The kingdom at hand: the Social Gospel and the Personal Service department of Woman's Missionary Union, Auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Convention.
Although the women did not appropriate a formal Social Gospel theology, their programs and writings bear the stamp of its social ethics. The Social Gospel, an ethical/theological movement of the late nineteenth century that emerged in response to the challenges of industrialization, urbanization, and immigration, emphasized the social teachings of Jesus, social and individual salvation, the immanence of God, and the perfectibility of humanity. (3) The latter idea featured most prominently in Walter Rauschenbusch's doctrine of the kingdom of God. Baptist women were aware of these Social Gospel ideas and the ministries they established were informed by its tenets.
Leadership and Organization of Personal Service
Fannie Exile Scudder Heck was the most visible progressive in the leadership of WMU. (4) In addition to serving as WMU president, Heck led the North Carolina WMU as president for twenty-nine years, was chairman and founding member of the Associated Charities of Raleigh, vice president of the Wake County Betterment Association, president of Raleigh Women's Club, member and second vice president of the Southern Sociological Congress, and founder of the North Carolina Conference for Social Service. Also, Heck promoted ecumenical exchange with Northern Baptists. In 1907, she presided over a joint meeting of Northern and Southern Baptist women at the Jamestown Exposition. She also delivered an address to Baptist women of the world at the Philadelphia gathering of the Baptist World Alliance. (5)
Fannie Heck is singularly responsible for establishing a department in WMU that focused attention on social service. The fields of social service and social work came of age at the turn of the twentieth century as reformers began to apply scientific methodologies to social problems. Fannie Heck incorporated the new social methods into her ministry goals. In her early years of service on the state WMU level, Heck referred to social work variously as "personal missions," "neighborhood missions," "household missions," or "personal service." As these terms indicate, Heck found the impetus for social work within the mandate for missions. At no time did she consider social ministry to be separate from mission work, or in competition with the goal of individual salvation. This attitude harmonizes with that of Social Gospel writers. As Stanley P. Caine noted, the Social Gospel was "built on the premise that social justice and Christianity were synonymous." (6) Unlike many Southern Baptists who considered social work to be a secondary task of ministry, Heck consistently emphasized social service as an intrinsic element of the missionary enterprise.
It was precisely this dedication to "social service" that gave rise to a new program in the Baptist Woman's Missionary Union. In 1909, during her third term as national WMU president, Fannie Heck established the Personal Service Department and named Lulie Wharton chairperson. Wharton served in this capacity for fifteen years. (7) Wharton and Heck guided the work of personal service through its fledgling years with the help of a personal service committee. The personal service committee encouraged local WMUs to establish their own personal service committees and to send detailed reports of their activities to national headquarters. (8) State organizations began to form personal service committees in 1911.
The national office soon prepared training pamphlets and a Handbook of Personal Service for local societies to follow. The Personal Service Handbook was a guide to help local churches and associations implement a social settlement. In connection with the guidebook, the personal service department cooperated with the WMU Missionary Training School in Louisville, Kentucky, in founding a model settlement house where women could get field experience in Baptist social work. In 1912, personal service was added to the Standard of Excellence for WMU, requiring societies to participate in personal service to meet a rating of "excellence" in WMU work. (9) In 1913, WMU highlighted personal service as part of the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration of WMU.
The Message of Personal Service
Lulie Wharton and the personal service committee took great pains to articulate the purpose for their department. "In laying the foundation for this department," they explained, "the aim has been to make it broad and comprehensive, to line up with the most progressive thought and movements of the day and to seek those methods most conducive to the carrying out of our purpose--`to fight for prohibition, for observance of the Sabbath, for the sanctity of the home and the fight against crime, disease and poverty.'" (10) The "progressive thought" of the day meant social science methods and themes drawn from the Social Gospel. Under the banner of the "fight against crime, disease, and poverty," personal service leaders included investigations of housing, sanitation, health, education, recreation, child labor, family conditions, industrial conditions, church and Sunday School membership and attendance, conduct of jails, orphanages, county homes, and other local institutions. Lulie Wharton stated that personal service was meant to apply the "religion of Jesus Christ" to the "social problems of the day" and also to be "in line" with the "new phase of modern thought," namely social service. (11)
The primary writers for personal service for most of the years from 1888 to 1930 were Fannie Heck, Lulie Wharton, Emma Leachman, and Maud Reynolds McLure. These women were largely responsible for the Handbook for Personal Service and for the training courses. But many other women contributed to the personal service column in Royal Service. Unfortunately, the columns and monthly studies rarely included a signature. It is difficult, therefore, to determine precisely how many women influenced or endorsed the more progressive policies of the department. The names of personal service committee members listed on personal service reports during Lulie Wharton's tenure included Mrs. F. T. Grady, Mrs. A. J. Clark, Kathleen Mallory, Mrs. George Stevens, Susan Ban croft Tyler [Mrs. James Pollard], Mrs. James W. Kirkman, Mrs. W. H. Baylor, Mrs. Oscar G. Levy, Mrs. A. J. Fristoe. In 1924, Mrs. Peyton A. Eubank took over as chair of the personal service committee.
