All According to God's Plan: Southern Baptist Missions and Race, 1945-1970

Article excerpt

All According to God's Plan: Southern Baptist Missions and Race, 1945-1970. By Alan Scot Willis. Lexington: Univ. Press of Kentucky, 2005. Pp. xiii, 260. $45.

This book argues that, in the quartercentury following World War II, "Southern Baptist progressives presented a forceful argument against racism and contributed to real change in the South" (p. 12). These progressives controlled not only the denomination's Social Service and Christian Life Commissions but also the major Southern Baptist mission organizations-the Home Mission Board, the Foreign Mission Board, and the Woman's Missionary Union. They also enjoyed the support of Southern Baptist missionaries generally.

To document this argument, the author turns to "the popular literature of the Convention's three main mission organizations" (p. 5), a half-dozen periodicals, some of which were aimed primarily at women or youth. The book consists largely of summaries and quotations from material in these periodicals, much of which is highly repetitious. Believing that this "consistency is one of the most remarkable aspects of this study" (p. 196), Willis emphasizes it by organizing his work thematically rather than chronologically. Southern Baptist African missions, for example, are dealt with primarily in chapter 3, though the author returns later to the role of African students in the desegregation of Southern Baptist educational institutions in the United States. …