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
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.
Others, Loving Self?"
By Bruce T. Gourley
In 2002, Baylor University and Simpson University
(California) researchers conducted a
study of the religious commitments of students. Eighty percent of
students evaluated were members of a church. As a part of the study, students
were asked how much more likely they were to adhere to the biblical
commandment of "love your neighbor as yourself" as compared to their peers. On
average, respondents claimed to be twice as likely to love their neighbors
compared to others. An interesting correlation emerged from this study: the
most religiously fundamentalist students claimed the greatest likelihood of
loving others more than their peers.
Fast forward to May
2009, thirty years after the ascendancy of the Religious Right, and amidst the
widely-recognized collapse of the American political party that many
evangelical Christians considered to be the party of God. During a road trip,
the down time between National Public Radio news and commentary led me to tune
into what turned into three hours of self-described "conservative Christian"
radio talk show programs over a two day period. All three hours focused on
political issues and exhibited an air of panic. Discussing the
looming Supreme Court vacancy, poverty, minorities, women, homosexuals,
Muslims, pluralism and an
eight-foot tall cross in the Mojave National Preserve, talking heads made
it clear they were not concerned about issues of justice. Speaking to
President Barack Obama's desire to select a new Supreme Court Justice who will
cases on the basis of fairness and justice," one commentator scoffed at
the concept of Supreme Court justices' seeking ... justice. Condemning the
traditional American ethos of "equality and justice for all," and
specifically referencing minorities, women, homosexuals, and persons of
non-Christian faith, one talking head declared, "if you have empathy for
everyone, you have empathy for no one."
There is no small
irony that the most ardent "America is a Christian Nation!" advocates are
distraught and fearful of the prospect of America's judicial system putting
into practice ... Jesus' ethical and moral teachings. Conservative Christian
radio is frantically telling listeners that Christians must assume a
"defensive posture" to prevent the extension of mercy and justice to others, and warning that a government
that pursues such an agenda "will not stop" until Christianity is illegal or
The panic emanating
over the radio waves from conservative Christian activists, following their
spirited defense of torture under a prior American administration, is just the
latest reminder that Jesus' teachings frighten many people who lay claim to
the name of Christ. While Jesus' ethical and moral teachings permeate the
Gospels, speak to civilizations across time and space, and are echoed in
hundreds of religions and moral codes worldwide, some American Christians
seemingly dislike Christ's instructions and example.
Why the resistance?
Perhaps because the ethics and morality of the Gospels harbors some
similarities to a modern, Western political "liberalism" that at its best
insists that the basic human rights of others are no less important than that of one's self. Indeed, far
beyond the narrow context of today's "conservative" and "liberal" labels,
Jesus has historically been most resisted by entrenched power structures and
most readily embraced by the powerless and oppressed. Listen closely to
today's self-proclaimed conservative Christian radio talk shows, and you too will hear the
timeless tug of war between the powerful and powerless.
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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.
can only be
within a church.
to reprint any
text or images,
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 Dr. Ed
Culpepper, former Associate Pastor for Faith Development of First Baptist
Church in Huntsville, Alabama, and author of the weekly devotional,
By Ed Culpepper
can be a captivating snare. Complicated problems with intricate
interrelationships pose riddles for problem solvers focused on
stimulating the economy, quieting international disputes, or
living with different understandings of Baptist identity. Still,
appealing to the complexity of a situation sometimes can offer an
excuse for not providing a valid explanation or a real solution to
I have to
admit that I love complexity. Exploring multifaceted
relationships between concepts and events, considering as many
implications of an idea as possible, along with hosts of
counter-arguments fueled my pursuit of intercollegiate debate, my
interest in politics, and my study of theology, philosophy, and
even preaching. Trying to “unscrew the inscrutable” perks up my
pulse. I have little patience for reducing complicated concepts
to docile platitudes that can be repeated “unencumbered by the
thought process,” as Click and Clack, the Car Talk guys
complexity has a powerful antidote–simplicity. No matter
what the problem may be, an almost infallible rule applies across
the board: “The simplest explanation is most likely correct.” The
rule is a cornerstone of science and philosophy, in fact. The
physicist, Ernst Mach, advocated a version of Occam’s Razor which
he called the Principle of Economy, stating in part that
“Scientists must use the simplest means of arriving at their
results.” The rule extends well for home maintenance, computer
hassles, or ecclesiastical conflicts.
