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Southern Baptists had long considered themselves a missionary people, but when, after World War II, they embarked on a dramatic expansion of missionary efforts, they confronted headlong the problem of racism. Believing that racism hindered their evangelical efforts, the Convention’s full-time missionaries and mission board leaders attacked racism as unchristian, thus finding themselves at odds with the pervasive racist and segregationist ideologies that dominated the South. This progressive view of race stressed the biblical unity of humanity, encompassing all races and transcending specific ethnic divisions. In All According to God's Plan, Alan Scot Willis explores these beliefs and the chasm they created within the Convention. He shows how, in the post-World War II era, the most respected members of the Southern Baptists Convention publicly challenged the most dearly held ideologies of the white South.

Alan Scot Willis is assistant professor of history at Northern Michigan University.

"A welcome addition to this conversation on southern religion and race."—Alabama Review

"Documents progressive voices that have not received attention in the past."—American Historical Review

"Argues that it was the denomination's emphasis on social justice, particularly the leadership's concern about race relations, that sparked its phenomenal growth."—Arkansas Historical Quarterly

"Willis presents an honest, balanced, and forthright account of how the Southern Baptist hierarchy tried to persuade their congregations and pastors of the rightness and biblical correctness of an integrated society. . . . Well-organized, readable, informative, and enlightening."—Baptist History and Heritage

"Willis's thesis is that between 1945 and about 1970, Southern Baptists underwent a major change in thinking regarding race when their religious views no longer justified segregation. . . . Recommended."—Choice

"Presents the most detailed study of Southern Baptist missions and race thus far."—Georgia Historical Quarterly

"Approaches an old topic with fresh sources, ones that have been largely overlooked by previous historians of the denomination."—H-Net Reviews

"An important and accessible book."—John B. Boles

"A valuable survey of the attitudes of the progressives in the SBC."—Journal of American History

"Willis's perceptive analysis of the SBC's popular missions literature illustrates the progressive hold over missions agencies and emphasizes the important role women and youths as writers of this material that was so widely disseminated in SBC congregations."—Journal of Southern History

"Delineates in detail something that many, possibly including many Baptists, scarcely knew existed, a progressive Southern Baptist position on the question of race during the time in which the civil rights movement was coming into full fruition. . . . The present study, well-written and extensively researched, is likely to be the definitive work on Baptist missions and race for many years to come."—Louisiana History

"Raises a number of important issues, and Willis offers convincing answers to difficult questions. . . . An important book about a topic that deserves more attention."—North Carolina Historical Review

"Willis has added a valuable . . . study of an important group of Southern Baptists who led the body during a critical era of its history."—Ohio Valley History

"The strength of Willis's book is in placing the Southern Baptist dilemma over race relations in an international context."—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"An important, somewhat surprising study of the Southern Baptist mission boards after World War II."—South Carolina Historical Magazine

"All According to God’s Plan provides an intriguing new prospective on Southern religion and race during the postwar period."—Southern Historian

"Willis has done some good service in illuminating a facet of Kingdom work which has been essentially ignored or missed."—Review & Expositor

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Baptists, Southen Baptist Convention, Religion and racism



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