An Electronic Baptist Journal Bridging Yesterday and Today
[Vol. 10, No. 10]
Editor: Bruce T. Gourley, executive director, Baptist History & Heritage Society
The Baptist Studies Bulletin (BSB) is a free online journal produced by the Baptist History & Heritage Society (BH&HS) and offering scholarly analysis, informed editorials, book reviews, and special features for subscribers. You may access previous issues to or subscribe or unsubscribe from the BSB. Republishing of articles is allowed, but please provide credit and a link back to the Baptist Studies Bulletin.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
“Advent: Season of Gospel Proclamation”
by Bruce T. Gourley
“Baptists and Human Rights at the United Nations”
by David D’Amico
“Helpful Baptist Resources”
A Compendium of New Books and Digital Resources
ADVENT: SEASON OF GOSPEL PROCLAMATION
by Bruce T. Gourley
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Thus Jesus, in Luke’s account, announces the gospel – the “good news” of his mission on earth. At the time of his public gospel proclamation, Christ is years beyond his coming to the world as a baby born in lowly circumstances in an obscure part of the world. This Advent season we celebrate collectively the birth of Christ and the good news – the gospel – that Jesus, in spite of his humble beginnings, brought to humankind.
The gospel, according to Jesus, is about some very earthly matters: helping the poor, the blind, the oppressed. Jesus, in short, was “anointed” to bring mercy and justice to persons marginalized and outcast by the world. At the center of Jesus’ gospel is freedom. Freedom from the powers that cause oppression. Freedom from world systems – religious, political, economic, social, cultural – that enslave body, mind and/or spirit. These themes comprise more of Jesus’ teachings throughout the canonical Gospels than do any other subject. Luke, placing the passage above as Jesus’ first public proclamation, undoubtedly understood the core convictions of the Messiah.
For his part, the Gospel writer John summarized Jesus’ mission this way: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish (literally, “cease to exist”) but shall have everlasting life (literally, “life without beginning or end”).” Christ came to rescue the perishing. He came to offer life in the here and now, as well as the future. He came to pluck individuals from lives of injustice and nothingness and insert them into a stream of true life that always has been and always will be.
Yet, the temptation to cheapen the gospel always lurks nearby. Anointing proper belief as gospel offers us a way to control that which only God has mastery over. Confining the locus of salvation to the afterlife permits us to disregard most of Jesus’ teachings in order to justify our own gospel inaction.
Spending recent years immersed in the life of Baptists in antebellum and Civil War America, my research has plunged me into a time in our faith history when the gospel drowned under the weight of culture and society. Many white Baptists of the South, led by men seeking worldly power, influence and riches, forsook the gospel of Christ and embraced, fervently and religiously, the persecution and enslavement of African Americans. Fortunately, many white Baptists of the North remembered the teachings of Christ and committed themselves to fulfilling the gospel mandate of mercy and freedom for the oppressed. And while I’d like to think we’ve learned our lesson, it is troubling to hear a prominent Baptist today excusing Southern Baptists’ defense of African slavery with the dismissive declaration that “What Northerners were saying is that ending slavery was more important than spreading the gospel.” That a seminary president is seemingly so unfamiliar with the gospel of Christ is a jarring reminder that the good news often remains at odds with our own personal preferences and prejudices.
And yet this is the time of the year that calls us to our exercise our faith. Our world is troubled. Oppression and injustice are all around us. Yet the good news is at hand. This Advent season, do we dare to seize the opportunity to be gospel people?
May it be so.
Human rights issues clamor for the attention of interested Christians around the world. The suffering minorities oppressed politically, economically, and religiously in many countries of the world–Myanmar, Egypt, Syria, Indonesia–to name a few, receive some media coverage in the United States.
Baptists have championed human rights, concentrating their efforts on religious freedom, from the days of Thomas Helwys against King James I in 1611, to the present.
On December 10, 1998, the UN commemorated the 50th anniversary of the adoption by the General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) approved in Paris on that date in 1948. I was a participant of forums, conferences, and celebrations. It is appropriate as the 63rd anniversary is remembered on December 10 to survey some of the salient aspects of Baptist participation.
I. The organization of the United Nations
Leaders representing mainline Protestant denominations were active in the preliminary discussions leading to the creation of the UN. Forty-two non-governmental (NGO) international organizations were invited for the Dumbarton Oaks Conference in 1944. Many were religious.
The ecumenical Protestant community organized in 1948 into the World Council of Churches had strived in the interwar period for an international world organization. John Foster Dulles, a Presbyterian elder, and later Secretary of State, became the principal adviser to the United States delegation in San Francisco in 1945. There were Lutheran, United Church of Christ, Methodists, Presbyterian and Baptists significantly involved in the deliberations of the conference leading to the formation of the United Nations.
