Understanding Baptist History and the Southern Baptist Convention: Some Suggestions for First Reads

While the occasional ‘First-Reads‘ posts have been far too few in number, I trust they have been of high quality.  I am pleased to post this installment by Andrew C. Smith, Assistant Professor of Religion at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tennessee.  A Nashville native, Andrew is a graduate of Carson-Newman, McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University and Vanderbilt University.  I first met Andrew over five years ago when he came to DCHS to research for a seminar paper.  A scholar of religious history, he is also a practitioner of denominational history and a committed churchman.  I am pleased he consented to my request to compile this brief list of first-reads.  Tolle lege!


First Reads on Southern Baptists and the Southern Baptist Convention

1. C. C. Goen, Revivalism and Separatism in New England, 1740-1800: Strict Congregationalists and Separate Baptists in the Great Awakening. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2012.

This is a reprint of a classic text originally published by Yale in 1962. Goen, perhaps better known to many as the author of Broken Churches, Broken Nation, shows how dissenting evangelical Congregational churches broke away from the Standing Order during the Great Awakening in New England. Eventually, three-quarters of these churches adopted adult believers’ baptism as a direct result of their conversionist convictions, creating a new “Separate Baptist” strain of credobaptism to the American religious landscape. Goen’s account of the emergence of the Separate Baptists remains the best, and helps to explain many American Baptist habits of thought and action.

2. Monica Najar, Evangelizing the South: A Social History of Church and State in Early America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Although not (yet) a classic among Baptist historians, Najar’s book (based on her dissertation) does much to explain the Baptist tradition of church discipline, offering some reasons that this tradition began to weaken in the years leading up to the Civil War. Najar believes that strong Baptist presence in the South led to an underdevelopment of Southern state governments owing to Baptist churches’ desire and ability to regulate their own members through discipline. At the same time, the debate over slavery proved impossible to resolve through those same disciplinary practices; churches ended up leaving the question of slavery to the state. This may well mark the beginning of the end of the tradition of church discipline among Baptists in the South.

3. Gregory A. Wills, Democratic Religion: Freedom, Authority and Church Discipline in the Baptist South, 1785-1900. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

On the topic of church discipline, I also recommend Greg Wills’ Democratic Religion: Freedom, Authority, and Church Discipline in the Baptist South. Wills’ approach to the rise and fall of the Baptist disciplinary tradition differs from Najar’s in that he is more concerned with issues of freedom and authority than he is in the relationship between Baptists and the state. The two volumes complement each other well.

4. William E. Ellis, “A Man of Books and a Man of the People:” E. Y. Mullins and the Crisis of Moderate Southern Baptist Leadership. Macon, GA: Mercer, 1985.

A Man of Books is one of those rare academic monographs that will still be worth a close read after thirty years on the shelf; in fact, Mercer now offers a paperback reprint edition. Although the book is cast as a brief biography of Southern Baptist leader E. Y. Mullins, the story really serves to illustrate the tensions between the SBC’s moderate leadership and its conservative rank-and-file pastors and ministers during the early 1900s.

5. Eighmy, John Lee. Churches in Cultural Captivity: A History of the Social Attitudes of Southern Baptists. With revised introduction, conclusion, and bibliography by Sam Hill. Knoxville: Tennessee, 1987.

Eighmy’s book is well-known among students of the Baptist tradition. His treatment of the social attitudes of Southern Baptists is probably the clearest articulation of the idea that Southern Baptists have been too close to their culture to question it in any significant way.

6. Bill Leonard, God’s Last and Only Hope: The Fragmentation of the Southern Baptist Convention. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990.

Dr. Leonard’s volume is probably the best book written about the controversy that consumed the Southern Baptist Convention during the 1980s and 1990s. Although Leonard’s analysis is excellent, some will question whether his assertion that conservatives broke with longstanding tradition as they demanded that denominational employees affirm a doctrine of biblical inerrancy is fair or accurate.

7. Barry Hankins, Uneasy in Babylon: Southern Baptist Conservatives and American Culture. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2003.

