Visit The Center for Baptist Studies' Web Site at www.mercer.edu/baptiststudies
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
I Believe . . . : Walter B. Shurden
"Beauty in the Pulpit: Being"
The Baptist Soapbox: Clarissa Strickland
Dispatches From the Frontlines of America's Culture War: Bruce Prescott
"The United States Air Force Academy"
"A Spiritual Discipline: Taking the Bible Literally"
Writing Local Church History: Charles Deweese
"An Introduction to Writing Local Church History"
BSB Book Review:
With Liberty for All: Freedom of
Religion in the United States,
Reviewed by William E. Hull
News and Resources From the Net: Bruce Gourley
Note: To print the BSB, set your printer's left and right margins to .4 inches.
Note: You are free
to duplicate and circulate the articles in BSB or to use quotations
"Beauty in the Pulpit: Being"
By Walter B. Shurden
I believe . . .
that some preachers are absolutely beautiful in the pulpit. And the beauty has nothing to do with the physical.
In Christian preaching, as in our Christian living, we live our lives too much from the outside in rather than from the inside out. A Herculean task for many preachers is to move from being dominated by the external preaching patterns of others to the internal authority of one’s own being, one’s unique self. Preaching from the inside out is a beautiful thing in the pulpit.
But it takes courage, real courage, to preach from the inside out. Why? Because most of us are riddled within by nagging insecurities and haunting fears about who we are, what we know, and what we have the authority to say. So, preaching from within one’s self takes enormous courage.
Preaching out of whatever is your authentic being, however, is what makes for beauty in the pulpit. Great preacher and great friend, David Matthews, once asked me a series of questions that went something like this: If I asked you, “Whom does Fred Craddock preach like?” wouldn’t you have to answer that “Fred Craddock preaches like Fred Craddock?” If I asked you, “Whom does John Claypool preach like?” wouldn’t you have to say that “John Claypool preaches like John Claypool?” If I asked you, “Whom does Barbara Brown Taylor preach like?” wouldn’t you have to reply that “Barbara Brown Taylor preaches like Barbara Brown Taylor?”
Have you ever noticed the connection between “authority” and “author”? When I am the “author” of what I say and how I say it, it has the ring of “authority.” B. B. King, the great Blues musician from Indianola, Mississippi, told a group of young musicians, “You’ve got to play it the way YOU feel it.” He was telling them to come from the inside out.
Part of the purpose of The Mercer Preaching Consultation is to enhance beauty in the pulpit by calling for authenticity. Meeting again this year at St. Simons Island Georgia during the days of September 18-20, the Consultation will showcase preaching and presentations about the work of the pastor that come from the inside out. Gardner Taylor, one of the greatest and most authentic Baptist preachers in the last fifty years in America, and John Claypool, an Episcopal priest whose roots run deep in Baptist soil, will spearhead a conference that has become one of the best Baptist meetings I attend each year. Dr. Taylor will speak three times and Dr. Claypool twice.
In addition to Drs. Taylor and Claypool, other speakers and their topics are R. Kirby Godsey, “Preaching in the Baptist Wilderness,” Hardy Clemons, “Reflecting on Forty Years in the Pastorate,” Dee Bratcher, “Preaching Values from the Book of Ruth,” Bob Setzer, “Preaching Not Only the Gospel, But Also Your Self,” Kay Wilson Shurden, “The Church as Family,” Jim Evans, “What Does Faith Look Like?,” Bill Coates, “Putting the Fun Into Our Preaching,” and Sarah Withers, “The Pew Talks Back to the Pulpit About Preaching.” Registration cost for all of that? $50!!! If you can find a better deal, we’ll refund your money! Of course, you pay your expenses, eat good seafood, and soak in the beauty of the island. We even give you one afternoon for golf, walking the beach, or visiting the charming village of St. Simons. For registration details, please go to www.mercer.edu/baptiststudies and click “Conferences.” It will be the second conference listed. We would delight in having you, and I promise that you will like what you hear and the people you will meet. Register today!
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 Clarissa Strickland, Associate Coordinator for Leadership Development, national Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
By Clarissa Strickland
And while not strictly in the category of pew manners, our behavior at those most wonderful of Baptist events–dinners on the ground or in the fellowship hall–was also carefully regulated. We were never, ever to be first in line; nor were we to return for seconds until everyone had had a chance at the feast.
The legacy from having learned well my pew manners is the respect I have today
for the sanctity of the physical place of worship (We were never allowed to
run in the church–even if we had gone there on an errand with Mother on a
Tuesday afternoon!) and a sense of the holiness of what happens there.
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 United States Air Force Academy"
By Bruce Prescott
In September 1993 the U.S. Air Force Academy’s parachute team descended from the sky to deliver the keys at the grand opening of James Dobson’s evangelical Christian ministry center near the Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. At the time, questions were raised about the appropriateness of the Academy’s involvement in the event, but those concerns pale in comparison to the battle that is brewing over the way the Air Force is responding to evidence that Senior Officers, faculty and staff at the Academy used positions of authority to promote evangelical Christianity and encouraged cadets to do the same.
