Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Mainstream Baptists

A new group blog has been developed called Mainstream Baptists. The term “mainstream” in the title does not refer to the views of the current majority of Baptists in America (which would be far more conservative or even right-wing), but to the mainstream of the 400 year old Baptist tradition. The blog is the brainchild of Rev. Dr. Bruce Prescott from Norman, Oklahoma, who runs the “Mainstream Baptists Network.” It will focus mostly on reinforcing the traditional Baptist perspective championing liberty of conscience (called by some “soul competency” or “soul freedom”), religious liberty for all, and church-state separation. But the 15 (so far) bloggers will also comment on other issues of importance to non-fundamentalist Baptists in the centrist-to-progressive theological spectrum, especially “public square” issues.

The hope is that media types who are used to hearing only from the Religious Right when Baptists are mentioned, will discover the site and learn the broader tradition.

To my continued surprise, I have been invited to participate in this blog. My surprise has to do with the fact that, as an inheritor of the Anabaptist-Social Gospel-Liberationist strand of Baptist life, I represent a distinct minority strand of the larger Baptist tradition. My tradition has always been a part of Baptist life, but we’ve never been “mainstream.” Still, since I care strongly about the issues to which the blog is dedicated, I’m glad to be included. On these issues, there is very little difference between Leveller types like me and the mainstream of the tradition.

Today, I posted on “The Sovereignty of God and Church-State Separation.” But don’t just read my post, check out some of the other great contributions.

Let me introduce you to some of the others on the current team: In addition to Bruce Prescott and myself, there’s:

  • Rev. Amy Butler, Senior Minister at Calvary Baptist Church, a multi-racial, multi-ethnic congregation in the heart of Washington, D.C. Amy writes a great blog called “Talk with the Preacher.”
  • Natalie Burris, of Tuttle, Oklahoma, a young woman conversant with contemporary theology, who is considering seminary or graduate school (or both). She writes a blog called Panta ta Ethne.” If your Greek is rusty that translates as “to all the nations,” or “to all peoples.” Natalie’s blog is strong on the multicultural universal nature of the gospel.
  • Dr. Jim West, is pastor of Petros Baptist Church in Tennessee. A biblical scholar with a strong interest in Reformation theology (especially Zwingli), Jim is proof that the breed of pastor-theologians has not quite gone extinct. He stubbornly remains Southern Baptist in hopes of one day seeing reform and renewal when the current era of fundamentalist domination is over. His blog combines his interests in theology and biblical studies with commentary on current events.
  • Pastor Scott Stearsman, Senior pastor of Kirkwood Baptist Church, Kirkwood, MO, connects that church to ministries throughout the world through several partnerships with various Baptist groups. From browsing his profile and online sermons, I gather that he combines his training in classical philosophy (Ph.D., U. of Oklahoma) with mission experience abroad, and a pastor’s heart to give him a vision of mission, ministry, and servanthood, which is global.
  • Will Prescott, son of Bruce, and blogging as “Runbdp,” is a writer, aspiring novelist and screenwriter, and a graduate student at Oklahoma University. His blog, “Future Bard,” previously called “Young and Relentless,” combines his interests in the arts with interests in religion and politics. Today, those political sentiments would be considered “left of center,” but I am old enough to remember when they were very much mainstream and today’s center the “far right,” (and today’s “right” was off the page of acceptability in American discourse). Seeing folk Will’s age hold these convictions gives me hope that I might live long enough to see those kinds of views become “mainstream American” again.
  • Dr. Paul D. Simmons, one of my former teachers, is new to blogging–even newer than I am. Formerly Professor of Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (when it was a center of learning and not an indoctrination camp), these days Paul teaches ethics courses in the philosophy department of the University of Louisville, and biomedical ethics courses at U of L’s School of Medicine. He is a well-known biomedical ethicist, who has also written on sexual ethics, and much on religious liberty and church-state separation. A Christian humanist, Paul has worked long for dialogue between Baptists and secular humanists, knowing that, while we have sharp differences in places, we share common commitments to liberty of conscience, free inquiry and investigation, commitment to secular government (but differing over the desirability of a secular society), free speech, and the marketplace of ideas.
  • Dr. Albert Reyes, is the President of the Baptist University of the Americas, formerly known as the Hispanic Baptist Theological School, which trains Hispanic/Latino Christian leadership through Bible institutes in Texas, Mexico, and one in Alabama. These prepare women and men for ministry in Latin American, U.S. Latino, and cross-cultural contexts, sending many on to further work in seminaries. Dr. Reyes’ blog, “Pan Dulce,” is for “seekers of wisdom, ministry ideas, and pathways to sanity in daily life.”
  • Aaron Weaver, blogging as “Big Daddy Weave,” is a 23 year old son, nephew, and grandson of ministers educated at my alma mater, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. A native of Georgia who did an internship with Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) (one of my own heroes), Aaron previously worked for the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty. He is now a graduate student at Baylor University in Waco and a self-described theological moderate and political progressive.
  • Mark Whitten, blogging as MadisonFan, is the author of The Myth of Christian America: What You Need to Know About the Separation of Church and State (Smyth & Helwys, 1999). He teaches philosophy and religion at Tomball College, Tomball, TX & is president of the the Greater Houston chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
  • Martin Tiller, a former youth minister in Richmond, VA teaching in public schools, blogs as Matthew61. He also owns a digital video production company and some of his work is geared toward churches. He writes an interesting blog called “Thoughts of a Minister.” The blog is, as it describes itself, “thoughts from a Baptist minister in Virginia who is trying to raise an alternative voice to the Religious Right.” His wife is a Youth and Outreach Minister.
  • “Howie Luvzus” is the blogging pseudonymn of someone who was greatly hurt by Southern Baptists and is trying to recover and minister with grace–all in the context of New Orleans, the city America is trying to forget! Although often bittersweet, his blog is also one of the funniest Christian entries to the “blogosphere.”
  • Bruce Gourley, Associate Director of Mercer University’s Center for Baptist Studies, and online editor for Baptists Today, is also a Ph.D. student in history at Auburn University, writing a dissertation on Georgia Baptists during the Civil War. He is also an internet entrepeneur and the owner of BaptistLife.com, a photographer, and a Baptist minister. He has a new blog known as “A Baptist Perspective.”
  • Brian Kaylor, a Ph.D. student in Communications at the University of Missouri, has pastored a rural church and now works as a communications specialist for a Christian organization. Brian works to help Christians communicate better, even when they disagree. Strangely, his blog is called, “For God’s Sake, Shut Up!”
  • Tim Sean Youmans, a minister in Shawnee, Oklahoma, has a fascinating blog known by the unlikely title of “Anabaptist Monk.”

It’s a great group with a fascinating range of interests, backgrounds, contexts, and perspectives. We obviously need more women and persons of color (several who have been invited turned us down due to schedule conflicts), so I hope our diversity expands as some come aboard.

I hope you’ll check us out and, if you do, leave some comments so that we get feedback.

August 26, 2006 - Posted by | Baptists, blogs

1 Comment

  1. Michael,

    Please post this on the Mainstream Baptists weblog.

    Thanks for a great job with introductions of the current list of bloggers.

    Comment by Dr. Bruce Prescott | August 27, 2006

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