"A Monthly Emagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today"
August 2005                Vol. 4  No. 8

Visit The Center for Baptist Studies' Web Site at

Produced by The Center for Baptist Studies, Mercer University

Walter B. Shurden, Executive Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin

Bruce T. Gourley, Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin

Wil Platt, Associate Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin

Table of Contents



I Believe . . . : Walter B. Shurden

         "Beauty in the Pulpit: Becoming"

The Baptist Soapbox: Jon Messer

         "Why is Heritage Important?"

Dispatches From the Frontlines of America's Culture War: Bruce Prescott

         "The Tulsa City Zoo"

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

         "Paul and Jesus"

Baptist Women Ministers You Should Know: Pamela Durso

         "Ella Mitchell"

Writing Local Church History: George Shriver

         "Important Practical Advice for Local Church History Committees"

BSB Book Review:  The Democratization of American Christianity

         by Nathan O. Hatch

         Reviewed  by William E. Hull

BSB Book Review Special:  Courage and Hope: The Stories of Ten Baptist Women Ministers,
Pamela R. and Keith E. Durso

         Reviewed  by Darlene Flaming

Reflections from the BWA Congress: Bruce Gourley


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I Believe

"Beauty in the Pulpit: Becoming"

By Walter B. Shurden


I believe . . .

            as I said last month that beauty in the pulpit comes from preaching out of one’s authentic self, one’s deepest and most genuine being. BUT . . . HOWEVER . . . ON THE OTHER HAND, I also believe that I must work at “becoming” better than who I am. I must develop my authenticity.

            I have been telling students for almost forty years the exact same thing that every college professor tells students about writing papers. We tell them that they need to find their own voice and that they need to write out of who they are, discover their own style, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

            And here is what happens. They work hard on their papers. They turn in their papers on time. We put offensive red marks on their papers. We give their papers back to them. Then they come to us and ask, “What’s WRONG with this paper?” Have you ever in all your life tried to tell first and second year college students what is WRONG with their papers when all the mechanics are correct but the paper itself is absolutely zilch?! Compassion restrains me, but I often want to say back to them, “What is wrong with this paper is that you are coming out of yourself, and there is nothing there! You have found your voice all right, but you need to work at improving this voice or finding another one!”           

            One of the ways that you learn to become a better preacher is to become addicted to PREACHER WATCHING. Everybody knows that we learn to preach by LISTENING to preachers and to some degree by READING preachers, but I want to press for the need of WATCHING preachers.

            Watching inevitably leads to some unconscious imitation. One hopes that it is creative adaptation rather than a Xerox imitation. Incorporating into your own preaching some of how other preachers preach is not a bad thing at all. When students have asked me how they can learn to write, I have told them to read good writers. Learning to watch good preaching with an eye to learning how to preach better is, I am convinced, one avenue to becoming better than who you are. 

            Oh! I know that I have to be myself!  And I know that I cannot be somebody that I am not. But you need to know that I have spent a good portion of my life–maybe as much as thirty-five or forty years–trying to find  the real me that is buried beneath all those layers of copycatting in every part of my life, including my preaching.

            Here is the truth:  the best preaching self that I can generate is a mosaic of all the preachers in my personal history who I thought were “good.” And you cannot begin to name those preachers, simply because you have no idea who they are. I really hope that if someone asks you, “Whom does Walter Shurden preach like?” you would have to say that “Walter Shurden preaches like Walter Shurden.” That is, I think, the ultimate compliment to the preacher.

            But you need to know that I escort a number of preachers into the pulpit every time I preach, and most of you reading this have never heard their names: M. E. Perry, who never graduated from college but who knew how to connect to a congregation when he preached; Perry Claxton, a half-pint of a man with nobody’s earned doctorate but who had fallen in love with the English language; Lewis Rhodes, who first taught me that passion in preaching has nothing to do with clearing away a place and having a fit for thirty minutes on Sunday morning; and  Dan Blake, who was always far more dramatic than I could ever bring myself to be and who made me believe, whether I wanted to or not, that the preacher, whether she knows it or not, is really on stage.

