The 400th Anniversary of Baptist beginnings in 2009 drew the attention of Christendom early in the year and Campbellsville University was no exception. The event was celebrated on-campus with guest lectures and a concert, and at our Louisville campus with a symposium on Baptist heritage. Like Magellan’s ship Victoria sailing around the world, Baptists have spread to many distant lands from their humble beginning in England.
This issue of The Campbellsville Review includes three fascinating articles related to the 400th anniversary. William H. Brackney’s essay on the role of tradition quickly identifies the theological cornerstone of Baptist belief, simply put, that the Bible is the sole authority of Baptist faith and practice. While Brackney explores aspects of Baptist theological development in his paper, Robert L. Doty’s narrative for the Baptist hymnody concert given on-campus by the Elizabethtown Area Sacred Community Choir explores historical and denominational development. His article shows that we have had considerable development in education, missions, evangelism, and politics over the past four centuries. Neville Callam, General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, one of several University guests, reminded us in distinctive Jamaican accent that the stones set up as a memorial for the children of Israel, and our own Baptist stones of development have meaning, and that that meaning must has relevance for the future.
Baptists have often been known for their divergent opinions. This was in fact a key tenet of the founding fathers, who felt that freedom of conscience and interpretation must be allowed within the church without creedal adherence. The 200-plus Baptist branches of our denomination around the world have seen this played out in countless ways, and even the thirty-plus branches in the United States alone (which includes Seventh-Day Baptists), show that this freedom can go in many directions.
What does this mean for the future? For Campbellsville University, it continues to provide great opportunity in our ministry of higher education. In the little more than one hundred years since the founding of Russell Creek Academy and its eventual transformation into Campbellsville University, we have seen our own role evolve unlike anything our founding fathers could have imagined. Our own memorial stones of scholarship, fellowship, and leadership are well in place. But we must not be content with our past. We must continue to reach out to the world around us, whether it be in central Kentucky or internationally, to train students through higher education, providing them with a solid education reinforced by Christian principles. It is a grand mission and one which we hope to continue in integrity and distinction. May God grant us strength and wisdom for the years to come as has been granted to us in years past.
M. Wesley Roberts