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Monday, April 23, 2007


(The following is an edited abridgment of a 32-page booklet by Rowland Croucher, 'Baptist Church Membership', available from the Australian Baptist Publishing House, Sydney).

Felix Mantz. He was a native of Zurich, and had received a liberal education. Having early adopted the principles of the Reformation, he became an intimate friend of Zuingli and other Swiss Reformers. But in the year 1522, he began to doubt the scriptural authority of infant-baptism, and of the Church constitution which then existed at Zurich, and he suffered imprisonment in consequence. After this he preached in the fields and woods, whither the people flocked in crowds to hear him, and there he baptized those who professed faith. For this the Zurich magistrates denounced him as a rebel, and about the close of 1526 he was apprehended and lodged in the tower of Wellenberg. On the 5th of January, 1527, he was drowned. “As he came down from the Wellenberg to the fish market,” says Bullinger, “and was led through the shambles to the boat, he praised God that he was about to die for His truth. For Anabaptism was right, and founded on the Word of God, and Christ had foretold that His followers would suffer for the truth’s sake. And the like discourse he urged much, contradicting the preacher who attended him. On the way his mother and brother came to him, and exhorted him to be steadfast; and he persevered in his folly, even to the end. When he was bound upon the hurdle, and was about to be thrown into the stream by the executioner, he sang with a loud voice: ‘In manus Tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum.’ (‘Into Thine hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.’) And herewith was he drawn into the water by the executioner, and drowned.”

“It is reported here,” says Capito, writing to Zuingli from Strasburg, on the 27th of January, 1527, “that your Felix Mantz hath suffered punishment, and died gloriously; by which the cause of truth and piety which you sustain, is weighed down exceedingly.”4 No wonder! Persecution will “weigh down” any cause. And Protestant persecution is the most hateful of all.

Baptists begin a discussion about themselves by trying to understand the 'Good News', the 'gospel'. In essence, Paul says (Philippians 2:10-11), the 'Good News' is that 'JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!' That's where Baptists start their thinking. This isn't just an abstract doctrine - it means that he's our Master, our King. We are his obedient servants, his subjects, who do what he commands. He is the ultimate authority for all thinking and acting. He is God the Son, through whom everything came into being and before whom everyone will ultimately 'fall on their knees'.

Jesus Christ is Lord - or 'Head' - of the Church, his Body. So Christians are people who both individually and collectively, are constantly asking: 'What does our Lord want us to believe, and what does he want us to do?'

This leads us to the Bible, in which the mind of Christ is revealed. The Bible is God's Word, his authoritative guide for our faith and practice. It is the inspired and trustworthy record of the mighty acts of God in the history of his people Israel and fulfilled in the life, teachings, and saving work of Christ.

So Baptists are encounaraged to be keen 'Bible people', seeking with and open and reverent mind to understand what God is saying to us today. Sometimes we won't find specific answers to all our modern problems there, but we'll always find God's guiding principles. The greatest principle, or commandment, said Jesus, is to 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength'. And the second greatest: 'Love your neighbour as you love yourself'.

For Baptists, then, God alone is the sovereign Lord. They have always tried to follow the apostolic principle: 'We must obey God rather than humans'. Baptists reject doctrines or practices which either contradict or are not in harmony with Christ's will revealed in the Bible. They have simply believed that most of the differences between churches would be resolved if apostolic principles and practices were held in their true scriptural relationship with one another. And so, for just about every question we reply with another: 'What does the Bible say?'

But this doesn't mean Baptists arrogantly believe they are the only ones who are right. No one (except God alone) has 'a monopoly on the truth'. We are humble fellow-learners with others who also submit to the truth of Scripture. And 'God has yet more light and truth to break forth from his holy Word'. A Baptist says with love, to another Christian: 'You are my brother/sister, not because we happen to agree on everything, but because we are both God's children'. This is why Baptists have produced written 'confessions' but never written 'creeds'. Creeds become 'locked into' the particular questions of one historical era, and later Christians may be asking some different questions. Further, creeds tend to make people 'exclusive' - if you don't dot all the i's and cross all the t's you're not acceptable. Baptists aim rather to be inclusive: our bond is simply our common relationship to Jesus Christ.

This leads us to another Baptist emphasis -

The Church = 'The Company of The Committed'

It is not uncommon for Baptist church constitutions to begin: 'The church shall be composed of those... who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour and Lord'. When Baptists throughout their history have been asked 'Who belongs to the church?' their response is always: 'Only those who've deliberately chosen to follow the way of Jesus - the "regenerate", those born again!'

Perhaps this can best be explained by taking a short journey into the past.

Baptists trace their spiritual history back to people like the 'Anabaptists' ('re-baptisers') in 16th century Europe. It was the time when Luther, Calvin, and other 'Protestants' urged people to go back to the Bible for their instructions about faith and living, and reject doctrines and practices in the Church of Rome which they believed were unbiblical. For example, they talked about 'the priesthood of all believers'. The Church of Rome made ordinary believers dependent upon the mediation of the priests, but these 'Reformers' proclaimed the right of every Christian to have access to God through the mediation of Christ alone. They encouraged ordinary people to read the Word of God (something rare - and even forbidden by the church authorities in those days). They said that every Christian has the Holy Spirit who inspired the writing of Scripture, so God can speak to them by this same Spirit as they read the Bible. You and I don't need the authorities in the church to tell us what to believe - it's all there in God's holy Word.

The Anabaptists, however, said Luther and Calvin and the others didn't take their 'Reformation' far enough. They agreed that 'If it's in the Bible we believe it; if it isn't, we reject it, even though centuries of Christian history are behind a particular belief'. But they objected to the close alliance between church and state which had gone on for more than a thousand years. They also rejected infant baptism, which they believed, served to perpetuate state churches filled with nominal Christians.

Meanwhile, over in England, a 'Puritan' movement emerged within the Church of England, calling that church back to the Scriptures. One learned man, Rev. John Smyth M.A. (a Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge University), became a city lecturer at Lincoln at the turn of the 17th century - a post which allowed him to expound the Scriptures to his townspeople who weren't satisfied with the teaching they were receiving in their churches. When things got 'too hot' for these Puritans, some went as refugees to Holland. There John Smyth continued to study the Scriptures, and with the help of some Dutch Mennonites (an Anabaptist group), came to hold certain convictions which Baptists have maintained ever since. In 1609 he became the leader of the first English-speaking 'Baptist' church.

He saw - with the Anabaptists - that 'established churches' weren't an apostolic idea at all. You become a member of these churches through infant baptism, and everyone in a particular community - or 'parish' - therefore almost automatically belonged to the 'parish church'. Now that's all wrong, these Baptists said. Only people who've had a personal encounter with Christ can belong to the church. You can't be born a Christian: at some point in your life you choose to belong to Christ's church, when you repent of your sins and commit your life willingly to him.

So Baptists have always been wary of alliances between churches and the state authorities. They've said governments shouldn't influence - or interfere with - the free choice people make about their allegience to Christ and the church. They have taken the idea a step further, too, and until recently, have generally refused government funding for their Christian ministries. (Today government grants may be accepted for educational and social welfare purposes, but not usually for worship and pastoral ministries.)

