The Best of Enemies

Do you know the names Ann Atwater, CP Ellis, and Howard Fuller?  I didn’t until I read the book “The Best of Enemies,” by Osha Gray Davidson.  The book chronicles racial relations in Durham, North Carolina in the 1960’s.  I heard about the story of CP Ellis and Ann Atwater during this year’s pastors’ conference when Dr. Tony Evans used their story as a sermon illustration.  I decided to research the story and found Davidson’s book.  I’ll give a summary and then three strengths and three weaknesses of Davidson’s work.

Summary

During the first half of the 20th century, Durham, North Carolina was known as a progressive jewel of the south which had great race relations.  This, of course, was not true.  Durham did boast a class of black elites which was more than most southern cities, but the living conditions for the lower class black population were just as squalid and unfair as other Southern cities.  The book chronicles the rise of both Ann Atwater, a poor, single black mother and CP Ellis, a poor white man who found a sense of purpose in the Durham chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.  He would eventually become The Exalted Cyclops of the Durham chapter.  Ellis and Atwater clashed at many city meetings and became bitter enemies.  In 1971 the Durham schools were forced to integrate and this caused considerable turmoil.  A man named Bill Riddick came to town and suggested the city hold what is called a charrette.  A charrette is an intense meeting over several days, in Durham’s case 10 days, where an entire community is invited to come together to solve a particular problem.  The charrette began by naming a steering committee.  Guess which two people were elected to chair the steering committee.  Ann Atwater was not even in attendance when she was elected a co-chairwoman of the steering committee and her fellow chairman was none other than her worst enemy, CP Ellis.

During the meetings, Atwater and Ellis found that poor black families and poor white families struggled with the same problems.  Ellis came to believe that blacks weren’t what keeping poor whites impoverished, but the ruling elites, both black and white.  There’s a moving scene in chapter 13 which describes Ellis and Atwater talking alone in the auditorium when reality finally poured in on Ellis and he began to cry.  The charrette ended with Ellis renouncing his membership in the Klan and reportedly tearing up his klan membership card in front of the community.

Ellis and Atwater became lifelong friends, and when he died in 2005, Atwater delivered a eulogy at his funeral.  The introduction includes a story about Ann coming to the funeral home before CP’s service, and, while sitting there was asked to leave by a white man.  She finally stated that CP was her brother.

Strengths

  1. Davidson does a remarkable job of setting the scene for the charrette.  He plows through a century of racial history in Durham and relates the events in Durham that coincided with the larger national struggle regarding race relations.
  2. Davidson gives equal pages to both the histories of Ellis and Atwater. Davidson is a career journalist and when I began reading the book, I assumed he would major on Atwater’s story, but his work is non-biased and fair.  He notes the high price Ellis paid for his actions during and after the charrette.
  3. His character descriptions of Atwater, Ellis, and other minor characters are moving.  I felt as though I could close my eyes and hear Atwater or Ellis talking with me.

Weaknesses

  1. Davidson only devotes two chapters to the seminal event, the charrette. He spends 11 chapters covering background material, but only two chapters dealing with the event that shaped this unusual friendship.  I would like to hear more about the charrette itself.
  2. He ends the book with a retelling of Ellis’ suicide attempt in 1972. and the psychological price he paid for his actions.  I would like to have known more about the friendship that developed after the charrette, but so much time was devoted to background material that a detailed description of their friendship would have made the book very lengthy.
  3. This may not be considered a weakness, but for a novice in black history, such as myself, Davidson includes the action of too many activist groups.  I was difficult to keep up with who belonged to which group and which groups were militant and which were peaceful and so on.

What I learned

What does this have to do with the Southern Baptist Convention and SBC Voices in 2018?  We’re having our own struggles with diversity and race relations.  I learned a lot about the history of race relations, and I learned about some influential people that many of us have never heard of.  Incidentally, I wonder if our own Dwight McKissic is related to the Floyd McKissic mentioned in this book?  I learned that there’s a lot I don’t know about a critical period in our nation’s history which still affects us today.  Before we go patting ourselves on the back for including minorities in leadership roles, we would all do well to read the story of Ellis and Atwater and remember that there are men like CP Ellis who paid a high price for doing what was right.  Are we willing to pay that price?

Book Review: Together on God’s Mission, How Southern Baptists Cooperate to Fulfill the Great Commission by Scott Hildreth

Is our main channel of cooperation, the Cooperative Program, best viewed as (a) a tax on churches, (b) dues for membership in the Southern Baptist Convention, (c) an efficient and practical way of spending our money, or, (d) the primary means of expressing cooperation among churches, an important theological value and teaching?

Scott Hildreth, Assistant Professor of Global Studies George Liele director of the Center for Great Commission Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, advocates for (d) in his new book, Together on God’s Mission, How Southern Baptists Cooperate to Fulfill the Great Commission.

