Vol. 6 No. 5




  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


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Table of Contents



I Believe . . . : Walter B. Shurden

         "En Route With My Teachers"

The Baptist Soapbox: Roy Medley

         "Why I am Excited About the Celebration of the New Baptist Covenant"
Baptists and Creation Care: Robert U. Ferguson

         "Has Anyone Seen Noah?"

Baptists and Public Policy: Melissa Rogers

         "Policy Engagement That Respects Democracy, Religious Liberty and Religion"

The World's Greatest Baptist Preachers: B. M. Sudheer

         "Purushottam Chowdhari: India's Greatest Baptist Preacher"
In Response To . . .
: Bruce T. Gourley

         "The Death of Jerry Falwell"

Dates to Note

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23-25 September 2007

The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort
St. Simons Island, GA

Featuring Barbara Brown Taylor

Click here for more information and registration.

I Believe

"En Route with My Teacher"
By Walter B. Shurden

I believe . . .
that New Testament scholar Eduard Schweizer (d.2006) set a model for each of us in the last chapter of his 1987 book, Jesus Christ: The Man from Nazareth and the Exalted Lord. He entitled that marvelous autobiographical chapter, “En Route with My Teachers.” Schweizer had an incomparable tale to tell. He studied with Rudolf Bultmann, Gottlob Schrenk, Emil Brunner, Rudolf Otto, and Karl Barth! He studied during the time of the German Church Struggle. What people with whom to study and what a time to study with them!
          During this graduation season, you and I would do well to thumb back through the pages of our own histories and place a yellow sticker by the pictures of those teachers
grammar school, middle school, high school, college, and graduate schoolwho profoundly formed and shaped our lives. Phone calls, post cards, and emails would be in order for the season. Let them know that they made a difference.
           Nell Thomas, a high school English teacher, acted as though she believed in me when she had no reason to do so.
           Rex Ray Pierce, a sociology professor at Mississippi College, took a can opener to my parochial soul and gently stretched it almost to the breaking point.  
           Howard Spell, my college dean, surprised my sophomore mind with the truth that the Bible had a context.
           Frank Stagg, my New Testament prof at seminary made a lasting impact on how I have read and interpreted the Bible. I can happily say of him what Schweizer said of Bultmann: [Stagg’s] very critical mind interpreted the text in as scholarly a way as any of his colleagues might have been able to do. But he interpreted it so that its meaning for human existence became clear” (58). He was listed in the New Testament department, but Stagg wrote books on biblical ethics: race, the role of women, aging. He always came down in the middle of life with his Greek New Testament.
           Sadly, I have heard a number of seminary graduates bemoan the boredom of their theology classes.  They obviously never studied with Bob Soileau (pronounced Swallow). His passion so lit up the room that I have never understood a calm and cavalier approach to the subject.
           Morgan Patterson brought me to church history; William A. Mueller showed me how large an ocean it was; Claude L. Howe’s seminars in Baptist history have been models for my teaching throughout my career. These three Baptist scholars gave me something to do with my life.
           You need to know one other fact about Eduard Schweizer. He studied with all the greats, but it was a “young chaplain,” unnamed by Schweizer, who launched him into the ministry and the life of faith.  “We experienced in him the reality of a life with God,” said Schweizer. “If I had not been able to tell him many years later that this time had been, among other experiences, decisive for my decision to become a minister of the church, he might never have known the significant impact of the witness of his life during those difficult days” (58). Teachers come in all stripes, don’t they?  
            Let us give thanks for teachers.

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The Baptist Studies Bulletin Recommends

The New Baptist Covenant

More than 30 organizations representing more than 20 million
Baptists will gather in Atlanta.  President Jimmy Carter will
present a keynote address as participants gather under the
theme of "Unity in Christ" and usher in a new day for the
Baptist witness in North America.

Learn more about this exciting and historic celebration convening
January 30 - February 1, 2008 in Atlanta


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 Roy Medley, Executive Director of the American Baptist Churches - USA.