The Air Force has documented concerns about the propriety of the “religious influence” of evangelical Christians at the Academy since the mid-1990s. Concerns recently escalated when 1) in February 2004 a faculty survey raised the issue of religious bias at the Academy, 2) in May 2004 a graduating airman filed a complaint with the Air Force Inspector General’s Office alleging that the Academy discriminates against non-Christians, 3) in July 2004 a chaplain practicum team from the Yale University Divinity School issued a report documenting a worship service in which Protestant cadets were so aggressively instructed to proselytize other cadets that the team “expressed a concern that the overwhelmingly Evangelical tone of general protestant worship encouraged religious divisions rather than fostering spiritual understanding among Basic Cadets,” 4) the Academy’s Fall 2004 Cadet Social Climate Survey revealed that “30% of non-Christian cadets responding believe that Christian cadets are given preferential treatment” while “over 50% of all cadets responding agree that religious slurs/comments/jokes are used,” and 5) in April 2005 when the legal department of Americans United for Separation of Church and State issued a report on “Religious Coercion and Endorsement of Religion” at the Academy and asked Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to correct the problems.
After Americans United complaint, the Air Force quickly created a task force under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Roger A. Brady to examine “the religious climate” at the Academy. A week later, the Air Force announced that Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, the Commandant of Cadets who was the subject of many of the complaints of religious discrimination, was being recommended for promotion. A couple days after that, Chaplain Melinda Morton, a whistle-blower on religious bias at the Academy, was reassigned to Japan. She contends that she was fired for refusing to make “disingenuous statements” to the media about the July 2004 Yale Practicum Team Report.
On June 3, 2005, Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. John Rosa Jr. publicly acknowledged, “I know I have problems in my cadet wing. I have issues in my staff and I have issues in my faculty and that’s my whole organization.” He added, “If everything goes well, it's probably going to take six years to fix it.” Sixteen days later, Rosa announced that he was accepting a position as President of The Citadel.
The day before the task force issued its report, Gen. Weida issued a statement admitting that, “One area in which . . . I fell short, is . . . religious respect.” He apologized for discouraging some as he offered “encouragement to those who relied upon their faith” and pledged to make sure “the entire team has the right sight picture in the area of religious respect.” Football Coach Fisher DeBerry also issued a statement explaining that he understood how his “actions could have been misconstrued” and promised to help teach cadets “to respect what each of us believes.” That same day, Chaplain Morton resigned from the Air Force.
On June 22, 2005 Gen. Brady’s task force issued its report. It concluded that the religious climate at the Academy “does not involve overt discrimination, but a failure to fully accommodate all members’ needs and a lack of awareness over where the line is drawn between permissible and impermissible expression of beliefs.”
Since the report’s release, Gen. Brady has been fielding some well deserved complaints that his Task Force “merely explained away problems” at the Academy.
In this writer’s opinion, most of the serious complaints at the Academy were “explained away” as a lack of specificity in direction and guidance from Air Force Command on church/state issues. Many of the Task Force’s recommendations were requests for such guidance. Under the current administration, the value of such guidance is questionable. The Lutheran Magazine cites concerns about further infringement by Robert Tuttle who teaches law at George Washington University. He said, “In rules that started to come out last summer, the Bush administration began to say that the ordinary [proselytizing] restrictions don’t apply to those under significant control by the government—those in prisons, the military, long-term care facilities, etc.,” he said. “This raises real concerns about government coercion through religion.”
Note: The footnoted
version of this article is available by
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.
"A Spiritual Discipline: Taking the Bible Literally"
By Charles E. Poole
In recent years, I have tried to practice a spiritual discipline that is new to me, and that I find helpful. The discipline is this: Take one word of the gospels literally as a step toward taking all the words of the gospels seriously. We cannot take all the gospel words literally, nor should we. Jesus frequently employed the language of extremity to make important points, and to take those phrases literally would be disastrous. (If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out, etc.) However, there are some words from the gospels that, taken literally, create a spiritual discipline that helps us take the whole gospel seriously.
For example, when it comes to the poor, we could take literally Matthew 5:42, “Give to anyone who begs from you.” (This would require us to always leave home with some money in a pocket designated for those who may ask for help, or with gift cards to a local fast-food restaurant or grocery store.) Or we could take literally Luke 3:11, “Those who have two coats must give one to someone who has no coat.” (This would require us to give away all but one of our coats.)
These are just a couple of examples of ways to take one gospel word literally as a step toward taking all gospel words seriously. It can be very demanding, so if you feel inclined to try it, keep it simple, specific and focused. For example, try giving to anyone who begs from you for July. (If that goes well, you might try something much harder in August. Maybe, “love your enemies.”)
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.
Quoted in Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), 133.
Ruby Welsh Wilkins to Pam Durso, May 27, 2005.
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. Charles Deweese is the Executive Director of the
Baptist History and
"An Introduction to Writing Local Church History"
By Charles Deweese
A Baptist church ministers to its members when it publishes its history. In
fact, every church should view the preservation of its history in published
form as one of its essential ministries. The chosen author should inject
excellence into the research and writing process. Once published, the church
should then supply copies of the history to its members just as it provides
Bibles for children, hymnals for worship, and curriculum literature for Bible
Call 800-966-2278 to order the How-to Manual and the booklet and to secure a complimentary packet on our book-publishing program.
