Vol. 5 No. 11




  The Jesse Mercer Plaza
  Mercer University, Macon Campus 

Produced by The Center for Baptist Studies, Mercer University
A Monthly EMagazine, Bridging Baptists Yesterday and Today

Walter B. Shurden, Executive Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin

Bruce T. Gourley, Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin

Wil Platt, Associate Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin

Visit The Center for Baptist Studies' Web Site at

Table of Contents



I Believe . . . : Walter B. Shurden

         "Saying Yes and Saying No"

The Baptist Soapbox: Chris Sanders

         "Why Should Baptists Care About the Labor Movement?"
Creative Ministries in the Local Baptist Church
: Ralph Starling

         "Divorce Recovery Ministry, First Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia"

Baptists and Peacemaking: Glen Stassen

         "The Sermon on the Mount: Sources and Interpretation"

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

         "Living on Less So Others Can Live on More"
In Response To . . .
: Bruce T. Gourley

         "In Response to . . . Richard Land in Your Bedroom"
Recommended Online Reading
Dates to Note

We welcome your feedback.  Click here to tell us what you think of this issue of the Bulletin!

Note:  To print the BSB, set your printer's left and right margins to .4 inches or less.


To change / add / delete your email for the Baptist Studies Bulletin, please click here.

Netscape users: If you need to increase the font size on your screen, click "view" then "increase font."

Note:  You are free to duplicate and circulate the articles in BSB or to use quotations
from our articles.  We would, however, appreciate a good word about where
you found your material. It makes us look good!  Thanks.

I Believe

"Saying Yes and Saying No"
By Walter B. Shurden

I believe . . .
that “saying yes and saying no,” is an important spiritual discipline. Michelle McClendon speaks for many of us when she writes, “One of the spiritual practices that I struggle most with is that of saying yes and saying no." Chew on that line. Surely Michelle put us in touch with something that matters. “Saying yes and saying no” is a spiritual practice of enormous proportions, carrying with it huge implications.
          “Saying yes and saying no” is an important spiritual practice as we look at our schedules. Scheduling is what Michelle was talking about in her email to me, because I had very reluctantly told her no about a speaking engagement. My time, as well as my money, is, of course, a critical issue of stewardship. Deciding which invitations to accept and when to accept them and whythat is a spiritual decision. What responsibilities to take on at church, school, work and in the community is at bottom a spiritual decision that impacts not only me but my family, my colleagues, and my work for God’s kingdom. John Carleton once said, “All of my invitations come to me in my manic state of mind, and they come due in my depressed state.” Who has not felt that way?
          Some of us, burdened with messianism, say yes far too often and far too quickly. Saying yes is often rooted in a distorted need to be needed. Yes can spoil as well as enrich. Some of us overlive. On the other hand, some of us, blighted by a negative view of self, say no far too often, far too quickly, and far too fearfully. Saying no is often rooted in a fear of risking. Some of us underlive. I am confident that some of my yeses should be noes, some of my noes, yeses.
          “Saying yes and saying no” is an important spiritual practice as we look at job changes. I am fully aware that those of us who are Baptist clergy have used the term “God’s will” in vain many, many times.  As we have sought to paper over a move from one churchly position to another, we have conscripted God’s name as justification, when at times God may not have been within a country mile of that decision. On the other hand, Baptist laypeople probably could take far more seriously “God’s will” when they are looking at job relocations, promotions, salary increases, and the like. When is the last time that a member of your church asked the church or part of that church (a Sunday School class, for example) what the fellowship thought about a personal job change? I have heard people ask for prayer in making such a critical decision, but I don’t believe anyone has ever asked our class or our church to help them with the discernment of God’s will. Apparently people who are part of the Church of the Saviour in D.C. take this kind of spiritual decision-making seriously. Why shouldn’t a local fellowship of believers weigh in on a minister’s possible move as a spiritual decision? And why should they not weigh in even if the church-to-be is bigger and has a fatter salary? And if we are all ministers, as we contend, why should we not weigh in on the accountant’s, the banker’s, and the therapist’s decision for a job change?
          “Saying yes and saying no” is an important spiritual practice as we look at the way we spend our money. I, like you, am beaten black and blue by good appeals from good causes. Often I don’t even read the letters or answer the phone calls. And quite often, as I throw the letter in the trash, I think, “I wish I had a million (or a hundred) to give to that cause.” So many good, godly, Christlike causes and so little money! In revising our will, I realized we were “saying yes and saying no.” Do I say yes to plates that are already comfortably filled or to those that have little if any on the plate? Do I say yes only to my kin and kind or do I say yes to Christ’s larger cause and the world’s greater need?
          “Saying yes and saying no” is not as easy as it sounds. I sat in a college chapel service at Mississippi College almost fifty years ago and heard a professor of education pontificate to us kids: “There is no middle ground between evil and that which is right.” It had such a noble ring to it that I wrote the entire sentence in the back of my brown Scofield Bible. Within a very few years, after I had lived longer and deeper into life, I scratched through that sentence in the back of my brown Scofield. I had learned that much of the ground in my life was middle ground, hard-to-discern ground, stubborn ground, and it was very, very gray ground, neither black nor white, neither yes ground nor no ground. Indeed, life had become so ambiguous for me that I replaced my cocksure Scofield with a version of the Bible in which the notes did not claim to have all the answers.
          Before you say yes or no the next time, pause. In preparing to utter those little words, you are getting ready to make a spiritual decision of some moment. Maybe during this Thanksgiving season, as we Baptists are nudged toward gratitude, we can give thanks for realizing that yes and no are really enormous words for our spiritual lives.