Enlightened Baptist leaders participated actively in the proceedings. J. M. Dawson, the chairperson of the Baptist Joint Committee of Public Relations, now Baptist Joint Committee for Public Affairs narrated in his memoirs the sense of expectancy he experienced when he attended, in 1945, the organizational meeting of the United Nations in San Francisco. “To that meeting I carried a hundred thousand petitions from Baptists, North and South, white and Negro, asking that the Charter to be adopted would include a guarantee of full religious liberty for every human being.” [Dawson, A Thousand Months to Remember, p. 161].
Dawson later addressed the Baptist World Congress in Copenhagen in 1947 setting high hopes for the value of the UN in world affairs. “We hope also for the United Nations to inaugurate a new birth of religious freedom for the world.” [1947 Baptist World Congress Minutes, p.71].
II. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Commission on Human Rights was established June 21, 1946 under the Economic and Social Council. Eleanor Roosevelt was chosen as chair. Dr. Charles Malik, from Lebanon, was the rapporteur. It met in three long sessions between 1946 and 1948. It drafted the UDHR which was adopted in Paris, December 10, 1948.
An eyewitness reported about the membership of the commission in its political and religious composition.
“In half of the 18 countries comprising the Commission most of the population was Christian, in three it was Islamic, in one it was Hindu, and in five most of the people were officially regarded as atheist. . . .A BBC broadcast quipped about “eighteen politicians chosen to make a new draft of the Sermon on the Mount.” [Howard Schomer, “All Human Beings,” Gear–Global Education and Advocacy Resource,” June, 1998, p. 6.]
III. Baptists and human rights
The Baptist World Alliance, under the guidance of its Human Rights Commission, published a booklet “Baptists and Human Rights,” written by James E. Wood, Jr.
Under the auspices of Church World Service of the NCCCUS the Program Ministry for International Justice and Human Rights, a Task Force on the UN, of which I was a chairperson for two years while serving as CBF representative to the UN, actively promoted human rights issues through seminars, conferences and other venues.
The Task Force in cooperation with the American Bible Society launched the republication of the booklet, “Life in All Its Fullness: The Word of God and Human Rights.” One million copies were printed on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the UDHR and distributed to interested churches and organizations, including the Baptist Joint Committee of Public Affairs, led at that time by James Dunn.
IV. President Jimmy Carter and Human Rights
President Carter is an active Baptist lay person and has shown publicly how his religious beliefs have shaped his public life. He observed: “America didn’t create human rights. Human rights created America.” Dan Ariail & Cheryl Hcekler-Feltz, The Carpenter‘s Apprentice: The Spiritual Biography of Jimmy Carter (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), p. 72.
One of Carter’s greatest achievements as president was the Camp David Accord between Israel and Egypt in 1978. Since 1981, The Carter Center in Atlanta has been devoted to many initiatives. Among the many aspects of the work of the center one, the Human Rights Program is directed by Karin Ryan, Director, Human Rights Program. In 1994, the Human Rights Program formed the International Human Rights Council, chaired by President Carter and comprised by 28 leaders from around the world.
As Baptists continue their efforts for religious liberty and human rights, we are the inheritors of peace and justice. Although human rights are a lofty ideal, individuals and nations are still struggling to measure up to the model of the Prince of Peace and to enforce all human rights for all peoples of the world. Baptists must pray, become informed, and earnestly attempt in their own sphere of influence to be God’s instruments for human rights.
Amid the uncertainties of the status of the political implementation of human rights, communities of all the world religions will continue to play a significant role in the twenty-first century.
David D’Amico is retired Cooperative Baptist Fellowship missionary and professor of evangelism. His ministry has spanned the globe, and includes working with the United Nations Diplomatic Community. In retirement he writes and researches from his home in Louisville, Kentucky. He is a member of Highland Baptist Church in Louisville.
As the year draws to a close, here is a brief review of some helpful Baptist resources that debuted in 2011, including a selection of books not previously mentioned in the Baptist Studies Bulletin earlier this year. Some of the volumes have or will be reviewed in Baptist History & Heritage Journal.
Baptists and the American Civil War: In Their Own Words — An online, daily digital journal of the Baptist experience during the American Civil War. The journal will continue through 2015. This is a project of the Baptist History & Heritage Society.
Baptist Briefs – A series of short video clips covering a variety of topics central to Baptist heritage and faith. The videos are the creation of Bill Jones, Executive Director of Texas Baptists Committed.
Biblical Recorder Archives — Historical copies of the official news journal of the North Carolina Baptist Convention have been digitized and are freely available online. The years covered are 1834-1970. Wake Forest University is the provider of this digital collection.
Google Books — Google added many more Baptist volumes to its online collection in 2011. From the Google Books homepage, search for “baptists,” narrow your search down by typing in “baptists” along with other keywords, or type in the name of a specific book.
Transactions of the Baptist Historical Society — The articles from the precursor publication to the Baptist Quarterly are now online for public viewing. This collection of English Baptist documents covers the years 1908-1921.
