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
"Leaning Together at Thanksgiving"
The Baptist Soapbox: Bruce T. Gourley
"The Word of Man or the Word of God?"
Dispatches From the Frontlines of America's Culture War: Bruce Prescott
"Iowa's Taxpayer Funded Faith-Based Prison Wing"
"Serving the Poor Quietly"
"Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler"
Writing Local Church History: Robert Gardner
"Preserving Your Young Church's History"
BSB Book Review:
Divided by God: America's Church-State
Problem – And What We
Reviewed by William E. Hull
BSB Book Review Special:
Call Waiting – God's Invitation to
by Jody Long
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to duplicate and circulate the articles in BSB or to use quotations
"Leaning Together at Thanksgiving"
By Walter B. Shurden
I believe . . .
as a grateful son of Greenville in the Delta of Mississippi, I have an
obligation periodically to read William Alexander Percy’s Lanterns on the
Levee. I spent many an evening of my high school years on the levee overlooking Lake Ferguson that feeds into the mighty Mississippi River.
Much of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is about people who learned to
“lean together.” Rabbi Kushner said in To Life that Judaism was more
about community than creed. And Christians of the first century
huddled in small, powerless, vulnerable assemblies because they needed
each other. They called it bearing one another’s burdens. They called it
obeying the Great Commandment. They leaned together in order to carry out the
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 Bruce Gourley, Associate Director of The Center for Baptist Studies.
"The Word of Man or the Word of God?"
By Bruce T. Gourley
This fall, in the midst of a series of growing scandals within the Bush administration over repeated unlawful and unethical conduct, Rick Warren of the massive (and renowned) Saddleback Church in California came to the defense of George W. Bush and praised Bush’s (former) choice for Supreme Court justice (Harriet Miers). In the company of Richard Land, James Dobson, and Jay Sekulow, Warren declared "I think it was for this very moment that we had the last election," referring to the 2004 presidential election.
Although Warren in recent months has been praised for focusing on biblical issues such as poverty and holistic evangelism, while seemingly avoiding politics, his endorsement of Miers was yet another indication of the propensity of conservative evangelicals to act as company cheerleaders for the Republican Party, even as the party is morally imploding in a rather spectacular fashion.
Warren's political views were clearly spelled out prior to the 2004 election, at which time he called upon Christians to vote for Bush because of Bush's godly agenda, an agenda which Warren labeled as non-negotiable: “for those of us who accept the Bible as God's Word and know that God has a unique, sovereign purpose for every life, I believe there are five issues that are non-negotiable. To me, they’re not even debatable because God's Word is clear on these issues.”
What are Warren’s five “non-negotiable” political issues that “God’s Word is clear on?”
Abortion. Like many (if not most) Christians, I am not pro-abortion. But seemingly unlike many Christians, when it comes to the subject of abortion I am at least honest enough with the written Word of God to realize that the only reference that approximates abortion in the entire Bible is found in Exodus 21: 22-25, a passage referring to miscarriage in which the life of a fetus is clearly not considered the equal of the life of a living, breathing human being. That’s it. This sole reference is not consistent with what many Christians believe about abortion today.
As to the issue of when life begins, the biblical Hebraic understanding teaches that life is associated with the act of breathing. Again, this is contrary to what many contemporary Christians believe about the beginning of life. In short, to begin to make the Bible speak to the abortion issue (other than Exodus 21:22-25 as well as the Hebrew understanding of “life” as post-womb), one has to range far away from the literal interpretation of Scripture that all fundamentalists and many conservatives so insistently champion. Yes, as a Christian one can argue that abortion is murder and that life begins before the first breath. The best we can do, scripturally speaking, is to indirectly infer about these issues from the biblical text, as a recent New York Times article also noted.
Stem-Cell Harvesting. Although this is certainly a moral and ethical issue with deep and disturbing implications, there is not one word in the Bible about stem-cell harvesting.
Homosexual Marriage. Hmmm … nothing in the Bible about this issue, either. Sure, the Bible does discuss homosexuality, alongside certain other sexual activities. And contrary to scripture, many Christians today consider homosexuality the most evil of all human activities.
In addition, the Bible does talk about marriage. Marriages were arranged; choice and love were irrelevant. Many of the biblical heroes whom God blessed were polygamous. Sexual intercourse, rather than a document, sealed a marriage. Wives had no legal rights.
