Posts Tagged With: Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

A Half-Buried Body: Southern Baptists in the News

A Half-Buried Body: Southern Baptists in the News

Marion D. Aldridge

Southern Baptists are making headlines again in secular newspapers, as they did thirty years ago. It’s as if hunters in the woods stumbled upon a shallow grave and discovered a half-buried corpse most people had forgotten about.

Many of us who grew up as Southern Baptists are like children of a kidnapped mother who went missing long ago. We grieved then. Now, decades later, we get a phone call and are told, “They found her body.”

All the old emotional and spiritual wounds feel as fresh as when she was abducted. We thought those memories, injuries, and abrasions had healed, but apparently not. We grieve again.

During the 1970s and 80s, Southern Baptists pulled themselves out of the mainstream of Protestant Christian life. Southern Baptists were theologically conservative, but not inflexible. There was relative autonomy at the church and the individual level. The umbrella of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) was not restrictive enough for the legalists who staged a successful coup. They wanted everyone who did not fit their narrow doctrinal whims removed from any leadership role. They got their wish.

The details of the abduction are available in old newspapers. The consequences were real and destructive, beginning a downward spiral. Church buildings in the Deep South that once seated a thousand on Sunday mornings now hold fifty—on a good weekend!

Men and women, laity and clergy, left the Southern Baptist Convention by the hundreds of thousands. They became Methodists and Presbyterians. Tragically, some left church altogether.

The harsh fundamentalist doctrines of the new SBC regarding the limited role of women in church and society have discouraged millions of young women from having any interest in the Christian faith and church life.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) was formed as a safety net for former Southern Baptist churches and individuals, providing a home where the traditional Baptist principle of religious liberty is still valued. CBF is now my spiritual home.

Suddenly, with the emergence of the “Me, too” movement, with women finding their voices and expressing their experiences, insights, and opinions, Southern Baptists are in the news again. Scandals, ranging from embarrassing to malicious, have put Baptists on the front page and the evening news. The corpse was exposed. The most prominent recent New York Times headline concerns the firing of a Southern Baptist seminary president. For decades, he was simply doing what powerful men do when their moral compass fails. He believes a battered woman’s role is no different than that of all women. She must be submissive and subordinate. His advice: “Go home, be quiet, and support your husband.”

It was predictable that an organization built by creed and conviction on male dominance and the silencing of women would run into problems. When powerful men are not accountable to anyone, women and children will be bullied. Consider the abuses within the Roman Catholic hierarchy, followed by cover up after cover up. Why would anyone be surprised if this pattern repeated itself in the Southern Baptist Convention?

The Southern Baptist Convention that I knew was kidnapped, killed, and lost forever. We grieved then and grieve now when extraordinary misbehavior surfaces again… and again… and again. I mourn for the women who have been demeaned, demoralized, disenfranchised, and demonized, even when they are the victims of assault.

These shameful acts slaughter the souls and spirits of girls and women. They are being brought to light. I’m grateful, nowadays, to be involved in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a faith community that emphasizes justice, grace, and love.

In the Christian faith a primary hope is that, after death, there comes a resurrection.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

A Jimmy Carter Kind of Baptist

After the positive Facebook and Blog responses to my experiences this past week in Plains, Georgia, with President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter, I’d like to say something about their Baptist-ness!

When Southern Baptists decided to alter their theology from conservative-moderate to conservative-fundamentalist about three decades ago, the Carters and I were among hundreds of thousands who decided to reclaim our Baptist heritage of freedom. We formed a new organization called the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The “elevator speech” is that while the Southern Baptist denomination had previously allowed theological and ethical flexibility to individuals, churches, and seminaries in interpreting the Bible, the convention slammed that door shut and demanded a stricter adherence to a new party line. The new reality was a Bob Jones and Jerry Falwell fundamentalism: “This is the Truth and all other beliefs are False Doctrine.”

For example, seminary and theology professors were required to agree to the submissive role of females in families and society.

For example, science teachers at Baptist universities (Furman, Mercer, Baylor, etc.) were going to be required to teach graduate courses in geology and biology according to a seven-day creationist, anti-evolution, theory. The Grand Canyon was not formed over millions of years but as the result of a single giant flood. Dinosaurs and humans lived on the earth at the same time, regardless of the evidence of fossils. Don’t argue about this. The Authorities have spoken. The Authorities began to confuse themselves with God.

