An Electronic Baptist Journal Bridging Yesterday and Today
[Vol. 14, No. 9]
Editor: Bruce T. Gourley, executive director, Baptist History and Heritage Society
The Baptist Studies Bulletin (BSB) is a free online journal produced by the Baptist History and 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
“Unwanted Religious Outsiders: Baptists of Yesteryear, Muslims of Today”
by Bruce T. Gourley
“Why I am a CBF Baptist”: Voices of Young Baptists
by Lizzy Bauman
Elementary Coordinator, Metanoia Youth Leadership Academy
Charleston, South Carolina
“Book Review: The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement”
by Anthony Chute, Nathan Finn and Michael Haykin
Review by Andrew Gardner
Call for Papers: 2016 BH&HS Annual Conference
May 23-25, 2016
Hosted by Baylor University’s Truett Seminary
The American Civil War @ 150
October 22-23, 2015 — Chattanooga, TN
UNWANTED RELIGIOUS OUTSIDERS: BAPTISTS OF YESTERYEAR, MUSLIMS OF TODAY
by Bruce T. Gourley
To the shores of America Syrian immigrants are coming soon, Muslim refugees viewed with fear, loathing and hatred by many conservative Christians. Surely, the new arrivals intend to transform the “Judeo-Christian nation” into a potpourri of pluralism. “Do we shoot them?” someone asks.
The same fear, loathing and hatred greeted yesteryear’s Baptist immigrants. In early colonial America, theocratic Christian officials and thugs beat, whipped, tortured and imprisoned Baptists for heresy.
Why were Baptists despised by Christian colonial leaders? Religious freedom applied to the majority only, a liberty to dictate the beliefs and actions of all citizens. Baptists, however, refused to conform. Instead, they advocated for the unthinkable in a pre-Enlightenment era — freedom of conscience for everyone, religious liberty for all, and church state separation. The state, Baptists insisted, should be secular, equally accommodating of all religions, yet neither dependent upon nor supportive of any.
Baptists of yesteryear and Muslims of today, threats to traditional Christian hegemony.
Baptists of yesteryear eventually won their battle for freedom for all, their principles enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, separating church from state. Today’s American Muslims, beneficiaries of Baptist victories of old, have the same rights of conscience and religious liberty as do all other Americans.
Except that they don’t … in the fantasy world of many majoritarian contemporary Christians, including, incredulously, far too many Baptists.
It is here that the story becomes especially contorted.
Tragically and inexplicably, a large segment of American Christianity is committed to the same basic pre-Enlightenment national religious ideology as are many fundamentalist Muslims throughout the world. Christians insistent that America is a “Judeo-Christian nation” and Muslim extremists violently devoted to Sharia Law drink from the same common religious well: the biblical Old Testament.
Today’s Religious Right demands that America uphold Old Testament law, the root of Islamic Sharia law. Christian and Muslim fundamentalists alike insist that nations honor the God of the Old Testament and enforce Old Testament sexual and gender laws. Both in their respective majoritarian homelands reserve full religious freedom for themselves only, an exclusionary freedom allowing them to discriminate, persecute and, in some instances, resort to violence against their ideological opponents.
Against this backdrop, more and more Muslims come to America in order to escape pre-Enlightenment ideology. Here they enjoy freedom of conscience and religious liberty for all. Here they are free from Muslim extremists demanding conformity. Here they live in a nation that does not allow violence in the name of religion. And yet here they encounter Christian fundamentalists who … demand that America conform to their ideology.
Thus we return to the current fear among many conservative Christians of Muslim immigrants. Little do they realize that their own religious ideology shares inherent similiarities with the extremist Islamists from whom many Muslims are fleeing.
By a significant majority, Muslim immigrants bring to America a progressive version of Islam. Reflecting patterns among American Christianity at large, most American Muslims recognize the validity of multiple interpretations of their scriptures, more are embracing gender and sexual rights and equality, and acceptance of pluralism is widespread.
In effect, the American experience ushers Muslims into the modern world, a push back against religious extremism that ultimately cannot help but ripple throughout the pre-Enlightenment Muslim world beyond America’s borders.
