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
TABLE OF CONTENTS
In Response To . . .
: Bruce T. Gourley
The Baptist Soapbox: Mark Ray
The Second Wave of SBC's Conservative Resurgence Coming to Fruition?"
Ministry in the Local Church: Julie Whidden Long
Generous Givers: Teaching Children About Stewardship"
Investing in Young Baptists:
The Changing Face of Baptist Campus Ministry
Books That Matter:
by Robert P. Jones
Dates to Note
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In Response to
. . . :
Currently the Interim Director of the Center for Baptist
Studies, Bruce has been on the staff of the Center since 2004. He
previously served as a campus minister and professor of church history.
In addition, he is involved in a number of areas of moderate Baptist life
through the medium of the Internet.
By Bruce T. Gourley
In the midst of one of the greatest economic crises in American history,
millions of citizens celebrated like never before. Jumping up and down,
dancing in the streets, hugging strangers, shedding tears of joy, the
emotional outpouring that began near midnight of November 4 and continued for
days afterward was unlike any the nation had ever experienced. In public
parks, private homes, cities and villages, churches and bars, the euphoria
conveyed hope unbottled and redemption
suddenly found. Yet the celebration was not confined to America.
Citizens of nations large and small, young and old, wealthy and poor shared in the
spontaneous outburst of emotions.
Themes abundant within
biblical stories, Jesus' teachings, and the struggles and eventual triumph of
early Baptists, hope and redemption are historical threads seldom found within the political realm. Yet what better time to interject
hope and redemption in the public and political arena than in the era of post-9/11 fears,
ongoing wars, escalating social and cultural clashes in America, worldwide
economic upheaval, and spiraling religious intolerance and hatred. The
election of an African American as president of the United States, in short,
conveys a simple but powerful message: the equality of humanity theorized in
the Declaration of Independence has been realized as never before, and the
yoke of oppression and injustice can be overcome in extraordinary ways.
both oppressed and oppressor, Baptists are intimately familiar with hope
and redemption. Thomas Helwys gave his life in opposition to religious
tyranny. Roger Williams stood up to religious intolerance and established the
basis for modern, pluralistic democracy. Isaac Backus and John Leland
devoted their lives to the defense of pluralism, the abolishment of theocracy
in colonial America, and the establishment of the world's first secular
nation. Collectively, these heroes of our faith maintained the flame of hope
and strove for a day of redemption for all persons persecuted by oppressive governments
and religious establishments.
Yet in the
years following, white Baptists in the American South embraced and propagated
the enslavement, and later segregation, of African Americans. Not until
Baptist minister and prophet Martin Luther King, Jr., and the courageous
congregation of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, were blacks in
America able to realize equality under the law, and even then many white
Baptists refused to renounce racism long harbored. In the chasm between legal
writs and societal racism, hope remained guarded, while redemption cautiously
crept forward, ever closer yet ever distant.
While not banishing
the demon of racism, this month's presidential election is a monumental marker
along our nation's ongoing journey toward systemic justice and equality, an
accomplishment with worldwide significance. At their best, Baptists past and
present have been fellow pilgrims in this centuries-old journey. Even as our
nation and the world now bask in the warm rays of hope and redemption, clouds
of fear and despair yet hover nearby. May we as Baptists renew our commitment
to the great biblical, and human, themes that have the power to overcome the
ugliness and greed that separates earth from heaven.
Table of Contents
The Baptist Soapbox: Invited guests
speak up and out on things Baptist (therefore, the views expressed in this
space are not necessarily those of The Baptist Studies Bulletin, though
sometimes they are).
Climbing upon the Soapbox this month is Mark Ray, a
layman at First Baptist Church in Decatur, Alabama, and formerly a member of
the Truett Seminary board and past president of Mainstream Alabama Baptists.
The Second Wave of SBC's Conservative Resurgence Coming to Fruition?"
By Mark Ray
1990, having completed their successful takeover of every national
Southern Baptist seminary, agency, and mission board―not
to mention the nation's largest publishing house―
Fundamentalist leaders Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler embarked
on a continuation of their previously announced strategy to move
into what might be called the "second wave," or next phase, of the
SBC's "conservative resurgence."
words, it was now time to reshape Baptist life at the state level.
In many places, this transformation occurred almost immediately.
