Vol. 6 No. 4
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
Visit The Center for Baptist
Studies' Web Site at www.centerforbaptiststudies.org
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I Believe . . .
: Walter B. Shurden
I Have Taped to My Personal Computer"
The Baptist Soapbox: Beth Fogg
My Father Taught Me"
Baptists and Creation Care: Laura Webb Smith
"Watts Street Baptist Church and
Baptists and Public Policy:
"Increasing Our Activism on Policy
In Response To . . .
: Bruce T. Gourley
Dates to Note
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THE MERCER PREACHING
23-25 September 2007
The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort
Featuring Barbara Brown Taylor
Click here for more information and registration.
"What I Have
Taped to My Personal Computer"
By Walter B. Shurden
I believe . . .
that what we place on our refrigerators says much
about who we are and what we care about. And if you are like me, what you have
taped to your computer says volumes about you.
Only recently did I
notice that on the edges of my PC at home, I have taped quotations that speak
of my passion, my confession, my imperfections, and my aspirations.
My passion: “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 First Amendment to the Constitution of the
United States. This is why I support the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious
Liberty; the BJC wages verbal and legal war in defense of these words. The BJC
needs my help and yours.
My confession: “Hear, O
Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is one: and you shall love the Lord your
God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and
with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:
29-31. This is the only confession/creed that I will sign. It comes from
My imperfections: “I can
see, but not clearly. I am healed, but not completely. I am saved, but not
entirely.” This comes from a sermon by good friend Frank Tupper. He must have
been reading my diary.
“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we
must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes
complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved
by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone,
therefore we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from
the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint; therefore we
must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.” This comes
from Reinhold Niebuhr. Hope, faith, love, and forgiveness—here are words that
speak of my needs!
over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
These are the closing lines from Mary Oliver’s poem, “When Death Comes.” They
speak to me of the amazing mystery of life and of the need for each of us to
I will not
die an unlived life
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.
This is Dawna Markova’s “Living Wide Open: Landscapes of the Mind.” For me,
these daunting words remain aspiration, not achievement.
Buechner said that all theology is autobiography. Much of what is magnetized
to my refrigerator and taped to my PC is also autobiography. What do your frig and PC say about you?
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The Baptist Studies Bulletin
The New Baptist Covenant
Learn more about this exciting and
and the January 30, 2008 gathering in Atlanta by
the official web site.
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 Beth Fogg,
former President of the Baptist General Association of Virginia and former
member of the Coordinating Council and Advisory Council of the Cooperative
My Father Taught Me"
By Beth Fogg
I lost my
father in February. He died peacefully, after suffering a series of strokes,
secure in the knowledge that healing was waiting for him in heaven. I am glad
that he is now whole again, although I miss him every day. But I have been
thinking about him a lot lately, and the lessons that he taught me. These
lessons are why I am involved in preparing for the Celebration of a New
William J. Cumbie, had
a passion for the oneness of Christ’s family on earth. He was a strong and
articulate Baptist, but he was able to focus on the ties that bind rather than
the differences that separate within and between denominations. Many of his
formative experiences occurred within the Baptist World Alliance family, and
he felt strongly that the experience of community among Baptists was a
mountaintop event. He taught me this passion, and that is one reason why I am
excited to share a time of community with my Baptist brothers and sisters in
believed strongly in the equality of all human beings before God. He taught
us as children to memorize portions of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In
the early 1960s, he helped form ties between African American Baptists and
white Baptists in Northern Virginia. As the world moved to Northern Virginia,
his reach across racial lines grew to include persons of different culture and
ethnicity. Healing the wounds that the sin of racism had caused in our
Baptist family was a high priority. I am proud to be able to participate in
an event which will help to renew ties that should never have been broken.
understood that we as Christians have a responsibility to assist the “least of
these.” Not only did he put feet to his faith, but he taught us by example
the joy of helping others in Jesus’ name. The potential of working together
across racial, ethnic, and denominational lines to make a difference in the
lives of others is a powerful motivator to me to participate in the
Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant.
father had a drive to “make a difference for good and for God” in the world.