Hankins’ excellent book serves as a guide for those perplexed by the conservatives that have controlled the Southern Baptist Convention since the early 1990s. Hankins shows convincingly that many leading Southern Baptist conservatives were influenced by the views of Francis Schaeffer in part because they spent time outside of the south during their youths or young adulthood. Because of these experiences, these leaders came to believe that the Southern Baptist Convention should adopt a similar perspective as the South came to be less insular and began to assimilate to the cultural patterns of the rest of the nation.

Understanding Cane Ridge: Some Suggestions for First Reads

In keeping with the spirit of this occasional series, I present here a few first-reads for inquiry concerning the revival at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, in 1801.  This list is in no particular order.  I hope it is helpful; feel free to post additional suggestions in the comments.

1. Anthony L. Dunnavant, Ed. Cane Ridge in Context: Perspectives on Barton W. Stone and the Revival. Nashville: Disciples of Christ Historical Society, 1992.

2. Paul K. Conkin, Cane Ridge, America’s Pentecost. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1990.

3. John B. Boles, The Great Revival, Beginnings of the Bible Belt. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1996.   This is a paperback reissue; originally published as The Great Revival, 1787-1805: The Origins of the Southern Evangelical Mind in 1972 by the same press.

4-6. Discipliana 65:3 (Fall 2005) contains papers presented at the Kirkpatrick Seminar at Shaker Village, KY, June 2005.  It was the scholarly journal published by Disciples of Christ Historical Society, Nashville, TN, and contains these papers: Rick Nutt, “Controversy in Christ: The Background and Context of Western Frontier Presbyterian Revivalism and the Movements Which Grew Out of It”; Stephen J. Stein, “Taking up the Full Cross: The Shaker Challenge to the Western Christians”; and Thomas H. Olbricht, “Rallied Under the Standard of Heaven.”

7. Lon D. Oliver, A Guide to the Cane Ridge Revival. Lexington Theological Seminary Occasional Studies. Lexington: Lexington Theological Seminary Library 1988.  Oliver did yeoman’s work in producing here an annotated bibliography of 194 entries plus fine excerpts from selected primary sources. Paperback, 54pp.

8. D. Newell Williams, Barton Stone, A Spiritual Biography. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2000.  There are earlier biographies (Ware, West…get them if you can), but this is easily accessible and includes information others lack.

9. Bernard A. Weisberger, They Gathered At the River: The Story of the Great Revivalists and Their Impact Upon Religion in America. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1958.

10. Charles A. Johnson, The Frontier Camp Meeting: Religion’s Harvest Time. Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1955.

11-12. Franklin Reid McGuire, “Cane Ridge Meetinghouse” and D. Newell Williams, “Cane Ridge Revival” in The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.

13. Leigh Eric Schmidt, Holy Fairs: Scottish Communions and American Revivals in the Early Modern Period. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989.

14. Richard C. Goode, “Floating at Random Between Liberty and Obedience? Backgrounds to the Second Great Awakening’s Emotional Exercises” Discipliana 62:3 (Fall 2002).

15. Leigh Eric Schmidt, “‘A Practical Remembrance’: Cane Ridge in Historical Memory” Discipliana 61:2 (Summer 2001).

16. D. Newell Williams, “Barton Stone in 1804: From Port Tobacco to Cane Ridge” Stone-Campbell Journal 7:2 (Fall 2004).


17. Richard McNemar, The Kentucky Revival is available on Kindle; see http://www.amazon.com/The-Kentucky-Revival-ebook/dp/B0059CJGSQ and on Google Books http://books.google.com/books?id=Vx7f0s4zLXcC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false and archive.org: http://archive.org/details/kentuckyrevivalo00mcne

18. Catharine C. Cleveland, The Great Revival in the West, 1797-1805. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1916. Also available on google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=Q4VoMqJ3_dMC&printsec=frontcover&dq=mcnemar,+kentucky+revival&source=bl&ots=am7zQ6y3Nh&sig=t2dZbUaThdLqua9TIvVj397F3Ms&hl=en&sa=X&ei=LBsUUN3AN4TO9QTL9YGgBg&ved=0CEEQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=mcnemar%2C%20kentucky%20revival&f=false

19. C. Leonard Allen, Distant Voice:s Discovering a Forgotten Past for a Changing Church. Abilene: ACU Press, 1993 has a chapter on Communoin Festivals in Kentucky by which he frames Cane Ridge.


