committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

 

CHAPTER VIII.

THE NATIONAL BAPTIST CONVENTION

ITS PURPOSE AND WORK.

 

First national organizations
So rapid was the development of Negro Baptists in America, and so rapidly did the district, state and sectional organizations multiply, that the leaders in these various states and sections were led to see the great power that would be derived from the general affiliation and co-operation of these bodies for the purpose of meeting the missionary and educational demands of the denomination. The first organization broader than an association or state convention was The American Baptist Missionary Convention, organized by the Colored Baptists of the New England and Middle States in 1840. In response to the great cry that came from the African mission fields for means and missionaries, and because of a disagreement between the colored and white missionaries with reference to the treatment of natives, the Foreign Mission Convention was organized at Montgomery.

Ala., in 1880. Six years later, (1886) responding to the call of the lamented Dr. Wm. J. Simmons, of Kentucky, who was foremost in the work of the denomination and in the hearts of the Baptist brother-hood, representatives from various states met in St. Louis, and organized The American Baptist National Convention. In 1888 The National Educational Society was organized by a large body of Baptists who were interested in the development of religious education and in Negro Baptist educational institutions. Drs. W. B. Johnson, of Washington, D. C., and P. F. Morris, of Virginia, were largely responsible for the organization of the society. As a matter of convenience and economy the three organizations named decided to meet at the same time and place. Soon afterwards the Baptists of the West decided to have a convention of their own, and the Western States and Territorial Convention, semi-national, became a fact.

In 1895 at Atlanta, Ga., The Foreign Mission Convention, The National Educational Society and The American National Convention consolidated with Dr. E. C. Morris, of Helena, Ark., president, and Wm. H. Stewart, secretary, under one constitution, the preamble of which is as follows:

The National Baptist Convention formed

"Whereas, It is the sense of the colored Baptists of the United States of America, convened in the city of Atlanta, Ga., September 28, 1895, in the several organizations known as "The Baptist Foreign Mission Convention, of the United States of America," hitherto engaged in mission work on the West Coast of Africa; "The National Baptist Educational Convention," which has been engaged in mission work in the United States of America; and "The National Baptist Educational Convention," which has sought to look after the educational interest, that the interest of the kingdom of God requires that the several bodies above named should unite in one body."

The name of the new organization is given as "The National Baptist Convention of the United States of America."

Article II. gives the object as follows:

"The object of this convention shall be to do mission work in the United States, in Africa and elsewhere abroad, to foster the cause of education and to promote the publication and circulation of religious literature."

The management of the Boards
The constitution further provides that, "The Convention shall elect at each annual meeting a Foreign Mission, a Home Mission, an Educational, a B. Y. P. U., a Publishing and other Boards, as may be deemed necessary from time to time." In 1896, at the St. Louis meeting of the Convention, a publishing house was projected and was soon in operation with Dr. R. H. Boyd at the head. This necessitated the institution of The National Baptist Publishing Board. In 1903 "The National Baptist Benefit Association Board" was added to the list. All of the work fostered by the Convention is under the management of these various Boards, which consist of one member from each State or Territorial Convention representing. The Corresponding Secretary of each Board has the general management of the work of the Board, subject to regulations of his Board, which reports annually to the Convention of all work done by it during the year.

The National Baptist Foreign Mission Board was organized in 1895 and located at Louisville, Ky., with Rev. John H. Frank, D. D., Chairman, and Rev. L. M. Luke, D. D., Corresponding Secretary. Rev. C. H. Parrish, A. M., D. D., of Louisville, President of Eckstein Norton University, Cane Springs, Ky., Dr. Jordan and the veteran Dr. D. A. Gaddie of Louisville, and now Chairman, Corresponding Secretary and Recording Secretary respectively. The Board has for its objects the sending of missionaries to foreign fields and the employment of natives as fast as they can be developed for the work. Its report for the conventional year ending September 1, 1909, shows $23,471.25 collected, and expended $15,575.93 for missions, missionaries' salaries and traveling, with eight field missionaries. This Board is the custodian of considerable property in mission fields in Africa, South America and the West Indies. Dr. Jordan, who has seved as Corresponding Secretary since 1896, is a specialist on missionary methods. He has been invaluable to the denomination as a gatherer and disseminator of missionary information.

The Home Board and its field work
The Home Mission Board was located at Little Rock, Arkansas, with Rev. G. W. D. Gaines, Chairman, and Prof. Joseph A. Booker, A. M., Corresponding Secretary. Drs. J. P. Robinson, of Little Rock, Arkansas, and R. H. Boyd, are now chairman and Secretary, respectively. Rev. Wm. Beckham, S. T. D., has for several years been a splendid success as Field Secretary. This Board has in its co-operative missionary work about 65 missionaries, who work in co-operation with State Conventions and with the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (white). These missionaries are doing missionary and colporteur work jointly. The report for the conventional year ending September 1, 1909, shows that these missionaries delivered 10,229 sermons and addresses, visited 5,853 homes for Bible reading and prayer, visited 3,221 churches, assisted in organizing 38 churches and 42 Sunday-schools. It also shows that the sum of $44,295.94 was received and expended by the Board for Home Missions, missionaries salaries and expenses. The Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention donated $7,262.50 on salaries of missionaries.