Overcomplicating matters in our lives may keep us from reaching
the simple truth that has been right in front of us all along. Wrestling with profound questions and genuinely mammoth ideas is
profitable and can produce helpful results, but the simple truth
underlying grand projects of thought should not be obscured by our
anecdote underscores the power of simplicity. One of the greatest
theologians of the 20th century, Karl Barth, produced
the voluminous systematic theology, Church Dogmatics. In
1962, on his only lecture visit to the U.S., a student asked him
at the close of a stimulating presentation, “What is the most
profound thought you have discovered in all your work?” The
distinguished Swiss theologian paused a moment and answered,
“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
often has life-changing power. We mistakenly assume that only
complex answers will do anything meaningful for us. Paul knew
that people in the cosmopolitan city of Corinth faced divergent
cultural, economic, and religious currents. He also knew the
simple message that could save them: “You'll remember, friends,
that when I first came to you to let you in on God's master
stroke, I didn't try to impress you with polished speeches and the
latest philosophy. I deliberately kept it plain and simple: first
Jesus and who he is; then Jesus and what he did—Jesus crucified.”
(1 Corinthians 2:1-2, The Message) I imagine that Paul had
in mind how Jesus demonstrated the difference between chasing
theological puzzles and professing simple, authentic faith that
leads to living relationship with God: “Jesus called over a child,
whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, ‘I'm telling
you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and
start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at
the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and
elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's
kingdom.’ (Matthew 18:2-4, The Message) Simple faith is
the foundational answer to life’s complexities.
In a world of
complex problems, Baptists and everyone else could benefit by a
simple response. Jesus simply said, “Follow me.”
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Ministering Together in Community:
A Baptist Women in Ministry Series: Julie
O’Teter Sadler is
Leadership Development and Women in Ministry Consultant and Coordinator of
Strategic Relationships for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Dallas,
Texas. Julie also
serves as advocating leader of Baptist Women in Ministry.
"Communication Styles: Women
and Men Talking to and Hearing Each Other"
By Julie O'Teter Sadler
Traveling together, a wife asked her husband, “Do you want to stop
to get some coffee?” “No, thanks,” he answered truthfully. So they
did not stop.
The result? The
wife, who had indeed wanted to stop, was upset because she thought
her husband did not care about her desire for coffee, and the
husband was frustrated because his wife did not just state what
she wanted. When a man and woman interpret the same conversation
so differently, it is no wonder that so much has been written
about how we’re from different planets!
Baptists seek to work and worship together in the local church,
understanding the differences in the communication styles of women
and men can help us talk to and hear each other. Deborah Tannen,
in You Just Don’t Understand! provides insight into those
some of those differences. She notes that many men see themselves
“as an individual in a hierarchical social order in which he was
either one-up or one-down. In this world, conversations are
negotiations in which people try to achieve and maintain the upper
hand if they can, and protect themselves from others’ attempts to
put them down and push them around. Life, then, is a struggle to
preserve independence and avoid failure.” Women, however, often
see themselves “as an individual in a network of connections. In
this world, conversations are negotiations for closeness in which
people try to seek and give confirmation and support, and to reach
consensus. They try to protect themselves from others’ attempts to
push them away. Life, then, is a community, a struggle to preserve
intimacy and avoid isolation . . . hierarchies are more of
friendship than of power and accomplishment.”
Here are some of
the more common areas of differences:
Intimacy: Since women often
think in terms of closeness and support, they seek to preserve
intimacy. Men, concerned with status, tend to focus more on
independence. Thus, women like for decisions to be discussed first
and made by consensus. Men often feel oppressed by lengthy
discussions and may feel boxed in if they can not just act without
discussing it first.
Understanding: Many men see themselves as problem solvers, so a complaint is a challenge
to come up with a solution. But often women are looking for
emotional support, not solutions. They are hoping to receive an
expression of understanding or a sense of “We are the same; you
are not alone.” Women often feel distanced by advice, which seems
to send the message, “We are not the same. You have the problem. I
have the answers.”
Rapport-Talk: Men grow up in a
world in which a conversation is often a contest, so they are
generally more comfortable doing “public speaking” (report-talk),
which is a way to preserve their independence and maintain their
status level. Women, however, talk to exchange confirmation and
support and to establish connections, so they are often more
comfortable doing “private speaking” (rapport-talk).
