Vol. 7 No. 7

  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

         "Christological Concerns"

The Baptist Soapbox: Pamela Durso

         "Hope for the Future of Baptist Women Ministers"

Children's Ministry in the Local Church: Julie Whidden Long

         "Teaching Children Baptist Heritage"
Collegiate Ministry in Moderate Baptist Life
: David Weatherspoon

         "American Baptists and Cooperative Baptists Working Together"
Books That Matter: Wil Platt

         In Search of the New Testament Church: The Baptist Story
         by C. Douglas Weaver

The Baptist Studies Bulletin Recommends:
         Walter Shurden's Preaching Journal

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.

"Christological Concerns"
By Bruce T. Gourley

          Each year Baptist Press, the public relations arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, sends a fair-haired and intrepid young pastor to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship general assembly with orders to craft a negative article or two about the meeting. For whatever reason, the SBC still considers CBF a threat and spends time and money trying to make the moderate Baptist group look bad.
          The annual CBF general assembly took place last month, and this time around the young pastor-posing-as-reporter seized on a breakout session led by Presbyterian pastor and theologian John Killinger in which Killinger made statements casting doubt as to the divinity of Jesus. Killinger's comments, according to the young Southern Baptist pastor, reflect the heresy lurking within Cooperative Baptist Fellowship ranks. James Smith, executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, followed up from afar by declaring that CBF is neither Baptist nor Christian. CBF Coordinator Daniel Vestal recently responded to the charges by stating that Killinger does not speak on behalf of CBF, and that CBF Baptists do embrace the divinity of Christ. And has been noted in the past, Vestal reiterated that what is said in general assembly breakout sessions does not necessarily reflect the views of CBF. He also further noted that, now aware of Killinger's Christological views, he wished the invitation to speak had not been extended to the Presbyterian minister.
           In light of this theological dustup, the first and most obvious observation is that it is silly and deceitful for anyone to equate a lone Presbyterian's personal opinions to any group of Baptists.
           Secondly, Daniel Vestal is correct that Christology is important. The Christian faith hinges on the person of Jesus Christ. For two thousand years Christians have struggled to fully grasp the nature of Christ, and countless believers in the course of history have been branded as heretics because the fine points of their particular Christology did not square with the prevailing view of their era.
           The discussion of Christology is far from over. Indeed, the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention has been promoting weak Christology for years. SBC responses to Killinger continue a pattern of positing Christ's divinity as the sole effective foundation of orthodoxy. Such a singular-focused Christology is inadequate, for no discussion of the nature of Christ is complete without giving equal weight to the other dimension of Christ: his humanity. The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement, for example, speaks of Jesus as merely adopting "human nature" and "identifying" with humankind, failing to affirm Jesus as fully human as he was fully God. Recently, Al Mohler, one of the authors of the BF&M 2000, after paying passing lip service to Jesus as "fully human and fully divine," immediately turned around and forcefully argued that focusing on Jesus' humanity is detrimental to his divinity.
          While an aversion to (perhaps fear of?) Jesus' humanity is readily found in SBC life, Southern Baptist pastors and editors should be especially concerned that even greater Christological heresy lurks openly within their own denomination: leaders of the SBC are on record, in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, as rejecting the Lordship of Christ over scripture and demoting Jesus from the actual embodiment of God's revelation to humankind to the mere "focus of divine revelation."
          It is odd indeed, not to mention hypocritical, for fundamentalist Baptists to display indignant anger over a Presbyterian's questioning of the divinity of Christ, even as they express reservations about Jesus' humanity while proclaiming a limited Christ who is less important than the biblical text and something less than the fullness of divine revelation. Such a peculiar combination of Christological positions results in a Jesus who is neither fully human nor fully divine.
          Surely Baptist Press and the Florida Baptist Witness will swiftly expose this denominational heresy and pronounce the apostasy of the SBC.

