Vol. 7 No. 1

  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 Top Baptist Story of 2007 and 2008"

The Baptist Soapbox: Chris and Karen Harbin

         "A Few Words About Faith"

From the Pulpit : Bill Hardee

         "Prophetic Preaching from the Pulpit"
Baptists and Presidential Elections: Doug Weaver

         "Baptists and Presidential Elections: 1928"

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

         "At a Busy Baptist Corner"

Baptist Heritage Series: The First Baptist Church of America: J. Stanley Lemons

         "Passing on the Legacy"
The Spirituality of Baptist Leaders in Seventeenth Century America:
James Byrd

         "The Spirituality of Baptists in Their Great Debate with the Puritans"

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 Top Baptist Story of 2007 and 2008"
By Bruce T. Gourley

           Each December religious news publications make a point to recap the annual "Top Ten" stories as voted upon by journalists.  But in 2007, Associated Baptist Press' survey of journalists, bloggers and public-relations professionals resulted in a most unusual conclusion: the top Baptist story of the year . . . did not happen in 2007.  In fact, the event in question has yet to happen, but is very likely to also be the top Baptist story for 2008.
           I am speaking of the upcoming New Baptist Covenant Celebration, the highly-anticipated gathering in Atlanta of diverse Baptists from throughout North America which you've heard us speak of frequently in the Baptist Studies Bulletin this past year.  No other Baptist story in 2007 even came close to matching the significance of the mere lead-up to the New Covenant Celebration, according to the ABP survey.  Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is of the opinion that the upcoming gathering is the most significant and diverse Baptist convocation since the early 19th century.  And the yet-to-be-held meeting already has garnered a lengthy Wikipedia entry.  In short, there is ample indication that the New Baptist Covenant Celebration may well be an event unprecedented in Baptist life in North America in our lifetimes.
          The display of unity among most Baptists in North America comes at a time when more and more Baptists in the West are realizing that today's world is in desperate need of Christians who live out Jesus' admonition to promote peace with justice, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick and the marginalized, and promote religious liberty and respect for religious diversity.
          The top Baptist story of 2007 and 2008―and perhaps the most historic Baptist event in North America in your lifetime―begins in two weeks.  I hope to see you there. 

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The Baptist Studies Bulletin Recommends

The New Baptist Covenant

More than 30 organizations representing more than 20 million
Baptists will gather in Atlanta.  President Jimmy Carter will
present a keynote address as participants gather under the
theme of "Unity in Christ" and usher in a new day for the
Baptist witness in North America.

NEW!  The Full Slate of Plenary Speakers Is Available Online
The latest addition to the roster is novelist John Grisham!

Learn more about this exciting and historic celebration convening
January 30 - February 1, 2008 in Atlanta




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 are Chris and Karen Harbin, co-pastors of Central Baptist Church in Arlington, Virginia, sharing with us the public invitation they share through their church's website.

"A Few Words About Faith"
By Chris and Karen Harbin

aith is more than a static goal for which we yearn. Faith is a journey in which we experience God and seek to surrender our lives to God's will. Join with us on this journey of faith. We will attempt to dialogue about issues that make faith more than a static recitation of facts. We will question how the gospel impacts our lives, sharing that journey of grappling with the issues of faith.
           We hope to raise questions, struggle with issues, and seek relevance in our experiential journey of faith.
           Faith, after all, concerns things like character, dependence, and interdependence. It is so much more than a goal we might reach. It is more like the very journey itself—the experience of letting go of self in order for God to live through our lives.
           We invite you to journey with us. We hope it will challenge you. We hope it will encourage you. We hope it will stretch you. The path we will take will not be without its bumps, twists, and turns. It will not all be easy going. If it were so, it would make no difference in our lives. As we journey together in this venture called faith, we should all be transformed.
           Are you up to the challenge of living life on the edge of eternity? Real faith is not for the faint of heart. We will not know where the journey will take us. We are committed to the trek. Will you join us?

Editor's Note:  Some readers will recall that Chris and Karen Harbin, former missionaries in Brazil, were fired from the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2002 for refusing to sign the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.  Also, the website of Central Baptist Church contains many excellent resources.