Other states have "been more difficult," as Judge Pressler wrote
several years ago in his memoir, A Hill on Which to Die.
passing year, strong evidence suggests that most of these
remaining holdout state conventions are either gradually or
enthusiastically falling in line with the Fundamentalist camp.
Three examples illustrate this trend:
time it was feared that Texas and Virginia could become the sole
remaining strongholds of moderate Baptist life among the old guard
state conventions. Now it appears Virginia may soon be the lone
mainline participant still standing. (Unless other states follow
the lead of Missouri, where the future fate of a new breakaway
"moderate" state convention remains to be seen.)
first time since successfully staving off efforts to align state
Baptists with the SBC's "conservative resurgence," this year the
Baptist General Convention of Texas elected a president not
endorsed by its moderate watchdog group, Texas Baptist Committed.
Rejecting another nominee with longtime TBC connections,
messengers instead elected David Lowrie, the "non-aligned" pastor
of First Baptist Church in Canyon (and a son of respected Texas
Baptist leader D.L. Lowrie).
other states, this longstanding Fundamentalist strategy of
initially supporting alleged or actual "centrist" candidates has
almost always worked to their advantage over time.
Denominational leaders from The Heart of Dixie have long prided
themselves on keeping the state convention steered towards the
middle of the road and away from controversy. Indeed―and
to their credit―Alabama
Baptists have long elected and employed centrist leaders who have
fostered a sense of camaraderie, shared mission, and unity of
observers fear this delicate balance, which many believe has
already been eroding in recent years, will screech to a halt with
this year's election of stalwart Fundamentalist leader Jimmy
Jackson as state convention president. Serving alongside him as
2nd vice-president will be fellow Patterson/Pressler loyalist John
Killian, an equally committed veteran of the SBC's conservative
Last week, Tarheel messengers voted to disallow churches from
rerouting their national SBC portion of Cooperative Program gifts
to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), in effect terminating
a compromise plan of financial "options" implemented several years
Likewise this year, with the state convention's launch of a
revamped women's ministry program, North Carolina WMU continues to
be marginalized as punishment for its alleged "moderate" leanings.
BAPTIST SCHOOLS SAW IT COMING
wonder so many state Baptist colleges and universities took steps
early on to move toward self-perpetuating trustee boards. When
considering their combined billions in financial assets, not to
mention centuries of influence in Baptist life, a mere partial
list of these schools is staggering: Samford in Alabama; Ouachita
in Arkansas; Stetson in Florida; Mercer in Georgia; Georgetown in
Kentucky; Mississippi College in Mississippi; Missouri Baptist
University and William Jewell in Missouri; Campbell, Chowan,
Gardner-Webb, Meredith, and Wake Forest in North Carolina; Furman
in South Carolina; Belmont in Tennessee: Baylor and Hardin-Simmons
in Texas; Averett and University of Richmond in Virginia.
one of these schools saw the direction their traditional
SBC and state Baptist conventions―were
headed, and took steps to protect themselves from harm. While some
downplay or deny that any one factor influenced these decisions,
let there be no mistake: Despite whatever validity may have
existed among other publicly stated reasons for these changes, a
common thread was their desire to protect these institutions from
denominations continue a steep decline in attendance at annual
meetings, diminished financial resources, and loss of talent pool
through the severing of longstanding institutional ties,
Fundamentalists may awaken one day to discover that it's unclear
exactly what it is they've actually "won." That which remains may
be unrecognizable or even non-existent. If so, the old adage may
prove itself more true than ever: "Be careful what you pray for."
Table of Contents
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.
"Growing Generous Givers:
Teaching Children About Stewardship"
By Julie Whidden Long
Baptist churches, fall is stewardship season. Many ministers (and
church members) dread the time of the year when we talk about
money. Yet, as Jesus so often reminds us, our giving is central to
our discipleship. As the “greatest generation” begins to decline
among our church memberships, cultivating the next generation of
givers is crucial for the vitality of the church. How can our
churches grow generous givers?
Show children how to tithe
gracefully. If children are
really going to understand stewardship, we must involve them both
in stewardship learning and in stewardship action. Teach them to
tithe by making “allowance charts” that show how much a child
should be giving back to God ($2 – 2 dimes, $5 = 2 quarters,
etc.). When talking about a tithe with children, concentrate more
on the 90% God has given us to use as our own, rather than on the
10% we are asked to give away. Remind children that ultimately
everything belongs to God, and we are most blessed to have what we
have, even after we give away 10%.
that they are not what they own. Often
children (and adults!) find the desire to have a particular item
so strong that they think they cannot live without it. Our
society advertises that if we only have the latest gadget, the
coolest toy, or the hottest clothes, we will be happy. Teach
children that who they are, not what they have,
makes them special. Differentiate between wants and needs.
