Produced by The Center for Baptist
Studies, Mercer University
A Monthly EMagazine, Bridging Baptists
Yesterday and Today
Bruce T. Gourley,
Baptist Studies Bulletin
Wil Platt, Associate Editor, The Baptist Studies
In Response to . . . :
Currently the Interim Director of the Center for Baptist
Studies, Bruce has been on the staff of the Center since 2004. He
previously served as a campus minister and professor of church history.
In addition, he is involved in a number of areas of moderate Baptist life
through the medium of the Internet.
"The Challenge of Baptist
By Bruce T. Gourley
Crawford, elected president of the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond
last year, is facing tough times at the Virginia-based seminary.
Moderate Baptist's first seminary formed in the wake of the fundamentalist
takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention, BTSR, now in its 19th year,
burdened with a $6 million debt and faces a significant deficit in its budget
this year," according
to an Associated Baptist Press article. Four of fifteen full-time
professors, and at least three of sixteen administrative staff, will be let go
to bring costs under control. Adjusting to financial strains that have
hit Baptist and other Christian groups across America in the face of national
economic malaise, Crawford expressed confidence that the crisis is short-term.
The lean years will serve to allow "the time to restructure and refocus our
efforts on responding to the challenge of providing theological education in a
21st century world," Crawford noted.
BTSR deserves the prayers
and support of moderate Baptists during this difficult time. And
Crawford's last statement deserves serious attention from Baptists of all
stripes. The "challenge of providing theological education in the 21st
century world" may be one of the most difficult tasks facing Baptists this
century. While there is no shortage of Baptist seminaries at the moment, the
dynamics of the 21st century are calling into question the role of Protestant
seminaries in general as financial support from denominations wanes, costs
increase, ministerial callings change, and local church life experiences
Nick Carter, president of
American Baptist-affiliated Andover Newton Theological School,
recently noted that “concepts of religious leadership, mission,
denomination and the status of ministry are being redefined. Other than the
Gospel itself, most of the assumptions that our programs of study are based on
are being swept away." Carter also noted that seminary presidents "are
asking what insights and skills are essential for the practice of
transformative ministry in the 21st century, and how do we teach it?’”
The Southern Baptist
Convention's answer to this question is to cling ever more tightly to
indoctrination. Within the past month, for example, a federal judge in
Texas ruled that
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is in effect a church and that
academic freedom is moot and gender discrimination allowable.
But for many other
Protestant seminaries―evangelical, moderate,
conservative or otherwise―education, rather than indoctrination, is critical
for future success. Nick Carter of Andover Newton and David Kelsey, a
professor of theology at the Yale Divinity School,
point to the need for seminaries to provide training and hands-on
experience within the context of the cultural, economic and pluralistic
realities that are the 21st century.
In a broader sense,
whereas Baptist seminaries in the past existed almost exclusively for the
purpose of supplying local church pastors and denominational workers, today's
challenge is to train a generation of Baptist leaders whose primary places of
future service may well lie outside (or alongside but not within) the walls of
church buildings and the halls of denominational institutions. In the face of
an increasingly non-religious Western world, effectively communicating
theological concepts will be ever more challenging. Creativity and
entrepreneurship will be critical, and listening will be every bit as
important as proclamation.
The challenges now
re-shaping our Baptist seminaries are not insurmountable. But overcoming these
hurdles will require committed and innovative leadership to ensure that the
best of our Baptist traditions are carried forward in the sea of change that
is our 21st century world.
Table of Contents
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 Geoff Pound,
Coordinating Committee Chair of the Baptist World Alliance's Theologians
Without Borders Ministry. An Australian, Pound currently lives in the
United Arab Emirates.
By Geoff Pound
(TWB) is a ministry of the
Baptist World Alliance that
brings together seminaries that need short-term teachers and
conventions that need preachers with people who are equipped and
available to serve.
ministry was established by the BWA’s
Education Executive at its annual
in July 2006 and the coordinating committee (chaired by Geoff
Pound) is overseen by the chairs of the BWA
Academic and Theological
emerged out of my experience when I commenced in early 2006 as a
volunteer seminary teacher and conference speaker. When my
availability became known I not only received more requests than I
could handle but many opportunities were in areas that were not my
primary expertise. As we talked, we envisaged a flexible
coordination group that could act as a clearing house for
requests, various ways we could sound the Macedonian call, ‘Come
over and Help Us!’, a matchmaking service that could bring
together people with the right skill and theological shade and a
resource centre that prepares both teachers and the institutions
that will receive them.
