May 2006              Vol. 5  No. 5

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

         "In Praise of Frank Horton and His Kind"

The Baptist Soapbox: Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins, III

         "What Does the Lord Require of You?"
The Baptist University in the 21st Century
David Sallee

         "The Challenge Facing Baptist Colleges"
Creative Ministries in the Local Baptist Church
Stephen Jones

         "Partners in Peacemaking"

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

         "No Mystery to Hide Behind"
In Response To . . .
: Bruce T. Gourley

         "In Response to . . . Russ Moore and James Smith on the Gospel and Jimmy

Dates to Note

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I Believe

"In Praise of Frank Horton and His Kind"
By Walter B. Shurden

I believe . . .

that the sixteen million (16 million!!) students on college and university campuses in this country constitute one of the most important mission fields in the entire world. That mission field demands the attention of all Christians, especially of progressive Baptists.
         Fifty-one springs ago, I uttered my first public, stammering, frightened words for Christ. I had been invited to give a devotional at the Baptist Student Union Noon Day Worship Service at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi where I was a first-year student. Only a few weeks before in my dorm room I had, in C. S. Lewis’s words been “Surprised by Joy.”  In that dorm room that night I first met the Holy in life.
         I have absolutely no memory of what I said at that BSU Noon Day Service. I do remember being embarrassed that the lectern from which I spoke could not hide my trembling legs. I also remember leaving that room almost in tears at how poorly I had done on my maiden speech for Christ. God used that pathetic performance in the Delta State BSU to help call me into the Christian ministry.
         During the summer of 1955 I made the decision to transfer to Mississippi College because I was told that MC was the college where Mississippi Baptist preachers got their education. At MC I thankfully fell into the hands of Frank Horton, the Baptist Student Union director and the BSU of Mississippi College.
         Frank Horton and BSU meant more to me than any church I was a member of while I was in college.
It was at the BSU that I received my first opportunity at Christian leadership during the years 1955-58.
         It was at the BSU that I received from Frank Horton some of the best vocational counseling I ever received.
         If it were still standing, I could take you to the prayer rooms above the BSU offices on the campus of MC where I first learned the significance of silence and the power of Holy Scripture.
         It was because of Frank Horton and his pastoral urgings that I spent one of the most memorable summers of my life at Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly in 1956. Frank knew, God bless him, that I desperately needed exposure to some of the best that Baptists had to offer at that time.
         My experience is not a solitary one. Many Baptists of my fading generation have similar stories to tell. They are stories about the transformative impact of campus ministry on their lives during some of the most volatile years of their lives.
         Today there are 4,168 college and university campuses in this country on which are sixteen million students. Millions of those people need someone to do for them what campus ministry did for me and many of you reading these words. Millions of those sixteen million need someone to help them find a faith that will withstand the winds of secularism, fundamentalism, and humanism. Millions of those sixteen million need a shot at the kind of faith you think is important for your children and grandchildren.
         As a result of the controversy within the SBC, progressive Baptists lost the historic campus ministry of BSU to the Fundamentalist victory. Except for the states of Texas and Virginia, campus ministry as we once knew it is pretty well gone. It will certainly be gone when, in the next few years, the progressive campus ministers are all off the scene.  
         Will we make an effort to replace it? Who is to replace it? Local congregations? State or regional CBFs? National CBF? Mainstream Baptists? The Alliance of Baptists? A combination of some or all of the above? How will anything ever be done unless we first see the gravity and the potential of the college campus? Must we not, in our local churches and state and national organizations, reprioritize our commitments and our limited resources? Are not the campuses in this country as crucial and critical to the ongoing progressive Baptist witness as the global mission fields? It is true that we cannot do everything. But isn’t it time to take stock of where our future resides?
          A small start has been made as a result of a conference recently held at the First Baptist Church in Decatur, GA. An interim campus ministry steering committee has been named.  Leslie Limbaugh, Minister to Students at Third Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri has been named chair of the committee.  If you have any suggestions or passion for the cause, please contact Leslie at; Terry Hamrick, national CBF Coordinator for Leadership Development and one of the sponsors of the conference, is the liasion for the committee.  His email address is
          Of course, we need money for the cause. But in the history of Baptists, money has most often followed passion. We need local churches, Baptist organizations, and Baptist individuals with passion to lead.
          John Claypool often ended his sermons with  . . . “Well?”

