Title

All according to God's plan: Racism and Southern Baptist missions, 1945--1970

Date of Award

1999

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

Advisor(s)

Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn

Keywords

Racism, Southern Baptist, Missions

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | History | Race and Ethnicity | Religion | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology | United States History

Abstract

"All According to God's Plan" examines the Baptist mission leadership and its attempt to promote a more progressive view of race among Baptists between 1945 and 1970. After World War II, The Southern Baptist Convention adopted a program of education on the race issue. Mission leaders publicly promoted their ideas through the popular literature of the Convention's three main missionary organizations: The Home Mission Board, The Foreign Mission Board and the Woman's Missionary Union. This study focuses on three major themes expounded by Convention leadership: the international dimensions of the race question, the biblical mandates for racial equality and unity, and the personal responsibility of each Christian to work for better race relations.

Progressive Baptists sought to involve the Convention in social issues. They filled the leadership positions at all three mission organizations. Furthermore, Baptist missionaries shared their leaders' progressive views, as did the leaders of other Convention agencies, seminary professors, and some prominent pastors. Progressives were not theological liberals. Their goal was to involve the churches in Southern society and create a more Christian America while maintaining an emphasis on individual conversion.

The Baptist doctrine of the Free Pulpit and the free church nature of the Convention meant that progressive leaders and segregationists could remain within one Convention. Missionaries shared the progressive views of the board leaders, not the attitudes that dominated the South in which they lived. Baptist missionaries and mission leaders were prophetic rather than reflective.

"All According to God's Plan" examines the public forum in which the Baptist mission leadership discussed the race question. In some ways this is a traditional intellectual history, focusing on the ideas expounded in a public forum. Yet, many of the people who wrote for mission magazines were not intellectuals. This study investigates the progressive ideas about race shared by Baptist missionaries and mission leaders, and how those ideas helped undermine the racial caste system in the South.

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