There were three avenues through which WMU leadership encountered progressive social ideas which they attempted to incorporate into their personal service program: ecumenical ties, secular reform movements, and literature of Social Gospelers. Southern Baptist women established close working relationships with other evangelical women through women's clubs, charity work, and shared missionary goals. One of the most powerful women in the life of WMU, Annie Armstrong, participated in interdenominational charity work in Baltimore and stayed abreast of the missionary activities of other denominations. (12) Edith Campbell Crane, who followed Armstrong as corresponding secretary of WMU, served as a delegate to the 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh. (13) Fannie Heck, participated consistently in interdenominational endeavors. WMU also celebrated women's ecumenical endeavors in speeches and published articles.
Leaders of WMU made a concerted effort to study the missionary and social service activities of other denominations. During the 1917 annual meeting, WMU adopted a resolution concerning personal service "that we study the policies and methods of kindred missionary and social service organizations, adapting those best suited to our aim of preventing and eradicating community evils." (14) This statement is important because it affirms that Southern Baptist women intentionally adopted the programs of other missionary organizations. Southern Baptist female leadership exchanged ideas with Southern Methodist women more than with any other group outside their own denomination. John Patrick McDowell's work, The Social Gospel in the South: The Woman's Home Mission Movement in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1886-1939, demonstrates that Southern Methodist women embraced the Social Gospel in its entirety. (15) Lucinda Helm, the force behind the Methodist Woman's Home Mission Society insisted: "A perfect religious hope must include not only eternal life for the individual, but the establishment of the Kingdom of God for humanity." (16) This focus on the kingdom of God pervaded Methodist women's home mission work.
Baptist women borrowed both articles and practical social work methods from the Methodist women. For example, they incorporated Methodist teachings on race, adapted Methodist manuals on settlement work, and studied Methodist settlement houses in order to begin their own work. In 1894, Annie Armstrong wrote a note to the secretary of the Sunday School Board, T. B. Bell, confirming an exchange of missionary publication material with the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. (17) In 1912, Fannie Heck wrote a postcard to Lulie Wharton highlighting recent Methodist writings concerning race relations:
I wonder if Dr. Pollard has seen the publications of the Southern Methodist Women along these lines. I think since our organizations so nearly parallel one another in work theirs would be interesting to him. Their recent publication or report of Commissions on work among colored women (a most difficult subject) has interested me. (18)
The February 1915 issue of Royal Service quotes directly from a Methodist Episcopal Church, South leaflet entitled "Plan for Cooperating with Negro Women." Seven suggestions for cooperation are reprinted in Royal Service. In general, the suggestions urged white women to foster "in the local white community higher ideals in regard to the relation between the races ... by standing for full and equal justice in all departments of life." (19) Ella Broadus Robertson (Mrs. A. T. Robertson) endorsed the writings of a Methodist woman in her 1923 editorial in Royal Service. "Mrs. Hammond's recent pamphlet, `Southern Women and Racial Adjustment' is so practical that every woman's missionary society should own a copy," insisted Robertson. Hammond stated in the pamphlet that white women in the South have come to a place "where we are willing to work in broader ways for common justice to the negroes." Robertson insisted that greater work for African Americans was necessary and concluded, "For though we have often been kind to them, we have seldom been just." (20)
WMU leadership also benefited from the experience of the Methodist women in applied ministry. Methodist women began social settlement ministries in southern cities around the turn of the twentieth century. (21) They were the first denomination in the South to establish social settlements (programs designed to accomplish urban reform by establishing a permanent presence in underprivileged neighborhoods). Prior to the establishment of the Baptist settlement work at the WMU Training School, students learned methods of city missions at the Wesley House in Louisville. (22) When the personal service committee began preparing a manual to help local women establish Baptist settlement houses in cities across the South, they turned to The City Mission Manual of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. WMU basically adapted this manual for their needs and wrote an acknowledgment to the Methodists in their bibliography. (23) This became the Handbook for Personal Service.
The exchange of ideas was not limited to the national level, however. Local Baptist women studied the work of their Methodist sisters as well. For example, the superintendent of missions for the WMU of the Birmingham Baptist Association lamented in 1913 that she had not accomplished all she wished to because "to attend the meetings of our Executive Board, visit three societies, and take one visit to investigate the work which the Methodist women are doing at Avondale is the best I could do." (24) The exchange of ideas pervaded the WMU organization.
