Vol. 7 No. 11

  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

         "Hope and Redemption"

The Baptist Soapbox: Mark Ray

         "Is The Second Wave of SBC's Conservative Resurgence Coming to Fruition?"

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

         "Growing Generous Givers: Teaching Children About Stewardship"
Investing in Young Baptists:
Wanda Kidd
The Changing Face of Baptist Campus Ministry
Books That Matter: Wil Platt

         Progressive and Religious
         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.

"Hope and Redemption"
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.
            Having been 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.

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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 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.

"Is The Second Wave of SBC's Conservative Resurgence Coming to Fruition?"
By Mark Ray

            In 1990, having completed their successful takeover of every national Southern Baptist seminary, agency, and mission boardnot 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."
            In other 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.
            With each 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:


             At one 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.)
             For the 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).
             In 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 creditAlabama Baptists have long elected and employed centrist leaders who have fostered a sense of camaraderie, shared mission, and unity of purpose.
             Some 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 resurgence.


             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 ago.
             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.


             It's no 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.
             Each one of these schools saw the direction their traditional constituencies
the SBC and state Baptist conventionswere 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 Fundamentalist control.


             As 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."

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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

            For many 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%.

Teach children 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 thingsthings like being kind, helping someone else, and sharing time with friends and family.

Teach children 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). 

Foster an 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.

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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 Campus Ministry
by Wanda Kidd

           The 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 generous.
           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 state convention. 
           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 ministry.
           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.

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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

Having 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.
             Robert 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 Web site.
              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 generous bibliography.
               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 Progressive and Religious Web site and at various bookstores.

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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, go to 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 register, click here.

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, and worship.
Information: detailed schedule, printable brochure, printable poster.

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. More information.

July 2-3, 2009, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly, Houston, Texas.  More information.

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.

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