Vol. 6 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




I Believe . . . : Walter B. Shurden

         "The Center for Baptist Studies: Past and Future"

The Baptist Soapbox: Fred Lewis

         "Why I Am Excited About the New Baptist Covenant"
The Spirituality of Baptist Leaders in Seventeenth Century America
Carol Crawford Holcomb

         "The Spirituality of John Russell"

BSB Special: New Books of Interest to Our Readers

         Baptists and Religious Liberty: The Freedom Road (by William M. Pinson, Jr.)
         Christmas is for the Young... Whatever Their Age (by William Powell Tuck)

In Response To . . .
: Bruce T. Gourley

         "Baptist Bloggers"

Dates to Note

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I Believe

"The Center for Baptist Studies: Past and Future"
By Walter B. Shurden

I believe . . .
that in this next to last “I believe” article, I probably should say something about the future of The Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University. A number of people, upon hearing of my retirement at the end of this calendar year, have asked, “What will happen to the Center?” Before a brief comment about the Center’s future, I need to say a word about the Center’s past.
           The Center for Baptist Studies originated with R. Kirby Godsey, the Chancellor and past-President of Mercer University. Well over a decade ago, Dr. Godsey convened a small group of Mercer professors and employees in his office and posed the possibility of a Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer. After a few years of continuing conversation, the Center eventually opened in July 2001. Dr. Godsey challenged me as the founding executive director of the Center to shape its life and to write my own job description. The last six and one-half years have been great fun for me.
           Greg Thompson and Bruce Gourley, my two associates at the Center in these six and one-half years, have been indescribably critical to the Center’s work. Without them my technologically challenged life would never have gotten the Center to first base. Greg Thompson insisted that the Center needed a monthly newsletter and thus was born The Baptist Studies Bulletin on January 2002. Greg also convinced me of the need for a Certificate in Baptist Studies, an online educational program that has produced much valuable fruit over the years. Bruce Gourley has not only enhanced these programs, but he has also brought his professionalism to our web site and his insightful ideas to the ministry of the Center. Without Dr. Godsey, the Center would never have come into existence. Without Greg Thompson and Bruce Gourley, the Center would never have continued.
            At the Center for Baptist Studies we have intentionally been multi-focused. We have tried to design programs for Baptist laity, Baptist ministers, and Baptist scholars. Our conferences have been varied, often with all three groups in our sights. The Mercer Preaching Consultation, co-sponsored by the Center and Mercer’s McAfee School of Theology, has become, I am glad to say, a signature event in the life of the University. The annual Baptist Classics Seminar has been an enormously valuable learning experience for Baptist historians. A number of our general conferences have focused on church/state issues, and Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee of Religious Liberty in Washington, DC, has been a popular and regular speaker. Our A. H. Newman Scholars program, a one week sabbatical reading program in Baptist Studies for working ministers, has brought sixteen ministers to our campus. But all of that work, and much more, constitute the past.
             What of the future? What will happen to the Center and its ministry? It is in very good and competent hands! Bill Underwood, President of Mercer University, is solidly in support of the work of the Center. Indeed, he is enthusiastic about the Center and views it as foundational to the Baptist identity of the University. Moreover, he sees the Center, along with other units of Mercer such as McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University Press, and the office of the Minister to the University, as central to establishing Mercer
University as a nerve center for Baptist life and scholarship in North America. With the already accomplished move of the Baptist History and Heritage Society and the anticipation of the move of the historical collection of the American Baptist Historical Society to the Atlanta campus of Mercer University, Mercer is in a unique place of leadership in Baptist life in North America.
              While the new leadership at the Center has not yet been named, one can assume that President Underwood will bring a well known Baptist name to head the Center. That search is presently underway. One can also assume that, while many of the old ministries of the Center will continue, new and exciting educational programs will emerge. Stay tuned.
              In the meantime the work of the Center will continue under the steady and competent hands of Bruce Gourley. Bruce will continue to edit the BSB, manage the web site, and supervise in a general way the work of the Center until a new executive is named. You can continue to reach him at
              I believe . . . that the Center for Baptist Studies is in good hands, both for the short and the long run. 

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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.

NEW!  Church Bulletin Inserts for the New Baptist Covenant

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




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 Fred Lewis, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Indianapolis, an American Baptist congregation.