His evaluation of whether each day had been a good one was whether he had done
something to make the world a better place. He believed firmly that one
person could change the world. In his last months, he was thrilled that
President Carter, his long-time friend Jimmy Allen, and others also acted on
this belief, and that they were stepping forward to let their voices be
heard. He was my greatest cheerleader as I added my voice to the chorus that
I am truly
excited about the possibilities of the 2008 Celebration and the potential for
ongoing cooperation among Baptists. I consider it a high honor to be
participating with those planning the event. But most of all, I appreciate
the lessons my father taught me to allow me to be where I am today.
Editor's Note: The late William J. Cumbie
was a former pastor and Director of Missions in Virginia, former President of
the Baptist General Association of Virginia, and parliamentarian for many BGAV
and several SBC meetings.
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Baptists and Creation
This series focuses on Baptist responses to
environmental issues. Laura Webb
Smith is the chair of the Environmental Mission Group at Watts Street Baptist
Church in Durham, NC, where she has been a member since 2000. Laura is an
environmental educator by vocation, with a special interest in faith and
ecology. She holds Master of Environmental Management and Master of Arts in
Teaching degrees from Duke University.
Street Baptist Church and Creation Care"
By Laura Webb Smith
church started an Environmental Mission Group in 2000.
We began by addressing this question: “What does the
environment have to do with church?” In true Baptist fashion, we asked our
congregation to seek the answer. In response, individual members submitted
reflections for a Daily Lenten Devotional Guide. The devotions ranged from
a study of a particular scripture to a remembrance of a connection with God
through an experience in nature. Together, we explored God’s call for us to
be in relationship with Creation.
church’s history, this question has been ignored, then answered with a
dominion point of view, and more recently, addressed with a stewardship
point of view.
Ourmission group is exploring a call to right relationship with
the Earth that extends beyond even stewardship. This call moves us from
benevolent dominion to kinship–a recognition of the true interdependence
between humans and non-human parts of Creation. Seeking a kinship
perspective, the Watts Street Environmental Mission Group has blended
congregational opportunities for reflection, for learning, and for action.
congregation to reflect upon our relationship with Creation, the mission
group offered a weekend retreat opportunity in a beautiful natural setting
with leaders who had us explore our own “Earth Stories” through discussion,
music, worship, and silent reflection. For elementary-aged children, we led
“Kids and Nature Connect,” a weekly summer series designed to help children
connect with Creation through hikes, planting flowers, experiences with
animals, stories, and art. Prayer, reflection, and direct experience with
the Creator provide the foundation for further learning and action.
The group has
offered several educational opportunities to the congregation at large.
This past fall, the focus was “Energy Matters.” We started with a screening
of Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.” We also viewed the
enlightening documentary, “Killowatt Ours.” A representative from a local
non-profit talked to us about her group’s efforts to promote solar hot water
heaters around town. Finally, we issued a challenge to our congregation
called “Our Own Private Kyoto.” Each family is encouraged to reduce their
carbon dioxide emissions by 10%. We handed out refrigerator magnets with
specific actions and how much each action reduces carbon dioxide. A giant
earth is posted on a bulletin board, covered by a plastic film. For every
100 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a family eliminates, they can cut a
square off of the film, revealing a clearer Earth.
Called to action,
the Environmental Mission Group leads the way in “greening” the church,
affecting both waste production and energy consumption at church. Our
efforts have led to the start of a compost pile to handle scraps from weekly
communal suppers, a reduction in plastic waste from church suppers, the
installation of energy-efficient bulbs around the church, and other
practical measures. Our action extends to contacting decision-makers about
important environmental issues in our community and our nation. Action at
home and at church seems to follow naturally from heeding the call to right
Earth Day 2007 is
near! “Living with enough” is the theme of our upcoming all-ages-beach
retreat over the Earth Day weekend. We will focus on stories throughout the
ible of God’s provision. Relying on God’s plenty conflicts
with our culture’s never-ending demand for more stuff. However, relying on
God’s plenty is a spiritual discipline that can bring us closer to kinship,
a right relationship with Creation.
