Vol. 7 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

Bruce T. Gourley, Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin

Wil Platt, Associate Editor, The Baptist Studies Bulletin




In Response To . . . : Bruce T. Gourley

         "The Challenge of Baptist Theological Education"

The Baptist Soapbox: Geoff Pound

         "Theologians Without Borders"

From the Pulpit : Resources on the Net

         Online Pastoral and Preaching Resources
Baptists and Presidential Elections: Doug Weaver

         "Election of Jimmy Carter: The Traditional Southern Baptist"

Observations From the Intersection of Individualism and Ecclesiology:
Charles E. Poole

         "At a Busy Baptist Corner: Priesthood and Priest Craft"

Baptist Heritage Series: The First Baptist Church in America: Dan Ivins

         "Such a Time as This"

Dates to Note

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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 Theological Education"
By Bruce T. Gourley

          Ron 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, "is 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 fragmentation.
          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.

Visit Bruce's personal website.

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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.

"Theologians Without Borders"
Geoff Pound

           Theologians Without Borders
(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.
This ministry was established by the BWA’s Evangelism and Education Executive at its annual meeting in Mexico in July 2006 and the coordinating committee (chaired by Geoff Pound) is overseen by the chairs of the BWA Academic and Theological Workgroup.
The vision 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.
           The word ‘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 countries including Nepal, Vietnam, India, Malaysia, China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Bolivia and Sierra Leone. Many of the requests come from regions that are not sympathetic to the Christian faith so the publishing of full details is unwise.
The requests 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 USA, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and England. 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 mission exposure.
           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.
           Some Baptist 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?
A 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.

 Dr Geoff Pound

Chair, Coordinating Committee
Theologians Without Borders

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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
St. Simons Island, GA

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 Terri 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.

Recommended Online Preaching and Pastoral Resources

Playing 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.
            Leonard Sweet, noted theologian, author and futurist, offers,
an "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.
            If wading 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 Magazine, discusses "Public Worship as Spiritual Formation," and in another interview gives a brief introduction to preaching to Postmoderns.   
            Of course, 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 "Cross 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.
            These are just a few of the excellent resources available to preachers in cyberspace.

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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

The 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.”
            Not 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. 
            In February 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.”   
            During the 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 Christian witness.
            Reaction to 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 to them.”
            Chauncey 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.” 
            Some Baptists 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.
            After the 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.

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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

This 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.
           That’s good 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 gospel?
           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 ardently resist.
           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 meet.

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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. 
          Thirty-five pastors 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 Lord. 

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Recommended Online Reading for Informed Baptists
Compiled by Bruce Gourley

People of Faith Seek New Dialogue on Immigration
Jim Wallis
(April 2008)
New, harsh measures against immigrants have led some church leaders to pledge civil disobedience.

Going Behind Closed Doors in Christian Right Households
(April 2008)
To really understand the politics of the Christian Right, we need to look not only to public activity, but to private matters.

Ted Turner, Churches Fight Malaria
Associated Press
(April 2008)
The man who once called Christianity a "religion for losers" has apologized for his remarks, and now works with Lutherans and Methodists to fight malaria in Africa.


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 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.

July 26-29, 2008, The Baptist International Conference on Theological Education (BICTE), Prague, Czech Republic.  Visit the event website for more information.

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.

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