Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Balthasar Hubmaier

It was my church history professor and mentor in seminary, W. R. Estep that first introduced me to Balthasar Hubmaier. The first time I saw his name in writing I thought, "how do I prounce it?" But, it didn't take too many class sessions in Dr. Estep's course on the Anabaptists before the name became so common that all of us knew how to pronounce it.

The brilliant Hubmaier was born around 1481 in a small town called Friedberg just outside of Augsburg. He attended the University of Freiburg and there came under the tutelage of the great Catholic theologian Dr. John Eck. Hubmaier completed both the bachelor’s and master’s degrees then followed Eck to the University of Ingolstadt where he received the Doctor of Theology degree. Eck once called Hubmaier the most brilliant student he'd ever been associated with. Because of his great preaching ability and keen theological mind he accepted appointment as preacher at the cathedral in Regensburg in 1516. Five years later he became a parish priest in Waldshut and there came into contact with Ulrich Zwingli and the Swiss Reformation. Two years later, he became publicly identified with Zwingli’s reform in Zurich, but soon developed Anabaptist ideas.

Along with his preaching, Hubmaier’s pen became a powerful voice for spreading Anabaptist ideas. Soon, he came into conflict with Zwingli and in late 1525 Zwingli had both Hubmaier and his wife arrested. He was forced to enter the pulpit of the Fraum√ľnster in Zurich and recant publicly. As he began to speak instead of recanting he said, “Oh what anguish and travail I have suffered this night over the statements which I myself have made. So I say here and now, I can and I will not recant.” Zwingli immediately stopped Hubmaier and had him arrested again. This time he underwent torture at the hands of Zwingli and eventually produced a written statement recanting of his Anabaptist ideas.

In early 1526 he left Zurich for Nikolsburg in Moravia where once again he took up the Anabaptist cause, this time with greater force than before. Moravia was one of the most tolerant regions in Europe and Hubmaier had a great amount of freedom to preach Anabaptist ideas there. It is estimated that more than 6,000 were baptized in the one year of Hubmaier’s ministry in Nikolsburg. But this year of relative peace was not to last long. The fortune of Anabaptists in Moravia soon changed and Hubmaier was arrested, taken to Vienna, and burned at the stake on March 10, 1528. Although tortured mercilessly for several days before his death, this time he refused to recant. He was urged to confess to a priest and receive last rites before his execution but he steadfastly refused. An eyewitness to his execution described Hubmaier’s death this way:

To the people he said, “O dear brothers, if I have injured any, in word or deed, may he forgive me for the sake of my merciful God. I forgive all those that have done me harm.”

While his clothes were being removed: “From thee also, O Lord, were the clothes stripped. My clothes will I gladly leave here, only preserve my spirit and my soul, I beseech thee!” Then he added in Latin: “O Lord, into thy hands I commit my spirit,” and spoke no more in Latin.

As they rubbed sulphur and gunpowder into his beard, which he wore rather long, he said, “Oh salt me well, salt me well.” And raising his head, he called out: “O dear brothers, pray God that he will give me patience in this my suffering.”

As his beard and hair caught fire, he cried out, “O Jesus, Jesus.”

Associated Baptist Press has this story today about the original writings of Hubmaier:

It seems that in just a few months all the writings of Hubmaier are going to be accessible on the internet. Great news about this nearly forgotten Anabaptist reformer! I have told my classes for years that if Hubmaier had lived out his full lifespan his influence in the 16th century might have rivaled that of Luther and Calvin.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Good for Decatur FBC!

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has an article about FBC Decatur and its pastor, Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell. She was selected as the church's first ever female pastor last year. Furthermore, the church, with 2700 members is the largest Baptist church in the South to be headed by a female pastor.

Her presence as pastor of such a prominent Georgia Baptist church has been a thorn in the flesh to the Fundamentalists who control both the SBC and the Georgia Baptist Convention. So, it remains to be seen what action, if any both entities will take toward FBC Decatur. Knowing Fundamentalists as I do, I suspect both entities will seek some kind of "punitive" action toward the church. After all, they can't possibly be seen cooperating with a church that (in their twisted way of thinking) so violates the letter of scripture!

The article can be found at this link:

The best quote in the article is this: "If they would like to ask us to leave the Southern Baptist Convention, I think that’s fine,” Roper said. “I think our new minister is wonderful.”

Good for you Ms. Roper! And good for you all FBC Decatur! What a wonderful example to the rest of the Baptist world!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Is This the Future of the BSCNC?

Several bloggers last week, most notably Tony Cartledge, have already included stories about the recent action of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Here's Tony's blog with the wrap-up:

From my point of view, I found one portion of the convention positive since it approved the new relationship between the five colleges and universities and the convention. However, I thought the discussion about the CBF and the giving plans last Wednesday to be particularly nasty. I left the convention thinking to myself that after 15 straight Baptist State Convention meetings, this will probably be my last. I know where I'm not wanted.

I was resolved to all this as I returned home. Then I read Tim Rogers' blog:

I know Tim. I've always had a cordial relationship with him. I find his blog to be interesting. But he has a paragraph in his recent blog that I found to be chilling. He says:

"Also, there needs to be a call now to the head offices in Cary that NC Baptist have clearly stated we are not CBF. Thus, an employee at the convention offices should be a member of a NC Baptist church not one that is dually aligning themselves with the CBF and the BSCNC. We had the clarion call today during the budget vote that we will not even give you an opportunity to send funds through us to the CBF. We certainly should be able to say we want you attending a BSCNC church."

First, I don't know what the "head offices in Cary" means but I assume he means the BSC Executive Director/Treasurer, Milton Hollifield. And, I'll let slide the fact that the plural of "Baptist" is "Baptists" with an "s" added on to the end. But, more importantly, is Mr. Rogers calling for the termination of all BSC employees who belong to churches that may have a few members who choose to give through their church to CBF? I know some segments of the conservative movement in the BSC want a "pure" convention or to put it another way, a convention that promotes only their understanding of theology and the Baptist tradition. But, seriously, is there now going to be an attempt to purify the employees? Perhaps so. Is the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 next going to be imposed on convention workers? Maybe. Is this where the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is headed? Is the tent going to be drawn even narrower? Surely, Mr. Rogers is not advocating the mass termination of these employees at the BSC, however many there may be.

I imagine that it would be a terrible thing to be terminated from one's employment. That would especially be the case with the current problems in our economy. Where's the compassion?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

President-Elect Obama

I am overcome with emotion and pride for my country right now. I haven't felt as proud to be an American since that July night in 1969 when Neil Armstrong stepped down onto the surface of the moon.

Last summer while I was at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowhsip meeting in Memphis, I went to the National Civil Rights Institute built around the Lorraine Hotel where Dr. King was killed. I literally stood feet from the spot where he fell to an assassin's bullet. I remember thinking how historic it would be if Senator Barack Obama would be elected president in a few months.

In his last speech in 1968, literally the evening before Dr. King was killed, he said these words:

"Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!"

I realize that "we, as a people" in that immediate context, referred to the African-American people for whom he was working. But, if I may, I'd like to interpret those words tonight a little bit more broadly. "We, as a people" refers to all Americans and tonight all Americans are standing on the mountaintop with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. Our nation is truly better tonight because of this election!