THE BAPTIST STUDIES BULLETIN
"A Monthly Emagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today"
October 2004 Vol. 3 No. 10
Produced by The Center for Baptist Studies, Mercer University
Walter B. Shurden, Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin
Bruce T. Gourley, Associate Director, The Center for Baptist Studies
Wil Platt, Associate Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin
I Believe . . . : Walter B. Shurden
The Baptist Soapbox: Denton Lotz
"The Wearing of Religious Symbols as a Religious Freedom Issue in Europe"
"Jesus: Headed in the Other Direction"
"The Local Church"
Learned in My First Year as a Baptist Female Pastor:
BSB Book Reviews: Fundamentalism, by Fisher Humphreys and Philip Wise
Review by Richard F. Wilson
A Piety Above the Common Standard: Jesse Mercer and the Defense of
Review by Daryl Black
The Story of Primitive
Baptists: John G. Crowley
Dates to Note: Upcoming Events
By Walter B. Shurden
I believe . . .
that moderate Baptists have a bias against leadership. I think I see this bias expressed both in our denominational movements and in our local churches. Of course, much of this bias against leadership is an understandable reaction to dictatorial fundamentalism, especially pastoral authoritarianism.
Some moderate Baptists, however, appear to believe that the peculiar genius of our Baptist system does not demand leaders. Indeed, I hope that much of that mistaken belief has not come from our necessary and correct emphasis on "The Priesthood of ALL Believers." I believe in that Lutheran legacy to Baptists with all my heart. But the “The Priesthood of ALL Believers” has never meant the elimination of “The Leadership of SOME Believers.” Universal Priesthood does not equal Universal Leadership. In the Baptist vision of church and ministry, all leaders should be priests; all priests, however, are not leaders.
Gary Wills, one of the important voices
in American life, wrote a book on leadership and provided this definition
of leadership: "The leader is one who mobilizes others toward a goal
shared by leader and followers." Wills says the problem with most
definitions of leadership is that they are unitarian, focusing on the
leader alone. Truth is, says Wills, leadership is trinitarian, resting on
the tripod of leader, followers, and goals.
We are determined at Mercer not to be intimidated by hurricanes. We had to cancel our MERCER PREACHING CONSULTATION ’04, scheduled for September 26-28 at St. Simons Island, because of hurricane Jeanne. We had reached our maximum enrollment of 200! We have, therefore, regrouped and rescheduled the CONSULTATION for November 21-23 at St. Simons Island, GA. All except one of our agreed-upon speakers will be on hand. Two of our speakers, Truett Gannon, longtime Georgia pastor and now professor at McAfee School of Theology, and Bill Wilson, the talented pastor of First Baptist Church in Dalton, Georgia, will brush up against the theme of pastoral leadership. Truett Gannon is going to speak on “An Organization Must Have a Pastor If It Wants To Be a Church.” Makes good sense to me! Bill Wilson will speak on “Leading for Change Without Alienating.” What Baptist pastor or layperson would not want to hear that one? View the entire program on our website at www.mercer.edu/baptiststudies. Better still, make sure you are registered by calling Sharon Lim at 404.886.8608 and join us for a feast of thinking about preaching, pastoring and leading. They also lead who preach.
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 Dr. Denton Lotz, General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance.
"The Wearing of Religious Symbols as a Religious Freedom Issue in Europe"
By Denton Lotz
Is the denial of the right to wear a headscarf, a yarmulke, or a large cross a denial of religious freedom? Is the denial to celebrate religious symbols such as the Ten Commandments, a crèche, or candelabra on public property a denial of religious freedom? These are emotional issues confronting the countries of the European Union. For Muslims, the wearing of the headscarf is an especially emotional issue. Yet, despite the publicity given to France’s prohibition of Muslim teachers and students from wearing headscarves as a religious symbol, Turkey, a country in which 98% of the citizens are Muslims, has for decades prohibited teachers and government workers from wearing headscarves.
Western European countries have criticized Turkey because of its restrictive policies on religious freedom, particularly in the areas of human rights and religious freedom of minorities in terms of the right to own property, obtain visas for foreign priests, etc. However, some Muslims feel that this Western perspective of defending minority rights fails to consider the majority perspective.