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The Baptist Soapbox: Invited guests speak up and out on things Baptist (therefore, the views expressed in this space are not necessarily those of The Baptist Studies Bulletin, though sometimes they are).  Climbing upon the Soapbox this month is Pamela Durso, Associate Executive Director / Treasurer of the Baptist History and Heritage Society.

"Hope for the Future of Baptist Women Ministers"
By Pamela Durso

For the past three springs, I have researched and written, along with Eileen Campbell-Reed, an annual report titled The State of Women in Baptist Life, which Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM) has commissioned and distributed. One of my responsibilities has been to collect statistics, including information about women who are serving as pastors and co-pastors, the percentages of students in Baptist seminaries who are women, and the number of Baptist women being ordained each year. What I have discovered is that each year by early June I am discouraged and disappointed, because I am reminded that women seem to have made only incremental progress within Baptist life. This year I had that same experience. In early June, I was disheartened because my list of women pastors and co-pastors had shrunk from 117 to 113 and the percentage of women serving in those roles in Cooperative Baptist Fellowship churches had declined slightly.
             In recent days, however, I have had a change of heart. I am now more hopeful than I have ever been about the state of women in Baptist life. My change of heart is the result of several experiences. On June 20, Eileen and I presented the finding of our 2007 report during a CBF breakout session, and we concluded our presentation by taking questions. One woman, sitting at the back of the room, shared the story of her calling. She told those of us gathered that God had called her to ministry as a young girl but she could not understand or accept that God truly wanted her to be a minister. When she was in her mid-thirties, she said, God called her again and this time God did not let go of her until she answered that call. She enrolled in college and has just finished her bachelor’s degree, and she now intends to go to seminary. By the time she finished her story, she was in tears. The session soon ended, and I quickly made my way to the back of the room only to discover that two women pastors were already there with her. They sat on each side of her, offering her words of compassion, understanding, and encouragement, and the three of them walked out the door together. I left the room smiling because I knew that the woman had just encountered two supporters who would continue to affirm her and encourage her in future days. That experience of seeing Baptist women ministers in action, offering friendship and care, renewed my hope in the future of Baptist women in ministry.
             Another of my change-of -heart experiences took place during the CBF General Assembly. Several of our more creative BWIM leaders came up with the idea of producing and selling T-shirts at our exhibit. The eye-catching turquoise T-Shirts had the BWIM logo on the back, but it was the message on the front that was truly eye-catching. The T-Shirts read “THIS IS WHAT A PREACHER LOOKS LIKE.” BWIM sold about 200 of the shirts, and everywhere—in the hallways, in the worship services, and in breakout sessions—were women proudly wearing the shirts. While I found the T-Shirt phenomena lots of fun, what gave me great hope for the future was that we had requests for the T-Shirt in children’s sizes. A father wanted his young daughters to have a shirt. A young mother wanted to buy one for her baby girl, and I smiled again having discovered that there are Baptists who are open to and even dream about the possibility that one day their daughters will preach the gospel.
             My final change-of-heart experience took place at
Peachtree Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, on Sunday, June 22, which was the final Sunday for LeAnn Gunter Johns as associate pastor of that church. She had been on staff for six years, and the following Tuesday she and her husband moved to California. LeAnn and I have served together for the past three years on the BWIM Leadership Team. This past year she served as the coordinator. During those three years, I have discovered that LeAnn is a gifted minister and an excellent leader, but I had never heard her preach until June 22. On that day, I was the one who sat in the back crying. In a sermon from Psalm 106 titled “Souvenirs and Stick Notes: Revisited,” LeAnn spoke of the experiences of the Israelites as they repeatedly abandoned God, only to be rescued and forgiven. I cried as she called the much loved people in her congregation to remember God’s faithfulness, God’s forgiveness, and God’s offer of hope for the future. And I cried some more as LeAnn spoke of the souvenirs that she would take with her as she left Peachtree. Among those souvenirs is her ordination certificate, which she said “helps remind me that God’s call to ministry does not have to exist as a lone, isolated event but that there are communities of faith that want to join in what God is doing. . . . You as a church provided a rich, loving, and nurturing environment. You opened your arms wide and said, ‘God’s church is for you too, LeAnn.’”
              As she concluded, LeAnn expressed her gratitude for Peachtree Baptist Church, saying “You, like the psalmist, have remembered God’s faithfulness in your past and are looking for God’s word to you for the future. I’m thankful for a church whose purpose is about loving all people and seeking to do the will of God together.”
              As I walked to my car that Sunday, my heart was full of hope. Having heard a powerfully presented sermon and having received communion blessed by a young woman who has been called and gifted by God, my hope was restored that women ministers do indeed have a future in Baptist life and that  LeAnn Gunter Johns and scores of other Baptist women can wear with confidence a T-Shirt proclaiming “THIS IS WHAT  A PREACHER LOOKS LIKE.”

