The state of state Baptist histories: within the past five years, scholars have published several histories of Baptists within a particular state. Each of these histories has been written by a Baptist "insider," and most have been published under the auspices of the statewide convention or association (1).
This review examines four such histories, published within the last four years, and offers some observations and hopefully constructive criticisms about the "state" of state Baptist histories.
Leon McBeth's Texas Baptists: A Sesquicentennial ses·qui·cen·ten·ni·al
Of or relating to a period of 150 years.
A 150th anniversary or its celebration.
Noun 1. History is a book for Southern Baptists about Southern Baptists. McBeth traces the dramatic story of Southern Baptists in Texas from a handful of pioneer families and preachers in the 1830s to well over 2.5 million members, more than any other state, by the late 1990s. McBeth chronicles the major institutional advances of Baptists in Texas, and also provides a few brief anecdotes, such as the conversion and baptism of Sam Houston in 1854, at age sixty-three. Woven throughout the history of Texas Baptists is the story of "our beloved Institution," Baylor University Baylor University, mainly at Waco, Tex.; coeducational; chartered and opened 1845 by Baptists (see Baylor, Robert E. B.) at Independence, moved 1886 and absorbed Waco Univ. (chartered 1861). The library has a noted Robert Browning collection. , founded in 1845, and the stories of many other Texas Baptist institutions. Here, readers can learn about such famous Texas Baptists as Zacharias N. Morrell, R. E. B. Baylor, R. C. Buckner, Samuel A. Hayden, B. H. Carroll, George W. Truett, J. Frank Norris John Franklyn (J. Frank) Norris, (born September 18, 1877, Dadeville, Alabama, died August 20, 1952, Jacksonville, Florida, USA) was a firebrand fundamentalist preacher and popular Baptist leader. , and J. Howard Williams. Furthermore, McBeth presents an impressive array of Texas Baptist "firsts," such as the Baptist Student Union The Baptist Student Union (BSU) is the traditional name of a college-level organization that can be found on many college campuses in the United States and Canada. The as the term BSU became associated with other organizations, many local ministries changed their name. in 1920, the Texas Baptist Foundation in 1933, and the Christian Life Commission in 1950.
This history of Texas Baptists is an example of the genre of denominational history familiar to Baptists and other denominations for many years. McBeth states that "I have sought to reconstruct the history of Texas Baptists from primary sources" (p. v), but his notes reflect heavy use of particular types of primary sources--printed denominational minutes and the denominational newspaper in Texas. In his extensive survey of secondary material, McBeth does not integrate some recent scholarship. By most contemporary accounts, for example, J. Frank Norris exerted a dominant influence on Texas Baptist life in the 1920s and 1930s, and McBeth admits that. Yet, his treatment of the "Norris Controversy" (pp. 165-68) does not take into account Barry Hankins's recent biography of Norris, God's Rascal: J. Frank Norris and the Beginnings of Southern Fundamentalism, though McBeth mentions the work in his bibliographic essay. By relating the story of Texas Baptists largely through brief biographies of denominational leaders in the nineteenth century and through the lens of denominational structures for most of the twentieth century, McBeth has produced an institutional history of the Baptist General Convention of Texas The Baptist General Convention of Texas is the oldest surviving Baptist convention in the state of Texas. Background
There were Baptists among the first Anglo-American settlers of Texas, but under Spain (and later Mexico), non-Catholic religious worship was prohibited. and its numerous ancestors. Against this backdrop, Norris becomes a brief (although influential) aberration in the overall march of progress Texas Baptists have enjoyed for a century and a half, instead of the far more interesting, influential, and complex figure that Hankins presents.
One of the weaknesses of standard denominational history often is its lack of attention to the historical context of the denomination. While this volume is not nor should it be a textbook in Texas or American history, Texas Baptists lived in those contexts. In McBeth's treatment of the 1840s, for example, there is little mention of the Mexican War Mexican War, 1846–48, armed conflict between the United States and Mexico. Causes
While the immediate cause of the war was the U.S. annexation of Texas (Dec., 1845), other factors had disturbed peaceful relations between the two republics. (especially for a history of Texas Baptists) and to the national division between northern and southern Baptists. Even the Civil War, the nation's most jarring crisis, receives only passing attention.
McBeth also devotes little attention to other Baptist groups in the state. It is perhaps ironic then, that McBeth quotes Charles T. Alexander, whom the state convention appointed in 1936 to coordinate ministries with African-American Baptists in Texas: "The two races, and our two Baptist groups, do not know each other today as they should" (p. 204). The situation remains the same today in Texas and elsewhere, yet African-American Baptists are largely absent from McBeth's story of Texas Baptists.
