January 2006              Vol. 5  No. 1

A Monthly Emagazine, Bridging Baptists
Yesterday and Today


Produced by The Center for Baptist Studies, Mercer University
Visit The Center for Baptist Studies' Web Site at

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

         "16 Minutes, 1620 Words"

The Baptist Soapbox: Marion Aldridge

         "Contrasts between the Church of the 20th Century and the 21st Century"
The Baptist University in the 21st Century
: R. Kirby Godsey

         "Maintaining Identity with Integrity"
Creative Ministries in the Local Baptist Church
Wayne Smith

         "Samaritan Ministry–Making Room"

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

         "The Bible, Preachers and the Church"
In Response To . . .
: Bruce T. Gourley

         "Franklin Graham on Separation of Church and State"
Dates to Note

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I Believe

"16 Minutes, 1620 Words"
By Walter B. Shurden

I believe . . .

            that some of the best 16 minutes you can spend in 2006 will be listening to and reading the 1,620 words of one of the greatest speeches ever given in America. The speech came from a Baptist preacher. As you listen to it, note their applause, where it comes, its volume and length. Applause educates. And as you listen to these 16 minutes, notice your response, when you smile, when you tear up, and when you cannot repress the chill bumps. Self-reflection instructs.

            Go to and read it while you listen to it.

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Baptist Soapbox

The Baptist Soapbox: Invited guests speak up and out on things Baptist (therefore, the views expressed in this space are not necessarily those of The Baptist Studies Bulletin, though sometimes they are). Climbing upon the Soapbox this month is Marion Aldridge, Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina.

"Contrasts between the Church of the 20th Century and the 21st Century"
Marion Aldridge

            As the Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina, I meet occasionally with the other denominational executives and bishops of our state.  Over the years, we have become friends in this ecumenical gathering.  We talk about the good news as well as the hard times in the churches with which we work.  Recently, when one of these judicatory heads said that his big project for the year was revising a 250 page policy manual, I said a prayer of thanksgiving to God that I am in a new organization that is not yet at the point where my life is dominated by documents written for a different generation.
            Churches face this same dilemma.  Do they spend their time re-organizing a 20th century institution in the hopes that it will be relevant for the 21st century?  Do they go down the block and start over in a new congregation?  In my role as Coordinator of CBF of SC, I am in pain for churches that are dying and are desperate for a quick fix in the form of a young pastor who they hope will bring in young people.  Yet, they insist that the church continue to be organized and function as it did 40 years ago.
            I have been slow to realize that while the church of my childhood taught me to love Jesus and the Bible, they also introduced me to a cultural expression of congregational life with a lot of habits, most of which are neither good nor bad, and which have little or nothing to do with Jesus or Holy Scripture.  The Bible does not say what kind of clothes to wear to church.  It does not have a single word about congregational voting.  There is no hint that only a visit from the pastor “counts” when you are in the hospital or bereaved.  There is no mention of Sunday School quarterlies or Church Training curriculum.  There is no evidence that people in the early church sat in pews where they had a good view of the back of someone’s head.  There is not a single story about an invitation hymn at the end of the New Testament worship service.  From Genesis to Revelation, the word “denomination” is not used once.
            My point is that we bring a lot of habits and cultural traditions from our childhood church into the present, and we think that is how church ought to be.  We might even think it is wrong to do church any other way.  But I would suggest that the only thing that ought to be done is that we follow Jesus and love God and our neighbors as best we can.   I am not sure how much of this other stuff God really cares about.
            So, if you call a thirty-something pastor to help your church grow with young adults, but you insist that your new pastor keep doing stuff in the same ways that make sixty and seventy years olds culturally comfortable, you may have asked for the nearly impossible.
            Relax.  Have fewer opinions about what does not matter one whit to God.  Give your pastor and church leaders some grace as they try to figure out how to be the church for this generation.  If you follow this link, you will find some of my observations about differences in the church of the 20th and 21st centuries:

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THE FIRST AMENDMENT to the United States Constitution

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.
Baptist Univ.

The Baptist University in the 21st Century:  This special series explores the role of Baptist universities in contemporary Baptist life, from the perspective of Baptist university presidents.  This month's contributor is R. Kirby Godsey, President of Mercer University.

