Posts Tagged Baptists

Dear Judge Kavanaugh: Jennifer Hawks – BaptistsNewsGlobal.com

SEPTEMBER 4, 2018

As a fellow attorney who – like you – takes my faith seriously and is actively engaged in my congregation, I am sure we have much in common. However, we seem to disagree about the robust way that the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, alongside the Free Exercise Clause, has protected religious liberty in our country and permitted religious dissenting groups – including Baptists and Catholics – to thrive.

The institutional separation of religion and government is a foundational aspect of our democracy, one deeply rooted in our shared history and experience.

In reviewing your record, I was disappointed to learn that you think the metaphor of a wall of separation is “wrong as a matter of law and history.” Admittedly, all metaphors are imperfect; yet, good metaphors are one of the best ways to conceptualize an abstract idea. As a religious liberty advocate, constitutional attorney and ordained Baptist minister, I urge you to reconsider the metaphor you’ve disparaged.

The wall metaphor was first articulated by Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island and the First Baptist Church in America. He said that a wall was needed to protect the “garden of the Church” from the “wilderness of the world.” Church and state governed two different realms, and neither would ever truly succeed if distracted by the ultimate concerns of the other. President Thomas Jefferson famously picked up the metaphor and used it to reassure Baptists in Connecticut that the new constitutional government would indeed protect their religious freedom.

“For faith to be vital, it must be voluntary and uncoerced.”

Separating the institutions of religion and government ensures that the rights and responsibilities of citizenship do not rise or fall based on compliance with state-sanctioned religion. The institutional wall provided space for our dissenting religious ancestors to seek converts and pass their religious teachings down to current generations. It is up to the people, not the government, to teach our respective faith traditions to future generations. For faith to be vital, it must be voluntary and uncoerced.

This is why the concept of a wall of separation worked for Roger Williams and President Jefferson – and still works today. The wall does not keep people of faith from the public square but separates institutional control. There is debate about the application of “the wall,” but it is certainly not “bad history,” nor is it useless in modern debates.

“It is not the role of the state educational institution to dictate religious conformity by telling students when or how to pray.”

Judge Kavanaugh, we see this in our public schools. I imagine that, like myself and millions of other Americans, you place a high value on the power of prayer and see it as a conversation with God. I know that you and I agree that public school students have the right to individually and collectively pray on school grounds. What I am unsure of is whether you also agree that students have the right to choose not to pray. It is not the role of the state educational institution to dictate religious conformity by telling students when or how to pray. Even between us Christians, there is a vast difference between typical Catholic prayers and typical Baptist prayers, let alone the prayers of non-Christian faiths. A government institution should never be allowed to force any of us, much less children in state-run schools, into religious observance.

Colonial Baptists, Catholics and other dissenters endured imprisonment, whippings, fines and other forms of state-sanctioned religious persecution so that each American could voluntarily choose to be a person of faith or not. As members of the American legal community who value our respective faith traditions, we must remember and continue to honor those sacrifices by taking seriously – and enforcing robustly – both Religion Clauses of the First Amendment.

America has never been united by a single religion, but in the Constitution we secured unity in a commitment to religious freedom for all people. Separation of church and state is good for both.

Respectfully,

Rev. Jennifer Hawks
Associate General Counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Libertyge Kavanaugh, the wall of separation is worth defending
OPINIONJENNIFER HAWKS | SEPTEMBER 4, 2018

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Dear Judge Kavanaugh:

As a fellow attorney who – like you – takes my faith seriously and is actively engaged in my congregation, I am sure we have much in common. However, we seem to disagree about the robust way that the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, alongside the Free Exercise Clause, has protected religious liberty in our country and permitted religious dissenting groups – including Baptists and Catholics – to thrive.

The institutional separation of religion and government is a foundational aspect of our democracy, one deeply rooted in our shared history and experience.

In reviewing your record, I was disappointed to learn that you think the metaphor of a wall of separation is “wrong as a matter of law and history.” Admittedly, all metaphors are imperfect; yet, good metaphors are one of the best ways to conceptualize an abstract idea. As a religious liberty advocate, constitutional attorney and ordained Baptist minister, I urge you to reconsider the metaphor you’ve disparaged.

The wall metaphor was first articulated by Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island and the First Baptist Church in America. He said that a wall was needed to protect the “garden of the Church” from the “wilderness of the world.” Church and state governed two different realms, and neither would ever truly succeed if distracted by the ultimate concerns of the other. President Thomas Jefferson famously picked up the metaphor and used it to reassure Baptists in Connecticut that the new constitutional government would indeed protect their religious freedom.

