Vol. 5 No. 12
The Jesse Mercer Plaza
Mercer University, Macon Campus
Produced by The Center for Baptist
Studies, Mercer University
A Monthly EMagazine, Bridging Baptists
Yesterday and Today
Walter B. Shurden, Executive Editor, The
Baptist Studies Bulletin
Bruce T. Gourley, Editor, The
Baptist Studies Bulletin
Wil Platt, Associate Editor, The Baptist Studies
The Center for
wishes all our subscribers
A Blessed Advent,
A Merry Christmas,
A Happy New Year.
Visit The Center for Baptist
Studies' Web Site at www.centerforbaptiststudies.org
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I Believe . . .
: Walter B. Shurden
We Swear Congressman Ellison in on the Qur'an?"
The Baptist Soapbox: Jim Somerville
for the Liturgically Challenged"
Creative Ministries in the Local Baptist Church:
"Prayer Shawl Ministry, First Baptist
Church, Macon, Georgia"
Baptists and Peacemaking:
"The Need for International Cooperation
in the Middle East"
Baptists, the Bible,
and the Poor: Charles E.
Difficult Question, a Necessary Struggle"
In Response To . . .
: Bruce T. Gourley
"In Response to . . . Fear, War, Forgiving and
Dates to Note
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"Should We Swear
Congressman Ellison in on the Qur'an?"
By Walter B. Shurden
I believe . . .
that we Christians have a hard time understanding that
the United States of America is NOT a Christian nation but a constitutional
republic that allows religious freedom for all its citizens. The issue
surfaces again in the controversy over Minnesota Congressman-elect Keith
Ellison’s desire to be sworn in by placing his hand on the Qur'an rather than
the Bible. Should he be able to do that? YOU BET! Should Jews be able to use
the Hebrew Bible? YOU BET! If Mormon faithful Mitt Romney is elected the
president of the United States in 2008, should he be able to use the Book of
Mormon? YOU BET! If an atheist wants only to swear on the Constitution of the
United States, should she be able to do that? YOU BET!
Of all people―OF ALL
PEOPLE―we Baptists ought to understand and endorse Ellison’s call for free
expression of religion! Our ancestors went to jail for that kind of freedom!
Our ancestors suffered idiotic indignities for that kind of freedom. Our
ancestors struggled for a century and a half in this country for that kind of
freedom!! Some of our ancestors suffered physical abuse for that kind of
Do we Baptists not
remember any of our history at all? Have we really forgotten the sorry saga of
Roger Williams being chased out of Massachusetts by Christian zealots and his
subsequent heroic founding of Rhode Island where religious freedom could
flourish? Have we forgotten the sad tale of Baptist fathers John Clarke,
Obadiah Holmes, and John Crandall being jailed for conducting a worship
service in a blind man’s house in Lynn, MA? Have we forgotten Obadiah Holmes'
bloody whipping on the streets of Boston? Do we not remember that long list of
jailed Baptist ministers in eighteenth century Virginia?
But even if we were not
Christians and even if we were not Baptists, if we were only good citizens of
this republic with no religious faith at all, we ought to understand that call
for religious freedom that Congressman Ellison wants. Article VI of The
Constitution of the United States says, “The Senators and Representatives . .
. shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but
no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or
public Trust under the United States (bold mine).”
Christmas may be
the best of opportunities for Christians to act Christianly toward persons of
minority religions or no religion in the United States. Give yourself a very
expensive Christmas gift during this season. Paste the First Amendment of the
Constitution of the United States to your computer and read it daily: Congress
shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or
the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government
for a redress of grievances. Those are forty-five very expensive words.
Thank God for that
amendment, birthed partially because of the hard work of our Baptist
ancestors. Let that noble idea of freedom find a place to lay its fragile head
on your Christian, Baptist, and American heart this Christmas. Let’s be more
than good citizens this Christmas; let’s try to be good Baptist Christians.
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The Baptist Soapbox: Invited guests
speak up and out on things Baptist (therefore, the views expressed in this
space are not necessarily those of The Baptist Studies Bulletin, though
sometimes they are).
Climbing upon the Soapbox this month is Dr. Jim
Somerville, pastor of First Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.
for the Liturgically Challenged"
By Jim Somerville
I can still
remember the First Sunday in Advent, 1996.