American Christians, and especially Baptists, can do their part by actively upholding church state separation, modeling a commitment to religious liberty for all, and celebrating freedom of conscience for all. Equally important is the condemnation, in America, of government favoritism of any one or all religions and violence in the name of religion.
Ironically, the existential challenge that Muslim immigrants pose for American Christians is the bigoted temptation, on the part of some, to exhibit the same violent behavior as colonial establishment Christians practiced against early Baptists, and today’s Muslim extremists deploy against perceived heretics within and without their own faith.
Baptists came to colonial America with a New Testament faith of freedom and equality. Contemporary Christians would best be served by evidencing the same such faith.
Some Southern Baptists of today agree. Speaking to the current uproar over Muslim refugees in his home state, D. J. Hoton, recent president of the South Carolina (Southern) Baptist Convention noted, “It’s very hard to read your Bible, especially your New Testament, and refuse refuge to people who are vulnerable.”
“WHY I AM A CBF BAPTIST”: VOICES OF YOUNG BAPTISTS
by Lizzy Bauman
Elementary Coordinator, Metanoia Youth Leadership Academy
Charleston, South Carolina
I grew up in a large, metropolitan church in Houston, Texas that gifted me with many people who supported me and encouraged me as an individual. There were, however, unspoken rules about my future role in Church ministry because I was a female. I understood that I was choosing a difficult path and would have to walk a narrow line, but I knew that God was calling me to some type of full-time ministry.
Then I came face to face with Baptist history of the 20th Century during Seminary.
My boat was overturned in a storm of internal conflict. I was learning about the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and gender equality in ministry while trying to sort out what I believed about how God created me and to what purpose he had gifted me.
This new way of ministry became incarnational for me in the summer of 2013. That summer I went with a team to West Yellowstone, Montana with the Collegiate Congregational Internship (Student.Church). There, I preached my first sermon, served communion, lead worship, spoke at a funeral, and performed a marriage vow renewal ceremony. I also worked a part-time job and spent time hanging out with my co-workers. I found bi-vocational ministry to be very life giving.
The most important part of that summer for me was all of the support, encouragement, and confidence that the Church, my team, the pastor, and the director of Student.Church provided me. That was the first time I had ever truly been affirmed as a female minister and it changed my life. I was no longer an oddity, or trying to navigate through negative opinions about my position. I truly felt grafted into the bigger story of women in ministry. I learned from those who paved the way before me, and truly learned what Isaac Newton meant when he said, “If I have seen further than others it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” I am so grateful for the legacy and continuing work of my fellow ministers who go out of their way to further the cause of young clergy.
As I was finishing seminary and searching for my next opportunity, I began looking for holistic ministry jobs that would enable me to engage the community outside of the traditional church walls. The CBF network that exists to connect and network young ministers lead to me hearing about an opportunity in Charleston, South Carolina with Metanoia, a faith-based community development organization started by the South Carolina CBF Churches. Metanoia focuses on finding the strengths, or assets, in neighborhoods and using them as building blocks for eventual success. The holistic work they do alongside the community was exactly what I wanted to be involved in. Their methods of making positive change in the world in order to look like the Kingdom of God spoke directly to God’s calling and gifting on my own life. I began working with Metanoia’s Leadership Academy in August, and I am so grateful to be a part of an organization that celebrates the dignity and personhood of all people created in the image of God, while taking real steps to incarnate the love of Christ here and now in their daily lives. CBF has been a place of learning, fellowship, encouragement, and personal growth since they first welcomed this conflicted Baptist with open arms.
I am no longer a conflicted Baptist.
I choose to be a CBF Baptist because of the network of support, encouragement, and opportunity that I have experienced firsthand. CBF has been a valuable network in my life for formation and partnering in renewing God’s world.
In addition to serving as the Elementary Coordinator for the Metanoia Youth Leadership Academy in Charleston, SC, Lizzy Bauman is a graduate of George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University in Waco, TX.
Anthony Chute, Nathan Finn, and Michael Haykin’s new textbook, The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement (B&H Publishing, 2015), provides a fairly balanced take on Baptist History in a clearly written style ideally situated for undergraduate teaching.