Despite much ado about “Christian” marriages today, we would be horrified at the thought of doing marriage the actual “biblical” way. Conversely, God’s people in biblical times (although we can only infer indirectly) would likely be horrified at modern Western views of marriage–whether “Christian” or “secular!”
Human Cloning. There is not one word in the Bible about this very important 21st century moral and ethical issue.
Euthanasia. This is the one issue that Warren might get at least partially right when he claims the Bible speaks “clearly.” The Bible certainly does talk about respecting life, from first breath to last breath. On the other hand, nothing in the Bible even begins to address the modern issue of extending life with artificial means (as opposed to allowing a natural and/or merciful death). Furthermore, can one legitimately argue for using artificial means to extend life (such as in the Terri Schiavo case), while at the same time argue against using artificial means to begin life, such as in cloning?
What is “clear” is that Rick Warren and the Religious Right which he represents in this instance are far removed from the actual biblical text on all five issues. What is difficult to understand is how “conservative” Christians, who claim the Bible as the source of all truth, in reality take non-biblical stances on the issues that seemingly matter most to them. (Note: “Non-biblical” and “unbiblical” are not necessarily synonymous.) It is as if the actual biblical text is offensive and must be replaced with views that are more politically and theologically correct, and the Bible itself becomes a blank slate in the pulpits and hands of persons who are only too willing to mold and shape it into their own images.
In truth, all Christians will, from time to time, draw indirect inferences from the Bible to discuss and interpret contemporary issues not mentioned in scripture. All too often, however, one’s interpretation of the Bible becomes more authoritative than the biblical text itself. In the absence of clear biblical answers to specific contemporary issues, there is a constant temptation to create our own answers and anchor them in a finality that is foreign to scripture.
Rick Warren has a
widely-recognized, successful ministry and has earned the respect of many Christians
of varied theological stripes. However, it is most unfortunate that the “clearest”
message that Warren’s political pronouncements convey is that the “Word of God”
is ultimately subservient to the “Word of Warren.”
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.
"Iowa's Taxpayer Funded Faith-Based Prison Wing"
By Bruce Prescott
A landmark trial recently began at the U.S. District Court in Des Moines, Iowa. Americans United for Separation of Church and State has challenged the use of taxpayer funds to support Prison Fellowship’s “InnerChange” Christian rehabilitation program in Iowa.
Prison Fellowship Ministries was founded by Chuck Colson, former Counsel for President Nixon. Colson founded his ministry after spending seven months in prison for obstructing justice in the Watergate scandal. In most states Colson’s work is funded by private contributions. In Iowa, the state legislature appropriated several hundred thousand dollars for the ministry to run a “value-based treatment program” at its Newton Correctional Facility.
AU contends that taxpayer funds are unconstitutionally being used to support a sectarian religious program that is both discriminatory and proselytizing. Staffing the program only with evangelical Christians discriminates in hiring. Ejecting persons from the program who express disagreement with the program’s religious teachings discriminates both against persons of other convictions and against those of other faiths. Particularly odious to some inmates are the program’s insistence on biblical literalism, male supremecism, the necessity that wives submit to the rule of their husbands, hostility toward homosexuals, criticism of Catholicism and judgments about other faiths. Participants in the program felt pressured to convert to an evangelical form of Christianity.
AU also suggests that the special privileges extended to prisoners who enter the program constitute a subtle form of proselytization. Participants have keys to their cells, separate public bathrooms, greater mobility within their wing of the prison, more visits with family, access to special rooms with computers and music, guaranteed prison jobs, payment for being in the program, and access to activities that give them a better chance of obtaining parole than other inmates.
Prison Fellowship asserts that no public money is being applied to the religious aspects of its program. They say the public money is being used for education and life skills training for the inmates. They also contend that there is no religious test to participate in the program. Participants enter the program voluntarily and people of all faiths and no faith are welcome.
Program administrators, however, do not deny that faith is the central component of the program. The program is described as “Christ-centered” and the teachings of the Bible are integrated throughout the curriculum. Prospective participants are required to complete a 30-day orientation and, while in prison, are free to withdraw at will. When participants are released from prison, however, they are paired with a mentor and local church and are required to stay employed, perform community service, attend church regularly, and remain in contact with their mentor.
The aftercare component of the program has been credited with boosting the rate of successful rehabilitations. InnerChange claims a recidivism rate of 8-11% for graduates of its program while the average recidivism rate for other inmates is over 50% after three years.
Advocates for InnerChange think the program’s effectiveness enables the state to affirm purely secular purposes for funding it with public dollars–to reduce crime by rehabilitating criminals and to save the public money by reducing the number of recidivist offenders that require institutionalization.
