Introducing Southern Baptists©
C. B. Hastings
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In 1970 shortly after entering the work of helping Southern Baptists relate to their neighbors among Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox I attended the National Liturgical Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. A Catholic priest and his lay associate spotted the badge revealing my Baptist connections. Immediately they challenged me, "We have always wanted to ask you Baptists one thing."

Thinking I was about to be questioned on some great Baptist distinctive, I inwardly prayed a quick appeal for wisdom.

"How do you get your people to tithe?"

"By the hardest!" I replied, somewhat limply. Since that day I have learned of many more questions that are beginning to be asked in both directions over the ancient barriers that have separated Catholics and Baptists. The most welcome openness of the Roman Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council has given many of us undreamed of opportunities to engage in this kind of "interfaith witness" today.

In spite of much supposed prejudice on the part of people today against doctrine and theology, which are despised as being either impractical or divisive, many of us are finding that these kinds of questions persist. "Why do you Baptists believe ... ?" "What do you mean by . . . ?" "Why do you do (or, more often, do not do) . . . ?"

Thanks to a growing openness on the part of Baptists toward their neighbors of the Catholic and Orthodox faith there is much deeper relationship being established these days. And both groups are learning how to talk about the realities of their faith without much of the former spirit of denunciation.

To all those sincere friends who would like to learn more about those "peculiar people called Baptists," this book is addressed. It is designated "their faith and their life" because each derives from the other in the history of Baptists.

Also in characteristic Baptist fashion this is the view of one Baptist, reflecting his ideals and value judgments. So diverse are the people called Baptists that no single writer can do more than attempt a general viewpoint, colored by his own experiences. I am acutely aware of the limitation of this descriptive work to Southern Baptists, since the Baptists of the American Baptist Churches, the three large Black Baptist Conventions, and other Conventions as well have their own rich heritage to offer American Christianity. What is written here is intended as no disparagement of their worthy contributions to our common life in Christ.

In a work of this kind one tends to alternate between idealizing the realities and excusing the shortcomings. At times it may be apparent that I am preaching to myself and my own people. It is hoped that allowances may be made by the reader for all these limitations while the cause of mutual understanding is set forward apace.

The plan of the book begins with the experience of the individual Baptist in

Part I, moves to the local church in
Part II, and concludes with the larger relationships of the churches and the denomination in
Part III. In order to make this available as a quick resource book, a number of appendices have been added concerning the social principles of the Christian Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, a typical "Church Covenant" adopted by a local church.
Two others comprise indices that hopefully will prove useful—a glossary of terms that are mostly unique to Baptists, and a listing upon the most frequently asked questions, arranged by major topics.

All Scripture quotations are from the 1901 edition of the American Standard Version unless otherwise indicated. "TEV" stands for "Today's English Version" published by the American Bible Society, 1971 edition. While it has been difficult to be consistent, when capitalized "Church" stands for the concept as a whole, "church" for a local congregation. Also whenever "Baptist" is used without qualifications, the reader is to understand "Southern Baptist" primarily.

Since I am not a qualified historian, I feel the inadequacies of the historical portions herein especially. On the matter of the controversies that have influenced Baptists I have chosen only those which have affected Baptist life in relation to Roman Catholics and other Protestant bodies. The interested reader is referred to the books quoted in the footnotes.

While this work is the product of years of teaching Baptists and others what Baptists believe, its writing awaited the opportunity of a study leave at the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research, adjacent to St. John's University, Collegeville, Minnesota. This sabbatical in the fall of 1979 was made possible by the generous policies of the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board, Dr. William G. Tanner, Executive Secretary. I am grateful for the support of Dr. Robert Bilheimer, Director, Sister Delores Schuh, C.H.M., and Father Wilfred Theisen, O.S.B., of the staff of the Ecumenical Institute. The stimulating group of "fellows of the Institute" included Sister Kathleen Hughes, R.S.C.J., and a member of the International Commission on the English Liturgy (ICEL). Each of the nine scholars will be long remembered as loyal critics and friends.

My supervisors at the Home Mission Board, Glenn Igleheart, and Wendell Belew, have given constant support in this writing. I am particularly indebted to Claude Broach, past Director of the Ecumenical Institute of Wake Forest and Belmont Abbey colleges in North Carolina, and formerly pastor of the St. John's Baptist Church, Charlotte, for his careful criticism of both style and content of the manuscript. Father Thomas Stransky, immediate past president of the Paulist Fathers, and a member of the Baptist-Roman Catholic Scholars' Dialog, has made some helpful criticism. Father Joe O'Donnell, of the Glenmary Home Missioners, and Field Representative to Southern Baptists for the Bishops' Committee on Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs, has been for three years my co-laborer and counterpart in Baptist-Catholic relations. He has so completely immersed himself in Baptist life that he knows more about us than most of us are willing to admit.

In these ten years many Catholic friends have contributed richly to my Christian world view. I can only mention a few: three Glenmary priests who served as predecessors of Father O'Donnell—Frank Ruff, Robert Berson, and Will Steinbacher; the three Trappist monks of the Monastery of the Holy Ghost, Conyers, Georgia, who have for the past six years been faithful to a small group of Baptist ministers reading together the Greek New Testament once a month; Sister Jane Marie Richardson, of the Sisters of Loretto, in Kentucky, who has made a great contribution to the spiritual life of my wife and me through a long friendship; to both the Catholic and Baptist members of the Scholars' Dialog, who concluded their sixth session of the first series of theological discussions in the fall of 1980; and to Archbishop Thomas Donnellan, Bishop of Atlanta, who has been a faithful friend, even to giving a letter of commendation on my pamphlet "Baptists and Catholics in Interfaith Marriage."

My wife, Jeanette, and our three sons and two daughters have believed in me and my calling to this "ministry of reconciliation of peoples," for which I am grateful. My secretary, Carol J. Phipps, has endured much tedious business during this writing.

I would like to add my thanks to Father Kevin Lynch, editor of Paulist Press, who first encouraged this work, and to Donald Brophy, associate editor, for shepherding it through its final gate. Also permission has been granted for the adaptation of my chapter, "A Baptist View of Authority" in ~ Pope for All Christrans, Peter J. McCord, editor, published by Paulist Press, 1976, which has been used as Chapter One, "The Lordship of Christ."

©Copyright 1998 All rights Reserved. C.B Hastings
Text was scanned and OCRed from Introducing Southern Baptist ©Paulist, Press 1981.
ISBN: 0-8091-2364-9
Library of Congress Number: 81-80052
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