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
We wish you a blessed Advent
season and a merry Christmas!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
In Response To . . .
: Bruce T. Gourley
Celebrating 400 Years of Being Baptist: A Free Church Bulletin Insert Series
The Baptist Soapbox: Jerrod H. Hugenot
Ministry in the Local Church: Julie Whidden Long
Congregation's Role in Faith Formation"
Fisher Humphreys Answers Your Questions:
"What is the Theological Basis of 'Moderate Baptist
Books That Matter:
Speaks to Us, Too: Southern Baptist Women on Church, Home, and
by Susan M. Shaw
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.
By Bruce T. Gourley
Next month Baptists begin a year long celebration of their four hundredth
birthday. In 1609 John Smyth and Thomas Helwys parted ways with the Church of
England and established the first Baptist church in the world. In 2009, the
world will have an opportunity to see Baptists again for the first time.
The emergence and
ascendancy of fundamentalism in the twentieth-century communicated a false
perception of Baptist identity and served to publicly derail much of our
Baptist heritage. True, fundamentalist Baptists are yet Baptists, although the
central tenets of the movement―creedalism,
textual inerrancy, pro church-state leanings, and anti-pluralism―are contrary
to historic Baptist beliefs. Against the backdrop of fundamentalist
distractions, the most important task of the four hundredth anniversary of
Baptists is to publicly reintroduce the Baptist heritage, both within and
without our church buildings. To this end, the Center for Baptist Studies is
teaming up with the Baptist History and Heritage Society to provide monthly,
free church bulletin inserts to the Baptist public throughout the coming year.
Hundreds of churches have already signed up to use the inserts.
In a larger perspective,
2009 will provide an excellent opportunity to publicly discuss and reaffirm
core Baptist historical beliefs. Many of the same conversations heard within
today's Baptist circles echo 1609 dialogue: scripture, pluralism, religious
liberty, separation of church and state, baptism, and local church autonomy,
for example. Whereas Baptists in the early seventeenth century discussed these
issues from the perspective of a persecuted religious minority, Baptists today
have a significant religious presence worldwide: the Baptist World Alliance
105 million persons. While today's moderate Baptists have far more
influence and reach than their earliest spiritual ancestors, in the
twenty-first century historic Baptist beliefs sometimes are taken for granted
(local church autonomy) or overlooked (separation of church and state), adding
urgency to the task of remembering our past.
On a local level, when is
the last time your congregation participated in a discussion of the Baptist
principles which birthed and have sustained your church? Are your congregants
aware of how their individual and collective faiths were shaped by their
Baptist forebears? Do the members of your congregation who do not have a
Baptist background understand how modern Christianity has been indelibly
influenced by the Baptist heritage of believer's baptism, local church
autonomy, and religious liberty?
Each edition of the
Baptist Studies Bulletin in the coming year will seek to foster conversation
about Baptist history and heritage. We hope your church will join in the
dialogue, and if you choose to do,
we encourage you to let us know.
Table of Contents
Celebrating 400 Years of Being Baptist:
The Center for Baptist Studies and the Baptist
History and Heritage Society present a twelve-month series of free church
bulletin inserts for use in teaching Baptist heritage in the local church
during the 400 year anniversary of Baptists. The image below is a copy of one
side of this month's pdf document that you can obtain for free by
contacting Pam Durso of the Baptist History and Heritage Society.
can only be
within a church.
to reprint any
text or images,
Pamela R. Durso
by email at
or by phone at (678) 547-6095.
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 Jerrod
Hugenot, coordinating minister of the First Baptist Church of Bennington,
Vermont, an American Baptist congregation.
By Jerrod Hugenot
Growing up in rural Kansas, the nearest neighbors were a distance
away, rarely seen. Being good practitioners of
the Protestant work ethic, we rarely took time out for
socializing. Life was about by the unending
toil of the day: fence to mend, fields to plow,
cattle to pasture, grain and hay to haul. On
rare occasions, a little potluck would be held on a Saturday
evening where the men talked of grain prices, the women talked of
the vacations they wished they could take, and the kids played in
the yard, sliding down ancient slipper slides and screaming with
glee. The meals rarely happened but they were
memories prompt a theological observation: how we choose to live
in this world matters. In God’s good wisdom,
God made us social creatures. Created to be in
relationship with others, we humans tend to spend most of our time
doing so only in part. Instead, we spend much
of our time racing around, tending to the affairs of life, and
settling for repeating the mantra of “I’m too busy” rather than
engaging in conversations and a common meal that is not “fast
A worse habit,
however, happens when we look around us and see persons who we
choose not to see. We engage in practices,
written and unwritten, keeping those persons acutely aware of our
disinterest in making them our neighbors. Much
too often, some people are kept at arm’s length from being “our”
In the Christian
tradition, Jesus teaches that the sum of faith is to love God and
our neighbor. If we take it seriously, a sacred
text that says, “take your neighbor as seriously as you do your
devotion to God” should press us, letting an ancient word tweak
our modern sensibilities and myopias.
