committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

 

1940 1941
FIRST ANNUAL REPORT
Of The
HISTORIAN
National Baptist Convention
of America

SHREVEPORT, LOUISIANA
September, 1941 Historian C. CHARLES TAYLOR New Orleans, Louisiana

 

PREFACE

"Look into Life rather than at Life."
It has been said by Paul M. Tharp that "Attitude is the first step in the ladder of attainment." Whether one looks into life or at life is the result of or is determined by his attitude towards life.

Individuals who recognize life as a march of which they are a definite part usually see life as a great human and spiritual conquest of perpetual motion.

There are those too who describe life as another parade where their responsibility is not needed. They are the spectators and witnesses of the procession.

It is the hope of the writer to set forth a declaration of the achievement of great religionists who have climbed the ladder of achievement and invested their "time, talents, training, and treasure" in payment of an honestly incurred obligation to the Fatherhood of God, masterhood of Jesus, and the brotherhood of man.

GENERAL CHURCH HISTORY

"The greatest happiness for the greatest number"
Doctor Newman very logically and systematically points out that, "Church History is the narration of all that is known of the founding and the development of the kingdom of Christ on earth." The embodiment of Church History is not only a mere record of organizations which represent the Christian life, but the record of the Christian religion itself from its point of commencement to any present era. Recognizing, as one might, the unfaltering fact that anthropological studies prove that religion whether Buddhism, Confucianism, or Christianity, plays a rather significant role in influencing the thought and life of any people. So, we assert that Christianity as organized life and organized religion has exerted untold influence on the economic, ethical, legal, social, aesthetic and moral life of its constituents.

Comprehensively, an account of the historiographical development of the National Baptist Convention of America is only a small part of the history of the Church of which Jesus Christ is the Invisible Head, however, its principles, tenets, doctrines and polities are predicated upon what Jesus taught and lived. It is to be acknowledged that the Church of this era is the fruit and product of projective, preservative, and progressive unfolding, for, the Church has come to us through impediments, retardations, handicaps, and misrepresentations on the part of external forces.

The term "Church" was adopted during a very early period of the Christian Body. The term had been used to designate all of the people of Israel as a divinely called congregation which was a very fitting title to be employed by the Christians, the real people of God or true Israel.

It is very interesting to note the organization of the Church at Jerusalem. Leadership of the Church rested upon Peter and John. It is questionable as to whether or not the action of the appointment of seven was the birth of the diaconate or a temporal device to meet and satisfy emergent needs. It is true, however, that the duties exercised by the group later resembled the discharge of duties by deacons in the Gentile Churches. Later "elders" were brought to the fore who might have been the older members of the Church or officers of the Church.

The Jerusalem church and the Palestinian communities affiliated therewith were significant in Church history because they were the channel through which Christianity first flowed.

Atheism and anarchy were the two outstanding charges brought against early Christians. The failure of the Christians to worship idol gods was termed an atheistic practice, and their rejection of emperor-worship seemed treasonable. Governmental mob attacks during this period, 250 A. D., were frequent.

Not a few literary defenders were born during the persecution period who have been termed Apologists. For the first term in Church history it is evident that Christianity is being definitely felt among the intellectual elements of society. Quadratus of Athens (125 A. D.) is suggested as among the first Apologists.

Many of the Apologists were from the hall of philosophers whose interpretations were quite philosophical which aided in the development of a theological system. The attentions of many of these men were directed to Hebrew prophets, "men more ancient than all those who are esteemed philosophers." It is said of the prophet that "They glorified the Creator, the God and Father of all things, and proclaimed His Son, the Christ."

FOREIGN BAPTISTS

"Go forth, Show yourselves"
During the Reformation Period Europe became the land of religious revival. A large proportion of the German, Swiss, Dutch, Dane, Swede, Norwegian, English, Welsh, Scotch, Italian, and French populations of religion expressed disapproval of the Popery.

Martin Luther called men to arms when he blew the bugle call for religious liberation and emancipation. Baptists, who heretofore had hid themselves by silence and covered themselves with quietness, came from their hiding-places and uncovered their practices of Christianity. They looked now for enlistment, enlightenment, and enlargement. They expected to share with the Reformers what they had in order that a perfect restoration of apostolic Christianity be ascertained. Instead, they met severe disappointments. The Reformers did not agree with their principles of Christianity. They were burned, drowned, or buried alive. Papists and Protestants, Episcopalians and Presbyterians alike suppressed their endeavors.

