THE BAPTIST STUDIES BULLETIN
"A Monthly Emagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today"
September 2004 Vol. 3 No. 9
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: Brent Walker
"God is Not a Republican or Democrat"
"The Poor and Our Premises"
"Theological Variety: Should We Celebrate It or Curse It?"
Learned in My First Year as a Baptist Female Pastor:
BSB Book Review Special:
John D. Hendrix's Nothing Never Happens:
Review by Bo Prosser
The Story of Primitive
Baptists: John G. Crowley
Dates to Note: Upcoming Events
By Walter B. Shurden
I believe . . .
that in the great moral struggles of human history passion wins. Like millions of others, I believe that this is a moral universe and that truth and justice are built-in components of our world. I do not believe, however, that truth and justice always prevail in the short run. Nor do I believe that truth and justice stay won. And I certainly do not believe that truth and justice prevail unassisted. They triumph only when passionate people act passionately about issues of truth and justice.
The Baptist cry for religious freedom and separation of church and state eventually prevailed in America because veins in Baptist necks bulged red at the thought of ANY kind of religious discrimination. Truth and justice needed friends. Baptists, along with others, befriended truth and justice.
In the American Revolution passion, not power, won. England, fresh from a victory over France in the Seven Years War, possessed both a powerful army and navy. The colonists, on the other hand, said Ed Gaustad, “had no standing army, no seaworthy navy, no national treasury . . ., and no political unity on which to draw.” Then Gaustad said of the colonists, “All they had in 1776 was a passionate commitment to liberty, both civil and religious.
Like many of you readers I get the Daily Dig from the Bruderhof Communities. If you don’t get it, you could and should subscribe at http://dailydig.bruderhof.org. For September 13, the “Daily Dig” came from courageous journalist I. F. Stone who said,
“The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose,
because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until
someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to
win an important, major fight one hundred years hence, a lot of other
people have got to be willing – for the sheer fun and joy of it – to go right
ahead and fight, knowing you're going to lose. You mustn't feel like a
martyr. You've got to enjoy it.”
What would happen today if Baptists – fundamentalist Baptists, liberal Baptists, conservative Baptists, and moderate Baptists – recovered the unmitigated passion that characterized our humble ancestors for the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States? Here is what would happen:
We would demand that the freedom we passionately won for ourselves be gladly granted to all people, not simply people like ourselves.
We would demand that Caesar not make an establishment of “the Judaeo-Christian tradition.”
We would remind our fellow citizens that this is a secular republic, not a theocratic state.
We would implore churches to keep their hands out of Caesar’s trough for dollars to supplement Christ’s ministry.
We would support the First Freedoms Project of Baptists Today, the Associated Baptist Press, and the Baptist Joint Committee. (See John Pierce’s article in the August issue of The Baptist Studies Bulletin.)
We would fight and we would lose. But we would continue to fight passionately so that truth and justice would have a chance.
For me, one of the saddest lines in all of Holy Scripture comes from the little fellow with the one talent: “I was afraid and I went and hid your talent in the ground.”
Fear loses. Passion wins.
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. Brent Walker, Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs.
"God is Not a Republican or Democrat"
By Brent Walker
Ten years ago the Baptist Joint Committee issued a statement declaring that “efforts to make a candidate’s religious affiliation or non-affiliation a campaign issue” should be discouraged. In that spirit, we condemned attempts to invoke “divine authority on behalf of candidates, policies and platforms and the characterization of opponents as sinful or ungodly.”
These admonitions appear to have fallen on deaf ears. Many continue to associate Christianity with the GOP and conclude that God is going to pull the cosmic lever (or touch screen) for George W. Bush. For example, Jerry Falwell has been reported as saying: “It is the responsibility of every … evangelical Christian … to get serious about re-electing President Bush.” (New York Times, July 16, 2004) In the same vein, Pat Roberson has declared: “I think George Bush is going to win in a walk. I really believe I’m hearing from the Lord. ... The Lord has just blessed him. … It doesn’t make any difference what he does, good or bad.” (AP/Fox News, January 2, 2004)
In response to such foolish (indeed heretical) assertions, forty Christian leaders and forty thousand citizens signed a statement titled, “God is Not a Republican Or a Democrat.” Originally published in the New York Times on August 30, the petition said in part:
affirmation of his policies, and assertions that all Christians must vote for
his re-election constitute bad theology and dangerous religion.
