Vol. 7 No. 2

  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

         "Other Rooms in Our Baptist House"

The Baptist Soapbox: Bruce Prescott

         "What is Next for Moderate Baptists?"

From the Pulpit : Jan Cartledge

         "Stories of Hope: The Pulpit and Community"
Baptists and Presidential Elections: Doug Weaver

         "Baptists and Presidential Elections: Harry Truman"

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

         "At a Busy Baptist Corner: Lenten Reflections"

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

         "Not Just A Museum"

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.

"Other Rooms in Our Baptist House"
By Bruce T. Gourley

          "In my Father's house are many rooms," Jesus told his followers as recorded in John 14:2 (NIV). 
          Jesus also spoke of the Kingdom of God as a present reality, manifested on earth through the lives and actions of the people of God.  And for a few days in late January and early February, I glimpsed some of the many rooms that comprise the Baptist family of God's kingdom in the here and now. 
          The much-anticipated New Baptist Covenant Celebration was certainly a great success, as some 15,000 Baptists representing 30 Baptist groups throughout North America came together in a display of unity and common purpose:  embracing and living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  While the magnitude and scope of the meeting led many participants to describe it as unique and groundbreaking, I believe that one of the greatest benefits of the diverse gathering of North American Baptists is that it served as an open house in which we were all allowed to wander around in one another's rooms.
            While the Covenant Celebration had shades of a Baptist World Alliance meeting (after all, it came about under the umbrella of the BWA's North American Baptist Fellowship), one major difference is that this meeting demonstrated the nearness of Baptist diversity.  Baptists in North America are a family, living in a figurative house with diverse rooms, yet sharing a common living area in which we tend to cluster in our own little corners (if we venture into our shared living room in the first place).
            I'll confess I've not spent nearly enough time exploring the many rooms in this Baptist house in which I dwell, and too much time cloistered within my own particular brand of Baptists.  Yet the Covenant Celebration has inspired me to step outside the confines of my own room and look for more opportunities to listen to and work with my fellow house dwellers in fulfilling Jesus' commands to minister to the needy.
            We as Baptists all dwell together in a house built by Jesus Christ.  Ignoring one another (intentionally or not) is not in our collective best interests, nor that of the Gospel.  Joining our diversity into common purpose surely honors the Master Carpenter who provides us a home whose front door opens onto a hurting and needy world.  Let us now go forth together in the name of Christ.

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The Baptist Studies Bulletin Recommends
Two New


What Should We Believe About Jesus? (by E. B. Self)
Inkwater Press: Portland, Oregon (198 pages)  Amazon.Com Ordering Info
A former pastor and professor in the University of Kentucky
system, Self offers a practical look at the person and identity
of Jesus.  At a time when Baptists are focusing anew on
Jesus as the locus of Christian unity, this volume provides
a road map for an honest evaluation of the Son of God.
Self's systematic analysis of the Birth, Teachings, Death,
Resurrection and Interpretations of Jesus is accessible to
clergy and laity alike, and well-suited for Sunday School and
other small group settings within your congregation.

Fed Up With Fundamentalism: A Historical, Theological
Appraisal of Christian Fundamentalism

(by Leroy Seat)
4-L Publications (283 pages)  Online Ordering Info / Amazon.Com Reviews
Career Southern Baptist missionary, preacher, professor and
university administrator Leroy Seat addresses one of the most
pressing religious issues of the modern era: fundamentalism.
Seat approaches a heavily-trafficked topic in a refreshing and
lucid, yet scholarly, manner.  This meticulously-researched work
is an excellent introduction to Christian fundamentalism, with
emphasis upon the Baptist variety and informed by personal
experience.  Readers will appreciate Seat's ability to tackle
religious complexities in digestible portions that make this
volume one of the most readable surveys of Christian
fundamentalism yet produced.




