, and will guarantee the Baptist future—even if that genius resides among a minority of Baptists. Ten selected traits (or ideals) of that genius follow:
1. Baptists view Christ as Lord and the Bible as their sole written authority.
2. Baptists, when persecuted, tend to heighten their resolve.
3. Baptists encourage soul competency, liberty of conscience, the priesthood of all believers, religious freedom, church-state separation, and voluntary and personal confession of faith.
4. Baptists magnify the significance of the individual and of the church.
5. Baptists insist on believer’s baptism and a regenerate church membership.
6. Baptists urge that every Christian should have a voice; put simply, one vote per Baptist in every business meeting serves as a great equalizer.
7. Baptists stand for non-creedal voluntarism in living out their faith and insist that such freedom demands moral responsibility.
8. Baptists build checks and balances into their polity by simultaneously exercising freedom, cooperation, and accountability.
9. Baptists emphasize the importance of a trained ministry, congregational worship, intelligent preaching, Christian education, biblical stewardship, evangelism and missions, and discipleship for all.
10. Baptists take care of the needs of other Baptists, but they also look past their own needs and minister to other people who both suffer human-rights violations and experience a wide range of afflictions.
The Baptist genius cuts through history like a sharpened blade. It won't go away. Its ideals defy opposition. Its traits withstand the tests of time and practicality. Its principles surround and support Baptists with positive, creative, and forward-moving dynamics. It offers hope.
Highlighting Baptist Websites for Baptist Studies: By Greg Thompson
Site of the Month: Baptist World Alliance
As I watch events unfold around the globe, I find myself thinking about the Baptists in troubled countries. I want to know not just what missionaries are doing but what about the Baptists churches, Associations or Unions in that country? How are they addressing the needs?
The Baptist World Alliance website answers some of my concerns or links me to other websites that stir my curiosity. I most admire the vision of Baptists depicted by this site. It is far more global in perspective and is a needed antidote for the narrowness of other websites. The strength of the BWA site is that it serves as a clear portal to the Baptist witness and ministry around the world without any hues from a particular group, convention or union.
Numerous resolutions and commission reports are available on the site along with other resources for use in church or small groups. The BWA resources cover a range of helpful topics from hunger to social justice, from church/state issues to prayer concerns. Two resources that are particularly useful are the Baptist Heritage and Identity and the Evangelism and Education sub-pages.
Occasionally, some of the pages and graphics do not display, nevertheless, bookmark it anyway. It’s a refreshing point of view in a Baptist “cyber world” plagued by narrow identities and parochial agendas.
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.
Randall H. Balmer, A Perfect Babel of Confusion: Dutch Religion and English Culture in the Middle Colonies (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 258 Pp.
A volume in the Religion in America series by Oxford University Press, A Perfect Babel of Confusion, explores the Dutch Reformed Church of colonial New York and New Jersey. Meticulously researched and well written, Balmer’s social/cultural analysis of the struggling Dutch Calvinists offers detailed insight into their slow demise in the Middle Colonies. Balmer’s thesis is that attrition caused by “shifting political currents, cultural disintegration, and the enticements of the mainstream culture” (156) destroyed the Dutch Reformed Church. The clergy vainly sought to counter early English (Anglican) rule and later pluralism. Even Thomas Freylinghysen’s great successes during the Great Awakening counterproductively eroded remaining distinctions between Dutch Calvinists and evangelicals.
Written for the academic community, this volume tackles too narrow a subject to interest the general reader. However, Baptist historians, in light of recent renewed interest in Calvinism in Baptist life, will appreciate Balmer’s insights into the gradual but steady transformation of cultural and theological Calvinism in America.
K. W. Clements, Editor, Baptists in the Twentieth Century: Papers Presented at a Summer School, July, 1982 (London: Baptist Historical Society, 1983), 147 Pp.
Published almost two decades prior to the end of the twentieth century, this collection of scholarly papers offers various perspectives. These perspectives broadly fall into the categories of local church life and work and Baptist relationships in the face of the challenges of the twentieth century. Primarily focused on the years 1914 through the early 1980s, these eight essays address a variety of specific topics concerning European Baptists, including urban influences, worship, baptism, ecumenism, politics, freedom, and architecture.
Within these essays as a whole, ecumenism clearly emerges as the central theme, woven throughout and reflective of twentieth century European Baptists’ efforts to move beyond denominationalism. A secondary theme is the losses suffered by Baptists during the century. In explaining these losses, David Watts points to population shifts and Michael J. Walker addresses the influence of the Charismatic/fundamentalist influence upon Baptist worship. In addition, Keith W. Clements offers an interesting analysis of British Baptists and the German Church Struggle in the face of Nazism, and David W. Bebbington explores the increasingly fragmented nature of Baptists and politics.
Finally, by offering thoughtful insights into major twentieth century issues, these relatively short essays collectively provide an excellent scholarly portrait of the dynamic nature of modern European Baptist identity.
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.
|If you do not wish to receive BSB any longer, please Click Here to unsubscribe.|
Visit The Center For Baptist Studies Home Page.