Archive for the ‘baptist’ tag
by Jeff Brumley
from Associated Baptist Press
Interfaith dialogue is on the rise, not just in formal conversations led by judicatory leaders but in local communities where friendships forge as ministers of various faiths work together for common goals amid increasing religious diversity in the Bible belt.
Kyle Reese, pastor at Hendricks Avenue Baptist in Jacksonville, Fla., has been highly visible in community interfaith efforts, especially in his dialogue with Muslim and Jewish spiritual leaders. He refers to Imam Joe Bradford as “best friend” – as he does a rabbi and an Orthodox Christian priest.
Pastor Steve Jones, who made headlines working with Jews and Muslims to tackle social injustice in Birmingham, Ala., said the same about Rabbi Jonathan Miller. “I am closer to these guys than I am with many other Baptist ministers,” said Jones, the senior pastor of Southside Baptist Church.
by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush
from Huffington Post
Jimmy Carter is the 39th president of the United States, founder of the Carter Center and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He has authored many books, the most recent being “Through the Year with Jimmy Carter: 366 Daily Meditations from the 39th President.” In this wide-ranging interview, HuffPost’s Senior Religion Editor spoke to President Carter by phone about the role faith played in the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, the time of his greatest alienation from God, faith in the White House and his personal daily devotional practice.
In addition to being a Governor of Georgia and President of the United States, you are known as a Sunday School teacher. Are you comfortable with that identity?
I started teaching Sunday school when I was 18 at the Navel Academy Chapel. I led services when we were out at sea while I was in the navy; taught Sunday school 14 times when I was U.S. President at First Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. I just finished my 650th lesson at Maranatha Baptist Church, so you might say I have been a Sunday school teacher all my life.
Who were some of your most influential religious teachers?
Well, my father was the main one. He was a Baptist deacon and Sunday school teacher, and I started going to Sunday school when I was 3. He shaped my early knowledge of Jesus, and I was baptized as a Christian when I was 11 years old.
Later, Billy Graham was probably the closest one to me. I believed what my father taught me about the separation of church and state, so when I was President I never invited Billy Graham to have services in the White House because I didn’t think that was appropriate. He was injured a little bit, until I explained it to him.
Among the theologians, I think Paul Tillich is probably the one I have read the most because he shaped my thoughts about the relation between religion and politics and the fact that religious faith was not incompatible with political service. I tried to apply my religious beliefs when I was governor and later president without being ostentatious about it.
But I don’t claim to be knowledgeable about theology. Most of my knowledge comes out of my experience and the lessons in the Bible. Every Sunday I’m home I teach 45 minutes and we boiled them down to one page for the new book, “Through the Year with Jimmy Carter.”
by Robert P. Sellers
Many persons feel they “know” Baptists as a group because of the unkind words of a few Baptist individuals or denominations. Indeed, some very public Baptists have made statements highly offensive to persons of other faiths—and, perhaps surprisingly, also disturbing and embarrassing for historic Baptists who remember their roots and denounce such judgmental, unkind sentiments. Baptists, like adherents of all religions,are a multicultural and wildly diverse lot, exhibiting different personal, social, political, and theological perspectives.
Those Baptists, however, who do recall their historic values will courageously champion religious freedom. Thomas Helwys (1550?-1616?) sixteenth-century Baptist forebear, opposed the religious and political establishment in England and separated his congregation from the Anglican Church. In 1612, he wrote that “[James 1] has no authority as a king but in earthly causes . . . [for] men’s religion to god is between God and themselves. . . . Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews, or whatsoever, it appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure.” For his viewpoint, Helwys was thrown into London’s Newgate Prison, in whose damp cell he died around 1616. His voice had been silenced, but some historians say his pronouncement “was the first statement of radical religious freedom to be published in English.”
Roger Williams (1603?-1683), another English cleric, “campaigned against the enforcement of religious conformity by civil authorities” in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but in 1635 was exiled “under pain of death for his religious convictions.” Establishing the first Baptist church of America in the colony of Rhode Island, he wrote a tract in 1652 that inquired “whether or not such as may hold forth other worships or religions, Jews, Turks, or anti-Christians, may not be peaceable and quiet subjects, loving and helpful neighbors, fair and just dealers, true and loyal to the civil government.” The question was rhetorical, because Williams believed all persons could be peaceful, loving, helpful, just, and loyal neighbors.
