A Progressive Theo-Political Blog Bringing You The Best and Worst of Baptist Life.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Morris Chapman Gives Some Love To Freddy T

Fred Thompson has found more love from Southern Baptist leaders. An article in the Tuscaloosa News quotes Morris Chapman, President of the Executive Committee of the SBC, as saying...
"Another Southern Baptist called Fred Thompson the Ronald Reagan of the South, and I think he has some of that appeal. He is a magnetic personality. He seems to articulate his opinions clearly. He seems to be unflappable."
As I've documented in past posts, Richard Land of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has spent most of his summer crushin on Hollywood Fred.

Past remarks from Dick Land include

"I'm around a lot of Baptists," Land said. "They find Fred Thompson to be a tantalizing combination of charisma, conviction and electability. He's got a Reaganesque ability to connect with ordinary folk that is powerful."

Land added: "He also has the same Teflon coating that Reagan had: Bad stuff just doesn't stick."

"This is Fred Thompson's race to lose" he said. "I have never seen anything like this
grassroots swell for Thompson. I'm not speaking for Southern Baptists, but I do believe I have my hand on the pulse of Southern Baptists and I think I know where the consensus is."

"Fred Thompson reminds me of a Southern-fried Reagan...To see Fred work a crowd must be what it was like to watch Rembrandt paint."
In the same Tuscaloosa News article, Marc Ambinder offers us a nice quote from Land on Romney....
"Clearly you have very significant segments of the population in the Southeast who are evangelical Christians, Southern Baptists and other faiths," said Richard Land, who heads the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. "Most of them want to know what the religious perspectives of the candidates are, and it's important to them. It's not determinative, but it's important."

While Land thinks Romney's religion could be a problem, he said the former governor's pro-life stance might prove more important.

"There is no issue that matters more to most evangelicals than the issue of the life of the unborn," Land said.
If no issue matters more to Southern Baptists than abortion then why are Land and Chapman so quick to jump on the Fred Thompson bandwagon?

Like Romney, Thompson also has a spotty abortion record. First, there is the report that Thompson was hired by an abortion-rights organization to lobby the first Bush administration. But more importantly, in 1994 Thompson wrote that the "ultimate decision" about abortion is a woman's and that government should not intervene. On other questionnaires, Thompson declared his opposition to both criminalizing abortion and a constitutional amendment "protecting the sanctity of life."

At least for Romney's sake, he claims to have had traveled down Damascus Road. Meanwhile, James Dobson has gone so far as to question whether Freddy T has ever had a salvific experience.

Nonetheless, Scott Helman of the Boston Globe recently declared:
Dissatisfied with the current crop of GOP contenders, these conservative leaders say Thompson, despite new questions about his record on abortion, possesses the right combination of electability and conservative values -- the two ingredients they believe are necessary to energize evangelical voters and keep the White House in Republican hands in 2008.
"It's almost as if the man and the moment met," said Richard Land, who speaks for more than 16 million people as head of public policy for the nation's Southern Baptists.
Why does it seem that Land's first priority is Republican success in '08?

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Barack Obama, John Leland, and Religious Liberty

Check out this interview/exchange between David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network and Barack Obama....
Brody Question: There is the so-called "religious left" in this country that focuses primarily on social justice issues and there is the so-called "religious right" in this country that focuses more on personal salvation and the life and marriage issues. Some on the right believe that Evangelicals shouldn't be the only ones moving left. Rather, the left needs to move toward the middle as well and not just put the focus on their issues. What is your plan to bring these two sides together?

Senator Obama:
Well, these are difficult problems and there are no easy solutions. But I think that there are some lessons that both progressives and conservatives might learn. For progressives, I think we should recognize the role that values and culture play in addressing some of our most urgent social problems. As I've said many times before, the problems of poverty and racism, the uninsured and the unemployed aren't simply technical problems in search of a ten-point plan. They're rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness - in the imperfections of man.

For example, I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manufacturers' lobby. But I also believe that when a gang-banger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels somebody disrespected him, we've got a moral problem. There's a hole in that young man's heart - a hole that the government alone cannot fix. So solving these problems will require changes in government policy, but it will also require changes in hearts and a change in minds. I think progressives would do well to take this to heart.

For my friends on the right, I think it would be helpful to remember the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy but also our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn't the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn't want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves.

It was the forbearers of Evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they didn't want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it. Given this fact, I think that the right might worry a bit more about the dangers of sectarianism.

Whatever we once were, we're no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of non-believers. We should acknowledge this and realize that when we're formulating policies from the state house to the Senate floor to the White House, we've got to work to translate our reasoning into values that are accessible to every one of our citizens, not just members of our own faith community.

It's refreshing to hear a candidate who can talk sincerely about faith and values while also endorsing the separation of church and state. Evangelicals and especially Baptists need to be reminded of their heritage as once persecuted minorities who opposed all government meddling in the affairs of the church. As Obama reminded us during the YouTube debate, we support the separation of church and state "not just for the state but also for the church, because that maintains our religious independence and that's why we have such a thriving religious life."

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School Prayer? Tom Ascol's War Against Islam

Tom Ascol is perhaps the most well known Calvinist in the Southern Baptist Convention. He serves as the Executive Director of Founders Ministries - an organization that desires the return of the SBC to her Reformed roots.

Over at the Founder's Ministries blog, Tom Ascol is complaining that a public school in San Diego has adopted a policy that sets aside 15 minutes from classroom instruction each afternoon to accommodate all students who wish to pray.

Shocked that a Southern Baptist leader would oppose a policy that allows for school prayer? You should be. After all, Southern Baptist "conservatives" like Richard Land, Jimmy Draper, Albert Smith and Sam Currin (to name a few) have been backing School Prayer amendments and bills since the Reagan years.

Well, here's the rub....

The San Diego school that Ascol is griping about has a large Somali Muslim population.

Ascol concludes:
Our government elementary and secondary school system is irreparably broken. There are obvious exceptions from classroom to classroom and even from school to school, but the system is beyond repair. We no longer have a Christian worldview underpinning the efforts to educate the populace. McGuffey's Readers (in their original form) would never be allowed in most modern government classrooms. Though I realize that this issue is laden with difficulties and often addressed unhelpfully shrill voices, I am more convinced than ever that Christians need to start developing exit strategies for our children to leave government schools. By all means, let's keep sending Christian teachers to the classrooms. They should go as missionaries who recognize that they are invading territory that is hostile to the claims of our Savior.

Education cannot be morally neutral. All teaching has an unavoidable perspective. The widespread perspective of our government schools has moved from a basically Christian worldview, to a secular worldview into rapidly developing anti-Christian worldviews that play right into the hands of radical Islamists who are unhesitant to work pluralism to their advantage as they plot to move from tolerance to equality to supremacy. If you doubt their goals you have not listened to their proclamations.

The battle against Islam will not be fought primarily on foreign fields and will certainly not be won by guns and smart bombs. It is an ideological fight. It is a battle for the minds and souls of men and women and boys and girls. Only a muscular, vigorous, radically biblical Christianity can prevail. The insipid versions that dominate the American landscape--including the evangelical landscape--cannot stand against militant Islam. Only the true Gospel of Jesus Christ will do. And it is that Gospel that, I believe, has been largely lost or forgotten by many in our day who name the Name of Christ and assume that they understand and believe what He taught.
Yes, folks, by extending the right to religious expression to Muslims, we are playing into the hands of "radical Islamists." Apparently giving 2nd graders the right to voluntary prayer is the first step in a Muslim machination to achieve Islamic supremacy!!! Horse hockey!!

Further, it's quite curious that Ascol decides to play the "separation" card when it's non-Christians that are attempting to pray. Does Ascol not recognize that this is the type of accommodationism that Southern Baptist "conservatives" spent years pleading for? Heck, Southern Baptists demonstrated that they were willing to abandon their separationist Heritage when they terminated a 50-year long relationship with the Baptist Joint Committee in order to promote the accommodationism of Dick Land & Company.

Does Ascol realize that his position has put him at odds with official SBC church-state guru, Richard Land (aka I Heart Freddy T.)?