One of the
families in our church had come forward and gathered around the wreath to
light the first candle of the season. A litany was read from the pulpit, and
then the oldest son (who must have been about twelve at the time) struck one
of those big, wooden kitchen matches and lit the candle of Hope. Afterwards,
he held the match up to his lips and blew it out, blowing out the flame of the
candle at the same time. There was an awkward pause before he realized his
mistake and corrected it by striking another match and lighting the candle
again, and then blowing out the match—and the candle—again.
aren’t all that good at liturgy. This year, on the First Sunday in Advent at
First Baptist, Washington (“a church of Baptist tradition and ecumenical
perspective”), I handed a brass taper to a new member who comes from the
Anglican tradition and asked him if he knew how to use it. A taper, as
I’m sure you know, is the proper name for one of those fancy candle-lighting
thingamajigs. “Oh, yes,” he said with a smile. And then I asked if he would
be interested in serving as our regular “candle consultant” (remembering the
near-disaster of All Saints’ Sunday a few weeks before when we had tried to
light candles for all those we had loved and lost and nearly lost a few more
in the process).
We’re not all
that good at liturgy, but one of the reasons First Baptist, DC, has an
“ecumenical perspective” is that there is much to be learned from the larger
household of the Christian faith.
of observing the seasons of the Christian year, for example, holds the promise
of making every worship experience richer. At First Baptist we wait with
breathless anticipation for the coming of Christ in Advent; we walk with Him,
trembling, toward the cross in the season of Lent; we crash cymbals and blow
trumpets in celebration of His resurrection at Easter. Along with those broad
themes are the colors and sounds and smells of the seasons. Advent begins in
darkness, with the flame of Hope sputtering on its charred wick. We sing our
hymns in minor keys. We drape the church in purple. But as the other candles
are lit in the weeks that follow—peace, and joy, and love—the sense of
expectancy is heightened, and when the Christ candle is lit on Christmas Eve,
the mood shifts suddenly and dramatically. The house lights come up. Deep
purple is replaced by dazzling white and gold. The minor key modulates into
the major and suddenly it is nothing but joy to the world, for the Lord is
entirely possible that in the nearly two thousand years Christians have been
practicing their faith they’ve learned a thing or two, and if we Baptists
aren’t too proud to ask (relative newcomers that we are), we might learn a
thing or two ourselves.
Like how to
Table Of Contents
Remember the Neediest
"Remember the Neediest." These three short words appear throughout
the print edition of the New York Times during the month of
December. They are a sobering reminder of the responsibility we
have toward those less fortunate. May each of us be intentional
about remembering the neediest this holiday season.
Creative Ministries in
the Local Baptist Church:
This series highlights local churches who are
intentionally creative in their approach to ministry. This month's
featured local church ministry emphasis focuses on the Prayer Shawl Ministry
of First Baptist Church, Macon, Georgia. Kay Shurden, retired professor
of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Mercer University School of
Medicine, is a lay leader at First Baptist.
Shawl Ministry, First Baptist Church, Macon, Georgia"
By Kay Shurden
January of 2006 Baptists Today ran a front-page article on the Prayer
Shawl Ministry of Weatherly Heights Baptist Church in Huntsville, AL.
Several women working in the Crisis Closet of First Baptist Church in Macon,
GA, read the article and discussed it with interest during a lull in their
work. All agreed that they could bring their knitting when they came to
work on the Crisis Closet and fill in the slow time knitting prayer
shawls. They found a website online, talked to the woman who was featured
in Baptists Today, and a new ministry began.
at First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon for beginning new ministries is
to present a proposal to the New Ministries Initiative Committee so the
church can know about and give approval to all ministries begun in their
name. When the proposal for this ministry came before the committee, they
approved and suggested that this new ministry initiative could work very
well with another ministry called Tender Loving Care (TLC). The TLC
ministry involved teams of church members visiting the homebound, the
hospitalized, and those going through treatment for serious illness. The
connection between prayer shawls and people in difficult times who needed
prayer was a natural one. The two ministries linked.
Shawl Ministry provides comfortable, knitted prayer shawls for people who
are unable to come to church but need to be reminded of the love and prayers
of their community of faith. Those who knit pray for the recipients as
they knit and include a prayer of blessing when they give the shawl to
someone who needs it. Each shawl contains a tag that reads, “Made with Love
by First Baptist Church.”
has given 20 shawls to people in need, both church members and others in the
community who came to the attention of the knitters. The ministry also
moved beyond prayer shawls to knit scarves for high school graduates leaving
the church community for further education. Each graduate received a scarf
knitted in the colors of their college of choice. The thought behind the
gift was that as they moved on to the next stage of their lives, the prayers
of the church would go with them. Each scarf is a blessing from First
extension of the ministry is planned to include blankets for newborns in the
church and warm hats for the people who seek aid from the Crisis Closet.
