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Baptist diversity: the 2002 annual meeting of the Baptist History and Heritage Society hit close to home this year, literally. (Editorial).

The Center for Baptist Studies at Carson-Newman College, along with the Tennessee Baptist Convention, hosted the three-day conference at First Baptist Church, Jefferson City, just on the edge of the campus.

The well-attended meeting focused on Baptist diversity, an issue of particular relevance in this era of Baptist life. While Baptists, especially in the American South, are often perceived as a seamless garment, a closer look reveals a patchwork quilt sewn from many different pieces, some of them quite different.

Individual papers and panel discussions at this year's meeting explored the challenges and opportunities presented by these differences. Bill J. Leonard, dean of the Divinity School at Wake Forest University, presented a paper on Appalachian Baptist diversity. With the meeting's setting in southeastern Appalachia, Leonard's presentation was particularly relevant. His paper reminds us that Southern Baptists join several other varieties of (s)outhern Baptists in Appalachia.

The worship wars of many denominations have not bypassed Baptists. All denominations are experimenting with worship styles, with contemporary, traditional, and liturgical styles vying with several approaches. Factor in the impact of race and gender and one finds a vital and dynamic discussion. Jimmy Garcia, James Porch, and Sherman Tribble led a panel discussion of Baptist approaches to worship.

There should be little doubt that Baptists have diversity in their theology. Every major Baptist denomination in North America has been rocked by the "Fundamentalist-Modernist" conflict. While this conflict is and has been a reality, Fisher Humphreys helps us see that the complexity of Baptist theology is broader than a two-party paradigm.

Pam Durso, Carolyn Blevins, and Catherine Allen have papers exploring the issue of gender diversity in Baptist life, with a particular emphasis on Southern Baptist life. Their papers are strengthened by personal reflections.

Steve Harmon, who submitted the winning sermon in the Baptist Heritage Preaching contest cosponsored by the Baptist History and Heritage Society and the H. Franklin Paschall Chair of Preaching, Belmont University, provides us with a sermon on Baptist diversity, with an emphasis on the Baptist heritage on freedom.

Finally, Albert W. Wardin Jr. provides an explanation of a little-known Baptist group, the Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists. His article demonstrates yet again how diverse Baptists are.
Shalom,
Mel Hawkins
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Author:Hawkins, Merrill M., Jr.
Publication:Baptist History and Heritage
Date:Jun 22, 2002
Words:367
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