For twenty years Turkey has been trying to become a member of the European Union. Recent studies of the European Union and a Statement of Concern by the Protestant Bishops of Germany concentrate on their contention that the minority rights of Christians are being denied, e.g. their denial to open theological schools, purchase property, visa restrictions on foreign religious leaders, the appointment of pastors and the right to have open religious worship services or to evangelize.
From a Western perspective the denial of such rights is indeed a denial of religious freedom. Denial of such rights for minority religious groups restricts the free exercise of religion. Baptists around the world are a minority and thus suffer from many such restrictions. However, are we aware of other restrictions on the majority religion? During a recent visit to Turkey I read an editorial in the Turkish newspaper emphasizing majority religious freedom issues. This article maintained the following:
“None of the reports (Western European) said anything about the closure of Muslim foundations and the seizure of their properties that have taken place over the last five years. The headscarf ban that prevents many women from leading active lives was also one of the issues that never made it into any of the reports. State control over religious education, the limitations imposed upon the graduates of imam-hatip high schools and limitations on freedom of expression of Muslims were among the issues that failed to be mentioned…. Ignoring the problems faced by the Muslim majority of Turkey, while concentrating on the Christian minorities, is an evident discrimination by the European Union.”
This debate in the Muslim world about headscarves is similar to the American conflict about crèches and Christian symbols in public places. It comes as a surprise to many in the West that Turkey, since the revolution of Attaturk in 1921 declared itself a secular state, controls the Muslim religion very much. There are severe restrictions on Islam, despite the majority Muslim population. Of the 98% Muslims, perhaps 35% would be faithful attendees at the local mosque…a greater percentage than Western Europe but less than the 42% of Christians attending church services in the USA!
Depending on one’s perspective as a religious minority or a religious majority one will usually have a different view of what religious freedom entails. Therefore, one of the great contributions of Baptists to world history is our early defense of religious freedom for all religions and our defense of the separation of church (religion) and state.
How the European Union and the rest of the world settle this question will have grave consequences for a world already experiencing a clash of civilizations and the consequent religious wars and prejudice that ensues. Need we mention Chechnya and Russia, Israel and Palestine, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Serbia and Bosnia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, North Ireland … all areas of conflict due to religious wars?
As a Baptist, I still believe our concept of strict separation is the best way to bring harmony and peace in this ever-growing conflict between religions. Majority and minority rights must be fair, equal and complementary. The Western concept of religious freedom is a threat to all totalitarian countries which use religion to control the state. Certainly we must defend the construction of places of worship as a religious freedom. Western European cities are dotted with mosques next to cathedrals. In Washington, D.C. thirty years ago there were only several mosques. Today there are thirty-nine. Presently there are no Christian places o f worship allowed in Saudi Arabia, America’s closest Arabic ally in the Middle East!
While in Turkey, I worshipped with Baptists and am pleased to report that we now have our first Baptist church in Turkey, in the city of Izmir, the biblical Smyrna. The origin of this Baptist church is in itself a beautiful story of amazing grace and of the growing religious freedom in Turkey. (Check the BWA webpage: www.bwanet.org for further information.)
Let’s recover our Baptist history and defend the religious rights of all peoples, the majority and the minority! In so doing we will guarantee our own freedom. The Baptist professor, E.Y. Mullins, once said that where religious freedom is denied, all other freedoms are under threat!
In conclusion, on my own personal belief, Yes! I believe Muslim women should have the right to wear headscarves and Christians the right to carry Bibles and wear crosses, and Jews the right to wear Yarmulkes in school!
Baptists, The Bible, and the Poor: Charles E. Poole is a Baptist minister with Lifeshare Community Ministries in 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.
"Jesus: Headed in the Other Direction"
By Charles E. Poole
I’ve spent the last several years trying to figure out how we got this way. How did the church, in general, and Baptists, in particular, ever become so captured by consumerism, materialism and institutional protectionism? How did we get from a Jesus who said, “I have come to bring good news to the poor” (Luke 4:16) to churches that long to relocate to neighborhoods that are too far for the car-less poor to get to? How did we get from a Jesus who said, “Sell your possessions, give the proceeds to the poor” (Luke 12:33) to churches that expend millions on acquiring and accumulating? How did we get from a Jesus who sent his disciples out with instructions to travel light (no purse, no bag, no extra sandals) (Luke 10:4) to churches that can’t imagine existing without “operating reserve funds?”