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Co-sponsored by McAfee School of Theology and
The Center for Baptist Studies

28-30 September 2008

The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort
St. Simons Island, GA

Featuring Greg Boyd and Joel Gregory

Other program speakers include:  David Gushee, John Finley,
Tim Willis, Jayne Davis, Brett Younger and Michael Dixon

Registration is only $100 per person

Click here for more information and to register.

Children's Ministry in the Local Church:  Julie Whidden Long, Minister to Children and Families at First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia, understands the importance of children in life of the local church. Rev. Long pens this six-month series examining children's ministry. She is the author of the recently published book, Portraits of Courage: Stories of Baptist Heroes (published by the Baptist History and Heritage Society and Mercer University Press), a volume written for older children.

"Teaching Children Baptist Heritage"
By Julie Whidden Long

            For many Baptist churches, the days of Baptist Young People's Union, Training Union or other programs dedicated to teaching Baptist heritage to children and youth are gone. Yet the absence of Baptist heritage programs is not because congregations do not deem such learning important. Children’s ministries compete with school activities, local arts programs, sports, and multiple other extra-curriculars for the attention of children. Often Bible study, music, discipleship, or missions education offerings are the most that can be squeezed into the tight social schedules of our churches’ families. 
            But teaching children Baptist heritage is important. Helping children discover who we are and why we are as we are is not only crucial for maintaining institutions with the “Baptist” name. Passing on Baptist heritage continues the ideals and practices that we Baptists believe are the best ways to respect and dignify all of God’s children and to be the church, representing God in the world. So how can churches reclaim the practice of teaching children Baptist heritage?
            Churches should teach children Baptist heritage through osmosis. I do not remember being explicitly taught Baptist distinctives as a child. But I did learn local church autonomy as I saw members speak their hearts at church conferences. I discovered religious liberty from a pastor who helped me research a school project on prayer in public schools. I picked up on the concept of the priesthood of all believers as I observed our entire congregation laying hands upon deacons being ordained. If young people are to value our Baptist heritage, they must be involved in churches that live it out. Include them in the acts of the church that demonstrate our core values. 
             Learning by experience is necessary, but churches should not rely on children to absorb Baptist identity on their own. Churches must be intentional about teaching children who we are in a way that they can understand. Tell a story each week in Sunday School about a Baptist hero who lived out Baptist ideals. Form a Baptist heritage club that meets monthly to learn a new theme and be assigned a take home action. Include reading a book about a Baptist missionary or church leader as a part of their missions curriculum. Take a field trip to visit a place important to Baptist history or to visit a famous Baptist person
             Remember that children are concrete learners. They may have difficultly latching on to a concept like “liberty of conscience” or “separation of church and state.” Help them experience religious liberty by performing a skit about Roger Williams founding Rhode Island.  Make local church autonomy real by taking them to a church conference and explaining how all church members help to make decisions. Teach them the Baptist commitment to missions by having them participate in a project to raise money for a global missions endeavor.  
             Several good resources are available for teaching children Baptist heritage.  BaptistWay Press’s Let’s Explore Baptist Beliefs is a full-color, age-appropriate workbook that is wonderful for class settings or special units. Judson Press’s We are Baptists also offers several sessions on teaching Baptist distinctives. Heritage Seekers magazine put out by the Center of Baptist Heritage and Studies educates kids on Baptist history and themes. Baptist History and Heritage Society and Mercer University Press recently published a book I authored entitled Portraits of Courage: Stories of Baptist Heroes for older children that tells the stories of 14 Baptist men and women who have lived out the best of our Baptist ideals (note: this is not intended to be a shameless plug).
We will never have time to teach our children all that we want to pass down. But being intentional about using the opportunities we have is crucial, both for the future of our children and of our churches. 