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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 Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins, III.  Dr. Wright-Riggins is the Executive Director of National Ministries, American Baptist Churches in the USA and Chief Executive Officer of Judson Press.

"What Does the Lord Require of You?"
Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins, III

          I’m tired of being told to be nice.  Niceness doesn’t change the condition of the world very much.  Niceness often requires persons trying to be nice to choke to death on too much bile.  I praise God that the most authentic baptistic Christians the world has known were not very nice.  
         No matter how many times I flip through the pages of my concordance, or type it into my handheld computer’s Bible dictionary, I cannot find the word “nice.”  For years I heard injunctions like “Junior, be nice to your sister.” Or, “God doesn’t like nasty, so be nice.” And, “that would be a really nice thing to do.”   Raised to be nice by really nice people myself, it feels so strange to me that the word “nice” doesn’t appear between “Nicanor” and “Nicodemus” in  Nelson’s Complete Concordance of the Revised Standard Version Bible.
         Commonly used, “nice” describes something as pleasing and agreeable, well-executed, appropriate and fitting, socially acceptable (i.e., well-bred), polite and kind.  These are not bad things in and of themselves.  Such behaviors are required of members of society needing standards for getting along together, and they are rightly enjoined by parents, teachers and elders.  However, they fall far short of what is required of us in the company of Christ and his followers. 
         John 19: 39 tells how Nicodemus was transformed from a secret seeker of Jesus who came to him by night into a daring day-time disciple, laying claim to the broken body of Christ amid the stark realities of Roman terrorism and legalistic, religious ostracism.   And then there was Nicanor, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (6:1-5) as one of seven men, “wise and full of the Holy Spirit” put in charge of the food distribution program to ensure fairness for Greek widows, discriminated against by the early Jewish disciples.   Nicanor knew that if you want peace, you have to work for justice. 
         It’s no wonder “nice” does not appear between “Nicanor” and Nicodemus!”  They were not nice–they were compassionate.    
         Maybe my parents called me to niceness because the word “compassion” scared them to death. That’s the real word that belongs between “Nicanor” and “Nicodemus.” Mama and Daddy knew enough about what happened to people like Jesus and Jeremiah, Martin Luther King and Fannie Lou Hamer, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Dorothy Day, when they staked their lives on compassion.  
         Compassion, at least biblical compassion, is not about warm, fuzzy feelings, smiles of encouragement or periodic hand-outs.   Compassion, as Linda Gaither says in her article, “Proclaim Jubilee,” is about seeing “the dignity of every child of God, and acting to protect and promote that dignity, even at a cost to ourselves.” 
         While niceness pursues privileges, compassion threatens our privileges.  While niceness seeks to fit in with the prevailing cultural ethos, compassion demands that we change our social structures.   In times like these, the world doesn’t need just another nice person.  Instead, the world needs compassionate persons. 
         Isn’t it nice that “nice” never made it into the concordance?

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McAfee Institute for Healthy Congregations
McAfee School of Theology
Center For Baptist Studies
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia

October 26, 2006

 Religious Life Center
Mercer University
Macon, Georgia

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

 9:30  Registration and Refreshments
 9:45   Welcome and Introductions
  Session 1:  The Primary Drivers of Congregational Duress
10:50  Break
11:00  Session 2: The Defining Relationships Model
11:45  Lunch—University Cafeteria
 1:00  Session 3: The CRN Process—Overview
 2:15  Break
 2:30  Session 4:  The CRN Process—Congregational Weekend/Discussion
 3:30  Adjournment

To register, mail to Dr. Larry McSwain, McAfee School of Theology, 3001 Mercer University Drive, Atlanta, GA 30341-4115 a check payable to McAfee School of Theology in the amount of $39 by October 20, 2006.  Registration at the door:  $49.