            And those are only the names that you do NOT know. Here are some names that you do know, and they are names that  I stubbornly refuse to excise from my preaching ministry: Harry Emerson Fosdick, J. Wallace  Hamilton, Leslie Weatherhead, Samuel Miller, Don Harbuck, Henri Nouwen, Frederick Buechner, Barbara Brown Taylor, Carlyle Marney, John Claypool, Fred Craddock, and especially, especially for me, Ernest T. Campbell.               

            Here is a hint about preacher watching: watch preachers not to hear simply what they say but how they say it, how they look when they say it, how they use their bodies to say it, how they pause in saying it, where they look when they say it, and what emotions they communicate when they say it.

            If we are not full, you may still have time to register and attend The Mercer Preaching Consultation 2005, September 18-20, at St. Simons Island. You can get in some good “preacher watching” there. For details go to and click “Conferences.” Go to the second conference and see what we'll have.

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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 Jon Messer, Education Coordinator for the Center for Baptist Heritage and Studies in Richmond, Virginia.


"Why is Heritage Important?"

By Jon Messer

“Why is heritage important? Why should we teach it to our children?” I was asked this question several times at the Baptist World Congress meeting in England and I have now formulated an answer. At first, this seemed an odd question. Why wouldn’t we want to teach heritage to our children? Then I began to look around me at the rich heritage of the landscape I was standing on and all the monuments to another time as well as people I did not know. I touched stones that were almost a thousand years old and witnessed the one hundredth gathering of Baptists from around the world. What a shame it would be if no one ever told these stories again. How sad if my son’s generation never heard about the sacrifice of the great Baptist leaders who struggled against an entire culture to secure religious liberty for all, who led the way for me to read and interpret scripture through the Holy Spirit without the need of a priest, and who went throughout the world proclaiming the love of God for all humanity.

            The Center for Baptist Heritage & Studies in Richmond, Virginia has created a new magazine to help families learn about this rich heritage we call Baptist. The new magazine is published four times a year and includes a family guide, collector’s cards, games, activities and stories around one Baptist principle such as religious liberty. The magazine is Heritage Seekers™ and shares two historical stories, a contemporary story and a concept story in every issue. Each component of the magazine is designed with solid educational principles to help children ages 8-12 understand who Baptists are.

            Why children? If we do not recount our heritage to their generation then we will lose the wonderful Baptist heritage that John Bunyan, William Carey, John Smyth, Thomas Helwys, Ann and Adoniram Judson, Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, Lott Cary, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Roger Williams, Luther Rice and many more worked hard to secure. They were proud to be Baptist because of what it meant as well as the change Baptists created within the culture.

            Twenty dollars ($20) a year will help secure Baptist heritage for a future generation. Heritage Seekers™ is a full-color, action packed magazine designed with children in mind. The information that is uncovered in the magazine will help children stand on a solid Baptist foundation while providing fun educational activities for the family to enjoy together. To find out more about this resource or to subscribe, visit, call 804-289-8434 or write Center for Baptist Heritage & Studies, P.O. Box 34, University of Richmond, VA 23173.


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Culture Wars

Dispatches From the Frontlines of America's Culture War:  In recent years, the subject of faith and politics in America has consistently made headlines in secular newspapers as the Religious Right has sought to dismantle the separation between church and state.  Bruce Prescott is the Executive Director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, President of the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and host of the Sunday morning show "Religious Talk" on KREF Radio 1400 AM.


"The Tulsa City Zoo"
By Bruce Prescott


              A recent skirmish in the struggle over relations between religion and the state took place at the city zoo in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  That Tulsa would be a frontline in America’s culture war comes as no surprise.  Before Colorado Springs became a Mecca for fundamentalist para-church organizations, Tulsa was recognized by many as the national center for right-wing Christianity in America.

              Tulsa earned that reputation.  Before it became home to the media ministries of both Oral Roberts and Billy James Hargis, it was the scene of one of America’s deadliest and most devastating incidents of racial violence against a prospering black community (150 killed, 30 city blocks burned to the ground, more than 1000 families left homeless).  The white “conservative” Christians of 1921 Tulsa managed to conceal their city government’s role in that incident so effectively that it remained secret for more than 80 years.

              While Tulsa’s place on the frontlines of the culture war is not surprising, the zoological venue for this salvo and the city’s rapid retreat from the Religious Right’s position was unexpected.

