Monday, June 26, 2006

Shurden's Address at the Baptist Joint Committee Luncheon

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty has published a transcript of the address that Buddy Shurden gave at their luncheon during the CBF General Assembly in Atlanta. Shurden is the Callaway Professor of Christianity in the College of Liberal Arts at Mercer University. He is also the executive director of The Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University and the author or editor of 15 books.

The theme of Shurden's response is this: if Christians are not careful, something like the rise of the Nazi party in Germany could happen here. You can read Shurden's adress by visiting the BJC's website or clicking here.

6 comments:

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

As I said on the Mainstream Baptist blog, if anything, Shurden underestimates how far down the road to fascism the U.S. has traveled. Is it too late to turn back?

Gil Gulick said...

I don't believe it it too late to turn back. There are now seminaries out there who are training pastors who will be equipped to fight this battle. We may have started fighting back a little bit late, but I don't think the battle is over yet.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

As someone who was a charter student member of the Southern Baptist Alliance (now Alliance of Baptists) in 1984, who graduated from SBTS during its seige by fundamentalists, and, who, after the takeover, switched my alumnus account to the new BTSR, I know all about the new seminaries, as well as the American Baptist ones, etc. But Shurden's message was to the CBF, too, not just the SBC.

In my view, the CBF has been too apolitical in its brief history--perhaps out of reaction to the overpolitization of EVERYTHING by the SBC. But there has been complacency by the CBF (which is why I remain with the Alliance): As those panelists viewing the film "Theologians under Hitler" remarked, there were no major addresses at the CBF on the Iraq war, on torture, Guantanemo Bay, etc.--all major issues of the day. The theocratic push is not just found in the "Christian nation" folks and the churches which bless everything done in the GOP, but in the silence of others--who fail to use their religious liberty to prophetically speak truth to power. The early Baptists didn't want church and state to be separate because faith has nothing to do with politics, but because the church had to be free to address prophetic words and deeds to the state! No prophets on the payroll, no court prophets.

We have to get away from the view that liberty of conscience means "everyone keep quiet about your convictions" (Shurden knows this) to understanding it in the spirit of Walter Rauschenbusch and the Social Gospel, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the nonviolent Freedom Movement for a Beloved Community, etc. The only answer to theocratic fascism is the PROPHETHOOD of all believers and courageous speaking of truth to power.

I don't much see that in CBF or the new seminaries. That, of course, was what Larry McSwain of McAfee SOT, Atlanta, warned of in his address to the Baptist Center for Ethics. William Lloyd Garrison was a Baptist layman and newspaper publisher who led the abolitionist movement. When told by others that he was too passionate about abolishing slavery, that he was "all on fire," Garrison replied, "I have mountains of ice to melt." Today, we have mountains of ice to melt about torture, war, hunger, the destruction of the planet, --and we have to reclaim our liberty of conscience, our "soul competency," not to be left alone, but to melt those mountains of ice with prophetic word and deed--including massive civil disobedience if need be.

Gil Gulick said...

Well, I can tell you first hand that it does exist at the Divinity School at Wake Forest. That's one reason why I chose this school. Obviously when one is taught by James Dunn in a Church and State in America or a Religion and Public Policy class, one learns from one of the best how to be a prophetic voice in the world. I also had a class last semester called God and the New York Times, where we discussed the Christian response to many of the same issues you mentioned. So, you may be correct that most of the seminaries are not addressing the issue, but I can tell you, we do address them at Wake. Of course, it is up to the individual student to continue being prophetic once he or she leaves Wake.

If there is one thing we can learn from the legacy of the great Baptist leaders you mentioned, it is that movements can be started by a single person or a small group of people. So, that gives me some hope.

As for CBF, I agree that they are not the prophetic voice they could be during the worship services. The last time I remember hearing a prophetic message during CBF was when Tony Campolo spoke in Charlotte in 2003. But, I also think it is important to remember that we were able to hear prophetic voices at the BCE luncheon and BJC luncheon during CBF. But, I don't think we will see significant change until the next generation of leaders emerges.

The following is an excerpt from some very short comments I made during my ordination service. I post them here because I want others to know that there are some young leaders who know about our Baptist heritage and are willing to fight for it.


I look at my entering the ministry as a start of a journey, possibly the toughest journey of my life. Although I don’t know exactly where the road is going to take me, there are a few turns I will not take. I will not take any turns that steer me away from the four fragile freedoms that identify us as Baptists. These freedoms, which have been under attack for nearly 20 years, have been well defined by Walter Shurden at Mercer University. Shurden says the first freedom is Bible Freedom, the historic Baptist affirmation that the Bible, under the Lordship of Christ, must be central in the life of the individual and church and that Christians, with the best as most scholarly tools of inquiry, are both free and obligated to study and obey the scripture. The second freedom is soul freedom: the inalienable right and responsibility of every person to deal with God without the imposition of creed, the interference of clergy, or the intervention of civil government. The third freedom is church freedom: the Baptist affirmation that local churches are free, under the Lordship of Christ to determine their membership and leadership, to order their worship and work, to ordain whom they perceive as gifted for ministry, male or female, and to participate in the larger Body of Christ, of whose unity and mission Baptists are proudly a part. The final freedom is Religious freedom: the Baptist affirmation of freedom OF religion, freedom FOR religion, and freedom FROM religion, insisting that Caesar is not Christ and Christ is not Caesar. I believe these distintives are vitally important to our future as Baptists.

