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266Southern Cultures Danny Lyon in hont of a small headquarters for the SNCC in Albany, Georgia, 1962. From Memories ofthe Southern Civil Rights Movement, by Danny Lyon. Courtesy of Magnum Photos, Inc. Reprinted with permission from the University of North Carolina Press. transform their country into a more egalitarian place to live. As powerful as a lion and as soaring as the eagle, their vision remains in the pages and pictures of these volumes. Southern Baptists Observed: Multiple Perspectives on a Changing Denomination. Edited by Nancy Tatom Ammerman. University of Tennessee Press, 1993. 362 pp. Cloth, $34.95; paper, $19.95. Reviewed by Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, assistant professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of Religion and Society in Frontier California , published by Yale University Press. Sociologists of religion have expended considerable effort in recent years trying to explain the rise of conservative evangelicalism in America since the late 1970s. Perhaps the only people not surprised by the political and social resurgence of right-wing Protestant believers are the conservatives themselves. Others, including scholars, secular bystanders, and particularly theological and social liberals within the Protestant denominations, continue to express dismay over the resurgent popularity of values and beliefs presumed to be outdated in the modern world. Many academics—having self-confidently forecast in the 1960s the demise of doctrines of biblical inerrancy, ideological intolerance, and other conservative religious views associated with the fundamentalist movement of the early twentieth century—have been simultaneously fascinated and baffled by the unexpected rum toward conservatism. Reviews267 Nowhere was this shifting religious consciousness more painfully wrought or more publicly contested than within the ranks of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). With fifteen million members, Southern Baptists are the largest and fastest growing of the mainline Protestant denominations, and the church is a culturally dominant institution in the American South. As the denomination's governing body, the SBC stood on the frontlines of the religious right's battle for political and social legitimacy. In the late 1970s conservative Baptists became uneasy with the modernist, progressive and, as they saw it, increasingly worldly and dangerous teachings emanating from the church hierarchy. They launched a grassroots campaign to take back the reins of religious authority. The movement was spearheaded by Paul Pressler, a federal appeals court judge in Houston, and Paige Patterson, a seminarian who has since become president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. In a series of stunning upsets for denominational moderates and liberals, conservatives gradually assumed control of the presidency and board membership of the SBC and set about the task of steering the denomination-controlled seminaries into "safer" doctrinal waters. Reacting to this conservative coup, Baptist moderates have since formed several organizations of their own, including the Southern Baptist Alliance (SBA) and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). But in doing so they have implicitly conceded control of the vast bureaucratic structure of the SBC to the religious right, at least for the foreseeable future. Nancy Tatom Ammerman's Baptist Battles (1990) established her reputation as one of the most astute, interested observers of the developing conflicts within the SBC. In her newest volume she brings together seventeen essays (including the epilogue, an essay unto itself) by scholars of Southern Baptist history, philosophy, sociology, and anthropology, many of whom are themselves implicated in the conflicts within the denomination. Walker L. Knight, for example, edited the SBC publication Missions USA for more than twenty years and has now begun to publish an independent, "moderate" journal for Baptists ; Larry L. McSwain is the provost at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a professor of church history; and Ammerman herself is actively involved in both the SBA and the CBE These commitments in no way detract from the scholarly strength of the volume. In fact, both Ammerman and Susan Harding, in her provocative epilogue "Observing the Observers," pay close attention to the relationship between personal religious and philosophical commitments and scholarly conclusions. Yet even though the authors express a variety of opinions about the outcome of the power struggle, the prevailing mood of the volume is resignation and a sense of loss—the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 266-269
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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