"A Monthly Emagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today"
February 2005                Vol. 4  No. 2

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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

         "The Supreme Religious Challenge"

The Baptist Soapbox: James L. Evans

         "A Gospel Both Personal and Social"

History of the Baptist World Alliance: Richard V. Pierard

         "Concern for the Whole Person: Baptist World Alliance Relief Work"

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

         "Steep Jesus, Not Sweet Jesus"

Focus on Collegiate Ministry: R. Kirby Godsey

         "Embodying Healthy Religious Devotion"

BSB Book Review:  A Pilgrimage of Faith: My Story, by Henlee Hulix Barnette

         Reviewed  by E. Glenn Hinson

Dates to Note: Upcoming Events


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I Believe

"The Supreme Religious Challenge"

By Walter B. Shurden


I believe . . .
that Dr. Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, is right when he says that “globalization is summoning the world’s great faiths to a supreme challenge.” And that supreme challenge comes in the form of a question:  “Can we recognize God’s image in one who is not in my image?” (The Dignity of Difference, p.17).

            What do Baptists, that small and noisy band of only one segment of only one of the world’s great religions, bring to the table of interfaith dialogue?  Do we Baptists have anything at all of value to say? I think so, and I believe that Baptist theologian Charles Kimball said much of it back in 2002 in his deservedly popular book, When Religion Becomes Evil

            I always thought it instructive to turn Kimball’s title on its head and to read his book from the point of view of When Religion Becomes Healthy. For while Kimball described some “evil” characteristics of religion in his book, he also inevitably sketched the outline of  “good,” “positive,” and “healthy” religion. In his closing chapter he said, "As we have explored each of the warning signs of corrupted religion, we have seen how correctives were always present within each tradition. Our study of the pathological has helped to elucidate the healthy” (187). I fear this aspect of his book was overlooked. What does religion look like when it becomes healthy?

            1.  Kimball said, “Freedom of religion is a good thing. So is freedom from the religion others may wish to impose on those who differ” (25).  Healthy religion is religion free from coercion.

            2.  Kimball said, “The uncritical mixing of religious, political, military, and economic realms in the missionary conquests . . . contradicts the cherished principle of the separation of church and state” (63). Healthy religion advocates some separation between religion and government.  

            3.  Kimball said, “. . . blind obedience is a sure sign of corrupt religion. Beware of any religious movement that seeks to limit the intellectual freedom and individual integrity of its adherents. When individual believers abdicate personal responsibility and yield to the authority of a charismatic leader or become enslaved to particular ideas or teachings, religion can easily become the framework for violence and destruction” (72). Healthy religion protects and affirms the conscience of the individual.

            4. Kimball said of Aum Shinrikyo, the religious sect that released deadly nerve gas in sixteen Tokyo subway stations in 1995, “Aum Shinrikyo provided little room for independent opinions or debate among adherents” (82). Healthy religion provides not only for independent opinions but for “debate among adherents.”

            5. Kimball said, “Dangers abound when people take direction uncritically from religious authorities” (84). Healthy religion provides for the Priesthood of ALL Believers.

            6.  Kimball said, “The more the power and authority are focused in one or a few people, the higher the likelihood of abuse” (94). Healthy religion allows each a voice.

            Do you understand why I once told Charles Kimball that I thought he was unaware of how Baptist a book he had written?

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A Day with Fisher Humphreys:  April 19, 2005
"Theological Trends Today"
The Center for Baptist Studies / Mercer University, Macon, GA

Open Theism / Calvinism / Fundamentalism / Forgiveness

Humphreys is Professor of Divinity at the Beeson School of Divinity of Samford University.

Calvinism is resurgent in southern Protestant church life today, and many laypeople find it confusing and distressing, not necessarily in that order. In this session we’ll define Calvinism, briefly review its history, examine the biblical claims for and against it, and outline an alternative to it.

Theological Trends Conference Fee is Only $25 Per Person

View Program      Seating is Limited – Make Your Reservations Today!

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 Jim Evans, pastor of First Baptist Church, Auburn, Alabama, and author of the popular weekly "Faith Matters" column published in the Birmingham Post-Herald.


"A Gospel Both Personal and Social"

By James L. Evans


             A reader of my weekly Birmingham Post-Herald column chided me recently for promoting a social gospel. It’s a complaint I have heard before. Going all the way back to my ordination, one of the pastors on the council warned me about the dangers of the social gospel. It was only later that I learned what it meant. The social gospel is the idea that the church should make social applications of the teaching of Jesus Christ.

