Baptists Yesterday  |  Bruce Gourley

Bruce Gourley, online editor for Baptists Today and Executive Director of the Baptist History and Heritage Society, provides observations about Baptists of yesterday that can benefit Baptists today.


Church Fights Are Nothing New

The Georgia Baptist Convention today continued a campaign of selective reading of Scripture - and more important to fundamentalist messengers, it would seem - a selective reading of their own statement of faith (the Baptist Faith and Message 2000): for the second year in a row, the GBC tossed out a church (Druid Hills Baptist Church of Atlanta, in this instance) for having a woman pastor on staff.

Never mind that women have been preaching from pulpits in Baptist life since at least the eighteenth century. Today's Southern Baptist Convention has regressed to the point of teaching women homemaking skills in seminary.

Since the 1960s, Southern Baptist fundamentalists have fought long and hard to reduce (literally) Southern Baptist life to conformity with an ever-narrowing pure faith. Today was simply the latest in a string of thousands of theological purgings.

Yet Baptist church fights are nothing new, and in some instances from yesteryear, members literally were tossed out of church buildings.

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Virginia Baptists Take A Bold Stand for Historical Truth

This week the Baptist General Convention of Virginia passed the following resolution:

Inaccurate history threatens religious liberty

Whereas, the Baptist principles of religious liberty and its safeguard, separation of church and state (or government neutrality toward all religions and nonreligion), are well grounded in this nation’s history, and

Whereas, the labors of Virginians, notably Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, James Madison, and the Baptist minister John Leland, were crucial in the historic events that made these two principles part of our nation’s Bill of Rights, and

Whereas, no people, Baptist or otherwise, can remain true to its principles if its knowledge or collective memory of these principles is tampered with, altered, or replaced by a false version of history, and

Whereas, the Religious Liberty Committee of the Baptist General Association of Virginia has concluded that systematic efforts have been under way in recent decades to write and teach versions of American history that minimize and sometimes deny the historic basis of one or both of the principles named above,

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Fundamentalism and the Press: A Story From 1904

The October 21 forced resignation of North Carolina Biblical Recorder editor Norman Jameson continues to ripple throughout North Carolina Baptist life: on Thursday, a member of the Recorder's board of directors resigned in protest of Jameson's mistreatment.

Pushed out of his position because of threats from an angry Baptist minister in the state, Jameson, accused of not being conservative enough, is the latest victim of religious fundamentalism's opposition to the foundational Baptist principle of freedom of conscience.

In short, fundamentalism and a free press are not compatible: in the hands of fundamentalists, newspapers and news services become outlets for religious propaganda.

Nonetheless, the purveyors of theological and political correctness that characterize today's Southern Baptist news landscape are more civilized than some of their predecessors.

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1916: J.M. Gambrell Rebuked by Army General

A controversy between "the southern wing of the Baptists" and the U. S. Army erupted in November, 1916. Texas Baptist leader J. M. Gambrell (at the time he was executive secretary of the Consolidated Board of the Baptist General Convention of Texas) requested permission of the Army to preach to American soldiers. The regional Army general consented, but with restrictions: Baptist preachers were not "to tell the soldiers that they were lost and in need of being saved" and were not to stir "the emotions of soldiers."

In response, Gambrell declared that if such restrictions were upheld, he would see to it that no Baptists preached at all in the army, while another Baptist leader threatened to call upon his church members who were in the service to withdraw from the military.

Read the New York Times story

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