Understanding Non-Sunday School Churches of Christ: Some Suggestions for First Reads

This installment includes just five suggestions for first-reads about one sub-set of acapella Churches of Christ.  Navigate the ‘First Reads Series‘ link in my Categories list to find earlier installments.  This brief list is in response to a request made in the comments on a February 2010 post, ‘The Situation in Tennessee.’

1. Thomas A. Langford, “N. L. Clark: Early Firm Foundation Editor and College President” in The Christian Academic: Exercising Faith in the University Setting. Ketch Publishing: Bloomington, Indiana, 2007.

2. Larry Hart, “Brief History of a Minor Restorationist Group,” Restoration Quarterly 22 (1979), pages 212-232.

3. Thomas A. Langford, “An Insider’s View of Non-Sunday School Churches,” Restoration Quarterly 45 (2003), pages 181-192.

4. [Roy Deaver and Lester Hathaway] Debate on the Bible Class Question and Women Teachers in Some of Those Classes. Chronicle Publishing Company, Inc.: Abilene, 1952.

5. [L. W. Hayhurst, Alva Johnson, Logan Buchanan and Van Bonneau] Debate on the Bible Class Question J. R. Chisolm and Jimmy Wood: Brownfield, TX, 1950.

Comments and additions to this list are earnestly solicited.

Understanding Non-Institutional Churches of Christ: Some Suggestions for First Reads

I offer for this installment the suggestions of my friend Chris Cotten.  Several weeks ago I asked Chris to consider guest-posting to eScriptorium a short reading list on non-institutional churches of Christ (NI).  I told him there would be no parameters, no restrictions and no pay…well, ok, a meal at Wendell’s in West Nashville, but no lucre, filthy or otherwise, is at stake here.  Chris obliged and put together twelve annotated suggestions for first-reads on NI churches and issues.  Enjoy…


First Reads: non-institutional churches of Christ

This list is my own.  The interpretations are my own, as well (although we can talk about the scholarship behind them in the comment box if you’d like).  There may be works that you would include that I haven’t; that’s ok, tell me about them in the comment box.

1. ‘The churches of Christ (non-institutional)’ via Wikipedia.  Don’t laugh, it’s actually a decent summary of the controversy of the 1950s and some of the later controversies within NI circles.  The article is aided considerably by the input of Jeff Barnes and others. 

2.  “Please Don’t Call Us ‘Anti’” by Ferrell Jenkins.  The text of an address delivered at the 55th Annual Pepperdine Lectureship in May, 1998.  It attempts, as much as possible, to give a snapshot of the NI fellowship as it stood at that time.  Much of what he says is still valid a decade later.

 3.  David Edwin Harrell, Jr., The Churches of Christ in the 20th Century: Homer Hailey’s Personal Journey of Faith.  Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2000.  Included in this biography of Homer Hailey is probably the most complete history of the NI churches following the split of the 1950s.

 4.  ________, “The Emergence of the ‘Church of Christ’ Denomination.”  Athens, AL: C.E.I. Publishing Company, 1972.  If you think the institutional debate was about kitchens, you don’t get it.  The young scholar turns the rigor of his sociological analysis of the 19th century Stone-Campbell Movement to an examination of the institutional controversy in this delightfully written, and frankly polemical, pamphlet.