"Why I am Excited About the Celebration of the New Baptist Covenant"
By Roy Medley

The North American Baptist Covenant is an exciting step forward in pan-Baptist cooperation in North America.  As such, it is one more way in which Baptists of North America are cooperating in common mission, common ministry, and common witness.
           Such cooperation will only serve to strengthen our witness for Christ throughout the world. 
           One clear example of how our growing cooperation is enhancing our mission is in Baton Rouge. Just days after hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and surrounding parishes, the executive committee of our General Board, our national executive directors, and I were meeting in Atlanta.  Sometime before, we had invited Daniel Vestal and the staff of CBF to meet with us during that time.  As we sat around the table, the question we posed to one another was, “What are you doing in response to Katrina?”
           That initial dialogue opened a fruitful joint relief effort in Louisiana that grew to include not only ABC and CBF but also the Progressive National Baptist Convention, and BWAid.  As a result we tied together the congregational networks of all three bodies plus resources contributed to CBF by Canadian Baptist Ministries to establish work that focused on Baton Rouge and the tremendous number of evacuees who had fled there.  Our initial efforts focused on supporting the many local churches which were housing evacuees in their fellowship halls, gyms and private homes.  The work soon expanded to include reunification of separated families, job search assistance, housing renovation, and help with accessing emergency funding through FEMA.  In its final stage it has grown to include a partnership with Habitat for Humanity to build 14 houses in Baton Rouge by the summer of 2007.
           None of us by ourselves had what it would take to make the impact we have made together.  Each of us had particular expertise, resources, staff, and networks of volunteers to contribute that enabled us to multiply our effectiveness.
           In a similar fashion the North American Baptist Fellowship (a regional group of the BWA) is showing great promise as a platform to learn about each other, network our resources, and address common challenges and goals.  How refreshing it is to be in an atmosphere where Baptists of different stripes are genuinely seeking greater relationship, not less.
           The North American Baptist Covenant is now a third opportunity for collaboration.  It commits us to a sharper focus as Baptists on matters which call for a voice rooted in our rich heritage.  In this covenant the leaders of 14 different Baptist organizations pledged ourselves 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, and promote religious liberty and respect for religious diversity.”  The first are gospel imperatives and the latter two are of the essence of Baptist theology regarding the nature of humanity as created by God and respect for conscience in matters of faith. 
           Recent visits to Lebanon and the Republic of Georgia have only reinforced in my mind the critical contribution Baptists can make to world peace if we will be bold enough to be in the forefront of promoting religious liberty and respect for religious diversity. 
           We can never relinquish our joy and our responsibility to share the gospel of Christ.  At the same time we must never relinquish our commitment to respect the rights of those of other faiths and our responsibility with them to create societies where all can live in peace and security.  In a world that is ever shrinking and where no effective wall can be erected against the diversity such greater interrelationships create, chances for world peace can be enhanced as Baptists regain their prophetic voice and their teaching role for religious liberty and mutual respect.
           I welcome this opportunity for greater collaboration and public presence.

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Baptists and Creation Care:  This series focuses on Baptist responses to environmental issues.  Robert U. Ferguson is pastor of Emerywood Baptist Church in High Point, North Carolina.  The following article is an extract of a sermon.

"Has Anyone Seen Noah?"
By Robert U. Ferguson

           The images permeate the news channels over and over again: polar icecaps falling off into the ocean; floods ravaging coastal areas as oceanic levels increase; mega-storms such as Hurricane Katrina lashing our coastal cities with rain and unbelievable damage.  This sounds like a remake of an old and familiar story, Noah II.  If you have been anywhere but lost on a deserted island then you have heard the reports of global warming and its potential effect upon this planet we so delicately share.  These studies portend a catastrophic future that reverberates fear throughout our human psyche, portending all manner of natural evil from the flood account in Genesis to the end of all time as foreshadowed in the book of Revelation. 
           If these predictions are accurate – and they are compiled from research by persons dedicated to accuracy – we are in for rollercoaster climate shifts.  Due to global warming – a direct result of the dramatic increase in manmade greenhouse gases – our planet is in for some drastic change.  From the data I have seen forecasters are predicting:

·         Fewer cold days;
·         Hotter nights;
·         Killer heat waves;
·         Floods and heavy rains;
·         Devastating droughts;
·         A dramatic increase in hurricane and tropical storm strength;

