THE BAPTIST STUDIES
2006 Vol. 5 No. 3
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
The Baptist Soapbox: Jim Strickland
The Baptist University in the 21st Century:
Stanley G. Lott
Future of Baptist Higher Education"
Creative Ministries in the Local Baptist Church:
"Common Sense College Ministry"
Baptists, the Bible,
and the Poor: Charles E.
"Bono Speaks to Baptists"
In Response To . . .
: Bruce T. Gourley
Backtracking on Freedom"
Dates to Note
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By Walter B. Shurden
I believe . . .
that William Sloane Coffin, one of the most insightful
of God’s people, is right when he says that “we have both to recover tradition
and to recover from it” (Letters to a Young Doubter, p. 63).
Recovering from some of the Baptist tradition (Landmarkism,
Fundamentalism, etc.) is mandatory, but that is for another day.
For now I
want to argue for the recovery of the Baptist tradition. I received a copy of
a letter recently that opened with the following line: “I am a pastor, and the
people that I pastor have very little knowledge of Baptist Beliefs. They know
that Jesus saves, and not much more.”
It is urgent
that Baptist churches celebrate their Baptist heritage at least once a year
with a Baptist Heritage Sunday. Living in a so-called post-denominational
world, such a call may surely sound sinfully sectarian. To the contrary, a
Baptist Heritage Sunday may help to save us from sectarianism. It provides an
opportunity to stress our connection with the greater Church of Christ.
Heritage Sunday also presents us with an opportunity to teach and preach some
of the cardinal convictions of Baptists. I know it is a bit crass, but let me
quote myself. In the very first lines of the very first issue of this Bulletin
back in January of 2002 I said,
“I believe .
. . that traditional Baptist convictions—what we call 'Baptist
distinctives'—are more important today than at any time in the last two
centuries of Baptist history. Only the 17th and 18th centuries, the period in
which Baptists struggled for their right to exist, rival the need today for
the Baptist vision of the Christian faith. Today, however, it is our nation,
not simply our denomination, which needs a good dose of our distinctives.”
My home church’s
version of such a Sunday is called “Why I Am a Baptist Sunday.” We have a
visiting minister to preach on the subject in a personal and biblical way.
Over the years we have had such outstanding Baptists as Cecil Sherman, Delanna
O’Brien, James Dunn, Loyd Allen, Keith Parks, Charles Deweese, Daniel Vestal,
Emmanuel McCall, and several others to tell us why they are Baptists.
church has an annual celebration of the Baptist vision, we at The Center for
Baptist Studies would like to know what you do and how you do it. Send me an
Shurden_WB@Mercer.edu, and we will try to share what
you do with others.
church does not have a Baptist Heritage Sunday, why not try it? You may find
some help for celebrating such a Sunday in your church by looking at “For Your
Local Church” on our site (www.centerforbaptiststudies.org)
and click on “”Preaching Helps/Sermon Ideas” and “Baptist Heritage Week.”
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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 Jim
Strickland, director of the Sabbath House near Bryson City, North Carolina.
By Jim Strickland
Many years ago I was pastor of a church in a small farming community in south
Georgia. One sunny autumn day I was out visiting and stopped to chat with an
old farmer who was a member of our church. We were standing on the edge of a
large field of cotton, watching a machine pick six rows of cotton at once.
Having grown up in south Alabama around cotton farming, I commented, “My
grandfather would not believe that a machine could pick six rows of cotton in
a matter of minutes.” The old farmer looked at me, smiled, and said, “Yes, we
have wonderful machines today that help us in farming, but I really miss my
mules.” I was puzzled and asked him why. He said, “These machines can work
day and night, seven days a week, without needing rest. My mules could work
for about six days, but then they needed to rest. If they didn’t get some
rest, they didn’t have any energy the next week. Their need for rest made me
On many occasions in my
thirty-five years as a pastor I remembered that wise old farmer’s words.
However, like many conscientious pastors, I did not take my own needs
seriously enough, and like the farmer’s mules I trudged through a good portion
of my days without the energy I needed to do my best work.
The Sabbath House was
born out of the experience of a group of ministers who had been meeting
together annually for ten years in a secluded mountain retreat in western
North Carolina. Each year we left our work behind and gathered to rest, to
talk, and to laugh. Our time together became our annual one-week sabbatical.
As the years passed, we began to realize that the experience had become
crucial to our ministries, and that we wanted to help make such Sabbath
experiences available to others.