"Maintaining Identity with Integrity"
By R. Kirby Godsey

           If Baptist universities are to maintain their identity as Baptist institutions, the focus of their definition of that identity must ultimately shift from the status of their relationship to their historic church constituency to the substance of the university’s mission and programs. Baptist colleges and universities appropriately celebrate the deep and profoundly significant roots which these schools have in Baptist soil. Even so, being Baptist should not be chiefly about our institution’s history; sustaining a Baptist identity will depend upon whether the sustaining values and priorities that guide these institutions are rooted in that history.
           In recent years, relationships with denominational bodies among Baptist universities have become frayed and often fractured. In reality, those relationships have come to be defined more by financial support than by any serious dialogue about the role that a Baptist university can play in a world where religious conflict has spawned holy wars among religious communities and nations. Baptist universities are peculiarly well-positioned to speak freely, and interpret wisely the context of the cultural and religious conflicts that beset us. More often than not, denominational financial support has become a detriment to an institution’s ability to serve as an independent interpreter. As the beneficiary of denominational largesse, colleges and universities may be expected to become apologists for whatever faith affirmation gains ascendancy from time to time.
           If the university is to fulfill its calling to serve God in the unfettered search for truth, it cannot become the handmaiden to denominational prescriptions. The university’s highest obligation is first and foremost to know the truth and to teach the truth to all who come within its boundaries. Contrary to some ardent and well-meaning denominational voices, the commitment to open inquiry and to the open search for truth should not stop at the covers of the Bible. We need never fear the search for truth and any effort to restrict the university’s devotion to intellectual freedom and to open inquiry must be unequivocally rejected. Being Baptist should never mean compromising the bedrock educational values which lie at the essence of being a university. An institution cannot be a good Baptist university without, first of all, being a good university.
           The critical combination is to maintain identity with integrity. In the 21st century, if Baptist universities are to maintain both their integrity and their Baptist identity, they must do three things:

1.      The university must determine, in their own place and circumstance, what it means in substance to be a Baptist university. At least for reflection, the institution must be willing to set aside any consideration of financial support or denominational obligations. The issue is to identify and define how, if at all, being Baptist shapes the educational agenda of the university. What does the university do differently or what priorities are compelling because it is Baptist. Perhaps it affects the students they admit to be educated. Perhaps it affects how an institution defines a well-educated graduate of the institution. If the university does not or cannot define in its own setting, apart from external religious pressures, what it means to be Baptist, then the institution should acknowledge that being Baptist relates mostly to their history or to their current relationship with a denomination that provides financial support. In these cases, being Baptist is not about an educational agenda or compelling values. In the 21st century, relationships based chiefly on funding will become increasingly fragile and history that is not translated into living educational priorities will become a mere footnote to the institution's mission.

2.      Our universities must serve as unencumbered intellectual and moral voices  within the life of Baptists, both educating Baptists and being a critic of Baptists.  Baptists are a pluralistic people. The commitment to the freedom of thought and interpretation, and to free church polity will always be a breeding ground for religious debate and conflict. In some quarters of Baptists, the salve for this malady is to become increasingly rigid, setting down definitive statements of belief and established doctrine by which one’s orthodoxy and fellowship can be determined. In effect, the commitment to the free church tradition is overridden by the yearning for clarity and certainty. Truth is sacrificed on the altar of religious correctness.
          The role of the Baptist university is, in part, to be an independent, courageous, and compassionate interpreter among Baptists, reminding us that trading freedom for certainty is a precarious bargain. Baptist universities should be cauldrons of “straight talk” in a world where religious demagoguery is gaining enormous religious and political clout.

          3.      In the 21st century, Baptist universities must become reservoirs for preserving the Baptist idea. The Baptist idea of freedom is being seriously eroded within denominational power structures. Against all odds, the role of the universities is to keep alive the light of freedom, kindling the debate among Baptists of differing persuasions and assuring that the fragile freedoms around which Baptists have coalesced are not lost to the dustbin of obsolescence within Baptist denominations.
          Baptist universities and colleges may face their most difficult era in Baptist history. The superstructures of Baptists are being shaken by the emergence of a strongly monolithic theological viewpoint.
         Intellectual monoliths, fundamentalist or otherwise, are contradictory to the work and the purpose of a Baptist university. They are contradictory to any university, but ironically, they are contradictory to a Baptist university because of its religious foundations. A Baptist university, therefore, must resist any efforts by an external religious body, even a friendly one, to control the learning environment.