The authors divide the work into three sections addressing the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Haykin), the nineteenth century (Chute), and the twentieth century (Finn). Throughout the book there are many shining moments to go alongside the strong prose. Chute’s chapter eight, “Transitions and Trends,” was by far my favorite and does an excellent job addressing changes in Baptist life toward the end of the nineteenth century. In the work’s first chapter, “Baptist Beginnings,” Haykin succinctly condenses a great deal of difficult information about Baptist origins in England and America. Finn, likewise, does not belabor his treatment of the Southern Baptist Controversy of the 1980s and in so doing walks a fine tightrope despite any personal bias.
Unfortunately, B&H Publishing has not aided these authors in keeping the work focused. The “Acknowledgements” reveal that discussion of the textbook began in 2009 with two ideas and three authors, yet the book’s current form struggles to concentrate on the singular, central thesis that the Baptist story is one of transition from English sect to global movement. American and European Baptists dominate nearly every page, and I wonder if the temporal organization (rather than geographic) is to blame. Chute, Finn, and Haykin are certainly capable of making this argument individually, but as it stands, the work is unconvincing and unfocused.
Even so, I think this book is of interest for anyone teaching undergraduate courses in Baptist history or thought. Thirteen chapters can easily be divided throughout a semester, and the discussion questions at the end of each chapter provide a helpful teaching tool. In all, Chute, Finn, and Haykin’s dedication to a comprehensive, accessible, and balanced history is evident throughout each chapter.
Held in conjunction with the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion (NABPR) and the Association of Librarians and Archivists at Baptist Institutions (ALABI), the theme of the 2016 BH&HS Conference is “Perspectives in Baptist History and Identity.”
The Society welcomes individual paper proposals for this upcoming conference. Proposals should reflect the conference theme and be 500 words or less in length. Society members and non-members alike may submit proposals.
Proposed themed paper sessions are also encouraged. Suggestions for a themed session should consist of two to three paper presentations and a moderator. Proposals for creative sessions that do not focus on traditional paper presentations are also welcome.
Individual paper presenters will be allowed no more than 20 minutes for their presentations.
For more information about the conference, click here. Proposals for individual papers, themed paper sessions and creative sessions will be accepted until January 31, 2016. Conference registration opens in February 2016.
Written proposals may be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR @ 150”
October 22-23, 2015
This summer’s terrorism in Charleston and the ongoing debate over the nature of the Confederate flag are vivid reminders that 21st century America yet struggles with the legacy of the American Civil War.
Join historians Bruce Gourley and Bobby Lovett, as well as Baptists Today executive editor John Pierce, for dinner and a dialogue about Baptists during the American Civil War and the legacy of the war.
Sponsored by the Baptist History and Heritage Society, Baptists Today, First Baptist Church of Chattanooga and Tennessee Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the event will be held at the First Baptist Church of Chattanooga, 506 E. 8th Street.
A tour of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park is included.
October 22-23, 2015 — Nurturing Faith Experience: Civil War @ 150. First Baptist Church, Chattanooga, Tennessee. A conversation about the legacy of the American Civil War. Co-sponsored by the BH&HS, Baptists Today and the Tennessee Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the dialogue will be led by historians Bruce Gourley and Bobby Lovett and facilitated by Baptists Today executive editor John Pierce.
October 30-31, 2015 — East Texas Christian Writers Conference at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, Texas, Bruce will lead seminars on “Writing History” and “Writing, Publishing and Marketing in the Digital Age.”
May 23-25, 2016 — Annual conference of the Baptist History and Heritage Society, hosted by Baylor University and Truett Seminary in Waco, Texas. The conference will be held in conjunction with the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion (NABPR) and the Association of Librarians and Archivists at Baptist Institutions (ALABI). The theme is “Perspectives in Baptist History and Identity.” Click here for more information.
July 9-16, 2016 — Nurturing Faith Experience in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, co-hosted by Baptist History and Heritage Society and Baptists Today. Email Bruce Gourley for more information.