Dedicated to the recovery
of the Sabbath principle in today’s world, The Sabbath House makes retreats
available to individuals, couples, and groups–both lay and clergy. These
retreats are not program driven, but are dedicated to the Sabbath needs of
those who come for rest and re-creation. We are often asked, “What is the
program at your retreats?” We answer, “Those who come are the program. What
do you need from the experience? This is your time.”
The Sabbath experience is
crucial to spirituality, especially when our schedules are tied to machines
that never need to rest. The grace of Sabbath time invites us to stop our
machines and our work, and to get above it all for rest–rest that restores
our energy, our spirit, and our creativity.
The Sabbath House is
located near Bryson City, North Carolina on a secluded mountainside adjacent
to The Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Retreat times are generally
available from March through December each year, with comfortable
accommodations for one to twelve persons. Wonderful home cooked meals are
provided upon request, or groups may prepare their own. Our porches look out
over beautiful mountain vistas accompanied by the sounds of our mountain
creek. Time at The Sabbath House is uncrowded, unhurried, and uncommon.
For more information call
Jim Strickland or Rachel Lackey at 828-488-5209 or email us at
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The Baptist Studies Bulletin Recommends
the following Books:
A New Narrative History of Baptists
in the United States
by Pamela R. Durso and
Keith E. Durso
Baptist History and Heritage Society
"This very readable and engaging history of Baptists is
a valuable resource for informing Baptists in the pew and the pulpit of
their rich heritage." Carolyn D. Blevins, Associate Professor of
Religion, Carson-Newman College.
Click here for more information.
Loving God With Your Mind
by E. B. Self
questions about God, Dr. Self challenges believers and non-believers
alike to think about God in new and creative ways. With refreshingly
simple language, the author discusses complex problems of of faith,
providing thought-provoking solutions."
Dr. Stanley Crab, retired missionary. For more information, please
email BenCar Associates.
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 Stanley Lott, former president of Chowan College,
and now retired.
"The Future of
Baptist Higher Education"
Stanley G. Lott
Assessing the future of Baptist Higher education is problematic because it is
not monolithic. The institutions in this category range from large to small,
rich to poor and well-known to obscure. Many that once belonged to this group
no longer claim an affiliation. The defections are continuing and
denominational membership, particularly among our top schools, is shrinking.
the founding of Harvard in 1636, denominationally sponsored or affiliated
schools proliferated across the country, with many of them being Baptist. Over
time, a large number of these institutions abandoned their relationship to the
denomination that gave birth and/or backing to them. (See James Burtchaell’s,
The Dying of the Light: The Disengagement of Colleges and Universities from
their Christian Churches.) I believe that in the past and the present, we
can see the future of Baptist higher education.
as institutions increase in size, resources, and reputation, they are more
likely to abandon the connection with their denomination. It is instructive
to look at what happened with Harvard, Emory, Duke, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest,
and other schools that broke rank with the faith of their founders. Even
though many of these institutions have divinity schools, their mission
statements are silent about their denominational affiliation or heritage.
Baptist institutions, we can observe what has happened to Furman, Stetson,
University of Richmond, and Wake Forest University. These schools are working
hard to be nationally competitive. To achieve this goal, they must focus on
size, resources, and reputation. These schools no longer are affiliated with
Baptists and they are virtually silent about their Baptist heritage
Meredith College and Missouri Baptist University have recently broken ties
with Baptists. Spokespersons for Belmont and Georgetown Universities have
announced plans to do the same. Virginia Baptists have basically stopped
funding their schools and Georgia Baptists have announced their intention to
cut ties with Mercer University.
future for some of these institutions has arrived and it is a future without
connection to Baptists. For the others, it appears almost inevitable that
they will take the same path. Over time new presidents and ambitious
trustees, along with a variety of pressures, slowly will move these
institutions away from the Baptist affiliation.
University, the flagship of Baptist higher education, may be an exception. In
his ground breaking analysis, Quality With Soul, Robert Benne
examines the impact of secularization on religious colleges and universities.