Because people willingly choose to belong to the church, a high standard of Christian behaviour and discipleship is expected of members of Baptist churches. Because they possess God's Holy Spirit, they should live on a higher plane than non-Christians. Sometimes 'church discipline' has to be lovingly but firmly extended towards those who bring the faith of Christ into disrepute by their disobedient behaviour.

Many Anabaptists and early Baptists were martyred (often by drowning, 'seeing they like so much water,' their enemies said) for these beliefs.

Who Runs the Church?

The short answer, of course: Christ does! It's his church. When members of his body meet, he's there with them. Christ is both the Lord of the redeemed person and the redeemed community. Both have his Holy Spirit to guide them, and are therefore sufficiently 'competent' to know his will. So local Baptist churches are 'autonomous' - they govern themselves. (Look up Acts 13:1,2 for a New Testament example of a local church acting on its own initiative.) Baptists therefore do not recognise the power of a bishop, synod, conference, or assembly to determine or overrule the decisions of a local church.

Sometimes, however, these churches may cooperate, and form 'Unions' (there is a 'Baptist Union' of churches in each Australian state, in Australia as a whole, and in New Zealand). These associations of churches co-ordinate Baptists' joint efforts to obey the great commission. Such Unions may appoint officers to guide in specific areas of ministry such as home missions (helping younger churches to get going), overseas missions and training future pastors. There is no fixed plan or pattern here: these structures are very flexible, change from time to time, and differ in various countries.

Local churches - like individual Christians - need each other. The challenge facing us is to encourage self-governing churches to become more 'inter-dependent' rather than 'independent'.

The Baptist Unions (or Conventions or Associations, as they are called in some places) are mostly affiliated with the Baptist World Alliance, which has about 30 millian members in 117,000 churches. (The U.S. has the largest number - 25 million, followed by India - 815,000, U.S.S.R. - 545,000, Brazil - 464,000 and Burma - 358,000. Australian Baptist church members number about 53,000, New Zealand 18,000).

# Generally Baptists haven't been keen on 'organic' unity with other Christian denominations. Some Baptist groups have joined the World Council of Churches, while others feel they ought to preserve their distinctiveness by remaining outside such bodies. Baptists don't claim to be 'the only true church': they want to learn humbly from others. They believe that what unites Christians is far more decisive and basic than what divides them. However they have mostly felt that their special Scriptural insights are best preserved by staying 'Baptists'. What do you think? Is this likely to change?

How is a local church governed? Baptists are 'congregational'. They meet, free from any 'outside' control, to arrive at a consensus about God's will, through Bible study, prayer, and discussion. A British Baptist statement (1948) says such a church meeting is 'the occasion when, as individuals and as a community, we submit ourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and stand under the judgment of God that we may know the mind of Christ'.

The aim of each congregation will be to reflect the character of Jesus in all that it does. So persons will matter more than agendas or programs or constitutions! We will love and respect those with whom we may disagree. Although Baptist church members' meetings are democratic (any member is free to speak on any matter on the agenda), they are really, in essence, theocratic (ruled by God), so members don't have the right to say anything they please - but only what is loving, constructive, true, and that which humbly seeks the mind of Christ. Because they affirm diversity within their Fellowships they will sometimes 'agree to differ - agreeably' on some issues. So Baptists have generally been happy with 'majority voting' on all but really major issues (which may require a large majority, or, occasionally, total unanimity). Some churches seldom take a vote - they will discuss issues until a general consensus is achieved, or failing that, will defer the matter for further prayerful thought and consideration.


Christ appointed leaders to serve the church. There's a list of these in Ephesians 4. Apostles, prophets and evangelists were generally 'itinerant' - they moved around among several churches. 'Pastor- teachers' were (and are) shepherds - feeding Christ's flock and caring for it. Their task: to equip all the members so that they will become spiritually mature.

Most Baptist churches have one pastor (although some are now appointing two or more). He or she is generally considered the leader, although neither the pastor/s nor any other person has the final word in the church's affairs: that's the prerogative of the members' meeting. Sometimes, therefore, the pastor is said to be 'the first among equals'. Pastors are servants of the church, but the church is not their master - Christ is.

The pastors' priorities: Bible study, prayer, and training others for ministry. They're a sort of 'player-coach' encouraging others to serve, witness and visit. Church members are not helpers of the pastor, so that the pastor can do their job; pastors are helpers of the whole people of God, so that they all can be the church (to paraphrase Hans Ruedi Weber). Pastors must be encouraged to keep themselves 'in training for a godly life', so the congregation will allow them time for study and reflection. Remember that your pastors are human: they, too, have doubts, fears, and frustrations. Please don't add to them! Francis Schaeffer says pastors often unwittingly break the tenth commandment - they are covetous of the successes or gifts of other pastors. Remedy? Affirm your pastor, so they know they're loved! If you appreciate them, tell them so!

In the New Testament, bishops or elders (both words describe the same people) were the 'overseers' of the churches. These leaders 'work hard', perform pastoral duties and help make important decisions. Only those with the appropriate 'gifts' should be appointed elders - not just to 'fill the number'. It's better to have no elders than the wrong ones. Each elder ought to have a list of those they are shepherding, and these people know they can turn to their elder at any time. (A ratio of one elder to 12 persons or family groups is recommended.)

Deacons are 'servants'. Both Jesus and Paul used this word of themselves. Their tasks: administrative leadership, policy-making, and planning.

Both elders and deacons have 'spiritual' ministries. They are accountable to the church members. The personal and spiritual qualities of these leaders are spelt out in 1 Timothy 3: 1-13. Note that such appointments have nothing to do with age, sex, or status. Spiritual leadership is not for people who like to be 'bossy'; the badge of office for all followers of Christ is a towel! Both groups (if your church has both) ought to be commissioned by the congregation, who will pray for them earnestly. These 'servants' will lead by encouragement and example, rather than by coercion. They will generally plan openly rather than covertly. They will continually inform their people of their doings, and will invite feed-back from the members. Occasionally they will 'retreat' ('advance'?) for times of prayer, study and discusison.

# Discuss: Paul says (Galatians 3:28) that Jesus has healed divisions between Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free-people, males and females. The early church was ahead of its time in granting 'personhood' to women, and many fulfilled public ministries. American Baptists (from 80 years ago) and Southern Baptists (from 20 years ago) in the U.S. have occasionally ordained women for pastoral ministry, as have Baptists in Britain, Canada, New Zealand and some Australian states. Leon Morris, an Anglican scholar, says women in the early church did more than 'keep silence when it was a question of expounding the Christian faith'. Some Baptists have emphasised the 'submission' and 'keeping quiet' passages. Others say that the principle of Galatians 3:28 is to be applied appropriately within each culture. What do you think?


Having pastored Baptist churches for 30 years, spoken to all the Baptist pastors' conferences around Australia and preached in about 200 Baptist churches, here are my suggestions about the issues Baptists are facing. They vary in intensity from state to state and church to church.