Land and his Cooperative Program-funded Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission would most certainly approve of a policy that provides extensive religious accommodation in public schools. In his book, The Divided States of America, Land argues that religious and nonreligious minorities would not have the right to equal time, only the right to equal access. Thus, schools like the one in San Diego with a very large Muslim population would be accommodated with more time than fellow Evangelical students to express their religious beliefs voluntarily in a public setting. That's Ascol's Cooperative Program dollars at work....

While I argue that many of Land's church-state views such as above are contrary to the historic Baptist principles of religious liberty and an unfettered conscience, I wholeheartedly agree that public schools should accommodate the religious rights of students. But this accommodation must be made without disrupting the learning process or interfering with the rights of others. Our government must protect the religious expression of Muslims and Christians alike provided that the right to engage in voluntary prayer "does not include the right to have a captive audience to listen."

Finally, it's unfortunate that another well-known SBCer has decided that it's in the best interest of Christians to abandon the public school system. Fellow Calvinist and Ascol compadre Voodie Bauchum recently declared: "I want to bankrupt the American educational establishment one student at a time." This rhetoric is not helpful. But I digress....

I'll close with a quote that I encountered while studying religion at the University of Georgia...
"The process of pluralism is never complete but is the ongoing work of each generation. In America, we might go further to say that part of the engagement of pluralism is participating in the 'idea of America.'"

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Universalist Addresses Southern Baptist Convention

Barely two months ago, Rev. Wade Burleson caught hell for his decision to meet with President Jimmy Carter and other organizers of the New Baptist Covenant. The Baptist Blogosphere was flooded with allegations that President Carter was a Universalist - one who believes that all will be saved and spared from hell. Suffice it to say, Carter got kicked around pretty good by his fellow Baptist-brethren for a week or so. Al Mohler even took the time to opine. This internet saga culminated with a thoughtful EthicsDaily op-ed penned by Brian Kaylor entitled Jimmy Carter Is Not The Anti-Christ.

Since his election in 2000, President George W. Bush has addressed the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention almost every year usually live via satellite. A "born-again evangelical Christian," President Bush has also been a fan favorite among Southern Baptists and their leaders. Richard Land loves Dubya. Heck, Southern Baptists love Dubya so much that their publishing arm has printed a Bible that includes George W. Bush quotes!

Bush may be born-again and I have no reason to doubt that his faith in Jesus Christ is genuine. But dangit, he's a Universalist! Check out the video from just days before the 2004 election:

Charlie Gibson: Do we all worship the same God, Christians and Muslims?

President Bush: I think we do. We have different routes of getting to the Almighty.

Charlie Gibson: Do Christians and non-Christians, do Muslims go to heaven in your mind?

President Bush: Yes, they do. We have different routes of getting there.
Did I mention that Bush addressed Southern Baptist messengers just a month ago?

Meanwhile, Southern Baptist bloggers and leaders will continue to allege, accuse, moan, and groan each and every time these two words are uttered.........Jimmy Carter.

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Richard Land Crushin' on Fred Thompson AGAIN!

We've written about Richard Land's man-crush on Fred Thompson a time or two before.

Tricky Dick has weighed in heavily again on Fred...

"I'm around a lot of Baptists," Land said. "They find Fred Thompson to be a tantalizing combination of charisma, conviction and electability. He's got a Reaganesque ability to connect with ordinary folk that is powerful."

Land added: "He also has the same Teflon coating that Reagan had: Bad stuff just doesn't stick."

Past remarks include:
"This is Fred Thompson's race to lose" he said. "I have never seen anything like this
grassroots swell for Thompson. I'm not speaking for Southern Baptists, but I do believe I have my hand on the pulse of Southern Baptists and I think I know where the consensus is."

"Fred Thompson reminds me of a Southern-fried Reagan...To see Fred work a crowd must be what it was like to watch Rembrandt paint."
Notice how Land keeps comparing Fred to Ronald Reagan....

So, does one need to use the word "endorse" to actually endorse a candidate?

How many Southern Baptists actually knew who Fred Thompson was just four months ago? Other than Tennessee residents, political junkies, and Law & Order addicts such as myself?

Should I be surprised that Land is crushin' on Fred despite his spotty record on abortion?

In 1994, according to news reports, Thompson wrote that the "ultimate decision" about abortion is a woman's and that government should not intervene. On questionnaires he submitted to the Eagle Forum and the Christian Coalition, he said he was opposed to both criminalizing abortion and a constitutional amendment protecting the sanctity of human life.

Reports that Thompson had been hired by the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association to lobby the first Bush administration renewed the questions.

Like Mitt Romney, Tricky Dick frequents the Marriott too!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bush Battles For Most Unpopular President Title

President Bush is a competitive guy. But this is one contest he would rather lose. With 18 months left in office, he is in the running for most unpopular president in the history of modern polling.

The latest Washington Post-ABC News survey shows that 65 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's job performance, matching his all-time low.

In polls conducted by The Post or Gallup going back to 1938, only twice has a president exceeded that level of public animosity -- Harry S. Truman, who hit 67 percent during the Korean War, and Richard M. Nixon, who hit 66 percent four days before resigning.

The historic depth of Bush's public standing has whipsawed his White House, sapped his clout, drained his advisers, encouraged his enemies and jeopardized his legacy. Around the White House, aides make gallows-humor jokes about how they can alienate their remaining supporters -- at least those aides not heading for the door. Outside the White House, many former aides privately express anger and bitterness at their erstwhile colleagues, Bush and the fate of his presidency.

Just two more points and Dubya will be officially declared the most unpopular President in the modern era. Talk about a safe bet! Where's a bookie when ya need one?

Move aside Tricky Dick and make room for my Crawford neighbor!

Who's ready for a Democratic President?


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Is Richard Land A Liar? SBC Blogger Suggests So

This exciting occasion comes on the heels of an "endorsement" of the popular yet controversial SBCOutpost blog by four prominent Southern Baptist leaders.

Dr. Bart Barber of PraiseGodBarebones has the play-by-play.....
In the meantime, it has been quite a day of activity in the blog world. David Dockery, Morris Chapman, Jerry Rankin, and Thom Rainer have all endorsed a site that has endorsed the departure of Richard Land from the helm of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. It all happened within a little more than twenty-four hours.

Here you can find the article linking to the four endorsements. Dockery commends the site for "positive and constuctive interaction." Morris Chapman articulates a confidence in the site's "stated intention to tone down personal criticisms of those who have differing views." Jerry Rankin speaks of the site's "respectful exchange of diverse opinions." Thom Rainer voices a "hope and prayer" that the site will "be used by God to open doors of conversation."

Now, on the very next evening, this post by Art Rogers makes its own endorsement of sorts, saying not at all subtly that Richard Land ought not to be at the head of the ERLC. Rogers writes:
Dr. Land is President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. If he has deliberately lied, he certainly should not be in leadership anywhere in the SBC, much less his current post. On the other hand, if he legitimately believes what he said and is just horribly wrong, then his abilities to lead are thus called into question.
The implication is plain: Land either believes what he said or has deliberately lied, and either way, somebody else ought to be leading ERLC.

If this is the kind of thing that these four are endorsing, then future meetings of the Great Commission Council are going to be very interesting. On the other hand, if they did not intend to endorse such speech, it will be interesting to see how they react to Rogers's statements.
This is the second time in two weeks that SBCOutpost has put the squeeze on Tricky Dick. In a rather moving post filled to the brim with sarcasm, the Outpost Team expressed their appreciation of Land for his....
exemplary leadership in promoting the World Hunger Offering through the ministries of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and especially for prominently displaying this critical ministry of social concern on the ERLC website, though we must agree with him that the Senate Crime Bill and Gay Marriage are more pressing issues that require Southern Baptists greatest expenditure of energies and resources.)
Ouch. We hope more Southern Baptists will begin to see Richard Land for who he really is - a self-serving opportunist whose unholy marriage to the Bush Administration and the Republican Party has left him unable to speak prophetically on Capitol Hill.


