Baptist World Alliance
Heritage & Identity Commission
From Honolulu 2010 to Durban 2015
Commission Member publishes attractive book
on ‘The People's Pilgrim’ - John Bunyan
Dr Peter Morden, who teaches Church History and Spirituality at Spurgeon’s College, London, has published an attractive book on the 17th century ‘tinker of Bedford’, John Bunyan. Bunyan (1628-88) was born at Elstow near Bedford and after a youthful life of degradation and slow but finally definitive conversion, became a fearless preacher and author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, which second only to the Bible as the popular and influential book for many households not only in England but around the world.
In an introduction to this book, Dr Morden says,
John Bunyan was a remarkable man. It may seem strange to use today that someone could be held in prison for twelve long years just for refusing to stop preaching the gospel, but that is what happened. Barely escaping deportation, Bunyan used the time in squalid conditions to grow closer to God and start work on some of his famous books. Somehow, confined in his dirty, damp prison cell with little outside stimulus, Bunyan managed to pen The Pilgrim’s Progress, one of the acknowledged classics of English literature.
The book itself is attractively presented with large well designed pages, and many illustrations ranging from photographs of places and memorabilia connected with Bunyan, to facsimiles of pages from his writings and especially, reproductions of stained glass windows from the current Bunyan Church in Bedford which depict his life and the scenes from his most famous book.
Aiming at a general audience, the author sometimes uses the first person and includes at the end of every chapter two ‘application’ sections which are designed to take the reader further in thought about the themes of the chapter and especially, the personal spiritual implications for the reader.
Although the book praises its subject, it also reveals a great deal about his struggles and the difficulties he faced. It also effectively describes the turbulent social, political and religious context of the day and shows how Bunyan was able to steer his way through it all to achieve so much. Despite twelve years in prison for refusing to be silent as a preacher of the gospel when non-conformists were not free to practice their faith, and an extremely busy and demanding life, Bunyan turned out a prodigious amount of writing. Morden’s book presents the essence of many of his not so well works and devotes several pages to the most prominent, The Holy War and The Pilgrim’s Progress (parts 1 and 2) so that the reader is able to gain a good idea of these works and is encouraged to read them. These works reveal clearly his theological and spiritual principles, while his personal testimony is found in Grace Abounding.
This 176 page paperback (ISBN: 978-1-85345-836-1) is ideal for personal reading and would suitable as a study book for groups. It is available from the publishers - for details, visit this webpage http://www.cwr.org.uk/store/p-1480-john-bunyan-the-peoples-pilgrim.aspx (this page includes a video introduction by the author)
Peter Morden has also contributed a chapter on Bunyan as an ‘evangelical’ to the book, — mentioned also on this page.
An Appeal to Church Historians
By Neville Callam
BWA General Secretary, Dr Neville Callum, has recently published this challenging editorial.
Recently, I read the book, New Century/New Directions edited by James and Carole Spickelmier. The volume helpfully brings together insights from a number of carefully chosen persons who are committed to the effectiveness of Converge Worldwide, the organization under review. The result is a very useful product! We commend the authors and the Baptist organization they serve for supporting a publication of this kind. They reflect the maturity and openness that are required of all church leaders who affirm their role as servants of Christ.
While reading New Century/New Directions, I remembered something that Socrates said many years ago. Not everything that Socrates said is worth repeating, but perhaps few persons would challenge one of the sayings attributed to him at his trial for heresy - An unexamined life is not worth living.
This maxim is as applicable to the life of individuals as it is to that of organizations. However much we try to dodge the language of institutions, substituting for it the language of movements, as Hugo Heclo has so expertly explained in his book, Thinking Institutionally, there is no escaping the significant role that institutions play in our lives. We may seriously distrust institutions, but institutions fulfill community-building and community-supporting roles that connect us to purposes that are larger than ourselves.
To retain vitality in an organization - which, of course, is not identical with an institution, but which is closely related to it - one indispensable requirement is the periodic subjection of the organization's aims and modus operandi to rigorous evaluation. If done fairly and thoroughly, this is likely to help governors, managers and all "stake holders" associated with a particular organization to be aware of the tendency to depart from the lofty, and still reasonable, goals espoused when the organization was born. It will also alert those concerned of the inclination to resort to strategies, methods and approaches that are no longer effective.
The analysis of what an ecclesial organization does may be undertaken by persons from several fields of study. From the work they do, much can be learned and needed changes may result. In many cases, however, those who are called upon to undertake the task are handicapped by many personal factors that impinge upon their work. Sometimes, personal agendas mar clear vision. Especially when dealing with worldwide organizations, too often, evaluators work with templates from their own residential geographical sphere, believing that these offer great clues that enable them to provide answers to the peculiar challenges that face multi- and cross-cultural organizations with a global reach.