          Baptist churches and Baptist universities will be strengthened by the willingness to listen to one another without requiring control or conformity. We should work together as free institutions– free to listen and free to speak. Our best future lies in being free to believe and free to learn. Baptist universities, if they are to remain Baptist, should openly define and affirm how their religious connections are both historically and presently relevant. Their church constituency should openly affirm the university as an institution that must be committed to the canons of truth and free inquiry. The commitments to truth and the affirmations of faith can remain strong and independent only if they are free.

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Local Church

Creative Ministries in the Local Baptist Church:  This series highlights local churches who are intentionally creative in their approach to ministry.  Samaritan Ministry, an outreach and educational program for people living with HIV and AIDS, is a ministry of Central Baptist Church of Bearden in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Wayne Smith, the director of Samaritan Ministry since 1996, also teaches at Carson-Newman College and the University of Tennessee.

"Samaritan Ministry–Making Room"
By Wayne Smith

  Is it a miracle we’re needing?
  Is it as crowded as it seems?
  Or is love more amazing than we have dared to dream.
  There’s enough to go around; shared love never runs out.
The richest people I have found ... choose to make room.[1]

         During the holiday season, Samaritan Ministry held two events that capture this “Make Room” theme. Our sixth Thanksgiving Banquet was held on the Thursday evening before Thanksgiving and our Service of Remembrance & Hope, A World AIDS Day celebration and remembrance, was held, for the fourth time, the following Sunday night. These events are significant in our Baptist church.
         "Making Room" is what Samaritan Ministry is all about. We are about impacting the community in Knoxville by reaching out to those people who are living with HIV and AIDS. We are about teaching and challenging Christians to “step-up to the plate” and to become engaged, in some way, in this world-wide, and for the U.S., this community-wide pandemic. Events like these demonstrate our commitment to “make room” in our church for people who suffer, and who need to know about the love of Jesus Christ. Even though they might feel thrown away by their community, they have not been discarded by a God who loves His children.
Our model, which we call the Samaritan Model, is one with a proven ten-year track record. It involves taking action in the local church, reaching out into the community and partnering in creative ways. Our model fits nicely with four core strategies developed by Donald Messer and outlined in his book, Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence.[2]

            *  Challenging the negative and judgmental attitudes that still exist toward people
                with HIV/AIDS.
            *  Decreasing fear and misconceptions about HIV & AIDS by providing accurate
            *  Providing practical and pastoral support for people living with AIDS and their
            *  Engaging in prayerful dialogue with other churches, faith communities, and
                secular organizations.

         A key to our success in Knoxville has been our willingness to become a part of the community. We are usually the only faith-based group in the room. Our partners include churches and faith organizations, but most of our work is done through a network that includes governmental and secular not-for-profit organizations. Our activities include public school education, Bible study, an HIV support group, community events, HIV testing initiatives, and direct client support. Our funding partners include churches, secular foundations, governmental organizations, and individuals.
Our efforts in the face of this pandemic must reach in to the “two-thirds” world and also here at home. We must, as a church, recognize the deep failure of Christians to embrace this disease as their own.  Richard Sterns, former president of World Vision, writes, “The American church is, for the most part, getting it wrong on AIDS. We often judge the victims of this devastating plague, but we fail to recognize our own sin of indifference to human suffering.”[3]
           Indeed, our response to this crisis has been about building walls, not bridges. Our prejudices and our ignorance have directed both our anger and our compassion in ways that discredit the work and words of Christ. Often asked about same sex-issues, sexuality and lifestyle, our response is simplenever should our words and deeds, when directed at anyone to whom we have the privilege to minister, be a barrier between that person and Jesus Christ. This is so true of the people in our community, be they black, white, Asian, or Hispanic, gay or straight, male, female, young or old. Our mission is clear“Come to me."
           Our Pastor, Dr. Larry Fields, is a passionate supporter of this ministry, and he recognizes the potential for criticism directed at a church that has the courage to support an HIV/AIDS ministry. He recognizes that in some ways we walk a tightrope when we dare to minister in an open and unabashed way to people in our community who need to know of the love of Jesus Christ, regardless of their stature, health, or circumstance. It is a proud thing for a church. We are asked often, “What kind of Baptists are you?” The answer lies in Luke 10, with the question answered with a parable, “Who is my neighbor?” Long after Jesus gave us the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are still asking the question and we are still getting the answer wrong.
           We could also ask, “Where is my neighbor?” He is in our community. She’s hurting. They need to know about or be reminded about the unconditional love of Jesus Christ.
           We must make room in our hearts, make room in our community and make room in our pews.