The Emergent's Creed

Some satire from The Wittenburg Door....

The Emergent's Creed

I contemplate on the big Guy in the Sky,
Visionary of heaven and earth,
and in the Mystic Jesus Christ, a Son, the Lord:

Who might have been conceived of the Great Spirit,
born in a Labyrinth
buffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified and reinvented in the Eucharist.

He descended into the silence.

The third day He emerged from the fourth dimension.

They say He ascended into heaven
Where I visualize Him sitting at the right hand of God,
whence He might come to have a conversation with Post-modern doubters.

I meditate on the icons of the holy catholic church,
the missiological position,
candles and incense
and the possibility of creating life ever-blasting.

Rock on Amen.

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A Hardball Question For John Edwards via YouTube

Last night many of you politico junkies tuned in for the gazillionith Presidential debate in this extraordinarily long primary season. The format was quite novel. Instead of Chris Matthews lobbing softballs, the candidates were faced with real hardballs straight from homemade YouTube videos created by the Average Joe.

Senator Edwards was asked a rather pointed and tricky question worthy of discussion. You can watch below:

The Rev. Reggie Longcrier of Exodus Missionary Outreach Church in Hickory, North Carolina asked:
Senator Edwards said his opposition to gay marriage is influenced by his Southern Baptist background. Most Americans agree it was wrong and unconstitutional to use religion to justify slavery, segregation, and denying women the right to vote. So why is it still acceptable to use religion to deny gay American their full and equal rights?
Edward's answer was disappointing to say the least. In fact, his answer was a nonanswer. Instead of offering a thoughtful answer, Edwards began to ramble about his personal journey, bla bla bla and finally concluded by pointing out that his own wife supports marriage equality. Big whoop John. Don't throw the blame on your Southern Baptist background. That's a cop-out and an insult to all politically Progressive former-Southern Baptists. If Edwards opposition to marriage equality is based on something other than the "ick factor" then please articulate that reason...

Obama was equally evasive. When asked the difference between a ban on interracial marriage and a ban on gay marriage, Obama ducked and dodged.

Presidential candidates shouldn't get a pass on the tough questions. I don't want a nominee who espouses views determined by a focus group or overpaid consultant. A candid candidate with a penchant for truth and honesty is desired....

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Democrats Pass Bill To Reduce Abortion

Led by pro-life Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) and a pro-choice Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the Democrats have now passed an initiative in the House of Representatives to cut down on the abortion rate.

From Congressman Tim Ryan....
“By funding this initiative, we are offering policy solutions that promote life and support parents beyond the birth of their new child. We are affirming the need to prevent unintended pregnancies and to help women with the economic pressures that may lead them to choosing an abortion,” said DeLauro. “And of all the important goals this initiative can help us reach, perhaps the most important is that it helps move us all forward on this issue – beyond the question of the legality of abortion and toward actually reducing the need for abortion and providing critical investments for families.”

“It is our moral obligation to address those issues with which all sides agree. Whether you are pro-life like me or pro-choice like my friend Congresswoman DeLauro, the common ground we must build upon is our serious desire to reduce the rate of abortions,” said Congressman Tim Ryan. “This package accomplishes that goal by increasing or creating funding streams for programs that have been shown to reduce both unintended pregnancies and abortions. ”

With $647 million in funding, the initiative will have the resources to make an impact on reducing the number of abortions in America. It is focused on the need to reduce abortion in our country, while also providing supports for new parents to strengthen their families. Read more about the measures here.
Back in September and January I wrote about the efforts of House and Senate Dems to pass Prevention legislation that would help reduce the abortion rate. Finally such legislation has passed!

Abortion has been effectively used as a wedge issue for many many years now. It's great that a majority of our House are willing to find common ground and pass a measure that will actually help reduce the abortion rate.

HT: Jesse Lava of Faithful Democrats

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Friday, July 20, 2007

BDW Sr. - Still Work To Do On Race Relations

BDW Sr. - a professor at the preeminent Baptist University in America - has made the Religion Blog of the Dallas Morning News and the front page of EthicsDaily.com.

Check out the article if you haven't.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Desiring Racial Reconciliation: A Professor's Story

BDW Sr. has a new post on this subject that can be found at http://drweaver.blogspot.com

A snippet....
Getting to know someone opens doors to reconciliation when the various parties are willing to learn and to fellowship. The highlight of the recent annual meeting of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship was seeing the leaders of American Baptists, Fellowship Baptists and Progressive National Baptists on the same stage. Why have we waited?
Check it out.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

George W. Bush Doing God's Will in Iraq?

After spending two hours last Friday with President Bush in the Roosevelt Room, David Brooks comes back with a slight case of Hero Worship and this New York Times op-ed....
Far from being beleaguered, Bush was assertive and good-humored. While some in his administration may be looking for exit strategies, he is unshakablycommitted to stabilizing Iraq. If Gen. David Petraeus comes back and says he needs more troops and more time, Bush will scrounge up the troops. If General Petraeus says he can get by with fewer, Bush will support that, too.

Bush said he will get General Petraeus's views unfiltered by the Pentagon establishment. He feels no need to compromise to head off opposition from Capitol Hill and is confident that he can rebuild popular support. "I have the tools," he said.

I left the 110-minute session thinking that far from being worn down by the past few years, Bush seems empowered. His self-confidence is the most remarkable feature of his presidency.

Rather, his self-confidence survives because it flows from two sources. The first is his unconquerable faith in the rightness of his Big Idea. Bush is convinced that history is moving in the direction of democracy, or as he said Friday: "It's more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn't exist."
It's quite scary when our President's theory or plan for success is based on the conviction that HIS WISHES embody God's Will.

Pardon me but I just can't wrap my mind around the idea that the neoconservatism espoused by Bush and fellow ideologues is God's Will incarnate. I don't know about you - but the Gospel I read doesn't demand that we forcibly spread Democracy throughout the World.

We can only hope and pray that one day President Bush will realize that true freedom is found in faith through Christ alone and not in a particular political system....


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Canadian Baptists Support The New Baptist Covenant

It's that time of the month again....time for another post highlighting the upcoming Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant.

Five of the 31 organizations supportive of the New Baptist Covenant represent Canadian Baptists. Since many Baptists (particularly in the South) are not the slightest bit familiar with any of these groups - allow me to offer a very brief and inadequate introduction....

Canadian Baptist Ministries

Canadian Baptist Ministries is a movement of churches who call themselves Canadian Baptists. We are the link between churches across Canada and around the world. As part of the larger family of Baptist churches around the globe, we represent one of the largest networks of faith in the Protestant world. We are one of the most multi-cultural denominations in Canada, worshiping in 32 different languages on any given Sunday in almost as many diverse worship styles.

CBM represents over 1,000 Baptist congregations through partnerships with Canadian Baptists of Western Canada, Baptist Convention of Ontario & Quebec, Union d'Églises Baptistes Françaises au Canada, and the Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches. All of the above groups are supportive of the New Baptist Covenant.

Learn more about Canadian Baptist Ministries here and here.

The Baptist Union of Western Canada
The Baptist Union of Western Canada (BUWC) was formed in 1907 as the Baptist Convention of Western Canada, and adopted its present name in 1909. In 1944, the BUWC joined with the United Baptist Convention of the Maritimes (now Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches) and the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec to form the Canadian Baptist Federation (now Canadian Baptist Ministries).

BUWC offices are located in Calgary, Alberta, and education ministry is carried on through the Carey Theological College in Vancouver, British Columbia. The BUWC cooperates with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, and is a partner in Canadian Baptist Ministries. In 2003 there were 162 churches in the Union - 60 in the British Columbia Area (British Columbia & Yukon Territory), 59 in the Alberta Area, and 43 in the Heartland Area (Manitoba & Saskatchewan) - with an estimated 20,000 members.

Like many Baptists congregations in the South, Baptist churches associated with the BUWC are also known for their emphasis on soul freedom or freedom of the individual conscience. These freedom-loving Baptists have a long history of stressing human rights and religious liberty as well. No creeds either...