Practicing well such a faith might wind up freeing us to live in
ways we have left unexplored or forgotten.
To love your neighbor as yourself is to realize “one’s own welfare
is intertwined with that of the other,” writes scholar Warren
Carter. In his masterful commentary on
Matthew’s gospel, Carter claims that this theme of radical
hospitality weaves throughout the narrative. Jesus instructs the
disciples and the crowds how to love the poor, the dispossessed,
the unclean, and yes, even one’s own enemy. He
encourages his followers to lead what Carter calls “a life of
indiscriminately is a noble vision, but living it out is another
thing altogether! Jesus weaves together the sum
of faith (“love God with all of our own being”) with the realities
of life, where we falter too often in loving someone completely,
especially if they seem too much the part of “the other”.
Jesus teaches that the righteous way of leading life has
little to do with exacting purity and ironclad authoritarianism.
Only in humility and due deference to one another can we
start embodying, rather than merely citing, the values of the sum
of the faith we seek to keep.
Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, offers a helpful
word. Williams writes, “We
can cling harder and harder to the rock of our threatened
identity—a choice, finally, for self-delusion over truth; or we
can accept that we shall have no ultimate choice but to let go,
and in that letting go, give room to what’s there around us—to the
sheer impression of the moment, to the need of the person next to
you, to the fear that needs to be looked at, acknowledged and
calmed (not denied). If that happens, the heart has room for many
strangers, near and far.”
past week, I found the words of Jesus coming alive at First
Baptist. The congregation invited other
religious communities involved with the Greater Bennington Area
Interfaith Council to gather for a potluck meal.
I thought we would have two dozen at best, given that it
was a midweek evening. Nobody will make time as
we are all much too busy. Sigh!
found ourselves putting up more chairs to accommodate the fifty
persons who attended. Around each table,
persons from differing religious faiths broke bread and had some
great conversations. By the end of the evening,
the question was being asked, “When can my own faith community
host the next meal?”
Religious communities can be places of great exclusion (written
and unwritten) or great inclusion. Indeed, I suspicion one reason
for the Church’s decline in North America has been a neglect of
the radical hospitality embodied by Jesus and the earliest
Christians. If we listen attentively, our
sacred text schools us well. Our neighbor is
the one in whom the very reason we keep the faith is embodied.
In our neighbor and our engagement and treatment of them,
we discover how well we love God fully and authentically.
The “wholly other” becomes our way toward becoming holy.
As Rowan Williams says, when we realize this, “the heart
has room for many strangers, near and far.”
Editor's Note: This commentary
originally appeared on the
website of First Baptist Church, Bennington, Vermont.
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Children's Ministry in the Local Church: Julie Whidden Long, Minister to Children and Families at First Baptist Church of Christ
in Macon, Georgia, understands the importance of children in life of the local
church. Rev. Long pens this six-month series examining children's ministry.
She is the author of the recently published book, Portraits
of Courage: Stories of Baptist Heroes (published by the Baptist
History and Heritage Society and Mercer University Press), a volume written
for older children.
"The Congregation's Role in Faith
By Julie Whidden Long
Do you have
childhood memories of church? Or have you watched your own
children or grandchildren experience church in a meaningful way?
Many of us recall Sunday School teachers or other children’s
workers who made an impact on us and shaped our faith. But I can
also point to people like Mr. Wendell, the usher who always pulled
a piece of candy out of his shirt pocket when he saw me coming, or
like Mrs. Hinely, who wrote me notes of encouragement after I
performed in a children’s musical. Do you remember those ordinary
saints who loved you as a child, and in doing so, nurtured your
experiences as a child in church convinced me that the whole
church, not just the children’s workers, takes part in a child’s
faith formation. Families are crucial in forming the faith of
children, but we ordinary folks in Baptist congregations should
not minimize our role in the life of our church’s children. How
can the church as a whole guide faith formation of its children?
member can help kids know that they belong. I bet if you asked
adults in your congregation why they joined your church, many of
them would answer, “I joined because I was welcomed here,” or “I
felt like this is where I belonged.” We want to go where we
belong! The same is true of children. Helping kids know that
they belong is the responsibility of all members of the community,
not just those who work with them.
asked several kids in our congregation, “What is the best thing
about our church?” Several gave the expected answers: Sunday
school, summer camp, playing with the other kids. But one
insightful fourth grader amazed me when he said, “Everybody helps
each other. Nobody is left behind. When we have an activity,
everybody comes. Nothing at church is only for some people.”