A second avenue through which WMU encountered Social Gospel ideas was their contact with social reformers in both the North and South. The work of Jane Addams at Hull House was of particular interest to WMU leadership--although they were consistently critical of her lack of emphasis on religion. (25) Maud Reynolds McClure, principal of the WMU Training School, visited Hull House personally. McClure and Emma Leachman also investigated both Baptist and Presbyterian church work in Chicago and insisted that "these were much more to our liking. (26) In spite of McClure and Leachman's disappointment with Hull House's secular approach, they borrowed Addams's ideas for their social ministry including ideas for community farming and community rooms in their settlement houses. (27) McLure spent the summer of 1912 studying at the New York School of Philanthropy to prepare for the opening of the model settlement house in Louisville, Kentucky. While there, she studied with reform-minded professors.
The Southern Sociological Congress was yet another reform movement that provided personal service leaders access to Social Gospel ideas. In March of 1913, Fannie Heck was commissioned by the governor of North Carolina to attend the Southern Sociological Congress which was formed "to study and improve social, civic, and economic conditions in the South." (28) In 1914, Heck was elected second vice president of the congress. Maud Reynolds McClure also attended the congress as a delegate from Kentucky and served on the Race Relations Committee in 1915. During these meetings, the women were exposed to the leaders of the Social Gospel and to some of the most progressive ideas of their day. The congress hosted such speakers as Samuel Zane Batten, Graham Taylor, Walter Rauschenbusch, and Charles Macfarland. The SSC also adopted a social platform similar to that of the Federal Council of Churches.
In affirmation of the Southern Sociological Congress, Royal Service printed reports from the meetings and quoted their resolutions concerning such issues as child labor, poverty, inner city slums, health, literacy, and recreation. (29) The editors of Royal Service did not hesitate to endorse a clear Social Gospel agenda with their choices of information from the Southern Sociological Congress. For example, four long paragraphs on the responsibility of the church to conserve public health quoted in a March 1916 issue of Royal Service were drawn from a speech made at the 1915 congress by Samuel Zane Batten, a Northern Baptist minister and strident Social Gospel advocate. Batten's words are resplendent with the Social Gospel message. (30) "First," says Batten, "the churches must teach people the wide scope of redemption and must make-them know that health is a Christian duty." (31) He continues with an admonition for the churches to go beyond the "results and deal with causes."
Thus far we have been content to feed the hungry, to nurse the sick, to rescue the perishing, to lift up the fallen. It is all very well to rescue the outcast, but it is better to abolish the white slave traffic. It is well enough to take the sickly child out of the slums; but it is more sensible to abolish the slums. It is well enough to feed the hungry family; but it is more Christian to create an industrial order where every man can earn and eat his daily. bread without scantiness and anxiety. (32)
Batten's words, endorsed by WMU leaders, strike at the heart of a conservative social Christianity. Batten dared suggest that the "industrial order" is to blame for poverty and want. Batten's position is clear. "It is well enough to build an orphanage," Batten implored, "but it is more religious to protect machinery and keep the fathers alive. The time has come for us to find the causes of poverty and sickness and deal with these.... There is something as foolish as it is un-Christian in nursing sick people and running a hospital when you can keep people well by abolishing bad housing and providing pure water. (33) Editors of Royal Service printed Batten's final point that was unequivocally Social Gospel: "We must realize that this work of preventing social evils is religious and spiritual work." (34)
The idea that it is within the scope of the gospel to combat social evils stands in contrast to the writings of Victor I. Masters of the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board who warned against equating social service with redemption, righteousness, or individual conversion. Masters is careful to keep the "gospel" strictly separate from the "good works" of social service. "The Home Mission Board and its missionaries," says Masters, "have done and are doing a work of social service which is of immense value. But they have shrunk from featuring this work as a chief thing, lest the weak and unwary should stumble and become entangled
in the net of the false belief that man is justified by the works of the flesh rather than by faith in Christ." (35) This literal rendering of sola fides prevented Masters and other Southern Baptists from embracing an integrated concept of social service as faith and is one of the theological distinctions between a conservative social Christianity and the Social Gospel. In the pages of Royal Service, particularly in 1915 and 1916, Southern Baptist women found a solid endorsement of the work of the Southern Sociological Congress and a quiet approval of the Social Gospel.