The BUWC also emphasizes the importance of education and the need for its ministers to be well educated. Thus, even in the early 20th century their ministers often had a liberal arts as well as seminary degrees. Interestingly, Baptist Union churches have allowed for the ordination of women since 1959 and several women have served as President of the BUWC! Read more about the history of the Baptist Union here.

Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec

Formed in 1880, the BCOQ is the oldest union of Baptist churches in central Canada. Numerically, the BCOQ is comprised of 48,000 Baptists in 380 congregations. Most Canadian Baptist groups have a limited ecumenical perspective, leaning toward membership in the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. However, in addition to partnering with the Evangelical Fellowship, the BCOQ is the sole Baptist presence in the Canadian Council of Churches. As a member of the Canadian Baptist Ministries the BCOQ also relates to the Baptist World Alliance.

Baptist women in Canada have made much progress in becoming recognized in ministry. Muriel Spurgeon Carder, a McMaster University graduate, in 1948 became the first Baptist woman to be ordained in Central Canada, followed by Mae Benedict Field in the West (BUWC) in 1959. According to Baptist historian William Brackney, there remains a clear division among Baptists in Canada between "convention" Baptists who universally support and recognize women in ministry, and those in the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches who regard it as a biblically unsound practice.

Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches

In 1905 Free Will Baptists and Regular Baptists merged to form the Convention of Atlantic Baptists. A century later, the CABC consists of over 62,000 members in 538 churches and 21 associations across the Atlantic provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia & Prince Edward Island. United around the historic Baptist position that the Bible is the "all-sufficient ground of faith and practice" Atlantic Baptist congregations partner together to accomplish ambitious ministry objectives. As a consequence of believing that "inherent in the worth of each person is also the ability of the soul to have direct access to God through Jesus Christ" Atlantic Baptists have been great champions for the cause of religious liberty and the separation of church and state. You can learn more here about the history, vision, and beliefs of Atlantic Baptists.

Union d'Eglises Baptistes Francaises au Canada

The Union of French Baptist Churches of Canada is a small association of Baptist churches for French-speaking Canadians. The Union was formally organized in 1969 and became part of the Canadian Baptist Federation (now Canadian Baptist Ministries) in 1970. Located mostly in Quebec, the Union is comprised of 29 churches with an estimated 2500 members.

Recommended Resources on Canadian Baptists
William Brackney, Baptists in North America: A Historical Perspective
William Brackney, "Baptists in Canada" in The Baptist River (Mercer, 2006)

Feel free to comment with more tidbits of Canadian Baptist history...

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Equal Privileges - A Hallmark of Baptists

This is the seventh post in my Recovering E.Y. Mullins and Saving Soul Freedom series. Past posts include: The Golden Hour to Save Soul Freedom, Recovering E.Y. Mullins - Part 5, Saving Soul Freedom w/ James Dunn, On Being An Authentic Baptist, Priests and Prophets, and the original Recovering E.Y. Mullins.

Today's excerpt comes from the May 3, 1994 issue of the Report From The Capital of the Baptist Joint Committee. The author - James Dunn.
Quintessential democracy. The starting gun for sustainable human rights. A laboratory for soul freedom. The baseline for church polity and politics. A consistent corollary for the competence of the individual before God. A Baptist distinctive or hang-up or cantankerousness.

One of all of those phrases fits the affirmation that "all believers have a right to equal privileges in the church." It is elemental: Religious Liberty starts at home. It is a revolutionary doctrine. It's an idea to which most free church adherents pay lip service....

The notion, like all ideals, is far from being realized. Some churches bearing the name "Baptist" withhold equal privileges on the basis of gender, age, race or some other external factor. More individious and common perhaps is the de facto denial of full membership privileges because of some selective system of sin-sizing. A sin of certain assessed magnitude can cut off equal access....

So go back to the principle: All believers have a right to equal privileges in the church.

The same regard for Scripture protects one from believing that equality of privilege refers to an equality of spiritual and mental capacities. Nor does this rule of thumb diminish appreciation for diversity of gifts and differences of calling. The right of direct access to God makes the church a family. Brothers and sisters with a common allegiance to Jesus Christ do not take equality before God lightly or as an excuse for self-centered individualism.

The tangible reality of a fellowship of believers in real time with actual flesh-and-blood concerns bound by love serves as a powerful deterrence to cowboy Christianity. The principle of equal privileges in the church tends to curtail, not create Lone Ranger religion. At least, that is the way it ought to work. Powerful paradox: the lordship of Christ and autonomy of individual soul. "Jesus Christ is Lord" was the first confession of the church. As Mullins wrote, "The first and finest expression of Christ's lordship over the individual believer is the gift of autonomy." Pardox? Mystery? Yes....

...The working principle that all believers are directly answerable to Christ is dangerous, explosive, open to abuse. One can be certain that it will be misinterpreted and misused. Yet, the introduction of indirect authority, creedal filters, mediators and intermediaries poses a greater danger. That danger is the failure to see Jesus Christ as sole authority.

For Baptists to be faithful to our own best insights, for Baptists to continue to champion religious libety, for Baptists to be Baptists, we must practice freedom in our churches. We are guilty of high hypocrisy; full-fledged phonies if we talk freedom of religion and act less than freely at churh. Democracy and vital religion share this ennobled view of individual freedom. All believers have a right to equal privileges in the church.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

That Good Ole Idolatrous Civil Religion....

Don Byrd of the Baptist Joint Committee's Blog From The Capital reported on Thursday that Christian protesters had disrupted the Senate's morning prayer -- being delivered for the first time in United States history by a Hindu chaplain.

See for yourself....

TPMCafe has details about the protesters with a play-by-play below....
The three protesters, who all belong to the Christian Right anti-abortion group Operation Save America, and who apparently traveled to Washington all the way from North Carolina, interrupted by loudly asking for God's forgiveness for allowing the false prayer of a Hindu in the Senate chamber.

"Lord Jesus, forgive us father for allowing a prayer of the wicked, which is an abomination in your sight," the first protester began.

"This is an abomination," he continued. "We shall have no other gods before You."

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), serving as the presiding officer for the morning, immediately ordered them taken away — though they continued to yell at the Hindu cleric as they were headed out the door, shouting out phrases such as, "No Lord but Jesus Christ!" and "There's only one true God!"

The cleric, Rajan Zed of Reno, Nevada, was visibly nervous and uncomfortable as he then delivered the morning prayer. But to his credit, he soon regained his footing and was able to make it through in a dignified fashion.
Wiley Drake, an anti-abortion activist and former 2nd VP of the Southern Baptist Convention, released this statement:
"When not one of the 100 members of the U.S. Senate would object on the record, and in proper order, the opening of the U.S. Senate July 12, 2007, Christian observers had no choice but to speak from the gallery of the Senate. Had I been present I too would have stood and objected since none of the Senators would. I believe this was led of The Holy Spirit of God, and I also believe He is pleased with the action of His children and Ambassadors from The Kingdom of Heaven."
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council added:
“No one can legitimately challenge the fact that the God America refers to in the pledge, our national motto, and other places is the monotheistic God of the Jewish and Christian faith. I seriously doubt that Americans want to change the motto, ‘In God We Trust’… to ‘In gods We Trust.’ That is essentially what the United States Senate did today.”
Ironically, Tony left out that the prayer in question addressed the Deity Supreme and "seemed both monotheistic and largely non-sectarian."

Pastor Dan of Street Prophets has an excellent response to Tony Perkins....

Actually, in addition to being rather frightening, this is absolutely incorrect. The rationale behind allowing the phrase "In God We Trust" on US currency is exactly that it does not refer to a specific deity, but is in fact a general statement of morality. Yes, our nation's religious motto is allowed because it's a meaningless platitude. Were it not, it would be an unconstitutional endorsement of a specific religion.

But let's go back to the scary part: I don't ever want to hear again that Tony Perkins is not a theocrat. Oh, he might not want a nation run by religious leaders, but he's made abundantly clear that he wants the government to be of the Christians, by the Christians, and for the Christians - and I'm pretty sure he doesn't have my stripe of Christianity in mind, either. He has said he wants supremacy for his kind of faith pretty directly here, and I don't see how it's possible to spin his way out of it.