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 Bruce Prescott, Executive Director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists and President of the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"What is Next for Moderate Baptists?"
By Bruce Prescott

Now that the New Baptist Covenant is off to a great start, what’s next for moderate Baptists?  Here are some of my thoughts at the moment.
           I do not expect the New Baptist Covenant to lead to a new super-convention.  Instead, I expect it to strengthen the work of the North American Baptist Fellowship regional group of the Baptist World Alliance.  A triennial or quadrennial meeting bringing Baptists together for worship, fellowship and networking is the most that can be formally expected to come from the New Baptist Covenant in the foreseeable future.  Informally, I think there will be a lot more networking in missions and social action between New Baptist Covenant Baptists.
           I see the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship continuing to struggle to maintain the missionaries and educational institutions that it supports.  Moderate Baptists in Texas and Virginia will struggle as well.  American economic decline, the ongoing, permanent devaluation of the dollar, and worldwide resentment toward our nation’s misguided foreign policies will force every American mission-sending agency to reconsider the feasibility of permanently stationing career missionaries abroad and to restructure its work.  Long term, the future of moderate Baptists depends on how successful we are in planting new congregations with no ties to the SBCchurches without the dead weight of fundamentalism as a drag.  Every moderate church needs to commit itself to helping plant a new church at a strategic location for growth within their state.
           I see Mainstream Baptists strengthening their involvement in issues that CBF and other moderate Baptists find difficult to address aggressively.  Every moderate church needs someone to be continually focused on assuring that every generation within the congregation is educated about the Baptist principles of soul freedom, Bible freedom, church freedom and religious freedom.  Every state needs someone to monitor and address the actions of Christian fundamentalists
in every denominationwho are undermining the gospel, hijacking churches and organizing both denominational and political takeovers.   Every community desperately needs someone to organize a network of Christian activists who will speak out on First Amendment issues, educate others about the Baptist legacy for liberty of conscience, challenge legislation that breaches the wall separating church and state, and foster respectful dialogue about differences between people of different faiths.
           Beyond these things, I think the biggest challenge facing moderate Baptists is keeping up with the pace of change in technology.  Within ten years nearly every church and home in this country will have a large flat screen television with an internet connection on a least one wall.   That internet connection will be capable of delivering live video on demand to and from any location on the globe.  Televangelists and megachurch preachers already have huge archives of professionally produced but theologically substandard Bible studies, sermons, films, interviews, powerpoint presentations, and lectures to put on those screens.   Moderate Baptists are still hiding the gifts of the finest teachers and preachers in the country under a bushel.   Collectively, we need to develop a sense of urgency about transitioning from the print media of the past to the electronic media of the present and future.  Even amateur productions are better than continuing to produce little or nothing. Individually, our institutions and churches need to start and rapidly expand audio-video archives of our best teachers, preachers and mission workers in action. 

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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.  For the first half of this year, we present a special series of articles highlighting the pulpit.  Each month a different pastor will provide insight From the Pulpit.  This month Rev. Jan R. Cartledge, part-time pastor of HomeStar Fellowship, an innovative community of faith located in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, shares from a non-traditional, missional pulpit.