New documents were drawn up. Missionaries, professors, and denominational employees had to agree that they would adhere to these new mandates, no matter what either science or their consciences said. Men and women of integrity refused to sign on the dotted line. Some female professors were fired just because they were female. According to the new rules, women should never be in a position of authority over a man, and seminaries were full of male students.

It was a surreal few decades and the implosion of Southern Baptists is well documented.

The good news was the emergence of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. CBF became a home to many of us who had been disenfranchised. New seminaries and schools of divinity sprang up which retained the traditional freedoms that had been claimed by Baptists since their earliest days:

  • “Priesthood of the believer” is a biblical phrase Baptists use to declare that no one stands between an individual and God—no priest, no pope, no pastor, no denominational executive.
  • Autonomy of the local church. The term “Independent Baptist” church is redundant. No denomination can tell a Baptist congregation what to believe and enforce it. A Baptist congregation can call a woman pastor or sell its building. The permission of no denominational authority is needed.
  • Separation of church and state. The state cannot tell the church what to believe and the church cannot tell the state how to behave.

That’s it. My church or my denomination certainly has the right to fire me or kick me out, or create a witch-hunting climate that encourages good people to leave. That’s their freedom.

So, Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, as well as a lot of friends I dearly love, and I stepped out in faith and began a new thing—the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. That was twenty-five years ago. We don’t always agree on doctrine or a particular interpretation of the Bible, or a favorite political candidate, but we rally around Jesus, as revealed in scripture, as best we understand him.

A different “elevator speech” many people understand is, “I’m a Jimmy Carter kind of Baptist.” People know and appreciate the kindhearted, caring, intelligent, honest, peacemaking, hardworking, idealistic, and humanitarian nature of our former President.

When people ask, I’m pleased to say, “I’m a Jimmy Carter kind of Baptist.”

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Quotations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

God Talk in New Hampshire

Throughout my life, religious people who have over-worded the world with pious and pompous phrases have surrounded me:

  • Praise the Lord.
  • Are you saved?
  • The Lord told me…
  • I’ll pray for you.
  • The Bible says…

Generally, I attempt to avoid the glib way many Christians bless each other’s hearts. I am a person of faith, but I’ve heard too many clichés for too many years to believe half of them. Make that a tenth of them. Even an alcoholic in the middle of a full-blown drunk can recite devout refrains. Meaningless, empty words.

So, I try to be careful when it comes to God-talk.

But it’s impossible for me to speak of my six months as an Interim Pastor in New Hampshire without resorting to spiritual language.

Of course, we could credit some of what transpired simply to good people doing good work:

  • A successful SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
  • Discovering our niche: Trinity is a small, diverse, progressive church, in the Baptist tradition, where Black Lives Matter, where Women Matter, where all are welcome and can serve in any leadership capacity. As historic Baptists who are both evangelical and ecumenical, we believe in the individual’s freedom and the church’s freedom to explore and interpret scripture independent of any outside authority.
  • Effective networking set in motion by my predecessors, Ken and Sandy Hale
  • Selecting a pastor search committee, preparing a job description for a new pastor, and establishing a budget
  • Interviewing prospective pastors by Skype
  • Surviving a Minus Seventeen Degree (-17 F) Sunday morning
  • Surviving several setbacks in the course of six months. I don’t want anyone reading this blog to believe we experienced only successes during my tenure in New Hampshire. There were also failures. A quotation from my journal for Monday, April 10: “By human standards, the worst day in church since I’ve been here. No heat again. The kitchen and boiler room were flooded from a leak in the pipes (not the boiler). Three people in church.”
  • Discovering that a Korean Presbyterian Church needed a place to worship and Trinity needed a tenant to help us with our basic building upkeep expenses

Yet, stuff happened for which a spiritual explanation makes sense, at least to me—pure grace, nothing we deserved because of hard work or shrewd insights.

My last Sunday, June 19, is an example. A family of four strangers entered our small congregation, putting a dozen people in the pews. The young couple was looking for a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Church. The husband is beginning a Pediatric residency at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (meaning, they will be in Hanover for three years) and the wife attended McAfee Seminary, a CBF-affiliated school (meaning, she knows what she was looking for in a church).

Thank you, Jesus.

Another example: We raised $15,000 for a new furnace (Thanks to many of you reading this!) The God-part of that equation, and I’ve seen this happen dozens of times in my career, is how close that number is to our actual need. The new furnace costs $18,000. We might have raised $1000 or $5000, but people gave 83% of what we needed. As a Christian, I love those kinds of coincidences. You can call it Karma, or Dumb Luck, and that won’t bother me a bit. But, I hope you’ve forgive me if I say,

Thank you, Jesus!