5.  Irven Lee, “A Friendly Letter on Benevolence.”  Athens, AL: C.E.I., 1958.  Included in this tract is the memorable, and very telling (I think) line, that Christianity “is a do-it-yourself religion.”  I think this gives significant insight into the NI mindset: Lee is not saying that you don’t need the church and that you can go it alone, rather that teaching, preaching, missionary activity, care for the poor¸ widows and orphans, are always the responsibility of each Christian and can never be “outsourced” to agencies that do those things for us without us ever having to lift a finger.  To me, this is a kind of proto-“missional” stance.  It has, incidentally, recently been dressed up and re-presented in Russell D. Moore’s book on adoption.

6.  Cogdill-Woods Debate: A Discussion on What Constitutes Scriptural Cooperation Between Churches of Christ.  Lufkin, TX: Gospel Guardian, 1957.  This debate between Roy Cogdill (representing the NI position) and Guy N. Woods (representing the institutional position) took place in Birmingham, Alabama, in November 1957.  (Interestingly, this major debate took place almost three full years after B.C. Goodpasture had printed calls for a ‘quarantine of the antis’ in the pages of the Gospel Advocate in December 1954.)  Although not a very edifying read, yet lauded as the textbook on the subject by many on the NI side, this is the standard presentation of the hermeneutical side of the institutional controversy.  The text of Cogdill’s first affirmative speech can be found here.

7.  The Cogdell-Turner Discussion.  Bowling Green, KY: Guardian of Truth, 1983.  A written debate between Gaston D. Cogdell (not to be confused with Cogdill above), representing the ‘mainline’ and Robert F. Turner, representing the NI position.  In general, I have found that written debates are far more effective than oral ones when attempting to understand a question.  Thus, I consistently recommend this debate over Cogdill-Woods if you want to examine a debate about institutionalism. 

8.  Cecil Willis, ed.  The Arlington Meeting.  Marion, IN: Cogdill Foundation, 1976.  In 1968, a group of well-known preachers and authors representing both the institutional and non-institutional positions gathered in Arlington, Texas, to talk things over.  Nothing came out of the meeting itself, but the speeches given were collected into a single volume by Cecil Willis and make a nice resource on the whole question, mostly because of the general absence of rancor on the part of the speakers. 

 9.  Steve Wolfgang, “History and Background of the Institutional Controversy.”  This is Wolfgang’s opening address at the 1988 Nashville Meeting.  Originally published in Guardian of Truth 33 (1989), it was reprinted in pamphlet form from Truth Bookstore.  The entire address is now available online in four parts: 1, 2, 3, 4.

10.  John Mark Hicks and Bobby Valentine, Kingdom Come: Embracing the Spiritual Legacy of David Lipscomb and James Harding.  Siloam Springs, Arkansas: Leafwood, 2006.  Much of what is described in this book – although not all of it – is passed from Lipscomb and Harding through John T. Lewis (a 1906 Nashville Bible School graduate) to a group of preachers (Benjamin Lee Fudge, Irven Lee, Hiram Hutto, Sewell Hall, Howard See, Carrol Sutton, etc.) and churches in North Alabama and Middle Tennessee during the first half of the twentieth century.  As it manifests itself in NI circles, it retains the Lipscomb/Harding position on war and government, the female head covering, prayer (and prayer posture), grace, etc., as well as Lipscomb and Harding’s ecclesiology (which this particular ‘school’ points to in defense of its adoption of the NI position in the 1950s).  When examining the history of the NI fellowship over the past twenty years, it is possible to see the tensions between “liberals” (the group described above) and “conservatives” (represented by Truth Magazine, Faith and Facts, Watchman Magazine, etc.) as another example of the strife between “Tennessee” (in Hicks and Valentine’s paradigm) and “Texas.”

11.  Benjamin Lee Fudge, “Can A Christian Kill For His Government?” Athens, AL: C.E.I., 1943.  This tract, published the year that Fudge graduated from Abilene Christian College, was extremely controversial.  It was published at a time when the slow trickle away from pacifism in Churches of Christ had become full-scale retreat, due in large part to the shift of Foy E. Wallace, Jr. from a pacifist to a militarist position following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.  In short, Fudge’s answer to the question posed in the title of the pamphlet was “No.”  As the 1940s gave way to the 1950s, Fudge’s unpopular position on participation in war, combined with his alignment with the emerging non-institutional movement (as demonstrated in his journal, The Gospel Digest), led to a nationwide boycott of the publishing enterprise he had founded during the 1940s – called C.E.I. (Christian Enterprises International) and at the time a major provider of Sunday school literature among Churches of Christ – that forced him into involuntary bankruptcy.  This tract has probably done the most to keep the pacifist option open in NI circles over the past fifty years.