We believe that sincere Christians and other people of faith can choose to
vote for President Bush or Senator Kerry – for reasons deeply rooted in
We believe that all candidates should be examined by measuring their
policies against the complete range of Christian ethics and values.
We will measure the candidates by whether they enhance human life,
human dignity, and human rights; whether they strengthen family life
and protect children; whether they promote racial reconciliation
and support gender equality; whether they serve peace and social
justice; and whether they advance the common good rather than only
individual, national, and special interests. ...
to a more thoughtful involvement in this election, rather than claiming
God’s endorsement of any candidate.”
of faith – proceeding in good
faith and for essentially religious reasons - can come to different
conclusions about whom to vote for and what policies to support. As the
evangelical theologian Carl F. H. Henry once said, “There is no one direct
line from the Bible to the ballot box.”
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.
"The Poor and Our Premises"
By Charles E. Poole
I have been a minister since 1977. Across the last few of those 27 years, whenever the churches I served wanted to build, buy, acquire, enlarge or renovate facilities, I was always haunted by this question: “Wouldn’t those dollars be better spent lifting the lives of the poor and powerless?”
There is an assumption behind that question. The assumption, obviously, is that spending money here means not spending money there. Spending money on this means not spending money on that, because there isn’t enough money to spend it here and there; to pay for this and that.
My friends who know infinitely more than I about economics have tried, patiently and repeatedly, to deliver me from this flawed reasoning. They tell me that whenever the church makes its buildings bigger, more people will come, generating more giving to the church, which thus enables the church to give more to the true gospel missions of caring for the poor, the broken, the outcast and the defenseless.
But I’m not so sure. Here’s why: I live in a city where, by the most conservative calculation, forty million dollars worth of new church building, enlarging, renovating, etc. has happened in the last five years. But I receive calls almost every week from various faith-based helping agencies in need of money to meet urgent human needs, needs that they want to meet in the name and spirit of Christ, needs they can’t meet because they don’t have enough funds. Which tells me that there is not enough money for churches to “do it all,” and which also tells me that when churches “enlarge the bucket” by expanding their facilities, most of what goes in that bigger bucket gets used on bigger staffs, bigger programs, bigger insurance, custodial and utility bills; which results in churches with huge institutional maintenance budgets, which does, ultimately, reduce what they are able to spend on the very things Jesus called us to give ourselves to.
I’m not an economist. But I am a preacher of the gospel, and, as a preacher, I wish that I, and others like me, had done a better job of leading our churches to be content with our possessions, so that we would have more to help those who struggle in our nation and starve in other nations. You’d think we Baptists would come to such conclusions naturally, what with us being so big about the Bible and all. But the truth is, all our protestations of Baptist biblicism notwithstanding, we simply have not embraced, as congregations, the biblical principle that “those who have much should not have too much, so that those who have little will not have too little” (II Corinthians 8:14-15).
We can’t have it all and do it all. The money runs out. Something gets funded and something else doesn’t. So we have to choose. But where do we start? I don’t know.
How about at Matthew 25: 31-46?
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.
"Theological Variety: Should We Celebrate it or Curse It?"
By Charles W. Deweese
Theological variety dominates the global Baptist landscape. That pattern started in the 1600s. The General Baptists defended a general atonement for all, but the Particular Baptists advocated a limited atonement for the elect. Most Baptists worshipped on Sunday, but the Seventh Day Baptists claimed that Saturday was the right day to worship. Many Baptists favored closed communion; others preferred open communion. Some chose to lay hands on all baptized believers; others objected.