That kid had been formed in the faith because he belonged!
congregations can nurture faith in their children by involving
them in all the activities and rituals of the faith community.
Segregating kids in their own corner of the building works against
what we need to be doing for them. It does not instill a sense of
belonging or give them opportunities to build relationships and
find role models. Nor does it cultivate in them an appreciation
for church traditions and practices as they grow older. When
children participate in rituals and rites of the church, belong as
full members of the community, accept opportunities to lead, and
are loved as Jesus calls us to love, their faith is formed in a
role models and friends offer children examples of the faith that
they are being taught about in the classroom. Adult mentors can
be teaching tools more powerful than all of the other activities
that they will experience. Children will remember the people of
the faith community when they forget the Bible facts they learned
at a church program. Their relationships will keep them connected
to the church and the faith tradition as they grow.
Ministry to children in Baptist congregations should not be about
creating fun and exciting programs. What children really want and
need is to be a part of something bigger than they are. They want
to find meaning for their lives, just as adults do. The soul care
of our children is an important responsibility that every
participant in the community of faith should take seriously,
remembering that a church program cannot spiritually form a child,
but a family living in an intergenerational community of faith
Table of Contents
Fisher Humphreys Answers Your Questions:
The Center for Baptist Studies introduces an
occasional series authored by Fisher Humphreys, retired Professor of Theology
at Beeson Divinity
School of Samford University. Dr. Humphreys fields theological queries
from Bulletin readers, openly responding to select questions. If you
would like to submit a question to Dr. Humphreys,
and we will pass it along to him for consideration.
"What is the Theological Basis
of 'Moderate Baptist Christians'?"
By Fisher Humphreys
the heat of the controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention
(1979-90), participants could not agree on how to describe what
was happening. The old leaders called it “the Fundamentalist
takeover,” and the new leaders called it “the conservative
could the participants agree on what to call themselves or each
other. Three titles were proposed for each group.
leaders and their supporters were called traditionalists,
Fundamentalists, and conservatives. The word traditionalists
never much caught on. Most of them didn’t like the word
leaders and their supporters were called progressives, liberals,
and moderates. The word progressives didn’t much catch
on. Most of them didn’t like the word liberals; in fact,
some of them argued quite plausibly that they were the real
Baptist conservatives because they intended to retain
traditional Baptist commitments such as a careful separation of
church and state.
the dust settled, the nomenclature that had become standard for
the two groups was conservatives and moderates.
The new leaders and their supporters are happy to be called
conservatives. However, many of the old leaders and their
supporters are unhappy being called moderates. I initially
shared that unhappiness, but I’ve changed my mind. I like being
fact that moderate was somebody else’s word for us
doesn’t bother me. After all, in the first century Jesus’
followers didn’t name themselves Christians. Outsiders
did, and Christians embraced the name. In the seventeenth
century, Baptists didn’t name themselves Baptists.
Outsiders did, and Baptists came to embrace the name. That’s how
I feel about the name moderates.
I say why I like the name, I want to point out that moderate
is not our primary identity. Our primary identity is that we are
Christians. What kind of Christians? Our secondary identity is
that we are Baptists. What kind of Baptists? Our tertiary
identity is that we are moderates.
do I think that being moderate is a good thing?
Principally because the Bible says it is: “Let your moderation
be known unto all men” (Phil. 4:5). The word translated
“moderation” is epieikēs. Paul used that word again when
he wrote that Christian leaders should be “not violent but
gentle” (1 Tim. 3:3, NRSV). He used the same word again in Titus
3:2 when he advised Christians “to speak evil of no one, to
avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show courtesy to
passages display that to be moderate is to not be an extremist,
it is to not be violent, and it is to not be quarrelsome.
what’s not to like?
Principally that in some people’s minds, to be moderate is to be
wishy-washy. It is to lack convictions, or else to lack the
courage to live by your convictions. It is to be weak and
that is true about biblical moderation or about moderate
Baptists. Moderate Baptists are strong and effective people.
They have deep convictions and the courage to live by them. One
of their convictions is that extremism is not a virtue. Another
is that, in our efforts to carry out God’s purposes in the
world, we must never resort to violence. Another is that chronic
quarreling is not healthy. These convictions come straight out
of Paul’s teaching about moderation.
a wonderful time to be a moderate Baptist Christian. I don’t
know what group first suggested that we be called moderate,
but I’m glad they did because they helped us to retrieve an
important part of our Christian heritage.