Table Of Contents

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 J. Chris Sanders, Executive Assistant to the President and General Counsel, United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 227, in Louisville, Kentucky.

"Why Should Baptists Care About the Labor Movement?"
By Chris Sanders

            “Why should Baptists care about the labor movement?” What a question! Baptists are vitally involved in labor, if not involved directly in the labor movement. We are labor.  Our churches are full of working people, and we bring work with us to church. There’s the public-school teacher, under attack from the Religious Right about evolution and “godless government schools”, but answering God’s call to mission every morning by teaching someone else’s kids.  There are the nurses and aides that see the pastor at church on Sunday and in the nursing homes and hospitals and Monday, while caring for too many patients without enough help. There’s the old union construction worker on the deacon board, interrupting some stuffed shirt who is hogging the meeting and telling it like it is. There’s the Wal-Mart clerk, trying to get enough hours by working on Sunday, missing church and his kids. There are the thousands upon thousands in sweatshops around the world, fingers to the bone for pennies an hour and in need of Baptist World Aid.
            We are labor.  But what about organized labor? Why should Baptists care about the labor movement? Because it’s about having a voice on the job. We’re people who speak for ourselves and for what we need. Organized labor at its most basic is people who take orders saying to those who give orders, “you’ve told us what you need, now listen to what we need, since what you think controls, but what we think matters, too.”  Baptists who own can’t figuratively say to us, here’s my business plan and your role in it, now “go your way, be warmed and filled” (James 2:16), but then get upset when we Baptists who work respond with the same sarcasm as the Apostle James. What we think matters, too.
            That sounds Baptist to me, both for Baptists who own and Baptists who work. The Baptist movement and the labor movement share similar guiding principles. As Baptists, we believe in freedom of conscience, that we stand on our own before God. In labor, we believe in workplace freedom, that we don’t check our humanity and freedom of speech at the workplace door. In church, we believe in community, Christians gathered as the Body for mutual support and action. In the labor movement, we call that solidarity, and in the words of our “Amazing Grace”, “Solidarity Forever.”  Baptists and labor are freedom-loving, locally-led (as in local unions and local churches), and evangelistic (labor calls it organizing). That’s reason enough to do more together.
            That Baptists in America and labor don’t do more together has a lot to do with history and geography—rural roots, the South, individualism, race, boss-owned churches, salvation-only evangelism, etc. But that’s all in the past. My pastor, Joe Phelps at Highland Baptist in Louisville, says, speaking of regret, “the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.” It’s not too late to write the future. Every day is a new day, and every Monday brings a new workweek. I know for a fact that lots of us union people, especially the Christians, would really like to hear some Good News from the churches. All us teachers, nurses, construction workers, Wal-Mart workers and sweatshop kids know in our hearts that God sees us as people with dignity when we go to work. We’re just looking for Baptist leaders who see themselves and others with eyes of faith as working people, who can put words to the feelings God has put on our hearts, and who are willing to bring the Good News about good jobs to the world. If that’s you, join up, and speak up. 