              The skirmish began when Religious Right activist Dan Hicks convinced the city mayor and other members of the Tulsa Parks and Recreation Board that the city should put an exhibit displaying the Bible’s six days of creation at the city zoo.  Hicks contended that a “Christian” exhibit was need to counterbalance both a display that included a depiction of the Hindu elephant god, Ganesha, and a marble globe at the zoo entrance that was inscribed with the Native American saying, “The earth is our mother.  The sky is our father.”

              Once the zoo board’s decision to post the display became public, activists from left, right and center stepped forward to challenge Hick’s exhibit.  Religious activists from the left and center pointed out that the depiction of Ganesha was displayed along with various other cultural images of elephants–including an image of an elephant as the mascot for the Republican Party.  On the right, activists were divided over whether the proposed display should depict young earth creationism or the old earth creationism being advocated by the proponents of the “Intelligent Design.”  Native Americans advised that the different tribes held differing accounts of creation.  Scientists from the range of political and religious perspectives objected that the city’s endorsement of a religious account would undermine their instruction of scientific method and theory. Finally, Americans United for Separation of Church and State wrote the board a letter asking them to cancel the exhibit and ensure that all future exhibits comply with the Constitutional requirement of not having the “ostensible and predominant purpose of advancing religion.”  AU also reminded the board that the Oklahoma State Constitution specifically required that “No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion.”

              In the face of such concerted opposition, the board quickly “clarified” their vote to say that they did not intend to endorse any particular faith and that they had actually planned to give equal display space to “six or seven” creation myths.  Then the board reversed itself and cancelled the creationist exhibit.

              In the end, the Tulsa city zoo proved to be a poor place for the Religious Right to pick a fight in America’s culture wars.  Like the rest of the country, both Tulsa and Oklahoma are clearly more pluralistic and pragmatic than they were in previous decades.  Moderate and progressive religious voices have been slowly gaining strength in Oklahoma and this small success may encourage others to step forward and join in the fray.  The political might of the Religious Right, however, still casts a large shadow over this city and state.

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Hot Topics in Church and State Today:
A Morning with Brent Walker
A Free Conference Co-Sponsored by Mercer University's
Center for Baptist Studies and McAfee School of Theology

September 8, McAfee School of Theology, Atlanta

9:00-9:15      Coffee and Refreshments
9:15-9:30      Welcome and Announcements
9:30-10:15    "Answering the Top Ten Lies about Church and State Today"
                     Brent Walker
10:15-10:30   Questions and Answers
10:30-11:15  "Directing Traffic in Our Nation's Capital at the Intersection of Church and State"
                     Brent Walker
11:15-11:30  Questions and Answers
11:30             Adjournment


September 18-20, St. Simons, Georgia


If you miss this one, you will miss hearing three presentations on preaching by Gardner C. Taylor of Brooklyn, NY, one of the greatest
preachers of our generation. You will also miss John Claypool, Kirby
, Kay Wilson Shurden, Sarah Withers, Hardy Clemons, Jim Evans, Dee Bratcher and Bill Coates. The cost is only $50 per person.  Put it on your calendar now!! Click here for more information.

Last year was sold out before Frances the Hurricane blew us away!


Bible and Poor

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.


"Paul and Jesus"
By Charles E. Poole


            In a few weeks, I will turn fifty.  For more than half of those fifty years, I have been a Baptist minister.  Bearing witness to the cumbersome pace at which I learn is the fact that it is only now, after all these years, that I have come to see the extent to which the church is, in some ways, centered more on Paul than on Jesus. 

            Please don’t mishear me. I love Paul.  Where would we be without Galatians or Philippians? What would we do without I Corinthians 13? How could we live without Romans 8? I love Paul. A lot. But, the fact is, Paul sometimes usurps Jesus as the church’s primary life-shaper. Take the Holy Spirit, for example. Most of our teaching about the Holy Spirit is spent trying to understand Paul’s words about the filling, the grieving and the gifts of the Spirit, with far less focus on John 14-16, where Jesus simply says that the Holy Spirit’s job will be to remind us what Jesus said. Or take salvation. Our understanding of how a person receives eternal life is shaped entirely by Romans 10:9 (“If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”) with no room at all for Luke 10:25-28, where Jesus tells the inquirer that the way to eternal life is to love the Lord with all that is in us and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