1. Baptist pharisaism. The essential issue here is the elevation of dogma or church rules over 'accepting' those whom God accepts (Romans 15:7). The two key issues are social justice (Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42) and open membership. Until recently Baptists were quite muted about their concern for the poor, and the causes of such poverty. Fortunately they are reading Jesus and the prophets again! On the issue of open membership, see my paper on the subject. Briefly, if Jesus said accepting people is more important than sticking to ordinances (even an important ordinance like baptism) then let's follow Jesus rather than the pharisees! Nothing can be added to grace, not even baptism. The Baptist principle of 'liberty of conscience' should apply here as everywhere else. A system which allows a sexually active young person or greedy adult to be a member of most of our churches (and they are!) but not a godly Anglican or Salvationist has got to have something wrong with it. Baptists have to be reminded they're Christians first, Baptists second.

2. The Leadership Ministries of Women. In the NT women were quite prominent in the churches, despite strong patriarchal cultures. Today, the church is creating a scandal by appearing to treat women as second-class citizens. Only two Australian Baptist Unions (Victoria and South Australia) recognize the pastoral leadership gifts of women: if God were to raise up a Deborah to lead the whole people of God today most of us wouldn't let him to it! We should be grateful God is not a legalist! (See my paper on Women in Leadership).

3. Charismatic Renewal. People who derive their security from the predictable institutions or dogmas they adhere to will always be threatened by notions of renewal, particularly radical renewal. The impact of charismatic renewal is no exception. The Holy Spirit is moving in dynamic ways through all the churches and in all the world, but traditionalists will find themselves opposing anything which is not part of their cherished history. Although the devil as well as the Holy Spirit is operative in some aspects of charismatic renewal, Baptists and others will need to be careful about the dangers of fighting God: they can't win! (See my paper 'Charismatic Renewal: Myths and Realities').

4. Institutional Renewal. About 95% of Australian Baptists agree with the statement 'There's something wrong with the way our church business meetings are conducted'. The 5% who enjoy power-broking or have an excess of spare time on their hands or enjoy the thrill of swaying the voting intentions of others will derive some enjoyment from church business meetings. Baptists have equated congregationalism with democracy: modern notions of democracy are not biblical. Baptists also have forgotten that the NT has three forms of church government - episcopal, presbyterian as well as congregational. Baptists have also allowed their adherence to a notion of 'the priesthood of all believers' to contaminate their polity: believers should not use church meetings as a forum to be negative. Church meetings exist for information-dissemination (what God is doing amongst us), celebration (worshipping the Lord who is the head of the church) and discernment (prayerfully finding the will of our Lord in specific situations). Whilst the method of decision-making will vary from culture to culture, and issue to issue, neither democracy nor unanimity is appropriate in every situation. (Democracy may mean the leading families rule; unanimity may leave us all at the mercy of the 'nut' who will vote 'no' to everything!).

5. Ecumenism. Baptists may have some justifiable reasons to be leary of some things the World Council of Churches does. But they have no justifiable reason for non-cooperation with others who 'acknowledge Jesus Christ as Saviour Lord and God, according to the Scriptures'. We must not do anything to negate our Lord's prayer 'that they may be one'.

6. Evangelism. The idea of 'seeker services' is not new: it was there in apostolic times, according to Michael Green (Evangelism Through the Local Church). Neighbourhood 'coffee 'n dessert' nights, friendship services, Christianity Explained courses - these and many other tools are available for us to reach out to those the New Testament calls 'the lost'.

7. Clericalism. The Christian Brethren movement have had a valid objection to 'clergy running the church and denying others a ministry'. Baptists are still plagued by clericalism, whereby pastors accrue power rather than disseminating it. The task of church leaders is to train and empower others for ministry, not do it for them! (See ch. 31 'Ministry as Empowerment' in my Your Church Can Come Alive).


The Baptist Heritage, H. Leon McBeth (Broadman, 1987): a comprehensive 850-page overview of Baptist history and emphases, mainly from a North American perspective.

Challenge to Change: A Radical Agenda for Baptists, Nigel Wright (Kingsway 1991) 'calls for consensus over constitution, power over programme evangelism, and makes a case for Baptist bishops'.

A Community of Believers by Charles W. Deweese (Judson, 1978), a good general handbook, with a useful discussion on 'church covenants'

Growing on Together (Baptist Union of NSW), a simple, readable paper-back written by Australian Baptists.

Church Members'Kit, produced by the pastoral team of the Blackburn Baptist Church (13 Holland Rd, Blackburn, Australia. 3130).

Studies in Baptism by Basil S. Brown (Clifford Press, Melbourne), a 32-page summary of the meaning of Baptism by a former Australian theological college professor.

The Church, a Baptist View (Gordon W. Martin), Authority, a Baptist View (B.R. White), Freedom, a Baptist View(J.H. Briggs), Baptism, a Baptist View (John W. Matthews), Children in the Church, a Baptist View (D.F. Tennant), Ministry, a Baptist View (John F. Nicholson), booklets produced by the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland. (Australian agents - Clifford Press, Melbourne)

The Baptist Church Member (Baptist Church Life and Ministry, Victoria), 9 studies for prospective members. Available through Baptist Book Stores.

The Water that Divides by Donald Bridge and David Phypers (IVP, 1977), a good discussion of the pros and cons of baptism and the open/closed membership question.

A History of the Baptists by R.G. Torbet (judson, 3rd Edition), a good general history.

Baptist Confessions of Faith by W.L. Lumpkin (Judson 1959), a more comprehensive volume.

A Baptist Manual of Polity and Practice: Revised Edition by Norman H. Maring and Winthrop S. Hudson (Judson Press, 1991).

(Also check out the web site http// for the ABC/USA.)


