Vol. 8 No. 4

  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

         "Faith and Violence"

Celebrating 400 Years of Being Baptist: A Free Church Bulletin Insert Series

         "The Move of Baptists Westward"

The Baptist Soapbox: David Flick

         "A Life Among Native American Baptists"

Ministering Together in Community: A Baptist Women in Ministry Series

          Amy Shorner-Johnson
          "Maternity Leave for Women Ministers"

The Baptist Heritage: Book Review Briefs

          Bodies of Belief: Baptist Community in Early America
by Janet Moore Lindman
          A Capsule History of Baptist Principles
by William H. Brackney
Dates to Note: Baptist Events Calendar

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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.

"Faith and Violence"
By Bruce T. Gourley

           Sometimes I wonder if Christ's agony in Gethsemane was in part remorse over the knowledge that his death on the cross, while opening the door to life for humanity, would also unleash endless human violence and death. James Carroll's Constantine's Sword reminds us that not only was the cross not an early symbol of Christianity, but that it's appropriation by the Emperor Constantine in his battle against Maxentius in 312 positioned the cross as a symbol of war rather than peace and love. From the fourth century forward, nations bearing the Christian cross (whether displayed literally, as in the Crusades, or in popular rhetoric, as in the Iraq invasion), have waged war against the "other," while Christian state officials have persecuted and killed unacceptable Christians (including Baptists) within their own borders. The intertwining of the Christian cross with war, death, and violence is so historically pervasive that for the past 1600 years, Christian thinkers have struggled to establish philosophical foundations for Christian involvement in war and violence, and during the early years of the current Iraq conflict, conservative Christians in America were among the greatest supporters of the war. Such is the complicity that pacifism since the time of Constantine has seemingly been a minority viewpoint among Christians.
          War-supporting Christians, of course, find little foundation for their views in the Gospels. Christ clearly taught and practiced peace and reconciliation, not war and violence, as the means of opposing evil. On the other hand, many of his followers have for centuries argued for the need to violently resist the worst manifestations of evil (such as Hitler, in more recent times). In addition, some Christian leaders today sanction war and violence if it advances Western democracy. Indeed, many contemporary American Christians envision America as the guiding light of the world, placed in a position of moral superiority and responsibility for spreading, to the point of enforcement, westernized "Christian" ideals (the Religious Right's Council for National Policy for the past several decades has played a significant role in shaping America's militaristic foreign policy).
          But what of America as the world's guiding light and moral example? The United States, containing less than five per cent of the world's population, is home to one in every four of the world's prisoners. One in 31 U.S. adults are behind bars, on parole, or on probation. In the state of Georgia, "one in thirteen adults is behind bars or under community supervision." Among developed nations, the American Journal of Public Health concludes that the U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership and homicides among developed nations. Mass killings have become a routine part of American life, as we are reminded almost weekly, if not daily. South of our border, the vast majority of guns (including assault rifles) used by Mexican drug cartels originate in America. Worldwide, the United States arms many of the world's dictators, producing roughly one-half of all conventional (non-nuclear) international arms delivered throughout the entire world.
          What's a Christian citizen, called by Christ to a life of peace, justice, and mercy, to do in a nation routinely experiencing mass killings, teeming with criminals, maintaining a love affair with assault weapons, supplying arms to dictators and drug cartels worldwide, and invading other nations in order to spread Western enlightenment?
          A re-affirmation of the Baptist heritage of separation of church and state would be a good starting point; our Baptist forebears understood the problems of aligning church with state. Perhaps we should also recognize the fallacy of holding up America as a moral example, much less a Christian example. Maybe a renewed openness to Christian pacifism and opposition to violence is merited. And has the time come for followers of Christ in America and around the world to re-address the issue of the cross as representative of Christianity? Rather than allowing the legacy of Constantine to trump the life and teachings of Christ, what if we were to return to the faith symbols of the earliest believers, bringing those symbols out of the catacombs and into our personal lives and public witness? Of those ancient symbols, I would probably choose the Good Shepherd or the dove. Which one would you chose?