Critics assert that the program’s claims for successful rehabilitation are “statistically invalid.” Excluded from InnerChange’s statistics are participants who failed to complete the program. AU also claims to have evidence that statistics were skewed by the expulsion of likely recidivists from the program before they could graduate. They also cite a study by UCLA professor Mark Kleiman revealing that, when both graduates and non-graduates of the program are considered, InnerChange’s recidivism rate was actually higher than that of a control group.
Whatever the District Court decides, this case will certainly be appealed to
the Supreme Court. That final decision will have profound implications for
the constitutionality of many of the current administration’s federally funded
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.
"Serving the Poor Quietly"
By Charles E. Poole
Every now and then, three or four times a year, someone will suggest to me that I should write about my work. But it is not easy to write about working with people in poverty without violating the spirit of Matthew 6:1-4, that part of the Sermon on the Mount which prohibits “sounding a trumpet” when we help the poor, and reinforces that prohibition with the memorable injunction, “When you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”
How we talk about ministry to persons in poverty is a significant subject for Baptist churches and denominations. In the light of what Jesus said about not sounding a trumpet when we help the poor, should there ever be an article or a photo in any religious publication about relief work among the poor? Shouldn’t we be content to just do the work God has called us to do without any notice being taken or attention being given?
But, as is usually the case, it’s not quite that simple. After all, hearing about good work among those in need can often inspire people to get involved, thus leading to more good work. And anyway, didn’t Jesus admonish us to let our light shine so that others would see our good works and praise God?
As is often the case, a simple appeal to a certain verse doesn’t settle the question. However, if you read the entire New Testament, there does seem to be a rather consistent call to quiet service that seeks no attention and needs no notice. (It is pretty clear that Jesus would not have been posing for photo-ops.)
Perhaps it is good discipline and careful theology for Christians to serve the poor quietly, resisting the perpetual temptation to send in an article or file a report. Thomas Merton had it right, I think, when he said that sentence I have quoted once before in this space: “To disappear from the world as an object of interest, in order to enter the world in hiddeness and compassion: This is the basic movement of the Christian life.”
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.
"Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler"
As a national leader of Southern Baptist women during the tumultuous 1970s and 1980s, Carolyn Weatherford Crumpler served as an advocate for Baptist women in ministry and provided for thousands of women an impressive model of what it means to be a Baptist woman minister. Today she continues to serve as a minister, by preaching, teaching, leading, organizing, supporting, and faithfully living out the gospel.
Carolyn was born in Frostproof, Florida into a family of Baptists and faithfully attended First Baptist Church. Sunday School, Sunbeams, Girls’ Auxiliary (GAs), Training Union, missionary visits, and summer mission camps defined her growing-up years. When she was sixteen, a Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) state youth leader encouraged her to attend a conference at Ridgecrest, and there, she met missionaries, heard presentations, and sensed for the first time a direct call to “full-time Christian service.”
Returning home to Frostproof, Carolyn shared the news with her pastor, who told her, “A call to serve is a call to prepare.” He then began preparing her, assigning her the task of leading an associational group and making her at age seventeen their church’s choir director.
After graduation from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Carolyn served as school librarian, and because she did not have papers to grade or other after-hours assignments, she spent much time at her church. For two summers, she served as youth director. Then in 1956, she announced to her church that she was going to seminary. That fall, Carolyn enrolled at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, assuming that she would study to be a missionary. In selecting courses her first semester, she discovered that because of her gender she would not be allowed to enroll in the school of theology. Shocked but still determined to pursue an education, Carolyn entered the school of religious education, breezing through the education courses and taking many of her electives in theology.
Following graduation in 1958, Carolyn was hired by the Alabama WMU to be the director of the Young Woman’s Auxiliary. During her first year there, she attended a world missions conference and heard Baker James Cauthen say, “If God has not told you to stay, you might need to go.” She immediately contacted the Foreign Mission Board, but because of her high blood pressure, she was told that she must wait to be considered as a missionary.
Over time, Carolyn realized that her love for missions would have to be lived out through mission organizations rather than on the foreign mission field, and she put her all energy and passion into leading and organizing those mission organizations. She served first as the Florida WMU’s GA director, next as the Alabama WMU’s promotion division director, and then as the Florida WMU’s executive director. In 1974, the national WMU elected her as its executive director, a position she held for fifteen years.