Because of the incontestable fact that persecution was being centered upon these Baptists, they were shy to formulate creeds, therefore, they were minus of uniformed opinions concerning their beliefs. However, it is not to be ignored that their theologies concerning major doctrines were synonymous with those of their opposers and suppressors of the Reformation.

Some points of Baptist theology:

1. Baptism by Immersion.
2. The Lord's Supper?Symbolic and emblematic.
3. "The Absolute Separation of church and State."
4. "The Priesthood of Every Believer."
5. "The Autonomy of the Local Church."
6. The Supreme Authority and Infallibility of the Holy Scriptures.
7. The Perseverance of the Believer.

Because society during the 16th century was resting upon anti-Christian principles, Baptists sought to revolutionize, humanize, socialize and spiritualize society. As a result they were talked against and written about. Latimer called their opinions "pernicious" and "devilish." Hooper painted their concepts as "damnable." Bacon named them "wicked", "apish Anabaptists", "foxish hypocrites", "bloody murderers both of soul and body" whose religious system is a "petiferous plague." Astonishingly enough, they spread, and spread, and spread.
Without the walls of Wittenberg the decretals, Pope's bull, and other Papal documents against Luther were burned by him on December 10, 1520. The concourse of Baptists acclaimed this attitude of Luther in discontinuing his relationship with the Church at Rome. They proclaimed freedom from Luther, and all other human authority and called upon fellow-laborers everywhere to demand their religious rights.

In 1524 Hans Koch and Leonard Meyster were put to death at Augsburg which meant that the first witnesses for God in Germany were Baptists. It was Sebastian Franck who said, "the more severely they (Baptists) were punished, the more they multiplied."

Notwithstanding the fact that Baptists were "plundered, thrust into dungeons, banished, numbers of them beheaded or burned alive" they continued to spread everywhere. Italy housed some Baptists during this period also. Hans George was thrown overboard in 1566 while returning from Germany to Italy.

Zwingli, the Swiss Reformer, was on the eve of becoming a Baptist himself. However, he resisted the principles of Baptist polity. He argued against the idea of a spiritual church calling it a "sheer impossibility."

Baptists first appeared in Switzerland in 1523.
In 1525 three disputations were held at Zurich. The magistracy issued an edict which prohibited the baptism of believers, and enjoined the baptism of children. Baptists were banished and imprisoned, yet they persevered. At Basle, where the Baptists abounded, they were made to suffer greatly. Erasmus bore the following testimony: "The Anabaptists, although they everywhere abound in great numbers, have nowhere obtained the churches for their use. They are to be commended above all others for the innocence of their lives, but are oppressed by other sects, as well as by the orthodox" (Catholics).

The Netherlands became places of refuge for Baptists who sought to serve God in quietness during 1525. Had they refrained from the preaching of the glorious gospel of Christ and forborne to propagate their uniquely distinct doctrines, they might have met a fulfillment of their search. Of course, they, like Paul, were "set for the defense of the gospel" and preached it uncompromisingly. According to executive orders from Charles V, then Emperor of the dominions, Baptists were "singled out for special manifestations of vengeance." Weynken Claes' daughter was strangled at the stake; thus, becoming the first martyr.

Like a pebble when thrown into a pond of water causing ripples to spread, so it was with the Reformation. It spread extensively, and wherever it settled Baptists settled with it.

Baptists were in England in 1534 when Henry VIII assumed leadership of the government. He proclaimed two proclamations that destined to defeat the objectives of Baptists: (1) that which had to do with individuals who disputed about baptism and the Lord's Supper, (2) referred to persons who were baptized in infancy and had renounced that baptism by being rebaptized.

Dutchmen flocked into England. Their hands were occupied with manufacturing and their heads and hearts contemplated kernels of theology. Their notions were crude, they were not intellectual enough to manage them and they were too independent to seek the advice of others, consequently, they were branded as Anabaptists because they wasted time in speculations that were unnecessary.