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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 Dr. William Hardee, pastor of Vineville Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia, shares From the Pulpit.

"Prophetic Preaching from a Baptist Pulpit"
By William Hardee

There is an old adage in pastoral ministry which states, “One step ahead of your people and you are a prophet; ten steps and you are a martyr.”  This wise counsel reminds us of several important insights.  To begin with, we have to know our audience as well as we can.  We have to know where they are and then assess how open they are to hearing new truth.  Even Jesus illustrates this principle when teaching his disciples, “I have many things to tell you but you are unable to bear them (John 16:12).”  Jesus would go on to say that they would have the benefit of the Holy Spirit to guide them in their struggles and adventures to know the truth. 
             The preacher also needs to know if his or her congregation will see the pastor as someone who can be trusted enough to lead them out of the safety of inculcated doctrinal truisms into new places of insight with wider vistas.  Most people want doctrinal certainty and value conformity to their traditions more than wanting and valuing the ambiguous, messy journey to truth.  The temptation for every pastor is to play it safe and speak only what people want to hear.  Yet our calling is to lead people to observe the life-teachings of Jesus.  Our ability to lead people to fresh springs is related to how well we have proven our care and competence.  We have to deeply invest relational capital into people before we can begin spending the principal and interest by challenging cherished ideas which are more informed by culture than biblical truth.
             Change occurs best within congregations when the pace of change is slow.  To lead one step at a time is to be a true leader.  The pastor/preacher must be able to inspire people to see how God is active in each life and in the larger world.  Christians need to be reminded that we too are as guilty as ancient Israel in believing that faith in God results in being the privileged people of God.  What is often missing is a sense of responsibility to represent Christ in personal ways to all who are unbelieving.  The primary biblical metaphor for the world is “lostness.”  The people of earth are not necessarily bad.  Although evil is often brought into the world through unbelievers, it is also conveyed through believers who are motivated by fear, protective of privilege, defensive of God, and who gloss over the shortcomings in their own lives.
             Prophetic preaching is best received when the soil of the soul is not shallow, hard, or thorny (Matthew 13).  The preacher prepares the soil before he plants more difficult gospel seeds.  He seeks to lift up the mirror of the Bible which reveals our pride more than humility, our selfishness more than our generosity, and our quest to fortify our privilege (through possessions, position, patriotism, and piety) rather than giving away our life as Jesus gave his.
             When the soil is prepared, then planting season arrives.  When preaching on Church and State, innocently reflect upon our love of asking God to bless America.  Why should God bless America?  Point out the good the bad and the ugly.  Then close by saying, “We ask God to bless America, because America desperately needs God’s blessing—and so does the whole world.”  When preaching on homosexuality, be honest about the joys and struggles of our sexuality.  Speak pastorally and representatively about people in your own congregation who have heard the painful words from a child confessing that they are gay.  Use Philip Yancy’s discussion of Mel White in his book, “What’s so Amazing about Grace?”  When preaching on other religions, remind people of Naaman the leper, Isaiah’s vision of a faithful Egypt and Iraq (Isaiah 19:23-24), and Nineveh.  Remind your people of God’s interest that justice prevail in Nineveh, not that their theology was correct.  Preach yearly sermons on interpreting the Bible.  Use the early church’s experience in Acts 15 as they relied on common sense, consensus, and the leadership of the Spirit to lay aside centuries of tradition and set the Gentiles free to follow Jesus without being bound by the Torah.  The Bible is full of surprises for those willing to see.   Help your people to wander from the worn proof-texts to the delightful landscapes that include Shiphrah and Puah.  Restore to them the gift of wonder at Scripture.

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The Center for Baptist Studies Presents:

The Oldest Baptist Church
in the South

First Baptist Church
South Carolina

Founded in 1682, the "Mother
Church of Southern Baptists"
represents the beginnings
of Baptists in the South.

The current sanctuary was
built in 1822, a Greek style
building considered to be
among the most beautiful
buildings in Charleston.

The building is recognized
by the National Park Service,
and you can visit the church's
to learn more about
this historic congregation,
past and present.