McBeth devotes more than half of the hook to the post-World War II era in Texas Baptist history because previous histories of Texas Baptists have not included this important period of Texas Baptists. The decision to bring the story of Texas Baptists forward from 1945 to 1982 is a sound one, but an author must take special care when chronicling events within his or her life experience. In these four chapters, McBeth ably brings the history of Texas Baptists forward by four decades. That nearly a quarter of the book covers the fifteen years from 1982 to 1997, however, is unusual, given both the proximity of the events and the particularly divisive nature of those events in Southern Baptist life. It is doubtful whether any Southern Baptist author can achieve the "distance" from the events of the past two decades necessary to write about these developments from an objective historical perspective. McBeth is no exception, and his final chapters narrate the "takeover" and "purging" of the Southern Baptist Convention Noun 1. Southern Baptist Convention - an association of Southern Baptists
association - a formal organization of people or groups of people; "he joined the Modern Language Association"
Southern Baptist - a member of the Southern Baptist Convention by "militant ultraconservatives," hardly the vocabulary of detached scholarship, although in his preface he hopes his readers will not understand such terms "in any pejorative pejorative Medtalk Bad…real bad sense" (p. vi). In other sections, however, McBeth's sense of humor Noun 1. sense of humor - the trait of appreciating (and being able to express) the humorous; "she didn't appreciate my humor"; "you can't survive in the army without a sense of humor"
sense of humour, humor, humour often comes through; for example, when discussing church-state issues in the 1970s, he wryly notes that "Faced with these new crises, Texas Baptists did what they always did; they appointed a committee" (p. 346).
McBeth's volume is a valuable addition to Southern Baptist historical literature because it will encourage new research into the long and complex history of Southern Baptists in Texas. There are many fruitful avenues for research that will both extend McBeth's work and explore topics which McBeth describes only briefly. Such topics include the relationship of Texas Southern Baptists to other groups of Baptists, both black and white, in Texas; the impact of periods of crisis, such as the Mexican War, the Civil War, and World War II, on Texas Baptists; the role of laymen and laywomen in developing Texas Baptist life and institutions; and a host of other subjects. Like any synthesis of recent scholarship, McBeth's work summarizes current understandings of the Lone Star Lone Star (or Lonestar) may refer to:
C. Fred Williams Frederick Ronald (Fred) Williams is an is an Australian painter and printmaker.
He was born in 1927 in Melbourne, Australia.
He was one of Australia’s most important artists, and one the twentieth century’s major painters of the landscape. , S. Ray Granade, and Kenneth M. Startup, the authors of A System & Plan: Arkansas Baptist State Convention, 1848-1998, have written with the more modest goal of detailing the century and a half of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, rather than that of Baptists generally in Arkansas. The early years of the Baptists in Arkansas were marked by barriers--both physical and ideological--to organized, collective efforts on behalf of education and evangelism. Competing organizations vied for the loyalties of Baptists on the Arkansas frontier. After struggling through the first ten years of its existence, the Arkansas Baptist State Convention experienced a "second birth" in 1858, just in time to be endangered again by the disruptions of the Civil War (p. 87). According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. the authors, the next century and a half was marked by Arkansas Baptists' search for "a system and plan" to reach Arkansas and beyond for Christ.
Amid the postwar devastation and disorganization disorganization /dis·or·gan·iza·tion/ (-or?gan-i-za´shun) the process of destruction of any organic tissue; any profound change in the tissues of an organ or structure which causes the loss of most or all of its proper characters. of the 1860s and 1870s, Arkansas became a fertile ground for missionary activity by northern Baptist groups. Baptists in Arkansas had no college or newspaper to unite their vision as Baptists in other southern states Southern States
government of 11 Southern states that left the Union in 1860. [Am. Hist.: EB, III: 73]
popular name for Southern states in U.S. and for song. [Am. Hist. did. In 1880, however, the Arkansas Baptist State Convention reorganized under the dynamic leadership of James P. Eagle, a former Confederate officer. Eagle went on to be president of the convention for twenty-one of the next twenty-five years, a two-term governor of the state, and the president of the Southern Baptist Convention for three years. Under Eagle's leadership, the state's white Baptists firmly aligned themselves with the Southern Baptist Convention, began a state denominational newspaper, and established Ouachita Baptist College in Arkadelphia.