A classic example of how divisive that idolatrous civil religion can be....

Bruce Prescott conveys my thoughts best. He writes....
Genuine prayer is an act of worship. That is why it is not appropriate for it to be sponsored by civil government. The generic ceremonial prayers of civil religion and interfaith prayers are offensive to people of many faiths who take the scriptures of their diverse faiths seriously.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Starring Fred Thompson as Richard Land's Man-Crush

This is from David Broady of the Christian Broadcasting Network....

Broady writes....

A very influential religious leader has some pretty strong opinions about soon-to-be presidential candidate Fred Thompson. Dr. Richard Land is head of the Southern Baptist Convention. Within evangelical circles he is well known. Politically, he is a mover and a shaker.

Today CBN News asked Dr. Land what he thought about former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson.

"This is Fred Thompson's race to lose" he said. "I have never seen anything like this
grassroots swell for Thompson. I'm not speaking for Southern Baptists, but I do believe I have my hand on the pulse of Southern Baptists and I think I know where the consensus is."

He further said that in his assessment, Thompson may be the right man, in the right place, at the right time.

Bottom line: Land believes that Thompson looks to be the strongest social conservative who could beat Hillary Clinton in a general election.

This is not the first time Land has weighed in on the yet-to-be-Presidential-candidate Fred Thompson. Back in April on Chris Matthews Hardball, Land remarked:
"Fred Thompson reminds me of a Southern-fried Reagan...To see Fred work a crowd must be what it was like to watch Rembrandt paint."
Apparently, Fred Thompson is Richard Land's man-crush. Yuck.

Perhaps Land should review fellow Baptist David Gushee's 17 Rules for Christian Leaders...
1. Christian leaders must not officially or unofficially endorse political candidates or a political party.

3. Christian leaders must not publicly handicap or comment upon the political horse race.
Remember Southern Baptists, Richard Land won't speak FOR YOU but he's got your pulse...

Previous Posts:
Does Richard Land Speak For Southern Baptists?

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Baptist Studies Bulletin

The July issue of The Baptist Studies Bulletin is now available courtesy of Mercer University's Center For Baptist Studies.

The Table of Contents is as follows:

"The Divine Gift"
- by Walter Shurden
"Why I Am Excited About The New Baptist Covenant" - by David Emmanuel Goatley
"The Spirituality of Roger Williams" - by Doug Weaver
"My Favorite Books on Southern Religion" - by Wayne Flint
"The World's Greatest Preachers" - by Thomas McKibbens
The Decline of Separation of Church and State - by Bruce Gourley

Each and every month the Baptist Studies Bulletin offers a healthy dose of support for soul freedom and religious liberty. Let's enjoy together a few snippets...

From The Spirituality of Roger Williams by Dr. Doug Weaver....
According to Williams, personal heart-centered religious experience must be voluntary to be genuine. In other words, soul liberty was central to genuine spirituality. Coerced faith was an oxymoron. “Knowing” God’s presence via soul liberty provided the foundation for Williams’ clarion call for his spiritual “doing” – his public rebuke of state established conformist religion in favor of complete religious liberty for all....

State religion gutted genuine spirituality because it denied persons the freedom to read the Scriptures. Williams noted the tragic irony of the English Parliament which worked to make Bibles accessible to “the poorest English houses” and urged the “simplest man or woman” to study the Scriptures, yet these readers were forced to conform to the official interpretations of the state church. The only way to have conformity of belief was to commit “spiritual rape” against the conscience.

Real spirituality? Roger Williams knew that for faith to be genuine, it had to be completely voluntary. A person must be free to worship according to the dictates of his or her conscience.
And from "The Divine Gift" by Dr. Walter Shurden....
I believe . . .

that Congressman Chet Edwards of Texas spoke precious truth. He spoke it at the Fountain Plaza of Upper Senate Park in Washington, D. C. on June 29, 2007. The occasion was a Baptist Unity Rally for Religious Liberty and a partial reenactment of George W. Truett's historic 1920 speech from the steps of the U. S. Capitol. The sponsor was one of the most important religious organizations in this Republic―the Baptist Joint Committee For Religious Liberty (BJC).

Congressman Edwards called religious liberty "The Divine Gift." It really is!! Religious Liberty is God's gift to creation. And how we take it for granted! The political expression of "The Divine Gift" is the separation of church and state. And how that needs to be so desperately guarded in our time.
So, check it out!

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Why Care About David Roach?

OK, so I stole the title from Baptist Like Me - a Yale Divinity grad and licensed ABC-USA preacher with an exceptional blog that more Baptists need to discover.....

And David Roach is the guy to the right. A Baptist Press reporter who recently spent three days in D.C. attending both the CBF and ABC-USA meetings.

From that experience, he wrote this drivel....
Why care about the CBF?

WASHINGTON (BP)--Why should Southern Baptists care about the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship?

That was the question bouncing around my mind after spending three days in Washington, D.C., attending the CBF's General Assembly as a correspondent for Baptist Press.

With all of the responsibilities I have in life as a husband, pastor, student and employee, it seems like I have enough to occupy my time without worrying about a group of moderate Baptists with which I am not even affiliated. And with all of your responsibilities in life, it may seem at first glance like reading about such a group of moderate Baptists is not the best use of your time.
Ouch. But Roach continues by listing several reasons why Southern Baptists should take note of moderates and give thanks for the Takeover....
The list of speakers at the General Assembly reads like a who's who of what might have been in the SBC if not for the conservative resurgence. CBF executive coordinator Daniel Vestal would have been elected SBC president in 1990 had conservatives not voted for Morris H. Chapman. CBF speakers Bill Leonard, Frank Tupper and Glenn Hinson all could have been my professors at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary had not conservatives turned the school around.
Baptist History with Bill Leonard would undoubtedly cause one to lose their salvation...

And the Roach continues with more drivel...
One of the saddest moments during the entire General Assembly was when the Lord's Supper was served at a joint worship service involving the CBF and the American Baptist Churches USA. No one at the service ever explained the meaning of the Supper or who should take it.
Why would a group of VERY ACTIVE Christians need reminding about the meaning of the Lord's Supper? Given the breach between the North and South over slavery, the taking of the Lord's Supper was seen to many as chock full of biblical reconciliation, something Mr. Roach apparently has no clue about.
In fact, during the entire General Assembly I never heard anyone celebrate the Gospel or express passion about the glory of God displayed in Christ. The Lord's Supper seemed only to be a generic symbol of Christian unity rather than a remembrance of the glorious salvation we have in Jesus.
Revelation, Revelation 21:8! Liars go to where? As the church camp song goes...
Even with all our disagreements, Southern Baptists have substantive convictions worth unifying around. Seeing unity without substance should be a vivid reminder that we must take full advantage of the opportunity to unify with those who share our most valued convictions.
Yep - lots and lots of unity in the Southern Baptist Convention these days....

And instead of sending Detective Roach to the gatherings of American Baptists and Fellowship Baptists - perhaps Baptist Press would be better served if they covered actual news of the Southern Baptist Convention. Pray-tell, when is the last time that Baptist Press actually broke a story? And why is the general consensus that the Associated Baptist Press provides the best coverage of Baptist news - both Southern Baptist and Fellowship Baptist? Shouldn't the news agency of the nation's largest Protestant denomination be leading the way?

When it comes to quality-coverage, Baptist Press is rather low on the totem poll, don't you agree? Of course you do.

UPDATE: Since I had to leave 10 minutes or so before the Lord's Supper - I did not notice this. However, thanks to American Baptist Ed Pettibone for pointing this out:

Instead of taking the elements, Roach writes:
So I let the elements pass by, discouraged that Fellowship Baptists only celebrated unity abstractly without articulating a solid doctrinal foundation for that unity.
Pettibone observes...
Major flaw here for an astute observer, the elements did not pass by, each person who participated went to where the elements were being served and then back to his or her seat after partaking.
So, if the elements did not pass by but Roach says they did - the question begs: was David Roach even present during the Lord's Supper??? Honest and accurate reporting there....