 12.  Daniel Sommer, The Rough Draft: Can’t We Agree on Something?  Daniel Sommer (1850-1940) was something of a spiritual grandfather for the non-institutional movement.  Let me hasten to clarify that statement because if I leave it alone I will catch flack from all sides. 

 It is difficult to speak of Sommer at all in Church of Christ circles.  Outright misrepresentation of his positions (or incomplete understandings of them) are rampant in Church of Christ circles.  A few things should be noted first for an informed reading of the Rough Draft.  First, it was common in mainline CofC circles in the 1950s to refer to those who advocated the NI position as “Sommerites.”  Partly this was to score rhetorical points – to call someone a Sommerite in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was a shorthand way to refer to that person as an extremist or a fanatic. 

First published in the American Christian Review in June 1932, this is a fascinating document.  It comes from the “ecumenical” period late in Sommer’s life.  The positions elaborated in the document are, thus, moderate positions designed to appeal to a wide audience across the conservative end of the Disciples spectrum.  The compromise position on support of colleges enunciated in this document becomes, twenty years later, the NI position during the debates of the 1950s.  By that time, of course, the game had changed in Churches of Christ.  The push for denominational status (in the Troeltschian sense), respectability and institution-building in Churches of Christ in the 1950s made the compromises of the 1930s seem quaint at best, dangerous and radical at worst.

A few more ‘first reads’

Several days ago I recommended some first reads for understanding the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  This morning’s mail brings a new Chalice Press catalog with some new releases.  Look for these new titles between now and the summer of ’09: tolle-lege

D. Duane Cummins, The Disciples: A Struggle for Reformation (June 09)

Sandhya Jha, Room at the Table: Struggle for Unity and Equality in Disciples History (June 09)

Michael Kinnamon and Jan Lynn, Disciples: Back to the Future, Reclaiming Our Identity, Reforming Our Practice (May 09)

William Chris Hobgood, Born Apart, Becoming One: Disciples Defeating Racism (January 09)

Peter Goodwin Heltzel, ed. Chalice Introduction to Disciples Theology (available now)

tolle lege

Understanding the Disciples: Some Suggestions for First Reads

Herewith I’m launching another occasional series of posts broadly titled, “First Reads.”  My goal is to survey selected areas from the broad and deep body of literature on/by/about/from the Stone-Campbell movement and suggest a few places to begin your study.  As a target audience for this series I have in mind interested folks who are willing to do a little digging but have neither the time nor the desire for extensive ongoing research.  I’m also working under a strong assumption that the first priority for any kind of study like this is understanding.  Critique all you want…but critique from understanding not preconceived bias.  Since I’ve not found these sorts of reading guides, I hope they’ll find a niche and serve a purpose.  I’ll try to live with lists of ten (or less) current resources; maybe that is too much, maybe too little, but ten is a start and that’s the point.

Understanding the Discipleschalice

1. www.disciples.org : The official website of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  Here you will find the basic and most up-to-date information.  Especially relevant are these pages:  The Design of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)The Four Priorities of the Church, About the Disciples, General Ministries, Regional Ministries.  You could spend hours on the site, but these four pages are a sufficient first step.

2. Mark G. Toulouse, “Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)” Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005, 177-184.  It should go without saying that the ESCM is the first-read for anything Restoration Movement.  His bibliography is helpful (some items I list here), but there aren’t any cross-references to other articles.  Aside from that, you’ll want to start here.