Today is no different. Several dozen varieties of Baptists reside in the United States. Theological differences characterize these bodies. Some view women's ordination as anti-biblical; others view it as a natural extension of Christ's teachings. Some would go to the stake in the name of biblical inerrancy; others claim that biblical writers were as human as we are today, equally prone to mistakes. Some hate abortion but love capital punishment; others respect abortion in certain cases and speak against capital punishment. Some recommend relationships with Baptists around the world; others prefer to separate themselves into isolated bodies. Some want to recite the Apostles' Creed at the 2005 Baptist World Congress meeting in Birmingham, England; others will undoubtedly resist that effort. Some advocate church-state separation; others would merge the two in a New York minute. The list of theological differences among Baptists is possibly endless.
To the outsider, Baptists must sometimes appear to be theologically confused, a people with no doctrinal standards and no sense of identity. Candidly, Baptists themselves struggle with the same concerns. But which is better: mindless robotic conformity to someone else's notions about faith or faith hammered out on the anvils of personal encounters with Christ, intellectual study, church worship and discipleship, and sacrifice—even if theological variety results? When Baptist individuals or organizations arrive at different conclusions about theology, they are simply responding to the claims of God to be honest about who they are and what they believe.
Theological variety exists primarily because Baptists are a freedom-based group of Christians for whom voluntarism, nonconformity, and dissent are essential elements of faith. Created in God's image, they use their unique God-given abilities to fashion their own lives under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. As souls competent before God and united in a priesthood of all believers, they read the Bible and make their own choices about ethics and ministry. Churches, associations, conventions, fellowships, unions, federations, and alliances autonomously decide on mission statements, programs, budgets, and personnel. In liberty, Baptists write their own confessions of faith, or choose to let the Bible be their sole guide.
Theological variety is a good thing. The alternative would be doctrinal conformity and uniformity, forced faith, and top-down theology, all anti-Baptist concepts. The chief enemy of theological variety is the arrogant claim to hold a monopoly on God's revelation; then that claim twists revelation into a self-serving pattern and forces that pattern in roughshod fashion onto the principles of others. Ironically, such efforts to insist on lockstep, do-as-I-say theology only enhance theological variety.
In freedom, every Baptist has the right and duty, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, in the context of a Bible study class, or sitting alone under a tree, to arrive at personal decisions. No two individuals will reach exactly the same conclusions, and no Sunday School teacher, preacher, seminary professor, or denominational executive committee has the right to expect that they will or should. Christ simply says, "Whoever would be my disciple, let that person deny self, take up a personal cross, and follow me." He does not say, "Straighten out your belief system and then come and follow me." That's good news, indeed. Let's celebrate.
What I Learned in My First Year as a Baptist Female Pastor: The Reverend Wendy Joyner is longtime pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church, Americus, Georgia. She describes what she learned in her first year as the senior pastor of a local Baptist church.
"Surprising Lessons of a Great Adventure"
By Wendy Joyner
Nine years ago, I embarked on one of the greatest adventures of my life. Filled with much fear and trepidation, I headed to a small church in Southwest Georgia. I knew that I had found a home among the members of my congregation, but I was certainly unsure of the kind of reception I would receive in the larger community. The lessons I learned that first year were surprising.
I learned that when people are hurting, most of the time your gender is irrelevant to them. The ministry that you offer in the name of Christ is what matters the most. Rather than theological arguments, church doctrines, or long held tradition, people will remember your love and your kindness in their hour of need.
I learned that my colleagues in ministry would be my life line. I was also surprised at the colleagues who became my most treasured friends. When I first moved to Americus, people made a point to introduce me to other “women preachers” in the area. Some of these become quick friends, and others did not – just because we were women did not mean that we would automatically have much in common. Conversely, upon my arrival in town, I met two male pastors from more theologically conservative congregations. My assumption was that we would not get along at all, but once we moved past our prejudices, we discovered that we shared much in common. Our theological conversations are often lively, but we have come to respect the ministries that all of us share in the Body of Christ. These two men are among my closest friends, and also two of my biggest supporters.