"Stories of Hope: The Pulpit and Community"
By Jan Cartledge

One day last summer, I stood in the middle of a downtown park in Raleigh, N.C. with two student interns, our backpacks filled with bottles of water, snack foods and toiletry items. Our intention was to just “hang out” in the park, give away the items and have conversations with those we encountered.
             We were hesitant, unsure of what we were getting ourselves into and feeling somewhat uncomfortable approaching strangers. As we surveyed the park, we were drawn to two women sitting on a brick wall. Several men stood nearby. We also saw four children playing. Our steps toward these individuals led us on a journey beyond our imaginations or expectations. So began our plunge to poverty and a myriad of ministry opportunities.
             We stayed with these new friends for several hours that day, listening to stories of loss, pain and frustration. We discovered that one of the couples was homeless. Home to them was a sheltered concrete sidewalk at a nearby church. They stored their clothing and other belongings in a dumpster, making sure to remove the items before it was emptied. This couple would soon begin attending our church, sometimes arriving with all their earthly belongings in shopping bags. We later learned that the man had a prison record and was a member of a local gang.
             The mother of the four children lived in a seedy, trash-filled rental house in one of the most dangerous areas of town. She had no job, other than prostituting her body to pay the rent. One of the interns tried to assist her in gaining employment at a local restaurant, to no avail. The mother was later evicted from the home and, with children in tow, climbed on a bus bound for Georgia. We haven’t seen or heard from her since.
             These first encounters with the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed led us to several local ministries where we could volunteer regularly. We helped prepare and serve lunch at a downtown soup kitchen. Five of our church members also received training to serve as a care team for a person living with HIV/AIDS. We shared meals with clients at a women’s center that assists former drug users, prostitutes or victims of domestic violence.
             Our involvement with these ministries allowed us to begin to put names with the faces of those we had seen in the park and on the streets. These individuals were now a part of our lives. We slowly began to earn their trust and they began telling us their life stories.
             In an attempt to find a creative way to enable these individuals to share their stories at a deeper level, we began providing children, youth and adults the opportunity to create mixed media projects. With a white art board canvas, paint and brushes, and various craft items, the participants began illustrating and sharing their stories.
             Many of the story boards told of lives that had been filled with hurt, loss, struggle and fear. Adult men and women created pictures of their lives before HIV and what life is like living with the disease. Adult women told stories of abandonment and abuse, loss and grief. Teenage boys in a youth detention center created pictures of homes where they longed to return, free of the locks and barbed wire that now surrounded them. Others chose to remember the sweetest moments of their lives, clinging to the hope that life would one day be normal and happy again.
             The common thread that ran through many of the stories was one of hope
hope for belonging, acceptance and love. Isn’t that what we all long for as we journey through each day? It’s no different for those who are downtrodden, poor, hungry, incarcerated, homeless or helpless. They can find hope in a community of faith and people who take the time to stop, listen and get involved. In their stories, you might find yourselfor perhaps, lose yourself in ministry and service. What a story that would be.

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Photo source

The West Union Baptist church building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

For more information, go to:

Baptist Beginnings in the Northwest
by Mike Kuykendall

The West Union Baptist Church
Early historical accounts

West Union Baptist Church
Hillsboro Historical Society

The Center for Baptist Studies Presents:

The Oldest Baptist Church
West of the Rockies

West Union Baptist Church
West Union, Oregon

The story of a formal Baptist
presence west of the Rocky
Mountains began in 1844 in a log
cabin fourteen miles west of
present-day Portland.  The
Missouri settlers who formed
the West Union church also
helped form the first Baptist
association in the area, the
Williamette Association, in 1848.

West Union did not obtain a
permanent facility until 1855,
when a one story Classical
Revival church was constructed.
This facility survives to this day,
with regular meetings conducted.


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 Graduate Studies of Baylor University's Department of Religion.