During Carolyn’s years of leadership in WMU organizations, the women’s rights movement emerged within the United States, and Addie Davis became the first Southern Baptist woman to be ordained to the gospel ministry. Her positions resulted in Carolyn being a frequent guest in pulpits. She often encountered opposition when she went into churches to preach, but she continued to preach whenever asked. Her positions also allowed Carolyn to advocate for women in ministry and to encourage women to become ministers. In 1978, she helped plan the “Consultation on Women in Church-Related Vocations,” a conference during which a dialogue about women in ministry began among interested Southern Baptists. Five years later, Carolyn participated in the founding of Southern Baptist Women in Ministry, which is now known as Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM).
In 1989, Carolyn stepped down from her position at the WMU. That same year she married J. Joseph Crumpler, a Baptist pastor from Ohio. Today, Carolyn lives in retirement in Cincinnati, that is, if you can conceive of retirement as serving on numerous boards and as the recording secretary of the American Bible Society; frequently preaching; working with Global Women, a new women’s mission organization; mentoring young women; befriending and giving care to older women in her community; and spending time with grandchildren.
Throughout her years in ministry, Carolyn has served as a model of courage, faith and hope for hundreds of other women and men, and she continues in that role today, encouraging Baptist mission efforts and focusing attention on the needs of women around the world.
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 Robert Gardner, Senior
Researcher in Baptist History, Mercer University, Macon, GA.
"Preserving Your Young Church's History"
By Robert Gardner
Even those of us who are Greek-impaired can discover the word arche in the more familiar word archives. An archives is supposed to contain materials from the beginning. Those of you who are members of young churches have an opportunity to go back to the beginning, and do so with a thoroughness that will make most more mature churches envious.
Someday–perhaps as early as your twenty-fifth anniversary–your church will want to produce a book or pamphlet concerning its story. You will be dealing with organizations, with people, and with ideas: theological, ecclesiological, and ethical.
What will the researcher wish that she/he had to work with? Some things the archivist can control. Collect newspapers, church bulletins, newspaper clippings, and association and convention/CBF printed minutes and related materials. Start interviewing long-time members and systematically store their observations and impressions. Set up a box in your church's office in which you encourage/insist that the leaders place one or two copies of each "public" document (but not necessarily individualized correspondence) distributed to segments of the church. Place your name on every mailing list. Week by week pick up copies of every relevant thing that you see lying around. Do your best, over the years, to repeat a key phrase as often as possible: "Don't throw it away, let me throw it away." If someone has desirable items and refuses to part with them, offer to have them photocopied for your collection. When your church takes memorable actions (e.g., adopting dual-alignment or changing denominational affiliation, calling a female pastor, ordaining women deacons, favoring or rejecting bellicose actions by our or some other country, cooperating with Habitat-like activities), be sure you maintain as extensive a file as possible. As you run across or deliberately search for information about pastors and other ordained and lay church leaders, file them carefully for future use.
Other items are beyond your control, but you can still make a concerted attempt to preserve them. Ask for records from the church clerk, the deacons, the church council, the church treasurer (for monthly and annual reports, not for individual giving records), the trustees, the music ministry, various church committees, and the women's men's, and children's organizations. (This paragraph is much more brief than the preceding one, but the materials included in it are certainly no less significant. The truth is, though, that if persons take an overly proprietary attitude toward records under their control, your offers of cooperation might have to be supplemented by actions on your part which effectively "work around" the recalcitrant brother or sister.)
One other idea comes to mind. Earlier this year the Georgia Baptist History Depository expanded and updated an helpful pamphlet, Preserving the Past for the Present and the Future: Writing a History of Your Church & Saving the Records of Your Church. This booklet is available for five dollars at the Depository or postpaid by mail. The article you are now reading is admittedly brief. Further details are available within the twenty pages of this pamphlet.
The Baptist Studies Bulletin Recommends:
KENT CRANFORD, Dramatist: Kent, a M.Div, and D. Min. graduate from Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky, is pastor of Loray Baptist Church in Gastonia, NC. He performs dramatic monologues of Baptist personalities. You can contact him by calling 704.867.4479; writing 1128 W. Franklin Blvd, Gastonia, NC 28052; or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BSB Book Review:
BSB presents a review of Divided by God: America’s Church-State Problem — and What We Should Do About It by Noah Feldman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005).
William E. Hull, Research Professor, Samford University, is our reviewer.