Because of their connections with other groups of Protestant women and social reform organizations, Baptist women became familiar with the Social Gospel. In addition to these first two avenues, the pages of WMU publications reveal that its leadership encountered Social Gospel ideas directly through the primary source writings. Sometimes WMU writers merely alluded to the Social Gospel. For example, one very basic allusion that would have been familiar to the progressive-era reader was Charles Sheldon's 1897 Social Gospel novel, In His Steps. The leadership of WMU indicated their familiarity with the novel in several instances. Fannie Heck gave a speech to the North Carolina WMU one year after the publication of the novel. Her written manuscript climaxes with the Sheldon's famous refrain, "if in your place, `what would Jesus do'" (36)
In other instances, Social Gospel writers are directly quoted and endorsed by WMU leaders. The 1915 personal service report to the annual meeting of the WMU opened with a quote from Graham Taylor, first chair of Christian Sociology in the United States, and founder of the Chicago Commons Settlement. (37) The bibliography and recommended reading section of the February 1914 Royal Service listed Graham Taylor's book, Religion in Social Action, in addition to recommending the reports of the 1913 and 1914 Southern Sociological Congresses. The mission program for August 1917 in Royal Service contained a two-page section taken directly from Josiah Strong's book, The Challenge of the City. Mary Faison Dixon, who prepared the program, said that Strong was "a careful student of city problems and knows whereof he speaks." (38)
Personal service writers, like Methodist women, employed the phrase "kingdom of God," which was a central theme in Rauschenbusch's understanding of the Social Gospel. Some of the women used the term in a vague biblical sense, but others viewed the kingdom of God, like Rauschenbusch, as something which "is here on earth; that quietly pervades all humanity; that is always working toward the perfect life of God." (39) In 1915, the personal service page of Royal Service featured a picture of a church connected to community institutions. The writer of the article comments: "What greater force in the coming of the Kingdom of God can there be than the church which he has established?" (40) Mary Livermore of Tennessee encouraged Southern Baptist women to cooperate with the secular movements for reform so that "their splendid humanitarian service" might help to "bring in the Kingdom of God in our midst." (41) The Handbook of Personal Service insisted that "until the whole church is thus enlisted for the whole world, the kingdom of God cannot wholly come in any part of the earth." (42) These statements expressed WMU's acceptance of the Social Gospel premise that human participation could usher in the kingdom. Rauschenbusch believed that Christ could, through the church, transform the entire world, "making it righteous, making it habitable, making it merciful, making it brotherly." (43) Shailer Mathews defined the Social Gospel as the "application of the teaching of Jesus and the total message of Christian salvation to society, the economic life, and social institutions, ... as well as individuals." (44) Likewise, Fannie Heck's pamphlet "Pageant of the Golden Rule" depicted a dream of a perfected society in which the "Golden Rule" had been applied to institutions as well as individuals. (45) Her vision, and these references to the kingdom, assumed two Social Gospel principles: human progress and the perfectibility of society through application of the social ethics of Jesus.
Personal Service and Soteriology
The influence of other denominational groups, reform movements, and the writings of Social Gospel theologians influenced Baptist women's understanding of salvation. WMU writers often blended concepts of corporate and individual salvation. For example, writers often quoted a Social Gospel leader, or an anonymous "social thinker" of the day who advocated the Social Gospel, then added a disclaimer for individual salvation. In a 1913 pamphlet, the personal service committee presented their answer to the basic question: What is the Personal Service work of Woman's Missionary Union? The committee responded:
It [personal service] is social service whose high ideal is not alone the lifting of mankind to better living conditions, to Christian business standards, especially regarding women and children employees, to proper and adequate opportunities for play, to social and cultural advantages, to educational privileges, but salvation for the life be yond through faith in Jesus Chris. (46)
The phrase "not alone" suggests that both the element of human need in the present life and spiritual well-being in the afterlife are included in the goal of personal service. The Handbook of Personal Service began with an emphasis on individual salvation: "The end and object of the Personal Service Department is to bring men and women to a personal acknowledgement of Christ as their saviour." The writers continued, however, with an explanation of precisely what they meant by salvation that moves nearer to the wholistic emphasis of Social Gospel theologians: (47) "A full salvation includes the betterment of the physical conditions, the development of the mental powers, the culture of the moral sense." (48) The effort to bring people to "salvation" meant more than a personal confession. Full salvation, to this personal service writer, included both a changed spiritual condition and a changed physical condition.