Eighteenth-century Baptist Isaac Backus (1724-1806) lobbied the first Continental Congress in 1774 and came away with a resolution, signed by John Hancock, that “acknowledged the Congress’s ‘sincere wish’ to extend ‘civil and religious liberty’ to every denomination.” John Leland (1754-1841), a fellow Baptist New Englander, “at a legendary meeting near Orange, Virginia, . . . threatened to oppose [James] Madison as a candidate for Virginia’s ratifying convention and agreed not to do so only after extracting a promise that Madison would pursue explicit protection for religion in the Bill of Rights”—a pledge that led to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Honoring this spirit of freedom, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty—begun in 1936 in Washington, D.C. and funded by 14 national Baptist bodies—operates today as the “best-known Baptist agency lobbying in behalf of religious liberty.”
Today many Baptists who perceive themselves as “free and faithful” Baptists in this historic way are involved in interfaith dialogue, cooperation, and friendship. In Phoenix, for example, Paul Eppinger creatively guides the Arizona Interfaith Movement, an organization of 21 religious groups that convenes Faith Forums on topics like “forgiveness and reconciliation” or “texts of terror in scriptures of faith,” hosts multi-religious artists in Voices of Faith Concerts, builds Habitat for Humanity interfaith houses, and sells Golden Rule interfaith Arizona license plates.
In Nashville, visionary Robert Parham directs the Baptist Center for Ethics, an agency that has recently produced two highly-regarded documentary films that tell important stories of interfaith engagement: Different Books, Common Word, which recounts five examples of Baptist-Muslim relationship-building in America after 9-11, and Sacred Texts, Social Duty, which focuses on various Jewish, Christian, and Muslim perspectives of Chicagoans who discuss government taxation.
In addition to individual Baptists like Eppinger and Parham who value our pluralistic society, “free and faithful” Baptist congregations across the country are reaching out to persons across religious boundaries. Members of First Baptist Church, Seattle, have worked alongside Ahmadiyya Muslims to feed the homeless in their community, and were invited guests at the opening of a new mosque in Redmond, California. Parishioners of Wilshire Baptist Church and Temple Emanu-el in Dallas have a decade-long relationship of worship pulpit-exchange and congregational shared meals, and are embarking on a Jewish-Baptist exploration of the Holy Land in April 2012 co-led by their rabbi and pastor. In Norman, Oklahoma, when local Muslims were afraid after 9/11 that violent reactions might be aimed at their mosque or families, Baptists from North Haven Church offered them protection, comfort, and even rides to the supermarket for Muslim women who felt too intimidated to go outside of their houses alone.
Beyond these local instances of neighborliness and solidarity there are also institutional expressions of Baptist interfaith commitment. Five North American Baptist conventions joined with the Islamic Society of North America to co-sponsor the first National Baptist-Muslim Dialogue in Boston in January 2008, and the second national conference and a series of regional workshops are being projected for 2012. Finally, the Baptist World Alliance,which represents 218 member Baptist bodies in 120 countries, was so struck by the peaceful initiative of 138 global Muslim scholars who in 2007 crafted A Common Word between Us and You that they not only sent a very thoughtful response that appears on the official website of A Common Word, but also established a permanent Commission on Baptist-Muslim Relations.
It cannot be denied that Baptists on the whole still have many sins of intolerance and unkindness for which to repent. Nonetheless, there are historic Baptists who treasure their heritage of religious freedom and whose efforts to relate to and learn from persons of other faiths should be recognized. It is the stories of these good neighbor Baptists that I hope will be told and remembered.
Robert P. Sellers is professor of missions and theology at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, and represents Cooperative Baptist Fellowship on the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches, USA. He is a member of the Board of Trustee of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Notes on Sources
 The historical information in this paragraph was originally published in Robert P. Sellers, “What Baptist Traditions Teach Us about Loving our Neighbors,” American Baptist Quarterly 223 (Spring 2009): 113-115.
 Thomas Helwys, A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity, quoted in William H. Brackney, A Genetic History of Baptist Thought (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2004), 17.
 Bill J. Leonard, Baptist Ways: A History (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 2003), 9.
 Robert Jewett, Mission and Menace: Four Centuries of American Religious Zeal (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008), 21.
 Daniel L. Buttry, Interfaith Heroes (Canton: Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, 2008), 33.
 Roger Williams, The Bloody Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience Discussed, quoted in Leonard, Baptist Ways, 76.
 Ibid., 124.
 Brent Walker, Church-State Matters: Fighting for Religious Liberty in our Nation’s Capital (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2008), 15.
 Joseph M. Dawson, Baptists and the American Republic, quoted in Ibid.
 Leonard, Baptist Ways, 409.