There is a tension inherent in the First Amendment that guarantees its controversial character. The “no establishment” clause seems to prohibit governmental endorsement of religion while the “free exercise” clause seems to prohibit governmental restraint on liberty of conscience. Which raises the obvious question of what is to be done when believers, as a matter of conscience, seek the support of the state for their views on public morality in theologically contested areas such as abortion, euthanasia, and stem-cell research. Those with a strong Jewish identity are well positioned to appreciate both sides of this tension because, in many countries, they have long been an embattled minority excluded from privileges extended to the established church while in their own homeland of Israel they have merged their theocratic and democratic traditions in ways that make religion and nation inseparable.
Noah Feldman is the current poster-boy of a Jewish approach to church-state relations. Raised and educated in a modern Orthodox Jewish milieu, balanced by the northeastern secular liberalism of his Cambridge, Massachusetts community, he first used his legal training and fluency in four languages including Arabic to serve as chief advisor (at age 33!) for the Iraqi constitution, on which see his After Jihad. Turning next to “America’s church-state problem” in Divided by God, his latest book was debuted by “secularists” at the New York Times with a lead article in its July 3, 2005 Magazine while “religionists” such as Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee called it “this year’s must-read book.” Clearly Feldman has succeeded in putting the once-obscure church-state debate at the center of the culture wars that are fraying the fabric of our national unity.
The approach chosen to make his case is historical. In swift but informative strokes he traces the tortured course of church-state relations (1) from the founders who protected liberty of conscience by prohibiting coercive taxation to support a state church, (2) through the public school crisis over Protestant “nonsectarianism” prompted by Catholic immigration, (3) to the rise of “strong secularism” after the scientific revolution launched by Darwin reached our shores, (4) countered by the rise of militant fundamentalism which produced the Scopes Trial, (5) resulting in the efforts of the courts to effect a truce through “legal secularism” (i.e. governmental neutrality), (6) which is now being challenged by the “values evangelicals” (e.g. J. Falwell, R. J. Neuhaus). The story is insightfully told, much of it from wide reading in secondary sources which leads to occasional howlers such as calling Baylor a Methodist school (p. 130) and confusing Lynchburg College with Liberty University (p. 159)! Feldman is at his best when he writes as a legal scholar and a Jew, such as on Justice Felix Frankfurter’s opinion in Gobitis and his dissent in Barnette (pp. 154-63).
The proposed solution to the present impasse asks both sides to compromise their incompatible positions. “Legal secularists” need to allow greater latitude of religious expression in the public square as long as it is non-coercive and non-preferential while “values evangelicals,” in exchange for gaining greater freedom to express themselves religiously in public, need to give up their efforts to secure government funding for their religious institutions and practices. Thus far, most reviewers have dismissed Feldman’s “no coercion/no money” compromise as politically unacceptable to either side and hence unworkable. But, of course, the present fight-to-the-finish approach is not workable either. What this book demonstrates is that neither of the present combatants can claim the support of the First Amendment which was intended to keep the nation united around a common commitment to freedom of conscience that inevitably encourages religious diversity.
BSB Book Review Special:
BSB presents a special book review of the new volume Call Waiting–God's Invitation to Youth by Larry L. McSwain and Kay Wilson Shurden, Judson Press, 2005.
Jody Long, Minister of Youth, First Baptist Church of Christ, Macon, Georgia, is our reviewer.
As a youth minister for nearly a decade, I’ve seen many wrestling matches.
Students grappling with fairness in the classroom, definition in
relationships, and equality at home are just a few of the matches I’ve
witnessed. Recently though, more than a passing swipe has been made at
“vocation.” When I began in ministry, options were limited (college,
technical school, the workforce, or military) and rarely discussed. As a
college student and minister, I wrestled alongside my students as they
determined what to do with their lives. After pleading and praying with
teenagers, I deeply wished
that a resource would come along that was edgy enough to
appeal to students, yet deep enough to speak to students. Thankfully, one has
arrived as Larry L. McSwain and Kay Wilson Shurden have combined to author a
wonderful resource for students and student ministers exploring vocation,
Call Waiting: God’s Invitation to Youth, published by Judson Press.
Dates to Note
May 4-5, 2006, "The University Campus: Tomorrow's Moderate Baptists." First Baptist Church, Decatur, GA. Sponsored by National Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia, and The Center for Baptist Studies. For more information, email email@example.com.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org).
June 21-24, 2006, National Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly, Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, GA. For more information, go to http://www.thefellowship.info/CL/GeneralAssembly/2006.icm.
For a full calendar of Baptist events, visit the
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