By the 1920s, the Arkansas Baptist State Convention had undertaken ambitious projects and driven up its indebtedness to $1.2 million. With the Great Depression of the 1930s, the convention teetered on bankruptcy. Only the determination of leaders like Benjamin L. Bridges, who became executive secretary in 1931, saved the convention. In 1936, Arkansas Baptists developed a plan, approved by the federal court, to repay 35 percent on the bonds that the state organization had issued. Returning prosperity brought on by World War II and its aftermath allowed Arkansas Baptists to repay the entire debt by 1952.
World War II brought unique missionary opportunities to Arkansas Baptists when the federal government relocated fifteen thousand Japanese Americans The following is a list of famous Japanese Americans who have made significant contributions to the United States, or have appeared in the news numerous times:
Arts and Entertainment
The authors also point to several Arkansas Baptist individuals and groups that supported desegregation desegregation: see integration. and improved race relations race relations
the relations between members of two or more races within a single community
race relations npl → relaciones fpl raciales
in the 1950s. What the authors gloss over Verb 1. gloss over - treat hurriedly or avoid dealing with properly
skate over, skimp over, slur over, smooth over
do by, treat, handle - interact in a certain way; "Do right by her"; "Treat him with caution, please"; "Handle the press reporters gently" , however, is that the majority of Arkansas Baptists, like Baptists in every other southern state, opposed, in either quietly paternalistic pa·ter·nal·ism
A policy or practice of treating or governing people in a fatherly manner, especially by providing for their needs without giving them rights or responsibilities. or overtly racist ways, enhanced civil rights and status for African Americans.
Like McBeth, the authors of A System & Plan bring their story up to the present. Unfortunately, the last two chapters read like a digest of annual convention minutes rather than historical analysis. While they are not as overtly partisan in their presentation of recent events, the narrative necessarily glosses over many important matters. Chronicling the events of the recent past often resorts either to partisanship or to a rather bland and celebratory recitation rec·i·ta·tion
a. The act of reciting memorized materials in a public performance.
b. The material so presented.
a. Oral delivery of prepared lessons by a pupil.
b. of organizational events. Neither is history.
Although the story they tell is an interesting one, the authors' decisions on presentation of A System & Plan markedly detract from detract from
verb 1. lessen, reduce, diminish, lower, take away from, derogate, devaluate << OPPOSITE enhance
verb 2. the volume's ultimate value. Most troubling is the decision not to include notes to their sources or even a bibliography. Future students of Arkansas Baptist history will have to retrace these scholars' research before they can build upon it.
Although the organization of the early chapters is promising, as they are based on events of importance to Arkansas Baptists or to the nation as a whole, chapter 8 begins an ahistorical a·his·tor·i·cal
Unconcerned with or unrelated to history, historical development, or tradition: "All of this is totally ahistorical. division of chapters by decade. Major events in Arkansas, United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. , or Baptist history, if mentioned at all (and many are), seem to have no effect on the periodization Periodization is the attempt to categorize or divide time into discrete named blocks. The result is a descriptive abstraction that provides a useful handle on periods of time with relatively stable characteristics. of the Arkansas Baptist story. The writing, which begins strong in the early half or more of the volume, deteriorates markedly in the chapter on the 1940s, with numerous errors that a copyeditor should have corrected.
Wayne Flynt Wayne Flynt is Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at Auburn University. He has won numerous teaching awards and been a Distinguished University Professor for many years. offers a more polished examination of his subject in Alabama Baptists: Southern Baptists in the Heart of Dixie. From the title, which proclaims that his focus will be on Southern Baptists rather than all Baptists in Alabama, to Flynt's thoughtful reflections on what it means to do a state denominational history to the carefully chosen photographs that complement the text to the extensive research notes and bibliography to the polished volume produced by the University of Alabama Press The University of Alabama Press is a university press that is part of the University of Alabama. External link
The story Flynt tells is a fascinating one. From inauspicious in·aus·pi·cious
Not favorable; not auspicious.
inaus·pi beginnings in the crude society that was frontier Alabama, Southern Baptists grew over nearly two centuries to encompass one in four Alabamians and nearly two of three church members. Although other states have larger total populations of Southern Baptists, the member churches of the Alabama Baptist State Convention (ABSC ABSC Association des Bibliothèques de la Santé du Canada (Canadian Health Libraries Association)
ABSC Alaska Biological Science Center
ABSC Albany-Berkeley Soccer Club
ABSC Active Business Software Consultancy ) can claim "the highest percentage of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC (1) (SBC Communications Inc., San Antonio, TX, www.sbc.com) A large, national telecommunications company that grew from a multitude of local and regional companies, including Southwestern Bell, Pacific Bell and Nevada Bell, into a single, unified brand by 2002. ) dominance of any state" (p. ix). Flynt is clearly right to conclude that "evangelical Christianity sprang from Alabama's soil as prolifically as corn or cotton" (p. 4).