             Social-gospelers have accomplished some amazing things. They helped abolish slavery in the nineteenth century. After the Civil War they helped pass child labor laws and were advocates for the poor before there was a safety net. The social gospel was at least partly involved the 1960s war on poverty, the anti-war movement during the Vietnam era, and the civil rights movement.

             There has always been resistance to a social application of the gospel. Evangelicals, even before they were called that, expressed suspicion about the idea of “social evil.” In the world of evangelical theology every thing depends on the individual and his or her personal decision. Salvation for the world depends on the one at a time salvation of every individual person.

             This is one reason evangelicals actively take on social issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, pornography, gambling, sexual practices, and abortion. All of these represent individual behaviors which evangelicals feel enormously empowered to address and condemn. And they are not entirely wrong in their concerns. What alcohol abuse, gambling and pornography have done to marriages and families is well attested.

             But their failure to appreciate how social forces contribute to these issues makes their efforts to combat them ineffective and in many cases just plain mean. Men and women trapped in destructive behaviors are not always helped by a just say no message of condemnation. What does help is to learn that God cares for them and is at work trying to change the situation that contributes to their misery.

             The way this plays out in practical terms may sound something like this. Poverty is not the result of flaws in the economy or unfairness in the market place, the evangelicals tell us. Poverty exists because individual persons make bad financial decisions. Obviously there is some truth to this claim, but it does not account for all poverty. The creation and distribution of wealth, jobs, education, and so forth are social forces that have the power to create and maintain poverty.

             The failure to understand the social sources of poverty restricts our ability to do anything about the effects of poverty. Our effort to help the poor gets reduced to mere acts of charity. And while charity may help in the short run, it cannot break the forces that create and sustain poverty in the first place. The apostle Paul understood this. He wrote that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but rather with powers that lie beyond the reach of individual decision.

             Ideally we should be able to hold both pieces together. Spiritual truth and discipline begin as individual decisions, but they survive and thrive because of the support of a believing community. We may see ourselves as lonely pilgrims on a journey of faith, but if we look around, the traffic is pretty heavy on the road we travel.

             Frightening powers of hate and greed and prejudice thrive in our society and have an impact on us greater than our individual efforts to resist them. Only a force of equal or greater strength will be able to stare these demons down. I believe that such a force exists in a believing community that is committed to both personal piety and social justice. Consequently, a promoter of a social gospel I will remain.


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A new feature of The Center for Baptist Studies web site,
designed to assist you in communicating Baptist traditions
in your local church setting, including:

Preaching Helps / Sermon Ideas / Pastor Search Committee Helps
Sunday School Lessons / Baptist Heritage Week / Children's Material
Wednesday Night Programs / Writing a Local Church History / More

Click here to View Our Collection of Resources For Your Local Church


History of the Baptist World Alliance: The Baptist World Alliance is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.  Richard V. Pierard is Stephen Phillips Professor of History, Gordon College, Wenham, Massachusetts and Professor of History, Emeritus, Indiana State University. The author of numerous books and articles, Dick is the general editor of the upcoming Baptists Together! 1905-2005: Centennial History of the Baptist World Alliance. Learned and well traveled, he is an ecumenical Christian with firm Baptist convictions.


"Concern for the Whole Person: Baptist World Alliance Relief Work"
By Richard V. Pierard


            This is the second essay reflecting on the history of the Baptist World Alliance, following the theme of “Ecumenism Baptist-style."  Although the BWA had been founded in 1905 to bring Baptists closer together, World War I put an enormous strain on these relations.  Assisting in post-war reconstruction brought Baptists back together.  The Executive Committee, in October 1919, decided to send a survey team comprised of American (Northern) Baptist Charles A. Brooks and British Baptist J. H. Rushbrooke to the European continent to renew contacts with Baptists and determine the needs there.

            They reported on July 20, 1920 to the Conference on Post-War Needs that the BWA had organized in London.  Their report shaped BWA relief policy, which included giving material assistance to needy people, strengthening theological facilities, apportioning cooperative efforts with local European Baptists among the various foreign mission boards, and creating a Commissioner for Europe to oversee relief work.  Rushbrooke, a man with wide ecumenical connections and much experience in peace work, assumed this post, and the relief activities in Europe over the next few years rejuvenated the BWA and sharpened its international focus.