Final example: Within six months of the Hale’s retirement, we called Andy Sutton to be our next pastor.

Praise the Lord!

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Thank You!

Recently, I sent out a public appeal for contributions to help Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover to move forward to their next chapter, including their next pastor. Many of you responded with a generous check. As I write this, we have collected at least $13,000 (out of $18,000) toward a new furnace to replace our 30-year-old “I think I can” heating system. Or, our sorta sometimes hit-and-miss heating system.

As I have tried to indicate in my various blogs and Facebook posts, this is a tiny congregation with a superior history as a mission point for Baptists in the Dartmouth College community. College kids simply can’t pay the freight for this ministry any more than teenagers in churches can pay the salary of their youth minister.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia provided a huge boost to this effort with a large gift from their “Trinity Fund,” established for just such circumstances as this. That contribution is in memory of Sam and Betty Penn and John and Julia Palmer, and in honor of David Mount, the last pastor of Trinity Baptist in Macon, Georgia. When Macon’s Trinity congregation sold its property, the proceeds were placed in a designated fund. The Trustees of the fund felt that Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover, New Hampshire, provided a proper memorial in keeping with the wishes of the congregation that donated the funds. Thank you to Frank Broome, Coordinator of CBF of Georgia, for his help in providing this gift.

It’s been fun for me to open the incoming envelopes and see the notes (and the checks) from friends of mine, old and new, and from friends of Trinity.

Trinity is in the interviewing process with individuals now, looking for next person called to serve as our pastor. My last Sunday here will be June 19. My term as an interim will be complete. Sally is flying up, and then we are driving home together. I’m not done here yet—another five weeks to go. My friends have encouraged me, by phone calls, emails, Facebook and blog comments. My support system is awesome. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Marion D. Aldridge

PS: This sounds a bit like a goodbye-to-New Hampshire blog, but it’s not. I’ve still got a way to go, but I wanted to report and to say Thanks to those of you who have made a donation to Trinity. For others who have had good intentions but haven’t yet sent a contribution, here is the address:

Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover

PO Box 5079

Hanover, NH 03755



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Tribute to Two Heroes

In the South, we’d say, “They’re good folks.”

Ken and Sandy Hale invested 31 years in the frozen Yankee northland, ministering to Dartmouth students, professors, athletic staff, and nearby neighbors in Hanover and Lebanon, New Hampshire.

Once upon a time, Ken was a young Minister of Music at a Baptist church in Kentucky and Sandy was a schoolteacher. They felt a call (a good Baptist word going back to Father Abraham) to a far land where natives speak a variation of the English language. They arrived in New Hampshire under the auspices of Southern Baptists, but those not-so-good folks changed their mind and decided they didn’t like the idea of women ministers. They withdrew their financial support from Ken and Sandy.

Ken and Sandy didn’t warm to the notion of being told what they could do or not do. The state motto of New Hampshire, after all, is “Live Free or Die.”

Ken and Sandy developed their own support system and stayed, faithful to their calling.

They have been beloved friends and mentors to hundreds of people who came through the Ivy League campus and/or their small congregation. Sandy was primarily the campus minister and Ken was primarily the preaching pastor.

They built the most racially inclusive church I know of anywhere. New Hampshire doesn’t have an abundance of people of color, but Dartmouth College does, and Trinity Baptist Church has become the spiritual home of many of them. Black Lives Matter!

Now (December 31, 2015, more or less) Ken and Sandy Hale have officially retired.

The consensus of everyone who knows them is that they are kind, compassionate and competent. They are stable, faithful, authentic Christians. In an era when many so-called Christians give Jesus a bad name, Ken and Sandy have been wonderful ambassadors for Christ. They are valued members of their New Hampshire community and will be missed here.

They became my friends when they were asked to represent the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of the Northeast in the same capacity I held in South Carolina. I was paid a salary. They weren’t. In fact, they weren’t always paid a salary for any of their assignments. Period. Yet, they persevered because they believed God put them here to do a job.

A few years ago, Sandy had a brain aneurysm and Ken had cancer. They slowed down but didn’t stop.