Table of Contents
Books That Matter: Wil
Platt is Professor of History,
Emeritus of Mercer University. In addition to his service in the Department
of History of the College of Liberal Arts from 1966 to 2000, he was assistant
or associate dean of the College for sixteen years. Since the fall of 2002,
he has been a volunteer for the Center for Baptist Studies and now serves as
Assistant to the Interim Director.
God Speaks to Us, Too: Southern Baptist
Women on Church, Home, and Society
by Susan M. Shaw
Reviewed by Wil Platt
I have a very good friend who
served for over thirty years on the ministerial staff for the
Baptist congregation that is my spiritual home. He would sometimes
jokingly (and privately!) say that he was opposed to women deacons
(we have only recently elected several). His objection was not based
upon his theological views or his interpretation of scripture. He
stated the reason for his opposition bluntly: “Those women will work
me to death!” Yes, we all know that without the dedicated labor of
women the programs of most Baptist churches would come to a
screeching halt. And yet they have been forced to work in a
patriarchal environment that attempts to set limits on what they can
do. The situation has worsened since the conservative takeover of
the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The issue of women,
particularly women in ministry, is a factor that divides Baptists in
the South into conservative and moderate camps.
God Speaks to Us, Too, Susan M. Shaw seeks to discover the
attitudes of a broad range of Southern Baptist women. Dr. Shaw is
Director of the Women Studies Program at Oregon State University
where she has served since 1996. Her present position disguises her
background, however, because she is a child of Southern Baptists and
a daughter of the South. She grew up in Rome, Georgia, graduated
from Berry College with a degree in English, and went on to complete
a master’s degree and a Ph. D. in religious education at The
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. After
teaching religion at several Baptist colleges (personal attacks on
her were common) and serving as an adjunct instructor for several
Baptist seminaries, she found her way into the more hospitable
environment of women studies. She was an ordained Baptist minister,
but left Southern Baptist life in 1995 and became a member of the
United Church of Christ (UCC). She sees herself as a “Baptist
minister in exile” in the UCC. She also sees herself as “an insider
and an outsider,” because she knows the SBC and its people
intimately and yet, as a trained social scientist, she has the
ability to view them objectively.
book was based upon interviews with 159 women who were members of or
former members of churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist
Convention. The majority of participants in the study were white
women; only ten percent of the interviewees were women of color. The
“control group” consisted of Dr. Shaw’s mother and her mother’s
closest friends (known as “the Clique”). She interviewed these women
five times, both individually and as members of a “focus group” at
the beginning and at the end of her research. The interviewees were
residents of Georgia, North and South Carolina, Florida, Alabama,
Tennessee, Texas, and California. They represented a broad range of
ages and educational backgrounds, women in their sixties and
seventies who had been homemakers all of their lives as well as
young seminarians who had aspirations to become pastors of Baptist
churches. The book contains a roster of the women in the study; some
of the names, like folk singer Kate Campbell and Dorothy Patterson,
wife of conservative leader Paige Patterson, will be very familiar
to readers. Some women declined the invitation to be interviewed
because of the fear of losing their jobs; several were interviewed
but requested that pseudonyms be used rather than actual names.
Quotations from the personal interviews and focus groups are used
throughout the book to illustrate the contrasting attitudes
expressed by the women in the study.
volume contains a long introduction on the making of Southern
Baptist identity and eight chapters devoted to topics of relevance
for Southern Baptist women such as their experiences of salvation
and baptism, their views of the Bible, the impact of race on their
lives, their attitudes towards feminism, and the idea of soul
competency. The chapter on feminism is entitled "I am Woman." Dr.
Shaw states that she found Baptist women to be "conflicted" about
this topic. While some were “proudly feminist,” others were
adamantly not feminist; most saw feminists as extremists. However,
all of the women believed in women’s equality, and when she defined
feminism as “a belief in and willingness to work for equality
between men and women,” almost all participants agreed that they
might be feminists under this definition. She found attitudes toward
feminism to be generational (older women being more reluctant to
espouse the cause) and dependent upon proximity to the movement. She
was surprised by older women’s attitudes toward the role of women in
the church. Many of them believed that women should be deacons; the
more progressive ones could conceive of situations where women might
serve as pastors. Middle-aged women seem to be the most comfortable
with feminism, but they do not wish to identify with radical
extremes. While some younger women are “emphatically feminist,”
others seem to be unaware of the gains produced by the movement.