Photographs (top to bottom):
Historical plaque on front of
church (photo by Bruce Gourley);
Front of church building (Library
of Congress photo); Interior of
Sanctuary (Library of Congress)


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: 1928
By Doug Weaver

Prior to 1928, Baptists had, of course, voted in presidential elections.  In the South, they especially contributed to the “Solid South” Democratic Party.  An unabashed mixing of religion and politics, however, was considered a violation of the traditional Baptist support for the separation of church and state.  The candidacy of Governor Alfred Smith of New York quickly changed the Baptist tune. Baptists of all theological stripes, “fundamentalists” and “moderates” who had been bickering over faith statements and evolution throughout the 1920s, were on the same page in their denunciations of the candidacy of Smith.  In 1928, for example, the Western Recorder (Kentucky) published almost 100 pieces (articles, sermons, editorials) that were against Smith.  While not mentioning Smith by name, the Southern Baptist Convention and some state conventions passed resolutions that asked their constituents to vote against him.
            Why were Baptists so vehement in their opposition to Smith?  The centuries old mutual hostility between Protestants and Catholics was a major factor.  In addition, Smith represented to Protestants every danger embedded in the massive wave of Catholic immigration that had occurred in America from 1880 to WWI. 

·         (Catholic) Immigrants flocked to the cities; they were blamed for the worldliness and growing crime rate that accompanied rising urbanization.

·         “Rum” was synonymous with “Romanism.” Catholics opposition to Prohibition would destroy the moral foundation of American civilization.

·         “Romanism”: Catholics were not only heretical—their denial of individual conscience was “tyranny over the soul”—they were also anti-American.  Their allegiance to a totalitarian papacy meant that they could not support American democracy.

·         Massive immigration was a sign that Rome’s real concern was temporal power; they wanted to take over America.  When that happened, Protestants would again be persecuted.

            In short, most Baptists believed that Al Smith was an urban Catholic who would defer to the Pope, implement Catholic dogma, and repeal the 18th amendment to abolish Prohibition. 
            Baptist fundamentalists spared no wrath in their sensationalism against Smith.  John R. Straton, fundamentalist leader of New York, said that Smith was a “good cheap truck driver type of bar-room politician” who was the “deadliest foe in America today of the forces of moral progress.” J. Frank Norris, leading Southern fundamentalist, spoke 119 times in 30 cities in a four month period in opposition to Smith.  He warned against Rome’s lust for “foreign control,” but he especially railed against the “liquor traffic” that Smith would unleash on America if Prohibition was not upheld. One of Norris’ followers poetically summarized the fundamentalist view of Smith: 

I’ll take down the flag from the public schools
           And put up the cross for the ignorant fools,
           The Bibles in the schools shall not be read,
           But instead we’ll say masses for the dead.

            Even the more “moderate” and rarely sensationalistic E. Y. Mullins, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, attacked the candidacy of Smith.  Mullins’ change of heart revealed the pervasiveness of the Baptist concern.  In 1919 Mullins had written that ministerial leadership in the civic arena should be seen in the gift of mediation rather than partisanship. Ministers should not champion from the pulpit a “radical” or a “conservative” program but should help people to “understand each other.”   When Smith became a candidate for president, however, Mullins argued that preachers, while avoiding “mere Partyism,” should be involved in politics when a significant moral issue was being attacked by a political party. Prohibition, Mullins declared, was such an issue.  In late 1927, Mullins told the national convention of the Anti-Saloon League that the “solid (democratic) south” would break if Smith was nominated.  In an anti-saloon tract, Mullins sarcastically noted that the Democrats had nominated a “bone-dry running mate from Arkansas for the sopping wet head of the ticket from the sidewalks of NY.”  Unlike the Baptist fundamentalists, Mullins focused only on Smith’s views of Prohibition and denied that he opposed Smith because of his Catholic faith. 
            Republican Herbert Hoover easily won the 1928 presidential election. In a letter to Hoover after the election, Mullins hoped the South would play a larger role in the nation’s life than had been possible since 1865. Historians have noted that a Republican win was likely, given the economic prosperity of the day.  Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that the “solid south” did crack during the election with Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas all landing in Hoover’s win column.  Smith only carried eight states, but they included South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. 
            Prohibition, immigration, and religion had propelled Baptists into presidential politics. Those issues, among others, are alive and well.