“For faith to be vital, it must be voluntary and uncoerced.”

Separating the institutions of religion and government ensures that the rights and responsibilities of citizenship do not rise or fall based on compliance with state-sanctioned religion. The institutional wall provided space for our dissenting religious ancestors to seek converts and pass their religious teachings down to current generations. It is up to the people, not the government, to teach our respective faith traditions to future generations. For faith to be vital, it must be voluntary and uncoerced.

This is why the concept of a wall of separation worked for Roger Williams and President Jefferson – and still works today. The wall does not keep people of faith from the public square but separates institutional control. There is debate about the application of “the wall,” but it is certainly not “bad history,” nor is it useless in modern debates.

“It is not the role of the state educational institution to dictate religious conformity by telling students when or how to pray.”

Judge Kavanaugh, we see this in our public schools. I imagine that, like myself and millions of other Americans, you place a high value on the power of prayer and see it as a conversation with God. I know that you and I agree that public school students have the right to individually and collectively pray on school grounds. What I am unsure of is whether you also agree that students have the right to choose not to pray. It is not the role of the state educational institution to dictate religious conformity by telling students when or how to pray. Even between us Christians, there is a vast difference between typical Catholic prayers and typical Baptist prayers, let alone the prayers of non-Christian faiths. A government institution should never be allowed to force any of us, much less children in state-run schools, into religious observance.

Colonial Baptists, Catholics and other dissenters endured imprisonment, whippings, fines and other forms of state-sanctioned religious persecution so that each American could voluntarily choose to be a person of faith or not. As members of the American legal community who value our respective faith traditions, we must remember and continue to honor those sacrifices by taking seriously – and enforcing robustly – both Religion Clauses of the First Amendment.

America has never been united by a single religion, but in the Constitution we secured unity in a commitment to religious freedom for all people. Separation of church and state is good for both.

Respectfully,

Rev. Jennifer Hawks
Associate General Counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

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Baptists in Early North America: First Baptist Church, Boston, Massachusetts,

Edited by Rev. Dr. Thomas R. McKibbens.  Macon, Mercer University Press. ©2017. $60.

Reviewed by: Mitch Carnell

Reading about the beginning struggles of the First Baptist Church of Boston should cause every Baptist heart to swell with pride. These pioneers in the faith suffered unbelievable persecution. Massachusetts was simply not a good place to be if you believed in freedom of religious conscious. Decenters were publicly whipped and jailed.

The founding members worshiped in people’s homes before erecting a meetinghouse. The doors to their first meetinghouse were nailed shut by the authorities on March 8, 1679. At least for one week the congregation met outside in the cold. Religious freedom did not come to Massachusetts until a new constitution was adopted in 1833.

The Boston Church was not the first Baptist Church in New England but it grew to be one of the most influential spreading its influence from Boston to South Carolina. The connections between the First Baptist Church of Boston and the First Baptist Church of Charleston are strong. The first pastor of the Charleston church was ordained by the Boston church. William Screven established a church in Kittery, Maine before moving his flock to Charleston. When the Boston church was without a pastor in 1707, he was invited to return to Boston as pastor but declined the offer.

The most successful pastor of the Boston Church, Samuel Stillman, was trained by the pastor of First Baptist Church Charleston, Oliver Hart, and ordained by him in 1759.  Stillman served the Boston church for over 40 years. The meetinghouse was expanded twice during his pastorate. He and his Charleston mentor were both originally from Philadelphia where Baptists were more welcome.

The minutes of the First Baptist Church of Boston, 1635 -1830, provide both informative and interesting reading. The handwritten minutes are contained in two leather bound volumes currently located in the Franklin Trask Library at Andover Newton Theological Seminary. McKibbens, has meticulously and painstakingly transformed these priceless records into a form accessible to every interested scholar or layman. These minutes faithfully record insights into church doctrine, politics, finances, church discipline and church personalities. McKibbens speaks of his joy in being able to handle these documents. He served as interim pastor while preparing the manuscript.

Dr. McKibbens has produced a volume of great value to anyone interested in religious freedom and the growth and history of Baptists in America.

The Rev. Dr. Thomas McKibbens is no stranger to South Carolina Baptists. He was a speaker for the Charleston County Baptist Association and at the John Hamrick Lectureship. He delivered the sermon at the 325th Anniversary Celebration of First Baptist Church of Charleston.