"Why I Am Excited About the New Baptist Covenant"
By Fred Lewis

I know some people who claim they were born Baptist. Not me. I chose to become one. I was raised in a different denominational tradition. I chose to become a Baptist. I was adopted into the family. At the age of fourteen, on a Sunday morning, I joined the First Baptist Church of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I have been re-affirming that decision ever since. The Atlanta Celebration of the New Baptist Covenant is a new opportunity to once again reaffirm my Baptist identity. I am excited about this celebration for several reasons:

1. Program Participants

As an American Baptist, I have a number of heroes. Some of them just happen to be on the program of the Atlanta Celebration. I look forward to seeing and hearing Jimmy Carter, Bill Moyers and Al Gore. I have never been in a gathering with them before. I look forward to their inspiration and guidance. They alone would be worthy reasons to attend.

2 . Mission

            At their best, Baptist congregations engage in mission cooperatively. Baptist congregations have worked together to help enact Jesus’ agenda. The New Baptist Covenant will lift up missional goals of promoting peace with justice, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, caring for the sick and marginalized, and welcoming strangers. I want to be serious about this kind of Kingdom work and learn how others are faithfully going about it.

3. Witness

I am excited about participating in a Baptist event that is cooperative, uniting and engaging. Those are not descriptive words for many of the kinds of Baptist events I have been a part of. I look forward to being part of a new kind of Baptist witness. I look forward to celebrating the ties that bind us. I look forward to the diversity of Baptist denominational groups who will be present. Perhaps we as Baptists are entering a new day.

4. Baptist principles

There are a lot of voices that get a lot of attention who do not value Baptist principles (even among Baptist groups). Over time, these principles become blurred and muted, if not forgotten. I look forward to an event that will affirm freedom of religion, the separation of church and state, the priesthood of believers, and the autonomy of the local church. These Baptist principles are worth preserving and celebrating.

5. Fellowship 

I graduated from a Baptist college, a Baptist seminary, and have pastored in three different Baptist congregations over the course of 37 years. I have friends and colleagues spread far and near. My guess is that some of them will show up at the Celebration. I look forward to hearing them amuse me when they say, “You look almost the same.”

6. First Baptist Church of Indianapolis

We have about 20 folks from First Baptist of Indianapolis who will be attending the Celebration. I believe some new and creative energy will come out of this historic event. I think we will see more clearly what can be done cooperatively. I want to be present, so, when we return home, I can help keep the momentum going.

            I was not born a Baptist. I chose to become one. I was adopted into the family. The Atlanta Celebration of the New Baptist Covenant will be yet, another way for me to re-affirm what it means to be Baptist at its best.

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The Center for Baptist Studies Presents:
A New Series of Baptist Heritage Sermons
from Joe Kutter, Senior Pastor,
First Baptist Church, Topeka, Kansas

The following documents will open in MS Word document.

Walking With God: Christ Alone Lord of the Conscience
Walking With God: Freedom
Walking With God Together
A Way of Walking With God
A Way of Walking With God: Reaching Out

Other sermon series are available on our website.



The Spirituality of Baptist Leaders in Seventeenth Century America
This series focuses on early Baptist spirituality, offering insight from the past for today's Baptists.  This month's contributor is Carol Crawford Holcomb, Assistant Professor of Church History and Baptist Studies, University of Mary-Hardin Baylor, Belton, Texas.