The way to be truly happy is not by having good things but rather
by doing good things―things
like being kind, helping someone else, and sharing time with
friends and family.
the joy of giving. There is an
old expression: "Give until it hurts." The reality is that
when we give as God truly intended us to give, we experience a
deep sense of joy and satisfaction. Good stewardship is not
"giving until it hurts," but rather "giving until it feels
good." It is critically important to teach children the joy
that comes from giving. Unfortunately, sometimes giving hurts for
a child, such as when she is forced to share a treasured toy or to
part with his last piece of candy. Children, however, can learn
the joy of giving when they are encouraged to give simple
things. Look for opportunities for children to give their time,
gifts, or money and then talk with them about how such simple
giving made them feel. Teach them Paul’s injunction to be a
“cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).
attitude of gratitude. No
matter who we are or what we already have, we all get caught up in
an endless desire for more. We can help our children learn to
avoid a lifetime of stress by helping them to learn to be grateful
for what they already have. Teach children at an early age that
they have many things in life for which to be grateful, and
encourage them to name their blessings.
Children have a natural
capacity and eagerness to be givers. With just a little nurture
and guidance, we can guide them to offer their very best to God
with wisdom, joy, and gratitude.
Table of Contents
Investing in Young Baptists:
Moderate Baptists at both national and state
levels increasingly realize the importance of young people within the
movement. Following a lengthy and intentional period of
self-examination, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship recently identified
investing in young Baptists as the organizations #1 priority. This
month long-time campus minister Wanda Kidd, serving at the forefront of
moderate Baptist campus ministry in the position of
College Ministry Consultant for CBF North Carolina, discusses The Changing
Face of Baptist Campus Ministry.
The Changing Face of Baptist
by Wanda Kidd
changing terrain of denominational ministry has caused us all to
reevaluate the purpose and structure of our institutions. In
the process we have had to reexamine everything from worship
styles to stewardship emphasis. In many denominations campus
ministry was the first cargo that was thrown overboard to
lighten the load as the cost of institutional ministry began to
threaten the overall mission of their churches.
That has not been
true of the Baptist state conventions in the South. In
comparison they have been very generous in their continued
support of campus ministry. While the amount of infrastructure
monies are less, the substantial funding it takes to keep campus
ministers employed and the ministry programmed is still very
The rub, however, has
come as state conventions have had to decide whether to align
themselves more closely with the ideology of the Southern
Baptist Convention or to maintain their unique autonomy as a
In the states where
the shift has been made to reflect and support the overall
mission of the Southern Baptist Convention, naturally their
campus ministry has also reflected that shift.
For the Baptist
people who have found themselves out of step with this
ideological shift, i.e. the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship,
there has been a desire to offer campus ministry options for
their students. While there has been a unanimous understanding
that this is very important trajectory for the future of the
church, there is also the acknowledgement that birthing a new
campus ministry initiative is a daunting task, if it is done
with the support and encompassing ideals of a group that values
their individual “distinctives.”.
There are, however,
some valuable and creative campus ministries being carried out
across the spectrum of the Cooperative Baptist family. First
and foremost local congregations have partnered with their state CBF groups to offer personnel and resources to reach out to
campuses that are close to their churches. In one state a group
of churches are experimenting with the idea of coming together
to fund campus ministry on one campus.
In North Carolina,
CBFNC has contracted with a campus minister to serve part time
on one of our state universities. We in NC have also formed a
task force to look at the best overall way to meet the needs of
students through CBFNC. Over 50% of the task force are under 30
and are young adults with a passion and experience in campus
From the national
perspective, CBF has seen the need for student involvement
almost from the beginning. The Student.Go program offers
opportunities for students to do short-term mission experiences
by offering stipends, training, and support. Passport, one of the
national partners of CBF has called out college students from
their beginnings to lead not only as support staff for their
camps, but as worship leaders and advisors to the overall
organization. Also, every three years national CBF invites
students across the spectrum to come together for a three-day event
called Antiphony that allows them to have conversations about
things that are on their hearts and minds.