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Religious Liberty Annual Essay Contest for High School Students
Sponsored by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

WASHINGTON—To engage high school students in church-state issues and to generate interest from a wide range of Baptists, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty has launched the 2008 Religious Liberty Essay Contest.
           Open to all Baptist high school students in the classes of 2008 and 2009, the contest offers a grand prize of $1,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C.  Second prize is $500, and third prize is $100.
           Winners will be announced in the summer of 2008 and will be featured in the BJC’s flagship publication, Report from the Capital.  The grand prize winner will also be recognized at the BJC board meeting in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 6, 2008.
           The topic for the 2008 contest is: In a 700-1000 word essay, discuss the relevance of religious faith to politics, including whether and to what extent faith should be an election issue in 2008. All entries must be postmarked by March 3, 2008.
           New to the 2008 contest, students must have a submission coordinator review his or her essay before submitting it. Coordinators must be a staff member from the student’s home church and cannot be a parent. The coordinator reviews the essay to ensure that it meets all the necessary requirements, is free of typographical and grammatical errors and appropriately addresses the topic. A submission coordinator may work with more than one student.
           Essays will be judged on the depth of their content and the skill with which they are written. Students should demonstrate a sound knowledge of the subject matter and support their assertions and provide bibliographical references. Essays that do not meet the minimum qualifications will not be judged.  Judges reserve the right to present no awards or to reduce the number of awards if an insufficient number of deserving entries is received.

Visit to download registration materials and a promotional flier. For more information, contact Phallan Davis at 202-544-4226 or e-mail her at

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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

           Given my extensive experience as a crossing guard (Junior Deputy, Sixth Grade, Joseph B. Riley Elementary School) and my impressive, albeit brief, spelling bee career (who knew pneumonia started with a p?) I should have known that the convergence of two six-syllable words might create one very busy corner.
But that’s the kind of corner where we Baptists build our churches.  Baptist churches are always located at the intersection of individualism and ecclesiology.  Our birth in the early seventeenth century was fueled, in part, by the rising tide of individualism.  “We believe what the Church teaches” was quickly being overtaken by “I believe what the Spirit is leading me to believe.”  John Smyth and Thomas Helwys and scores of others would not be told what to think or how to worship by any civil or ecclesiastical authority.  That sentiment was not unique to those Separatists who would eventually be called Baptists, but few groups would more ardently embrace individualism than they, and we.
           But we didn’t go our separate ways as free-standing, disconnected individuals.  We came together to create congregations, and everywhere we started a church became another busy intersection of individualism and ecclesiology.  Our ecclesiology, our way of thinking about and structuring the church, was colored, of course, by our individualism.  Congregational authority became the corporate expression of our individual priesthood.  (Each member makes up their own mind.  All members vote.  The majority vote carries the day.)
           So, four hundred years later, how’s the traffic flowing at the busy intersection where Individual Drive crosses Ecclesiology Avenue?  In the coming months, we’ll use this corner of the Baptist Studies Bulletin to ponder that busy Baptist corner.  Is biblical faith as individual as we sometimes make it sound?  And what about our churches?  How can we think of them as autonomous in governance while also embracing our connection to the far-flung, globe-circling, centuries-spanning Church?  Individualism and ecclesiology:  With that many syllables converging at a single corner, how do we ever know if we’re putting the correct emphasis on the right syllable?  

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Baptist Heritage Series: The First Baptist Church of America:  As Baptists prepare to celebrate 400 years in 2009, this series highlights America's First Baptist Church.  J. Stanley Lemons leads off the series.  Lemons is the author of a history of First Baptist entitled The First Baptist Church in America, published in 2001.
"Passing on the Legacy"
By J. Stanley Lemons