So may it be.
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Baptists and Public Policy
Baptists and Public Policy:
Some Baptist groups, including the Alliance of
Baptists, Baptist Center for Ethics, Baptist Joint Committee on Religious
Liberty (BJCRL), and the Progressive National Baptist Convention, have long
been engaged in policy work. This series is designed to spark conversations
among a wider circle of Baptists who are now considering engaging in this kind
of activity. Melissa Rogers is visiting professor of religion and public
policy at Wake Forest University Divinity School, previously serving as
executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and as general
counsel to the BJCRL.
"Increasing Our Activism on
this series, I have argued that more Baptists ought to be vocal on issues of
public policy. For example, I have suggested that the
Biblical call for justice is one source of
motivation for more of us to
speak out about the fact that 9 million
American children currently lack health insurance.
There are a
variety of appropriate ways in which we could increase our activism on certain
policy issues. Let me discuss a couple of them.
One way would be for more
of us to join and support secular groups that speak to these issues. In other
words, we could channel our concerns through some of the outstanding
non-religious groups that are working on issues that have important moral
Another way to respond to
these issues would be for more of us to join and support religious groups,
including Baptist groups, that engage in policy discussions. As you know, a
number of excellent single-faith and interfaith groups currently play roles in
Are there reasons for us
to give special consideration to addressing policy concerns through religious
groups? I believe there are. For example, religious groups are often
particularly adept at highlighting the ethical issues at stake in policy
decisions, something that frequently needs amplification. And, because many
continue to look to religious communities for moral leadership, activism by
these communities typically carries a good deal of weight, both with
policymakers and with Americans generally. Religious leaders frequently do a
wonderful job of pricking consciences and spurring action.
Moreover, I would say
that there is a special need today to strengthen some of the religious voices
in the policy arena that are not as well known. The agenda and tactics of
some of most prominent religious groups practically cry out for others to make
it clear that many people of faith see things differently.
Let me focus on a more
specific question. Are there reasons for us to give special consideration to
addressing policy concerns through Baptist bodies and as Baptist individuals?
Perhaps the best way to answer that question is to ask another: Does the
Southern Baptist Convention speak for you? If not, then let me suggest that
it is essential for other Baptist bodies and voices to address policy matters
To cite one example, the
Baptist Joint Committee plays a critical role by providing a traditional
Baptist voice on issues of religious freedom. It, along with an array of
other distinguished Baptist bodies, has long done admirable work on policy
issues. These organizations deserve increased support.
Religious engagement in
the policy debate, however, does require us to think through some sensitive
issues. For example, when we enter the policy arena in the name of religion,
we must take great care to respect the democratic process and the integrity of
faith. Of course, the Baptist bodies mentioned above have already carefully
considered these issues. But, at a time when we are thinking about
strengthening our activism on policy issues, it’s worthwhile to review them.
In the next part of this series, I’ll discuss these issues in greater detail.
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Response To ...
In Response to . . . :
The Associate Director of the Center for Baptist
Studies, Bruce previously served as a campus minister and professor of Church
History. In addition, he is an Internet entrepreneur and photographer,
and is ABD in his doctoral studies in American History at Auburn University.
By Bruce T. Gourley
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is
absolute -- where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be a
Catholic) how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners
for whom to vote -- where no church or church school is granted any public
funds or political preference -- and where no man is denied public office
merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him
or the people who might elect him.
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic,
Protestant nor Jewish―where no public official either requests or accepts
instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches
or any other ecclesiastical source―where no religious body seeks to impose
its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts
of its officials―and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act
against one church is treated as an act against all.