Throughout the nineteenth century, Alabama Baptists merged strands of Calvinism and revivalism revivalism
Reawakening of Christian values and commitment. The spiritual fervour of revival-style preaching, typically performed by itinerant, charismatic preachers before large gatherings, is thought to have a restorative effect on those who have been led away from the as they tried to reconcile the sovereignty of God with the exertions of individual men and women. Simultaneously confronting and conforming to their culture on different issues, they insisted that African Americans had souls but should be slaves, that intemperance A lack of moderation. Habitual intemperance is that degree of intemperance in the use of intoxicating liquor which disqualifies the person a great portion of the time from properly attending to business. Habitual or excessive use of liquor. Cross-references
Alcohol. was wrong but the Confederacy Confederacy, name commonly given to the Confederate States of America (1861–65), the government established by the Southern states of the United States after their secession from the Union. was right, that education and missions were good but northerners could not be trusted on either. Flynt finds the Civil War and Reconstruction to be "theological watersheds" during which "religion underwent jarring changes" (p. 155). Sectional and racial divides hardened, the clergy became more political, and the denomination grew more centralized cen·tral·ize
v. cen·tral·ized, cen·tral·iz·ing, cen·tral·iz·es
1. To draw into or toward a center; consolidate.
2. , even as nearly half of its members (African-American Baptists) left the Alabama Baptist State Convention.
During the twentieth century, Alabama Baptists repeatedly engaged in "battles for the Bible," first in the early years of the century over higher criticism higher criticism, name given to a type of biblical criticism distinguished from textual or lower criticism. It seeks to interpret text of the Bible free from confessional and dogmatic theology. emerging especially from the University of Chicago. These battles continued throughout the century, most recently in the 1980s and 1990s, as did disputes over the proper roles of women in the church and denomination. Alabama Baptists "had strong opinions about many subjects, especially race," and no subject caused more division nor produced as much change as relations between the races (p. 457). The church was "the last southern institution integrated," and the process was a painfully slow one (p. 518). Throughout these changes, the Alabama Baptist State Convention underwent a process of bureaucratization, growing from only an executive secretary and a few staff members to over one hundred staff members by century's end.
At times, Flynt still seems captive to denominational sources and relies too heavily on biographies of individuals, leaders whom he admits were furnished by "some fifty or so large, wealthy churches" (p. 352). In a state convention with over 2,000 churches, this denominational elite may or may not have represented rank-and-file Baptists in small and medium churches in rural areas across the state. Nevertheless, Flynt rarely presents hagiographic hag·i·og·ra·phy
n. pl. hag·i·og·ra·phies
1. Biography of saints.
2. A worshipful or idealizing biography.
hag portraits of these men and women; they are full of complexity, inconsistency, and even dramatic reversals. His inclusion of underused sources, such as poignant ministers' letters to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1935, enrich our understanding of the daily, lived religion of ordinary Alabama Baptists. He has also carefully pored over issues of the Alabama Baptist newspaper to recover lost voices from a wide range of Baptists in the state. He does an excellent job of including enough Alabama history to provide his readers with context without becoming an Alabama history textbook. In his concluding chapter, "The Fundamentalist fundamentalist
An investor who selects securities to buy and sell on the basis of fundamental analysis. Compare technician. Controversy in Alabama, 1980-1998," Flynt also attempts to chronicle the last twenty years TWENTY YEARS. The lapse of twenty years raises a presumption of certain facts, and after such a time, the party against whom the presumption has been raised, will be required to prove a negative to establish his rights.
2. of Baptist denominational life in Alabama. Although Flynt chooses his words carefully and writes with grace and humility, historical detachment is understandably elusive. During these twenty years, "Baptists battled more furiously with each other than with the forces of Satan (although both sides did a thorough job of `demonizing' the other)" (p. 563). Perhaps, but only the passage of another twenty or more years will give historians the analytical distance necessary even to begin assessing this historical watershed.