Leading Social Gospel writer Washington Gladden urged Christians to move beyond issues of private morality and individual salvation, insisting that "the redemption of the social order is, then, the problem now before us." (49) Gladden believed that "the conviction of social sin [was] the beginning of social redemption." (50) In the 1913 report to the annual meeting of WMU, the Personal Service Committee cautiously raised the issue of social salvation:
"When a man loves God he is saved; when he loves his neighbor society is saved," says one of the leading social teachers of the day. These two great needs--the need for personal salvation and the need for personal service in the interests of society are embodied in the intention and design of religion. (51)
The committee report did not expound on the implications of social salvation but rather indicated that society was an element that religion must not neglect. It could be the writers simply did not realize the theological import of the "social teacher's" words. Regardless, the hearers of the report were presented the message that salvation could apply to society.
Some writers acknowledged the tensions between an individualistic theology and the Social Gospel. In Our Mission Fields one writer discussed salvation in the context of urban problems. "We are told," wrote the WMU columnist, "by that deep student of our country's conditions, Dr. Josiah Strong, that `already one-fourth of the people of the United States live in the cities, and three-fourths of the wealth is there.'" (52) Something had to be done to bring salvation to the multitudes in the cities. In typical Southern Baptist fashion, she first affirmed individual salvation: "The saved city would be just a community of people in right relation to God through faith in the Saviour; and nothing else, we know, can ever take the place of that truth." But to this truth, she insisted, must be added an awareness of the social dimensions of sin.
But in seeking the salvation of the individual we need to take account of some of the forces that draw him away from the influence of righteousness, and to see how our own Christian life may help negatively by removing these forces as well as by supplying the positive force of a saving knowledge of Christ. (53)
In other words, social forces can inhibit or support individual salvation. Furthermore, the writer explained that there were two ways to view those forces:
Whether we look upon these facts as diseases of our national life that must be cured, or as symptoms of a deeper seated disease which is called sin, we shall all agree that extreme poverty, hard industrial conditions, the ever present saloon, increasing crime and other features of city life, are things to be reckoned with. (54)
Either poverty and industrial conditions were national diseases, or they were the result of sin. Her words were diplomatic and persuasive. Regardless of your conception of social problems, she stated, "we shall all agree" that they must be "reckoned with." Taken together her argument implies that individual salvation is very important, but social forces require a different sort of reckoning, a different sort of redemption.
Occasionally writers of Personal Service emphasized their commitment to pers6nal conversion without abandoning their Social Gospel sources. In the very first report on Personal Service in the official WMU magazine, then called Our Mission Fields, the writer introduced the "most recent department of the work of Woman's Missionary Union"--Personal Service. This new department is the latest tool to help teach "the whole Gospel to the whole world." Then, the writer inserted a disclaimer. WMU would not, assured the writer, stumble into an "overemphasis on social service." Ironically, she used the words of Shailer Mathews to voice her caution:
Dean Shailer Mathews, president of the Federal Council of Churches in America, issues a warning against the substitution of social service for spirituality in the church. He says: "picnics are not the equivalents of prayer-meetings and Sunday-school baseball leagues have not yet developed into revivals." (55)
The writer thus voiced caution about social service while legitimizing the teachings of Shailer Mathews and the Federal Council of Churches. This would immediately take her Baptist critics off guard. She could have chosen any number of Southern Baptist leaders to issue a word of warning about social service, but she chose a Social Gospel leader. (56) Perhaps the author of this column was unaware of the irony of her quotation. Regardless, her choice of references demonstrated her trust in and familiarity with Social Gospel writers.
The lasting influence of Social Gospel ethics on Baptist women is revealed in their commitment to social work. Leaders of Personal Service consistently defended social work and its methods through allusion to biblical materials and by linking it with salvation. They did not hesitate to call the ministry they envisioned "social service" even though there were strong sentiments against it among some Baptists. As late as 1920, a committee of Virginia Baptists pronounced that "[r]light Gospel preaching will send nine-tenths of these special social service organizations to the scrap heap." (57) Nevertheless, the Personal Service Handbook stated: "The Founder of Christianity was the greatest social worker the world has ever known." (58) In another instance they insisted that personal service was "social service with the gospel as its motive and conversion as its aim." (59) In an annual report the committee asserted: "We cannot express the aim of this new department in better terms than to say it is social service upheld by grace." (60)
Although personal service writers approached the subject of social salvation with "fear and trembling," they challenged claims that the church's responsibility to society ended with individual, spiritual regeneration. Fannie Heck, for one, was convinced that the gospel demanded personal involvement in social service. Rather than viewing social ministry as an optional, derivative element of religious conversion, Heck believed a social ethic was inherent in genuine Christian spirituality. She argued that one of the dangers of missionary organizations was that in their success, the work of ministry became secondhand. She feared women would be content to "have someone else do our work while we languish and die for want of spiritual exercise." (61) By "spiritual. exercise" Heck was certainly referring to the work of spiritual conversion; but Heck included social ministry in her definition of "saving the lost." In an April 1911 speech to the WMU of North Carolina, Heck commented that North Carolina WMU was at "the beginning of a long march on a higher plane" which included improving the conditions of farm tenants, the isolated poor, and factory boys and girls. (62)
Heck's conviction hinged on the notion that the gospel is not something one "believes," but rather it is something one does--a practical rather than exclusively propositional theological position. Her choice of titles for her history of WMU, In Royal Service, suggests the idea of personal work for the "kingdom." Her establishment of a personal service department institutionalized her conviction that the gospel had both social and individual implications.