Baptists and Presidential Elections: Harry Truman
By Doug Weaver

Harry Truman was the first of three Baptists to be President of the United States in the 20th century.  While he attended a Presbyterian Sunday School in Independence, Missouri, as a child, his family had roots in the Baptist tradition.  Truman later related that he had read the Bible through twice by the age of twelve.  As a teenager (18), Truman attended Benton Boulevard Baptist Church in Kansas City.  He had a conversion experience and was subsequently baptized in the Little Blue River. 
            Truman entered the public life of the nation in 1934 when he was elected as a Senator from Missouri to the U. S. Congress.  His public involvement increased when he was chosen to be the Vice-Presidential candidate for the fourth term of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Given FDR’s health concerns, the choice of Truman became significant.
            After winning the 1944 election, FDR died in April 1945 and Truman became the 33rd President of the nation.  Baptists journalists of years past, citing the separation of church and state, usually did not comment on presidential candidates by name.  Three prominent Baptist publications, The Baptist Standard of Texas, The Biblical Recorder of North Carolina, and The Religious Herald of Virginia did not mention FDR in his quest for a fourth term nor Truman as a Baptist politician.  Reuben Alley of Virginia did ask his readers to pray for whoever was elected President. After FDR’s death, Alley asked his readers to give support to Truman which would encourage him “to grow quickly into the place left vacant.”  Without mentioning that Truman was Baptist, Alley concluded, “We believe that Christians will respond to this man, who, with humility, earnestly pleads for the prayers of his countrymen.  God reveals power and truth through those who commit themselves to His purpose and will.”
            During his presidency, Truman attended (irregularly) First Baptist Church, Washington, D. C. because, according to Truman, the pastor, Edward Pruden, treated him just as another member of the congregation.  His wife attended an Episcopal Church; Truman preferred the smaller crowds of First Baptist's 8:30 service. 
            Truman’s surprise victory in the 1948 election over Thomas Dewey is one of the most fascinating stories in American journalism because journalists announced Dewey the winner the night of the election.  Immediately after the election, the Biblical Recorder did note the surprising results of Truman’s victory and ran a front page picture of the President when he attended a church service at First Baptist Church, New Bern, North Carolina.  An editorial stated, “He has set a good example for our people in that he turned aside at the beginning of a much needed vacation trip in order to unite with his fellow Baptists in worship.”  
            Truman wasn’t afraid to speak about religion during his presidency.  Amidst the post-war revival atmosphere, he contrasted America with the atheism of communism.  His religion (or “civil religion” according to scholars) pleased many, but others were critical.  The Christian Century criticized Truman for saying that America lived by the Sermon on the Mount as the moral leader of the world. 
            Baptists finally started mentioning the president by name.  They criticized Truman, and fiercely so, when he announced, in the fall of 1951, that he was appointing Mark W. Clark, who had commanded armed forces in Italy, as ambassador to the Vatican.  J. M. Dawson of the Baptist Joint Committee responded with a cover headline in the Report from the Capitol which read, “Shall America Kneel to the Vatican?” Dawson, Baptists’ resident expert on church-state separation, declared, “If America sends a full-ranking ambassador there, he will have to kneel to the Pope.”  Dawson added that the leading Baptist in Portugal wrote that upon hearing the news, Portuguese Catholics exclaimed, “Truman kissed the hand of the Pope!”  Dawson also accused Truman of playing politics with religion by trying to curry Catholic votes in large northern cities with the appointment.  Subsequently, Dawson and Truman exchanged heated correspondence and their relationship never recovered.
             Other Baptists were equally critical of the President.  From November 19, 1951, to February 21, 1952, when the proposed appointment was withdrawn, the Biblical Recorder ran articles denouncing the idea of an ambassador.  Virginia Baptists were equally incensed.  Reflecting typical attitudes in an era before Vatican II, they believed that Truman was not only granting favored status to a church, he was naďve because he was granting it to a church that was a totalitarian power bent on securing more power throughout the world.  If Truman persisted with his plan, Baptists declared, missionaries would suffer in countries dominated by the Vatican.  Even Truman’s pastor in Washington publicly opposed him (and Truman ceased going to the church).
             With the race for president in 1952 heating up, Dawson noted in the Report from the Capitol that four leading candidates (Truman, Estes Kefauver, Robert S. Kerr and Harold E. Stassen) were Baptist.  He noted, however, that Baptists never voted in blocs and didn’t vote for someone because he was a Baptist.  Neither did a central hierarchy attempt to dictate how Baptists should vote.  Many Baptists in subsequent decades moved away from Dawson’s viewpoint.
             In the meantime, most Baptists didn’t appear upset that Truman ultimately decided not to run for re-election.  The Baptist Standard, basically silent about Truman himself during the “ambassador” controversy, editorialized about Dwight Eisenhower’s election victory, praising him for opening his first cabinet meeting with prayer “and not with a bottle of bourbon.”  The news journal mentioned their former Baptist president after all.

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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: Lenten Reflections"
By Charles E. Poole

            As I write these words, the season of Lent has just begun.  Twice a year, believers throughout the world enter the church’s waiting rooms; Advent and Lent.  Both are decorated in purple.  Each calls us to penance and prayer.  In one we wait for Jesus to be born.  In the other we wait for Jesus to be crucified.
            Needless to say, the world is full of serious, thoughtful Christians who do not live by the rhythms of Advent, Lent and the liturgical year.  However, for many believers, living by the Christian year is a very helpful practice; a spiritual discipline that is best kept by the additional discipline of following the common lectionary, because the lectionary’s lessons are designed to support the calendar’s seasons.
            For Baptists, to order our lives by liturgical seasons and lectionary lessons is to visit that busy Baptist corner where individualism and ecclesiology meet.  Our Baptist inclination toward individualism says that each autonomous church is free to chart its own calendar and every preacher should choose her or his own scripture from which to preach.  On the other hand, there is something truly wonderful about knowing that your church is part of the world-wide Church; bound to the whole far-flung family of faith by the colors on the table and the scriptures of the day.  There is something grand about that ecclesiology that says, “We are part of the world-wide church, bound to believers of every language, color and nation by the lessons we read and the seasons we keep.”  Of course, that kind of ecclesiology requires the surrender of some of our individualism, and for Baptists that can be a hard bridge to cross and a difficult corner to navigate; another busy Baptist corner where individualism and ecclesiology meet, compete and intersect.