Albert W. Wardin Jr. provides an even more ambitious survey of Tennessee Baptists, perhaps too ambitiously subtitled sub·ti·tle
1. A secondary, usually explanatory title, as of a literary work.
2. A printed translation of the dialogue of a foreign-language film shown at the bottom of the screen.
tr.v. , A Comprehensive History. Like Flynt, Wardin is conscious that "all historical writing reflects the assumptions and prejudices of the writer," but he declares that he has striven to be "judicious in selecting sources and balanced in their treatment" (p. 12). He largely succeeds.
Baptists have a longer history in Tennessee than in any other state reviewed in this essay. Baptists established the first church in what became Tennessee in 1779, long before the area became a state or even a territory. From those humble beginnings Humble Beginnings was an American pop punk band from New Jersey. While never gaining large-scale success, many of the band's members went on to mainstream success with other outfits. in northeastern Tennessee, Baptists spread into each of the three grand geographic divisions of the state-eastern, middle, and western--and deeply influenced the state's religious and cultural life. By the end of the twentieth century, approximately 1.5 million Tennesseans (28 percent) were Baptist, over 1.1 million of them in the Tennessee Baptist Convention The Tennessee Baptist Convention is the Tennessee statewide organization of churches associated with the Southern Baptist Convention. It maintains offices in Brentwood, Tennessee. . Baptist influence is even more pervasive; as Wardin wryly notes, one-fourth of the Tennessee legislature is Baptist and nearly half of the inmates in the state prison are, too (p. 558). Numerous governors and members of Congress from Tennessee have been Baptists.
Wardin excels at explaining Baptist faith and practice to those who are not Baptists, and to those Baptists who know little about their heritage, by offering careful descriptions of religious life and activities in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. For example, his first section on "Pioneer Patterns" provides glimpses of how churches were organized, how they worshiped, disciplined members, and interacted with their surrounding culture early in the nineteenth century. Each of Wardin's successive broad chronological sections includes several topical chapters. Reflecting historians' emphases on the role of women and minorities in American life, Wardin does not slight either of these groups in his narrative. He also makes certain that other Baptist groups in the state--even tiny ones like Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists are part of a larger sub-group of Baptists that is commonly referred to as "anti-mission" Baptist. This sub-group includes the Duck River and Kindred Baptists, Primitive Baptists, Old Regular Baptists, some Regular Baptists, and some and Seventh Day Baptists--receive a place in his story. While Wardin's attention to these other groups is admirable, his treatment of them is secondary to the story of missionary Baptists aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention. This emphasis is understandable, given both his mission and his sponsor, but it also suggests that a truly "comprehensive history" of Baptists in this state, or any other, remains to be written.
Wardin is particularly effective in suggesting and analyzing how the surrounding culture affected Tennessee Baptists. One example stands out. In his chronicle of Tennessee Baptist life during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, Wardin highlights Baptists' new emphases on efficiency and organization. Reflecting the Progressive Era's determination to reform society and commitment to the value of effective organization, churches and denominations supported more schools and colleges, established benevolent institutions, such as orphanages and hospitals, and endorsed temperance Temperance
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
organization founded to help alcoholics (1934). [Am. Culture: EB, I: 448]
provides protection against drunkenness; February birthstone. and then prohibition. Baptists also sought efficiency and effectiveness through organizational reform from the local church to the statewide convention. Committees and boards proliferated to address a variety of issues and ministries.
The impact of the surrounding society on Tennessee Baptists was not always positive. Wardin's description of Tennessee Baptists early in the twentieth century sounds disturbingly contemporary: "Because of social expectations and peer pressure, baptism for many became more of a rite of passage rite of passage
A ritual or ceremony signifying an event in a person's life indicative of a transition from one stage to another, as from adolescence to adulthood. than a genuine commitment. The changing character of the churches was not only reflected in their failure to exercise church discipline but also in the retention of members on roll without any commitment from them, the simple dropping of unreached members, the growth of the number of non-resident members, and a significantly higher membership than attendance" (369-70).
Any chronicler of Tennessee Baptists must come to terms with the towering figure of James Robinson Graves James Robinson Graves (April 101820-June 261893) was a US Baptist preacher, publisher, evangelist, debater, author, and editor. He was born in Chester, Vermont, the son of Z. C. Graves, and died in Memphis, Tennessee. His remains are interred in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis. (1820-1893) and Landmarkism, and Wardin does not disappoint. Graves became the sole editor of The Baptist (Nashville) newspaper in 1848, and for the next forty-five years, was "the dominant figure" in Tennessee Baptist life (161). Wardin assesses him to be "the greatest pulpiteer and orator ORATOR, practice. A good man, skillful in speaking well, and who employs a perfect eloquence to defend causes either public or private. Dupin, Profession d'Avocat, tom. 1, p. 19..
