DOASKDOTELL BOOK REVIEW of ‘Baptists in the Balance’ (edited: Goodwin)


Author (or Editor):  Goodwin, Everett C. (editor)

Foreward by Bill Moyers

Contributions by William G. McLoughlin, C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence H. Mamiya, Stan Hastey, Molly T. Marshall, Joel B. Green, David M. Scholer, Eldon G. Ernst, James M. Dunn (including discussion of the Bill of Rights), Bill J. Leonard, Malcolm G. Shotwell, Nancy T. Ammerman, Edwin S. Gaustad, Melissa Rogers, Oliver Thomas, Bill Moyers, Lawrence G. Sherman, Denton Lotz, Shirley Taylor Haizlip, Ralph Reavis, Norman S. Johnson, Sr., Daniel E. Weiss, Vincent L. Wimbush, James H. Evans, Jr.

Title: Baptists in the Balance: The Tension Between Freedom and Responsibility

Fiction? Anthology?   anthology

Publisher:  Judson Press (Valley Forge, Pa.)

Date: 1997

ISBN:  0-8170-1247-8

Series Name:

Physical description: paper, 416 pages

Relevance to DOASKDOTELL: Religion and freedom

Everett C. Goodwin was the pastor of the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington, D.C., near the White House, during the 1980s and during the beginning of the Clinton administration.  I had attended this church, which was affiliated with both American and Southern Baptist conventions, while growing up. In 1993 I met with Dr. Goodwin to discuss the military ban.  In time, he would leave First Baptist and start the Baptist Fellowship of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., which I would attend during the mid 1990s while still living in northern Virginia (and while working on Do Ask, Do Tell).  I helped review some of the contributions in this anthology, and I am given credit in the Acknowledgements (with a typo on my name).

The book delves into the tension between individualism and freedom, as mainstream America perceives it, and driving religious faith. Goodwin and various authors author present day and historical perspectives on the evolution of this dichotomy. Historically, the Baptist denomination was one that stressed the development of individual conscience and thought, and this was important, in the case of ancestors on my own father’s side when they came from central Europe, as Baptists were in some way regarded as a “liberal” and freeing denomination then.  Certainly this has not always been true in this country.  When I lived in Dallas in the 1980s, I would hear a number of sermons by Wally A. Criswell, and then from an interesting church, Victory Baptist, in the Pleasant Grove area.

Goodwin objectively discusses the difficulty the denomination—even the more liberal American Baptist convention—has had with homosexuality, around page 48.  At a certain level this has to do with acceptance of scripture and social standards, but on a bigger level it has to do with the ability of people to maintain psychological commitments paradoxically needed to both validate faith and to maintain a free society. (This was particularly true with some of the 1980s sermons in Dallas.)

First Baptist, in Washington, has faced the demographic problems of many downtown churches. The more conservative younger families have moved to the suburbs (a trend that started in the 60s partly because of the District’s high African-American population), where as the immediate area (near Dupont Circle) contains a large portion of Washingon’s gay community as well as many diplomats and administration officials, an interesting mix.

Judson press left an imprint on me.  I can remember, from boyhood,  the Sunday school books of the 50s, color-coded for the seasons:  red for the fall (the Old Testament through the birth of Christ), blue for the winter (the life of Jesus), green for the Sprint (the Resurrection, the Pentecost, the Acts), and yellow for the summer.

Dr. Goodwin did mention to me the pressure put on him by the publisher to keep his books relatively terse, compared to my own self-published expansive style (Dr. Goodwin read an early draft of my own DADT book in late 1996).

Also by Everett Goodwin:

Down by the Riverside: A Brief History of the Baptist Faith (Judson, 2002)

The New Hiscox Guide for Baptist Churches (Judson, 1995, with Edward T. Hiscox)


Related reviews: Peter Gomes: The Good Book


Back to doaskdotell book reviews

Back to doaskdotell home page


Email me at