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Collegiate Ministry in Moderate Baptist Life
  The Center for Baptist Studies has taken a personal interest in the future of collegiate ministry in moderate Baptist llife. We are pleased to see significant strides in recent years. David Weatherspoon, campus minister at Franklin College in Indiana, provides an update on ways in which American Baptists and Cooperative Baptists are partnering to minister to college students.

"American Baptists and Cooperative Baptists Working Together"
By David Weatherspoon

             On the campus of Keuka College in the Fingerlakes Region of New York, American Baptist and Cooperative Baptist collegiate ministers met earlier this month, June 2 thru June 5. In an effort to strengthen each organizations’ collegiate ministry resources, sixteen members of these two groups continued the partnership at Keuka forged last summer when individuals from ABC and CBF college ministries gathered at First Baptist Washington, D.C., to network and formulate strategies on ways to work together effectively at the various campuses around the nation.
Annually, the American Baptist Campus Minister’s Association hosts a gathering for its collegiate ministers. Cooperative Baptist collegiate ministers were invited to participate in this year’s meeting with the hope of continuing to meet as a combined group in future meetings. With limited financial and personnel resources allocated for collegiate ministry at the national level in both ABC and CBF life, working together makes sense for these colleagues as they share their ministry experiences, challenges, and insights.
             So what do collegiate ministers do individually in their campus settings and collectively when they unite? Ministers are often quizzed by other members of society about what it is they do. Often collegiate ministers find themselves answering similar questions from other ministers as well and are sometimes asked the ever popular question, “Don’t you want to be a ‘real’ pastor someday?” Although some may see the life of the college pastor as one who has not fully grown into adult ministry, this is not at all the case, and the role of the college minister could be argued as being vital to the future of church leadership including in both ABC and CBF realms.
             One of the functions of collegiate ministry is leadership development. Students are challenged to wrestle with questions of who they are and what they believe on campus, and navigating these necessary but difficult journeys can be scary. However, the campus pastor is the person many of these students trust to walk with them during their college years and help them grow and understand their own faith resources amidst these questions and how to utilize their God-given gifts and abilities to aid the world around them. 
              As the students continue to develop and discover their ministerial identity, they often take leadership roles on campus. Following their time in school, many of these students become very active in churches and assume the tasks of lay leaders and serve as deacons.  Others discover a call to ministry through campus ministry. Seminaries have a vested interest in the success of collegiate ministry programs.  Attending the recent gathering at Keuka, CBF member and Director of Admissions at McAfee School of Theology, Ryan Clark, said, “Students who come through a campus ministry program are more likely to serve in full-time vocational ministry once they complete seminary.” 
              Therefore, the need for strong collegiate ministries is paramount to the future ministry of the church, and gatherings such as the one this year at Keuka are important for college ministers to participate, share ideals, and fellowship. At Keuka in addition to getting to know each other, the group also invited Dr. Janice Edwards-Armstrong, Director of Leadership Education at the Association of Theological Studies, to share her research on Millennials, the generation of students with whom collegiate ministers are now working and hoping to prepare for ministry in the churches in the days to come. 
              The retreat is now an annual event, and we are hopeful that participation will continue to increase.  Next year's retreat will be June 22-25 at the Sierra Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center in Sierra Madra
, California. The cost is $300, and the event is open to all ABC and CBF ministers who work with college students. Please contact David Weatherspoon at for more information.