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Celebrating 400 Years of Being Baptist:  The Center for Baptist Studies and the Baptist History and Heritage Society present a twelve-month series of free church bulletin inserts for use in teaching Baptist heritage in the local church during the 400 year anniversary of Baptists. The image below is a copy of one side of this month's pdf document.  You can view each month's feature (in pdf format) here.

Bulletins are
material and
can only be
used for
within a church.
For permission
to reprint any
text or images,
please contact:

Pamela R. Durso 
by email at
or by phone at (678) 547-6095.

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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 David Flick, a long-time Baptist minister (now pastoring an American Baptist congregation), second generation Oklahoman, and registered member of the Cherokee tribe of Oklahoma through his mother's lineage.

"A Life Among Native American Baptists"
By David Flick

I grew up on a farm near Hammon, Oklahoma. As the crow flies, my childhood home was one mile northeast of a Southern Cheyenne village known as Whiteshield Camp. My father was born in a house located less than a quarter of a mile from the village which was located two miles due west of the Red Moon Boarding School established in 1896 by J. H. Hammon, the man for whom the town was named. The population of Whiteshield Camp in the 1950s was about 200.
In 1952, my parents helped a young seminarian establish a Baptist mission at Whiteshield Camp. The first services were held on Sunday nights in the “long house” which served as the village community building. The seminarian, Rev. Frank Barnes, graduated from Southwestern Seminary in 1953 and moved to Hammon to devote full time as pastor of the mission. He taught sixth grade for a year at the Hammon elementary school. Perhaps through divine intervention, I was a member of his class.
               In 1954, my father helped Rev. Barnes move an abandoned, one-room school house to the village and assisted him in converting the building into a place of worship. My mother became the pianist for the mission. Our family attended Sunday School and worship services on Sunday mornings at
First Baptist Church in Hammon. We attended Sunday School and worship services on Sunday evenings at the mission in Whiteshield Camp. Frank spent a decade in Hammon preaching and ministering to the Indian people. His Christian commitment to the Indian people in my hometown greatly influenced my life.
 As a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve five Baptist churches over the past forty-five years. In all five churches, Native Americans are active members. Three of the churches are Native American Baptist churches located in Seiling, Canton, and Watonga (the latter the congregation I currently serve). Members of the churches are predominantly from the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. Pastoring the churches has been a wonderful blessing. Several of the children I baptized in the 1970s are currently members of the Watonga congregation.  Some are grandparents, affording me the unique opportunity to be pastor of the third generation from those I baptized more than thirty years ago.
               While Native American Baptist churches are similar in many ways to all Baptist churches, they share some common characteristics that differ from other ethnic groups. For example, they have been historically poorer than their Anglo counterparts, and poverty is still prevalent. Alcoholism and substance abuse abound, and single parent families are numerous.
               Native American churches are small; there are no mega-churches. Their pastors are generally not seminary-trained. For most Native American pastors, preaching Jesus and ministering to the needs of church members supersedes pastoral attention to the finer details of Christian doctrine and strict orthodoxy. There is a conspicuous absence of superiority complexes among Native American pastors, and in my observations they are spiritually humble.
               Native American culture permeates the churches. Worship services are informal and laid back and tend to begin on “Indian time,” which can be a few minutes to a half an hour later than clock time. Nearly all Native Americans enjoy singing Christian hymns in their native dialects. Many are traditional hymns translated into native dialects and sung to traditional tunes.
               Relatively free from doctrinal and denominational political controversies, congregations and pastors do not become engaged in political power struggles. An ecumenical mindset also permeates Native American congregational life. They do not consider themselves to be superior or inferior to churches of non-Baptist denominations, and willingly cooperate with believers of other denominations
In short, while Native American Baptist churches are a little-known part of the larger Baptist landscape, the simplicity and openness characteristic of these congregations offers a healthy perspective within a sometimes dysfunctional denominational family. In my own experience, being a member of the Cherokee tribe has enriched my life tremendously, while pastoring Native American Baptist congregations in my home state of Oklahoma has been a crowning joy in my life as a Baptist.