Big Daddy Weave Makes West Coast News

Yep. In an article about the Baptist blogosphere, New Baptist Covenant, and dancing women ministers - I got a mention.

The Contra Costa Times is based in Walnut Creek, California and serves Contra Costa, Berkeley and San Francisco.

Below is the article.

Local Pastor Joins Online Outreach

By Rebecca Rosen Lum


The Rev. Angela Yarber says she is no one's idea of the quintessential Baptist minister.

But those who tapped the 25-year-old grad student to help unify a fractious group of progressive and moderate Baptists say that's partly what makes her a perfect fit.

"I absolutely adore debunking Baptist stereotypes," she said. "If you ask people to describe an average Baptist minister, they don't picture a feminist woman in her 20s who is also a dancer."

Yarber is one of 31 people nationwide blogging up the New Baptist Covenant, launched by former President Jimmy Carter and Mercer University President Bill Underwood to reclaim the faith from ultraconservatives.

From now until the Covenant's January 2008 convention in Atlanta, Yarber and her cyberspace compatriots will each be adding to their own blogs. Some of the postings appear at http://www.newbaptistcovenant. blogspot.com.

The writers say they had to take their battle for Baptist hearts and minds into the blogosphere. Web sites such as Beliefnet.com and Sojourners connect visitors -- Beliefnet gets some 3 million each month -- to blogs on all aspects of faith and public life. And blogs provide a straight shot to young believers, wrote another participant, Aaron Weaver of Waco, Texas, in his Thursday entry.

Conservative bloggers have been credited with securing the election of Frank Page as president

"The power of the blogosphere lies in its interconnection," Weaver wrote.

"Unfortunately, most moderate Baptists have not chosen to jump into the cutting-edge waters of the blogosphere to disseminate their views."

Critics have jeered at the political leanings of the covenant and the involvement of former President Bill Clinton. Page decried the covenant as a smokescreen for a left-wing political agenda.

The Baptist denomination encompasses a much broader range of believers than the image presented by the conservative Southern Baptist Convention, said Yarber, associate pastor for arts and education at Shell Ridge Community Baptist Church in Walnut Creek.

Southern Baptists have become synonymous with Republican conservatism, and also with a leadership model that many Baptists reject, she said.

"Central to Baptist belief is that every believer has direct access to God," she said. "In some (branches), there is a hierarchy of power where you are told what to believe or who to believe."

A Baptist pastor in Oklahoma said he launched the blogs so ideas -- and momentum -- could percolate up. His blog links to news stories, interviews and postings of participating bloggers.

"This is almost like a blank slate," said the Rev. Bruce Prescott, executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists and president of the Oklahoma chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"A top-down solution is not a Baptist solution," he said. "That's the best thing about the blogosphere. You get a logical, open-ended discussion about what Baptists can achieve, grassroots."

In search of an ordained Baptist woman, Prescott called Weaver, who connected him to the Mercer-educated Yarber.

"She is a very bright and talented young woman," Prescott said, "a very good representative of the quality and commitment of Baptist women who are being called to ministry."

Raised in a nonreligious family, Yarber said she felt a pull to faith at a conservative community church as a teen. Her own convictions came into a sharper focus later, and she went to seminary instead of majoring in musical theater.

"The hot-button issues can be divisive," Yarber said in her blog. "Global warming, the ordination of women and persons in the (gay) community, politics, war and racism. We cannot agree on all of these issues, but will we seek to ... bring about God's peace and justice here on earth?"

Rebecca Rosen Lum covers religion. Reach her at 925-977-8506 or rrosenlum@cctimes.com.


Monday, July 09, 2007

Historical Amnesia: A Response to Beth Newman

Beth Newman is a Professor of Theology and Ethics at the Baptist Theological Seminary of Richmond. In addition to co-authoring the Baptist Manifesto, Newman writes guest commentary for the Associated Baptist Press.

Recently, Newman advocated the use of creeds in an opinion piece for the ABP.

Newman writes....

Professor Walter Shurden has commented recently on the diverse dangers arising for what he terms the “historical amnesia” of the Baptist people.

Foremost among these dangers he places the movement “from a Christ-centered to a creed-centered faith.” The substitution of which he speaks means, I suppose, the abandonment of a vital experiential faith for a structured recital of theological propositions. These propositions would presumably be used to enforce some rigid orthodoxy.

Now I would agree that historical amnesia is one of the greatest dangers faced by today’s Baptists -- and by most other Christians, by the way. Where I find myself in profound disagreement with Dr. Shurden is his location of danger in the creeds. The creeds are our surest defense against the very historical amnesia that threatens us.....

The historic creeds, while they certainly do not replace Scripture, are a way of shaping this lens. In 2005, in fact, the Baptist World Alliance recited the Apostle’s Creed as it had done at its beginning one hundred years earlier. The first president of BWA, Alexander Maclaren, in his address to the assembly, proposed that their very first act be an affirmation of the historic Christian faith through saying the creed. He rightly saw that saying the Apostle’s Creed is not antithetical to being Christ-centered. Read the rest here.

It was fine for the BWA to recite the Apostles Creed in 1905 but let's remember why this was done. The purpose of the recitation was to let other Protestants know that "we are like you in our basic beliefs. Don't worry about us. We are no less Christian than you."

But again, let's don't think for a moment that most Baptists in 1905 knew the Apostles Creed by heart or that they recited it or any other creed regularly. And let's not think for a moment that Alexander Maclaren was pushing creeds into Baptist Life. There was no effort then or in subsequent years to use a creed in the BWA. In fact, the opposite is the case. Throughout its history, the BWA has been staunchly anti-creedal.

Baptist moderates have always been willing to teach the history of the church and have always used the phrase - "All of Church History is Our History." We've taught the creeds. However, we've simply felt that creeds need not be recited or given a privileged position to have unity (by the way, exactly what creeds is Newman referring to; the Apostles' Creed, Nicea, and others of the early church or do we include Protestant statements like Westminster?).

When we have achieved any unity it has been through a common personal religious experience with Jesus and a common commitment to the authority of the Bible. Perhaps, Newman's historical amnesia is her failure to find value in the Baptist heritage and its warnings about coercive creedalism. Baptists can surely recite creeds if they want to; they are free! But Baptist history tells us over and over again about groups imposing their interpretations of creedal statements against believers. We have no historical amnesia about that.

Throughout her history, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has been criticized for not having an official detailed "confession." That is in part a reaction to fundamentalism and its coercive practices and I expect a recognition that creeds haven't produced much voluntary unity. Nevertheless, the CBF is not without principles. It has adopted a set of core values or doctrinal beliefs. The very first core value is Soul Freedom:
Soul Freedom – We believe in the priesthood of all believers. We affirm the freedom and responsibility of every person to relate directly to God without the imposition of creed or the control of clergy or government.
Allow me to recapitulate: Why put creeds between a believer's reading of the Bible and his/her relationship to God?

No Freedom For The Soul With A Creed!

While the Associated Baptist Press certainly has the freedom to use Beth Newman or other commentators - it's just a bit ironic that ABP, whose existence is so heavily interwined with the CBF, has published an op-ed which appears to contradict moderate Baptist core values.

Since the ABP has chosen to publish opinion pieces, perhaps they should also make room on their website for letters to the editor. The Texas Baptist Standard and North Carolina Biblical Recorder both do this.

Many publications include a disclaimer that says that the views of commentators do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher. The ABP has no such disclaimer. Perhaps a disclaimer is needed?

Or perhaps it's time to add a voice consistent with the principles of soul freedom and religious liberty that most people identify with ABP itself?

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Ethicist David Gushee To Teach At Mercer University

From Johnny Pierce of Baptists Today....

MACON, Ga. - Prominent ethicist David P. Gushee has been appointed as distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University. He comes from Union University in Jackson, Tenn., where he has been the Graves professor of moral philosophy and senior fellow of the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Christian Leadership.