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 David Sallee, president of William Jewell College in Missouri.  Andy Pratt, chaplain, and Milton Horne, professor of religion assisted in the writing of this article.

"The Challenge Facing Baptist Colleges"
By David Sallee

         The essence of the challenge facing Baptist colleges now and in the immediate future is captured in a recent complaint I received from the parent of a current student regarding the person we chose as our annual science lecturer.  The parent questioned the propriety of the College’s hosting a lecturer who was an affirmed Deist to talk about a subject of much concern to Christians—evolution.  This is the gist of my response:

Our function, to help students develop high-level intellectual skills, is not the same as the church’s function, though it is complementary.  One step in achieving such a goal is to challenge students to think about things in a different way.  It is not our goal to shape their final perspective on a subject such as evolution, but rather to give them the tools to eventually do so themselves.  Offering perspectives such as Dr. Wilson’s is one such example.  Offering hospitality to Dr. Wilson and hearing his perspective is not the same as affirming that perspective or aligning the College with that perspective.  Our hope is that his talk will stimulate in-depth discussion and thoughtful reflection on the part of our students and faculty.  If it does that, we will have moved a step closer to our goal of developing high-level intellectual skills. 

         The fundamental disagreement between Baptist colleges and their partner denominational organizations springs from a misapprehension on the part of the denominational leaders regarding the function of the college.  Establishing both clarity of function and commitment to broad Christian principles is the on-going challenge for colleges of the church.  This relationship varies: sometimes faith and learning reside side by side, sometimes intertwined, sometimes separated, but always in relationship.  What binds them in relationship is the intellectual and emotional honesty of an institution that emphasizes integrity above appearances.
         Colleges engage a broad community, of which the denomination is a part.  This broad community includes the academe of disciplines and the civil society.  The college serves its community by fostering the development of intellectual potential.  In doing so, neither the faith of faculty and students, nor the disciplines studied and taught, are ends to be reached in themselves.  They are a means to an end, tools to be used in education.  The development of intellectual potential includes an understanding of the role faith plays in our lives and the world.  An effective Christian education should produce graduates in whom no part of decision-making is untouched by faith and no part of faith unaffected by the world in which they live (Westlie).
         In his paper, “An Alternative Vision for the Christian University,” Ralph Wood cites Robert Wilkin’s observation that “early Christians turned the Mediterranean world upside down for three reasons: because of their radically ascetic life of prayer and devotion, because of their enormous care for each other and all others who were either emarginated or abandoned, and because of their brilliant philosophical and theological thinking about the pressing intellectual questions of the day.”  It is primarily the third dimension that expresses the need for colleges.  In recent years, the denomination has consistently pressed colleges to function like churches, increasing the emphasis on the first two dimensions and actively discouraging emphasis of the third dimension.  If this third dimension is diminished, there is simply no need for Christian colleges, as the third dimension most clearly defines the way in which the college differs from the church. 
         To be great Baptist colleges means we must first be great centers of intellectual challenge.  We serve the church best in that role; indeed, there is no other institution to serve the church in such a way. 

Westlie, John; from an unpublished paper at William Jewell College, “College Mission, Christian Mission, and Academic Mission,” October 2005.
             Wood, Ralph; “An Alternative Vision for the Christian University,” a panel presented at NABPR, November 2004.

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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.  This month's featured local church ministry is Partners in Peacemaking of First Baptist Church of Seattle, of which Stephen Jones is pastor.