The wholistic perspective of salvation appears throughout personal service materials of the era. In fact, discussion of salvation became the doctrinal focus through which WMU leaders made their strongest Social Gospel statements. An article in Royal Service in 1921 maintained that "winning souls" included service:
The [WMU] society that is not winning souls and that considers money gifts, perfunctory prayer and programs on distant fields as their whole duty, omitting personal service to the needy and neglected around them and cooperative effort to solve the social problems that wreck lives and ruin souls in every community, may have a large budget and much self-centered and complacent activity, but it will be like the fruitless vineyard so well tended and so disappointing to the Master. "Cut it down; why cumbereth it to the ground?" Nothing but personal saving of human beings is going to satisfy Him. (63)
Note that the writer uses the phrase "winning souls" but defines the task broadly as "personal service to the needy and neglected" and as "cooperative effort to solve social problems." Members of missionary societies could not be content with prayer meetings and missionary offerings. Unless women were personally involved in social uplift, argued this writer, they were useless to God. She reiterated that the purpose was "saving of human beings" which implied more than individual salvation both for the Christian and for those in need.
One of the plainest presentations of the Social Gospel in the personal service material occurred in Lulie Wharton's 1915 Annual Report to WMU. Wharton placed the Social Gospel statement on the lips of an anonymous missionary:
Says a missionary: `With every year of missionary experience the conviction has grown that the Gospel of Christ is a Gospel for all life--here not less than hereafter--and for all departments of life.'
This is the theme of wholistic salvation. The missionary continued with an even more specific claim for the regeneration of the social conditions and made three basic arguments.
1. That for missionary workers to make [the Gospel] relate solely to salvation after death is a mistake, and to a great extent a defeat of its own ends;
2. That godliness, in its ever-to-be-sought perfection, disallows crudities, unloveliness, barbarities, and cruelties in conditions of every-day life and relationship;
3. That the Gospel of Christ aims quite as much at removing these as it points to the `golden streets' and `mansions' made ready.
Finally, Wharton's anonymous missionary made a direct attack on those who would limit salvation to personal conversion:
The reformation of earthly life is indeed the preparation for the heavenly citizenship, and should be not the selfish saving of individual souls alive, but a work as broad and inclusive as is the Love that `so loved the world'; so that no physical, social, governmental or intellectual obstacle to man's trust and highest development is too secular for the spirit of Christ and His Gospel to strike at through its missionaries. (64)
In addition to defending social service against attacks that it is more "secular" than spiritual, the missionary undermined the notion that salvation consisted only of a verbal assent to propositional truths. It is more than the "selfish saving of individual souls alive." Yet, the anonymous Christian does not use specific religious language to name the "broad and inclusive work of salvation." Neither Wharton nor the missionary venture to describe the physical, social, governmental, or intellectual" obstacles as sin. Though he or she stops short of developing an explicit liberal soteriology, in the cultural context of Southern Baptist life, the missionary's words are startling. Though the historian is frustrated with their ambiguity, the message of the missionary would have been abundantly clear to WMU women in the local church. The report said clearly: social work is God's work. The gospel includes everything that helps human beings in this world and the next. Salvation applies to every aspect of human existence. Practical as these statements may be, they sound strangely familiar--strangely like the Social Gospel.
There are three basic things to conclude from this discussion.
First of all, WMU leadership of the Personal Service Department borrowed ideas and missionary methods from other denominations immersed in the Social Gospel, from reform organizations with Social Gospel agendas, and directly from Social Gospel writers.
Secondly, although the women themselves did not become Social Gospel theologians or promote a comprehensive Social Gospel program, they did-allow the ethical content of the Social Gospel to infuse their ministries.
Lastly, one of the enduring results of WMU's encounter with the Social Gospel was their fierce defense of social work programs and methods.
WMU has continued to promote and defend social work through the years although the conflict surrounding social work in Baptist life has remained. The model settlement house and the WMU Training School in Louisville, Kentucky, were renamed Carver School of Missions and Social Work in 1952. This institution was merged into Southern Seminary in 1963. Twenty-one years later, the Carver School of Church Social Work became a full school within the seminary equal to the schools of theology, music, and Christian education. During the conservative restructuring of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary which began in 1993, the dean of the Carver School, Diana Garland, was fired over a conflict with President Al Mohler. Garland subsequently joined the faculty at Baylor University where she guides the masters of social work program.