            This social vision was renewed after World War II.  In 1943 the Executive Committee formed a committee on World Emergency Relief to coordinate Baptist efforts in the devastated countries and provide guidance to the constituent bodies in carrying out work.  Over the next two years the BWA followed through in planning and working with denominational and other relief endeavors like CARE.  In 1946 General Secretary Walter O. Lewis was named the BWA’s “special representative” to deal with Baptists in Europe on relief matters, and two years later he was reassigned to spend full time on this effort.

            Large amounts of money were channeled to the German Baptists, and a staff person oversaw efforts in Occupied Germany.  The BWA was deeply involved in the resettlement of Displaced Persons in the US and Canada, and Adolf Klaupiks, a Latvian Baptist pastor and DP himself, headed the effort under the supervision of the BWA Relief Committee, whose president was Memphis pastor R. Paul Caudill.  When the DP program ended, the BWA efforts were redirected to refugee work and direct aid to needy people in various countries.  As the sums of money for relief needs flowing into the BWA office steadily increased, a reorganization occurred in 1961 and Klaupiks was named Coordinator of Relief. 

The endeavor was brought under more direct control in 1968, when North American Baptist Frank Woyke was named an associate secretary and world relief was put under direct administrative supervision.  In the 1970s it was made a “Division” and its head a “Director.” In1981 the program was renamed Baptist World Aid, and it now receives annually nearly a million dollars in contributions for relief and development work.  The current director is Paul Montacute from England.  Following the recent tsunami disaster, $660,000 in donations flowed into BWAid and is now being channeled to Baptist efforts in the stricken areas.

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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. Put it on your calendar now!!  Registration information coming soon.

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.


"Steep Jesus, Not Sweet Jesus"
By Charles E. Poole

            In churches that keep faith with the Christian calendar and the common lectionary, February 6 will be Transfiguration of the Lord Sunday, and the gospel lesson will be Matthew’s report of the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain. 

            The central moment in that mysterious passage comes when the voice of God commands from the cloud, “This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5) And, with those final three words, the Mount of Transfiguration becomes one steep hill.  “Listen to him.” To listen to Jesus is a steep, stern, demanding assignment.  After all, if the four gospels are to be trusted, to listen to Jesus is to hear such things as these:


“Do not resist an evildoer.”

“If anyone strikes you on one cheek, turn the other also.”

“If someone sues you for your coat, give them your sweater also.”

“Love your enemies, and pray for those who hurt you.”


Still listening?  There’s more:


“You cannot serve God and wealth.”

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.”

“A person’s life does not consist of the abundance of their possessions.”

“None of you can become my disciples if you do not give up all your possessions.”

“Go, sell your possessions, give the money to the poor, then come follow me.”


            Well, you see what I mean.  When the voice from the cloud says, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him,” all of a sudden the Mount of Transfiguration gets steep.  The one to whom we are to listen is more “steep Jesus” than “sweet Jesus.”  His words don’t fit our ways.  Our ways don’t fit his words.  In an odd sense, Jesus, who is our Savior, is also our problem.  He is our problem in the sense that we have to duck, dodge and dilute his words in order to keep on doing life in ways that work in the real world. 
            That’s where the church comes in.  For our purposes here, that is where the Baptist church comes in.  It’s time for Baptist churches to embrace the fact that the Bible is the church’s book to follow before it is an individual’s book to obey.  Baptist congregations need to make congregational decisions that are true to the words of Jesus before we challenge individuals to conform their personal lives to the ways of Jesus.  When, for example, it comes to the Bible and the poor, Baptist congregations should make Christ-centered corporate decisions about investing their resources in the lives of those who live in the most desperate circumstances. Then the church can, with integrity, invite individuals to be content with their homes and cars so that they can use some of their money to lift the fallen and comfort the struggling and relieve the poor.
            The command from the cloud atop the mysterious mountain was, “This is my Son. Listen to him.” Somebody has to go first.  It stands to reason that it should be the church, what with the Bible being the church’s book and Jesus being the church’s Lord.  That way, individual believers can begin to say, “You know, when it comes to following Jesus, I’m just not there yet.  But my church is.  When it comes to things like war and peace and wealth and poverty, I can’t quite listen to Jesus yet.  But, thank God, I belong to a church that can and does.”