He creates a continuum between fully Christian and fully secularized
colleges. About this continuum he says, “More colleges find themselves in the
gray areas between the brightness of the fully Christian college and the
darkness of full secularization than find themselves on either pole.” Benne
lists six institutions that have successfully combined quality with soul and
Baylor is among them.
second principle at work can be seen in many Methodist and Presbyterian
schools. Although they receive minimal support from their respective
denominations, there is a relatively strong and healthy relationship between
school and denomination. This appears to be an outgrowth of the mutual respect
and trust that exists between the two entities. On the one hand, the schools
openly declare their affiliation and effectively reflect it in their
programs. On the other hand, the denomination gives them the freedom to
develop reputations of excellence. The Presbyterian schools include such
institutions as Davidson, Maryville, Warren Wilson, Centre, and Austin
College. Centenary, Cornell College, Hendrix, Millsaps, and Mount Union are
some of the schools affiliated with the Methodists.
institutions that otherwise are comparable to those listed above generally are
not doing as well. Either they are being smothered by the fundamentalist
movement, or they have conceded control to the fundamentalists. Because they
do not understand and fear academic freedom, fundamentalists oppose and try to
suppress it. Since academic freedom is the bedrock of academic excellence,
the outcome of the fundamentalist effort is institutional mediocrity. Even
though these schools receive only a fraction of their budgets from Baptists,
fundamentalists demand complete control. Consequently, only a few of these
institutions will escape these pressures and build a reputation for
of these factors, it is difficult for me to be optimistic about the future of
Baptist higher education. While it certainly will not occur in my lifetime,
the way things are going now lead me to conclude that within fifty years,
Baptist institutions that are able to combine quality and soul will number
only a handful.
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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. This month's
featured local church ministry is the collegiate ministry of First Baptist
Church, Blowing Rock, North Carolina, directed by Rhonda Giles. The
author of this article is Rick Jordan, Church Resources Coordinator,
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina.
Common sense would tell you
that to have a successful, congregationally-based ministry to college students,
you would need: 1) a college close by, preferably adjacent to the church; 2) a
minister trained to specialize in this age group who works exclusively in this
area; 3) lots of money; 4) a program that focuses on entertainment and/or
recreation; and 5) an understanding that, hey, these kids are in college, so don’t
expect them to really get active in a church away from home.
Rhonda Gailes must
have forgotten to listen to all that common sense. For twelve years, Rhonda
has served First Baptist Church of Blowing Rock, NC, first as a part-time
youth minister, then a full time youth minister, then as youth minister with
added responsibilities with children and the Child Development Center. She has
her undergraduate degree from Montreat College with a concentration in youth
ministries. With that education and with her load of responsibilities, no one
could expect her to add college ministry, especially since the closest
college, Appalachian State University, is in Boone, a 30-45 minute drive from
the church. Still, about eight years ago, Rhonda felt a conviction to disciple
“We started with our own
high school graduates who went to ASU. Eighteen to twenty-five year olds have
the highest church drop-out rate. Why is that? I realized that these were
Christians, but we hadn’t been training them to be really good church members.
In the children’s ministries, it was all about taking care of them and the
same for the youth ministries. It was all focused on what we could give them.
So why should we be surprised when they get a year older that they feel no
responsibility to give to others or to the church? What we were doing was
developing really poor adult church members.”
Starting with eight
students, Rhonda changed her philosophy of ministry. Now the church averages
40-50 students every Sunday morning. “And we give them responsibilities.
They’re adults and we treat them that way. Our students are asked to serve and
with that service comes fellowship with other members, most of them older, and
accountability.” ASU students are serving the church as choir members, ushers,
committee members, and leaders in the youth ministry. One served on the most
recent pastor search committee. For every worship service, the Scripture
reader is a college student. Each summer, many of these students go on mission
trips. Though the number of student attendees has quadrupled, Rhonda insists,
“I could care less about the numbers. I just want long-term, day-after-day
Christians. College students have been taught by society that success is
measured by what you can get rather than what you can give. Where will the
church be in 15 years with that kind of leadership coming into it? God’s plan
is to reach the world through the local church, but most of us are in small
churches, so we can’t depend on the mega-churches to do the outreach and
discipling. We in the typical-sized churches are responsible for doing that.”
In the twelve years of Rhonda’s ministry, five youth from the church and
twenty college students have gone into full-time Christian ministry.