            The First Baptist Church in America has a tremendous heritage to share with everyone. Gathered in 1638 by the “prophet of religious liberty,” the church is as relevant as ever today.  Roger Williams said that it is blasphemous to speak of a nation as being a “Christian nation.” Such an idea seeks to put God’s stamp of approval on a secular entity. Williams pointed out that Christ’s church is based on the love of God, while the nation is based upon the power of the sword; if you mix the two, you corrupt religion.
The town government formed by Roger Williams in Providence in the summer of 1636 separated religion from citizenship—the first such place in the Western world to do so. Church and state were separated, and the government’s writ ran only to “civil matters.” Now, it is particularly sad to see some Baptists clamoring for the support of the state. Some want the state to endorse prayers in the schools, to provide funding for church initiatives, to use tax money to support their “Christian” academies, to promote religion in public places and spaces. Roger Williams warned that when the state tries to get involved in religion, the state will get it wrong and will corrupt religious ideas and institutions. He saw this as the clearest lesson coming from the conquest of the Roman Empire by Christianity.  What happened to the church when Christianity became the official religion of the Empire?  Who became the persecutors?  Is it any different when and where Baptists become the majority? Some of our brethren have the idea that they have the right, since they are the majority in some places, to use the public money and places to promote their religious agendas.
             Ours is an old, downtown church that lacks a traditional neighborhood. Once upon a time church members lived in the homes surrounding the Meeting House, but today there are no homes. Our neighbors are other institutions, such as the Art Club, business offices, and classroom and administration buildings of the Rhode Island School of Design. The Meeting House itself is a tourist attraction, but this is a mixed blessing. We are listed in tourist guides and tour books, but the emphasis there is on the architecture of the Meeting House. That brings the tourists into the building, but they constantly ask, “Is this still a church? Do you have regular church services here?  Is this a museum?” The answers are YES, YES, and NO!
             How do we promote our message at First Baptist? We have regular tour guides to speak to the thousands of visitors to the Meeting House each year. We are visited frequently by Elderhostel groups, and part of our presentation is to emphasize the founding principles of
separation of church and state. We regularly have Sunday school sessions about Baptist history and concepts such as “soul liberty.”  We have had a number of speakers over the years from the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and the Alliance of Baptists. We have a highly praised written history which emphasizes our principles, and this book is available to the tourists and is read by the Brown University archaeology classes that have been digging in the church yard for the past two years. We help to train the docents for the Providence Preservation Society and the Rhode Island Historical Society, being particularly careful to have them realize that FBCIA is a living church that still upholds the principles of Soul Liberty, Freedom of Religion, and Separation of Church and State.

Photos (top to bottom):  J. Stanley Lemons' history volume, The First Baptist Church in America; front view of the  First Baptist Church; members of First Baptist Church.

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The Spirituality of Baptist Leaders in Seventeenth Century America:  This series focuses on early Baptist spirituality, offering insight from the past for today's Baptists.  This month's contributor is James P. Byrd, Associate Dean of Graduate Education and Assistant Professor American Religious History at Vanderbilt University.
"The Spirituality of Baptists in Their Great Debate with the Puritans"
By James P. Byrd