Review: CHURCH AND STATE, Australia’s Imaginary Wall, by Tom Frame (UNSW Press 2006)
Tom Frame, historian and writer, left a military career in the navy to train for the Anglican priesthood and was, until recently, the (high profile) Bishop of the Australian armed forces. In this little book (96 pages) he probes the complex relationship between church and state, especially in Australia, where the influence of religious organizations, lobby groups and individuals has increased the temperature of the discussion about whether and to what extent government policy should be ínformed’ (to use a neutral word) by religious dogma.
Briefly: Tom Frame reminds us that the Australian constitution does not formally separate church and state. He argues that some contact between the two spheres is both inevitable and, occasionally, desirable. But, yes, there are tensions, and, he believes, Christians are largely responsible for these.
This is really an ancient problem, as theologian Karl Barth famously reminded us: the state which God has ordained to keep order in Romans 13 is the ‘Beast from the abyss’ in Revelation 13.
Tom’s first words: Áustralia is not a Christian nation… it never has been, [although] public life has, of course, been shaped by a long and close encounter with Christianity.’ There’s nothing in Australian law (as there is in British law) which gives any privilege to the Anglican church or precedence to any religion.
Those who demand a strict separation between church and state (the Australian Democrats political part and, I think, the most vocal in Australia) are ‘separationists’, Tom says: they want to erect a legal ‘wall’ that prevents interactions from a fear that an éstablished’church might emerge. Thus separationists want to end any special privileges churches receive – eg. Taxation benefits, because, it is claimed, they amount to de facto recognition of Christianity. The opposite view is that because a clear majority of Australians declare some connection with a Christian denomination, some public reflection of the beliefs and values of Christians is warranted.
There are of course, extremists on both sides: some advocating a theocracy, others a purely secular state. And inevitably the backdrop of global religiously-inspired terrorism, church-state relations has become a cause of widespread anxiety.
Tom’s historical overview is succinct and well-researched. Ancient Israel was a theocracy: there was no administrative or political division between the religious and mundane aspects of life. Jesus was largely indifferent to Roman rule: ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s; and to God what belongs to God’(Matthew 22:21). The Christian apostles told their people to live in peace with each other and with the powers-that-be, although when those powers stepped up their persecution of Christians, they were an evil to be resisted – but peacefully, and if necessary, through martyrdom. The state was simply the means to an end in the divine ordering of the world. But Constantine’s conversion to Christianity (312 AD) changed all that: Christian baptism became a rite administered at birth, and became a symbol of citizenship. For 1,000 years, 400 to 1400, in Western Europe, church and state were thoroughly intertwined – ending, in England, when Henry VIII declared in 1534 that the Pope’s jurisdiction did not extend to his realm. The English church was effectively nationalised and the church *in* England became the Church *of* England. But people like John Bunyan now suffered if there were not willing to conform to the laws and dogmas of the established church.
The first American settlers sailed across the Atlantic to get away from the strictures of state religions in Europe. For the first time we read of a ‘wall of separation’between ‘the garden or religion’and the ‘wilderness’of temporal government (Roger Williams). Thus began the practice in the U.S. of church leaders and politicians advocating separation: as Tom writes ‘the former for protection, the latter to avoid interference.’ Thus began a uniquely modern phenomenon: the idea of constitutional freedom *from* religion, leading one nation (France, since 1905) towards constitutional secularism. To Tom’s knowledge no other nation has similarly legislated for a formal and legal separation of church and state. Overall, 2000 years of Christian church history led French theologian Jacques Ellul to lament that ‘whenever the Church has been in a position of power, it has regarded freedom as an enemy.’
Tom‘s interim conclusion at this point (p. 47: halfway through the book): Ít is for these reasons that Christians must be encouraged to allow some distance between the church and state – for the church’s good, if nothing else.’’
I have only one or two minor puzzles about Tom’s approach. Why does he use the (evangelically-biassed) New American Standard translation of the Bible when he could have chose a more respectable version, like the NRSV?
After some discussion over the years, the words ‘humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God’ were eventually added the ‘draft preamble’to the Australian constitution (in 1898). Section 116 is the only section to deal with religion (it’s similar to the first amendment in the U.S.): ‘The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.’
Of course there has been public discussion about all this, when, for example Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to participate in any politics, or wars, or the Exclusive Brethren similarly forbid voting (but allow many dollars to be spent lobbying for conservative political causes)’, or the Scientologists arguing (1983) that they are actually a religion and should be exempt from government taxes that other churches enjoy. Then there was the Defense of Government Schools debate, and (Tom writes) ‘the subsequent legal argument highlighted the significant differences between the US first amendment and the widely held but mistaken belief that the Australian constitution provided a “wall of separation”.
Conclusions? Át no stage do the founders of the Australian federation seem to have been motivated by a sense that engagement between religion and the state was itself an undesirable thing’(Catholic academic lawyer Joshua Puls).
A ‘wall of separation’ is impossible to maintain. Church and State… are not two societies that can be separated by the erection of a wall between them. Religion exists within a society and is part of it’ (Dr. Cliff Pannam QC).
Tom’s cautious about right-wing religious influence on the political process in Australia (he’s referring to conservative groups like the Christian Democratic Party, Family First, and the Australian Christian Lobby, and Creationism/Intelligent Design): he is concerned about the absence of strong ‘ accountability to to the broader Christian community’. A socially conservative mindset does not reflect the mindset of all Christian traditions in Australia.
He’s also critical of ‘doctrinaire secularism’, which in its extreme form in the U.S. tries to forbid mentioning God or do any religious act in the public square. Doctrinaire secularism is not religiously neutral: it actually amounts to the promotion of a type of atheism as the unofficial state religion.
But, overall, ‘I have argued that interactions between the church and the state are inevitable, and, for the greatest part, no threat to the health of the body politic.’ ‘Christianity does not need political goodwill or financial support to survive or fulfil its mission…’ but secularists can sleep easily because [quote] there is no future prospect of a religious establishment in Australia and none should be encouraged…. Unlike the U.S. Australia does not need a wall of separation between church and state, and none will be needed in the future.


As a committed Christian who believes that religious belief should inform all of life AND that all ideas have a legitimate place in the forum of public discourse, I could not more strongly object to your remarks in the The Age, 14 November 2004 that you "respect" the role of churches, but that we should keep religion out of politics.
Given these comments, where exactly do you see religion playing a role, Mr. Latham?
I presume you it to remain a matter personal business. But my problem with your comments is that my political views ARE my personal business. That's MY personal business, Mr. Latham. NOT YOURS! Nor any other politican's. I'll be damned if I'll let any of you tell me my personal business - religious, political or otherwise.
Let me say that I believe your remarks demonstrate a complete ignorance of the entire point of the doctrine of the separation of church and state.
That doctrine is NOT primarily about keeping religion out of politics BUT about keeping politics out of religion (read the constitution).
It does NOT state that religious views may not inform political discourse BUT that political discourse may not dictate religious views.
The doctrine was NEVER intended to prevent free expression of religious views in the public marketplace of ideas. Rather it was intended to ensure that the public market place is open to influence from ALL points of view - even ideas that politicians like yourself might not agree with.
At the end of the day, if freedom and democracy mean anything, they mean the right of the individual to bring their personal beliefs into the sphere of public discourse REGARDLESS of the religious, philosophical, or political basis of those beliefs.
To reject that is to impose restrictions on the very religious discourse that our system of politics is supposed to defend.
Last Friday evening, 1 Sep 2006, Right Reverend Doctor Tom Frame, Anglican Bishop to the Australian Defence Force and well known author and social commentator, addressed the 2006 "Christians in Defence" Fellowship Dinner in Canberra. His address, titled "Church-State Relations in Australia and Christian Fidelity", is available on the web site of the Military Christian Fellowship of Australia
For the direct link, see
Tom Frame is always thought-provoking, and he did not miss this opportunity either. Here are some snippets.
"The relationship between politics and religion, Church and State, have become an ideological battleground-once again. This time, the struggle is not between rival Christian denominations but between those with religious beliefs and those with none. There are those who are offended by any public displays of Christian faith and appalled that Church people would want to shape public policy. This makes the position of every Christian... a complicated, and even controversial, one. ...
The first followers of Jesus realized that faith in him was costly. He not only demanded their commitment in body, mind and spirit, being his discipline cost many their families and their friends as they suffered isolation and alienation from loved ones who would not walk with them in the footsteps of Jesus.
In the last decades, the church in Australia has moved from nearer the centre of public life to the periphery. There are those who lament and those who welcome this shift. The former believe the Christian cause has lost ground. Christians no longer enjoy political, social or moral ascendancy. Many clergy feel besieged or ignored. Whereas previously the church's position meant a great deal in national affairs and Christian thinkers were accorded a prime place in the public square, Christians can no longer presume they will even be heard, let alone heeded, in an increasingly indifferent and hostile society. Christians are one among many "special interest" groups vying for influence and the crowd's ear. For many in the church, it is now about winning a war of survival.
Others, however, feel no such angst. They insist that their 'alien citizenship' (a term used to describe Christians in 1 Peter) is better served by some distinction between the Christian community and secular society. Whereas Christians can affirm their participation in what Saint Augustine referred to as 'the politics of the earthly city', their true polis and their ultimate loyalty is in the Celestial City and with God. Loyalty to the earthly city is, therefore, joined to an allegiance that is usually viewed as subversive by those who do not share it. It will be 'God before Country' rather than 'God and Country'. ..."