Rhonda begins each
school year with an invitation to the ASU students who mark on their records
that they want a Baptist affiliated church. She visits the Baptist Student
Union, puts up flyers and takes out an ad in the ASU phone directory. “But
mostly, it’s word of mouth,” she says. “It only takes four or five students to
get fired up about our Monday night Bible study to bring in a crowd.” Each
Monday evening the students have dinner together and then get some “spiritual
meat.” “We focus less on socialization and more on spiritual formation.” There
is no Sunday School for college students. Instead, a 10 AM worship service,
designed and led by the students, is held. It is a multi-media, experiential,
Praise and Worship, testimonial type of service. Called ATT (for Approaching
The Throne), Rhonda notes, “This is not a substitute for the 11 AM service.
They come to that, too. ATT is a supplement. Everyone who comes to ATT comes
to the church’s traditional service, too. In my opinion, it’s not worth
splitting the church over a doggone song.”
A few years ago,
the pastor preached a sermon with the message that “the only way to store up
treasures is to invest in the people going there.” One member came to the
pastor convicted that he should give more money to the church. The pastor
suggested a scholarship for interns. Now, $8,000 a year is given for the
support of four college students who work with Rhonda doing hands-on ministry
in the youth and children’s areas during the school year. They visit the
children and youth at their schools, build relationships with the parents,
plan and take charge of ATT, and even do lock-ins. “I’m in charge over-all,
but they each have particular responsibilities.” The interns add a new spark
to the youth ministry. “Our students (youth and college) fill the first four
rows of the church. There’s an attitude difference. It’s cool to be involved."
You can hear more from Rhonda Gailes and her
philosophy of congregationally based college ministry during breakouts at the
next CBFNC General Assembly, March 18-19.
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The Baptist Studies Bulletin Recommends
the Following Conferences:
“The Harmonies of Liberty: A Symposium on
the Role of Religion in Public Life”
The University of Alabama Law School
March 31, 2006
Featuring: Hon. William H. Pryor, Jr.,
Dr. Wayne Flynt, Rev. James Evans, Dr. Carol Ann Vaughan, and others.
Description: A symposium on the role of religion in public
life. Representing diverse viewpoints and origins. Symposium participants will
go beyond sound bites to really wrestle with the difficult issues that arise
where matters of faith intersect with matters of public consequence.
Registration: For more information, and to
register, click here.
“Baptist Explorations of the Freedom Impulse”
Sponsored by The Pintlala Baptist Church and
Mainstream Alabama Baptists
April 1, 2006 •
Pintlala Baptist Church, Hope Hull, Alabama
Featuring: Charles Deweese, Frank Wells, Gerald
Johnson, Robin Newsworthy, Bob Patterson
Program, Cost and Registation: The program is
from 9:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. The cost is $10 per person, to be paid upon
arrival. Lunch is included.
Click here to view the program.
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.
"Bono Speaks to Baptists"
By Charles E. Poole
In his recent speech in Washington, D.C. at the President’s National Prayer
Breakfast, U-2 rock star/activist Bono reminded his audience that the Bible
contains over 2,000 references to the poor.
I understand that
invoking Bono to remind Baptists about the Bible is not unlike enlisting
Conway Twitty to enthuse Episcopalians about incense, but the fact is, Bono
has a point. His point is that there is no more persistent pattern in
scripture than God’s concern for the poor.
That pattern begins in
Exodus 22:25 when God says, “If you lend money to the poor you shall not
charge them interest.” It doesn’t wind down until I John 3:17, “How
does God’s love abide in anyone who has this world’s goods and sees a brother
or sister in need and yet refuses to help them?” And, in between, God’s
concern for the poor, the vulnerable and the needy comes up about 2,000 times.
And since, for Baptists,
the Bible is the “rule and guide for faith and practice,” here’s a modest
proposal for Baptist ministers, deacons, committee members and church-folk in
general: The next time the suggestion that the church should be spending less
on its own institutional advancement and more on the needs of the poor is met
with the popular rejoinder that “The church is not a social-services agency,”
you might want to share Bono’s finding that the Bible mentions the poor about
2,000 times. And since, for Baptists, the Bible is the church’s Book, that
means that churches must give themselves to the poor in generous and loving
ways, not because we want to be social service agencies, but because we want
to be churches.
Table Of Contents
Response To ...