In recent years CBF
national has received several grants that have helped churches
and divinity schools to look at the issues of call and service, and
they are presently administering a grant that will help partner
churches and seminarians to serve students. The current grant
is focused on reaching and ministering to young adults with a
large emphasis on campus ministry.
These are exciting
times as CBF national and CBF state groups try to discern the
best way to reach, equip, and empower students with the Christian
gospel. There are organizational and cultural challenges
that will make this a complex but absolutely imperative
undertaking. Campus ministry is costly and a long-term investment,
one that cannot be measured very effectively in the present. Without the investment, the future will be crippled for want
of those with leadership skills, an understanding of missions,
an appreciation of a sense of Christian community and courageous
commitment to Christ. All of these are areas that campus
ministry, at its best, explores, nurtures, and develops and in
many people’s life it is the watermark of their faith that calls
them back throughout their future involvement in ministry.
Table of Contents
Books That Matter: Wil
Platt is Professor of History,
Emeritus of Mercer University. In addition to his service in the Department
of History of the College of Liberal Arts from 1966 to 2000, he was assistant
or associate dean of the College for sixteen years. Since the fall of 2002,
he has been a volunteer for the Center for Baptist Studies and now serves as
Assistant to the Interim Director.
Progressive and Religious: How Christian,
Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist
Leaders Are Moving Beyond the Culture Wars and Transforming
American Public Life
by Robert P. Jones
Reviewed by Wil Platt
lived through a decade or more of supremacy by the Christian right,
some will be tempted to interpret the short title of this month’s
selection as an oxymoron. How could any movement be both progressive
and religious? As Rosemary Radford Reuther observes in her
recommendation for the book, we have been presented with “the
falsehood that only conservative evangelicals are seriously
religious.” The basic purpose of the author is to “paint a
compelling portrait of an emerging progressive religious movement in
America.” I believe he succeeds in his task.
P. Jones (Robby to his friends) describes himself as “a speaker,
scholar, and consultant on religion and progressive politics.” He is
president of Public Religion Research, a consulting firm advising
advocacy groups, and visiting fellow in religion at Third Way, a
progressive think tank. He completed his M. Div. at Southwestern
Baptist Theological Seminary; the fundamentalist takeover of that
institution occurred in his final semester and definitely influenced
his outlook. He went on to earn a doctorate at Emory University in
Atlanta. After a brief period of teaching in the Religious Studies
Department of Missouri State University, he accepted a position as
the founding director and senior fellow at the Center for American
Values in Public Life at People for the American Way Foundation in
Washington, D. C. While there and during the year following his
departure, he completed the work for the book. Since 2007, he has
been working as an independent consultant in progressive circles in
Washington. Additional information about his background and
activities can be found on his
Progressive and Religious is based upon nearly one hundred
interviews with progressive religious leaders from synagogues,
churches, mosques, meditation halls, and homes across the United
States. Protestants who were interviewed include Tony Campolo,
evangelical scholar, speaker, and writer; James Forbes, former
senior pastor of the The Riverside Church in New York; Welton Gaddy,
Director of the Interfaith Alliance; Brian McLaren, speaker, pastor,
and leader in the Emerging Church movement; and Jim Wallis,
President of Sojourners/Call to Renewal. Three chapters of the book
are devoted to the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and
Islam. The final chapter covers progressive Buddhists. The book
contains a complete list of interviewees divided according to their
religious or professional affiliation, extensive notes, and a
Jones states that there were two meta-narratives that dominated
late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century thought in regard to
religion in America. One was the belief among mainline Protestants
that the twentieth century would witness the “the full blossoming of
Christian principles” and the Christianizing of the culture. On the
other hand, some predicted the demise of religion in the face of an
assault by science and reason. As things happened, neither of these
visions came to pass. Buffeted by two world wars, economic collapse,
the Holocaust, and the Cold War, the vision of a Christianized
culture never came to fruition. The vision of secularization did not
come to pass either; religion persisted, and continued to challenge
science and rationalism. By the end of the twentieth century, in the
place of these “exhausted visions,” two other forces emerged: “a
defiant, rejectionist form of religion represented by the religious
right and an equally militant condemnation of religion by the angry
neoatheists. . . .” The religious right focused on a narrow range of
issues: abortion, same-sex marriage, and stem cell research. As a
result of his research, Jones believes that the majority of
Americans are looking beyond the culture wars toward religious and
political progress. He sees the progressive voices that he
interviewed as “the vanguard of a new public face of religion in
American public life.”