The Publishing Board a great success
The Publishing Board was organized in 1898 and located at Nashville, Tennessee, with Rev. C. H. Clark, D. D., Chairman and Dr. R. H. Boyd, General Secretary, both of whom still hold these positions respectively, with Rev. W. S. Ellington, D. D., as Editorial Secretary. It operates here the largest Negro publishing concern in the world. Organized thirteen years ago, it has been a marvelous success from the beginning, and it is generally conceded that Secretary Boyd has no superior in the management of publishing concerns. The Publishing Board has exclusive right of publishing all church and Sunday-school literature for the National Baptist Convention.

It has property, machinery and stock estimated at $350,000, and employs about 150 clerks, stenographers and skilled workmen. As evidence that its success is marked, we note the fact that the Board has just (1909) installed a Scott's all-size "Rotary Book Printing Press" (the first of its kind south of the Ohio River) at a cost of $18,000. It published for the year September 1, 1908 to August 31, 1909, 11,717,876 copies of Sunday-school periodicals, besides its song books, Bibles, etc., and raised and expended $159,652.27, and reported a balance in hand of $3,088.92.

Two new features of this Board's work are the manufacturing of church and school furniture, begun in 1908, and the National Baptist Teacher-Training Service, inaugurated September 1, 1909, with the writer of this volume as Superintendent.

Under the direction of the scholarly mind and careful eye of Dr. W. S. Ellington, Editorial Secretary, the following periodicals are being published: The Teacher (monthly), the Senior Quarterly, the Advanced Quarterly, the Intermediate Quarterly and the Primary Quarterly. With reference to this Board's work we quote the following from an address by President Morris: "The publishing interests of the convention have been directed by a master mind and a steady hand and need no special comment to convince the public that it is one of the greatest enterprises now operated by our people. It has afforded opportunities that no other department can give. Many persons who never had a thought of preparing sacred literature to be read by the coming generations have held positions in the editorial staff and are developing into first-class expositors; and others who are well prepared for such a work have found it an opportunity."

Educational Board Theological Seminary
The Educational Board, organized in 1895, was located at Washington, D. C., with Rev. P. F. Morris, D. D., Chairman, and Dr. W. Bishop Johnson, Corresponding Secretary. Its headquarters are now in Nashville, Tenn., and Rev. T. J. Searcy, D. D., is Chairman, and Rev. A. N. McEwen, D. D., who, having served less than one year as Corresponding Secretary, has just died. The main features of these Boards' work are the federation of all Negro Baptist schools in the United States, except the eight owned by the American Baptist Home Mission Society (white), and to establish and operate a National Theological Seminary, at Nashville, Tenn. The plan of federation will effect twenty-three schools owned by Negro Baptists, but contributed to by the A. B. Home Mission Society and the twenty-six schools owned, controlled and supported by Negro Baptists. The Board is now planning to erect a $50,000 building for the Theological Seminary. Rev. Sutton E. Griggs, B. D., has been elected to the position of Corresponding Secretary of this Board.

Operation of the B.Y.P.U. Board
The National B. Y. P. U. Board was organized in 1899, with Rev. N. H. Pius, Chairman, and Rev. E. W. D. Isaac, D. D., the gifted writer and splendid orator, Secretary, and is located at Nashville, Tenn. Rev. P. James Bryant, D. D., is now Chairman. Its tenth annual report (1909) shows that it holds in trust for the Convention "eight hundred dollars worth of office furniture, fixtures, plates, etc., at 409 Gay Street." Under its plans and direction, during these ten years have organized 7,600 local B. Y. P. U. Societies and thirty-eight state and three hundred and twenty district B. Y. P. U. Conventions. This report which is for the conventional year closing Aug. 31, 1909 shows the following as received and expended: general fund, $2,485.13; B. Y. P. U. Missions, $4,211; Foreign Missions, $17.23; Christian Education, $3,975.50. The total amount handled by this Board for this year $12,553.58.

National Benefit Association
The National Baptist Benefit Association Board was organized in 1903 and located at Helena, Arkansas, with Rev. C. B. Brown its Chairman, and Rev. W. A. Holmes, Corresponding Secretary. On the death of Rev. Holmes, Rev. A. A. Cosey, D. D., became Corresponding Secretary, which position he still holds. This Board pays "death claims" to Baptist ministers and laymen who become members of the Association. It costs $2.50 to become a member, and $1.00 once a quarter, or $4.00 a year keeps up the membership. The Board purposes to establish a home for aged and decrepit ministers as soon as possible. The report for the year ending September, 1909, gives the following facts:

"stock on hand, books, safe, fixtures, etc., $200; membership fees, $348; quarterly dues, $2,740; collections or donations, $379; death claims paid $2,116; paid to indigent ministers, $113.

 
 
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