BSB Book Review:
BSB presents a review of With Liberty for All: Freedom of Religion in the United States, by Phillip E. Hammond. Westminster John Knox Press, 1998.
William E. Hull, Research Professor, Samford University, is our reviewer.
The relation of religion and politics has become a central issue of our time, forcing Baptists to reexamine their cherished conviction regarding the separation of church and state. Theocratic impulses that once lurked within immigrant Roman Catholicism now receive their most militant expression in Baptist fundamentalism (Jerry Falwell). Despite the hallowed legacy of George W. Truett and J. M. Dawson, an increasing number of SBC leaders beginning with W. A. Criswell have openly repudiated our traditional denominational position to the point of severing all ties with the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty. The so-called “culture wars” increasingly look like the religious wars that convulsed Europe for a century (1556-1648), permanently eroding the influence of Christianity in its classical stronghold. Thus far, the best that the Supreme Court has been able to offer is a fragile armistice based on a series of bitterly divided 5-4 decisions.
So let us spend the next few months looking at books that help us understand this fractious debate, a struggle that promises to become hysterical, at least in the media, as new Supreme Court Justices are selected. One place to begin is with the brief, inexpensive primer by Phillip Hammond that seeks to make a modern case for the strict separatism long associated with Baptist origins both in England and America. A sociologist at UC Santa Barbara until his retirement in 2002, the author writes neither as a Baptist nor as a lawyer but as a student of contemporary cultural trends who seeks to discern the direction in which the debate is trending based on his analysis of forty-five court cases. His style is didactic but not unduly technical, reflecting the development of the material in a course which he taught for many years on church-state relations.
The argument is fairly simple. The two main approaches to the First Amendment are defined as (1) “accommodationist,” popular during nineteenth century Protestant hegemony and argued today by Richard John Neuhaus and Stephen Carter; and (2) separationist, increasingly popular today and long defended by Leo Pfeffer and “sectarians” such as the Baptists. Hammond embraces the latter view which he sees as necessitated by our ever-increasing pluralism, by the growing tendency of a litigious society to demand that the federal government regulate more areas of public life, and by the shift in moral authority from churches to individuals (on which see his 1992 book, Religion and Personal Autonomy: The Third Disestablishment in America). The key to maintaining strict governmental neutrality is to understand both the “no establishment” and the “free exercise” clauses as prohibiting the interference of the government in the inalienable right of every citizen to exercise a free conscience, whether it be religiously grounded or not, except where the state has a “compelling interest” such as to maintain public order.
There is no space here to critique this argument, especially the final chapter where Hammond comes closest to offering a theological rationale in his comments on “the religion behind the Constitution.” But I shall never forget how Robert Bellah contended in an address to the American Academy of Religion that Hammond’s view of the sacredness of the individual conscience was precisely the core contention of Roger Williams, a position that made him the first Puritan who contained the whole of our destiny as Americans in the Baptist insistence on the absolute centrality of religious freedom (Journal of American Academy of Religion, 66/3: 613-25). Reading this little book will help you to understand just how radical our originating convictions regarding public polity were meant to be and how increasingly relevant they have become in modern American life.
News and Resources from the Net
The One Campaign – In today's atmosphere of culture wars, rarely do American Christians on opposite side of the spectrum publicly join together to address a particular social issue. However, the ONE Campaign against poverty has attracted a host of conservative evangelicals (including Rick Warren, Billy Graham, John Stott, and even Pat Robertson) to come alongside traditional liberal or nonpartisan Christian and / or social organizations (including Bread for the World World, World Vision, Global Health Council, United Nations Foundation) and entertainers (such as Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, and Ellen DeGeneres) to end the scourge of poverty in the world. You can learn how to join the campaign by visiting the One Campaign web site.
The 100th Anniversary of the Baptist World Alliance – The recent terrorist bombings in London have cast a more somber light on the 100th anniversary Baptist World Congress in Birmingham, England in late July. BWA leaders have condemned the terrorist violence and declared that the Congress will proceed, noting that "in the face of appalling evil we need to show our strong faith in Jesus Christ as Lord." Some 15,000 Baptists from all over the world are expected at the meeting. For information on some of the various types of Baptists who will be attending the Congress, click here. Finally, in the days leading up to meeting, Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics offers some insightful advice for attendees.
Blogging for God – Blogging is the second incarnation of personal web pages, and much more writer and reader-friendly than those personal pages you remember in the late 1990s. Nonetheless, most blogs are, for the average Net user, disconnected musings and rantings. However, one site helps sort through the clutter from a religious perspective. Blogs4God.Com reviews religious blogs and sorts them into helpful categories. If you're a blog reader, you will find this site to be helpful.
Dates to Note
July 27-31, Centennial Congress of the Baptist World Alliance, Birmingham, England. To register email Congress@bwanet.org, phone 703.790.8980, or fax 703.893.5160.
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 '05, 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
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.
If you do not wish to receive BSB any longer, please Click Here to unsubscribe.