For, while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger
of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again,
a Jew―or a Quaker―or a Unitarian―or a Baptist. It was Virginia's
harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that led to Jefferson's statute
of religious freedom. Today, I may be the victim―but tomorrow it may be you―until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped apart at a time
of great national peril.
These were the words of presidential
candidate John F. Kennedy in 1960, in response to Baptist opposition to his
candidacy born out of fear that Kennedy’s religion might influence his
politics. Although written 47 years ago, he accurately foresaw a day when
religion would endanger our nation.
We now live
in a time when many American evangelicals, including some Baptists, endorse
presidential candidates precisely because of certain religious views, with the expectation that their candidate, should he win the
presidency, will reshape American politics at home and abroad to mandate
certain religious beliefs upon the whole of America. In so forsaking the
Baptist, and American, heritage of separation of church and state, the “whole
fabric of our harmonious society” has been “ripped apart at a time of great
spring of 2007 arrives, yet another presidential election cycle is upon us,
arriving earlier than ever as candidates from both major parties seek early
front-runner status. The Religious Right is again seeking a candidate
who will impose their religious views upon all of America. And this time
around, the “Left” has discovered religion, evidenced in the “God-talk” of
Democratic candidates. Christians are tempted to choose the candidate
who best speaks the language of their personal religious
convictions. But John F. Kennedy’s words of long ago remind us of the folly
of turning presidential campaigns into religious contests.
forefathers of old, led by John Leland and Isaac Backus, refused to let
religion compromise their politics, or politics compromise their religion. In politics, they sought out individuals who would
champion minority groups and respect and fight for equal rights for all
citizens, regardless of religious affiliation or absence of religious
affiliation. In matters of faith, they zealously guarded any attempt by
politicians to use religion as a wedge, hammer or anvil.
The wisdom of John F. Kennedy and our Baptist forefathers reminds
us to be especially wary of presidential candidates who insist on resorting to
“God-talk.” Instead, we should listen carefully to discern those candidates
who have a true respect for all American citizens, a commitment to treat all
as equals, and the courage to not allow religion to further rip apart our
Table Of Contents
Recommended Online Reading
for Informed Baptists
Compiled by Bruce Gourley
Holy Ground: A Resource on Faith and the Environment
"Exploring environmental racism, eco-feminism, and population explosion,
this study guide offers an exciting challenge to all of us who share creation.
Offers practical reflections and models for action through articles and study
questions. Contains organization and publication listings. Suitable for
committed environmentalists and people newly exploring environmental issues.
Four sessions, 68 pages."
Justices Rule Against Bush Administration on Emissions
New York Times
The ruling is a win for the environmental
movement and the effort to slow global warming.
Dates to Note
April 20, 2007, Judson-Rice Award Dinner honoring
Dr. Wayne Flynt, Birmingham, Alabama, Wynfrey Hotel.
For more information
and registration click here.
June 7-9, 2007, Baptist History and Heritage
Society (BHHS) Annual Meeting, Campbellsville, Kentucky. Theme:
Americans in Baptist History." For more information,
visit the BHHS web
June 27, 2007, Pre-CBF Annual Conference,
Christian Ethics Today (CET), Hyatt Grand Hotel in D.C. Theme: "The
Minister and Politics: Being Prophetic Without Being Partisan."
Speakers: Jim Wallis, Greg Boyd, Melissa Rogers and Tony Campolo. Go to
the CET site
for more information.
June 28-29, 2007, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
General Assembly, Washington D.C. Theme: "Free to Be the Presence of
Click here for more information, including registration.
September 23-25, 2007, Mercer Preaching
Consultation 07, St. Simon's Island, Georgia. Featuring Barbara Brown
Click here for more information, including registration.
For a full calendar of Baptist events, visit the
Online Baptist Community Calendar.
Table Of Contents
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