THE BAPTIST STUDIES
5 No. 1
A Monthly Emagazine, Bridging Baptists
Yesterday and Today
by The Center for Baptist Studies, Mercer University
Visit The Center for Baptist
Studies' Web Site at www.centerforbaptiststudies.org
Walter B. Shurden, Executive Editor, The
Baptist Studies Bulletin
Bruce T. Gourley, Editor, The
Baptist Studies Bulletin
Wil Platt, Associate Editor, The Baptist Studies
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I Believe . . .
: Walter B. Shurden
Minutes, 1620 Words"
The Baptist Soapbox: Marion Aldridge
between the Church of the 20th Century and the 21st
The Baptist University in the 21st Century:
R. Kirby Godsey
"Maintaining Identity with Integrity"
Creative Ministries in the Local Baptist
Baptists, the Bible,
and the Poor: Charles E.
Bible, Preachers and the Church"
In Response To . . .
: Bruce T. Gourley
"Franklin Graham on Separation of Church and
Dates to Note
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"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.
and read it while you listen to it.
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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 Marion
Aldridge, Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina.
between the Church of the 20th Century and the 21st
By Marion Aldridge
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
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.
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
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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.
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.
Identity with Integrity"
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.
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:
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
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
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.
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.
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
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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Creative Ministries in
the Local Baptist Church:
This series highlights local churches who are
intentionally creative in their approach to ministry. Samaritan Ministry,
outreach and educational program for people living with HIV and
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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 simple–never
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.
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
email@example.com. Visit us on the web @
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The Baptist Studies Bulletin Recommends:
“Negotiating Conflict in the Congregation”
McAfee Institute for Healthy Congregations
McAfee School of Theology
March 20, 2006
Featuring: Dr. Dennis Burton, Workshop Leader, Certified
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.
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
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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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.
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).
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
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.
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?
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 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
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
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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