In 1985, early in my years as a pastor, “Cooperation: The Baptist Way to a Lost World” by Cecil and Susan Ray was published as a main stewardship resource for the SBC. Although still close to ten percent, the Cooperative Program was beginning its long decline as a percentage of church undesignated offerings. About twenty years later, when David Hankins and Chad Brand published their book, “One Sacred Effort: The Cooperative Program of Southern Baptists” , that percentage had declined to under seven percent. Now it is just under five percent. Given this steady decline, it is not surprising that Hildreth’s book is described as “a plea to all Southern Baptists to reclaim the power of cooperation.” The target audience is “a new generation” of Southern Baptists. It is an effort to bring up to date these previous, similar books on the Cooperative Program and is hoped to be the tool that helps educate seminarians and others about the system we have had for almost a century.

The book is brief, 94 pages, clear and concise while covering the subject matter. It is divided into three sections. The first covers the historical development of the SBC itself along with the historical development of the CP. The second section explores “several key biblical themes to show how the mission of God determines the mission of the church with cooperation being a key component,” and the final section includes “observations about the current state of Southern Baptist cooperation” along with encouragement, “especially among younger Southern Baptists, to embrace the cooperative efforts of the convention.”

The author covers at length and in detail an aspect of cooperation usually ignored by most of us: cooperation has been viewed by Southern Baptists as such an important  component of our shared biblical beliefs that it is included in our common statement of faith, The Baptist Faith and Message. “Cooperation” is one of the main articles along with the traditional ones on “God,” Salvation,” “The Church,” and others.

Hildreth recommends that

“we discuss cooperation theologically, not structurally or pragmatically.”

The point is made that before we declare how much more efficient it is to have a common funding stream for distribution to our entities, we should grasp that God’s mission for his churches is impossible to achieve apart from cooperative efforts.

Two other recommendations for cooperation:

“Let’s not base the label ‘Cooperating Churches’ exclusively on financial contributions.”

Thank you, Dr. Hildreth, for plainly stating that “some Southern Baptists…seem to limit cooperation to financial contribution[s] through the Cooperative Program.” While taking a position of unapologetic advocacy for the CP, he doesn’t ignore the fact that being in “friendly cooperation with the Convention” has never demanded a 10%, 5%, or any percent church support of the CP.

Consider what a difference it might make in our convention if, when we asked about the cooperative investment of a church, we meant more than, “What percentage of your budget do you give through the Cooperative Program?”

Indeed. No one who has spent years involved in the SBC and who has listened and observed carefully can have escaped what Hildreth describes as,

“…the Cooperative Program discussed as if it were a denominational tax or membership dues.” 

He goes on to write that,

[The Cooperative Program] was never designed to be that, and these ideas reflect a rather unfortunate misunderstanding. The attitude creates bitterness and an sense of entitlement, and might tempt some to look for ways to avoid giving altogether.

I like his clear, strong, positive statement that,

Rather than taking a dim, perhaps even begrudging, attitude toward our Cooperative Program, let’s advocate for it as a positive means of advancing God’s Kingdom.

I wholeheartedly agree.

Ignorance abounds in our Grand Old Convention on the subject of cooperation and the Cooperative Program. This book would clear up a lot of the confusion and ignorance.

 

Book Review: Together on God’s Mission, How Southern Baptists Cooperate to Fulfill the Great Commission by Scott Hildreth

Is our main channel of cooperation, the Cooperative Program, best viewed as (a) a tax on churches, (b) dues for membership in the Southern Baptist Convention, (c) an efficient and practical way of spending our money, or, (d) the primary means of expressing cooperation among churches, an important theological value and teaching?

Scott Hildreth, Assistant Professor of Global Studies George Liele director of the Center for Great Commission Studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, advocates for (d) in his new book, Together on God’s Mission, How Southern Baptists Cooperate to Fulfill the Great Commission.

In 1985, early in my years as a pastor, “Cooperation: The Baptist Way to a Lost World” by Cecil and Susan Ray was published as a main stewardship resource for the SBC. Although still close to ten percent, the Cooperative Program was beginning its long decline as a percentage of church undesignated offerings. About twenty years later, when David Hankins and Chad Brand published their book, “One Sacred Effort: The Cooperative Program of Southern Baptists” , that percentage had declined to under seven percent. Now it is just under five percent. Given this steady decline, it is not surprising that Hildreth’s book is described as “a plea to all Southern Baptists to reclaim the power of cooperation.” The target audience is “a new generation” of Southern Baptists. It is an effort to bring up to date these previous, similar books on the Cooperative Program and is hoped to be the tool that helps educate seminarians and others about the system we have had for almost a century.

The book is brief, 94 pages, clear and concise while covering the subject matter. It is divided into three sections. The first covers the historical development of the SBC itself along with the historical development of the CP. The second section explores “several key biblical themes to show how the mission of God determines the mission of the church with cooperation being a key component,” and the final section includes “observations about the current state of Southern Baptist cooperation” along with encouragement, “especially among younger Southern Baptists, to embrace the cooperative efforts of the convention.”

The author covers at length and in detail an aspect of cooperation usually ignored by most of us: cooperation has been viewed by Southern Baptists as such an important  component of our shared biblical beliefs that it is included in our common statement of faith, The Baptist Faith and Message. “Cooperation” is one of the main articles along with the traditional ones on “God,” Salvation,” “The Church,” and others.