Chris Sanders is Executive Assistant to the President and General Counsel of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 227, representing thousands of grocery clerks and meat packers across Kentucky and Southern Indiana. He is on the national boards of Jobs with Justice, Interfaith Worker Justice, and the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky.  He leads the rock’n’country band at the Friday Church service at Highland Baptist in Louisville. Contact him at   

Table Of Contents


Baptist Studies Bulletin Recommends

The William H. Whitsitt Baptist Heritage Society
The William H. Whitsitt Heritage Society honors the legacy of Whitsitt
by honoring courageous Baptists who have stood tall in the face of
adversity. Membership is open to the Baptist public and includes
a subscription to the Whitsitt Journal.

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 emphasis focuses on the Divorce Recovery Ministry of First Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia.  Ralph Starling is the church's Minister with Single Adults and Small Groups.

"Divorce Recovery Ministry, First Baptist Church, Richmond, Virginia"
Ralph Starling

            “This ministry literally saved my life!”
            I can’t tell you how many times I have heard those exact words over the last 25 years. Those are the spoken words from hundreds of people who have been participants in Divorce Recovery Workshop.
            My involvement with Divorce Recovery Ministry began back in 1981 in Marin County, California, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. I had just graduated from Golden Gate Baptist Seminary and was serving as the Minister with Single Adults at Marin Covenant Church. One Sunday morning a young woman slipped in the back of the church to attend worship. Her name was Sherry. News soon reached one of our ministers that Sherry had been attending our church every Sunday morning only to sit and cry throughout the service. We soon discovered that Sherry had experienced a break-up in her marriage that eventually led to a divorce. At the time we as a staff didn’t know what to do for Sherry and her situation. Paradoxically, it was Sherry who helped those of us on staff learn how to help others who were experiencing the trauma that often comes from separation and divorce.
            Jim Smoke, author of Growing Through Divorce has said, “In divorce you always get custody of yourself.” Sherry knew exactly what to do. She took responsibility for her recovery. And this was where the miracle began. Sherry opened her home to anyone in the community experiencing separation and divorce. At first she had only two or three people attending her home group. She had no program or agenda other than to be a healing presence for others and provide them with a safe place to share their story. She soon discovered that helping others through the transition of a relationship helped her in her own recovery. Word traveled fast and soon Sherry’s home was overflowing with separated and divorced persons hungry to receive healing and hope. But, this is when it got scary! What were we as a church going to do in the way of ministering to all of these hurting people?
            You may have heard the phrase, “No mess, no ministry.” Divorce can be messy and many pastors and churches find that ministering to divorced persons is more than they can handle. With the help and guidance of Sherry we soon discovered a great resource in Jim Smoke, Minister with Singles Adults at the Crystal Cathedral, in Garden Grove, California. Jim had already begun a ministry to divorced persons and had figured out a way for the church to connect and minister to this large segment of our American population. We invited him to our church to lead a weekend Divorce Recovery Workshop. It was amazing! The small group that once met in Sherry’s home had evolved into a full blown Divorce Recovery Workshop. My philosophy and vision of ministry was about to change forever!
            In 1990 I came to Richmond, Virginia as Minister with Single Adults. As soon as I arrived we began a ministry to separated and divorced persons in Richmond and through central Virginia. What began as a small seed has now grown into a giant redwood tree. Today, after sixteen years this important ministry has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of people in Richmond and central Virginia. Over the years we have continued to add new ideas and seminars and now offer the divorce recovery ministry year-round with programs for adults, children, and teenagers.
            One of the most special aspects of this ministry is that it is led entirely by volunteers, not clergy. In other words, our people do the ministry. One major requirement is that all of our volunteers must be graduates of our Divorce Recovery Workshop. They have become our most effective ambassadors for this ministry of healing and wholeness.  They understand the perilous journey of traveling through the divorce land. They are our best ministers!
            Perhaps the next time you are in a worship service you may want to take a look at the people sitting around you. There is a strong chance that someone near you has a broken heart because they or someone they love is experiencing a death in their relationship. There may be a ‘Sherry’ sitting near you. God gives us opportunities everyday to be agents of his grace, forgiveness, and healing. Perhaps your church would consider offering a ministry of healing and hope such as this the divorce recovery ministry. One day you may hear those heartfelt words, “This ministry literally saved my life.”