‘theologians’ is used broadly to refer not only to those who teach
theology in a seminary but to capable pastors and lay people who
have training and expertise in teaching about God, the Bible and a
broad range of Christian ministries.
Theologians Without Borders
is based on the biblical concept of partnership by which we
experience mutual encouragement. Teachers who teach at a seminary
for a week or a month or preachers who speak at a Pastor’s
Conference generally come at their own expense or are supported by
their seminary, convention or local church. The onus is on the
receiving partner to meet the costs of food and accommodation.
Theologians Without Borders
has commenced in a small way so as not to raise expectations
unnecessarily. Requests for assistance have come from many
Many of the requests come from regions that are not sympathetic to
the Christian faith so the publishing of full details is unwise.
are often broad e.g. ‘We could do with a teacher’ or ‘We
want someone with financial skills to help us sort out our
accounts’ or ‘Can someone sit with us and help us to come up with
an appropriate strategy for training church leaders in our state
or country?’ It is often easier to respond to needs that are
specific e.g. ‘We would like a preacher or teacher to give
some Old Testament studies at our annual Pastor’s Conference’ or
‘Please give a series of Regional Church Seminars (at these dates)
on the subject of Conflict Resolution in the Church.’
Gradually the news
about TWB is getting out but so far expressions of interest to
help have come from the
These ‘theologians without borders’ have included seminary
teachers, retired teachers and pastors, capable graduate students,
pastors of churches, lay people and husband and wife combinations.
It is heartening to
see some seminaries actively encouraging their teachers to build a
regular international teaching and preaching stint into their job
description over a two to five year period. There is great scope
for teachers to visit with students thus making it a valuable team
teaching experience. This offers rich opportunities (hopefully
with seminary credit) for theological reflection and intercultural
Some teachers and
preachers have the skill and the time to serve but not the money,
so other people and churches can sponsor others by paying an
airfare or gifting some Air Miles.
members are asking, before they go touring in a certain country,
“Is there any way we might volunteer our time and services?” Why
not combine Christian ministry with tourism?
Theologians Without Borders
web site has been established
listing testimonies of people who have served, some current
requests and a form through which people can make an ‘expression
of interest.’ Please help us spread the word about TWB by
promoting the ministry in seminaries, conventions and churches, or
linking to the BWA and TWB websites.
Table of Contents
THE MERCER PREACHING
Co-sponsored by McAfee
School of Theology and
The Center for Baptist Studies
28-30 September 2008
The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort
Featuring Dr. Greg Boyd
senior pastor of Woodland Hills
Church in St. Paul, Minn., and noted author
And Dr. Joel Gregory
professor of preaching at Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University
and distinguished preacher
To register or for more information, contact
Massey by email
or phone her at 478.301.2943
From the Pulpit: The Center for Baptist Studies recognizes the
critical role of the pastor in the life of the local congregation. Each
September, the Center co-sponsors the annual Mercer Preaching Consultation
(see box above). Recognizing
the role the Internet now plays in the life of pastors, this month the
Bulletin presents recommended online preaching and pastoral resources.
Preaching and Pastoral Resources
a significant public role in the life of Baptists today, Rick
Warren and Saddleback Church provide a wealth of preaching and
pastoral resources at
Warren describes the site as containing "tools,
resources, and inspiration for growing a healthy church ... a
place where pastors and church leaders come for practical helps,
experienced instruction, and a sense of shared vision and
identity." Users can dialogue with another on the site
through blogs and forums.
Sweet, noted theologian, author and futurist, offers
"online worship service planning resource" from leading pastors.