I realized that it’s important to make a place for the next generation of ministers to gain experience. One of my biggest challenges in starting to preach each week was my lack of pulpit experience. Due to the fact that in 1995, few Baptist churches in my area were inviting women to preach, I had never preached a sermon outside of a classroom before my trial sermon! Since I began serving here, we have made it a priority to help other women who are called to pastor. We have invited a female seminary student to preach at our church one Sunday each spring. These worship services help to give women students experience and encouragement as they begin their ministry.
As a female in a male-dominated profession, people are often curious about how life is for those of us who are “pioneers.” My favorite question is “What’s it like being a woman pastor?” I often answer, “I can’t really compare it to anything else – it’s the only kind of pastor I’ve ever been!” Although being a woman pastor gives me a distinct point of view and provides some unique experiences, most of the important lessons I learned in my first year as a woman pastor were lessons that any first-year pastor learns.
BSB Book Review Special:
John D. Hendrix has been a significant name in Baptist education circles for a
number of years. Before becoming the Basil Manly Professor of Christian
Education at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, he
was a catalyst for creativity at the Baptist Sunday School Board in Nashville.
After his teaching years at Southern, he became the pastor of Northside
Baptist Church in Clinton, MS. He is now retired and writing.
This month the BSB highlights his new Smyth & Helwys book,
Nothing Never Happens: Experiential
Learning and the Church.
The reviewer is Bo Prosser, Coordinator of Congregational Life, Cooperative
In Nothing Never Happens:
Experiential Learning and the Church, John D. Hendrix, former Basil Manly Jr.
Professor of Christian Education at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and
recently retired pastor from Northside Baptist Church in Clinton, Mississippi,
delivers his “magnum opus” for those of us who have been patiently waiting.
Hendrix, hero to a generation of Christian educators and teaching/preaching
pastors, shares a detailed study of “experiential learning.” Anyone who has
ever journeyed in learning with John has longed for a text of his thoughts. He
delivers in the masterful style that his students expect.
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.
"Washing the Saints' Feet"
By John G. Crowley
Continental Anabaptists began to practice ritual feetwashing as part of their effort to restore the primitive church. Some General Baptists adopted the practice in England. The Particular Baptists mulled over the subject from time to time without actually doing it. The Separate Baptists of North Carolina took up feetwashing along with the holy kiss, devoting infants, anointing with oil, laying hands on all the baptized, and love feasts. Of these customs, only feetwashing survived and spread among the Baptists of the South. By the 1820s, Baptists of the Gulf South widely observed "washing the saints' feet" as an adjunct to communion, with occasional observance among the Baptists of the Carolinas.
With the Missions division, "footwashing" became yet another field of combat for the two factions. With a few exceptions, Missionary Baptists discarded footwashing as an overly literal observance with no deep roots in the Particular Baptist tradition. The Primitive Baptists of the Deep South responded by elevating footwashing to the level of an ordinance of the church, on a par with baptism and communion. Footwashing became an integral part of the communion service in these churches, and many associations altered their articles of faith to include washing the saints' feet as a perpetual ordinance.
There the matter rested until the early twentieth century, when Ford and Macadam brought Primitive Baptists together from across the United States. The brethren of the Deep South discovered to their horror that their co-religionists from the upcountry either did not wash feet at all, or did so only occasionally. This issue became engrafted on several other controversies swirling through the denomination in the 1920s and 1930s, with a major rupture taking place in Georgia and Alabama in 1936. Until the 1990s, those states contained a galaxy of rather large Primitive Baptist associations who refused to have anything to do with the other Primitives because they endorsed "optional footwashing."
Dates to Note
September 23-25, 2004, "God, Democracy and U.S. Power: Believers Church Perspectives," hosted by Eastern Mennonite University and Bridgewater College, Virginia. For more information, go to http://www.emu.edu/churchandpolitics/ or call Cindy Smoker at (540) 432-4597.
September 26-28, 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."
November 14-15, 2004, CBF of GA Fall Convocation at Christian Fellowship Baptist Church, College Park, GA.
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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