At Mercer, Gushee will be based in the James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta and teach interdisciplinary ethics courses throughout the university.

McAfee Dean R. Alan Culpepper said that Dr. Gushee stands in the tradition of great Baptist ethicists and social activists such as T.B. Maston, Henlee Barnette and Glen Stassen.

“Dr. Gushee is widely recognized among Baptists and evangelicals for his prophetic voice on such vital issues as creation care, torture and human rights,” Culpepper said according to a media release. “We look forward to the consciousness-raising that he will bring to McAfee and the recognition that his work will bring to Mercer.”

Mercer President William D. Underwood called Gushee “one of the country’s leading voices in the field of Christian ethics … (who) is frequently called upon by the popular press to comment on contemporary ethical and moral issues facing our country and our world.”

Gushee is a graduate of the College of William and Mary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Union Theological Seminary in New York where he earned a Ph.D. in Christian ethics. A columnist for Christianity Today, Gushee has written or edited nine books, and has published scores of articles, book chapters and reviews.

His career began with groundbreaking work on Christian behavior in Europe during the Holocaust. His first book, The Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust, is based on his doctoral dissertation and was translated into German.

Gushee’s 2003 book with Glen Stassen, Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context, was named Theology/Ethics Book of the Year by Christianity Today. His most recent book, Only Human (2005, Jossey-Bass), offers a Christian theology of human nature for a general audience and was named one of the top-10 books in Christianity for 2005 by Amazon.com.

It is the first book in a series he is editing for Jossey-Bass called “Enduring Questions in Christian Life.” His other upcoming books will include an analysis of evangelical engagement in American politics (Baylor Press, January 2008), a major examination of the sanctity of human life (Eerdmans) and a Christian interpretation of Western moral philosophy (Chalice).

“I am very excited about joining Mercer at a pivotal point in its long history as a Baptist university…” said Gushee, an ordained Baptist minister. “I look forward to helping enhance the ethics offerings at McAfee and in the university in general … I believe Mercer is a place where I can continue to serve the evangelical world through my teaching, writing and activism while also engaging in significant interfaith dialogue.”

This is definitely great news for Mercer University, students of McAfee and all Baptists who still revere Barnette, Maston and care about Christian Ethics.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Hillary Clinton Talks Faith In NY Times Interview

Senator Clinton recently sat down for a lengthy interview with a NY Times reporter and answered questions about her personal relationship with God. Check it out.

A snippet or two below:

Q: Is there a favorite book that you return to in the Bible?

Senator Clinton: It depends upon what’s going on in my life. It depends upon the challenges and questions that I’m coping with. Psalms is always a favorite. It’s both comforting and challenging. There are lots of aspects of Isaiah that I find very intriguing and provocative. I have a lot of verses sort of scattered through the Old Testament but I spend most of my time in the New Testament. For me it isn’t like there’s one place I go all the time because my experience changes all the time. I spent a lot of time when I was growing up trying to, for me, work out the balance between personal salvation and the social gospel.

And, I gave a speech or said something at one time about how I thought that in the Methodist church a lot of the churches had drifted too far on the social gospel side which is very understandable because there were a lot of serious issues certainly that were facing me when I was growing up on race relations and on the Vietnam war and so much else. But, you have to keep in balance the feeding of your spirit and your soul and the need to be nurturing your personal faith while you try to have the energy and the support to go out into the world.

There’s that great line in James about how faith without works is dead, but works without faith is too hard. And, that’s kind of how I see the necessary blending of what I want out of faith. For some people a personal relationship with God, a sense that you’re saved, a real belief in your salvation is incredibly both moving and comforting.

Q: And your attitude toward the Bible about how literally people should take it...

Senator Clinton: I think the whole Bible is real. The whole Bible gives you a glimpse of God and God’s desire for a personal relationship, but we can’t possibly understand every way God is communicating with us. I’ve always felt that people who try to shoehorn in their cultural and social understandings of the time into the Bible might be actually missing the larger point that we’re supposed to take from the Bible.


Friday, July 06, 2007

A Word From The Preacher - Listen Up Mr. President

One Baptist pastor in the District of Columbia has declared that ENOUGH is ENOUGH.

On her blog and in an article at EthicsDaily.com, Amy Butler of Calvary Baptist Church has posted a letter to President Bush concerning his recent decision to commute Scooter Libby's prison sentence. Butler writes...
Dear Mr. Bush:

Happy birthday to us, and all that.

Truthfully, I'm rather wary of this holiday, as it seems more and more to me that we're celebrating a distant dream rather than a hopeful reality. You know what I mean?

I didn't think so.

I have to tell you, I know being a leader is not the easiest task, especially when effective leadership means bucking the status quo, challenging current systems and ushering in new hope for the future.

I feel for you, really I do.

I know it's not easy, but I must ask: is there really a need to up-end democracy in such a flagrant manner as you have repeatedly, consistently done during your time in office?

We must take responsibility, I know, for putting you there (twice). Although I myself did not contribute to that effort either time, I'm wondering if I didn't sit by too idle and uninvolved while others did?

This most recent decision of yours, to make sure Scooter Libby escapes a prison term, while not surprising, seems to be the last straw for me. I'm tired of sitting on the sidelines while you destroy our country's international reputation, alienate our neighbors, and slowly chip away at the freedoms that have made our country great.

Maybe you feel you're protected enough to behave in whatever manner you want, to leave democracy and the American people in the dust while you keep your friends happy, but I want you to know I'm tired of it all. For the first time in my adult life I am genuinely alarmed about the kind of country I will be handing off to my kids.

I'm not hoping, of course, that you will see the light, change your ways, fix the damage you've done … it's, frankly, far too extensive by now. I just wanted to say: I am disappointed in you ... disappointed that you don't have the courage to be a visionary leader to a country with such promise. You missed the boat, but I, for one, will not stand by anymore while you leave democracy in the dust.

Happy birthday, America. May the world remember the promise of this country and stand by us as we try to pick up the dream, dust it off, and reinvent it for the future.
Amen, Preacher!

Allow me to end this post with a word from my favorite xenophobe and MSNBC guest - Patrick Buchanan.....

"Will the student deferments for these fellows never end? The act reeks of cronyism. The perception is that Scooter Libby got preferential treatment, a get-out-of-jail-free card because he was chief of staff to Cheney and assistant to Bush. That perception is correct. Because of whom he knew, Scooter got preferential treatment, big-time. The Godfather took care of the consigliere.

Nothing new. After all, one recalls that the attorney who rustled up a pardon for Marc Rich from Bill Clinton was also a Beltway hustler by the name of Scooter Libby. The insiders take care of their own. And that is how the game is played in the big city."

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BWA Speaker Advocates Reparations

Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics has written an interesting article about a Jamaican Baptist pastor who is advocating reparations for descendants of African slaves.

Parham writes...
A Jamaican Baptist pastor forced the controversial question of compensation to modern-day African descendants for the imprisonment and forced labor of their ancestors at the annual gathering of the Baptist World Alliance meeting in Ghana.

Speaking only a hundred yards from the Atlantic coast where millions of West Africans were boarded onto slave ships for the seven-week journey to the Americas, Cawley Bolt asked whether descendants of slaves "have a right to be compensated."

"I'm not begging for anything, but demanding what is ours," the pastor of Ebony Vale Baptist Church in Spanish Town, Jamaica, answered.

The gray-haired Bolt said, "One way to compensate is to put money into educational institutions."
You can read the rest here.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

SBC Pastor On War & Torture - And Makes Sense!

Over at the new SBCOutpost.com, Southern Baptist pastor Benjamin S. Cole writes....
We are, to be sure, one of the greatest conglomerate of American warhawks in this century and the last. We haven’t found a Republican military offensive for which we will not provide some degree of affirmation and apologetic. Whether advancing the torture of Guantanamo detainees, as in the case of Daniel Heimbach at SEBTS, or rallying to the cause of “preemptive strikes,” as has been done by Richard Land, we are inexcusably defiant of basic principles of Christian ethics. That we do so under the illusion of advancing Christ’s Kingdom and preserving a “Clear Baptist Identity” is both shameful and egregious.
At least one Southern Baptist gets it....I hope there are more.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Independent Fundamental Baptist Blogosphere

I recently stumbled upon the blog of a self-described "fundamental conservative Christian Republican of African-American ancestry." He may or may not be a member of this organization - no confirmation or denial as of yet. I kid.