Suggestions: Women often begin statements with “Let’s,” such as, “Let’s park over
there” or “Let’s clean up now, before lunch.” Many men hear this
as a command and tend to resist being told what to do. In this
example, women formulate their requests or suggestions as
proposals rather than orders. This style of talking is a way of
getting others to do what she wants, but by winning agreement
first. This tactic often backfires, because if men perceive
someone is trying to get them to do something indirectly, they
feel manipulated and respond more resentfully than they would to a
As Baptists in
the pew and in the pulpit, increasing our awareness of the
different communication styles can greatly improve our
understanding of one another, strengthen our churches, and enhance
our living and sharing the gospel message.
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400th Anniversary Quotes:
(and others) are talking about the denomination during this anniversary
celebration. Read what some people are saying.
"In my mind the most significant
contribution of these [earliest] Baptists is their courageous and unyielding
call for freedom of conscience and religious liberty for all! For all! In a
world of established state church's and selective toleration for nonconformist
groups, these Baptists refused to accept the idea that toleration of diversity
was the ideal. They insisted upon liberty, upon freedom―for every person."
-- Slayden Yarbrough, Professor
of Religion, Emeritus, from Oklahoma Baptist
University, addressing the First Baptist Church of Boulder, Colorado in
"It helps to show and relive Virginia Baptist history. We hope that it will
provide a deeper appreciation of our historical roots, especially in religious
freedom and help people learn a little more about what it means to be
Baptist." (referring to the Baptist Heritage Sunday observance held earlier
this year at the West End Baptist Church of Suffolk, Virginia)
-- Tom Apple, West End Baptist church
member and historical re-enactor
"I'm not a Baptist, never was, never will be (theologically I'm a zen-pagan
agnostic Unitarian, and I can't swallow all that biblical stuff). But there is
definitely something about being in a Baptist church, done well, which just
feels right. At their best, Baptist services are honest, humane, democratic,
egalitarian, and uplifting without being sugar-coated. In part, it's down to
the preaching―the best sermon I ever heard was at a Baptist Church in York,
England―but I also like the way everyone just chips in with prayers,
encouragement and testimonies in an informal way. It's also got something to
do with the music. Forget Bach or Wesley: there's no sound you'll ever hear in
church like that of a Baptist playing "Power in the Blood" on a banjo."
-- Forum poster, Ship of Fools
"We join with millions of Baptist brothers and sisters of every sort, race,
nationality and conviction in celebrating 400 years of the Baptist movement."
-- John Daugherty, Pastor, First
Baptist Church, Fort Myers, Florida
"I would be very surprised if the rift were to last for many years."
(referring to the split between the Southern Baptist Convention and the
Baptist World Alliance)
-- Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary
of the Baptist Union of Great Britain
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Recommended Online Reading
Compiled by Bruce Gourley
British Broadcasting Network
"Members of the Baptist Union are gathering in Bournemouth to celebrate
their 400th anniversary - the first Baptist congregation was founded in 1609.
With four centuries of growth behind them, what are the challenges facing
believers in the next 100 years?"
Social Conservative Leaders Feel Scapegoated
"There is a brooding sense within top social conservative circles that
they have become the revolving scapegoat of the Republican Party. Many of the
longtime leaders of the Christian right, from Richard Land to Tony Perkins to
Gary Bauer, expressed resentment in extended interviews with a singular theme:
that the most loyal GOP bloc has been so quickly thrown under many critics'
Year of the Bible Resolution Contains False Claim
"Rep. Thad McCotter is co-sponsoring House Resolution 121, which calls
on President Obama to declare 2010 "The National Year of the Bible."
Unfortunately, the resolution contains historical inaccuracies that undermine
Dates to Note: Baptist Events Calendar
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.
June 12-13, 2009, Medical Ethics Conference,
Baylor University Center for Christian Ethics. For more information and to
register, go to
www.ChristianEthics.ws (click on "Medical Ethics
Conference"), or call the Center for Christian Ethics office toll free at
June 26-28, 2009, American Baptist Churches USA
biennial meeting, Pasadena, California.
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.
July 20-25, 2009, Baptist Peace Fellowship of
North America annual conference, Weber State University, Ogden, Utah.
August 6-7, 2009, New Baptist Covenant Midwest
Meeting in Norman, Oklahoma. Guest speakers include former U.S. president
September 24-25, 2009, Baylor Conference on
History, Philosophy, or Practice of Baptist Church Music. Email Dr.
David W. Music at
David_Music@baylor.edu for 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
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
If you know of a Baptist event that needs to be added to
this list, please
let us know.
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