Hildreth recommends that

“we discuss cooperation theologically, not structurally or pragmatically.”

The point is made that before we declare how much more efficient it is to have a common funding stream for distribution to our entities, we should grasp that God’s mission for his churches is impossible to achieve apart from cooperative efforts.

Two other recommendations for cooperation:

“Let’s not base the label ‘Cooperating Churches’ exclusively on financial contributions.”

Thank you, Dr. Hildreth, for plainly stating that “some Southern Baptists…seem to limit cooperation to financial contribution[s] through the Cooperative Program.” While taking a position of unapologetic advocacy for the CP, he doesn’t ignore the fact that being in “friendly cooperation with the Convention” has never demanded a 10%, 5%, or any percent church support of the CP.

Consider what a difference it might make in our convention if, when we asked about the cooperative investment of a church, we meant more than, “What percentage of your budget do you give through the Cooperative Program?”

Indeed. No one who has spent years involved in the SBC and who has listened and observed carefully can have escaped what Hildreth describes as,

“…the Cooperative Program discussed as if it were a denominational tax or membership dues.” 

He goes on to write that,

[The Cooperative Program] was never designed to be that, and these ideas reflect a rather unfortunate misunderstanding. The attitude creates bitterness and an sense of entitlement, and might tempt some to look for ways to avoid giving altogether.

I like his clear, strong, positive statement that,

Rather than taking a dim, perhaps even begrudging, attitude toward our Cooperative Program, let’s advocate for it as a positive means of advancing God’s Kingdom.

I wholeheartedly agree.

Ignorance abounds in our Grand Old Convention on the subject of cooperation and the Cooperative Program. This book would clear up a lot of the confusion and ignorance.

 

The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume II

About this time last year I published a review of The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume I. Courtesy of Broadman and Holman Publishers, this year I’m able to bring you review of Volume II.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon was one of the most influential preachers of the 19th century. At a time before automobiles, airplanes, and electricity, he regularly preached before crowds of more than 5,000 in his church in London (he once even preached before crowd of over 23,000 people). He founded a college, an orphanage, and was a strong advocate for foreign missions. He was personally acquainted with D. L. Moody and Hudson Taylor. Famous Americans like Mark Twain, John D. Rockefeller, and James Garfield (before he became the 20th president of the United States) visited his church to hear him preach. He left more published words than any other Christian in history, before or since. He has often been called the “Prince of Preachers,” and rightly so.

Despite his popularity, or perhaps because of it, Spurgeon received a lot of criticism during his lifetime. His opposition to the new theory from fellow Englishman Charles Darwin earned him mockery from cartoonists and newspapers. His condemnation of so-called Christian slaveholders in America resulted in threats and book burnings throughout the Southern United States, especially from members of the relatively new Southern Baptist denomination. Yet times have changed, and now Southern Baptists are not only among his greatest admirers, they have begun publishing a planned 12-volume set of his earliest sermons, never before seen in print.

Broadman and Holman graciously provided me a review copy of The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume II. I read it cover to cover. Volume II contains the 57 sermons Spurgeon recorded in the second of nine notebooks that will serve as the bases for the rest of the volumes in this series. I was immediately impressed by the aesthetic beauty of the book in my hands. My copy of Volume I has cloth-over-board covers, sewn binding, thick and glossy pages, and full-color facsimiles of each page of the notebook. My copy of Volume II was a special edition with covers designed to look like the cover of his notebook, additional photographs, gilded pages, and even a slipcover.

The introductory materials are similar to those of Volume I. Excerpts are available online, which I encourage you to check out (from the Foreword, Editor’s Preface, Introduction, pdf sampler from Volume I).

Each sermon includes a color facsimile, transcription, and notes. Even as a teenager (he turned 18 around the time he preached the last sermon in this book), Spurgeon’s sermons were impressive for his insight and ability to connect with his listeners. In Volume I he largely used outlines (he called them “skeletons”) and relied on his memory to preach extemporaneously. By Volume II he frequently wrote more detailed sermon notes. I wish my early sermons were as good as Spurgeon’s. By the time he was 20 he had already preached more than 700 times.

Because this is a critical work, the notes identify sources Spurgeon used, references to events of his day, and quotations from elsewhere in his body of work where he treated the same topics or Scriptures in more detail. The notes also discuss ink marks, corrections, and spelling, but I largely ignored these.

If they had only published the text of his notebook, it would have been worth reading. The addition of introductory materials placing Spurgeon in his historical context and scholarly research of the notes placing his sermons in the context of his sources and later writings make the volume even more valuable.

If you’re interested in snagging a copy for yourself, you can find The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume II online and in LifeWay stores. Volume III is slated for release in June 2018.

Whether you’re interested in Spurgeon’s lost sermons or not, you can get access to a digital library of over 3,500 of his sermons by signing up for the Broadman & Holman Academic eNewsletter here. It’s free and you can cancel your email subscription anytime.