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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.
"Not Just a Museum"
By Dan Ivins

Gordon Cosby said once, “Life gets harder and harder, but better and better.”  That applies to The First Baptist Church in America, that’s been around since 1638 with a busload of history.  But in the here and now, I’d characterize is as a hard church but a good church.  It’s hard to be a downtown church where sometimes there are more visitors than members in worship, where there is little parking, few youth, and financial capability. 
            But that doesn’t mean it isn’t also good.  The people make it so. “Good” is one of those relative terms that even made Jesus squirm “Why do you call me good?  Only God is good.”  He was more interested in servant-hood than being good.  Being the oldest is distinctive, but being good is better. 
            Most Americans think our churches should flourish like a crusade:  lots of souls streaming down the aisles.  But if the church was as successful as most famous evangelists, there probably wouldn’t be a church.  Jesus needed only twelve and said “where two or three are gathered, he’d be among them.”  At First Baptist, we try to stay out of the Book of Numbers and into the Book of Acts.
            Jesus did a dangerous thing.  He changed religion from ritual to relationship, where love  takes precedent over size.  More important than the Bible.  It has primacy over our cultural traditions and orthodoxies.  Even our fear of being controversial.
            Yeah, First Baptist in Providence today has the museum aspect.  But it’s also an alive congregation.  Almost daily visitors ask “how big is our church?”  I say “Big enough to have something in it to offend everybody!”  Considering Jesus got kicked out of his hometown synagogue for inclusive biblical preaching, we’re in “good” company.
             Dr. Fred Craddock tells a story about a woman who went to church but didn’t want to go to heaven.  Her mother, in order to get leverage, threatened her every time she might do something she didn’t approve of
with heaven!   Her poignant question: “Will I go to hell for not wanting to go to heaven?”  It’s sad that our churches are full of folks who think to get people into heaven, you gotta give ‘em hell!  I’d expect better than that from a good church.
             The First Baptist Church in America is people-oriented, mission-driven, Christ-centered, that results in open-minds, open-hearts, and open-hands.  If it offends the nay-sayers, at least it makes God smile!  Church is good when it has traditional worship; quality music, creative forums, and advocates sacrificial sharing as more important than worldly status.  The Good Shepherd loves his sheep and doesn’t just count them. 
             For 270 years First Baptist has been like a Rhode Island lighthouse, beaming the good news of the Gospel around College Hill.  Providing direction when times are dark.  And a sense of purpose when times are uncertain, to help keep us off the rocky shoals, violent waves, and shipwrecked lives.
             Now I never make predictions
especially about the future.  But I will make a promise:  Any church, no matter how old, that accepts everyone, serves others, and beams the gospel good news ... will never die.  Because God won’t let it.  And the people won’t either.
             And the folks in ol’ Providence will look at our church and say-

“Now that’s not just a museum.  It’s a church.  One I‘d be proud to be a part of. 
Because it’s a place where the people try to be like Jesus.”

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Recommended Online Reading for Informed Baptists
Compiled by Bruce Gourley

Archived Coverage of the New Baptist Covenant Celebration
Baptists Today

A collection of news stories, articles, blogs and commentary.

Moderate Baptists Test Unity in Diversity
Christian Century

An analysis of the New Baptist Covenant Celebration.

The Unexpected Monks
Boston Globe

Old spiritual disciplines are replacing the megachurch lifestyle.


Dates to Note

February 18-19, 2008, Mercer University's William L. Self Preaching Lectures, Atlanta campus.  Featuring Dr. Amy-Jill Levine E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies of Vanderbilt University.  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 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.

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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