ARCHIVES: Who writes letters like this?

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Today we spent several hours on the 4th floor of the SBC Executive Committee Building in Downtown Nashville, TN. Thereon can be found a tremendous research archive containing valuable primary source material for any person seeking greater understanding about the Southern Baptist Convention. The archive staff is helpful, and the materials are carefully preserved and collated.

The greater portion of our morning research was spent speed-reading through the correspondence files of the President of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1998-2000. In these four linear feet of boxed folders, we found a treasure trove of letters. Some shed new light on events already researched. Others expose new and fruitful areas of inquiry.

Still others leave us scratching our head asking, “Who writes like this?  And what Kingdom purpose does this sort of official communique serve?”

The great bulk of our research is destined to make its way — one way or the other — into a forthcoming monograph. There are, however, items which are not particularly germane to our primary research foci yet nonetheless warrant greater exposure.

Thus, we blog them.

For instance, in the aforementioned file boxes (Call Number AR 554), we discovered a curious letter dated Nov. 2, 1998, from then-pastor of the Aloma Baptist Church in Orlando, FL to then-President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Paige Patterson.

In the final paragraph of that letter, which is self-styled as a “quick note from one of your boys,” the pastor writes:

“It is with joy and expectation that I await June of 2000. Don’t forget that you are scheduled to speak for me on Convention Sunday. Jim Henry was very upset about my nabbing you before he could. He begged me to release you because he said he needed to reach out to you in a spirit of reconciliation. I said, ‘Forget it, Jim. Dr. Patterson told me that you are lacking in certain enclosed anatomical appendages which manufacture mobile chromosomal units.’ He responded, ‘I know he means well, but why does Paige always use those big words?”

On Nov. 27, 1998, Paige Patterson sent a response to the young pastor on official SBC letterhead. That response included the following:

“Yes, I bet Jim Henry is in a real tizzy about not being able to get me for the Convention Sunday in the year 2000. I can just imagine him somewhere ringing his hands now, but it probably is not about not being able to get me. It is probably about the fact that I am coming to town at all.”

Until He comes, indeed.