            What does all this have to do with Baptists, the Bible and the poor? Just this: A person can worship in some Baptist churches all their life and never once have to truthfully face the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:42 (Give to everyone who begs from you) or in Luke 12:33 (Sell your possessions and give the proceeds to the poor). Such sayings as these have been placed, by the church, in a special category, the “radical” gospel. But the truth is, what Jesus said about the poor is not the voice of “the radical Jesus.” Rather, those are the words of the ordinary, everyday Jesus, the only Jesus we have. Its just that they sound so radical to our ears because they call us to actually live in ways that don’t fit with our culture. So we turn from Jesus to Paul, where we can debate justification and sanctification and spiritual gifts all day without changing how we spend and who we help. Jesus gets edged to the side as radical, in favor of the somewhat more manageable Paul–which leaves one to imagine that Paul himself would be more than a little bewildered by the prominence he sometimes now enjoys over, of all people, Jesus.

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Baptist Women Ministers


Baptist Women Ministers You Should Know:  The writer of this series, Pam Durso, is the Associate Director of the Baptist History and Heritage Society.  According to Pam, "In recent years, I have been privileged to meet and befriend a good number of Baptist women ministers, and I have been inspired by their stories. They have faced opposition and criticism, and yet they have persevered in following God's calling. Their courage has given me hope and has also brought hope to Baptists who dream of a new day when churches will embrace all those whom God has called and gifted for ministry." She, along with her husband Keith, recently co-edited Courage and Hope: The Stories of Ten Baptist Women Ministers.


"Ella Mitchell"
by Pamela Durso


Few Baptist women ministers have had careers as lengthy and as productive as has Ella Pearson Mitchell. Ella was born October 18, 1917, in the parsonage of Olivet Presbyterian Church, Charleston, South Carolina. Her father, Joseph R. Pearson, pastored that church for thirty-eight years. Ella began her ministry when she was eight years old. Riding on the handlebars of her father’s bicycle, she accompanied him on pastoral visits to serve communion to shut-ins.

In 1944, Ella married a Baptist minister, Henry Mitchell. She soon became a Baptist and has been ministering in Baptist circles ever since. Over the course of her ministry, she struggled with her calling. She felt called to preach and knew that she needed to be ordained, yet she faced many obstacles. The biggest stumbling block to ordination was her mother, who was adamantly opposed to female ordination. After her mother died, Ella felt free to pursue ordination. In her sermon “Whom God Chooses, God Uses,” Ella described her call to preach and to ordination: “I continued to resist a call to preach even after seminary preparation, teaching in seminaries, and through the years of delivering the ‘Word.’ Then one Sunday morning [in 1973] fifty years after my first word from the Lord, the Holy Ghost just snatched me out of the pew. I went running down the aisle to tearfully confess my ‘call to preach.’ God insisted and the Holy Spirit moved me to ordination.”[1]

Ella was finally ordained by the Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, California, in October 1978, after having served in Baptist ministry for nearly thirty-five years. The list of Ella’s professional accomplishments, writings, and awards is quite lengthy. Along the way she served as minister of education at the Second Baptist Church in Los Angeles, as associate professor of Christian education at the School of Theology at Virginia Union University, and as the first woman dean of Sisters Chapel at Spelman College. Ella has also edited four volumes of Those Preaching Women and written several other books, including Women: To Preach or Not to Preach.

Now eighty-seven years old, Ella continues to be active in ministry. During the five months from November 2004 to March 2005, she attended the American Academy of Religion meeting in San Antonio, taught a one-week class at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, and participated in the conference held in Nashville by the four largest national African American Baptist denominations. And I know that these are only a few of the places she has been. Her speaking engagements and travels surely exceed the little I know about her schedule.

Although she faced many barriers in ministry and recognized that women continue to face many barriers, Ella remains optimistic. She is confident that the future is bright for Baptist women because the network of supportive male and female pastors is growing and the numbers of female theological students is increasing. Ella also believes that pastors who oppose women ministers often change their minds when a daughter or a strong female church member “hears the call.” “With all of these factors,” Ella notes,  “the future is not as dark as it might have been, and the huge reservoir of God-given gifts among female potential leaders may yet be utilized to save and enrich” Baptist churches.[2]

                [1]Ella Pearson Mitchell, “Whom God Chooses, God Uses,” in Fire in the Well: Sermons by Ella and Henry Mitchell, edited by Jacqueline B. Glass (Valley Forge PA: Judson Press, 2003), 39.