"The Spirituality of John Russell"
By Carol Crawford Holcomb

In 1665, Thomas Gold, a wealthy Puritan wagon maker and farmer, refused to have his infant daughter baptized in one of the established churches of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Gold had become convinced that scripture did not support infant baptism.  In response, the Puritan authorities placed him under censure, hauled him to court, fined him, and ultimately threw him in prison.  Nevertheless, Gold insisted that if the Charlestown congregation would allow him this “matter of conscience,” he would continue to walk in fellowship with them.  The Puritan church would not allow this, so Gold began meeting in his home with friends, “some of whom came to me out of Old England, who were Baptists.”  In 1665 Gold and eight others submitted to baptism by immersion, signed a covenant, and formed a Baptist church.  Gold served as their pastor.  In a rare overture, the Massachusetts Bay governor and council called for a debate with the Baptists in 1668.  Although it failed to win the Baptists any formal concessions, the debate did leave a record of the piety and conviction of a group of Baptist laymen.  Most interestingly, it demonstrates that these early Baptists were first and foremost Puritans—devoted to scripture, hungry for purity, obsessed with holiness, and profoundly dependent upon the Holy Spirit.  Seventeenth century Boston Baptists like Gold, and his successor John Russell, drew deeply from the wells of Puritan spirituality in defining their Baptist convictions. 
            In 1674, the Baptist congregation left Charlestown to become the first Baptist church in Boston.  John Russell served as the second pastor of this fellowship.  In 1680, Russell prepared a “Brief Narrative” of the church’s beliefs and practices to defend them against false accusations from the Massachusetts Bay Colony leadership.  Russell’s intent was to defend the reputations of seven charter members against charges that labeled Baptists as “schismatics,” “disorderly,” and “scandalous.”  Furthermore, the Baptists were charged with undermining the church of Christ, neglecting public worship, idolatry, and ultimately branded as “enemies of the civil government.
            With a generous and irenic spirit, Russell defended the Baptist position by citing scripture, appealing to logic, and emphasizing the purity of their lives.  Russell quoted scripture to explain their belief in adult baptism and to answer charges against their church order.  He insisted that the Baptists lived upright, moral lives according to the gospel rule.  Russell pointed to the military service of Edward Drinker and Captain William Turner as evidence that the Baptists were loyal subjects.  And when Puritan leaders insisted that laypersons were not equipped for the ministry, Russell deferred to the authority of the Holy Spirit.  “We do not think,” rejoined Russell, “that the Spirit of God is locked up within the narrow limits of College learning” (Brief Narrative, 170).
            These emphases position Russell’s rhetoric firmly within the Puritan tradition. Nothing in Russell’s Narrative or Gold’s earlier debate challenged the basic tenets of the Westminster Confession.  Thus it was not a departure from Puritan convictions, but a radical Puritan spirituality that motivated this particular group of Baptists in Boston.   The Puritan impulse drove their rigid adherence to scripture.  Determined to be faithful to the New Testament, Baptists rejected infant baptism.  A longing for purity led them to withdraw to practice their faith.  Indeed, said Russell, the Baptists merely wished to “enjoy all the ordinances of Christ with more purity, and worship him according to gospel institution” (Brief Narrative,156. Italics mine). 
            The New England Puritan experiment shaped Baptists’ longing for a personal experience with Christ through the Holy Spirit.  As William McLoughlin observed: “what drove the Baptists . . . was that fulsome, heartwarming, soul shaking experience of the Holy Spirit which lay at the base of the whole Puritan movement.” (McLouglin, 31)  Even Russell’s appeal to “tenderness of conscience” came from Puritan theology.  Although by no means unambiguous, Puritan writers such as William Ames had earlier affirmed that there was a bond between the human conscience and God that no human institution could violate [1].  Puritan divines had appealed to conscience in their own dissent against the Anglican authorities.  Just as the Puritans had broken free from the constricting limitations of the Church of England in order to give fuller expression to their own pious longings, the Baptists likewise, broke free from the Puritan establishment which they felt would choke their faith.  Nevertheless, the Baptists remained children of the Puritans and in many respects, the spirituality of Boston Baptists was the old Puritan spirituality “writ large.”

[1] Davis, James Calvin.  “William Ames’s Calvinist Ambiguity Over Freedom of Conscience.” Journal of Religious Ethics. 33.2 (2005): 350.

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A Baptist Studies Bulletin Special:  We wish to draw your attention to two newly-released volumes of relevance to today's Baptists. 

Baptists and Religious Liberty: The Freedom Road
by William M. Pinson, Jr.

              Published by BaptistWay Press of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, this volume is one of a series of books on Baptist doctrine and heritage intended for individual and group study in Baptist life.  Pinson, former pastor, seminary president and executive director of the Executive Board of the BGCT, does an excellent job of tracing, in a highly readable format, the Baptist heritage of religious liberty and separation of church and state.  Pinson clearly reminds readers that today's religion in public life headlines cannot be properly understood apart from the perspective of four centuries of consistent Baptist witness.  Names and stories familiar to students of Baptist history come to life and speak across generations.  This volume is an excellent choice for introducing contemporary Baptists to a central tenet of the Baptist faith that too often lies submerged beneath the rhetoric of today's culture wars.

Christmas is for the Young... Whatever Their Age
by William Powell Tuck

              A long-time pastor and seminary professor, Tuck has "always loved the Advent and Christmas season."  A timely arrival, this volume from CSS Publishing is a compilation of "16 Christmas Sermon Stories" intended to be "a source of inspiration for personal meditation or small group studies."  Whereas Christmas day has long been a special time for Christians at large, many Baptists in recent years have come to a greater appreciation of the larger Advent season.  Tuck helps the reader personally engage in the Advent and Christmas season, pointing the way to the simplicity and  mystery of the incarnation, drawing upon the scriptures and imagination to invoke the true meaning of the the holiday celebration.  In the midst of the busyness that marks the holidays, it is worth taking the time to read Christmas is for the Young.