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Books That Matter:  Over the next six months, reviews of books of interest to readers of the Bulletin will be presented by Wil Platt.  Wil is Professor of History, Emeritus of Mercer University.  In addition to his service in the Department of History of the College of Liberal Arts from 1966 to 2000, he was assistant or associate dean of the College for sixteen years.  Since the fall of 2002, he has been a volunteer for the Center for Baptist Studies and now serves as Assistant to the Interim Director.
In Search of the New Testament Church: The Baptist Story
by C. Douglas Weaver

By Wil Platt

           Many readers of this Bulletin have had a college or seminary course in Baptist history. I had a very good course with Professor Morgan Patterson at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the late 1950s. Since my Baptist roots were in
Charleston County, South Carolina, I had difficulty understanding why he spent so much time on Landmarkism, a movement I had never encountered! But it was a very good course, and I learned a lot (including why he spent so much time on Landmarkism). Over the years, however, I have had to “brush up on” my Baptist history.
Professor C. Douglas Weaver of Baylor University and Mercer University Press have provided an excellent resource for those who need to refresh and expand their knowledge of Baptist history. Doug is director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Religion at Baylor; he has taught Baptist history for two decades and has written books and articles in the field. Regular readers of the Bulletin will recall that Doug contributed a series of articles on Baptists and Presidential Elections from January to June of this year. It is fitting that I begin this series of reviews with his book because some of its content was fashioned in the context of the Baptist Classics Seminar, an annual meeting of selected Baptist historians at Mercer University, begun by Founding Director of the Center for Baptist Studies, Walter Shurden, and sponsored by the Center for Baptist Studies.  In just a few weeks, these scholars will gather again, this time to discuss Baptist history from 1950 to the twenty-first century.
Professor Weaver chose an excellent title for his work: In Search of the New Testament Church: The Baptist Story. None should assume that the book is purely topical rather than comprehensive. Indeed, what Weaver has produced is a history of Baptists from our beginnings in seventeenth-century England to the twenty-first century.  He deals with Baptists in the North and the South and includes chapters on African-American Baptists and Baptists as an international movement throughout the world.  I believe readers will be pleased to find that he has given careful attention to the role of women in Baptist life.  Obviously, there is a limit to how much detail could be packed into a book of approximately 250 pages, but readers will not be disappointed with his coverage—from John Smyth to Jerry Falwell. For those who want to dig deeper into various aspects of Baptist history, Dr. Weaver has given a wealth of sources, including an excellent bibliographical essay for each chapter of the book.
            Weaver trumps other one-volume surveys of Baptist history with his thesis: t
he search for the New Testament church has been the driving force in Baptist life. The search has been conducted by people across a wide spectrum, from conservative to liberal. He recognizes, of course, that the search has not been unique to Baptists; among others, it stimulated the efforts of the Christian Church in the nineteenth century and Pentecostalism in the twentieth. He also recognizes that social, political and cultural factors influenced the Baptist story. 
            The search for the New Testament church led some (J. R. Graves is the best example) to the conclusion that it is possible to trace a direct link from modern-day Baptists to the “First Baptist Church of Jerusalem.” Most searchers were interested in finding practices that were identified as critical links to the New Testament experience. For John Smyth, believer’s baptism was the link; for others, a different practice was believed to be commanded by the New Testament account. The result has been the creation of an array of practices and concepts. Over the course of our history, Baptists have been identified with a number of distinctives: a regenerate church membership, baptism by immersion, the priesthood of believers, congregational polity, religious freedom and freedom of conscience and separation of church and state to name just a few. Professor Weaver’s book does a good job of unraveling the Baptist story in all its complexity and diversity.
Need to "brush up on" your Baptist history? Order your copy of Doug Weaver's book today from Mercer Press.  For a limited time, the Press will give a 30% discount. (Mention the discount in the Special Instructions section of the online order form; the discount will be applied when your order is received.) This book will serve well for personal enlightenment and reference use or as a text in college or seminary classes.