Kevin the Independent Fundamental Baptist caught my attention with a post entitled "A Coalition of Liberal Baptists" in which he took a few potshots at moderate Baptists, Jimmy Carter and the upcoming Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant.

We've all heard the criticisms - nothing new there.

But Kevin's strong dislike for President Carter did not catch my eye. This statement did:
Oh and BTW, Baptists are NOT Protestant. They existed long before Martin Luther split the Catholic Church. I really get irked when people call Baptists Protestant or lump them together with protestants.
Well, apparently Kevin does get irked - rather easily I might add.

In a follow-up post addressed to yours truly, Kevin shows off that fine fundamentalist learning that he's aquired along the way. He writes...
  1. Baptists are Ancient, and our Ancestry can be traced through the vital principles established and set forth by our Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples in the New Testament Churches

  2. Baptists are not "Protestants," as our testimony extends much further in History than that of Martin Luther or John Calvin.

  3. Baptists are not "Reformed" in Theology or practice, for our view of the church could never allow the marriage of church and state.

  4. Baptists are not "Calvinists," for the doctrines of grace were believed and preached long before John Calvin Preached in Geneva.

  5. Baptists are not "Arminian" in theology, for our forefathers preached the Gospel with fervor long before the time of Jacob Arminius, and believed they were enabled by God to Persevere.

  6. Immersion was in common use among Baptists before 1641. We reject the 1641 theory of William Whitsitt and oppose the Conclusion of Henry Veddar About Baptism. We View as Suspect the modern histories of Robert Baker, Leon McBeth, Walter Shurden, Robert G. Torbet, and James Edward McGoldrick as they submit to the thoroughly disproved theory of William Whitsitt.

  7. Baptists heritage is far older than "Fundamentalism," or the era of the city-wide revival campaigns, or the time of the old Evangelical Alliance.

  8. Because Baptists have suffered at the hands of Papists and Pedobaptistic Protestants alike, we ought to venerate and remember our historic testimony far above the testimony of our persecuting enemies. That is, we ought to revere the testimony of the Paulicians, Peter de Bruys, Henry of Clugny, Balthasar Hubmaier, Henry D'anvers, John Clarke, Obadiah Holmes, Valentine Wightman, Isaac Backus, Shubal Stearns, Samuel Harris, John Leland, John Taylor, Isaac McCoy, et. al. These names should be more commonly known among Baptists than those of D. L. Moody, Ira Sankey, R. A. Torrey, Sam Jones, Gipsy Smith, John Wilbur Chapman or Billy Sunday.

  9. Infant Baptism is the badge of the antichrist, and flirtation with that badge is akin to treason against God's word.

  10. Ignorance of Baptist heritage, which is so infectious in our pulpits and pews today, is dangerous and must be overcome with a renewed teaching of our Baptist heritage and heroes of past generations.
#6 and #9 were my favorites. Apparently the anti-Christ will be a Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, or a Catholic.

I bet Kevin's money is on Catholic. Just a hunch.

Kevin and I do agree on one point. Many in the pews are ignorant of their Baptist heritage. But unlike Kevin - my Baptist heroes only date back 400 years or so. We definitely need a renewed interest in Baptist history....


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Messianic Southern Baptists?

Southern Baptists Rely on Deception in Effort to Convert Jews.

That's the title of a recent in-depth article put out by JewsOnFirst.org.

Check it out:
Six million Jews and only 15 Southern Baptist Messianic Churches! A Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) official's recent juxtaposition of the US Jewish population (and, by inevitable association, the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust) with the SBC's main vehicle for converting Jews raised this question: is the SBC's objective to empty Judaism of American Jews and make them all Messianic Southern Baptists?

At its 1996 annual meeting, the Southern Baptist Convention resolved to focus on converting Jews -- specifically to "direct our energies and resources toward the proclamation of the Gospel to the Jews." This year's meeting afforded a look at how the SBC goes about evangelizing the Jews through the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship.

The "messianic" -- Jesus worshipping -- congregations endeavor to appear "Jewish" in order to provide a reassuring display of Jewish symbols to potential converts. Rabbis contacted for this report deemed the Jewish facade deceptive.
The article states that the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship's deceptive evangelism methods are spelled out in a 1998 North American Mission Board pamphlet on converting Jews. The pamphlet advises:
Use terminology that emphasizes the Jewishness of our faith. For example, instead of “Christ,” which is based on the Greek word for “the Anointed One,” use “Messiah,” which is based on the Hebrew. Instead of the “Old Testament,” refer to the “Hebrew Scriptures.”

Use verses from their Bible in discussing topics like: sin (see Ps. 14:2-3; 51:5; Eccl. 7:20; and Isa. 59:1-2), atonement (see Lev. 17:11 and Isa. 53:5-6), Messiah (see Isa. 53; Dan. 9:16; and Mic. 5:1 [v. 2 in our Bible]), and faith (see Gen. 15:6; Num. 21:7-9; and Joel 2:32 [3:5 in our Bible])
By no means is this the first time that the Southern Baptist Convention has been accused of deceptive evangelism practices by Jewish groups. As this concept of being a "Messianic" Baptist is new to me - I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the movement. However, it's worth pointing out that these messianic congregations often (if not always) have close ties to Christian Zionism - a political ideology which I believe to be both dangerous and destructive.

But read this very interesting article and visit the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship.

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Where Have All The Baptists Gone?

And now some BJC news...

WASHINGTON — One of the most prominent historians of American evangelicalism called on "true Baptists" June 29 to re-assert their prophetic role "as watchmen on the wall of separation between church and state."

Randall Balmer, a history professor at Columbia University, told more than 550 supporters of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty that many of America's Baptists, in recent decades, have "lost their way."

Now, let's revisit a few of Balmer's most memorable one-liners.

"They have been seduced by leaders of the Religious Right into thinking that the way to advance the gospel in this country is to abandon Baptist principles,"
"Why not post the Decalogue in public places? Because, quite simply, it trivializes the faith and makes the Ten Commandments into a fetish....What Roy Moore was peddling was idolatry, pure and simple — a conflation of the gospel with the American political order."

"The identification of the Religious Right with the Republican Party has deprived the faith of its prophetic voice. Where are the Baptist voices of conscience decrying this administration's immoral war in Iraq, the relentless assault on civil liberties and the abomination of torture?"

"It is hard to escape the conclusion that the Religious Right has abandoned the faith for a conference call with Karl Rove in return."

"Every true Baptist understands that any attempt to baptize the faith with the imprimatur of the state … ultimately diminishes the integrity of the faith...I'm asking Baptists to reaffirm their heritage. I'm asking them to rededicate themselves to the importance of liberty of conscience. Baptists were once a minority themselves, so they should know better than most the importance of protecting the rights of minorities, religious and otherwise."
Let's heed the advice of Dr. Balmer. To reclaim that authentic and genuine Baptist voice in North America, we must recommit ourselves to soul freedom, complete religious liberty and the separation of church and state. The upcoming Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant will be a great opportunity to reaffirm our heritage - a heritage that values liberty of the individual conscience.
As religion must always be a matter between God and individuals, no man can be made a member of a truly religious society by force or without his own consent, neither can any corporation that is not a religious society have a just right to govern in religious affairs.
-Isaac Backus, 1781

It is the consistent and insistent contention of our Baptist people, always and everywhere, that religion must be forever voluntary and uncoerced, and that it is not the prerogative of any power, whether civil or ecclesiastical, to compel men to conform to any religious creed or form of worship....A Baptist would rise at midnight to plead for absolute religious liberty, for his Catholic neighbor, and for his Jewish neighbor, and for everybody else."
-George W. Truett, 1920

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