After Garland's departure, the seminary conducted a study of the social work program and concluded that "the tenets of social work are not compatible with biblical theology." (65) The social work program was eliminated and the Carver School name sold to Campbellsville University in Kentucky. In 1999, the endowment of the Carver School of Missions and Social Work, nearly one million dollars, was returned to WMU in a private settlement with Southern Seminary. Those monies will be used to benefit Baptist women's education and social work. History has thus come full circle. While the tensions remain within Baptist life regarding the social application of the gospel, WMU is still invested in the vision of social service initiated by Fannie Heck in 1909.
(1.) Home Field (February 1916), 9. For descriptions of personal service as social service, see Annual Report of Woman's Missionary Union, Auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Convention (1912), 51, and Royal Service (October 1921), 28.
(2.) A Handbook of Personal Service, revised (Baltimore: Woman's Missionary Union, n.d.), 4. Personal Service Notebooks, Woman's Missionary Union Archives, Birmingham, Alabama [WMUA]. Paul Harvey points out that the terms "efficiency" and "uplift" connote the progressive emphasis on "scientific management." Shailer Mathews applied "scientific management" to church organization. The elements of efficiency in church programs appealed to Southern Baptists. See Paul Harvey, Redeeming the South: Religious Cultures and Racial Identities Among Southern Baptists 1865-1925 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 197.
(3.) The definition of the Social Gospel in the southern context is a subject of much debate. For further information see John Lee Eighmy, Churches in Cultural Captivity: A History of the Social Attitudes of Southern Baptists (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1972); Wayne Flynt, "Alabama White Protestantism and Labor, 1900-1914," Alabama Review 25 (July 1972); John Patrick McDowell, The Social Gospel in the South: The Woman's Home Mission Movement in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South 1886-1939 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982); John Storey, Texas Baptist Leadership and Social Christianity, 1900-1980 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1986); Paul Harvey, "Southern Baptists and the Social Gospel" in Fides et Historia 27 (Summer 1995); and Carol Crawford Holcomb, "Mothering the South: The Influence of Gender and the Social Gospel on the Social Views of the Leadership of WMU, SBC, 1888-1930," Ph.D. Diss., Baylor University, 1999.
(4.) She received the name "Exile" because she was born in Virginia during the Civil War; her family "exiled" from their home in Morgantown, North Carolina. Although Heck's father served as an officer in the Confederate army, he was able to maintain his financial holdings. After the war, he built his family a mansion in Raleigh, North Carolina. In Raleigh, Fannie enjoyed all the benefits of leisure and education in southern aristocracy. One biographer reports that she was a crack shot; an expert horsewoman; an accomplished needlewoman; a skilled wood-carver; an artist with brush, pen, and scissors; and an inventor of at least two items. Fannie Heck never married, but instead she brought all her energies to bear on mission work and community service. See Alma Hunt, History of Woman's Missionary Union (Nashville: Convention Press, 1964) and Catherine Allen, Laborers Together with God: 22 Great Women in Baptist Life (Birmingham: Woman's Missionary Union, 1987).
(5.) "Editorial," Royal Service (October 1915), 4-5; Allen, Laborers Together With God, 26-37.
(6.) Stanley P. Caine, "The Origins of Progressivism," in Lewis Gould, ed. The Progressive Era (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1974), 13.
(7.) The 1925 personal service report to the annual meeting of the WMU, SBC offers a farewell to Lulie Wharton as chairman of the Personal Service Department. Annual Report, 61.
(8.) Catherine Allen, A Century to Celebrate: A History of Woman's Missionary Union (Birmingham: Woman's Missionary Union, 1987), 215.
(9.) Ibid., 215; Hunt, 125.
(10.) Annual Report (1915), 60-61.
(11.) Annual Report (1912), 51. Catherine Allen believes WMU avoided using the term "social service" directly in connection with personal service to avoid "antagonizing opponents of the Social Gospel." Allen, Century to Celebrate, 215.
(12.) For example, she kept scrapbooks which she used for preparing her own talks and studies on missions. In those books are clippings from such groups as the Presbyterian Missionary Society, the Woman's Club at Chautauqua, Episcopal Theological School, Cambridge, and the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).
(13.) Our Mission Fields (January-February-March 1912), 19.
(14.) Annual Report (1917), 93.
(15.) McDowell, The Social Gospel in the South, 3.