Sightings 5/16/05
Collisions and Doubts
-- Martin E. Marty
Where to draw "the line of separation between the rights of religion and the Civil authority" (James Madison)? Or, less felicitously, where to maintain or breach "the wall of separation between church and state" (Thomas Jefferson)? When to make use of the line? Those questions are older than 1787, and today more than ever there are "collisions and doubts," as Madison called them. The line has always been messy, the wall has always had breaches, and this will always be so, as long as a dynamic republic shall last. Two newspapers on May 12 offered new examples of this fact.
In a Chicago Tribune op-ed, David McGrath, an expert on English literature and Native American affairs, complained about a 198-foot tall crucifix towering at the junction of I-57 and I-70 ("The Art of Jamming Beliefs Down Our Throats"). It stands "as close to the highway" as the state will permit, its glistening surface serving to "shout and bully with its message of Christian morals." McGrath welcomes civil controversy but finds this uncivil. And a photo of the cross suggests that it may be just this; it is overbearing, triumphalist, and more. What would Jesus do? He'd probably call such use of his cross "tacky." But where it is, is perfectly legal. If it is even as close as one inch from the legal boundary, all we can do is put on our dark glasses, glower with McGrath, and take refuge in more chaste visions of the cross and expressions of piety. Why? Because the cross is on private land. On public land it would be claiming privilege for faith over non-faith, one faith over others. Where it is, "any number can play" on equal terms.
Most misplacements of the Ten Commandments and crosses occur on courthouse lawns or classroom walls. Are these about religion? Since religion can be expressed on most private lawns and on church, home, and store walls, aren't these courthouse and classroom placements saying something political and primeval? "We belong, and you don't! We set the terms and you are marginal, unpatriotic, or wrong!" Such forms of "shouting and bullying" may be detrimental to faith and civic life.
As for the "when": The New York Times and then the Associated Press (on May 14) ran stories about Air Force Academy personnel, programs, and privileges, as well as pressures against most religions that do not focus on the "born-again" experience and orthodoxy. Details remain controversial, but charges are that anti-Semitism and anti-other religion mark some of the teaching on the premises of the Academy (the wrong "where") and during classroom and other teaching and publicizing time (the wrong "when"). Air Force Academy Chaplain Melina Morton -- who has to be trusted, because she's a fellow Lutheran -- says, "I realize this is the end of my Air Force career" because she protested and pointed to wrongs. In fairness, we have to hear more from Major General Charles Baldwin, Air Force chief of chaplains, who said the higher-ups merely sent Morton to Japan, far from Colorado Springs, and changed her duties, assigning her to serve there in her final chaplaincy days.
The Pentagon is looking into more than fifty recent complaints of religious intolerance at the Academy, and is assessing a report by Yale Divinity School professor Kristen Leslie. Leslie quoted an Air Force chaplain during basic training who warned that "those [cadets] who are not born again will burn in the fires of hell." Off premises and off time he can say that. On premises? Wrong.
Page two: Last week we commemorated Will Herberg's Protestant-Catholic-Jew fifty years after its publication, claiming that like all of us men in 1955, he made slight mention of women. But reader Bob Miller scanned the bibliography and footnotes of the book and found a dozen pioneer women's names, and a closer reading finds Herberg quoting British leader Barbara Ward on the first page. We are glad to issue this correction. Good for Will!
Martin E. Marty's biography, current projects, upcoming events, publications, and contact information can be found at
The May Religion and Culture Web Forum, featuring "Red Medicine, Blue Medicine: Pluralism and the Future of Healthcare" by Farr A. Curlin and Daniel E. Hall, is now available at
Sightings comes from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
[Baptist Press 2/11/98]
Christian role underscored in addressing public issues
By Nedra Kanavel
JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)--Christians are called to stay determinedly active in the public arena to address the most pressing issues of our day, public policy champions said during a conference on faith and public policy at Union University, Jackson, Tenn.
About 200 people attended the Oct. 19-20 conference, titled, "Christian Faith and Public Policy: Where do we go from here?" and cosponsored by the Baptist-affiliated university's Center for Christian Leadership and the Coalition for Christian Colleges and Universities.
The center's director, David P. Gushee, noted the first day's speakers talked broadly about Christian involvement in politics, while the second day's speakers addressed more specific issues, including abortion and separation of church and state.
On abortion, for example, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the abortion issue's divisiveness shouldn't convince Christians to avoid the pro-life effort, but rather, give them hope and encouragement to continue the "struggle for hearts and minds."
"We've won in some respects, " Land said. "Most of America is uncomfortable with abortion today. Abstinence programs have been enacted, and the number of abortions has gone down."
But the fight is not over, Land said. Laws in support of abortion are still in place, and those laws "have chosen death and cursing over life and blessing."
Ultimately, Christians have a choice to make when it comes to the abortion issue, he said; they can choose to emphasize individual rights (such as those of the woman) or emphasize the human life which God has created. "For those who say we can't legislate morality, I say explain the civil rights movement," Land said.
The most effective way to affect legislation, including that of abortion, is through "prudent and principled" activity, said Michael Cromartie, a senior fellow in Protestant studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington.
One of the loudest and most accepted voices in the public squares of early America was that of the Protestant Christians, Cromartie said. But beginning with the Scopes trial of 1925, Christians began to shy away from the public arena, even going so far as to say that God's work could only be done within the church's walls.
By the late 1970s, Christian involvement in politics revived, but mainly because Christians increasingly felt the government was working against them rather than with them. "They see themselves as defendants, and not the aggressors, in the culture war," Cromartie said.
The most effective Christian activism, Cromartie said, nevertheless will come from "epistemological humility, public modesty and charity toward even our strongest opponents."
"The argument should never be whether Christians ought to be involved in social and political issues. Rather, the issue should be: on what matters should we be most concerned and what are the most prudent ways to express such convictions," Cromartie said.
Jean Bethke Elshtain, a professor of social and political ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School, insisted government and religious institutions cannot afford to separate themselves.
Ridding America's public life of any religious connotation is impossible and destructive, Elshtain said, noting: "Religion contributes to political life and its mores. Religion draws people into the community and away from themselves. Religion and politics cannot be separated."
To separate the two compromises the Constitution's promise of freedom of religion, Elshtain contended. "A private religion is no religion at all. When religion is destroyed, it's not freedom but bondage," she argued.
Stephen Monsma, professor of political science and chair of the social science division at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., said there are two theories struggling for dominance when it comes to separation of church and state: a strict separationist, no-aid-to-religion theory and an equal-treatment, substantive-neutrality theory.
Those who support the no-aid-to-religion theory hold that "the religious freedom language of the First Amendment should be interpreted to mean that church and state must be kept in as separate spheres as possible and that government may not subsidize or support religion," Monsma explained.
Like Elshtain, Monsma said he believes the no-aid theory's strict policy of separation of church and state is a detriment to American society. Specifically, Monsma argued the no-aid theory has driven government in some cases to withdraw its financial support of religious-based social service organizations.