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Claiming the Past. Discovering the Future: Where to Now – George M. Rossi

Monday, September 25, 2017

I just finished reading the short, softback, 97 page book titled, “Our Father: Discovering Family” witten by Mitch Carnell, Ph.D. It’s a very inspirational and devotional book as he shared his story of overcoming an eyesight disbility and growing up in the racially segregated South in the 1950’s and 60’s. I highly recommend it to you. It’s a honest recounting of the Southern Baptist struggles and his involvement as the Southern Baptists and Cooperative Baptists went their own ways in the 1980’s and 90’s. I lost friends in that divide and fortunately multiplication and growth were secondary outgrowths of that organizational conflict. I guess that’s the silver lining interpretation. He is the founder and CEO of the Charleston Speech and Hearing Center and a Fellow of the American Speech Language and Hearing Association. He hails from Woodruff, SC and he is a longtime member of the First Baptist Church Charleston.
I was baptized and had my first holy communion in the Catholic church in the 1960s. Then in 1982 I had an adult faith experience and was baptized by immersion and joined a Southern Baptist church. The rest is history as they say. I want to integrate Dr. Carnell’s book and story with my own story. We can claim all that God has allowed and brought to our lives, even as we have made personal decisions. Yes, I am a person who really honors and respects humanity’s free will. I think it is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. Even so, there are some things that happen to us, like my infant baptism and first holy communion. I was guided and lead into those experiences by my parents and the larger church. That is the truth.
I invite you and me to own all of our religious and spiritual traditions if that is your desire and will. It is certainly mine. In fact it makes my life so much richer, even complex at times. It’s true in life that we are complex beings with beliefs, values, traditions and worldviews that change.
Most importantly for me, the question is now, “Where to from here?” Once the traditions are owned and integrated then it is my job to move forward, under God’s leading, to be a positive influence in this world. I have choices to make. Where do I want to invest my time, energy, values, beliefs, good works, and educational experiences? I am continually working on that question. Dr. Carnell’s book left me feeling spiritually inspired based on his good works and his life but it also left me asking the question, “Where do I go now? and “How do I take all I have and move into a good and hopeful future?” At the very least I plan to seek God and God’s guidance in answering those questions. I feel like the LORD will lead me just like he lead Dr Carnell and I hope God will lead you too if that is your w

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A Great Host Surrounds Us – Celebrating 335 Years

Not many churches in the United States can boast of being 335 years old, but on September 24, 2017 First Baptist Church of Charleston will celebrate that honor. The current sanctuary, designed by Robert Mills, was dedicated in 1822. The congregation moved from Kittery, Maine in 1696. Mr. Elliott gave the current property for a Baptist church in 1699. We know there has been a Baptist church at this location since 1701.

It is inspiring to think about the people who have worshipped here, the ministers who have served here, the ministers and missionaries that the church has produced. The most significant milestone is the thousands of ordinary people who have contributed thousands of hours and millions of dollars to make our world a better place. We may never know their names but they have built and repaired houses, taught school, mentored children, served in the homeless shelter, sang in retirement homes and jails, coached sports, visited in homes and hospitals, prepared and served meals to the bereaved, packed school bags, gone on local and foreign mission trips, visited the sick at home and in hospitals, performed yard work, tutored inner-city children and provided childcare and senior care. What has been the impact of 335 years of faithful service for no other reason than it is the right thing to do? What has been the impact of millions of hours of volunteer service to this city and around the world? No one can calculate the impact.

We remember the names of the famous pastors: Screven, Hart, Manly, Furman, Hamrick and organist David Redd, but these are the ones who inspired the volunteers and urged them on to fulfill the mission of the church. Before the Civil War the church had 200 African/American children in Sunday school and more Black members than White members. After the war the Black members were invited to remain and many of them did and served until their deaths. Others went across town and formed Morris Brown Baptist Church. From the beginning the pastors nurtured young prospective ministers. Furman University was the natural offspring of those efforts. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary grew out of Furman.

Dr. John Hamrick started a day school in 1947 long before the civil rights movement. He was the founding president of what is now Charleston Southern University. The church started the rehabilitation of Market Street during the pastorate of Paul Craven Jr. by purchasing a site and erecting the John Hamrick Activity Center in the early 1970s.

Under the leadership of the current pastor, the Rev. Marshall Blalock, the church is building a new high school campus on James Island and planning to renovate the historic campus downtown.

For 335 years the congregation and its leadership have modeled the scripture, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” There is still a vision and the future is bright.

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