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Focus on Collegiate Ministry: As the moderate Baptist movement continues to grow and expand, emphasis on collegiate ministry is slowly taking shape at a time when traditional Baptist Student Union / Baptist Campus Ministry models are facing unprecedented challenges. This series, featuring writers who know Baptist collegiate ministry, focuses on the future of moderate Baptist collegiate ministry. This month's contributor is R. Kirby Godsey, President of Mercer University.

"Embodying Healthy Religious Devotion"

By R. Kirby Godsey

            College students, like the societies and communities from which they come, are being bombarded with bad religion. In our time, religion has become a major social malady and none of the great world religions has been able to avoid this treacherous demise. It is not uncommon for the college experience to shine light on the strains of manipulation and even control that have become so persuasive in religious training. Young minds often decide that no religion at all is better than the mental and moral control that has been fostered under the guise of mindless devotion to a certain religious ideology.
            The focus of collegiate ministries should not be either to replicate an empty, vacuous, irrational religious devotion or to try to compensate for the intellectual experience in college that is loosing the bonds of religious control by assuring students that, even in the face of their new intellectual freedom, they should eschew all doubts and remain faithful to their beliefs.
            The real challenge of collegiate ministry lies not in holding back the shaking of the foundations but to embrace the storm and to walk alongside students as they search for more reliable religious moorings. The focus of campus ministry should not be simply to encourage students to hold onto religion as sentimental devotion. To the contrary, ministry in the context of the University experience should enable students to discover that there is no contradiction between sound religion and intellectual inquiry. Whenever free inquiry bumps up against the boundaries of religious affirmation, let the boundaries be moved. The journey of religious devotion cannot be sustained by blind allegiance to any religious doctrine. Religious devotion, if it is to endure, must embrace the whole person, including the mind and the spirit. Our work as college ministers and chaplains must be to help students integrate the life of faith and the life of inquiry. Believing cannot be sustained at the expense of thinking and thought does not require the diminution of belief.
            College ministry today can play a critical and constructive role in the whole of the collegiate experience. The new-found freedom which accompanies going to college carries both profound opportunities for mental and spiritual growth and serious hazards to students’ health and wellbeing. The college ministry needs to live out a healthy religion that is open to inquiry and the search for truth wherever that search may lead.
            At the same time, college ministry faces the growing challenge of providing support and counsel for students who are exploring an entirely new array of lifestyle options that knock on the doors of college students. Helping students come to terms with responsible choices regarding drugs, alcohol, sex, and the Internet represents a high mountain to climb for collegiate ministry. Interpreting the hazards with candor, and helping students engage in responsible decision making, as well as serving as a resource for students who become caught in the spiral of self-destructive behavior are crucial dimensions of a college ministry in today’s world.
            The high calling of college ministry can make enormous contributions to the quality and character of the undergraduate experience. In order to do so, college ministers must be bold enough to see their own role in partnership with the larger learning community. The challenge is not to provide a haven from inquiry but to embody the kind of religious devotion that respects learning and inquiry and to build a reservoir of hope and courage for students as they face, often for the first time, the choices implicit in a life where they must exercise both freedom and responsibility.

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Book Review BSB Book Review: 

BSB presents a review of A Pilgrimage of Faith: My Story, by Henlee Hulix Barnette.

E. Glenn Hinson, Professor Emeritus of Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, Senior Professor of Church History and Spirituality at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, Visiting Professor of Church History at Lexington Theological Seminary, and Adjunct Professor of Church History at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary, reviews A Pilgrimage of Faith, published by Mercer University Press, 2004.