For those who don’t already know how to knit but would like to participate
in the ministry, a “Knit Night” is held one Wednesday night a month so that
knitters already involved in the ministry can teach others who want to
something beautiful and useful is a way to participate in the work of God in
the world. Helping people in need is a Christ-following ministry. The
Prayer Shawl ministry does both. Knitting is an ancient art which can be a
spiritual practice when combined with prayer. Prayer shawls enfold, comfort
and remind both those who knit shawls and those who wear them that God is
present in their time of illness and that their church family has not
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MILLER: STEWARDSHIP THEOLOGIAN
"Growing Generous Churches, Growing Generous
Mercer University, Macon,
April 16, 2007
The stewardship theologian for Mennonite
Mutual Aid of Goshen, Indiana, Miller is a graduate of Wilmington (Ohio)
College and Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary. He is the author of
the Herald Press books Firstfruits Living and Just in Time,
as well as The Power of Enough: Finding Contentment by Putting Stuff
in it Place. Miller travels extensively to help congregations
and individuals see their roles as stewards in being God's offering to a
Co-Sponsored by The Center for Baptist Studies, Mercer University;
Congregational Life, Cooperative
Baptist Fellowship; CBF Foundation and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of
The Conference is Free. Make Your
Plans to Attend!
Reservations and Information.
Baptists and Peacemaking:
A noted theologian and ethicist, Glen
Stassen is the Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller
Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Prior to his current
position, he taught at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 20 years.
He has been a visiting scholar at Harvard University, Duke University and
"The Need for International
Cooperation in the Middle East"
By Glen Stassen
President Jimmy Carter was here in Pasadena at our local bookstore Monday
night. 2,000 persons came to get him to sign his new book, Palestine:
Peace, Not Apartheid. He's getting big support. I had to stand in line for
two hours. I got him to sign it, and also his Our Endangered Values. I
gave him a copy of my Just Peacemaking book, and signed it for him too.
Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid, Carter concludes: "Peace will come to
Israel and the Middle East only when the Israeli government is willing to
comply with international law, with the Roadmap for Peace, with official
American policy, with the wishes of a majority of its own citizens—and honor
its own previous commitments—by accepting its legal borders [with negotiated
adjustments] …. The United States is … intensifying global anti-American
terrorism by unofficially condoning or abetting the Israeli confiscation and
colonization of Palestinian territories."
Study Group Report agrees with President Carter: 1) "The United States
will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the United
States deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict." 2) The solution is "a
two-state solution" with agreed borders. 3) "The only lasting and secure peace
will be a negotiated peace such as Israel has achieved with Egypt and Jordan."
(It was Jimmy Carter at Camp David who got them to achieve that negotiated
Iraq, they write, the United States also needs to talk with Iran and Syria and
the other neighbors, and seek economic and military assistance from
non-neighboring Muslim nations. They spell out several reasons why Arab and
Muslim nations have interests in a stable and peaceful Iraq, so it makes sense
that they might help if the United States were not the dominating, occupying
I do not
think the main question about Iraq is how soon we get out. The main question
is how soon we change from go-it-alone domination and occupation, and instead
shift to international cooperation. International cooperation requires that
Arab and Muslim countries take leadership in working out a peaceful Iraq. That
takes some unaccustomed U.S. humility, some acknowledgment of error, and most
especially some newfound will for international cooperation.
policies have been disastrous, not only in Iraq, but in North Korea, Iran,
Palestine, and Lebanon. The U.S. still refuses to talk with Iran unless Iran
first gives in to the U.S. position. What kind of talk is that? Refusal to
talk is failing. Once Arab nations see Iran succeeding in getting nukes,
Syria, Saudi Arabia, and others may follow their example.
In the almost forty
years since the Nonproliferation Treaty in 1968, international cooperation has
succeeded in persuading other nations not to go nuclear. The only exceptions
have been Pakistan and India. We have talked, given incentives, promised not
to attack, and persuaded Brazil, Argentina, Libya, South Korea, and South
Africa to reverse course and scrap their programs to develop nukes. But this
administration has refused to talk, has refused to sign promises of
nonaggression, attacked Iraq, and threatened North Korea, and Iran—which
concluded they need a nuclear deterrent. Spurning international cooperation
has been a disaster.
was in the nuclear navy. I began as a nuclear physicist and worked for the
Naval Research Lab. We both have strong awareness of the huge danger of these
weapons, and we both are deeply concerned. I hope you all are too. Pray for
learning from error, for repentance, and for a shift to international
cooperation. God gives rain and sunshine to all nations; love your enemies and
include them in the neighborhood of consultation and cooperation, not war and
threats of war.