"For the poor and low-income families, the results are often truly tragic. The poor have no choice but to make use of the social and health services provided by government agencies or by private agencies the strict separationist principle would deem to be sufficiently religion-free, even when those agencies are ineffective and lack any religious commitment," Monsma said.
Jim Skillen, executive director of the Center for Public Justice in Annapolis, Md., explained why government has a mandate to be just and why Christians must stay involved in public policy.
"The person, work and authority of Jesus Christ have to do with everyone and everything in all creation. Therefore, Jesus Christ has everything to do with government and public policy. The question then is how, not whether, Christian faith is connected with public policy," Skillen said in a chapel address to an audience of about 1,000. Skillen pointed out first that Christianity is not a stranger to the world's governments. In fact, "Jesus is not a visitor to, or intruder into, a strange land," Skillen said. "This world, including human political responsibility, belongs to God through the Son even before the Son's incarnation."
That means humans, and even more so Christians, are mandated to do what they can to ensure that government and public policy are fundamentally just, he said.
"This does not mean giving in to utopian expectations about human achievements on earth through politics, " Skillen said, citing several issues that Christians can focus on, such as racial and environmental justice.
"Wholesale, legalized discrimination against black or red people was a fundamental injustice, " Skillen argued. The challenge today is for government to protect against arbitrary, racist exclusion, not necessarily make people love one another," Skillen said.
In regard to the environment, Skillen pointed out the Bible clearly explains humans are to be good stewards of God's creation, including its land, water and non-human creatures. Christians, Skillen said, should advocate "good public law that recognizes the full value of land and water" and "the interdependence of all creatures."
"The attempt to clarify government's responsibility for protecting everything from innocent life to religious freedom, from precious resources to the rights of families, is something that should compel Christians everywhere and at all times," Skillen stressed. "This is part of our Christian service, part of the way we acknowledge Christ our Lord and seek to love and serve him."
John Mere's Commemoration Sermon St Benet's Church, Cambridge
Tuesday 20 April 2004
'We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ' (II Cor. 10.5)
One of the options afforded to John Mere's preacher is to teach 'due obedyence of the subjectes to their princyes and of pupills to their tutours, of servauntes to their maisters, with some Lesson for magistrates maisters and tutours for the well ordering of their subiectes servauntes and pupills.' Reflection on obedience is likely to be an uncongenial matter these days; but the evident need for endowed sermons on the subject four centuries ago suggests that obedience has never been that popular a requirement. To be told, in any age, that your will must be educated by submission is not a welcome message.
But it is not a message that can be easily or lightly ignored by the Christian. 'Christ became obedient for us even unto death, death on a cross': the antiphon for the offices at the end of Holy Week is still echoing in the ears of some of us. Salvation is won by submission, according to the gospel. But before we allow our feelings to be revolted by what so readily seems an assault on our autonomy, we should consider what the New Testament does and doesn't say about this. Jesus is obedient, and his obedience costs him; it goes against the grain of his natural human resistance to pain and death. Yet it is a conformity not to some alien authority, to a hostile tyrant in the heavens, but to the root of his own life. He is himself the mind and heart of God; as he looks into the mystery of his own origination in the Father, he acts out who and what he is - the embodiment of the Father's will for the healing of creation.
To imitate Christ in his submission is therefore not to do violence to your own proper reality, but to discover yourself as a created being - as a being whose life is grounded in the loving gift of God and nothing else. God's will is that you live; to seek obedience to him is to seek life, as in the great exhortation in Deuteronomy to 'choose life' by receiving and obeying the Law of Moses. And this too is why the apostles can say that their obedience is owed to God rather than to human authority when they are ordered to give up what flows from their life in Christ. To submit to God is to be most directly in touch with what is most real. To refuse that submission is not to be free of an alien violence but to become an alien to yourself.
And when St Paul tells his converts to imitate him as he imitates Christ, he sets out what is the most basic form of Christian obedience. Watch me struggling to watch Christ, he says; see what it means to try and allow the ground of your very existence to come to the surface and find expression in your acts - to make every thought obedient to the incarnate mind of God. It is a struggle because we have become such strangers to our own nature as God's loved creation. But in Christ we see how a created mind, a human self like ourselves, can perfectly become transparent to God's gift, so as to be indistinguishable from the mind of God the Father. By the gift of his life in the Spirit, we can begin to 'immerse' our lives in his. And we learn - as in so much of our human experience - by watching those who have got used to the work: watching those who watch Christ.
The way of the world is to learn from each other those habits of acquisitive rivalry that dominate our relations and breed our conflicts. As Rene Girard has reminded us, we learn from each other to want what the other wants, and so to compete with the other for its possession. But in relation to Christ, to want what the other wants is to want the Father's will - that is, to want the Father's desire for mercy and joy in all beings. We cannot turn this into a matter for competition. Our Christian obedience becomes the foundation for a radically fresh vision of one another. By looking to each other to learn Christ, by looking at another's looking towards Jesus, our desires are re-formed and liberated for life in communion.
But what has this to do with the obedience that John Mere wanted expounded for subjects and pupils and servants? Simply this: Christian obedience in its biblical sense can never be just a passive conformity to commands in the hope that this will somehow ensure a reward for us. It is properly an obedience given where we see authority engaged with a truth beyond its own interest and horizon - ultimately with the truth of Christ. The obedience of the pupil, at any educational level, is rightly and credibly demanded when the very shape of the intellectual exercise is visibly to do with a mind being pressed and moulded into truthfulness by a reality that has nothing to do with the petty power games that intellectual life can sometimes produce. The best teacher, the one who has most claim on obedience, may be the one who is at times least fluent and confident, most puzzled and engaged and troubled by the truth. The best master is the one who is most visibly mastered by demands and standards that have nothing to do with the serving of his own personal interests. If obedience is a form of attention, the attentive person is the one who should command obedience.
And this is why political obedience in our age has become so problematic. Eusebius of Caesarea in the fourth century was able to commend the authority of the emperor Constantine on the grounds that he was constantly engaged in contemplating the heavenly Logos. It was not even at the time a very plausible case; but he had at least noticed that any Christian justification for obedience to rulers must build in some reference to their capacity to absorb truth that is not determined by their interests.
Now we do not usually look in our rulers for signs of advanced contemplative practice; nor do we say, even as Christians, that no obedience is due to unbelieving governments. But we do say that credible claims on our political loyalty have something to do with a demonstrable attention to truth, even unwelcome truth. A government that habitually ignored expert advice, habitually pressed its interests abroad in ways that ignored manifest needs and priorities in the wider human and non-human environment, habitually repressed criticism or manipulated public media - such a regime would, to say the least, jeopardise its claim to obedience because it was refusing attention. Its policies and its rhetoric would not be designed to secure for its citizens an appropriate position in the world, a position that allowed the best kind of freedom because it did not deceive or encourage deception about the way the world is. It would be concerned finally about control and no more; and so would be a threat to its citizens and others.