           By the year 2100 the median temperature is expected to rise anywhere from 2 to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit, the sea levels anywhere from 7 to 23 inches, and an additional 3.9 to 7.8 inches is possible if the surprising melting of the polar ice sheets continues.
           The real life scenarios are much scarier than the numbers.  Low lying islands and coastal plains will be flooded by rising sea levels, particularly if the rise is toward the larger end of the projected spectrum.  Hurricanes such as Katrina of 2005 will be much more normative – and the economic and human life costs will skyrocket.  Those in poorer countries such as Bangladesh and living in coastal areas will be particularly vulnerable to catastrophic disaster.  To top it all off, then we hear the verdict that no matter what we do, we cannot change what will happen in this, the 21st century.  All we can do is adapt to a “warmer and more volatile climate” and make changes so that the 22nd century will not be that much worse. [1]
           As a resident of this planet I stop and ask, “Is this for real?”  Have we really caused this much damage to the planet or is this fear-mongering by those who wish to change the very nature of our lifestyle?  Regularly we hear voices proclaiming that we really do not know what is causing this, that we need more data than we have, and that this is overreaction of the worst sort.  Yet, those protest voices are engulfed by a resounding litany of doom: “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Who knows what will happen as a result of these climate changes?  I trust the scientists in measuring what they measure, but predicting the meteorological future is an iffy proposition at best.  The hypotheses appear to be as factual as possible – what is the unknown is due to the paucity of evidence.  We need hundreds of thousands of years of data to make accurate decisions and projections. 
          What I do know is that as a Christian, as one who has proclaimed faith in and allegiance to Jesus Christ, I am charged with stewardship of the earth’s resources.  Genesis 1: 26-28 puts it like this:

“Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

           As a Christian I believe that this passage puts the responsibility of stewardship of the earth and its resources upon human beings. We are empowered to use, but not abuse, to develop but not destroy this earth. We see the earth as sacred, not as “Mother Earth” but as being created by Holy God who imparts holiness to all of creation.  Seeing her as holy does not mean that we worship creation – we worship the Creator, not the creature.  However, it does mean that we revere, value, and use creation wisely as those who have been empowered for and entrusted with her safekeeping.  Creation is not disposable for it bears the imprimatur of Yahweh, and that which comes from his hand is holy indeed. 

Click here to read the entirety of Robert Ferguson's sermon.

 [1] “Global Warming Real, Like to get Worse, Scientists Say,” Cnn.Com., Ap report of 2-2-07. 

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  More About Creation Care:  David Gushee discusses "Why Some Evangelicals Decide to Forgo Creation Care"
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.

"Policy Engagement That Respects Democracy, Religious Liberty and Religion"
By Melissa Rogers

In this series, I have argued that more Baptists should be vocal on  public policy issues.  Here are a few suggestions for ensuring that our policy engagement respects democracy, religious liberty, and the integrity of our faith. 
         When religious groups and individuals speak out on policy issues, we must remember that we speak as citizens who have equal, not better, rights than others.  We have the right to participate in the policy process, but we have no right to dominate it. 
         Further, to protect religious liberty, we should oppose governmental promotion or endorsement of religious symbols and scriptures as well as state subsidies for religious activities.  As Professor Jim Spivey
has said, Jesus “thoroughly opposed the use of magisterial power to build his kingdom.”  So should we.
         Do we violate constitutional principles if we become involved in policy debate at least partially because we are inspired by our faith?  No.  Remember that the focus here is on whether the government has a predominantly secular purpose for its action, not on the various motivations of individual legislators and certainly not on the motivations of non-governmental groups and private individuals. 
         Let me use a hypothetical example to explain. 
A religious group may advocate policies to combat global climate change because it believes it is our mandate to care for God’s creation and to do everything possible to spare humanity, especially the least of these, from the catastrophes that would result if climate change continues unaddressed.  Some legislators may share these motivations.  When laws are passed in this area, however, it is clear that the predominant purposes are broadly humanitarian, averting natural disasters as well as guarding against the civil strife, and even national-security orientedpreventing terrorism that could result if critical natural resources become scarce.  This kind of legislation would thus have a permissible purpose, and the religious motivations that were part of the mix would not make it otherwise.  
         Having said that, my view is that religious activists should only back policies that benefit the common goodthe interests of people of all faiths and none.  When we advocate for particular policies, I believe we should make that case.
         How do we protect the integrity of our faith in this process?  By practicing humility and respecting the right of fellow Christians to differ from us, among other things.  As Barbara Jordan said, we must always remember that we are “God’s servants,” not His “spokespeople.” 
         We also should ally ourselves with the truth as we understand it, rather than with any partisan political machine.  And we should deal honestly with arguments on the other side, including scientific and other data that challenges our point of view.
         Finally, we must remember that policy has its limits.  I have argued that the biblical cause of justice beckons us to confront and challenge certain oppressive structural elements of our system.  Sometimes we have the opportunity to right significant wrongs through policy solutions.  But it is also true that policy cannot change people’s hearts and that an over-attachment to the policy realm can distract us from our spiritual calling.  Policy activism should never detract from worship, discipleship, and direct ministry. 
         In the next (and final) installment of this series, I will offer a few suggestions for moving this conversation forward.