I will also not take any turn that asks me to use the Bible or Jesus to oppress any group of people. Too often, tremendous evil has been done in the name of Jesus or with the “support of scripture.” Matthew 25:40 says: “Whatever you did to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did that to me. Imagine what the world would be like if we as individual believers, and the church as a whole took the time to measure our actions against this verse. And, Romans Chapter 8 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? I am convinced neither death nor life, neither the present nor the future nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. So, who are we to say that anyone is separated from the love of God? I take the great commission seriously, we need to go and take the good news to everyone, not wait for them to come to us, or only take it to those we feel are worthy to receive it.

I will not take any turn that asks Christians to identify only with one political party and one narrow discussion of values. Instead, I will pave a new road with a new broad discussion about our values, one that includes biblical stances on war and peace, the environment, education, health care, and the single most mentioned social issue in the Bible, poverty. The church has lost its prophetic voice on these issues, and its time to bring it back.

I look at my entering the ministry as a start of a journey, possibly the toughest journey of my life. Although I don’t know exactly where the road is going to take me, there are a few turns I will not take. I will not take any turns that steer me away from the four fragile freedoms that identify us as Baptists. These freedoms, which have been under attack for nearly 20 years, have been well defined by Walter Shurden at Mercer University. Shurden says the first freedom is Bible Freedom, the historic Baptist affirmation that the Bible, under the Lordship of Christ, must be central in the life of the individual and church and that Christians, with the best as most scholarly tools of inquiry, are both free and obligated to study and obey the scripture. The second freedom is soul freedom: the inalienable right and responsibility of every person to deal with God without the imposition of creed, the interference of clergy, or the intervention of civil government. The third freedom is church freedom: the Baptist affirmation that local churches are free, under the Lordship of Christ to determine their membership and leadership, to order their worship and work, to ordain whom they perceive as gifted for ministry, male or female, and to participate in the larger Body of Christ, of whose unity and mission Baptists are proudly a part. The final freedom is Religious freedom: the Baptist affirmation of freedom OF religion, freedom FOR religion, and freedom FROM religion, insisting that Caesar is not Christ and Christ is not Caesar. I believe these distintives are vitally important to our future as Baptists.

I will also not take any turn that asks me to use the Bible or Jesus to oppress any group of people. Too often, tremendous evil has been done in the name of Jesus or with the “support of scripture.” Matthew 25:40 says: “Whatever you did to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did that to me. Imagine what the world would be like if we as individual believers, and the church as a whole took the time to measure our actions against this verse. And, Romans Chapter 8 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? I am convinced neither death nor life, neither the present nor the future nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. So, who are we to say that anyone is separated from the love of God? I take the great commission seriously, we need to go and take the good news to everyone, not wait for them to come to us, or only take it to those we feel are worthy to receive it.

I will not take any turn that asks Christians to identify only with one political party and one narrow discussion of values. Instead, I will pave a new road with a new broad discussion about our values, one that includes biblical stances on war and peace, the environment, education, health care, and the single most mentioned social issue in the Bible, poverty. The church has lost its prophetic voice on these issues, and its time to bring it back.

Gil Gulick said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Michael Westmoreland-White said...

I hear you. Rock on. I'm glad to hear that Wake Forest Div is being so prophetic. The thing is, Dean Bill Leonard and Prof. Frank Tupper were teachers of mine. In fact, most of the founding deans and at least 45% of the faculty of all the post-SBC seminaries are former teachers of mine at the old, pre-Mohler SBTS. So, I may have high standards.

The gap you point to about what students learn at seminary and what they take with them into pulpit ministries is ALSO a problem. This has been a problem of white Baptists in the South for generations. Imagine how different the struggle to desegregate America might have been if even 25% of all young buck preachers who studied with Henlee Barnette at SBTS or T.B. Maston at SWBTS--emphatically being taught that racism and segregation were contrary to the Word of God and blasphemous--had been even MILDLY prophetic upon getting churches. Instead, all but a handful (far less than 1%) decided "I can't preach that, I'll get fired," and so abandoned their African-American sisters and brothers and did their own congregations wrong by allowing them to continue to believe the Bible sanctioned their prejudices. In some cases, these sell-out preachers even encouraged the racism.

The same thing happened with women's equality, war, etc. The rise of the Religious Right in 1979 was only possible because of the spineless lack of leadership by "moderate" (=Lukewarm) Baptists for the previous 3 generations. That's why I always believed that CBF's attempt to recreate the pre-1979 SBC on a more decentralized model wasn't a good enough answer.

The speeches at the BJC and BCE luncheons were good. I said elsewhere that it may indicate an awakening of the CBF social conscience. I hope so, this is one progressive Baptist at the Alliance of Baptists that would welcome the development.