Table Of Contents


Harry Vaughan Smith Lectures
Mercer University
Macon, GA

February 20-21, 2007
Speaker:  Dr. Renita J. Weems

Click here for more information.


Baptists and Peacemaking: A noted theologian and ethicist, Glen Stassen is the Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.  Prior to his current position, he taught at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 20 years.  He has been a visiting scholar at Harvard University, Duke University and Columbia University.

"The Sermon on the Mount: Sources and Interpretation"
By Glen Stassen

            In a previous Baptist Studies Bulletin, I wrote that Baptists Clarence Jordan, Howard Rees, Helen Johnson, W. W. Adams, David Garland, and Alan Culpepper inspired me to dig into the Sermon on the Mount to recover my believers'-church identity. The Sermon has been badly misinterpreted by a tradition of individualistic and Platonic idealism as if it were "high ideals" or even "hard teachings."
            I've now published the result of my digging to recover the Sermon on the Mount for practical, realistic living: Living the Sermon on the Mount: Practical Hope for Grace and Deliverance (Jossey-Bass Publishers). I wrote it for people, for church members, for study groups, and for Sunday School classes.
            The scholarly argument was already published in The Journal of Biblical Literature (summer 2003), and the scholars of the Matthew section of the Society of Biblical Literature have offered the honor of inviting me to tell about it in their annual meeting this weekend (November 18-21). The scholars are agreeing with it.
            I'd like to give a few hints about my argument in the book, hoping it will whet your appetite.
            Jesus' teaching from the mountain signals the parallel with Moses going up the mountain to get the Ten Commandments: we are now in the presence of God, and God is doing a new thing in Jesus.
            Jesus' central message, "the reign of God is at hand," refers to the prophet Isaiah's declarations that God's reign was coming to deliver us. What has been so vague in much of our teaching—the nature of the kingdom of God—is cleared up by Jesus' hearers' knowing what Isaiah proclaimed. The kingdom has seven specific characteristics.
            A new interpretation of the beatitudes, influenced by Clarence Jordan's translation, and by Robert Guelich's wonderful insight that the beatitudes are based on Isaiah 61, shows that they are not Platonic "high ideals," but announcements of the joy of deliverance. "Joyful are those whose wills are surrendered to God, for they will inherit the earth."
            Then comes the discovery that the central teachings, from "Do not kill" (Matt 5:21) to "In everything do to others as you would have them do to you" (7:12) are by no means "antitheses" or high ideals; they are the realistic means of deliverance from the vicious cycles that we get stuck in. Palestine and Israel are stuck in a vicious cycle; the U.S. government and Iran are stuck in a vicious cycle; many get stuck in vicious cycles of sex, or anger, or deceit, or self-serving religion, or giving their loyalty to a partisan political ideology. Jesus gives us the way of deliverance.
            Chapter 4 is "Practicing Reconciliation and Keeping Our Covenants." Chapter 5 is "Telling the Truth, Making Peace, Loving our Enemies." Chapter 6 is "The Prayer of Jesus." The Lord's Prayer is probably the key to the order of the whole sermon, and therefore the whole Sermon gives rich content to the meaning of Jesus' Prayer that we pray often without seeing the connection with the whole Sermon.
            Chapter 7 is about how to invest our money. Chapter 8 describes the practice of forgiveness that has brought release to so many. Chapter 9 solves the problem of the meaning of "Don't give your holy things to the dogs and the pigs" that has baffled so many for centuries. And the concluding chapter is "How to Tell a True Ethic from a False One." We need this in our time of postmodern uncertainty and of partisan political manipulation of Christian faith by the false prophets.
            On the back of the book, Richard Rohr writes: "This is the most helpful analysis of the Sermon on the Mount that I have ever studied." Jim Wallis, Amy Laura Hall, Ron Sider, Cheryl Johns, and Willard Swartley write really nice things too, but I'm too shy and modest to quote them here. I hope you agree with them, and use Living the Sermon on the Mount  in church study groups!  

