Call Me Jeremiah! A Memoir Response to the Takeover, Dismantling, and Restructuring of a Christian Denomination.
In colonial America, Puritan preachers often used a special sermon form to instruct, persuade, or convict their hearers to change their actions or thoughts. Those sermon, called jeremiads, allowed preachers to take on the mantle of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah. E. C. Watson has also taken up the prophet's mantle in Call Me Jeremiah! Watson's sermon, however, reads much more like a lament than a call to repent.
In three chapters, Watson gives the reader a taste of the distress and agony that many long-time denominational employees have experienced since the official takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) began over two decades ago. His credentials as a Southern Baptist are impeccable. He served as a pastor and a North Carolina state convention leader. For twenty years, he served in the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Watson stands with scores of others who gave their lives and ministries to the SBC. He also represents the many in Baptist life who consider themselves "a Christian and a Baptist, but no longer a Southern Baptist" (p. 11).
After the brief introductory chapter, Watson offers an analysis of some of the defining moments in Baptist history that shaped Southern Baptists, and he lists a series of "warning signs" from the last twenty years that gave indication of the controversy brewing in the convention. Watson then asks, "Did moderates ask for it?" He offers a number of reasons why moderate Baptists contributed to the growing sense of discontent among the fundamentalists in the convention.
Over the last twenty years, Watson has struggled with the question, "What shall we do?" He offers five imperatives for readers to consider as responses. Using a pastoral approach, Watson calls his readers to respond with Christian charity and love.
Watson's words will resonate with many who gave their lives and careers to the denomination, only to see their labors denigrated and dismantled. In one of the most poignant paragraphs in the book, Watson writes "We saw the very people whom we had tried most to help destroy what had been accomplished." (p. 28).
Call Me Jeremiah accomplishes much in a few pages. Watson effectively challenges moderates to respond to changes in Baptist life with Christlike humility, which is a timely reminder to be true to the one whom we serve. Above all, Watson gives a voice to the many faithful Christians who served God as Southern Baptists, but were disenfranchised against their will.--Reviewed by Michael A. Dain, adjunct professor of history, Dallas Baptist University, Dallas, Texas.
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|Author:||Dain, Michael A.|
|Publication:||Baptist History and Heritage|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2004|
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