2. in Tennessee Baptist annals" and "Tennessee Baptists' most influential editor, popular pulpiteer, and greatest polemicist po·lem·i·cist also po·lem·ist
A person skilled or involved in polemics.
a skilled debater in speech or writing. — polemical, adj. in a very contentious age" (p. 177). Graves was the great champion of Landmark theology, which "emphasized the primacy of the local church, identified the Kingdom of God with the aggregate of local Baptist churches, denied the universal church, and believed that an unbroken succession of Baptist churches (under various names) had existed since the days of the Apostles APOSTLES. In the British courts of admiralty, when a party appeals from a decision made against him, he prays apostles from the judge, which are brief letters of dismission, stating the case, and declaring that the record will be transmitted. 2 Brown's Civ. and Adm. Law, 438; Dig. 49. 6. " (p. 178). Landmark theology spread throughout the Old Southwest as far as Texas, and elements of the system persist today in many churches. Wardin offers a remarkably even-handed summary of the controversial J. R. Graves and a concise, understandable summary of Landmarkism. As he rightly concludes, "Although Landmarkism was a Tennessee phenomenon, it had national repercussions repercussions npl → répercussions fpl
repercussions npl → Auswirkungen pl throughout the Baptist denomination Noun 1. Baptist denomination - group of Baptist congregations
Baptist Church, Baptists - any of various evangelical Protestant churches that believe in the baptism of voluntary believers " (p. 190). Wardin later offers an equally judicious examination of struggles over evolution in Tennessee, culminating in the Scopes Trial Scopes trial, Tennessee legal case involving the teaching of evolution in public schools. A statute was passed (Mar., 1925) in Tennessee that prohibited the teaching in public schools of theories contrary to accepted interpretation of the biblical account of human in Dayton, Tennessee Dayton is a city in Rhea County, Tennessee, United States. The population was 6,180 at the 2000 census. The Dayton, TN, Urban Cluster, which includes developed areas adjacent to the city and extends south to Graysville, Tennessee, had 9,050 people in 2000. , in the summer of 1925.
Wardin's final section, on developments among Tennessee Baptists since World War II, is less satisfying than other parts of the book, primarily because it devolves to some extent into an institutional history of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and its boards and departments. However, Wardin wisely devotes only one short chapter to events of the past twenty years and only four pages to the moderate-conservative struggles of the past two decades. Instead, he provides a basic narrative of the leaders and programs of Tennessee Baptists and carefully avoids lionizing or demonizing anyone.
Tennessee Baptists succeeds on a number of levels: it provides an accessible overview of the history of Tennessee
1. A controversial argument, especially one refuting or attacking a specific opinion or doctrine.
2. A person engaged in or inclined to controversy, argument, or refutation.
adj. publications of recent years.
It is less successful in achieving a truly comprehensive history of all Baptists in Tennessee, although it is more inclusive of inclusive of
Taking into consideration or account; including. other Baptist groups than most other such histories. It also shares in the general failure of "denominational" histories to communicate effectively the story of Baptist laypeople lay·peo·ple or lay people
Laymen and laywomen. . Despite these reservations, Professor Wardin has written a history of which both he and Tennessee Southern Baptists can be proud.
From Tennessee and Alabama in the East to Arkansas and Texas in the West, common threads unite the history of Baptists in these four states. Together, these volumes offer an intriguing overview of Southern Baptist life.
Not surprisingly, the central, persistent issue of race emerges from each work. While none of these studies gives extensive treatment to the internal workings of black Baptist churches after the racial divisions of the 1860s and 1870s, race shapes white Baptist life in the South more powerfully than any other factor. From defenses of slavery and disfranchisement The removal of the rights and privileges inherent in an association with a group; the taking away of the rights of a free citizen, especially the right to vote. Sometimes called disenfranchisement. to resistance to the civil rights movement to concern for the salvation of African Americans, white Southern Baptists have always struggled with how to relate to their black brethren.
