NABPR Newsletter – Fall, 2003

Polity and Postmodernism

by Bill J. Leonard (Wake Forest Divinity School)

During September 2003 I learned a great deal about the changing nature of religious life in religious communions worldwide. Two weeks ago I was the only Baptist and the only North American Protestant at a Catholic-sponsored gathering in Bruges, Belgium centered on the topic of “synodality,” and aimed at exploring the nature of polity and governance in post-modern Christianity. Most of the 30-odd delegates were European Catholics, exploring the nature of the episcopacy in the RCC forty years after Vatican II. Many were not optimistic. Other Anglican, Orthodox, Methodist and Evangelical representatives reflected on the boundaries of ecumenical dialogue and the turmoil in their own traditions. Hearing the presentations and giving a paper on Baptist polity, I realized how radical and unwieldy Baptists ways of organizing and understanding the nature of the church look when compared with other ecclesial systems. Yet I also sensed that the pluralism, localism and congregationalism characteristic of Baptist “messiness” increasingly find their way into other traditions. Going to mass celebrated in French, I was also aware of the continuing distance between communions at the Table. At the time for “summing up,” I suggested (for what it was worth) that Baptist polity might give others hints of ways to understand these grass-roots “peoples’ movements” present in “post-modern” faith communities. Returning to the US, I ventured to a Lutheran retreat near Asheville, NC, having been invited to conduct a workshop on the history of Premillennialism for a pastors whose church members are using the language of that theory of the Second Coming under the influence of the Left Behind series. Baptists may be helpful in teaching Lutherans to speak another theological language! Discussions led beyond the history to the implications of popular religious literature, the impact of eschatological speculations on government policy, and religion in the public square. That same week I read the NY Times report on the financial “crisis” in the SBC relative to funding and (implicitly at least) denominational identity in what has often been described as America’s most “in tact” denomination. Thus the paradox: While the “Baptistification” of local congregations influences and frustrates multiple religious traditions, “Baptistness” itself is certainly not static but is also subject to the permanent transition sweeping American religious life. Sooner or later demography catches up with Catholics and Lutherans, Premillennialists and Inerrantists. Then what?

Preview of the Annual Meeting

Nancy L. deClaissé-Walford (McAfee School of Theology, Mercer University) 

Vice President, NABPR, 2003

The national NABPR meeting will be held on Saturday, November 22, at 9:00 at the Hyatt Hotel in Atlanta. Bill Leonard, this year’s president, will speak at 9:15 on “Changing a Theology: Baptists and Globalism Then and Now.” At 10:00, three of our members, Mark McIntire of Belmont University, David May of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and Sally Smith Holt of William Jewell College will present a review of Andrew Linzey’s 1995 book, Animal Theology. Andrew Linzey holds a senior research fellowship (the world’s first) in theology and animal welfare at Oxford University. In Animal Theology, Linzey begins with the premise that a humanocentric view of the world dominates in our culture and that we as human beings, therefore, view the earth and all that is in it as ours to use as we wish. He urges readers to adopt a theocentric view of the world; an understanding of humans as co-caretakers with God of the world; and a sense of obligation to other “sentient” beings. Using the earthly life of Jesus as his model for human behavior, Linzey argues that the weak and defenseless in the world should be given “not equal, but greater consideration, (that is) the weak should have moral priority.” Therefore, says Linzey, humanity is called upon to participate in “a co-operating with God in the healing and liberation of creation.” Join us as we explore this interesting, controversial, and thought-provoking book.


Agenda for the Annual Meeting, 2003


22 November 2003
9:00 a.m. until 11:30 a.m.
Twenty-third Annual Meeting
Hyatt Regency Atlanta
Atlanta, Georgia

9:00 – Call to Order – Bill J. Leonard

9:05 – Welcome from the Executive Secretary – Daniel Mynatt

9:10 – Presentation of the Festschrift

9:15 – Introduction of the President’s Address – Nancy deClaisse-Walford

9:20 – President’s Address – Bill J. Leonard,
Changing a Theology: Baptists and Globalism Then and Now

9:45 – Responses from the Association – moderated by Nancy deClaisse-Walford

10:00 – Presentation – introduced by Nancy deClaisse-Walford

A Review of Animal Theology by Andrew Linzey
reviewed by Mark McIntire, Associate Professor of Religion, Belmont University
David May, Professor of New Testament, Central Baptist Theological Seminary
Sally Smith Holt, Assistant Professor of Religion, William Jewell College

11:00 – Annual Business Session – Bill J. Leonard, presiding

  1. approval of the 2002 minutes</p>
  2. report of the Executive Committee – Daniel Mynatt

  3. recommendation on New Members – James P. Byrd, Jr.