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The World's Greatest Baptist Preachers: This special biographical series reaches around the globe in search of the greatest Baptist preachers.  Here you will meet preachers who have had a tremendous impact upon their respective continents.  This month's contributor is Rev. B. M. Sudheer, Indian Baptist pastor.

"Purushottam Chowdhari: India's Greatest Baptist Preacher"
By B. M. Sudheer

On September 5, 1803 in a village called Madanpur in the Ganjam District of West Bengal a child was born to Kurmanatha and Subhadhra Chowdhari. They called their son Purushottam which means “good man.” Born into this Hindu family Purushottam became a sincere devotee of the Hindu deity Lord Vishnu. As a young man he joined a Hindu religious order.
          His brother, Jagannadha Chowdhari, sent him a religious tract in 1825 that had been written by William Carey of Serampore. The message in this tract caused Purushottam to question his Hindu beliefs and practices. He sought to know the Jesus Christ and became a person of Christian faith. Three Christians led him deeper in the faith: Helen Knott, General Adjutant Evalin and Major Brett. By 1833 he was ready to declare his faith openly. On June 10 of that year he removed the “Jandam,” the sacred thread worn by the three upper castes of Hinduism: Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. The Rev. Charles Lacy baptized Purushottam on October 6, 1833.
          For three months he served as assistant missionary under Major Brett at Madras. He made numerous trips to Orissa and Andhra Pradesh to preach the Word of God and to distribute Christian literature. Much of this literature he wrote himself. He often preached on the theme: “As a Blind Man Cannot Lead Another Blind Man, So Also the Sinful Deities Cannot Save Sinners.”
          Impressed by his sincere work in ministry the Baptist missionaries ordained Purushottam on Sunday April 24, 1835 at the conclusion of the Baptist conference in Cuttack. He was then sent to work with the Telugu people as an assistant to the Rev. Samuel Day, a missionary of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society. He was first appointed an evangelist and then later he became a pastor at the church in Berhampur, Orissa which had been founded by the Rev. Isaac Stubbins in 1838. In Orissa God blessed Purushottam and his wife with two sons and three daughters.
          Purushottam Chowdhari was a preacher, evangelist and pastor. He also became an eminent poet and writer. He composed one hundred and thirty hymns. He authored many books and pamphlets in which he used creative images, analogies and illustrations to expound the teachings of Jesus Christ his Lord. His writings sprang from his personal experience and seemed always spontaneous and natural. Beginning in 1844 Purushottam went through a few dark years. He devoted himself to prayer and penitence until he felt the forgiveness of God. His confessional hymns written in this period are widely sung in churches, especially at the time of Holy Communion.
          From 1833 until his death in 1890 at the age of 87, this servant of God served and evangelized places spread through three states of India. He was buried in Cuttack in the presence of two thousand people. The Rev. T. Baily, a missionary of Utkal Baptist Mission, wrote, “His death was that of the righteous, and his memory is fragrant and precious to all who knew him.”
          One can find much more about the life of Purushottam Chowdhari in writings of the Rev. Dr. Ravela Joseph and Babu John Chowdhari. The more one reads the account of Purushottam Chowdhari the more one understands why he can be called “India’s Greatest Baptist Preacher.”

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Sex, Lies and Church-State Separation
Or Why Your Church Can Discriminate
on the Basis of Gender in Hiring
September 6, 2007
8:45 AM to Noon

McAfee School of Theology
Atlanta, GA

This is a FREE Conference!

In 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. 