Sermon helps include "compelling and unique illustrations"
(including stories, jokes and quotes). The site, which requires
signing up to access all the features, also includes images and
other visual resources for use in PowerPoint presentations.
through an entire preaching site seems a bit daunting, the
Internet offers helpful page-long resources from well known
preachers. One of Barbara Brown Taylor's online newsletters
offers advice to preachers in an article entitled,
"Public Truth, Private Truth: Making the Move From Sermon to
Memoir." Brian McLaren, recognized leader of the
Emergent Church movement, in an interview with Homiletics
"Public Worship as Spiritual Formation," and in another
interview gives a brief introduction to
preaching to Postmoderns.
many pastors now post their own sermons online. While space
does not allow a review or listing of the many excellent sermons
available on the Internet, Dr. Greg Boyd, featured speaker at the
upcoming Mercer Preaching Consultation 2008, created a special
website to host perhaps one of the most popular sermon series of
recent years: the 2004
and the Sword" series, in which he explored the differences
between the Kingdom of God and the world of politics.
Another featured speaker at this year's Mercer Preaching
Consultation, Dr. Joel Gregory, has used the Internet to offer a
variety of online preaching resources.
just a few of the excellent resources available to preachers in
Table of Contents
Baptists and Presidential Elections:
This series focuses on historical
Baptist responses and interactions during previous United States presidential
election years. This month's contributor is Doug Weaver. Doug is Director of
Undergraduate Studies of Baylor University's Department of Religion.
"Election of Jimmy
Carter: The Traditional Southern Baptist"
By Doug Weaver
year 1976 was proclaimed the “year of the evangelical” because of the election
of Jimmy Carter as the 39th President of the United States.
Baptists tended to focus more on the obvious: a Southern Baptist was the
Democratic candidate. Harry Truman had been the first Southern Baptist
president, but Carter’s election, the Biblical Recorder of North
Carolina proudly announced after the victory over Gerald Ford, was that of a
traditional Southern Baptist. What did the newsjournal mean? Carter had
joined his home church in Plains, Georgia, at the age of eleven, and had
served his local church and denomination loyally. He had served as a deacon,
R. A. leader (Baptist Boy Scouts), Sunday School teacher, lay witness
participant in Home Mission Board crusades in the North and was a trustee of
the “Brotherhood Commission.”
surprisingly, coverage of the Carter-Ford presidential race was extensive in
Baptist state papers. Several events highlighted the religious tone of the
race, at least for Baptists. Some papers ran articles about Carter so that
readers would get an opportunity to learn about his Christian testimony.
Conflict occasionally spiced the coverage.
1976, President Ford was invited to address the annual meeting of the Southern
Baptist Convention. He would be the first sitting president to do so.
Chauncey Daley, editor of the Western Recorder of Kentucky, objected.
In an editorial entitled, “unwholesome mixture of politics and religion,”
Daley said that the invitation was unfair to other candidates and would be
interpreted by the public as an endorsement of Ford. Daley opined, “Why can’t
we learn? Former President Nixon’s Sunday worship services in the White House
and Billy Graham’s unofficial endorsement of Mr. Nixon in 1972 should be
enough to alert us to the dangers of civil religion.”
campaign some Baptists periodically criticized Carter. On the occasion of his
thirtieth wedding anniversary, some letters to the editor in Baptist state
papers were incensed that the Carters had drunk a champagne toast. One
Republican layperson said that he was ready to cross party lines to vote for a
fellow Baptist until he saw that Carter’s social drinking betrayed his
Carter’s now famous interview with Playboy magazine (September 1976)
was decidedly mixed. In the interview, Carter admitted that he had lusted in
his heart and thus had disobeyed Jesus’ words about adultery in the Sermon on
the Mount. Some Baptists wondered how Carter could willingly use a
pornographic magazine for any reason. Jerry Vines, then a pastor in Alabama,
responded that many Baptists were not convinced that Carter was really in the
“evangelical camp” (a charge that conservatives would level again and again in
the future). The more progressive Chauncey Daley was also critical. He was
upset that Carter lowered himself to using a “gutter word” in the interview
and felt the interview marred Carter’s image. At the same time, Daley noted
that it was good to have a presidential candidate on record concerning his
personal morality. Some Baptists urged Baptist critics not to be
hypocritical. Buckner Fanning of San Antonio, Texas, compared the interview
with Billy Graham’s appearance on Johnny Carson’s popular “Tonight Show,”
“one of the most racy, suggestive and beer-sponsored shows on
television.” Some Baptists also applauded Carter for his courage. They
commended Carter for witnessing to his faith and his affirmation of the
importance of marital fidelity in a “hostile medium.” Carter himself nodded
to both critics and supporters when he admitted that he should have been more
“stringent in his choice of language” but saw the interview “as an opportunity
to reach people outside the regular Christian circles and to present a witness
Daley’s words about an unholy mix of politics and religion occurred in the
minds of some Southern Baptists in October 1976 when W. A. Criswell,
influential pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, endorsed Gerald
Ford for president (a foreshadowing of Southern Baptist support for
Republicans in subsequent elections). With Ford in attendance at worship,
Criswell remarked before his sermon that Playboy magazine was
“pornographic and “salacious” and he praised Ford for turning down an
interview with it. After the service Criswell, with Ford by his side, was
approached by a reporter who asked if he was endorsing Ford for the
presidency. Criswell smiled, hesitated for a moment, and then turned to Ford
and said, “I am for you! I hope you win in November.”
