New SCBC History Book Slated for 2020
The South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC) has engaged Rev. Josh Powell to pen a new history book, with an expected release date close to the state convention’s 200th anniversary. The convention’s history committee is overseeing the three-year project, which is set to officially begin in January.
Dr. Michael Bryant, executive vice president of Charleston Southern University and current chair of the SCBC history committee, says the book will have value as a resource for the present.
“You can’t understand Baptists unless you understand their past, just like you can’t understand a person unless you understand their past. History is a great teacher,” Bryant says.
Jane Poster, SCBC history consultant, is thrilled about the project, which she calls a ‘new history book,’ not a rewriting of previous accounts. “The last history was written by Dr. Joe M. King in 1964. Much has happened to change and reshape how Baptists do things in the time since. When we forget our past, we move forward without a good sense of direction. It’s hard to know where to go if you don’t know where you’ve been,” she says.
Powell, pastor of Lake Murray Baptist in Lexington, is a third generation South Carolina Baptist pastor, so his perspective is unique to the successes and struggles of Baptists and church leadership over the years. He is also currently pursuing a Ph.D. in American Church History from Southern Seminary.
“I am a South Carolina Baptist by family and also by conviction. This project brings all of these things together, and I’m excited about being a part of it,” Powell says.
Still in the planning stage, Powell says his historical account will be full of captivating stories, characters, and the moving parts that societal changes bring.
“I am starting with an outline of major times and themes throughout our history and creating major headings. Then, I will work through that to bring in stories that are compelling. I want to look at the issues in society that pushed South Carolina Baptists at a given time and how they reacted to those issues, even addressing how we did something poorly,” Powell shares.
The new book will delve deeper into key historical figures, whose intellectual ideas and leadership styles played into how the denomination was formed. He will take major stories and events within convention life and present them through the lens of how South Carolina Baptists acted and reacted to the issues they faced at the time.
“Ours is a history of the South in many ways – we have dealt with race, women, the turn of the century and modern changes that came with that, even transitions to a corporate leadership mentality over the years. I plan to touch on larger Southern Baptist impacts, including dealing with the refugee issues in the 60’s and 70’s, and look at how they were handled. The book will include what happened with Furman following its decision to pull away from its Southern Baptist relationship,” Powell says.
Poster catalogs and maintains historical items that are housed at the state convention building in Columbia. Additional items are kept at the South Carolina Baptist Historical Collection at Furman University in Greenville. Both collections will be useful resources for Powell in his research, as will the history book written by King.
“King’s work was good and informative, but it was completed in 1964. Since then, the country has had integration, man has walked on the moon, and music has become digitized,” Powell says, adding that many defining moments in Southern Baptist and South Carolina Baptist histories have occurred in the years since.
In the new book, Powell will cover the denomination’s internal struggles with the theological differences that emerged in the late 1970’s and look closely at how institutions have emerged and changed over the years. He says his desire in the retelling of even recent history is that there will be opportunities for healing and growth.
“There is a huge need for Southern Baptists to understand the last 40-50 years of our history, and much of it is still fresh. That will be a big issue to grapple with in this book. Within our state convention, some churches have left the denomination and others have drawn closer over the years. These issues are very important to Southern Baptist life,” he says.
Looking forward to the finished product, Powell says a personal goal is to have something to present to an older generation that speaks to appreciation for kingdom work. “I want to have a book for them to use to remember what South Carolina Baptists have been doing over the years, and to help explain what they have been working for. I would love for it to be a book that they could use to say, ‘this is who I am and what I’ve done,’ and pass down to younger generations,” he says.
Likewise, Powell wants the book to inform younger pastors who are unfamiliar with South Carolina Baptist history of why the denomination is unique and why membership with it is something to be proud of.
“We can’t make excuses for some of our past mistakes, but we can look forward to say ‘let’s get this right and do a better job of it.’ I want a younger church planter to be able to have something to point to as an explanation of why it’s important to be a part of a heritage that they are proud of and grateful to be a part of,” he says.
“We live in a day where it is important for us, as Baptists, to take time to understand our identity. We live in a post-denominational age, where the trend is to not identify with a denomination. I don’t think we can understand our convention unless we look at our past to see the successes as a whole. I am hoping this book will be a great resource that will help us to honor God,” Bryant says.