Posts Tagged Baptists

Revisiting ‘Battle for the Minds’ after nearly a quarter of a century

MOLLY T. MARSHALL *| FEBRUARY 27, 2019

I have had much to ponder over the past few days as “Battle for the Minds” has been digitized and placed on YouTube. Given all that is transpiring in Southern Baptist life with reference to sexual abuse, it is timely for this documentary to be on the scene once again. It is not only a historical record of a tumultuous time at what many of us called “the mother seminary” in Louisville, Kentucky, but also serves as a cautionary tale about the ongoing misogyny within the Southern Baptist ecclesial tradition.

Former students and present detractors have responded to the video’s revival and its stark portrayal of what was at stake in “the Controversy,” as we called it then. As the social media engagement suggests, there are many who applaud the clear dissent to the Southern Baptist Convention powers that were circling. Others want to take up the conservative battle again, including some who have written to me to question whether or not I am a confessional Christian. I remain one, a thoroughgoing Trinitarian, even if I do not believe the inerrancy of Scripture or the relegation of women to secondary status are requisite. One writer questioned if you can follow Jesus without the pretext of inerrancy. Yes, young man, I think you can.

“We are now seeing some of the foul fruit of this exclusionary ecclesial vision.”

Filmed in the spring of 1995 shortly after I had been pushed out as a professor of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the documentary chronicled faculty and student response to the hostile takeover of a beloved theological school for the purpose of preserving a patriarchal vision of ministry and, more importantly, of God. We are now seeing some of the foul fruit of this exclusionary ecclesial vision, and the Southern Baptist diminishment of women is revealing the pernicious outcomes in damaged lives as male hegemony has persisted.

One of the things that struck me as I viewed “Battle” once again were the prophetic voices of colleagues Paul Simmons and Henlee Barnette (of blessed memory) who held forth the best theological ethics of the seminary’s tradition as they questioned the captivity of thought to the agenda of the religious right. They were prescient as they saw the impact of politics and religion too deeply entwined. It took courage for them to appear in the film, and they aptly sized up the implications of the kind of inculcation portended in the seismic shifts occurring then (and now).

One of the students in the film who was supportive of the new regime went so far as to say that one does not come to seminary to learn new things, but to have reinforced what one already believed. The seminary experience was intended to be an affirmation of grassroots theology, not an openness to the wider intellectual heritage of the church.

My experience as a student at Southern was just the opposite. I needed to hear the challenge to my narrow Landmark Baptist identity forged in Muskogee, Oklahoma. (I only discovered the heresy of the Landmarkist “Trail of Blood” theory while sitting in Glenn Hinson’s church history course.) I needed to hear of the common pre-Reformation heritage of the church. I needed to learn from theologians, historians, scripture scholars and ethicists how the faith tradition had developed and been passed on. Even more, I needed to witness the godly example of these faithful scholars who gave themselves in the classroom day by day and offered their gifts in the churches on weekends.

“God put me on the planet to love students and stir the theological pot.”

While many think of the damaged lives of faculty during the fundamentalist takeover of our beloved seminary, it was the students who bore the larger burden of sorting through what was going on. They saw faculty members they trusted pilloried; they saw a shifting landscape for the churches they might serve; and they saw abuse of power in how the board and president disposed of those who did not fit the new symbol system they were erecting. Surely a woman theologian did not fit into the iconography, as my life attests.

A Baptist diaspora followed the conquest of Southern. Faculty members populated established schools like Baylor and helped found new theological schools, most imbedded in universities. The charism of Southern continues as it is scattered throughout these new sites of ministry preparation. Often when the consortium of CBF-affiliated schools gathers, former faculty colleagues from Southern will gravitate toward one another. As Bill Leonard has remarked, “You kind of know who you shot the rapids with.” Truly!

I was very fortunate in that God preserved my vocation to form leaders for the church. Three days after I was terminated, I received a call from Central Baptist Theological Seminary to begin a conversation about planting my life in Kansas City. If that sounds like resurrection, it surely was — and is! God put me on the planet to love students and stir the theological pot.

For these ensuing years, I have served in a hospitable space among the American Baptists and alongside the CBF. I give thanks for this welcome, and I am grateful for the ways the wider Baptist identity continues to become more inclusive of its daughters.

“Dr. Molly Marshall was a favorite speaker in the Hamrick Lectures held at First Baptist Church in Charleston, SC. Her’s is a voice I always turn to for guidance.

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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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