Note: Samaritan Ministry is available to assist a church or other organization in the areas of education and/or ministry. We are also happy to provide support for families or individuals who might be dealing with HIV. Samaritan Ministry Director, Wayne Smith may be contacted at 865-450-1000 ext 827 or at Visit us on the web @

[1] “Make Room”, A song by Kyle Matthews. © 2000 BMG Songs, Incorporated.
[2] From Donald Messer in “Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence”  2004. Fortress Press, Minneapolis.
[3] “AIDS, Finding Hope and Compassion”, RBC Ministries, 2004. Grand Rapids, MI.

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The Baptist Studies Bulletin Recommends:

“Negotiating Conflict in the Congregation”
McAfee Institute for Healthy Congregations
McAfee School of Theology
Atlanta, Georgia

March 20, 2006

Featuring: Dr. Dennis Burton, Workshop Leader, Certified Conflict Consultant
Director of Missions, Union Baptist Association, Monroe, North Carolina

Dr. Burton is a former North Carolina pastor, trained in Clinical Pastoral Education and certified at advanced levels by a variety of conflict training organizations, including L.E.A.D. Associates and the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center.  He has served as Director of Missions for the Union Baptist Association in Monroe, North Carolina since 1994 and has led numerous workshops and served as consultant to congregations in conflict negotiation.  He holds the Doctor of Ministry degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and has completed management training programs at Wake Forest University, University of Richmond and Duke University.

Workshop Registration:  The program will be in the Stetson School of Business, room BE-113, from 9:30 - 3:45. To register, mail a check for $39 made out to McAfee School of Theology to:  Dr. Larry McSwain, 3001 Mercer University Drive, Atlanta, GA 30341 by March 10, 2006.  Registration at the door:  $49.

Complimentary Presentation for Laity and Church Staff
“Stresses in Congregational Life”

This program also features Dr. Dennis Burton, and will be held in Day Hall, Monday, March 20, 2006, from 7-9 PM.  


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.

"The Bible, Preachers and the Church"
By Charles E. Poole

           This winter I have been reading God’s Long Summer. Written by Robert Marsh, God’s Long Summer chronicles the civil rights struggle in Mississippi, focusing particularly on the summers of 1963 and 1964.
           In his book, Marsh recalls some of the stories of the courageous few white ministers in Mississippi who took a clear, strong stand on the gospel side of the struggle for racially inclusive churches. They paid a price for their integrity, which often meant they were fired by their churches.
           Whenever I read those stories, it always makes me wonder, “Who did those churches hire to replace the ministers they fired?” After all, there shouldn’t have been any ministers of the gospel who were saying anything different on the subject than those who were fired. How could a church find any minister who would say that a church should refuse entrance to anyone based on the color of their skin? If all the ministers were following Jesus, then all would have been saying the same thing; that the house of God must always be open to anyone of any color. Where did churches go to find ministers who would tell them anything other than that?
           The same question applies to the church and the poor. The call of Jesus for us to spend ourselves for and among the poor and powerless is so unambiguous that no church should ever be able to find any minister who can lead a church to acquire, improve or construct anything for the church’s institutional expansion without first calling the church to a serious biblical and theological conversation about the church, money and the needs of the poor. Some things in the Bible are matters of individual interpretation, but other things are so persistently stated and clearly declared that they are not up for interpretation. The call of God to care for the poor is among the latter. Just as churches forty years ago should not have been able to find preachers who would sustain “closed door policies,” churches today should not be able to find pastors who are not calling the church to build only what they must and give all that they can to those whom Jesus called “the least of these.”

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In Response To ...

"In Response To . . . Franklin Graham on Separation of Church and State"
By Bruce T. Gourley