immediately criticized Criswell for politicizing the pulpit. A group of
sixteen North Carolina pastors issued a statement that said Criswell did not
speak for Baptists in the pews. The Biblical Recorder suggested that
Criswell go read the famous address delivered on the steps of the U. S.
Capitol by his predecessor, G. W. Truett, on the separation of church and
state. Liberal Baptist W. W. Finlator of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in
Raleigh was especially blunt. He wrote that Criswell’s endorsement of Ford
should come as no surprise: “Dr. Criswell has been wrong on virtually every
issue in the past 30 years… He has a long record of obscurantism and
obfuscation on the political scene.” Interestingly, in an attempt to remain
“bipartisan” throughout the campaign, the Christian Index of Carter’s
home state of Georgia noted that Criswell had not technically endorsed Ford in
the pulpit but had done so in response to a reporter’s question.
election, the Christina Index gratefully observed that Carter’s
candidacy had caused the nation to examine the phrases “born again Christian
and Southern Baptist”as never before, and the results were good. Chauncey
Daley of Kentucky admitted that not all Baptists would agree with all of
Carter’s future presidential decisions. Daley asked Baptists not to indulge
in self-righteous nit-picking and he admonished Carter to refrain from making
poor decisions like the Playboy interview and “do what you think is
right in spite of what Baptists or others think.”
In the era
after Watergate, Americans had voted for a Southern governor not previously
well-known on the national political scene. Historian Russell Balmer suggests
that Carter’s commitment to honesty (he made a promise that he would never
knowingly lie) and his moral compass helped Americans hope that the country
could regain its ethical base. In four years, however, many Baptists helped
to defeat the “traditional” born again Southern Baptist. And, their disdain
for Carter has yet to abate.
Table of Contents
Observations From the Intersections of Individualism and Ecclesiology:
Charles E. Poole recently returned to
the pulpit of Northminster Baptist Church, Jackson, Mississippi, following four
years of street ministry with LifeShare Community Ministries in Jackson.
"Chuck" Poole, a provocative preacher and servant pastor, has ministered to
both the poor and the privileged for over a quarter century. In addition to
Northminster, he has served First Baptist Church, Macon, GA, and First Baptist
Church, Washington, DC.
"At a Busy Baptist Corner:
Priesthood and Priest Craft"
By Charles E. Poole
is the fourth of six observations from the busy Baptist corner where
individualism and ecclesiology merge, converge and intersect. All this
thinking about our Baptist amalgam of individualism and ecclesiology has
reminded me of something you often hear in Baptist churches: “Every church
member’s vote, from the newest believer to the oldest, most experienced
member, counts the same.” That’s a very Baptist sentiment. It’s the
ultimate in egalitarianism, individualism and democracy. Everyone, no matter
their skill level, is given an equal voice in the matters of the church.
individualism, but is it good ecclesiology? To borrow a phrase, is it healthy
to promote the idea that we can exercise our priesthood without first
developing our priest craft? Should we ask people to learn good
theology, to study the “craft” and disciplines of Christianity before they
exercise a voice in the church’s decisions? Is there any skill to be acquired
in the Christian faith, or is this a subject where everyone is equally
expert? Should people sometimes recuse themselves from participation in
church decisions because they aren’t up on the central teachings of the
Of course, we
Baptists don’t have thresholds for theological formation prior to
participation in congregational decision making. Our ecclesiology is so
devoted to individualism that we can’t conceive of such a thing. Threshold
setting means someone has to establish the threshold and that would require
giving authority to someone and that is one of the things we Baptists most
So, we live with
the risk that on some occasions we will uphold individual freedom at the cost
of good theology. It is one of the perils of building our churches at the
busy Baptist corner where individualism and ecclesiology merge, converge and
Table of Contents
Baptist Heritage Series: The
First Baptist Church in America:
As Baptists prepare to celebrate 400
years in 2009, this
series highlights America's First Baptist Church. Dan Ivins,
the 36th pastor of America's First Baptist Church, is the author of
this month's article.