"Partners in Peacemaking"
By Stephen Jones

           Seattle First Baptist Church has been an historic peace church throughout most of the 20th Century.  Before and during World War II, our pulpit was occupied by two different leaders who opposed the war and were avowed pacifists.  During this war, the church had 260 men and women serving in the armed services.  Support for them had to be separate from dissent about the war.
           The church formed a Peace Action Fellowship during those years that continues today in a group called Partners in Peacemaking.  The group advocates for peacemaking in many ways, including an opposition to the current war in Iraq.  In 2004, Seattle’s main anti-war protest began in the sanctuary of Seattle First Baptist Church and proceeded to the city’s waterfront with thousands filling ten city blocks.  In 2005, the church hosted a variety of peace choirs in Seattle in a city-wide concert to raise awareness and celebrate peace in a time of war.
           The church’s pastor at the time of the Vietnam War also expressed his active opposition.  One of the church’s most pronounced positions on peacemaking was during World War II when Seattle’s large Japanese community came under suspicion by the majority population.  This led to the eventual forced internment of the Japanese and the loss of their personal property and farms in and around Seattle.  An entire Japanese neighborhood just two blocks from Seattle First Baptist Church was confiscated and never returned.  The church’s pastor objected strenuously.  Many church members began patronizing Japanese businesses at the very time others were boycotting these businesses.  The youth group of the church gave blood to a young Japanese man facing surgery in a nearby hospital.  The pastor visited the internment camps and offered communion.  Many church members secretly stored household valuables of the Japanese, an action that would have been viewed as aiding and abetting the enemy.
           In 2005, Justice Charles Z. Smith received the coveted Dahlberg Peace Award at the American Baptist Biennial in Denver. Justice Smith recently retired from the Washington State Supreme Court and is a member of Seattle First Baptist Church.  He has devoted his life to peacemaking in terms of racial justice, advocacy for the marginalized, and legal justice.
Partners in Peacemaking engages in legislative advocacy, education of the congregation around peace issues, peace vigils, and recently adopted a Peacemakers Room in the church to lift up the church’s celebrated history in peacemaking. 

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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.

"No Mystery to Hide Behind"
By Charles E. Poole

          How do you know when you’ve crossed the line that separates living with mystery from hiding behind mystery?
Living with mystery is a necessary dimension of a mature Christian life. When it comes to creation, salvation, eschatology, prayer, human suffering and a long list of other wonders, the capacity to live with mystery is a sign of real maturity. As our Baptist friend Cecil Sherman once said, “It is unbecoming of us to claim to see through a glass clearly when no less a giant than the apostle Paul confessed to seeing through a glass darkly.” As usual, Cecil nailed it. It’s true. There is much mystery that simply lies beyond our knowing. Better to struggle with hard questions that forever go unanswered than to snuggle with easy answers that forever go unquestioned. There is a lot of mystery, and when we encounter it, we need to be careful to embrace it, live with it and resist the temptation to say more than we know in an effort to explain it.
          On the other hand, we must be equally careful not to hide behind mystery where none exists. Take the whole matter of the church and poverty, for example. There is no mystery here. From front to back, the Bible speaks with one clear, consistent, unambiguous voice about the responsibilities of those who have enough to those who struggle. As much as we Baptists cringe to admit it, the Bible speaks with more than one voice on many subjects, even on the critical question of how we enter eternal life. (By grace in Ephesians 2:1-10, by works in Luke 18:18-22.) But when it comes to how the people of God should respond to the poor, the Bible speaks with one clear, unambiguous voice, all the way from Leviticus 19:9-10 (“When you harvest your fields, you shall not reap all the way out to the edges, but you shall leave the edges for the poor.”) to 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).”
           But what about John 12:8, where Jesus says, “The poor will always be with you”? Even there, Jesus is quoting from a passage that calls us to care for the poor, Deuteronomy 15:11, “Since the poor will always be with you, I command you to open your hand to the poor and needy.”
The truth is, when it comes to the church’s response to the poor, there is no mystery concerning our calling. There is enormous complexity concerning the causes of poverty; complexity which includes the issues of race and education and government roles and personal responsibility and a long list of other rugged difficulties. The causes and cures of poverty are weighed down beneath many layers of complexity. But our calling is clear. No mystery here: “Bring the homeless poor into your house” (Isaiah 58:7) “Give to anyone who begs from you” (Matthew 5:42) “When you have a dinner, invite the poor” (Luke 14:13) “Those who have much should not have too much, so that those who have little will not have too little” (II Corinthians 8:15). When it comes to our churches, the Bible and the poor, there is no mystery behind which to hide. We can say we don’t always know how to help, but we cannot say we aren’t sure if care for the poor should be central to the life of our church. Especially we Baptists cannot say that. After all, we are people of the Book, and the Book, which is teeming with mystery on many things, offers us no questions behind which to hide when it comes to poverty. We can say, “We won’t go.” But we cannot say, “We don’t know.”