[2]Ella Pearson Mitchell, “Women in the Pulpit, African American,” in Encyclopedia of African American Religions, ed. Larry G. Murphy, J. Gordon Melton, and Gary L. Ward (New York: Garland Publishing, 1993), 851.


Local Church History

Writing Local Church History:  The story of Baptists in America is the stories of local churches of believers.  In the 21st century, more resources than ever are available to help the local church, whether large or small, publish its unique history.  This series of articles spotlights the growing importance of local church history and offers perspective and insight from church historians working in the field of local church history.  This month's contributor is George H. Shriver, Professor of History, Emeritus, Georgia Southern University.

"Important Practical Advice for Local Church History Committees"

By George Shriver

             From the start, it must be urged that a cross-section of committed church members should be appointed to this committee–young and old, male and female, and some educators. It must also be stressed that there be continuity in membership for a three year period, and that plans for the local history be made two to three years in advance of the projected completion date. This is not a project that will tolerate a late beginning.
             Members should be required to read a good local church history as well as a book such as James P. Wind’s Places to Worship. Then, committee discussions should be held in relation to these readings and the kind of history anticipated. The choice of a research writer should follow these preparations. If possible, someone who has done objective yet sympathetic/empathetic writing should be chosen after interviews.
             The committee must also grapple with finding the multiple identities of the congregation existing in pluralistic and rapidly changing contexts. This involves the public and private spheres of congregational life and includes local, denominational, and national histories. No mere chronicle of names, dates, budgets, and pastors will tell the whole story in a truthful and winsome way. The "underside" of history is just as important as the "overside" to reveal the identity of the congregation. Perhaps the committee will choose to request of the writer that important themes (such as discipline, doctrine, education, liturgy, worship) be included in addition to chronology.
             Blessed is the committee and writer who have access to a wide range of documents from the church’s archives. Such archives should include local bulletins, weekly papers, minutes (deacons, congregation, association), Sunday School records, important local and guest (often celebratory) sermons, and contemporary interviews (which can be done by members as well as the writer). All this enters into the project of a truthful and helpful story being told.
             An important part of the process is the selection of a publisher. If at all possible, a "printing" company should be avoided. An agency which has actually had experience in publishing should be contacted. There are some publishers (such as Providence House Publishers in Franklin, TN) which have excellent track records in publishing local church histories. Part of this phase is definitely fund raising for the project. Adequate funding is a "must." The church budget years in advance of the history should have this as a designated entry and a special fund-raising drive should be conducted. Any "leftover" funds and the money made from the sales of the book can certainly be funneled back into the general church budget or to a special item such as the church library.
             The writer will certainly hope for freedom of research and expression but should be open to revision and even addition at points. Perhaps at this juncture it should be pointed out that the committee must compose an appropriate contract for the writer. This contract should include a time-table, an amount to be paid to the writer, and an expense account for the writer. The above general item should also be included as well as an understanding that the committee itself would take on the responsibility of selecting appropriate pictures as well as arranging any professional photography.
             Obviously, this whole project is a "team" effort. The finished product will reflect on the total team and not just the writer. For this reason alone, then, it must be stressed again that a deep commitment to the task is absolutely necessary. This commitment will doubtless result in a beautiful and perceptive product of which the entire church will be proud!          

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Book Review BSB Book Review: 


BSB presents a review of The Democratization of American Christianity, by Nathan O. Hatch, Yale University Press, 1989.


William E. Hull, Research Professor, Samford University, is our reviewer.


            Readers of BSB need to discover or rediscover Nathan Hatch for at least three reasons.  First, on July 1 he became president of Wake Forest University, bringing an explicitly evangelical Presbyterian background to that historically Baptist campus after a brilliant career at Notre Dame that saw him rise rapidly through the ranks to become the chief academic officer of a premier Catholic institution.  Second, his best known book here reviewed quickly garnered a fistful of prestigious awards upon publication that heralded its status as a contemporary classic, chosen by two thousand historians and sociologists as one of the two most important books ever written on American religion.  Third, by delving deeply into the transformation of Christianity during the first half century following national independence, his work has made a major contribution to our understanding of the distinctively American interaction of religion and society which has shaped our approach to church/state relations.