A Choosing People: The History of Seventh Day Baptists — Don A. Sanford offers a fresh, enlightening analysis of this distinct group of Baptists. Published by Mercer University Press.
A Company of Women Preachers: Baptist Prophetesses in Seventeenth-Century England — Curtis W. Freeman is the editor of this excellent, comprehensive compilation of the writings of early women preachers in English Baptist life. Published by Baylor University Press.
The Awakening of Freewill Baptists: Benjamin Randall and the Founding of an American Religious Tradition — Scott Bryant offers an insightful analysis of the historical Baptist tradition in America that most profoundly broke away from Calvinistic theology. Published by Mercer University Press.
Diverging Loyalties: Baptists in Middle Georgia During the Civil War — Bruce Gourley’s newest book examines in depth the voices, actions and patterns of a localized group of Baptists during an era that is forever embedded in the consciousness of the American nation. Published by Mercer University Press.
Keeping the Faith: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives-A Memoir — Wayne Flynt, prominent Alabama historian, author, and Baptist, recounts in forthright fashion his life story and provides an inside look at Alabama culture and politics of recent decades. Published by University of Alabama Press.
KJV@400: Commemoration, Appreciation, Caution — This volume, by Mike Kuykendall, offers an insightful analysis of the story of the King James Bible, blending historiography with a writing style designed for use in local church small group settings. Published by the Northwest Baptist Historical Society and available for sale by email request.
Nurturing Faith Bible Study — A new approach to Bible Study by Baptists Today news journal. Tony Cartledge, David Cassady, Kelly Belcher, Rick Jordan and Jeremy Colliver are writers for this curriculum that follows the lectionary calendar.
The Origins of the Baptist Movement Among the Hungarians: A History of the Baptists in the Kingdom of Hungary from 1846-1893 — G. Alexander Kish is the author of this volume from the Brill’s Series in Church History.
The Shooting Salvationist: J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial that Captivated America — David R. Stokes’ dramatic account of the pivotal episode in the life of the famed Baptist fundamentalist is one of the most popular Baptist books of the year.
This Boy’s Faith: Notes From a Southern Baptist Upbringing — Author Hamilton Cain offers an honest and insightful look at his personal experiences as a Southern Baptist.
Through the Year With Jimmy Carter: 366 Daily Meditations from the 39th President — The latest volume from the former president who has devoted his recent years to promoting unity among Baptists of North America through the New Baptist Covenant initiative.
While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age During the Civil Rights Movement — Carolyn Maull McKinstry recalls her brush with death in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, and her journey in the years following.
January 13-16, 2012 – Faith in 3D, Orlando, Florida. Young people of 3 faith groups will explore our common faith in Jesus Christ through worship, education, and community building. For more information, visit http://www.faithin3d.org
February 2011 – Marsha Stearns Marshall Preaching Month sponsored by Baptist Women in Ministry. Invite a woman to preach in your church any Sunday in February to participate in MSM Month. More information.
February 17-18, 2012 – Now Serving: Atlanta, sponsored by McAfee School of Theology, Atlanta, and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia. Now Serving: Atlanta is a mission service weekend event focusing on a diverse collection of mission sites across the city. For more information, contact Laura Foushee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 478-742-1191, ext. 28.
February 27-March 1, 2012 – Churchworks Conference, Freemason Street Baptist Church, Norfolk, Virginia. For more information about this event, contact www.thefellowship.info/churchworks.
April 9-12, 2012 – The Call of the Wilderness, Big Bend National Park, Marathon, Texas. Come the week after Easter to kneel, to walk and to pray the countryside of Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas. Place your feet solidly and firmly upon God’s wild earth. Take pause. Let the solitude and silence of the wilderness call you forward into the community of the resurrection as we begin the great fifty days of Easter. For more information, contact Steve Graham, email@example.com
April 17-18, 2012 – The Walter B. and Kay W. Shurden Lectures on Religious Liberty and Separation of Church and State. Speaker: Professor Frank Lambert, professor of history at Purdue University (Mercer University, Macon, Georgia)
April 19-21, 2012 – A [Baptist] Conference on Sexuality and Covenant. First Baptist Church, Decatur, Georgia. Co-sponsored by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Center for Theology and Public Life, Mercer University. For more information, contact www.thefellowship.info/conference.
June 7-9, 2012 – BH&HS Annual Conference, “Baptists and Theology” (First Baptist Church, Raleigh)
July 4, 2012 – 200th Birthday Celebration of the Rev. John Jasper, legendary 19th-century preacher and founding pastor of Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church (Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, 14 West Duval Street, Richmond, VA; call 804-648-7511 for lunch reservations)
July 11-14, 2012 – International Conference on Baptist Studies VI (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, North Carolina)
May 20-22, 2013 – BH&HS Annual Conference, “Civil War, Emancipation and Reconciliation” (University of Richmond)