Table Of Contents


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.

"Living on Less So Others Can Live on More"
By Charles E. Poole

          Yesterday began for me at a Baptist college where I had been asked to speak to a group of students about my work as a “minister on the street,” with struggling families in inner-city Jackson. We talked some about the complexities of poverty in America, and what the gospels say about the poor, which led us to ponder briefly the question “What is North American poverty?” as distinguished from Sudanese poverty, for example, or poverty in Calcutta or Honduras. It was a good hour with a bunch of bright Baptist students. And that is how the day began.
           The day ended, for me, in an apartment several miles away from the college; an apartment where I saw the face and the facts of North American poverty. The face belonged to a young mother with three small children. The facts were these: No car. No phone. Electricity had just been disconnected; no money to have it restored. That is North American poverty. Is it the poverty of Bangladesh, the poverty of withered limbs and distended bellies on dying children? No. But it is the poverty of North America, the poverty of Jackson and Tchula and Chicago and Dallas and Atlanta and every city you can name; the poverty of families who can’t keep work because they can’t get transportation or can’t find daycare. It is the poverty of a mom who can’t “call around for help” because she can’t afford a phone. It is the poverty of people who are stuck: Stuck in an apartment with no car or phone, trying to explain to their children why, as soon as the sun goes down, the apartment will get very dark and very cold.
           That is North American poverty for millions of North American people, even after all these years.
           And, even after all these years, II Corinthians 8:15 still says that those who have much should not have too much so that those who have little will not have too little. But, even after all these years, despite our ardent protestations of affection for the Bible, we Baptists can still sleep at night with church budgets that sometimes allow more money for landscaping and ski trips than basic, simple biblical relief to the poor.
           Even after all these years, we still have some clear thinking to do when it comes to Baptists, the Bible and the North American poor who live a stone’s throw from our North American abundance. (Speaking of a stone’s throw, I have no stone to cast when it comes to these matters, for I am not without sin on these matters. I have questions to raise and failures to face, but no stones to throw.)

P.S. Yes, by the time these words crawl across your monitor, those three kids will have lights and heat in their home.

Table Of Contents

In Response To ...