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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.
"A Difficult Question, a
By Charles E. Poole
This month concludes my three year stint as a monthly contributor to the
Baptist Studies Bulletin. My assignment has been to write an essay for
each issue on the subject, “Baptists, The Bible and the Poor.” I’m certainly
no scholar of either Baptists, the Bible or poverty, but I am heavily involved
with all three, so I am grateful to editors Shurden and Gourley for an
assignment that has helped me to think carefully about my spiritual home
(Baptists), our main Book (the Bible), and the persons alongside whom I serve
each day (those who live in poverty, as least as poverty is defined in 21st
century North America).
More than once in these
three years worth of monthly essays, I have quoted a sentence from Stanley
Hauerwas, “Theology is the delicate art of helping the church keep its story
straight.” I keep returning to that observation because thinking about the
church, the Bible and the poor sometimes makes me think that we have failed to
keep our story straight. If you believe that Jesus is the Lord of the church,
then that means the church’s story is the Jesus story. And the Jesus story
is, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, a story of active compassion
and compassionate action in response to the needs of the poor, the blind, the
hungry, the prisoner, the deaf and the disabled. That’s our story. So that
should be the story that determines what we do as the church of Jesus.
But there is
another story that has assumed a more dominant role in our lives. That story
is capitalism. Capitalism, as far as I know, is the best way to run an economy
and a nation. It produces wealth that, in many cases, is used to bless and
lift and transform the lives of these who suffer and struggle. So, out in the
marketplace, capitalism is fine. But the gospel is very different from
capitalism. Capitalism is about institutional advancement and growth. The
gospel is about what Henri Nowen once called “downward mobility,” giving your
self away in the name and spirit of the Christ who, “though he was rich,
became poor for our sakes.” Our problem in the church is that we have a Lord
who calls us to give ourselves away, but the dominant story that shapes our
lives, capitalism, makes it difficult for us to think that way. So we come to
church thinking that institutional advancement is the real sign of success and
we equate institutional success with the blessing of God, which is a sign of
how tangled up the church’s story has become with the dominant story of our
culture. The practical result of that is that, since money eventually runs
out, our congregational choices to advance the institution mean less money to
spend on the needs Jesus actually talked about.
I don’t have the
answer to all that. It leaves me with what William Faulkner once described as
“The human heart in conflict with itself.” I think that is the perpetual
struggle of many serious Christians: How do we balance the needs of the
church with the needs of the world? It’s a difficult question, but a necessary
struggle, for Baptists who care about the Bible and the poor.
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The Baptist Studies
THE BAPTIST RIVER, edited by W. Glenn Jonas,
and recently published by Mercer University Press.
Learn of the "diversity of the Baptist movement in
North America as it has developed over the past few centuries." Includes
such groups as Primitive Baptists, Freewill Baptists, Seventh-Day
Baptists, American Baptists, Southern Baptists, North American Baptists,
and Independent Baptists, each of which shares some basic Baptist
Response To ...
In Response to . . . Fear, War, Forgiving and Giving:
The Associate Director of the Center for Baptist
Studies, Bruce previously served as a campus minister and professor of Church
History. In addition, he is an Internet entrepreneur and photographer,
and is ABD in his doctoral studies in American History at Auburn University.
By Bruce T. Gourley
Advent season is well underway, yet in our nation and world peace may well be
at its lowest ebb since the dark days of World War II.
Iraq is in utter
chaos, plagued by a botched invasion and ensuing civil war that has
the lives of over 600,000 Iraqis and thousands of U.S. troops. The result of
trumped up “evidence” thrust upon the American public by an administration
seeped in eschatological visions of the Religious Right, the hell-hole that
America created in Iraq has cast down political strongholds in America, spread
war and anarchy throughout the Middle East, provided a powerful platform for
religious fundamentalists to terrorize the world, and raised the bar of
suspicion, fear and even hatred among religions of the world to unprecedented
Even as the deadly
Iraq effect ripples around the world, millions upon millions of persons are
dying from genocide, starvation, malnutrition, natural disasters, AIDS, lack
of sanitation and preventable diseases … even as the
disparity between the wealthy and impoverished grows ever greater.
The richest 1% of the world’s population owns 40% of the world’s assets, while
the poorest half of the world’s population owns 1% of the world’s assets. And
the gap continues to grow.