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The Baptist Studies Bulletin Recommends ...

Walter Shurden's Preaching Journal, published several times a year and available by email upon request (click here), is an insightful, thought-provoking publication drawn from Shurden's deep well of wisdom and experience, as well as his ongoing attentiveness to current events.

Following is an excerpt from the most recent edition of the Preaching Journal:


            I once asked Roland Bainton, author of the magnificent biography of Martin Luther, Here I Stand, and distinguished professor of church history at Yale for decades, “Who are your most distinguished graduates and students?” Obviously asked that question many times, he sighed, “Oh, these Nobel prizes for ministers that I have to give!” “Who knows?” he asked, “Is it the obscure missionary who has worked faithfully for a lifetime in an African country and with little to show for it or is it the New England pastor who has labored out of the glare of celebrity lights in small parishes for over 50 years?” “How do you categorize Christian faithfulness?” he asked.
            Sufficiently indicted, I promised myself never to ask that one again. Dr. Bainton made me aware of many, many faithful ministers who minister daily, cheerfully, in out of the way places; they never get to speak on the denominational programs; they don’t write books of any kind, they don’t receive awards. All they do is visit the sick and dying, pray as best they can, counsel the bereaved, bring words of encouragement at the youth retreat, help prepare for Vacation Bible School, study the Bible and human nature to preach, give thanks for the opportunity of speaking God’s word, and get up again on Monday morning and start all over with quiet discipleship and faithful ministry. To God be glory!
            And can you not say as much about some of the devout laity within your own church?

  • Note:  Walter Shurden, in conjunction with Associated Baptist Press, will be leading a Heritage Tour of New England October 3-8, 2008, out of Providence, Rhode Island.  The cost is $1609 per person.  For more information:  tour itinerary, registration form and lodging information (Courtyard by Marriott in Providence).


    Recommended Online Reading for Informed Baptists
    Compiled by Bruce Gourley

    Reclaim Noble Heritage
    by Gary Burton in the Montgomery Advertiser, AL
    (July 2008)
    "In 2009 Baptists will observe their 400th anniversary. Baptists emerged in 1609 as an identifiable faith community. Those who were part of the small, fragile congregation could not have envisioned the contemporary Baptist scene with its 43 million people in more than 200 countries. Now the largest Protestant denomination in North America, Baptists have covered the Deep South like kudzu. Today, however, most Baptists know little or nothing of John Smyth's 1609 leadership of the first Baptist congregation in Amsterdam or of Thomas Helwys' 1612 leadership of the first Baptist church on English soil outside of London." (read the rest of this article)

    Obama: Finding His Faith
    By Lisa Miller and Richard Wolffe
    (July 2008)
    “So much has been made about Barack Obama's religion. But what does he believe, and how did he arrive at those beliefs?"


    Dates to Note

    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.  Click here for more information and registration information.

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

    September 28-30, 2008, Mercer Preaching Consultation 2008, King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort, St. Simons Island, Georgia. Co-sponsored by McAfee School of Theology and the Center for Baptist Studies. Featured speakers include Dr. Greg Boyd and Dr. Joel Gregory.  See advertisement above for more information.

    October 3-8, 2008, Baptist Heritage Tour of New England with featured tour guide Walter Shurden, former Executive Director of The Center for Baptist Studies. Click here for registration and more information.

    If you know of a Baptist event that needs to be added to this list, please let us know.  For a full calendar of Baptist events, visit the Online Baptist Community Calendar.

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