How did we get this way? Needless to say, many fine Christians would say that all this accumulation and acquisition is a good thing. They would decry the suggestion that we need to work our way back to the Jesus of the gospels, and instead would affirm the power and possessions of the institutional church as a sign of “church growth.” Their answer to the “How did we get this way?” question would be that we got this way by aggressively following Jesus. I want to give that view its due, but the problem with it is that the last time we saw Jesus he was headed in the other direction, away from consumerism, materialism and institutional protectionism.
I don’t have the answer to the “How did we get this way?” question. I have a hunch that we took a wrong turn in the fourth century while Constantine was driving the church bus, and we’ve never gotten back on course. But I also know that nothing, especially nothing like this, is ever that simple.
Please don’t mis-hear my lament. I’m not down on the church. I love the church. I need the church. I couldn’t keep going in life without the church. And I owe the church many, many things, one of which is careful, truthful speech when it comes to the distance between the Jesus of the gospels and the North American church. So, while I do not have the answer to the “How did we get this way?” question, I do have a modest proposal for a small step in the direction of careful speech: The next time you see a church with impressive facilities and beautiful buildings, refrain from saying, “My, how the Lord has blessed them,” because while the Lord may have blessed them with all those possessions, it is also possible that the Lord may be longing for them to sell those possessions and distribute the proceeds to the poor.
(The fact that
the above italicized sentence sounds so radical and ridiculous may be a good
indicator of how far we are from the words and ways of our only Lord. At the
very least, it is an indicator that preacher folk, like myself, have not done
a very good job of inviting people to consider the possibility that Luke 12:33
might actually mean something for the church.)
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. An articulate and passionate
Baptist, he identifies the historic Baptist Spirit in America.
"The Local Church"
By Charles W. Deweese
On March 6, 1927, First Baptist Church, Asheville, North Carolina, dedicated the sanctuary in which the congregation continues to worship today. More than 2,000 people attended the dedication, that included a walk from the old church building to the new. Accompanied by its new organ, the church sang the hymn of dedication, "The church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord." Dr. E. Y. Mullins, noted Baptist theologian, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and president of the Baptist World Alliance, read Ephesians 4:1-16, a powerful description of the biblical meaning of church.
Then the church's pastor, Dr. R. J. Bateman, formally presented the church to
the public: "In presenting this church to the public, we ask to lay our
services and ourselves afresh on the altar of Christ for the benefit of this
great community in which we dwell. We want to lay our hearts, our affections,
our energies as the feet of this community to serve you through Jesus Christ."
Baptists of the world love church. A strong sense of congregationalism causes them to worship, unites them in fellowship, and incites them into discipleship. In fact, when Baptists emerged into human history in Amsterdam in 1609, one of the first things they did was to form themselves into a church. That year, two members of that congregation, Hughe and Anne Bromehead, sent a letter to a relative in London. That letter was the first (and now the oldest) written description of a Baptist worship service. It begins with these words: "The order of the worship and government of our church is. . . ." Then it describes how the church prayed, read and commented on the Bible, collected an offering for the poor, and conducted church business.
Baptists worldwide gather as communities of believers in open fields; in huts and houses; in one-room buildings in the country; in small, medium, and large buildings in urban and suburban areas; and even in civic-center size buildings. Cutting across diverse history, theology, polity, geography, socioeconomic status, ethnic differences, and international barriers, Baptists find meaning in church week by week.
The local church today faces phenomenal pressures: declines in the regenerate nature of the church; potential violations of local-church autonomy by denominational power surges and confessional control; out-of-control church-growth models that define a church's meaning and value by numerical calculations rather than by how well it worships, fellowships, and engages in ministry; a secularistic society hell-bent on convincing consumers to drink deeply from the wells of gambling, pornography, and a wide array of other addictions and ethical compromises; and the increasing competition of alluring Sunday-based (and for Seventh Day Baptists, Saturday-based) sporting events, TV enticements, and sales at the mall.
