Bruce T. Gourley, BH&HS Executive Director Online @


February/March 2013     Vol. 2 No. 2   

Baptist History &
Heritage Society
Partner Digest
A Brief Monthly Compilation of Society News

Working Together to Communicate Baptist Heritage and Strengthen Baptist Identity


The BH&HS partners with Baptist organizations & individuals to provide resources,
host conferences and lead seminars for the academy and local congregations.


New and Notable from the Baptist History & Heritage Society


Our Baptist Heritage
and Identity Offers
Hope for Tomorrow

During the latter decades of the eighteenth century, available data indicates that only between 7-10% of Americans attended church. While revolutionary fervor partially explains the slump in church attendance, it is also likely that in a post-theocratic era in which the Baptist vision of church state separation was realized in the American nation, citizens formerly required to be church members now exercised their new-found freedom to vacate church pews. Said another way, when forced (inauthentic) faith gave way to

voluntary (authentic) faith, church attendance initially reflected the rebooting of religious experience in America.

The low ebb of church attendance, however, soon reversed course when religious faith, freed from church state bondage and empowered in a free marketplace of religion, found renewal in freedom through the Second Great Awakening. By the 1830s historic Christian denominations had been revitalized and a number of new religious faiths birthed. More than half of Americans, according to some estimates, were again attending religious services. Authentic religious experience, in short, enabled a new vitality to faith in America.

Fast-forwarding, the early twenty-first century is experiencing a new transition from perceived inauthentic faith and toward a hoped-for period of authentic faith. Young people are forsaking institutional Christianity in droves, some to atheism and agnosticism, but many in search of authentic Christian faith. We as Baptists are a people whose heritage and identity is centered in voluntary, authentic faith. We can speak to the concerns and issues facing today's younger generations, if we are prepared to dig deep into our heritage and remain faithful to our identity.

This month Bruce led the Pintala Baptist Church of Hope Hull, Alabama in an opening conversation about "Baptists and 'Nones': What Does the Future Hold?" If your congregation has not begun this conversation, now is the time.

Here is an outline of statistics and questions to help begin the conversation in your congregation.


Religion and the War for Freedom: A Conference for the Ages
Richmond, Virginia
May 20-22, 2013


The annual meeting of the Baptist History & Heritage Society is shaping us as the largest and most significant conference the Society has ever put together. In conjunction with the Virginia Baptist Historical Society and the Center for Baptist Heritage and Studies, we are exploring the theme of "Faith, Freedom and Forgiveness: Religion and the Civil War, Emancipation and Reconciliation in Our Time",
Hosted by the University of Richmond

The Fall of Richmond, Harpers Weekly, April 1865

and Virginia Union University and timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War the conference explores the role of religion during the war for freedom and the 150 years that have followed. Renowned Civil War historians Harry S. Stout (Yale Divinity School) and Edward L. Ayers (University of Richmond) are headlining the conference. Black and white Baptist and other religious leaders from Richmond and Washington, D.C. will be making presentations on Racial Reconciliation. The program includes tours of Civil Rights museums and special lunch and dinner events. Pre-conference events include tours of Civil War battlefields and special Sunday programs in churches throughout Richmond. Read Fred Anderson's excellent article about our program in the Virginia Baptist Religious Herald.

If you attend only one religious history conference in 2013, this is the one you don't want to miss! Click here to view the conference program and to register.

Notes About Society Members and Supporters
January/February Gifts: The BH&HS express gratitude for recent gifts from: Barry G. Allen (KY); Baylor University; Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation (TX); Thomas B. Brown (TN); James E. Carter (LA); David R. Cook (GA); Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia; First Baptist Church of Carrollton, Georgia; David L. Flick (OK); Wayne Flynt (AL); Ruth Harvey (MA); Alan J. Lefever (TX); Mississippi Baptist Historical Commission; University Baptist Church, Shawnee, Oklahoma.

Society Members in the News: Joe Jones (Huntsville, AL) recently wrote about his career working for the early NASA space program. Joe is a long time leading Baptist layman in Alabama, and his life story is amazing. Wayne Flynt (Auburn, AL), dean of Southern religious historians, is writing a fascinating  monthly series about the history of his congregation, the First Baptist Church of Auburn (one of the articles is online here).

Upcoming Society & Partner Happenings
Society Director's Notes:
  • Bruce recently spoke at First Baptist Church, Pensacola, Florida and Pintlala Baptist Church, Hope Hull, Alabama.
  • The 30th anniversary of BH&HS partner Baptists Today is this year. Bruce has written the Baptists Today 30th history volume, to be unveiled April 25th at a special anniversary celebration hosted by the First Baptist Church of Gainesville, Georgia. More information.
  • Registration is now open for the 2013 annual BH&HS conference in Richmond, Virginia, May 20-22.
  • 28 paper presentations focused on topics of religion and Civil War, Emancipation and racial reconciliation are slated for the BH&HS annual conference.
  • The winter edition of the BH&HS Update is now in the mail, while the Spring 2013 Baptist History & Heritage Journal is slated for mailing in April.

Baptist Studies Bulletin: Would you like to contribute to a future edition of the Baptist Studies Bulletin? Contact Bruce for more information.

Your Donation Helps Ensure Baptists' Future
"The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public and a third of adults under 30 are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling." (From a 2012 Pew Forum study of religion in America.)
What is the future of Christianity in America? How can Baptists contribute to a growing conversation about the un-churching of America? The Baptist History & Heritage Society helps equip Baptists to examine and understand the dynamics of the Baptist faith and attendant implications for our world at large. Our resources help Baptists learn, value and teach Baptist heritage and identity. But we cannot do this important work and ministry alone. We need your help. Please consider supporting the Baptist History & Heritage Society.

The BH&HS cannot fulfill its mission without donations from Baptists like you. Your donations are tax-deductible. Send your check to BH&HS, 151 Broadleaf Drive, Macon, GA, 31210 or donate online.

Contact Information
  • Bruce Gourley, Executive Director: email or 406-599-1754
  • Jackie Riley, Office Manager: email or 406-600-7433
  • Delane Tew, President: email
  • Bill Pitts, Vice-President: email
  • Bonnie Oliver-Brandon, Secretary: email
  • Postal Mail: 151 Broadleaf Drive, Macon, GA, 31210

Baptist History & Heritage Society Officers