  4. report of the Nominating Committee

  5. report of the Editorial Board – Bill J. Leonard

  6. report of the Editorial Board Nominating Committee – Bill J. Leonard

  7. miscellaneous business and announcements

11:30 Adjournment


Minutes of the 2002 Annual Meeting

Jimmy Byrd (Vanderbilt University)
Assistant Executive Secretary-Treasurer

The twenty-second annual meeting of the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion was called to order by President Molly T. Marshall. A moment of silence was observed remembering the passing of former member of the NABPR, John Joseph Owens. Also recognized was Findley Edge, who, though not a member of he Association, touched the lives of many who shaped the guild. Richard F. Wilson, Executive Secretary, gave greetings and acknowledged the planning of Molly Marshall for the Meeting.

Gregory Mobley and Claude F. Mariottini presented the 2002 Festschrift in honor of Page Kelley. Professor Kelley’s wife, Vernice Kelly accepted the Festschrift on behalf of her late husband. Bill Leonard introduced President Molly Marshall for the Presidential Address, “Participant in the Life of God: A Trinitarian Pneumatology.” At the conclusion of the paper Marshall opened the floor for questions and comments from the Association, which were moderated by Bill Leonard.

Bill Leonard introduced presenters for a discussion on Charles Kimball’s book, When Religion Becomes Evil. Presenting were Walter Harrelson and Dianne Oliver. Kimball concluded the program with his responses and additional reflections on this timely book.

Following the presentation, Bill Leonard and Molly Marshall made a special presentation to Richard Wilson in honor of his ten years of service to the NABPR as Executive Secretary-Treasurer. (These ten years were preceded by two years of service as Assistant Executive Secretary-Treasurer.) Wilson was presented with both a framed resolution, read by Leonard, and a plaque of appreciation. The Association unanimously endorsed the resolution. Dr. Wilson then made brief comments of appreciation and reflection on the past accomplishments and future promise of the Association. Replacing Wilson as Executive Secretary-Treasurer is Danny Mynatt.

At 11:00, President Molly Marshall convened the annual business session. The 2001 minutes were approved. Executive Secretary Richard Wilson gave the report from the Executive Committee. Marshall then recognized Dianne Oliver, who offered the nominations of Bill Leonard for president and Nancy deClaisse-Walford for vice president of the Association for 2003. There was no opposition, and the nominees were elected by unanimous vote. Marshall then recognized Bill Leonard, chair of the Editorial Board, for the report of the board and to report on the Editorial Board Nominating Committee. Leonard and Scott Nash reported that David May had resigned as editor of PRS. The new editor will be Mikeal Parsons, and the headquarters of the journal will move to Baylor. Returning members of the board are Bill Leonard, Ben Leslie, and Elizabeth Newman. Newly elected members are Sally Smith Holt, Doug Weaver, and Diane Wuddel.

Mark Medley announced that the Region at Large would meet with the College Theology Society again this year, May 29- June 1 at Marquette University in Milwaukee. The theme of the convention is “Spirit, Church, and World.” The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 am.


FYI: Member News

David Fillingim, Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Shorter
College, has written Extreme Virtues: Living on the Prophetic Edge (Herald
Press, 2003) and Redneck Liberation: Country Music as Theology (Mercer
University Press, 2003).

Position Opening: World Religions

SAMFORD UNIVERSITY, Department of Religion seeks to fill a tenure-track Assistant Professor position in World Religions. The position will begin in August 2004. The person filling this position will lead the department in shaping its offerings on non-Christian traditions. The teaching load of three courses per semester will include introductory courses in religion, the Core Curriculum course in biblical studies, and advanced undergraduate courses in the candidate’s field of expertise. Applicants must have the Ph.D. or equivalent and demonstrated excellence in teaching and research. Samford is a university with a Baptist heritage and a Christian mission. The successful applicant will be able to support this mission fully. Consideration of applications will begin October 15, and continue until the position is filled. Preliminary interviews will be held at the AAR/SBL Annual Meetings in Atlanta. Send a letter of interest, curriculum vitae, three letters of recommendation, and other supporting materials to Kenneth B. E. Roxburgh, Chair, Department of Religion, 800 Lakeshore Drive, Samford University, Birmingham, AL 35229-2251. E-mail inquiries only to [email protected]. Interested individuals may visit the University’s web site:

Women and minorities are encouraged to apply. Samford University is an Equal Opportunity Institution and welcomes applications for employment and educational programs from all individuals regardless of race, color, sex, disability, or national or ethnic origin.

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