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In Response

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. 

"Baptist Bloggers"
By Bruce T. Gourley

           Where do you turn for Baptist news?
           Odds are, the Internet supplements any printed Baptist news publications to which you subscribe ... assuming you still subscribe to print publications.
           The Gutenberg printing press empowered the Protestant Reformation by allowing Martin Luther and other movement leaders to disseminate sermons and tracts throughout Europe with astonishing speed: a mere matter of days. More than 500 years later, the Internet allows any Baptist to instantly publish his or her views and opinions on any subject matter, to a worldwide audience.  Such is the world of blogs and blogging, a concept birthed a mere ten years ago, that currently symbolizes the revolutionary nature of the Internet in terms of the dissemination of information.
          Surfing the Internet in search of Baptist news is certain, sooner or later, to lead one to the world of Baptist blogs.  Loved or hated, Baptist bloggers are here to stay ... at least until the next publishing revolution.  Some Baptist bloggers clash with denominational leaders.  Others parrot party lines.  Many are trying to make a name for themselves, and a few have succeeded.
          Often lost in the blur of our fast-paced, technological society is the fact that most Baptist bloggers are non-journalists expressing personal opinions and passing along "insider information" that reinforces their own point of view.  Ideologies aside, the scores of Baptist clergy and lay persons publishing blogs have upended the way concerned Baptists learn about current events in the larger Baptist world.  Even Baptist journalists now turn to blogs in search of news leads that five years ago may never have surfaced.
          Should blogging as a mass movement prove to have any lasting power, a few of the Baptist persuasion may "rise to the top" and gain credibility akin to journalists.  In the meantime, if you place a premium on reliable and trustworthy news, pay attention to how professional religious journalists interact with the "blogosphere."  Which blogs do journalists reference, and in what manner?  Who, among bloggers, do journalists deem as credible?  And finally, which journalists have joined the blog "revolution" by personally utilizing the medium? 
          The power of the printed word centuries ago enabled, on a practical level, Protestant Reformers to topple religious empires and create new paradigms.  The power of today's digital word is just as dynamic.  But we must be careful to whom we turn for news and information, for this revolutionary time in which we live holds forth both promise and peril.   

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Recommended Online Reading for Informed Baptists
Compiled by Bruce Gourley

Belmont and Tennessee Baptists Reach Settlement
Associated Baptist Press

Another Baptist university severs state Baptist ties.

In God's Name
The Economist

Contrary to predictions that religion would diminish in the world in the face of advances in science and technology, faith instead plays an increasingly prominent role in world affairs.  "Moreover, from a secularist point of view, the wrong sorts of religion are flourishing, and in the wrong places. In general, it is the tougher versions of religion that are doing best—the sort that claim Adam and Eve met 6,003 years ago."  Also read Martin Marty's take on the article.

15 Green Religious Leaders

Fifteen spiritual leaders who are spreading the eco-gospel.


Dates to Note

January 30 - February 1, 2008, New Baptist Covenant Celebration, Atlanta, Georgia.  See advertisement above or click here for more information.

April 1-2, 2008, Urban Mission Workshop, McAfee School of Theology, Atlanta, Georgia.  Speakers include Rev. Joanna Adams, Rev. Timothy McDonald, Rev. Tony Lankford and others.  More information is available online or by emailing Larry McSwain at

April 3, 2008, 25th Anniversary Celebration and Judson-Rice Dinner honoring Walker Knight, Loudermilk Center, Downtown Atlanta, 6:30 PM.  Visit Baptists Today online or call 1-877-752-5658 for more information.

May 22-24, 2008, Baptist History & Heritage Society Annual Meeting, Mercer Atlanta campus.  The theme is "Baptists and First Amendment Issues."  Visit the BHHS website for more information.

June 19-20, 2008, Annual Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly, Memphis, Tennessee, Cook Convention Center.  Information and registration.

July 16-19, 2008, British Baptist Historical Society Centenary Conference, International Baptist Theological Seminary, Prague.  Theme: Baptists and the World: Renewing the Vision. Keynote Speaker: Dr. Bill Leonard. If you have a proposal for a short paper, email Dr. Ian Randall at by March 1, 2008.  Click here for more information and registration information.

If you know of a Baptist event that needs to be added to this list, please let us know.  For a full calendar of Baptist events, visit the Online Baptist Community Calendar.

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