Backtracking on Freedom"
By Bruce T. Gourley
One would be hard pressed to argue against “freedom” as
the primary foundation of the American nation, despite historical shortcomings
in realizing this ideal. Baptists from the early seventeenth century onward
contributed significantly, and indisputably, to the ideal of freedom on two
fronts: religious liberty for all citizens (separation of church and state)
and freedom of conscience within the Baptist family.
rallying cry of freedom remained the staple of Baptist belief in America from
the early seventeenth century into the 1970s. Then something unprecedented
took shape as more and more Baptists backtracked on their heritage of
freedom. Today, many Baptists emphatically deny the historical reality of the
separation of church and state and freedom of conscience, choosing instead to
embrace myths and lies on a path to religious power and privilege sanctioned
freedom of religion is now under attack in Missouri with the blessing of
Missouri Baptist leader David Clippard. On March 3, 2006, the
Republican-controlled House Rules Committee approved a
resolution that advocates for official Christian
prayer in public schools and asserts that elected officials “should protect
the majority’s right to express their religious beliefs while showing respect
for those who object.” Clippard voiced his support: “The foundation of this
country started with Christianity, and this just goes back and acknowledges
where we started.” If our nation’s founding fathers had sanctioned an
official faith in the federal constitution, Baptists, a dissident, liberal,
trouble-making minority in the eighteenth century, might yet today be whipped,
beaten and jailed for merely expressing their faith in public!
freedom of conscience is also under attack by fundamentalist Baptists.
Baptist Press of the Southern Baptist Convention periodically trots out
commentaries on the evils of freedom of conscience, the
latest of which denies the Baptist heritage of
freedom as nothing more than a “moderate virus” which includes “a deficient
view of biblical authority, a radical view of individualism, a nigh unto
secularist view of religious liberty.”
Recently Albert Mohler, president of the Southern
Baptist Theological Seminary, mocked attempts by Presbyterians “to preserve
the freedom of conscience and the interpretation of Scripture,” a proposal he
labeled a conclusive “failure.”
certain, both religious liberty and freedom of conscience are historically
liberal ideals, and modern fundamentalist Baptists are anything but amiable to
that which smacks of liberalism. Perhaps this is why some Baptists are
committed to opposing freedom. Mohler, speaking of the troubles within the
Presbyterian denomination, asserts “If individual conscience is allowed to
invalidate the clear teachings of Scripture, the denomination faces an
the following statement against freedom sums up best the modern fundamentalist
Baptist hatred of liberalism and its corollary, freedom: “[liberalism] sets up
a human standard, at the bar, of which the inspiration of the Bible is tried,
and … condemned for coming in direct conflict with certain principles of human
nature, termed the ‘higher law’ … Freedom will become its watchword … freedom
to reject the Bible–free thinking, free loving, free acting, in a word freedom
from all the moral restraints which make society virtuous and desirable.”
Although this anti-freedom diatribe echoes the voices of today’s Baptist
enemies of freedom, the author was Ebenezer W. Warren, a Georgia Baptist pastor
and leader during the mid-nineteenth century. Speaking at the conclusion of
his 1861 sermon entitled, “Scriptural Vindication of Slavery,” Warren
resoundingly condemned Baptist and government anti-slavery voices in the North
for allowing the ideal of freedom to override the clear teachings of Scripture
which sanctioned the enslavement of African-Americans. Representing the
darkest chapter in the history of Baptists in the South, Warren declared the
bondage of African-Americans as “a vital element of the Divine Revelation to
man,” insisting that “Both Christianity and Slavery are from Heaven; both are
blessings to humanity; both are to be perpetuated to the end of time.” Over
100 years after Warren’s sermon, many white Baptists yet refused to
acknowledge the ideal of freedom for African-Americans.
Tragically, one of the greatest dangers to the
ideal of freedom today lies within the Baptist family and threatens both the
authentic Baptist faith of our ancestors and the very foundation of our
nation. The Apostle Paul, speaking nearly 2000 years ago to Galatian
Christians who were buffeted by enemies of freedom from within, offers a
timeless word to us today: “do not give in to them for a moment, so that the
truth of the Gospel might remain in you …. It is for freedom that Christ has
set us free” (Galatians 2:5, 5:1).
Table Of Contents
The Baptist Studies Bulletin Recommends:
that high school students graduating in 2006 or 2007 enter the religious
liberty essay writing contest sponsored by the Baptist Joint Committee
of Washington, D.C. Win a $1,000 and a trip to Washington!
Click here for more information.
Dates to Note
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,
June 1-3, 2006, Baptist
History and Heritage Society annual meeting, First
Baptist Church of Washington, D.C. The meeting will be hosted by the Baptist
Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. The theme for the meeting will be “The
Contributions of Baptist Public Figures in
For more information,
visit the society’s website or e-mail Pam Durso at
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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