After sketching the post-Revolutionary War context in which political freedom spawned new forms of social freedom, Hatch traces the ways in which five movements thwarted the efforts of entrenched aristocratic elites to replace the defeated British imperial regime:  (1) The independent “Christians,” (2) the early Methodists, (3) the Baptists, (4) the African-Americans, and (5) the Mormons.  As would be expected, we are treated to a fascinating cast of characters such as Alexander Campbell, Francis Asbury, John Leland, Richard Allen, and Joseph Smith.  For all of their differences, these evangelical firebrands represented a new breed of religious leaders who championed lay clergy with little or no formal training, who popularized vernacular preaching and folk hymnody, and who used revivalism to emphasize the power of personal choice in building a bottom-up culture shaped by populist instincts rather than a top-down culture decreed by the landed gentry.

In a word, this process of “democratization” which reached a climax with Charles G. Finney in the 1830s resulted in the “de-Constantinianization” of American Christianity.  There was no way for the classic European model of monolithic state churches to prevail in a climate that disdained hierarchical pretension on the part of clergy, that fostered open competition between a proliferating variety of religious options, and that valorized the sovereignty of the self-made man.  In one sense, separation of church and state was necessary because America quickly became one nation with many Christianities, and Baptists were at the center of this decentralizing dynamic.

So read, or reread, Hatch to understand better a pivotal chapter in that story.  He will help you understand how Baptists and others hammered out a number of indigenous religious sub-cultures in this first era of nation-building.  You will find his book scholarly in substance but graceful in style, a model of compression yet comprehensive in scope.  It is simply amazing how much research in the primary sources he can pack into a single sentence without ever resorting to turgid academic jargon.  We welcome to our Baptist family one who brings the objectivity of an outsider and yet who knows this part of our story far better than most insiders.  Grateful for what he has already given us, we await with eager anticipation the insights of his well-stocked mind as he comes to know us even better.

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Book Review
BSB Book Review Special: 


BSB presents a special book review of the new volume Courage and Hope: The Stories of Ten Baptist Women Ministers, by Pamela R. and Keith E. Durso, Mercer University Press, 2005.


Darlene Flaming, Associate Professor of Christianity, Mercer University, is our reviewer.


In the 1980s Oklahoma Baptist University had two organizations for those called to Afull-time Christian service@: the Ministerial Alliance and the Missionary Fellowship.  The unarticulated assumption and general practice was that the Apreacher boys@ joined the Ministerial Alliance, and everyone else (mainly women) joined the Missionary Fellowship.  This organizational division at OBU mirrored common assumptions among Southern Baptists: God calls men to be ministers and calls women to be missionaries and pastors are the only real ministers.

In the book Courage and Hope, Pamela and Keith Durso bring together ten women whose stories challenge these assumptions, both in terms of whom God calls and what it means to be a minister.  The ministers in this book serve in the pastorate, social ministries, chaplaincy, missions education, theological education, missions, and counseling.  Addie Davis appropriately heads the collection as the first woman ordained as a minister in a Southern Baptist church.  Six of the women wrote their own stories; four were written by the editors or invited authors in cooperation with the minister.  The voices of the women telling their own stories are particularly compelling and sometimes heartbreakingly honest. 

Although each story is unique, many of the same topics arise probably prompted by the editors= suggestions.  The authors usually give family and church background, the sense of calling, and the unfolding of that call throughout the career.  Most address challenges faced by woman ministers and offer examples of responding constructively.  Some explore the decision to remain within the Baptist family, while no longer at home among Southern Baptists.

Some common trends emerge in analyzing the individual stories. Virginia and North Carolina are particularly fertile places for nurturing female Baptist ministers.  Meredith College  can claim three of the ministers as alumnae.  Six women specifically mentioned Girls= Auxiliary or the Young Women=s Auxiliary as a formative part of hearing God=s call.  A quotation included by Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler summarizes the conviction of most of these ministers: Aa call to serve is a call to prepare@ (p. 44).  Nine of women have seminary/masters degrees; three have doctorates.  They sensed the need to be at least as prepared as male ministers, if not more so.  Seven of the women are ordained as ministers. For several of the women, ordination came as affirmation after years of ministry rather than as the conferring of authority at the beginning of ministry.

