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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Baptist Unity Rally Remembers G.W. Truett

On Friday, Baptists attending the joint gathering of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the American Baptist Churches USA met at Fountain Plaza, directly behind the United States Capitol to celebrate religious liberty through the reading of G.W. Truett's historic sermon.
Johnny Pierce of Baptists Today covered the event (which I attended)....

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Eighty-seven years after George Truett thundered a call for separation of church and state to more than 10,000 Southern Baptists gathered in the nation’s capital, a smaller but more diverse group of Baptists paid tribute to the legendary pastor’s message and called for a renewed commitment to full religious liberty.

Sponsored by the Washington-based Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the speeches took place near the Capitol building, where Truett, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, gave his May 16, 1920, address. While George Washington laid the physical cornerstone of the Capitol in 1793, “its true foundation is on the first freedom -- freedom of religion,” congressman Chet Edwards (D-Texas) said at the June 29 event..Edwards said former Baylor University chancellor Herb Reynolds, who died last month, gave him a copy of Truett’s sermon several years ago. The sermon “made an indelible imprint” on him and caused the defense of religious liberty to become his “political calling in life.”

“Our religious freedom must be protected by each generation,” Edwards said. “There are politicians in each generation, in the name of religion, who would do it great harm.”

Edwards and congressman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) addressed the crowd, composed mostly of those attending meetings of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the American Baptist Churches, USA. BJC Executive Director Brent Walker introduced Edwards and Scott as leading members of Congress committed to preserving religious liberty.

You can read the text of George W. Truett's "Baptists and Religious Liberty" - here.

Those who read portions of Truett's speech included:

Amy Butler of Washington’s Calvary Baptist Church; Steven Case of First Baptist Church of Mansfield, Penn.; Quinton Dixie of Indiana University-Purdue University; Pamela Durso of the Baptist History and Heritage Society; Jeffrey Haggray of the D.C. Baptist Convention; Robert Marus of Associated Baptist Press; Julie Pennington-Russell of First Baptist Church of Decatur, Ga.; Bill Underwood of Mercer University; and Daniel Vestal of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Tech-savy Dr. Bruce Prescott podcasted the speeches given by Rep. Chet Edwards and Rep. Bobby Scott.

Also be sure to check out BJC blogger Don Byrd's thoughts on the Baptist Unity rally.

Finally, see this article. Sam Hodges of The Dallas Morning News phoned the "church-state guru" of the Southern Baptist Convention for a comment on the rally. Land (who supposedly reveres Truett) claimed that Truett was "less rigid on church-state practicalities than moderates suggest."

Though Land is a historian - it seems he might want to revisit a little Southern Baptist history during the first half of the 20th century. Many non-Baptist scholars recognize that The Texas Tradition (absent J. Frank Norris and a few others) was indeed a Separationist Tradition. Even a revisionist historian like Land can't (with any level of honesty) depict G.W. Truett and J.M. Dawson as accommodationists.

The successors to the legacy left behind by Truett and Dawson includes Texans such as James Dunn, Jimmy Allen, Foy Valentine, John Baugh, and Herb Reynolds.

Richard Land is not part of that legacy.

His legacy is one of accommodation, watered-down civil religion, and militarism.

Not separation.

Merely hanging a portrait of G.W. Truett in a hall somewhere in Nashville does little to honor the legacy of G.W. Truett who fought long and hard for soul freedom, religious liberty, and her essential corollary - the separation of church and state. A portrait may be worth a thousand words but actions always speak louder than words....

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Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

There were portions of Truett's speech which were anti-Catholic, representing the pre-Vatican II state of Protestant-Catholic relations. They weren't read at the rally, it seems. What I find interesting is that this omission is being used by conservative Catholics and accomadationists to tar the BJC and other separationists as "anti-Catholic!" Surely READING that portion would have been given the same interpretation???
So, either way, standing up for the Baptist tradition of strict separation is anti-Catholic? What if the Baptists there had quoted from the religious liberty documents of Vatican II or the writings of Fr. John Courtney Murray, S.J., and pointed out their separationist implications--would they STILL have been labelled anti-Catholic?

4:02 PM

Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...

I've read the blogs you've read - I'm pretty sure.

You can't please everyone.

I won't deny anti-Catholicism from Baptists, fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists in years past. But it's unfair to take Truett's criticisms of the pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic Church and apply all of those criticisms to the modern-day RCC.

So much has changed.

Plus, the BJC only speaks to religious liberty issues (those are determined by their board). Truett's rambling about the evils of infant baptism would have been inappropriate to read at such a rally.

We know the BJC is not anti-Catholic. My gosh, the General Counsel from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was present at the RLC Luncheon hosted by BJC on Friday afternoon.

Just two weekends ago, I was in a Catholic wedding in Athens. During the ceremony, the priest explained (rather poorly) why the Protestants in the crowd could not receive communion. The priest then went on to explain that he truly believed in the next 15-20 years - Protestants would reunite with or return to the Catholic Church. Needless to say, his attitude of "us coming back to them" was a little offensive to some in attendance.

But that brings me back to the original point - there are significant differences between the theology of the RCC and the theology of your average mainstream Baptist clergy or layperson. If I use the traditional language of soul freedom, speak out against hierarchies or explain why I'm against infant Baptism - I'm not an anti-Catholic. I'm just a Baptist. And Catholics and Baptists - while both Christian - believe differently in many ways....

6:43 PM

Anonymous Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Good points--all of them lost, apparently on the accomadationist bloggers.

5:34 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...


9:29 AM


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