(16.) McDowell, The Social Gospel, 20, and Francis A. Downs, "The Greatest Woman of Southern Methodism," Methodist Review 64 (April, 1915).
(17.) Annie Armstrong to T. E Bell, 3 March, 1894. Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, Nashville.
(18.) Fannie Heck to Lulie Wharton, circa 1912. Heck papers, Woman's Missionary Union Archives, Birmingham, Alabama.
(19.) Royal Service (February 1915), 11.
(20.) Royal Service (January 1923), editorial.
(21.) For descriptions of early Methodist settlement houses, see Sara Estell Haskins, Woman and Missions in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (Nashville: Methodist Episcopal Church, 1920), 202.
(22.) Carrie Littlejohn, History of Carver School of Missions and Social Work (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1958), 64.
(23.) A Handbook of Personal Service, n.d. Personal Service Notebooks, WMUA.
(24.) Proceedings, Birmingham Baptist Association, 1913, 32.
(25.) Fannie E. S. Heck to Lulie Wharton, c. 1912. WMUA.
(26.) M. R. McClure to Fannie E. S. Heck, 8 February, 1915, Heck papers, NCBHC.
(27.) McLure to Heck, 8 February, 1915.
(28.) J. E. McCulloch to F. E. S. Heck, 3 March, 1913. Heck papers. NCBHC.
(29.) A full report on the Southern Sociological Congress is included in Royal Service (May 1915), 26. See also Royal Service (March 1916), 8-14.
(30.) Samuel Zane Batten, "Modern Miracles of the Church in Health Conservation," in James E. McCulloch, ed. The New Chivalry--Health (Nashville: Southern Sociological Congress, 1915). Speeches given at the Southern Sociological Congress May 8-11, 1915, Houston, TX.
(31.) Royal Service (March 1916), 13.
(33.) Ibid., 13-14.
(34.) Ibid., 14.
(35.) Victor I. Masters, The Home Board and Social Service (Atlanta: Publicity Department of the Southern Baptist Convention, n.d.), n.p.
(36.) Minutes of the Woman's Missionary Societies, Auxiliary to Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (1898), 16.
(37.) Annual Report (May 1915), 59.
(38.) Royal Service (August 1917), 8-10.
(39.) Walter Rauschenbusch, "The Kingdom of God," in Robert Handy, The Social Gospel in America, 1870-1920 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966), 267.
(40.) Royal Service (February 1915), 9.
(41.) Royal Service (October 1921), 28.
(42.) A Handbook of Personal Service, n.d., 7, WMUA.
(43.) Rauschenbusch, "The Kingdom of God," in Handy, The Social Gospel in America, 267.
(44.) Shailer Mathews quoted in C. Howard Hopkins, The Rise of the Social Gospel in American Protestantism, 1865-1915 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1940), 3.
(45.) Fannie Heck, "Pageant of the Golden Rule" (Copy of Early Manuscript), Heck Papers, North Carolina Baptist Historical Collection [NCBHC], Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
(46.) "Some Questions Answered" (1913), Personal Service Notebooks, WMUA.
(47.) Rauschenbusch, Gladden, Mathews, and other Social Gospel writers affirmed the necessity of both individual and social salvation.
(48.) A Handbook of Personal Service, n.d., 12-13. Personal Service Notebooks, WMUA.
(49.) Washington Gladden, The Church and Modern Life (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1908), 155.
(50.) Gladden, The Church and the Modern Life, 157.
(51.) Annual Report (1913), 41.
(52.) Our Mission Fields (July 1909), 6.
(53.) Ibid., 8.
(55.) Our Mission Fields (October-November-December 1913), 29.
(56.) For anti-Social Gospel sentiment among Southern Baptist leaders, see chapter three of James J. Thompson, Jr. Tried As By Fire: Southern Baptists and the Religious Controversies of the 1920s (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1982).
(57.) Eighmy, Churches in Cultural Captivity, 110.
(58.) A Handbook of Personal Service, n.d., 9. Personal Service Scrapbooks, WMUA.
(59.) Royal Service (October 1921), 28.
(60.) Annual Report (1912), 51.
(61.) Manuscript of Speech, 1910, Heck papers, NCBHC.
(62.) Fannie Heck, Speech to the Woman's Missionary Union, Auxiliary to the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (April 18, 1911), Unpublished manuscript, Heck Papers, WMU Offices, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, Cary, North Carolina.
(63.) Royal Service (October 1921), 28.
(64.) Annual Report (1915), 59-60.
(65.) Mark Wingfield, "WMU Reclaims Nearly $1 Million from Southern," Baptist Standard (March 1, 2000), 3.
Carol Crawford Holcomb is assistant professor of religion, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Belton, Texas.