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Southern Baptist Historical Society finds home in Tennessee center

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. (BP)–There is good news for all Baptist historians — amateurs and professionals. The Southern Baptist Historical Society is alive and functioning — at a new location, with a new address and a new executive director.
The SBHS is now located in the Baptist Center of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, Brentwood, in a permanent situation. It was previously located at Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, with OBU professor Slayden Yarbrough as executive director.
What’s been happening?
The SBHS was formed in 1938 with W. O. Carver as the key mover in the founding. It served as a supportive group for the SBC Historical Commission. In February 1995, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Program and Structure Committee recommended the dissolution of the Historical Commission. This happened two years later.
A group of Southern Baptist historians was determined to keep alive and advance the services and programs of the Southern Baptist Historical Society. Recently as its annual meeting at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., Charles Deweese was elected as the society’s first full-time executive director. As former employee of the Historical Commission with longtime connections with the society, Deweese immediately promised he would strive hard to advance the work of Baptist history — including printed materials, other resources, and advice on Baptist history and heritage.
“For all concerned Baptist historians and friends, I have good news. A history agency may be eliminated, but a biblical impulse does not die. And the biblical impulse to do history well still thrives,” Deweese said. He revealed that endowment is at an all-time high. State conventions, colleges, and universities are providing “unparalleled levels of financial support. We hope our churches, colleges, and universities will call on us often. We are ready to help them and to provide resources for their use.”
He said the society provides valuable assistance to churches and other groups in preparing their history. A resource kit is available. The Historical Commission was funded by SBC support, but the society is an organization supported by individuals and entities with links to Baptist heritage.
He acknowledged “with gratitude” the office space supplied by the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s Executive Board in Brentwood. “And we have first class offices through the support of James Porch (TBC Executive Board executive director),” Deweese added. SBHS facilities are on the ground floor of the Baptist Center’s west wing.
Deweese said membership numbers about 1,100 and is growing.
Deweese said the Brentwood-based society will provide periodic updates, as well as other news of the organization. For those who need services of the Southern Baptist Historical Society: Mail — P.O. Box 728, Brentwood 37024-0728; Shipping — 5001 Maryland Way, Brentwood 37027; Telephone — (615) 371-7938; Fax (615) 371-7939; e-mail — [email protected]; toll free telephone — 1-800-966-2278.
Merrill Hawkins, religion professor at Carson-Newman College, Jefferson City, Tenn., was elected society president at the recent meeting. Hawkins also is editor of Baptist History and Heritage, the SBHS journal published in cooperation with the Center for Baptist Studies at Carson-Newman.
At the spring meeting, the society approved a revised 1999 budget of $143,880 and a budget of $168,480 for the year 2000. A goal of 5,000 new members by 2009 was adopted with goals of $1 million for endowment and $320,000 for annual income. Deweese said the society strongly supports the new mission statement recently adopted: “Helping Baptists discover, conserve, assess, and share their history.”
The society will continue to offer assistance to Baptist churches, to colleges and universities, and to individuals interested in Baptist history and heritage. Material provided by the Southern Baptist Historical Society includes a variety of pamphlets on Baptist history and heritage, as well as video tapes for use by churches and other Baptist entities.
Members of the SBHS also receive the journal Baptist History and Heritage, and a newsletter update.
The SBHS membership meets May 25-27 at First Baptist Church, Savannah, Ga.

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  • Wm. Fletcher Allen