"The Death of Jerry Falwell"
By Bruce T. Gourley

           Yesterday Jerry Falwell died.  Few in the Western world do not know who Falwell was.  News of his death quickly appeared on the Internet and was carried on radio and television news broadcasts yesterday.  Newspapers across the country and perhaps even the world have made his death front page news.
           The numerous commentaries about Falwell's death are telling.  Most of the tributes to his life highlight his influence on American politics on behalf of (variously) "conservative," "evangelical" and/or "fundamentalist" Christians.  Few radio and television stories yesterday highlighted his role as pastor, and fewer still his role as a "Baptist" pastor.  Today's newspaper stories mention the Baptist pastor, but also cast Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority (launched in 1979 and the beginning of the Religious Right movement in America) within the context of his role in leading conservative (evangelical or fundamentalist) Christians into re-shaping the Republican Party into a party of God that opposes abortion and homosexuality, two of the primary causes to which Falwell devoted his own time and energies.
         Yet the very fact that Falwell's Baptist identity, in death, is publicly subsumed by his successes in the political realm, reveals much about the kind of Baptist he was and his influence among Baptists at large.
         Prior to Falwell, virtually all Baptists in America, even the most conservative (and perhaps especially the most conservative, who were most suspicious of secular politics, as was Falwell in his early days) were firm believers in religious liberty for all and separation of church and state. 
         Prior to Falwell, Baptists refrained from publicly and politically engaging in what we now know as the "culture wars," that is, personal moral issues that revolve around human sexuality (abortion, homosexuality, abstinence).  By way of contrast, perhaps the only modern public moral issue that united most Baptists prior to the late 20th century was that of alcohol.
         Prior to Falwell, most Baptists had never heard of the concept of "inerrancy."
         Prior to Falwell, attempts to impose fundamentalism upon the nation's historical Baptist groups had been firmly and publicly repelled, and fundamentalism in Baptist life was largely confined to independent Baptist churches and organizations who wore with pride their independence from denominational entities.  Jerry Falwell began his own ministry as an independent Baptist pastor, and only became a Southern Baptist later in life when the new fundamentalist Southern Baptist Convention leadership, looking to him for guidance and approval, had thoroughly transformed the denomination into a fundamentalist organization.
         Today, in the wake of Falwell's death, the SBC leadership and many Baptists in America at large now reject the separation of church and state, and instead insist that Christians (or at least certain Christians) should receive favoritism from the government and privileges in the public square over and above people of other faiths. 
         Today, Baptists are more defined, both in the public eye and in many Baptist congregations, by fundamentalist stances on abortion and homosexuality than they are by historical Baptist doctrines and beliefs.
         Today, probably the majority of Baptists claim to believe in an "inerrant" Bible, although few can define what the term means and the definitions that do exist are many and contradictory.
         And today, the Southern Baptist Convention is a fundamentalist denomination with close ties to the Republican Party.
         In short, Falwell played a critical role in transforming Baptists in America into something they had never before been.  His life work is now lauded by many Baptists (among others) who want fundamentalist Christian religious beliefs to define and shape politics in America.  Falwell's legacy as a Baptist lies in his rejection of key historical Baptist beliefs and his success in convincing many Baptists to forsake their faith roots in a quest for political power and privilege.  And although Falwell's soul may now rest in peace, he leaves behind a Baptist soul tormented and conflicted.

Bruce's personal website is 

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Recommended Online Reading for Informed Baptists
Compiled by Bruce Gourley

News Stories about Jerry Falwell's Death
Baptists Today

Read a compilation of news stories and commentary regarding the death of Rev. Jerry Falwell, former Southern Baptist minister and leader of the Religious Right movement in America.

"Three Layers of Environmental Preaching"
Eco-Justice Ministries

A good resource for the preaching of creation care sermons.  The site includes sermon examples.

Dates to

Dates to Note

June 7-9, 2007, Baptist History and Heritage Society (BHHS) Annual Meeting, Campbellsville, Kentucky. Theme: "African Americans in Baptist History." For more information, visit the BHHS web site.

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 Christ." Click here for more information, including registration.

June 29-July 2, 2007, ABC-USA Biennial Meeting, Washington, D.C. Click here for more information, including registration.

September 23-25, 2007, Mercer Preaching Consultation 07, St. Simons Island, Georgia.  Featuring Barbara Brown Taylor. Click here for more information, including registration.

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

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