In the conclusion to the book, Jones discusses the “shared
principles and values” of people who are both progressive and
religious. First, these individuals and groups place an emphasis on
social justice. They do not see this as optional; it is central to
their faith. The Jewish concept of tikku olam, “healing the
world,” is a way to express this concept. Second, progressives
follow a relational approach to truth. Strong emphasis is given to
experience in community, the use of human faculties in discerning
truth, and humility. Third, progressives emphasize a “rigorous
engagement with tradition” not a break with tradition. The past must
be revered and respected, but it cannot supplant the present.
Fourth, progressives have a belief in the unity of all humanity. In
the Abrahamic faiths, this is based upon the belief that all have
been created in the image of God. All people have not only a common
origin but also a shared fate. Fifthly and finally, progressives
have a new vision of America that emphasizes interdependence and
generosity instead of unilateralism.
While some Baptists seem to be “circling
the wagons,” Robert P. Jones paints a picture of a future
characterized by openness, attention to issues of social justice,
and religious cooperation. The progressive voices he has identified
give us cause for hope.
This book is published by Rowan & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. and is
distributed by the National Book Network. It is available on the
Religious Web site and at various bookstores.
Table of Contents
Recommended Online Reading
for Informed Baptists
Compiled by Bruce Gourley
Crowd at Ebenezer Baptist Celebrates Historic Election
Atlanta Journal-Constitution (November 4, 2008)
"At 11, CNN projected Obama as the president-elect, and the sanctuary
erupted in a shrill noise like a jet taking off. People jumped up and down in
the pews, raised their arms to heaven, and many began to weep. “It’s the
spirit of God,” said Annette Gay of Atlanta as she buried her face in her
hands and burst into tears."
What Happened to the Religious Vote? It's Complicated
Austin American-Statesman (November 2008)
Martin Marty, a venerable and astute observer of religion in America,
noted a telling distinction in how we are sizing up this presidential
election. Two news stories appeared within a day of each other, one from The
Wall Street Journal that characterized conservative Christians (including
white evangelicals and Catholics) as still solidly Republican, the other from
The New York Times that credited President-elect Barack Obama with making
significant inroads among evangelicals (particularly the younger part of that
demographic). Can both be true?
Dates to Note
December 6, 2008, Southern Folk Advent
Service ("When Shall I See Jesus?"), 4 PM, Old
Church near Oxford College of Emory University (Oxford, Georgia) on the corner
of Fletcher and Wesley Streets. Admission is free, and no tickets are
required. An offering will be taken. Seating is first come, first served. The
featured preacher is E. Brooks Holifield. Steven Darsey is the
worship leader. For more information email
www.meridianherald.org or call 404-525-4722.
February 6-7, 2008, Now Serving
Atlanta, hosted by McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University, Atlanta,
Georgia. A great opportunity for college students to connect with each
other and the needs of the world around them. For more information or to
February 9-14, 2009,
Global Baptist Peace Conference, Rome, Italy. The conference will consist of
six days including intensive training in conflict transformation, nonviolent
prophetic action, and other relevant topics, inspiring speakers, workshops,
June 4-6, 2009, Baptist History and Heritage
Society Annual Meeting, Huntsville, Alabama. Hosted by First Baptist
Church, Huntsville. Theme: Events Shaping Baptist Heritage in America.
July 2-3, 2009, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
General Assembly, Houston, Texas.
July 15-18, 2009,
International Conference on Baptist Studies V, Whitley College (Baptist
College of Victoria), Melbourne, Australia. The conference takes Baptists as
its subject matter, but participation is not restricted to Baptists, either as
speakers or attendees. The theme is "Interfaces--Baptists and Others," which
includes relations with other Christians, other faiths, and other movements
such as the Enlightenment. It may be explored by means of case studies, some
of which may be very specific in time and place while others may cover long
periods and more than one country. Offers of papers to last no more than 25
minutes in delivery (although the full text may be longer) are welcome.
Please submit the title to the conference coordinator, Professor David W.
Bebbington, Department of History, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4TB,
Scotland. A volume of conference papers will appear in the Studies in
Baptist History and Thought series, published by Paternoster Press. The
college will provide participants with full board over the three days of
the meeting and all charges will be kept as low as possible. Programs and
application forms will be available in a few months.
If you know of a Baptist event that needs to be added to
this list, please
let us know.
Table Of Contents
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