3. Call to Unity, September 2008.  A periodical issued by the Council on Christian Unity of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), theme of this issue of Call to Unity is ‘Becoming a Multicultural and Inclusive Church’ and features these fine articles, each of which is a first-read for its respective field:

–Raymond E. Brown, “History and Development of the African American Disciples”

–Timothy S. Lee, “From Coerced Liminality to in-Beyond the Margin, A Theological Reflection on the History of Asian-American Disciples”

–Carmelo Alvarez, “Hispanic Disciples in the US: Identity and Presence”

–D. Newell Williams, “The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ): A Reformed North American Mainstream Moderate Denomination”

–Sharon Watkins, “For Disciples, Christian unity is both Given and Goal”

–Craig M. Watts, “Is Christianity a Religion of Peace?”

4. Howard E. Bowers, ed. Yearbook and Directory, 2008, of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Indianapolis: Office of the General Minister and President, 2008.  This is the go-to resource for current Disciple ministries, general units, regions, educational institutions, congregations and constituent groups.  It also lists ministers and guides you to the voice of the General Assembly on a host of topics over the years.  You’ll need old Yearbooks for the text of those resolutions and actions, but the current Yearbook will tell you where to go.

5. D. Duane Cummins, A Handbook for Today’s Disciples. rev. ed. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1991.  Only 66 pages, this booklet surveys history, theology, worship, mission and ethics.

6. Colbert S. Cartwright, People of the Chalice, Disciples of Christ in Faith and Practice. St. Louis: CBP Press, 1987.  Another slim volume, akin to Cummins’ above, with more focus on doctrine than history (though the two are intertwined throughout the book).

7. Debra B. Hull, Christian Church Women, Shapers of a Movement. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1994.  Among Stone-Campbell heirs, the Disciples are clearly the most egalitarian.  This book details some of the process which led them to a gender-inclusive church, but focuses on individual women who have, as the title reveals, shaped the movement.

8. Mark G. Toulouse, Joined in Discipleship, The Shaping of Contemporary Disciples Identity. rev. ed. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1997.  This is the current standard history, alongside Lester McAllister’s and William Tucker’s 1974 history.  Thoroughly footnoted, this is what you should read after Cummins and Cartwright.

9. Eugene M. Boring, Disciples and the Bible. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1997.  A deeper study of the history of hermeneutics, this book explains how Disciples have come to read and interpret Scripture as they do.

10. D. Newell Williams, ed. A Case Study of Mainstream Protestantism, The Disciples’ Relation to American Culture, 1880-1989. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991.  I saved this for last since it is the meatiest item on the list.  A collection of several high-quality scholarly articles on a host of topics (Bible and Theology; Mission and Image; Education; Structure; Theological, Moral and Social Profile; and Ecology of Growth and Decline), this anthology delves deeply into what makes Disciples’ tick.  Obviously, the essays here will point you to more primary sources than you can read in a lifetime.

First Reads: New Series Coming

Herewith I’m launching another occasional series of posts broadly titled, “First Reads.”  My goal is to survey selected areas from the body of literature on/by/about/from the Stone-Campbell movement and suggest a few places to begin your study.  As a target audience for this series I have in mind inquisitive folks who are willing to do a little digging but have neither the time nor the desire for extensive ongoing research.  An undergraduate working on a course paper, a Sunday School teacher preparing for a quarter of classes, or an enthusiastic armchair historian…these sorts of students.  They aren’t for the specialist and they are purposefully un-comphrehensive.  I intend for these posts to lean in a different direction than the Explorations in Stone-Campbell Bibliography series.  I envision that series touching on everything bookish.  First Reads is more research oriented.

I’m also working under a strong assumption that the first priority for any kind of study like this is understanding.  Critique all you want…but critique from understanding not preconceived bias.  And you don’t have understanding until you’ve done your homework.   Since I’ve not found these sorts of reading guides, I hope they’ll find a niche and serve a purpose.  I’ll try to live with lists of ten (or less) current resources; maybe that is too much, maybe too little, but ten is a start and that’s the point.

Check back tomorrow morning look for installment #1… Understanding the Disciples: Some Suggestions for First Reads.