The stories stand on their own; the editors neither attempt analysis of the narratives nor provide a concluding section.  The introductory chapter briefly examines a history of Baptist women in ministry, the importance of stories in the Christian tradition, and Baptist understandings of ministry and ordination.  This chapter is well-documented in the endnotes and a bibliography of ABaptist Women in the United States@ is included for those seeking greater depth.

Although the editors point out the geographical and ministerial diversity of the women, the group is fairly homogeneous.  Nine are white women; Ella Pearson Mitchell is the only African American.  Nine were raised Southern Baptist, experiencing their call and at least their earliest ministry in that denomination.  Most of these Arecovering Southern Baptists@ now partner with American Baptists, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, or the Alliance of Baptists.  We need to hear the voices of our sisters raised as American Baptists, Seventh Day Baptists, Freewill Baptists, and from a variety of Black Baptist conventions who have also been called by God and who serve as ministers.  There are more stories to tell.  Perhaps Courage and Hope: The Stories of Ten Baptist Women Ministers should be considered volume one.

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Reflections from the Baptist World Alliance Congress
by Bruce Gourley


            Some 13,000 Baptists gathered in Birmingham, England last month for the centenary meeting of the Baptist World Alliance Congress.  The first night of the meeting I sat beside a young man from Africa.  His name tag read "Thomas" (which is also my middle name), but he spoke very little English, so communication was difficult.  In a similar fashion, the Congress as a whole was a reminder that Baptists worldwide share a common faith, despite differences in culture, language, worship styles, and theological emphases.
            Compared to many of our traditional Baptist churches here in America, the worship was more upbeat, the dress more colorful, and the emotion more visible.  The speakers and presenters were representative of Baptists around the globe.  In the main sessions, Rick Warren and Jimmy Carter represented the United States.  Warren issued a call for holistic evangelism, while Carter spoke for unity and challenged Baptists to abolish gender barriers.

            In addition to the plenary sessions, dozens of seminars were also offered.  One in particular stands out in my mind: a panel presentation entitled "Where Will Baptists Be in the Next 100 Years?"  The panel consisted of Baptist leaders from the UK, Italy, Brazil, Nagaland and Canada.  Of course, no one dared offer specific answers to this unknowable question, but nonetheless the conversation was insightful.  I gleaned three main themes from this session:

            1.  The future of Baptists lies in the Southern hemisphere.  Of course, the majority of Christians now live in the Southern hemisphere, and one speaker pegged at 60% the percentage of Baptists living below the equator.  Regardless of the exact numbers currently, it will be interesting to see whether Latin America, Africa or Asia emerges as the leading Baptist continent as the 21st century progresses.

            2.  A theological education crisis is looming.  According to numerous speakers at the Congress, Baptist growth south of the equator is so explosive that there is insufficient infrastructure in the region to adequately train new pastors.  The bulk of educational opportunities currently available for pastoral training (i.e., western seminaries and schools) are simply too distant and too expensive.  New solutions in leadership training in the southern hemisphere are desperately needed.

            3.  Baptists throughout the world are struggling with preserving the Baptist identity. In the 21st century, believer's baptism has become the commonality that holds Baptists together worldwide.
            In short, a new southern Baptist church has emerged, but it is far removed from the narcissistic world of the southern United States and disinterested in the Baptist turf wars in America.


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Dates to


Dates to Note


September 8, "Hot Topics in Church and State Today: A Morning with Brent Walker," McAfee School of Theology, Atlanta, GA.  Co-sponsored by McAfee School of Theology and The Center for Baptist Studies.  Click here for more information, including the Program.


September 18-20, The Mercer Preaching Consultation 2005, The King and Prince Hotel St. Simons Island, GA.  Co-sponsored by McAfee School of Theology and The Center for Baptist Studies.  The Cost is $50 Per Person.  Click here for more information, including the Program.


July 12-15, 2006, International Conference on Baptist Studies IV, Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada.  The Fourth International Conference on Baptist Studies will help to mark the centennial celebrations of the Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches.  The theme is "Baptists and Mission," which includes home and foreign missions, evangelism, and social concern. For more information, contact Professor D. W. Bebbington, Department of History, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4TB, Scotland, United Kingdom (e-mail: For a full calendar of Baptist events, visit the Online Baptist Community Calendar.

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