Christianity does not have a general prescription about the best form of government. It is not (with due respect to Tolstoy) intrinsically anarchist, nor (with due respect to Cranmer) intrinsically monarchist. It does not commend uncritical obedience. Even in the days when Anglican political thinkers argued for 'passive obedience' to hostile government (i.e. suffering the consequences of non-co-operation rather than violently resisting), there was no sanctioning of active compliance with unjust law. But equally Christianity does not commend systematic revolution. It has been realistic about the human costs of violent upheaval and suspicious of any claims to provide an entirely new starting point for political life. What it does propose is a set of questions about political authority which direct our attention to what government attends to, and to the degree to which government is capable of acting at least sometimes beyond regard for its own controlling power (examples could be multiplied, but the willingness of the UK government to remit certain cases of international debt is a case in point of this wider attention). And in the light of the basic injunction of Christian faith to be attentive to the will of God as the most true and real element in our environment, paying attention to the way in which a government pays attention becomes a proper expression of obedience.
The argument is regularly heard in discussions of contested matters of policy, especially foreign policy, that independent observers (church leaders and the like) have no God-given expertise in strategy or economics that could outweigh government's resources of information. And the point is further made that we elect governments to defend our corporate interests, not to be global statesmen and stateswomen. Both observations - while they represent an understandable impatience with ecclesiastical generalisations - are misplaced. Government will always know some things that citizens don't and probably shouldn't; but this is not an argument for civic quiescence. Some citizens also know things that governments don't know and probably should; NGO's, churches, educators and health workers may know what neither diplomacy nor intelligence are aware of; and the demand that government attend to such informal but extensive knowledge is a fair condition for recognising a governmental claim on our attention as citizens. And while it is true that we do not first expect our leaders to be world leaders, a government that ignored the concerns of other peoples in our ever more tightly interlocking global economy would be culpably failing in attention. Our national interest is never merely national in the present context.
Christian political obedience these days, then, 'due obedyence' rather than just conformity, must rest on confidence in a government's capacity for attention; it merits our attentive loyalty in very much the same way as the tutor merits that of the student - in openness to a truth that goes beyond power and interest. This is not to expect of government an impossible standard of corporate selflessness and generosity; governments have popular mandates to fulfil, not simply programmes of benevolence and justice to implement. But part of the continuing damage to our political health in this country has to do with a sense of the events of the last year on the international scene being driven by something other than attention. There were things government believed it knew and claimed to know on a privileged basis which, it emerged, were anything but certain; there were things which regional experts and others knew which seemed not to have received attention. Forgetting the melodramatic language of public deception, which is often just another means of not attending to what is difficult and takes time to fathom, the evidence suggests to many that obedience to a complex truth suffered from a sense of urgency that made attention harder. Government of whatever kind restores lost trust above all by its willingness to attend to what lies beyond the urgency of asserting control and retaining visible and simple initiative; by patient accountability and the freedom to think again, even to admit error or miscalculation. Happy the person or the government that can simply find the right, the inevitable gesture that fully fits the truth of circumstances as gracefully as the scoring of a goal.
Christian obedience is intelligent obedience, a careful questioning, a reflective and sometimes challenging loyalty. Obedience has earned a bad name because of its use as an alibi for responsibility ('only obeying orders', a phrase with nightmare resonances after the last century); but if we begin with our central paradigm for obedience we shall see that it has to do above all with the labour of discovering what truth requires of us - the truth of who we are and where we are. Whatever may have been the theology of obedience in past ages, we cannot now ignore the democratisation of knowledge and the deepened awareness of how ideological distortions may be sustained in public life. If obedience is essentially attention, a kind of looking in order to learn how to act truthfully, it is right that claims to be obeyed be tested accordingly, tested fairly and thoughtfully, not out of a corrosive cynicism about power. This is what happens in the life of intellectual institutions; it is right that it happens in the social order. It is not that we need to claim the right to remake for ourselves every decision government makes for us; that is a trivialising of democratic government, though one that is very typical of our current scene. It is possible to accept a governmental decision as lawful and proper even when I disagree, because I recognise that a process has been undertaken that has some right to be called attentive. The individual citizen may be wrong; and in any case, has a vote at the next election. But without these processes being robust and visible and involving more than just simple governmental interest at any time, the authority of government suffers. It is not that we face regular campaigns of huge public disobedience; there may be a time for these, as in the Civil Rights struggles of sixties America, but they are rightly rare, confined to cases where government's inattention has become a matter of serious and lasting injustice. It is more that we face a general weakening of trust in the political system of our nation.
To be properly and critically involved in such a system is one of the forms of political obedience: it is to put the fruits of your attention at the service of government in order to stir their attention. It is, it could be said, the attempt to make political thoughts also obedient to Christ, implicitly if not explicitly. Today we should need persuading that we are in need of exhortations to obedience in the older sense. But we should not delude ourselves that the education of the will by submission to truth is any easier or any less important (the contrary, if anything). And it is incumbent on believers to argue for and to exemplify obedient attention for the sake of Christ and in the name of Christ in all places where it is threatened by haste and self-interest - beginning (need it be said?) in the idle and selfish hearts of those who so readily talk about it and are so slow to bring their own thoughts under obedience to Christ.
© Rowan Williams 2004
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS FAITH AND POLITICS: SEPARATION OR SYNERGY? by Darren Jensen of the University of Queensland Policy Vol.21, No.3, (Spring 2005) p21-27. Religious beliefs can guide politicians while still preserving the separation of church and state. Religious contributions to politics arouse suspicion because they often proceed from outside conventional categories of modern politics. Some (eg. Latham and Vanstone) have argued that religious contributions upset the proper relationship of religious authority and liberal democracy. But the use of religious references in public debate is not contrary to the Constitution or the notion of the separation of church and state (which has to do with establishing or preferencing a religion in law), and prohibiting such contributions would, in fact, preference a rival – secularism – as the state religion. Others have argued that religion has been used to attract a right-wing constituency by ‘baptising’ a political program. It implies a manipulation of the electorate when it is highly possible that the energy actually derives from community feeling that dearly held values are being dismissed by the political and intellectual elite.
The churches’ statements actually reveal a very modest approach in which the aim is not to rule, but to be involved with the main contribution to be achieved by individuals. Jensen illustrates this extensively by reference to debate about embryos, economics and euthanasia. He concludes that a synergy between the claims of religious faith and empirical knowledge is possible.
For the full article see Also see ‘Faith and Politics: the rhetoric of church-state separation’ by Darryn M. Jensen in Australian Religion Studies Review Vol. 18, No 1. For further information see



4. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

King was a gifted African-American preacher and civil rights leader whose sermonic appeals for justice and personal activism helped change the course of American life. His prophetic words and actions resulted in his recognition as a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was tragically assassinated in 1968.

Though his theological training was provided in a context of theological liberalism, as King's ministry progressed -- as pastor of Montgomery's Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, then Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church -- his preaching grew increasingly more evangelical and biblical. His sermons became more Christ-centered, with a growing emphasis on the cross.

Steeped in the rhetorical traditions of the African-American church, King displayed gifts in the pulpit and the political arena that made him one of the most compelling speakers of the century. It is important to remember that the leader of the most profound American social movement of this century described himself as "fundamentally a clergyman, a Baptist preacher."


"Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of great passion, devotion, and humor. His humorous side is not frequently discussed, and though often portrayed by the media to be a rather serious, no nonsense individual, in reality he was the epitome of humor. However, while he could greatly amuse a select group of friends in private, it was his passion and devotion that caught the international spotlight.

>From his family he inherited a sense of mission that encompassed him as a

preacher and a Civil Rights leader. A major source of King's theology was the African-American church. Perhaps the greatest gift willed to King from the African-American church was that of an indomitable faith in God which reverberated through his sermons and speeches.

Of the many career opportunities King could have pursued, he chose to take a full time pastorate. Above everything else, Martin King considered himself a preacher of the gospel. Apparently King was often disappointed that he was not primarily seen as a preacher.

King was a poet and an artist in the pulpit. He saw no incompatibility between biblical preaching and preaching on relevant social issues. That is only part of his legacy to modern preachers. King has helped ministers to recover the relevance of preaching for our day, to motivate Christians to blend their theology with their ethics, and to translate their faith in God in the social, economic and political struggle, while not being afraid to use philosophy and formal reasoning.

Ultimately King breathed life back into many preachers simply through his profound approach of addressing the audience cardiologically and colonially. Just as his passion, devotion, and humor sprang from his head as well as his mind, so he directed them and his message to the head and minds of others. (Robert Smith, Professor of Preaching, Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, AL)




John Stott is the English-speaking world's highest-profile and most acclaimed 'evangelical'. We have lunched together, corresponded a bit, mentioned each other 'in despatches' and Jan and I were privileged to attend his 80th birthday celebration at the Albert Hall in London a couple of years ago: a great man, who has, with C S Lewis, influenced more undergraduates around the world in the last half-century towards an informed acceptance of the Christian faith than anyone else.

I first really encountered John Stott by reading his Basic Christianity when at Teachers’ College in 1957. Lucid, made sense + CSL’s Mere Christianity – coherent understanding of Christ’s claims about himself – and Christ’s claims on my life. Later, at that same college when I was an InterVarsity Fellowship staffworker (I think about 1970), I was privileged to have an hour’s lunch with this great man. Our discussion mainly centred around Charismatic Renewal: and was probably one of hundreds of ‘inputs’ into his thinking between his two publications on the subject - ‘The Baptism and Fullness of the Holy Spirit’ and ‘Baptism and Fullness’. The latter publication had a much more inclusive, accepting and irenic approach to the broad subject. I like to think I might have helped a little with that… I later – probably a year later – wrote to John Stott, beginning as so many letters to him probably did ‘You probably won’t remember me…’ and within a month I got a hand-written, one page response, beginning ‘Of course I remember you…’ He certainly did, because he commended me to a Baptist congregation in Vancouver, British Columbia, which soon after called us to the pastorate there. He also must have read my little book Recent Trends Among Evangelicals, which he cited a couple of times in his book Evangelical Truth: A Personal Plea for Unity, Integrity and Faithfulness (1999).

I have sat in his audiences many times – at university missions, in public convention centres, at All Soul’s Langham Place, and, a couple of years ago, at a couple of public meetings in Melbourne (one of them in the auditorium of a church I pastored – Blackburn (now Crossway) Baptist Church. Before that, in 2001, Jan and I were in London, and were privileged to attend his 80th birthday concert in Albert? Royal Festival? Hall. He spoke for five or six minutes: a brilliant, carefully crafted summary of his Christian philosophy and commitment.

The influence of someone on your thinking can be measured by what-is-remembered-when about that person. I remember, for example, his brilliant talk on evangelical inclusiveness – ‘Don’t Let’s Polarize’ – at the Pharmacy College auditorium in Melbourne. I remember where I was (holidaying in Lord Howe Island) when I read the first (513-page) volume of Timothy Dudley-Smith’s biography of Stott. I’ve just Googled our website – it has 172 references to Stott; my ‘Desktop Google’ has 1141.



8. John R.W. Stott (1921- )

A favorite preacher among evangelicals around the globe, John Stott is Rector Emeritus of All Souls Church in London and Director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. He served at All Souls Church as assistant curate (1945-50), as Rector (1950-75), and as Rector Emeritus since 1975. He was appointed a Chaplain to the Queen from 1959 to 1991.

Since his retirement, Stott has invested much of his ministry in working with pastors, church leaders and students in the Third World. He is the author of over 40 books, including Basic Christianity and The Cross of Christ. In his book I Believe in Preaching, Stott emphasized the place of proclamation in his own ministry:

"Nothing is better calculated to restore health and vitality to the church or to lead its members into maturity in Christ than a recovery of true, biblical, contemporary preaching . . . The task of preaching today is extremely exacting, as we seek to build bridges between the Word and the world, between divine revelation and human experience, and to relate the one to the other with integrity and relevance."


"When the first International Congress on Preaching was held in London in 1997, one of the most exciting elements for me was the opportunity to meet John Stott.

For so many years I have admired this gifted author and preacher, whose insights about the preaching task have meant so much to so many. His little book, The Preacher's Portrait, is one of the most meaningful volumes ever written about the nature and calling of the preacher; I cannot count the number of times I have recommended it to young pastors.

At a stage of life and a stature in which he could do whatever he wishes, Dr. Stott is today dedicating his life to helping train and encourage Christian preachers in the Third World. Only God knows the number of lives which will have been influenced for Christ because of the faithful ministry of John Stott." (Michael Duduit, Editor, Preaching)



(Watch for my review of Timothy Dudley-Smith's two-volume biography of Stott: generally inspiring, and worth anyone's investing time to read, though you'll have to skim a lot of unnecessary/irrelevant details!). ( )

According to Kittel's great Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, the Greek word for salvation was used in the ancient world from Homer onwards of 'an acutely dynamic act in which gods or people snatch others by force from serious peril' whether the danger was a battle, a storm at sea, condemnation in a law court, illness or death... We use the same terminology today, when a surgeon saves a patient's life by an operation, the fire brigade saves someone trapped in a burning building, or a rescue team saves a climber stranded on a mountain rockface. In each case somebody is in acute peril. 'Salvation' means nothing unless there is a situation of grave danger from which a person needs to be rescued...
So let me ask you: have you received the salvation which the gospel proclaims? Have you trusted personally in Christ who once secured and now offers this salvation? Only then shall we be able to say from our experience: 'I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.'
John Stott, 'Salvation Today', a sermon preached in All Souls' Church of England, Langham Place, London, on 7 October, 1973. Published in All Souls' Magazine, date unknown, pp. 11-15.


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