A good debate is hard to find. While this statement is certainly true of most political seasons it is also true of history. Unfortunately, historians do not come across many written debates between people of the past. But when an authentic debate from a bygone era does surface, we gain insights into how groups define themselves in opposition to one another. Insults often fly back and forth between them; stereotypes gain new life, and both sides of the debate most often mischaracterize each other. But it is often both a glorious spectacle and an extremely insightful event.
           The great church historian William McLoughlin published a debate that illuminates our understanding of early Baptist history in America.* The debate took place in April of 1668 in Boston, which was the center of Puritan authority in Massachusetts. Over the space of two spring days, Puritan leaders debated several of their own who had recently adopted views the Puritans considered “Anabaptist.”  Early Baptists in America had to get used to being called Anabaptists – an identification they denied fervently. The Baptists in Boston in April of 1668 were not Anabaptists – far from it. In fact, several of the Baptist debaters argued that they were more true to Puritan convictions than their accusers. The result is a profound statement of early Baptist identity, but not in the ways that we might expect. Religious liberty was not the main issue, and church and state issues rarely came up. Much more critical were topics of scripture, spirituality and church practice.
           A leader on the Baptist side was Thomas Goold (also spelled “Gould”), a farmer turned pastor who founded the first Baptist church in the area in 1665. Never mind that it was illegal to be Baptist in Massachusetts at the time – again the fear of “Anabaptist” radicalism loomed large. But the major issue under debate concerned separation from the established church. Goold had been a member of a Puritan congregation until his reading of scripture convinced him to reject infant baptism – a conviction that was hard to keep quiet since he had a baby daughter primed for sprinkling. When Goold founded his illegal Baptist congregation, excommunication, fines and some jail time followed, all leading up to this critical debate. Here, finally, Goold and his Baptist colleagues would have the chance to identify themselves and to defend their views in the faces of their accusers.
           When the debate came, the intimate connections between Puritan and Baptist identity came into sharp focus.  Since the Baptists could not accept infant baptism, they withdrew from the churches to worship among other likeminded individuals. In  so doing, Goold and others believed they were just being good Puritans. After all, the Puritan movement began, as the name indicates, as an attempt by some to “purify” the Church of England of is unbiblical practices. When the Puritans left England for America in the 1600s, they did so not to reject the Church but to reform it by demonstrating how a church based on biblical practices would look. Now the situation was reversed. As Goold said to the Puritans, just as “you did withdraw from the corruption” in the Church of England, in a similar way “we witness against your corruption” (67). These Baptists, in true Puritan spirit, felt obligated to inform their Puritan brethren that their “Bible Commonwealths” were not so biblical after all. Though Puritans claimed to be faithful to scripture in all of life, they still baptized infants even though the New Testament said nothing about infant baptism. Far from it – John baptized only adults, and Baptist debater John Trumble pointed out that Jesus instructed his apostles to teach “the doctrine of Christ” before baptizing anyone (62).  Baptism followed instruction and spiritual experience, not the other way around.
            The Baptists in the debate spoke a lot about the relationship between spirituality and liberty. In contrast, the Puritans countered with claims for authority, especially need for the church to discipline unruly members who challenged the established church and its ministers. A key exchange came early in the debate between Goold and Puritan minister Thomas Shepard, Jr. Goold asked whether a church member could judge a church for its errors in the same way that a church could discipline a member for his or her sins. Shepard responded that “a particular person may not judge the whole; but is to be subject to the whole” (63). Goold responded  by holding up his Bible and declaring, “we have nothing to judge but this,” insisting that a spiritually-inspired reading of scripture trumped church authority (63). Goold’s Baptist colleague John Turner echoed this statement, adding that the Puritans could not “persuade us to sin against God and the light of our own souls” (62).  Further, John Trumble told the Puritans that “we came for liberty of conscience as well as yourselves” and, accordingly, we “look for light as well as you” (71).  The implication was that a people, even an individual, inspired by God’s Spirit and informed by scripture had the duty to worship accordingly, even if this form of worship was unauthorized by the state. Part of the last statement we have in the transcript is a telling assertion from Turner: “I challenge there is a liberty given to every man to seek after the lord….”  These Baptists defended their claim to this liberty, which they believed was biblical-informed, spiritually-inspired, and authentically Puritan (92).
            These Puritan-tinged Baptists were neither the first nor the best examples of the Baptist commitment to liberty in all its forms, including civil, ecclesial, and individual. And yet these early Baptist debaters had a solid grasp of liberty as a responsibility to live biblically-informed lives in light of spiritual experience. 

* William G. McLoughlin, Soul Liberty: The Baptists' Struggle in New England, 1630-1833 (Hanover and London: Brown University Press, 1991): 37-92.

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Recommended Online Reading for Informed Baptists
Compiled by Bruce Gourley

Vietnamese Baptists to Hold First General Conference
Associated Baptist Press

Baptists are experiencing tremendous growth throughout the world.  Baptists in this Buddhist nation held their first national conference this month.

Ministers Lose Job Tax Exemption in Kentucky County
Baptist Joint Committee

Ministers in a Kentucky county will no longer be granted an occupational tax exemption after a local atheist sued to challenge the practice.


Dates to Note

January 30 - February 1, 2008, New Baptist Covenant Celebration, Atlanta, Georgia.  See advertisement above or click here for more information.

February 3, 2008, Martha Stearns Marshall Preaching Day, sponsored by Baptist Women in Ministry.  Click here for more information.

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 BHHS 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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