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In Response To ...

"In Response To . . . Russ Moore and James Smith on the Gospel and Jimmy Carter"
By Bruce T. Gourley

            Enough has been written about Baptist fundamentalism in recent years that the subject is in danger of being oversaturated, it would seem.  And yet these modern-day legalists continue to outdo themselves as they rush headlong into the religious chasm of the oldest heresy of all: pretending to be God’s authoritative mouthpiece to the world.
            Like the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, today’s fundamentalists disdain anything Jesus says that opposes their self-centered world view.  Recently, Baptist leaders from across the theological spectrum, called together by former president Jimmy Carter and representing a large segment of Baptists in America, met to discuss ways they could work together for the Kingdom of God.  From this historical gathering came a pledge to be obedient to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the Baptist leaders “committed themselves to their obligations as Christians to promote peace with justice, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick and the marginalized, welcome the strangers among us”−Jesus’ own salvation criterion in Matthew 25.
            However, a commitment to the Gospel is not good enough for some Baptists.  Within days of the release of the
North American Baptist Covenant, fundamentalist Southern Baptists dismissed the signers as liberals and heretics … in much the same that six years ago they dismissed Jesus as the criterion for interpreting Scripture in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, declaring that too often Jesus is viewed as a liberal.  Russ Moore, dean at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, seemed particularly upset that some Baptist leaders dared pledge themselves to obey the (liberal) commandments of Jesus:  “the Baptist left is the only side of the spectrum interested in these kind of manifestos.  I would have been outraged had conservative Southern Baptists signed on to such a thing,” he fumed.
            James Smith, executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, also condemned the statement and signatories. 
According to Smith, the NABC is void of “basic doctrinal truths” and at least three of the participating Baptist leaders are heretics and/or “theologically suspect.”
            One cannot help but wonder how anyone who calls himself or herself a Christian (much less a Baptist) could voice such disdain for the Gospel of Jesus and towards persons committed to obeying the Gospel!  Who, then, are the real heretics?  Jimmy Carter, perhaps more than any other Baptist in the world today, lives out the teachings and principles of the Gospel, while Moore and Smith mock the commandments of Christ and teach others to do likewise.  "Woe to you experts in the law
, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering" (Luke 11:52), Jesus said of the fundamentalists of his own day.
The apostle Paul offers insight into why religious legalists find the Gospel unsatisfying: they have a low view of grace, an elevated view of law and self, and a resulting distaste for freedom in Christ.  “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4), Paul admonished as he preached grace and freedom as the basic doctrinal truths of the Gospel of Christ.
            Ultimately, if the Bible is to be believed, the very Gospel which Moore and Smith are so quick to reject will be the judge of all:  the Gospel that separates the faithfully obedient from the smooth-talking pretenders who set up shop as the voice of God.

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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

Dates to Note

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 America.” For more information, visit the society’s website  or e-mail Pam Durso at

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

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:

September 24-26, 2006, The Mercer Preaching Consultation, St. Simon's Island, GA. Sponsored by the McAfee School of Theology and The Center for Baptist Studies.  Headline speaker: John Killinger.  Click here for more information.

October 26, 2006, Negotiating Conflict in the Congregation, Religious Life Center, Mercer University, Macon, GA.  Sponsored by McAfee Institute for Healthy Congregations, McAfee School of Theology, The Center For Baptist Studies and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia.  To register, mail to Dr. Larry McSwain, McAfee School of Theology, 3001 Mercer University Drive, Atlanta, GA 30341-4115 a check payable to McAfee School of Theology in the amount of $39 by October 20, 2006.  Registration at the door $49.

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

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