            Not many nonagenarians will tell their life story with the clarity and precision with which Henlee Barnette has told his at age ninety-one.  Not many, of course, will have such a story to tell, either.  Nor will many be gifted with the sense of humor which makes this autobiography so engrossing that once you start reading it, you can hardly put it down.
            Many students of Henlee Barnette will have heard snippets of the story he has included–how he started to work at Cannon Mills in Kannapolis, North Carolina, at age thirteen for eighteen cents an hour; how he began high school at age twenty-two, the same year he became a pastor at Frog Hollow; how he went to Wake Forest College at age twenty-six; how he took up the challenge of Clarence Jordan to minister to people in Louisville’s Haymarket area from 1941 to 1945; how two sons took opposite approaches to Vietnam, John serving in the army and Wayne fleeing to Canada and Sweden; how he caught flak for inviting Martin Luther King, Jr., to speak at Southern Seminary in 1961; how he met Nikita Krushchev on a trip to the Soviet Union.  Even as a long time colleague, however, I found much in the Barnette pilgrimage I didn’t know.  Henlee was not the kind of person who went around bragging about his achievements.  He characteristically went about the task of seeking justice and pursuing peace quietly, without fanfare.
             This autobiography does much more than share with us the story of a remarkable person who came from the wings to the center of the stage to play a leading role in a Baptist and an American drama.  It also opens to us a larger story, one about a people called Baptist, and how churches and schools contributed to the forming of a man of great spiritual depth and integrity who could play his part with lasting effect.  It’s a story about a pastor named Wade James, who, with only an eighth grade education himself, insisted that Henlee Barnette get an education.  It’s about Wake Forest College and teachers like William L. Poteat, Olin T. Binkley, and A.C. Reid, who inspired a naturally curious mind to ask still bigger questions.  It’s about The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and scholars such as John R. Sampey, William O. Carver, W. Hersey Davis, J.B. Weatherspoon, and, once again, O.T. Binkley, who challenged him to assume a prophet’s mantle in a culture stonewalled against change in its ways of thinking and acting.  It’s about some ordinary saints in the Haymarket like Asenath Brewster, missionary extraordinaire, and the Randles family, all blind, who assisted him in his ministry there.  It’s about Walter Rauschenbusch, on whom Barnette wrote his doctoral dissertation, and Clarence Jordan and M.L. King, Jr., with whom he linked arms in a fight for civil rights.
             A Pilgrimage of Faith
is an inspiring story, but it has some very sad parts.  Perhaps the most grievous for someone who has been privileged to share a considerable stretch in Henlee Barnette’s pilgrimage is what has happened to the people who brought Henlee Barnette to a vital Christian faith, nurtured him, ordained him, and sustained him in his ministry.  Where will prophets come from in a denomination which has shut down searching?  Among his final petitions as he finished his autobiography was this: “Let me die thinking.  I have always had a hunger to know more.  Here we see things ‘through a glass darkly.’ No one has all this truth.”

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13 Day Baptist Heritage Tour         July 25 - August 6, 2005
Birmingham, England

The Baptist Heritage Tour includes the Centennial Congress of the Baptist World Alliance.
It is organized by Dr. Drayton Sanders, Chairman, Baptist Heritage Council of Georgia.
Dr. Johnny Pierce of Baptists Today and Dr. Walter Shurden of The Center
for Baptist Studies will accompany the tour.  For information contact
Dr. Drayton Sanders at 706-226-2349 or at

Dates to


Dates to Note


February 21-23, William H. Self Preaching Lectures, Cecil B. Day Hall, Mercer University, McAfee School of Theology, Atlanta, GA.  Speaker: Joanna M. Adams, Pastor of Morningside Presbyterian Church.  Topic: "To Speak of God: The Challenge and Purpose of Preaching." For more information, go to


February 23-26, "Current" Young Leaders Retreat, First Baptist Church, Asheville, NC.  Contact


February 25-26, Mainstream Baptist Network Convocation, Atlanta, GA.  Theme: "Envisioning a New Day in Baptist Life." For more information and to register, go to


March 4-5, CBF of Georgia General Assembly, First Baptist Church, Rome, GA.  Dr. Charles E. Poole, speaker.  For more information go to


June 2-4, Baptist History and Heritage Society Annual Meeting.  Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama.  Theme: "Women in Baptist History."


June 30 - July 1, CBF National General Assembly.  Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center, Grapevine, TX.


July 27-31, 2005, Centennial Congress of the Baptist World Alliance, Birmingham, England. To register email , phone 703.790.8980, or fax 703.893.5160.

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Baptist Myths: A New Pamphlet Series

A series of eleven pamphlets that address negative perceptions held towards Baptists in popular American culture. These pamphlets are suitable for individual study, church classes, and academic courses. They are jointly published by the Baptist History and Heritage Society, The Center for Baptist Studies of Mercer University, and the Whitsitt Baptist Heritage Society. Editor: Doug Weaver; Associate Editors: Charles W. Deweese & Walter B. Shurden.

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