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.
"Other Rooms in Our Baptist
By Bruce T. Gourley
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.
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.
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'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.
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
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The Baptist Studies Bulletin
What Should We Believe About Jesus? (by E.
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,
Appraisal of Christian Fundamentalism
(by Leroy Seat)
4-L Publications (283 pages)
Online Ordering Info
Career Southern Baptist missionary, preacher,
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.
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
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 SBC―churches
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
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
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
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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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 yourself―or perhaps, lose yourself in ministry
and service. What a story that would be.
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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
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
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:
By Doug Weaver
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.
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
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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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:
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
folks in ol’ Providence will look at our church and say-
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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Dates to Note
February 18-19, 2008, Mercer University's William
L. Self Preaching Lectures, Atlanta campus. Featuring Dr. Amy-Jill
E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter
Professor of New Testament Studies of
Click here for
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
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
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.
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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