Competent historians, and especially gifted church historians, are among those on whom we depend as we seek clarity on how our church-related organizations are pursuing their mission. These men and women have an important vocation to assist the church and its related organizations in the critical evaluation of their life. Part of the reason for this is the penchant for good historians to take context seriously. The capacity to understand the relationship between context and process enables historians to interpret trends and offer insights that can help advance positive developments and reverse negative trends.
Ecclesial organizations need church historians who focus on happenings of yesteryear; this is a function the church needs them to perform. We also need historians who are willing to risk analysis of more recent, and also contemporary, situations and to make available to the church community the benefit of their carefully honed research and analytical skills. This is part of the responsible stewardship of church historians.
If the unexamined life is not worth living, the unexamined life of organizations may cause them to be banished to the scrap heap of history. This may be prevented if those whom God has gifted for the task put their hands to the plough and produce material that can help guide those who must make decisions that affect the future of vital organizations. The findings of gifted church historians may not cause accolades to be heaped on their heads. Nevertheless, their contribution could potentially help church organizations, like the Baptist World Alliance, to be more faithful in the way they fulfill the mandate the triune God has given them.
Recent News and Information
Santiago, Chile was the location of the 2012 BWA Annual Gathering and the sessions of the Heritage and Identity Commission. Click here for news of proceedings.
The 2013 Annual Gathering will be held in Jamaica - click here for details
(contributions welcome - contact Webmaster)
Click here for last version of this page - Archived April 2012
Festschrift honours Commission member
Dr Ian Randall (UK) has been honoured with a Festschrift on the occasion of his 65th birthday by Spurgeon’s College London and the (British) Baptist Historical Society. (Photo - presentation - Randall left and Dr Peter Morden right). The book is titled, Grounded in Grace, and celebrates the recipient’s wide-ranging personal and academic interests.
After a childhood in the far north of Scotland, and experience of some different Christian traditions, Randall moved south and worked as an electrical engineer. He then studied at Oxford and pastored two churches. In 1992 he joined the faculty of Spurgeon’s College and continued his higher studies at masters and doctoral levels. He soon established himself as a careful and prodigious scholar and writer with a large number of publications and a heavy speaking load. He specialised in Anabaptist studies and evangelical history and spirituality.
He also added editorial work and then became actively involved with the International Baptist Theological Seminary, Prague, where he taught and supervised many research candidates. He was also part of the Keswick convention committee and chair of the UK Evangelical Alliance theological commission.
The book has 18 chapters (plus a biography) contributed by associates and friends in Britain and Europe which cover topics ranging from Bunyan (see accompanying story above), the Hussites, Baptists in various European countries, Baptist confessions of faith, baptism, and the World Missionary Conference (1910).
There is a ‘select bibliography’ of the subject’s works over twenty years extending to 8 pages.
Commending the book, Parush R. Parushev Pro-Rector of the International Baptist
Theological Seminary, said, ‘Ian Randall’s colleagues and former students have produced an impressive and fascinating collection of essays, full of insight and wisdom. Critical, constructive and engaging, scholarly yet accessible, this Festschrift is truly grounded in grace – an important testimony to the legacy of an outstanding scholar. ’
The Festschrift is edited by Dr Pieter J. Lalleman, Academic Dean at Spurgeon’s College, Dr Peter J. Morden, Tutor in Church History and Spirituality at Spurgeon’s College and Dr Anthony R. Cross, a Member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion, Oxford University. For more information, contact Spurgeon’s College or the Baptist Historical Society
For book orders, contact Manna Christian Books
SDB History Updated
A history of the Seventh Day Baptists, A Choosing People, originally published in 1992, has been updated and revised. The author of this 420 page, hardback volume published by Mercer University Press, Don A Sandford, was historian-emeritus of the Seventh Day Baptist Historical Society and died in 2009.
The book covers the establishment of the Seventh Day Baptist movement in mid-17th century England and then focuses on its development in the United States, with detailed information about its geographical and organisational expansion. In a succinct way, helpful background information is sketched which effectively sets the events in their historical and social context. The treatment is comprehensive, mentioning many names, places and churches, as well as covering a wide range of topics including education, publishing, mission work, national, regional and local associations, the ministries of women and youth, and ecumenical and inter-church activities. Of particular interest are discussions of theological issues, social questions and of course, the question of the Sabbath. However, there are only a few pages on the denomination outside the United States and in particular, nothing on developments in its place of origin.
The book is supported by a strong bibliography and it is indexed, but there are no illustrations. (ISBN 9780881462845: part of The James N Griffith Series in Baptist Studies, series editor Walter B Shurden).