Each of these studies also devotes considerable attention to the contentious issue of the role of women in church life. Unfortunately, each focuses primarily on the organized activities of Woman's Missionary Unions (WMU WMU Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, Michigan)
WMU Woman's Missionary Union (Southern Baptist Convention)
WMU Waste Management Unit
WMU World Maritime University (Malmö, Sweden) ) and individual women who were "firsts." Absent still are the women in the pew, who all of these authors acknowledge were always the majority of the membership in Southern Baptist churches. It remains unclear whether they shared the views of the few articulate leaders of state WMU organizations, just as it remains unclear whether average laymen agreed with the executive director of the state convention or the editor of the state denominational newspaper. Until we examine the letters and diaries of "average" Baptist women (and men), our understanding remains incomplete.
Geographical divisions are another important theme that emerges from these four state studies. Each of these volumes describes regionalism re·gion·al·ism
a. Political division of an area into partially autonomous regions.
b. Advocacy of such a political system.
2. Loyalty to the interests of a particular region.
3. in its state. While most readers may be familiar with the geographical and cultural separation of Tennessee into three Grand Divisions and perhaps even divisions within Texas between east, south, and west, they are likely less familiar with the north-south divisions in Arkansas and Alabama. What is especially intriguing here is how Baptists, for all of their commitment to the ideal of the separation of church and state
Doctrinal controversies and interdenominational in·ter·de·nom·i·na·tion·al
Of or involving different religious denominations.
among or involving more than one denomination of the Christian Church
Adj. warfare are also recurrent themes in Southern Baptist history as revealed in these studies. To modern readers familiar with ecumenical initiatives and broadly defined "evangelical" beliefs, controversies over modes of baptism, participation in the Lord's Supper, and the precise balance between God's sovereignty and man's free will all seem quite foreign. Yet, in days past, these issues were at the heart of wars between and within denominations. Ironically, the controversies of the last two decades have fueled renewed interest in ecclesiology ec·cle·si·ol·o·gy
1. The branch of theology that is concerned with the nature, constitution, and functions of a church.
2. The study of ecclesiastical architecture and ornamentation. , with moderates advocating the autonomy of the local church in a manner disturbingly consistent with the ecclesiology of J. R. Graves, who is hardly a moderate's hero.
Toward a New Type of Baptist History?
What do these four large studies of Southern Baptists in particular states mean for the "state of state Baptist histories"? First, the fact that these volumes and others like them have been published in rapid succession suggests an interest in Baptist heritage with which all who value that heritage should be pleased. Second, their unevenness in scope, focus, sources, and presentation points to some disagreement over what a "state Baptist history" is. Third, future scholars face a daunting daunt
tr.v. daunt·ed, daunt·ing, daunts
To abate the courage of; discourage. See Synonyms at dismay.
[Middle English daunten, from Old French danter, from Latin task in undertaking such a project.
Southern Baptists can and should learn from their rich history, but that history is neither tidy nor always pristine. Like other mortals, Southern Baptists should learn from their predecessors' mistakes, but too often historians, themselves embroiled em·broil
tr.v. em·broiled, em·broil·ing, em·broils
1. To involve in argument, contention, or hostile actions: "Avoid . . . in current controversies, wish to fashion history to serve contemporary purposes. Both sides in the recent turmoil in the Southern Baptist Convention have legitimately drawn from specific strands of their Baptist heritage (a point neither opposing side would admit) and both have grossly distorted the messy realities of Baptists' complicated history. Wayne Flynt's conclusions apply broadly to Southern Baptists:
Strict Calvinism, creedalism, and inerrancy were more an Alabama Baptist legacy than moderates were willing to admit. And Baptists had tolerated much more diversity from their small liberal wing than fundamentalists believed (p. 623).
Historians of the Southern Baptist heritage should let neither side get away with cavalier treatment of the past, but by becoming partisans themselves, they have too often failed to recover an accurate Baptist past with which neither side will be pleased but which both sides can respect.
In A System and Plan, Williams, Granade, and Startup relate the divisive influence of Ben Bogard, a populist preacher devoted to Landmarkism who led opposition to the Arkansas Baptist State Convention early in the twentieth century and aided in the creation of a rival organization. Consistent with his Landmark beliefs, Bogard was a student of history and wrote a book on the subject. The authors observe, "That Bogard knew something of Baptist history was indisputable, but his `history' also had a decidedly polemical bent. He clearly tended to invest the past with his own powerful preferences and perspectives" (p. 169). Struggles in the Southern Baptist Convention over the last twenty years have raised a host of Ben Bogards, each claiming to present the "true history" of Baptists.
