Vol. 8 No. 5

  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

         "Hating Others, Loving Self?"

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

         "Baptist Support of the Missionary Movement"

The Baptist Soapbox: Ed Culpepper


Ministering Together in Community: A Baptist Women in Ministry Series

          Julie O'Teter Sadler
          "Communication Styles: Women and Men Talking to and Hearing Each Other"

The Baptist Heritage: 400th Anniversary Quotes

          What Some People Are Saying During This 400th Anniversary Year

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.

"Hating 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 "decide 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 driven underground.
           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.

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 Dr. Ed Culpepper, former Associate Pastor for Faith Development of First Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama, and author of the weekly devotional, Blind Faith.

By Ed Culpepper

            Complexity 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 a problem.
            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 say.
            But 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 frenetic activity.
            An often-told 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.”
            Simplicity 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!
             As 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:

     Independence vs. 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.

     Advice vs. 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.”

     Report-Talk vs. 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).

     Commands vs. 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 straightforward request.

     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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The Baptist Heritage: 400th Anniversary Quotes:  Baptists (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 freedomfor every person."
-- Slayden Yarbrough, Professor of Religion, Emeritus, from Oklahoma Baptist
                University, addressing the First Baptist Church of Boulder, Colorado in January


"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 (source)

"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 (source)

"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 (source)

"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 (source)

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Recommended Online Reading
Compiled by Bruce Gourley

Baptists Mark 400th Anniversary
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' bus."

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 its credibility."


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. 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.

July 20-25, 2009, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America annual conference, Weber State University, Ogden, Utah.  More information.

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

September 24-25, 2009, Baylor Conference on History, Philosophy, or Practice of Baptist Church Music.  Email Dr. David W. Music at 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 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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