Equality and social justice were issues of concern for all
As is indicated by the short title of the book, Dr. Shaw believes
that the idea of soul competency “may be most salient in Southern
Baptist women’s construction of identity. . . .” She further states
that this idea may be “what distinguishes Southern Baptist women
from other conservative Protestant women.” It is appropriate to
quote from her more extensively:
Southern Baptist women tend to ‘go along to get along’ until they
think God has told
Their belief in their own competence to stand before God, to hear
voice of God, to
interpret scripture for themselves, and to do what they feel God has
called them to do
is central in their construction of themselves and their willingness
subordination. Any submission to men, therefore, is always
only God holds full
sway over their loyalties and conscience, and only they have the
right and the
ability to determine what God says to them.
Readers of this book, be they male or female, will be richly rewarded. Susan
M. Shaw knows her subject well; she also has an excellent grasp of Baptist
history and distinctives.
This book was published by the The University Press of Kentucky and is
available from the Press or various bookstores.
Table of Contents
Recommended Online Reading
for Informed Baptists
Compiled by Bruce Gourley
Saddleback Pastor Warren Driven to Expand His Reach
USA TODAY (December, 2008)
Michael Horton, author of the new volume Christless Christianity,
denounces Rick Warren for promoting "deeds, not creeds," declaring that such a
paradigm nullifies the validity of the Gospel. "God didn't become flesh
and die on a cross for me to know I need to care about the environment or I
need to look after my neighbor," Horton asserts.
Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Atheists Share Holiday Stages
Washington Post (December 2008)
When the state of Illinois agreed to allow private citizens to place a
Nativity scene inside the capitol this Christmas season, and the ACLU decided
not to challenge to decision, Christian supporters were so elated they invited
other groups to join in the free holiday expressions.
Whitsitt Diaries and Immersion
BaptistLife.Com (December 2008)
A December article about the diaries of William H. Whitsitt has
resulted in an ongoing conversation about modes of baptism in Baptist life.
Dates to Note
January 31, 2009, Birmingham,
regional gathering of the New Baptist Covenant. The event will be held at 16th
Street Baptist Church and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Former
President Jimmy Carter will be present for a leadership breakfast and to
provide a keynote address in the sanctuary of 16th Street Baptist Church. For more information or to
February 6-7, 2009, Now Serving
Atlanta, hosted by McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University, Atlanta,
Georgia. A great opportunity for college students to connect with each
other and the needs of the world around them. For more information or to
February 9-14, 2009,
Global Baptist Peace Conference, Rome, Italy. The conference will consist of
six days including intensive training in conflict transformation, nonviolent
prophetic action, and other relevant topics, inspiring speakers, workshops,
February 23-24, 2009,
T. B. Maston Lectures,
Carson-Newman College Jefferson City, Tennessee. Monday, February 23 7:30 P.M.
Thomas Recital Hall. Tuesday, February 24 9:30 A.M First Baptist Church.
Featured speaker: Rev. Paul Rauschenbush, Associate Dean of the Chapel,
March 5-6, 2009, Social Research Conference
Series, The Religious-Secular Divide: The US Case, New York City. Join
distinguished scholars and intellectuals in exploring the nature and future of
religion, spirituality, and secularism in the United States, looking at their
changing relations both historically and through contemporary debates. The
keynote address will be delivered by Charles Taylor, Professor, Northwestern
June 4-6, 2009, Baptist History and Heritage
Society Annual Meeting, Huntsville, Alabama. Hosted by First Baptist
Church, Huntsville. Theme: Events Shaping Baptist Heritage in America.
June 26-28, 2009, American Baptist Churches USA
biennial meeting, Pasadena, California.
July 2-3, 2009, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
General Assembly, Houston, Texas.
July 15-18, 2009,
International Conference on Baptist Studies V, Whitley College (Baptist
College of Victoria), Melbourne, Australia. The conference takes Baptists as
its subject matter, but participation is not restricted to Baptists, either as
speakers or attendees. The theme is "Interfaces--Baptists and Others," which
includes relations with other Christians, other faiths, and other movements
such as the Enlightenment. It may be explored by means of case studies, some
of which may be very specific in time and place while others may cover long
periods and more than one country. Offers of papers to last no more than 25
minutes in delivery (although the full text may be longer) are welcome.
Please submit the title to the conference coordinator, Professor David W.
Bebbington, Department of History, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4TB,
Scotland. A volume of conference papers will appear in the Studies in
Baptist History and Thought series, published by Paternoster Press. The
college will provide participants with full board over the three days of
the meeting and all charges will be kept as low as possible. Programs and
application forms will be available in a few months.
If you know of a Baptist event that needs to be added to
this list, please
let us know.
Table Of Contents
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