What, then, should a history of Baptists in a particular state look like? A consideration of these examples yields six lessons. First and most importantly Adv. 1. most importantly - above and beyond all other consideration; "above all, you must be independent"
above all, most especially , it must be grounded in the primary sources. The author or authors must become intimately familiar not only with the official pronouncements from denominational bodies and newspapers, but also with the private papers, oral histories, and even reminiscences of both leaders and laity in that state.
Second, scholars must devote much more attention to the laity in Baptist churches. Too often, denominational histories such as these studies are written from the point of view of denominational leaders and a small number of influential pastors. Relying on organizational minutes and the state Baptist newspaper inflates the role of state directors, convention presidents, and newspaper editors. The voices of rural, bivocational, and less educated pastors are lost, as are those of the people in the pews.
Third, historians must acknowledge the parameters of their subject. They should recognize that other Baptist groups existed in the state. If the book focuses only on Southern Baptists in a particular state, then the title and introduction should make the reader aware that he or she will not find in its pages the history of all Baptists in that state.
Fourth, a history of Baptists in a particular state must not be divorced from its multiple contexts, both the larger story of Baptists and the larger story of the state or the nation as a whole. "Secular" events do have important implications for the development of denominations in individual states and for the religious life of any people. A historian of a denomination need not also provide an entire history of the state, but arbitrarily divorcing the "spiritual" from the "secular" yields a distorted and incomplete history.
Fifth, historians of Baptists in a particular locale (programming) locale - A geopolitical place or area, especially in the context of configuring an operating system or application program with its character sets, date and time formats, currency formats etc.
Locales are significant for internationalisation and localisation. should seek a larger audience for their story. Using abbreviations and vocabulary without explanation unnecessarily limits a volume's audience. The inclusion of several maps would also aid those unfamiliar with the geography of a particular state to follow Baptist history as it unfolded across space and time.
Sixth and finally, authors must be aware of their own biases about the story they are telling. Particularly when chronicling history in their own adult lifetime, authors should make clear their personal involvement in the events that they describe. If they have been a partisan in any conflict, they should inform their readers in a preface that they approach this part of the history from a particular viewpoint.
State Baptist histories are valuable. They give Baptists today a sense of their own heritage. They can help explain Baptists to others. They record notable achievements and milestones, triumphs and defeats. They contain inspiring examples to follow and disastrous paths to avoid. They can be instructive and cautionary. To do so, however, they must be crafted using the very best techniques of historical research and presented according to the highest standards of historical accuracy and fairness.
(1.) Other examples, not under review here, include Myron D. Dillow, Harvesttime on the Prairie: A History of Baptists in Illinois, 1796-1996 (Franklin, Tenn.: Providence House Publishers, 1996); James Duane James Duane (February 6, 1733–February 1, 1797) was a lawyer, jurist, and Revolutionary leader from New York. He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress, a U.S. District Judge, New York state senator, and as Mayor of New York. Bolin, Kentucky Baptists, 1925.2000: A Story of Cooperation (Nashville, Tenn.: Southern Baptist Historical Society/Nashville: Fields Publishing, 2000); and W. Loyd Allen, You Are a Great People: Maryland/Delaware Baptists, 1742-1998 (Franklin, Tenn.: Providence House Publishers, 2000).
Texas Baptists: A Sesquicentennial History. By Harry Leon McBeth. Dallas: Baptist General Convertion of Texas, 1998. Pp. xvi, 532. Illustrations, noted, bibliographic essay, statistical epilogue ep·i·logue also ep·i·log
a. A short poem or speech spoken directly to the audience following the conclusion of a play.
b. The performer who delivers such a short poem or speech.
2. , index.
A System and Plan: Arkansas Baptist State Convention, 1848-1998. By c. Fred Williams, S. Ray Granade, and Kenneth M. Startup. Franklin, Tenn.: Providence House Publishers, 1998. Pp. xii, 404. Illustrations, appendices, index.
Alabama Baptists: Southern Baptists in the Heart of Dixie. By Wayne Flynt. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1998. Pp. xxi, 732. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Tennessee Baptists: a Comprehensive History, 1779-1999. By Albert W. Wardin Jr. Brentwood, Tenn.: Executive Board of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, 1999. Pp. 704. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.
Daniel W. Stowell is director and editor of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, Springfield, Illinois Springfield is the capital of the U.S. state of Illinois and the county seat of Sangamon County. As reported in the 2000 U.S. Census, the city was home to 111,454 people. The land on which Springfield is today was first settled in the late 1810s, around the time Illinois became a .