            In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, leading Baptist evangelist John Leland insisted that church and state should be kept completely separate.  He denounced government aid to religion as nothing more than a “mischievous dagger” that polluted the gospel and sullied the church; he even denounced tax exemptions for ministers. 
            Some 200 years later, following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf states, another leading Baptist evangelist tepidly declared, “I support, to a degree, the separation of church and state .… But at times of disaster, at times of national tragedy, government must reach over the wall of separation …. While the vast majority of FEMA’s trailers sit unoccupied, faith-based relief organizations are struggling to acquire trailers for families ready to move in. The trailer situation is an example of a fundamental truth: Government is not the most efficient provider of compassion and care.”  Franklin Graham went on to insist that the United States government should “Entrust some of these billions of [relief] dollars into their [the churches] hands.” (USA TODAY, November 28, 2005). 
            Certain clergy, Leland warned two centuries ago, were prone to try to persuade the government officials that religious favoritism could be “advantageous to the state.”  Why did the clergy make this argument?  “Chiefly covetousness, to get money,” Leland declared.
            One of the most astounding betrayals in modern religious history is the legion of contemporary Baptists who not only have vigorously denounced and berated their own faith heritage of full religious liberty for all and complete separation of church and state, but have gone so far as to emulate the 17th and 18th century establishment clergy in colonial America whose persecution of Baptists birthed Baptists’ long and arduous journey to ensure full religious liberty and complete separation of church and state in the federal constitution.
            Leland’s prophetic words do not merely condemn Franklin Graham’s call to lower the wall of separation of church and state so that the government can more easily shovel taxpayers’ money to churches, they also sound a warning to all contemporary Baptists in America.  Leland’s warnings against clergy accepting government tax exemptions are rarely heeded by Baptists of any theological persuasions.  The only instance I know of a local Baptist church today refusing tax exempt status is First Baptist Auburn, Alabama who several years ago began voluntarily paying property tax to the government.  And I have yet to personally hear a single Baptist minister denounce ministerial tax breaks.
            Placed in this perspective, Franklin Graham’s call to lower the wall of separation of church and state under special circumstances is not overly surprising after all.  Baptist clergy of recent decades have become accustomed to being shown religious favoritism from the government. Why should some not now expect even greater deference from the government on religious grounds?  Is Franklin Graham’s request for “some of these billions of dollars” not a reflection of the favoritism we are certain we deserve as ministers whose clerical role is “advantageous” to state and society?
            John Leland understood that an attitude of expected favoritism from the state, in any form, trivializes the gospel and cheapens the Church.  Yet one could argue that virtually all contemporary Baptists (and most Christians) in America today expect some form of favoritism from the government by virtue of their faith, whether it be government enforcement of a particular brand of morality, the teaching of certain religious views in our nation’s schools, the public display of a portion of our faith’s sacred text, or an exemption from taxes for clergy and church.
            In the end, although Franklin Graham is to be admonished for his blatant demand of large-scale favoritism from the state, most all Christians today, John Leland would likely argue, are guilty of quietly violating the principle of separation either for personal gain or the benefit of their local church.
            Is it already too late to preserve the complete separation of church and state in America?

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Dates to

Dates to Note

January 23-25, 2006, "Spiritual Formation Regional Retreat," Montreat Conference Center, North Carolina. The retreat is open to senior pastors, including pastors who serve as lone ministerial staff in smaller congregations. Other retreat locations are Texas, April 3-5; Kentucky, Sept. 11-13; and Atlanta at a date to be determined. Registration is available on a first-come basis. Click here to register online. For more information, contact Rick Bennett at (770) 220-1605 or

February 8-9, 2006, "Dr. Henry Mugabe's Visit to Macon." Sponsored by CBF/GA, The Christianity Department (Mercer), The Office of the Minister to the University (Mercer), The Center for Baptist Studies (Mercer), Vineville Baptist Church (Macon), and First Baptist Church of Christ of Macon. Dr. Mugabe is the president of the Baptist Theological Seminary in Zimbabwe. For additional information click here or contact Bruce T. Gourley at 478-301-5467 or email

February 8-11, 2006, Current Retreat, First Baptist Decatur, Atlanta. Current is a group of young Baptist ministers, leaders, and divinity students who seek to connect young Baptists through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. More information is available online.

February 13-14, 2006, First Annual Christian Ethics Today Conference, Truett Seminary, Baylor University.  Theme: Ministerial Ethics. Featured speaker: Tony Campolo.  Click here for the program and registration information.

April 17-20, 2006, Wait on the Lord, Spiritual Formation Conference, Orlando. For all clergy and lay ministers. Presented by American Baptist Churches USA More information, including registration instructions, is available online.

April 21-23, 2006, Alliance of Baptists, 20th Annual Convocation, Southside Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama. Theme – Race: "We Have This Ministry – Reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18). Visit the website.

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

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:

June 21-24, 2006, National Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly, Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, GA.  For more information, go to

For a full calendar of Baptist events, visit the Online Baptist Community Calendar.

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