Saturday, July 05, 2008

By My Own Reckoning

I have just finished Cecil Sherman’s autobiography, By My Own Reckoning. Although a generation younger than Sherman, I grew up with many of the same experiences, so I can identify with his pilgrimage in many ways. Sherman’s memoir discusses very candidly his commitment to and ultimate disillusionment with the denomination that had nurtured him. He explains how it was necessary for him to leave one Baptist entity and begin another in order to maintain his integrity.

This is more than a report on the “controversy,” however. Sherman shares warm memories about his family of origin in Fort Worth, his preparation for ministry, and finding Dot, the love of his life. His accounts of his pastoral experiences in Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas will be informative reading for anyone who is in the ministry or plans to be a minister. His role in opening the doors of First Baptist Church, Asheville to African-Americans is a true "profile in courage" as well as a lesson on congregational politics.

Sherman struggles to present the Fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention in a fair manner, but the hurt and anger are still there. He is candid about the deception and personal attacks he faced during those days. Late in the book, he admits that he probably still has not dealt with some of his feelings related to those experiences. He also acknowledges his reputation as an agitator with the comment, “It is difficult to be in controversy and not become controversial in temper.” The latter part of the book recounts the descent of his strong and loving wife into the grip of Alzheimer’s disease.

The remarks that Sherman made at the General Assembly and the subsequent response from many folks show that he is still a controversial figure, but how many 81 year olds can instigate such a response? It is a testimony to his stature and personality that people still take notice!

I encourage you to read the book. We do need to remember where we came from and who walked with us during the “bad old days” even as we move on to new challenges.

1 comment:

D. P. said...

It is a great book. Reading it put my own experiences at Southern Seminary in the 1980s in a context I didn't grasp at the time. The last chapter about Dot's Alzheimers is heart-rending and brought back memories of my grandmother's decline and death 10 years ago.