Now, they have retired, but leaving is difficult. Sandy was going to be gone before I arrived and Ken and I were to overlap for a few days. Sandy was not gone when I arrived and I had to kick her out of her own house. (Just kidding. She left voluntarily.) I’m sure I will have to shoo Ken away next week. Their first stop will be Kentucky to live for a while with Ken’s mother. Then they are off to Ft. Meyers, Florida, where they have a small condo.

They haven’t sold their New Hampshire house because I’m living in it. Besides, they have a son nearby, and they’re not sure where they will eventually reside.

They are grieving and the church is grieving. Like an idiot, here I am in the middle of this difficult transition with the weird assignment of being a “Bridge to an Interim.” Only two things have concerned me about this assignment: 1) The weather; 2) Following Ken and Sandy. The weather will be hard. Following Ken and Sandy will be impossible.

Good, incomparable souls.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Race, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

The Gift


For the past 15 years, I worked for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina.  It was the best job in the world.  I will write about that another day. 


Knowing how much I love to travel, CBFSC gave me enough money for a retirement trip to just about anywhere in the world.  There was even enough money for Sally to come back to South Carolina!  (Just kidding…  The gift was very generous!  There was enough for us both to return to South Carolina.  Thank you, CBFSC!)


I have never had a “Bucket List,” but tend to go where opportunity allows.  There is something in the Bible about the Spirit blowing in unexpected directions, so, without really trying, I have travelled to Mauritania, Morocco, Bali, Thailand, Malaysia, Kenya, Brazil and a dozen other faraway places. 


I have also ridden the buses on the backroads of South Carolina, but that also is a tale for another day.


On this Gift Trip, I wanted to go somewhere I had never been.  In addition to my wife, Sally, I wanted to take my 12-year-old grandson, Lake, who is at the perfect age to marvel at the wonders of this world.  Jenna, his mom, my oldest daughter, decided to go with us.  We ended up with a party of four.


I let Lake choose the place (which is consistent with my theme of going where the wind blows).  He had a geography teacher this year (a young man formerly in the Peace Corps) that Lake really liked. Lake asked him to suggest five South Americancountries that would be fun to visit.  PERU came out on top.  The Amazon Rain Forest fascinated Lake, and Machu Picchu is one of the 10 outstanding Wonders of the World, however you configure your list.  Lima has a soccer (football) team, and Lake is nuts about soccer/football these days.


We paid our money, and set off on July 9, 2013, for Lima, Peru, South America. 


This story will take 10-15 days to tell, so, hang in there.


Categories: Family, Holiday, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

A Personal Note: Retirement


Only five months into retirement, I am no expert on the subject.  In fact, when you only do something once, you are bound to make mistakes.  Metaphorically, the pavement ended.  I was moving into very unfamiliar territory.  Other people have traveled there, but it was all strange to me.


When Sally, Julie and I moved into our new home about ten years ago, we bought four Rubber Maid storage units, tall cabinets where you keep fertilizer, tools, Christmas ornaments, etc.  It took me three hours to assemble the first one, two and a half hours to assemble the second one, only 20 minutes to assemble the third, and 15 minutes to assemble the fourth.  That’s a steep learning curve!


Nobody in my organization called me in five years or two years before retirement and said, “Here is what you can expect.  Start planning now.”  I was the boss.  I was on my own.  I asked lots of people lots of questions, and received very few answers.


Chipper Jones, the great Atlanta Braves third baseman, retired about the same time I did.  He will go into the baseball Hall of Fame.  He played Major League Baseball for 19 years.  Of course, he had been playing ball for ten or twelve years before that as a child and then as a teenager. 


The Braves retired his number.  Chipper was quoted as saying, “I was done.” 


I understand that.  By the time I reached my 66th birthday, I was done.  I had been earning an income for over 50 years.  I want to continue to contribute to the world we live in, but I was ready for a transition.  Chipper feels that a year away from baseball will help him “rekindle the flame.”  I understand.  Flames die down, naturally.  After some nostalgia on Opening Day, he said, “I woke up the next morning and was thrilled that I didn’t have to go to the ballpark.”


I have just written the sum total of all Chipper Jones and I probably have in common.  But he nailed it for me when he described his retirement.


Like Chipper, I had one of the best jobs in the world these past 15 years.  Chipper was paid to play baseball.  I was paid to initiate worthwhile projects with people who valued ideals such as freedom, integrity, grace, faith, courage, compassion, hope.  It was, you could say, a heavenly job.  I loved what I did.


Now, however, I am glad to be retired.  The pavement ended.  That’s okay with me.  I like narrow paths in the woods.


Categories: Baseball, Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

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