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Ministering Together in Community: A Baptist Women in Ministry Series:  Amy Shorner-Johnson is Associate Pastor. For Youth and Adult Education at Milledge Avenue Baptist Church, Athens, Georgia, and serves as networking leader of Baptist Women in Ministry.

"Maternity Leave for Women Ministers"
By Amy Shorner-Johnson

             Recently, I have had a number of questions come my way concerning the topic of women ministers and maternity leave. That I have received these questions might surprise you since I have no children and am not pregnant. But I am one of the few ministers to serve in a Baptist church that has a maternity policy already in place, with much thanks to my predecessor.
             I have discovered that many churches do not have a policy, nor do they consider putting one in place until a woman arrives to serve on staff. The idea of maternity leave for a minister is often an afterthought. In fact, even thinking about having a pregnant minister on staff can create a sense of panic for a congregation if the idea is not thoughtfully presented before the need arises. What will happen while the minister is away from the church? How much time should the church provide for a minister to be out with her new family member(s)?  How does the church anticipate or readjust for potential change once the minister returns from maternity leave? 
             Ministers often represent for their churches a model for family life, and churches should discuss openly the opportunity and even necessity of ministers who are new parents staying at home and nurturing their own family. Churches can keep good ministers, male and female, in our world by treating them as if their work, family, and life matter. Preparing for a minister to have maternity leave demonstrates mutual respect and care, and can encourage a minister to remain among a congregation for a significant and meaningful period of time. 
             Here are a few suggestions for your congregation to consider if you do not already have a policy in place: 

* Set aside at least six weeks for maternity leave. Encourage the minister to also take vacation or other leave time as part of their maternity time. (Another suggestion: if you only have male ministers, have you considered paternity leave?)

* Enlist an interim (perhaps a student who is interested in ministry) to fill the position for the time that the minister is away. Hiring an interim is a great way for others to learn about ministry on a short-term basis. Your church may even want to secure funds for this interim position in a discretionary fund so as to avoid having to readjust the budget mid-year. 

* Look at other positions in the area or call other churches to explore what policies they have for maternity leave.

* Be willing to negotiate when ministers return to work. Can they work from home a few days a week? Is it possible to change office hours to be flexible? Defining clear expectations up front and keeping the paths of communication open will benefit your congregation and their ministry deeply. 

* Realize this policy may bring up many difficult comments that may reflect jealousy or criticism. Prepare your church members to respond with empathy, but also stand firm for the sake of the church and for good ministry that is taking place. Formulating a maternity leave policy is a great learning opportunity for your church and a chance to grow as a family together. Remember that your minister is entering a new world—perhaps becoming a parent for the first time. Having ministers who are new parents can be a great advantage for the church, for new mothers and fathers bring a new skill set to their ministry position.

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The Baptist Heritage: Book Review Briefs:  In honor of the 400th anniversary of Baptists, we offer brief book reviews of two recently-released volumes.
Bodies of Belief: Baptist Community in Early America
By Janet Moore Lindman
Associate Professor of History
Rowan University, New Jersey

              Eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Baptist congregations in the Mid-Atlantic, Chesapeake and New England region come alive within the pages of this volume. Modern Baptists will alternatively find similarities and marvel at the differences between contemporary believers and centuries-removed British North American adherents. While familiar figures like John Leland, Isaac Backus, and John Gano are woven into the narrative, Janet Moore Lindman focuses primarily on lesser known Baptist clergy and lay persons. From the remaining records of scattered Baptist congregations (in mid-nineteenth century Virginia, one minister observed, "the name of Baptist was scarcely known") (36), Lindman tells the stories of Baptist individuals living in small faith communities. Obsessed with heartfelt religion expressed in personal bodily behavior and exhibited in the purity of the corporate community, these early Baptists of colonial America navigated critical and daily issues of discipline, ritual, gender, and race.
              Wrapped in a broad mantle of the evangelicalism that characterized the revivalist atmosphere of the era, Baptists as examined by Lindman were otherwise a diverse and fluid lot. While Pennsylvania Baptists experienced considerable religious freedom, for example, Virginia Baptists suffered governmental persecution. And while some churches allowed women voices and votes, most espoused a lesser degree of social equality as compared to the widespread spiritual egalitarianism evidenced at the congregational level. In short, Baptists of colonial America as portrayed by Lindman were varied enough in their formative years that longer-term tensions within the denomination at large became inevitable.

A Capsule History of Baptist Principles

By William H. Brackney
Millard R. Cherry Distinguished Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics
Acadia University and Acadia Divinity College, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada

               Commissioned by the Baptist History and Heritage Society as one of a series of volumes celebrating the 400th anniversary of Baptists, William Brackney's, A Capsule History of Baptist Principles, provides a systematic snapshot of what the author characterizes as "denominational DNA." Mining confessional statements, writings of and about historical Baptist leaders, and the records of local congregations and denominational institutions throughout the world, Brackney focuses upon "those principles that all, or most, Baptists over time have cherished" (16).
               From the "Lordship of Christ" (experiential and doctrinal) and "Authority of Scripture" (balancing individual interpretation and collective appropriation) to "Principles of Human Rights" (a contemporary concern rooted in four centuries of Religious Liberty heritage), this short volume encapsulates Baptist distinctives in eleven distinctive principles. A scholarly overview of the Baptist essence that is suitable for classroom and pew, Brackney's volume is a helpful addition to any Baptist bookshelf.

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Recommended Online Reading
Compiled by Bruce Gourley

Predicting the End of Faith in America
History News Network

Is religion exiting stage right in America? Not so fast, according to two editors of The Economist.

One Nation Under God?

The latest NEWSWEEK Poll finds shifting American attitudes about religion and faith. Still, the U.S. remains a deeply religious land.


Dates to Note: Baptist Events Calendar

April 16, 2009, Virginia Baptists Committed Spring Meeting, Sandston Baptist Church, Sandston, Virginia, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call Sandston Baptist Church (804 737-2171) to RSVP.

April 17-19, 2009, The Alliance of Baptists Convocation, Park Road Baptist Church, Charlotte, North Carolina.  More information.

May 2-3, 2009, Baptist World Alliance Day. Join the worldwide community of Baptist believers in observance. More information.

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.

June 12-13, 2009, Medical Ethics Conference, Baylor University Center for Christian Ethics. For more information and to register, go to (click on "Medical Ethics Conference"), or call the Center for Christian Ethics office toll free at 866-298-2325.

June 26-28, 2009, American Baptist Churches USA biennial meeting, Pasadena, California. 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.

August 6-7, 2009, New Baptist Covenant Midwest Meeting in Norman, Oklahoma. Guest speakers include former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. More information.

September 27-29, 2009, Mercer Preaching Consultation, King & Prince Beach & Golf Resort, St. Simons Island, Georgia.  Featured speaker: Dr. Walter Brueggemann. To register or for more information, contact Terri Massey by email or phone her at 478.301.2943.

October 22-24, 2009, New England Women in Ministry Conference, Massachusetts. Keynote speaker is Rev. Yamina Apolinaris.  To register or for more information, contact Rev. Dr. E. Darlene Williams.

July 28-August 1, 2010, 20th Baptist World Congress of the Baptist World Alliance, Honolulu, Hawaii.  Registration is now open. More information.

If you know of a Baptist event that needs to be added to this list, please let us know.

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