"In Response to . . . Richard Land in Your Bedroom"
By Bruce T. Gourley

           If you are a married couple, the Religious Right wants to monitor your bedroom activities, according to Southern Baptist mouthpiece Richard Land. 
           Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, does not believe that you have the right to privacy in your marriage.  As quoted in
Baptist Press this month, Land recollected, “following a lecture I gave at Harvard University in the spring of 2005, I was asked by a coed: ‘Dr. Land, you seem like a nice guy. Why would you want to interfere in the personal, private relationship of two people?’ I responded by asking how she ever got the idea that marriage is a ‘personal, private relationship.’” 
           In an effort to explain why he wants to monitor the bedroom activities of married couples, Land elaborated on the answer he had given to the Harvard coed the previous year: “Marriage is a social and civic institution with profound public and societal responsibilities, obligations, and consequences. That is why every society in human history has regulated severely who can get married to whom and under what circumstances.”  Land’s decision to call for bedroom monitoring, not surprisingly, was an effort to drive Religious Right voters to the polls for the Congressional elections earlier this month. “The people, not the judiciary, have the right to determine what constitutes the institution of marriage. I urge all voters to consider the facts, to exercise their right to cast their ballot, and to vote their values on November 7,” declared Land.
           The “people” that should determine “who can get married to whom and under what circumstances,” are, of course, those who share the views of Richard Land.
           As to the history of regulating marriage, to which historical moral “value” model do Land and the Religious Right wish to turn?  Perhaps to the biblical model in which the heroes of the faith had multiple wives and concubines and women had absolutely no rights within marriage.  Or perhaps there is a yearning to implement the biblical law requiring a man to become the husband of a deceased brother’s wife.  Or maybe Land would prefer the historical and biblical “value” that marriage should be arranged, with love and consent having no place in the decision.  On the other hand, perhaps Land and the Religious Right favor the historical and biblical “value” that girls as young as 12 are suitable for marriage. 
           Richard Land’s main concern, to be certain, is the prospect of homosexual marriage.  But I wonder which would be more destructive to the social and civic fabric of our nation:  homosexual marriage, or biblical worldview marriage consisting of polygamy, mistresses, forced nuptials, and 12 year-year-old brides?
           And regardless of which of the two models Land prefers, who is going to monitor Richard Land’s bedroom?
           Any volunteers?

Visit Bruce's personal website at

Table Of Contents


Recommended Online Reading for Informed Baptists
Compiled by Bruce Gourley

About Those Now Haggard Evangelicals
Randall Balmer on the History News Network

Balmer notes, "For those looking for evidence of hypocrisy in the Religious Right, however, the Haggard scandal represents merely the tip of the iceberg .... the larger hypocrisy is that the people who trumpet their 'pro-life' positions have refused unequivocally to denounce the Bush administration’s policies on torture."

Did Evangelicals Change Votes or Not?
Christianity Today

Read scores of varied news commentary in the aftermath of the recent congressional elections.  The debate will likely not end soon.

Forgiveness Clause: The Amish Way
Christian Century

In a world growing increasingly accustomed to violence, the Amish offer a simple view on life and a total commitment to forgiveness.

Communion and Coffee
Leamington Spa Today, UK

Baptists and Anglicans in the United Kingdom are celebrating communion and coffee together.  Their central message?  "The Christian faith is for every day of the week."

Dates to

Dates to Note

November 18, 2006, A Conversation with Denton Lotz, General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance.  Mercer University, Macon, Georgia.  Click here for more information.

December 1-2, 2006, Southern Folk Advent 2006, "When Shall I See Jesus?" Old Church, Oxford, Georgia at 8:00 PM on Friday, December 1, and Druid Hills United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Georgia at 7:30 PM on Saturday, December 2.  The service features southern shape-note folk hymns blended into a modern liturgy. Click here for more details.

December 29, 2006 - January 2, 2007, Antiphony, "Call and Response." Hyatt Regency, Atlanta, Georgia.  For more information, visit

February 7-10, 2007, Current Retreat, "Let Justice Roll." First Baptist Church, Austin, Texas.  Registration cost is $100 for ministers and lay leaders, $55 for seminary students.  Click here for more information.

February 19-20, 2007, Self Preaching Lectures, McAfee School of Theology, Atlanta, Georgia.  Speaker: Tom Long.  For more information, email Diane Frazier.

February 20-21, 2007, Harry Vaughan Smith Lectures, Mercer University, Macon, Georgia.  Speaker: Dr. Renita J. Weems.  Click here for more information.

February 26-27, 2007, The Walter and Kay Shurden Lectures on Religious Liberty and Separation of Church and State, Carson-Newman College, Jefferson City, Tennessee.  Speaker: Dr. James Dunn.

March 5-7, 2007, True Survivor VII, Scarritt-Bennett Center, Nashville, Tennessee.  For more information click here.

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

Table Of Contents




If you do not wish to receive BSB any longer, please Click Here to unsubscribe.