Ivins loves living in downtown Providence and his favorite
activities are sports, traveling, and riding his motorbike.
"Such a Time as This"
By Dan Ivins
“And who knows but
that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”
(Esther 4:14) A phrase, pregnant with meaning. It made the
difference in Queen Esther just being there. Heroines are born in
crisis times. "Such a time" was an opportunity to realize
that God may have brought her to that place and time for a specific
purpose. Esther’s story is relevant because she gave her life in
pursuit of a greater cause.
Purposeful living isn't
just for the heavyweights: Moses, Esther, Jesus, and Roger
Williams. God has called each of us to a purpose greater than
ourselves. What that is precisely, "Who knows?" But we
should all ask of ourselves, if perhaps we've been put here for such
a time as this.
Time. The church founded
by Roger Williams in 1638 has seen more of it than any other Baptist
congregation in this country. It is unique in that regard, and a
noble heritage that we dare not take for granted.
preceded me as pastor here and I have a deep appreciation for all
who climbed the lofty pulpit before me. You can’t come here on
these hallowed grounds and not take a look back. But after looking
back, I took a look around. I’m, deeply respectful of that past,
but with a present to live in, and a future to prepare for. Jesus
was an up-to-date guy: “You have heard it said of those of old
time…but I say unto you.” One way I felt our church’s
historical uniqueness could be communicated to our time is to
construct a viable Internet website.
Visibility is no problem
considering our location in downtown Providence. One of the first
things people notice as they approach the city is the prominent
steeple just a few blocks from Roger Williams’ statue as a symbol of
religious liberty. Ours is a world not just of space but
cyberspace. And we needed a quality presence on the web.
Being next door to the
Rhode Island School of Design allowed us to tap into an effective
way to share what we stand for and how we came to be. We wanted
pictures of the wonderful people who make up the First Baptist
congregation today. Our home page displays our majestic white
steeple, nestled by the green leaves of our stately elms, against
the backdrop of an azure sky.
The Internet provides us
a way to characterize the congregation in the 21st
century, but also being faithful to her 16th century
roots based on soul freedom and the separation of church and state:
The First Baptist Church in America. Welcome. Where God’s people
value diversity without division; unity without uniformity; and
dialog without dictation. The First Baptist Church in America seeks
to be a free and faithful voice of the gospel in the American
Baptist tradition, with a winsome witness and faithfulness to Jesus
Christ and the mission of his church. The church believes in
practicing and preserving historic Baptist principles and freedoms.
We value excellence in worship, biblical preaching, religious
education, missions outreach, theological depth, intellectual
honesty, religious freedom, social consciousness, responsible
stewardship and warm fellowship.
And our sign out in a
prominent spot in the front yard reads, in the spirit of Roger
Williams who was banished from Massachusetts and established “a
lively experiment of freedom,” We reserve the right to accept
everybody. It says what it means and means what it says,
because it characterizes one greater than Roger, even Christ the
Table of Contents
Dates to Note
May 22-24, 2008, Baptist History & Heritage
Society Annual Meeting, Mercer's Atlanta campus. The theme is "Baptists
and First Amendment Issues." Visit
the BH&HS website for more
June 19-20, 2008, Annual Cooperative Baptist
Fellowship General Assembly, Memphis, Tennessee, Cook Convention Center.
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 Randall@ibts.cz
by March 1, 2008. Click here for more
information and registration information.
July 26-29, 2008, The Baptist International
Conference on Theological Education (BICTE), Prague, Czech Republic. Visit
the event website for more
September 28-30, 2008, Mercer Preaching
Consultation 2008, King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort, St. Simons Island,
Georgia. Co-sponsored by McAfee School of Theology and the Center for
Baptist Studies. Featured speakers include Dr. Greg Boyd and Dr. Joel
Gregory. See advertisement above for more 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.
Table Of Contents
you do not wish to receive BSB any longer, please
Click Here to unsubscribe.