Baptists in Colonial America often suffered severely at the hands of the state church just because they tried to form their own free churches. In 1665, the First Baptist Church of Boston adopted the earliest Baptist confession of faith in America. After asserting that "the church being gathered mett with great opposition from the government of the place," the confession boldly declared a wide range of Baptist principles relating to church including the claim, "wee believe Christ is the foundation laid by the father."
"The church's one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord." Baptists of the world, sing it again. Sing it at church. Sing it at home. Sing it in Vacation Bible School, at youth camp, at weddings, and at funerals. Wherever church takes place, one factor must always rise to the top: Jesus Christ is Lord. The Bible supports it. Baptist history and principles rest upon it. The Baptist future hangs on it.
Sources: Charles W. Deweese, The Power of Freedom: First Baptist Church, Asheville, North Carolina, 1829-1997 (Franklin, TN: Providence House Publishing, 1997); Walter H. Burgess, John Smith the Se-Baptist (London: James Clarke & Co., 1911); H. Leon McBeth, A Sourcebook of Baptist Heritage (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1990).
What I Learned in My First Year as a Baptist Female Pastor: The Reverend Bonnie Decuir is pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church, Edison, Georgia, and is a graduate of Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond. She describes what she learned in her first year as the senior pastor of a local Baptist church.
"Some Practical Lessons"
By Bonnie Decuir
Some things I learned, and wish to share, from my first year as a Baptist pastor who happens to be female:
BSB Book Reviews:
BSB presents two reviews of recently published books. The first, Fundamentalism, is written by Fisher Humphreys and Philip Wise, published by Smyth & Helwys. Humphreys is the popular professor of divinity at Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, AL, and Wise, a former student of Humphreys, serves as pastor of Second Baptist Church, Lubbock, TX. The second book, A Piety Above the Common Standard: Jesse Mercer and the Defense of Evangelistic Calvinism, is written by Anthony L. Chute. Chute, who earned a Ph.D. in historical theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and teaches church history at California Baptist University. His book is published by Mercer University Press.
Richard F. Wilson, Chair of the Roberts Department of Christianity of Mercer University reviews Fundamentalism.
The fifth chapter of Fisher Humphreys and
Philip Wise’s good book is where most readers will begin, at least
emotionally. "Fundamentalism and Southern Baptists" is the chapter title.
Readers who pick up Fundamentalism will assume rightly that the
struggle for control of the Southern Baptist Convention that began in 1979,
and the subsequent domination of Southern Baptist life by Fundamentalists in
the 1980s and beyond, provides a strong impetus for the writing of the book.
Daryl Black, assistant professor of history at Auburn University, reviews A Piety Above the Common Standard.
Over the last twenty years, scholars of
Protestantism in the early American republic have explored at length what has
been coined “democratic religion.” Broadly, they have argued that theology
emphasizing human agency and will mirrored broader changes in American life
and as a result came to dominate the new nation’s religious landscape. This
view has evolved into something of a consensus among academics and shapes both
text-book treatments of early national religion and the research agenda for
scholars working in the field. Absent from these studies have been
considerations of the persisting influence of Reformed theology in the
creation of early American social and cultural identity. In A Piety Above
the Common Standard, historical theologian Anthony L. Chute has taken a
long overdue step toward reintroducing Calvinism to the mainstream of early
century American religious history.
The Story of Primitive Baptists: John G. Crowley, a life-long Primitive Baptist with a Ph.D. in history from Florida State, is Professor of History at Valdosta State University and author of Primitive Baptists of the Wiregrass South, 1815 to Present.
"The Antimissionary Missionaries"
By John G. Crowley
The early Primitive Baptists were often tireless
evangelists, preaching in remote areas ignored by their "Missionary"
opponents. Bitter conflicts in the mid 1800s, however, persuaded them that to
be far from the "Missionaries" was to be close to God.
Dates to Note
November 14-15, 2004, CBF of GA Fall Convocation at Christian Fellowship Baptist Church, College Park, GA.
November 21-23, 2004, The Mercer Preaching Consultation, The King and Prince Hotel, St. Simons Island, GA. For details go to www.mercer.edu/baptiststudies and click "Conferences."
27-31, 2005, Centennial Congress of the Baptist World Alliance,
Birmingham, England. To register email
Congress@bwanet.org , phone 703.790.8980, or
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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