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All According to God's Plan

All According to God's Plan: Southern Baptist Missions and Race, 1945-1970

Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    All According to God's Plan
    Book Description:

    Southern Baptists had long considered themselves a missionary people, but when, after World War II, they embarked on a dramatic expansion of missionary efforts, they confronted headlong the problem of racism. Believing that racism hindered their evangelical efforts, the Convention's full-time missionaries and mission board leaders attacked racism as unchristian, thus finding themselves at odds with the pervasive racist and segregationist ideologies that dominated the South. This progressive view of race stressed the biblical unity of humanity, encompassing all races and transcending specific ethnic divisions. InAll According to God's Plan, Alan Scot Willis explores these beliefs and the chasm they created within the Convention. He shows how, in the post-World War II era, the most respected members of the Southern Baptists Convention publicly challenged the most dearly held ideologies of the white South.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4939-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    This is a study of racism.

    Racism, simply put, is the belief that one particular group of people is superior to some or all other groups of people. Clearly, the idea of racism involves the idea of race. Yet ethnic groups not typically considered “races” often suffer the effects of racism. So a more complex definition of racism is necessary. According to George M. Fredrickson, racism is “an ethnic group’s assertion or maintenance of a privileged and protected status vis-à-vis members of any other group or groups who are thought, because of defective ancestry, to possess a set of socially...

  5. 1 “Go Ye”: Missions and Race in Progressive Baptist Theology
    (pp. 13-40)

    Southern Baptist leaders stressed the importance of using the Bible as a guide to the Christian life. On this point they were in full agreement with the congregations. The leadership also used the Bible to demonstrate the importance of missionary efforts. Again the congregations agreed. When the progressive leadership pointed to the biblical principles of human equality and unity to demonstrate that southern racial norms were unchristian, many Baptists disagreed. This led to an extended debate over the Bible’s teachings regarding race and the Christian’s role in society.¹

    Progressive Baptists faced several problems in bringing their denomination to a Christian...

  6. 2 All Nations in God’s Plan: Peace, Race, and Missions in the Postwar World
    (pp. 41-66)

    World War II dramatically altered international relations. In search of a mechanism for preventing future wars, leading members of the world community met in San Francisco in 1945 to charter the United Nations. Baptist leaders approved and sent a delegation to the meeting. Although the United Nations’ meeting was secular, they believed it reflected their belief in the unity of humanity and the inclusion of all nations in God’s plan. They believed that a lasting peace was only possible in a Christianized world; thus they focused on missionary efforts, both at home and abroad, to promote world peace. Further, they...

  7. 3 “Our Preaching Has Caught Up with Us”: African Missions and the Race Question
    (pp. 67-92)

    At the end of World War II few Europeans believed that their Mrican colonies would soon become independent. They saw the demands of the Pan Africanists who met in Manchester, England, in October of 1945 as, at best, hopes for the distant future. Africa, however, was changing rapidly. By the mid-1950s, it was clear that independence would come soon. Ghana led the way in 1957. In 1960 Nigeria followed, and by 1965 the majority of the continent had gained self-rule. Some Africans remained under colonial rule, especially in southern Africa, but after 1970 the system was clearly anachronistic.¹

    For the...

  8. 4 An American Amos: Baptist Missionaries and Postwar American Culture
    (pp. 93-120)

    The years after World War II were particularly good for American religion. The omnipresent threats of the cold war, combined with unprecedented changes in society, led people to look to religion for a sense of grounding and community during the postwar years. Church membership increased from 57 percent of Americans in 1950 to 63.3 percent in 1959. Christian Americans became hostile to any criticism of their society, especially the implication that America was not the Christian nation it professed to be. Those who dared criticize America could easily be branded communists, and the charge could stick with little or no...

  9. 5 The Tower of Babel: Language Missions and the Race Question
    (pp. 121-148)

    Central to progressive Southern Baptist thought on race was the idea of the unity of humanity. Racism created divisions in humanity that God had never intended, and progressives viewed issues involving racism in much the same manner regardless of which minority groups were involved. As a result, Latinos, Indians, and other minorities figured significantly in discussions about race and racism. Baptists combined their work among Latinos, Indians, immigrants, and the deaf in the Department of Language Missions. In 1945, Baptists had 136 missionaries working with 1.5 million Spanish speakers, and 83 missionaries working with 250,000 Indians. By 1969, the Home...

  10. 6 “Living Our Christianity”: Southern Baptist Missions and Blacks in America
    (pp. 149-194)

    Between 1945 and 1970 the progressive leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention stressed the biblical principles of equality and unity, the international dimensions of the race question, and the responsibility of each individual to work for better race relations. Missionaries and mission leaders focused on promoting Christian attitudes regarding race. They said little, directly, about the civil rights movement. Instead, they expounded on the Christian principles regarding race. Although their central message did not change dramatically, before 19 54 some progressive Baptists hoped to create racial harmony without attacking segregation directly. From 1954 to the mid-1960s Baptists came to understand...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 195-200)

    In one of his books, Baptist and former president Jimmy Carter looked back at the civil rights movement and the changes that had taken place around his southwest Georgia home. He wrote, “Even during these times, however, there was an evolutionary, unpublicized conversion of most white Southerners by the civil rights leaders concerning the compatibility of their cause with the teachings of Jesus. But this was a slow process.” The Southern Baptist missionaries and the progressive leaders helped make that conversion possible. They saw racial equality as not only compatible with the teachings of Jesus but mandated by those teachings....

  12. Notes
    (pp. 201-238)
  13. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 239-248)
  14. Index
    (pp. 249-260)