And yet this Advent
season most of us will live insulated from the distant chaos of terror-fueled
warfare, the tragedy of untimely death and the signs of impending collapse
that characterize much of our planet. In our church sanctuaries we are
comfortable. In our homes we are insulated. A few moments each week we
contemplate the Christ child. A few dollars we send to missionaries, or
perhaps to a local charity or a worldwide relief agency. But most of our time
is preoccupied with purchasing meaningless gifts for those who have no worldly
needs, attending a steady stream of holiday parties, gorging on an abundance
of rich foods that harm the body and feed not the soul, and racking up credit
card debt in order that we might live beyond our already abundant means.
Consumed with ourselves, we make the rich richer and seal the untimely fate of
But what can we do
otherwise, we ask?
Perhaps the Amish,
the descendants of Anabaptists, the early cousins of Baptists, can teach us a
lesson. When a gunman murdered five young Amish girls in Lancaster County,
Pennsylvania earlier this autumn, the Amish community did something remarkable
in those darkest of days: they forgave the killer, and even prayed for his
When is the last
time we extended forgiveness to someone who harmed us in such a way that it
devastated our lives? When is the last time we prayed for an Iraqi family who
lost a loved one to the atrocities of war and terror?
Last month the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America took a remarkable step. Rejecting the
teachings of Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon regarding the right of
government authorities to punish teachings deemed theological heresy, the ELCA
apologized for Lutheran persecution of 16th-century Anabaptists. In their
statement of apology, the ELCA declared, “the situation of the 16th
century no longer applies in the 21st century.”
This Advent season
is marked by overwhelming wrongs in the world, wrongs of which we are
complicit. Jesus came into this world and gave of himself to begin the work
of correcting the wrongs in the world, an ongoing task he entrusted to his
followers. Is there any better way to honor the Christ of yesterday and
tomorrow than by rededicating ourselves to the task of correcting the wrongs
in our personal lives and the world at large? Can we be so bold as to work
for the resolving of today’s ills so that healing and forgiveness may take
place on the morrow? Will we, in short, do our part as believers to bear
Christ’s message of hope to a world in need of redemption?
May it be so, Lord
Visit Bruce's personal website
Table Of Contents
Recommended Online Reading
for Informed Baptists
Compiled by Bruce Gourley
Your Guide to Intelligent Giving
Navigator, America's premier independent charity evaluator, works to advance a
more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace by evaluating the
financial health of America's largest charities."
American Institute of Philanthropy
Another site that evaluates the effectiveness of charitable organizations.
Summit Calls Global Church to
Bring Justice to AIDS Crisis
Associated Baptist Press
"When 5,500 people die of AIDS every day, the need is not for charity but
for justice, says Bono, and the church must do something about it. “That’s a
lot of our brothers and sisters to be losing for no good reason,” the activist
and front man for megaband U2 told the crowd at the 2006 Global Summit on AIDS
and the Church. "
Dates to Note
December 29, 2006 - January 2, 2007, Antiphony,
"Call and Response." Hyatt Regency, Atlanta, Georgia. For more
February 7-10, 2007, Current Retreat, "Let
Justice Roll." First Baptist Church, Austin, Texas. Registration cost is
$100 for ministers and lay leaders, $55 for seminary students.
Click here for more information.
February 19-20, 2007, Self Preaching Lectures,
McAfee School of Theology, Atlanta, Georgia. Speaker: Tom Long.
For more information, email
February 20-21, 2007, Harry Vaughan Smith
Lectures, Mercer University, Macon, Georgia. Speaker:
Dr. Renita J. Weems.
Click here for more information.
February 23-24, 2007, Mainstream Baptist Network
"Voices of Hope: Why I am Still a Baptist." Dallas, Texas.
speakers will be Bill Underwood, President of Mercer University, Macon, GA;
Tyrone Pitts, General Secretary of the Progressive National Baptist
Convention, Inc.; Scott Walker, pastor, First Bapitst Church, Waco, Texas;
Suzii Paynter, Director, Christian Life Commission, Baptist General Convention
of Texas; and Joe Lewis, Pastor, Virginia.
Click here for more information.
February 26-27, 2007, The Walter and Kay Shurden
Lectures on Religious Liberty and Separation of Church and State,
Carson-Newman College, Jefferson City, Tennessee. Speaker:
Dr. James Dunn.
March 5-7, 2007, True Survivor VII,
Scarritt-Bennett Center, Nashville, Tennessee.
For more information click here.
For a full calendar of Baptist events, visit the
Online Baptist Community Calendar.
Table Of Contents
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