While men of ill-repute were made beneficiaries of the king's general acts of pardon in 1538, 1540, and 1550 Baptists were denied these immunities because they believed and preached that "infants ought not to be baptized."

It was Bishop Bonner, who in his "Articles of Visitation", proposed a plan whereby information could be ascertained relative to persons who were again reiterating baptism, or restricting themselves to the views of Anabaptists. He said that England was "grievously vexed" and "sore infested" with "sundry sorts of sects of heresies" mentioning "Anabaptists."

Bishop Jewel writing to Peter Martyr said: "We found at the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth a large and inauspicious corps of Arians, Anabaptists, and other pests, which I know not how, but as mushrooms spring up in the night and in darkness, so these sprang up in that darkness and unhappy night of the Marian Times. These, I am informed, and I hope it is the fact, have retreated before the light of purer doctrine, like owls at the sight of the sun, and are now nowhere to be found, or, at least, if anywhere, they are no longer troublesome to our churches." This however, was a dreadful misconception of the bishop, for, Baptists were only quiet so as to elude the proclamation.

Baptists were the "sect everywhere spoken against" not only by the Papists, from whom it was expected, but by England's Presbyterians and Episcopalians, Germany's Lutherans, and Switzerland's Reformed as well. It is no strange thing to conceive that because of certain divergences of opinions brothers were estranged from each other because they were either Calvinistic, Swinglianistic, Lutheranistic, etc.

SOUL LIBERTY

It was as early as 1614 that Leonard Busher published a tract entitled "Religion's Peace, or, a Plea for Liberty of Con-science." The tract was directed to the king and parliament asking for pardon, and "certain reasons against persecution."

The following passages from "Religion's Peace" will prove the boldness of Baptists during this era and attest to their power to think during the seventeenth century.

"Christ's kingdom is not of this world, therefore it may not be purchased nor defended with the weapons of this world, but by His Word and Spirit. No other weapons hath He given to His church, which is His Spiritual kingdom. Therefore, Christ saith, 'He that will not hear the church, let him be to thee as a heathen and a publican.'

"It is not only unmerciful, but unnatural and abominable yea, monstrous, for one Christian to vex and destroy another for difference and questions of religion.

"It is not the gallows, nor the prison, nor burning, nor banishing that can defend the apostolic faith. Indeed, the king and state may defend religious peace (that is, protect all parties in the exercise of religion) by their sword and civil power, but not the faith, otherwise than by the Word and Spirit of God.

"They cannot be Christ's bishops and preachers that persuade princes and people to such anti-Christian tyranny and cruelty; and it is very evident that those bishops and ministers which give over men and women to the magistrate to be persuaded by persecution, do show clearly that their doctrine is not good, and that they want the Word and Spirit of God, and therefore, flee to the magistrate's sword for the forcing of them to their faith and discipline.

"I do verily believe that if free liberty of conscience be granted that the spiritual kingdom of these idol-bishops will in time fall to the ground of itself, as the idol Dagon fell before the ark."

Baptists were in New England's incipiency; they were among the first emigrants. They worshipped, however, with other religious groups because their number was too small to set up separate worships. Cotton Mather said, "Some few of these people have been among the planters of New England from the beginning, and have been welcome to the communion of our churches, which they enjoyed, reserving their particular opinions unto themselves."

Even before Roger Williams professed Baptist sentiments, his preaching had become distasteful to his hearers and he was branded of having inculcated principles "tending to Anabaptism." He taught the individuality of religion, personal piety as essentially a prerequisite to church membership. These views were inconsistent with the Paedobaptist theory.

It was not long after Roger Williams settled in Providence that baptism was fully discussed. As a result twelve men openly declared themselves Baptists.

Thomas Holliman was selected to baptize Mr. Williams who later baptized the other professed believers. In March, 1639 the first Baptist Church in the United States was organized of which Roger Williams was the first pastor. For some undetermined reason Mr. Williams shortly resigned the pastorate and Chad Brown was selected to succeed him. Astonishing enough, Roger Williams refrained from fellowship with the church upon his return from England. However, the church adopted the following covenant:

"We, whose names are hereunder written, being desirous to inhabit in the town of Providence, do promise to submit ourselves, in active or passive obedience, to all such orders or agreements, as shall be made for public good of the body, in an orderly way, by the major consent of the present inhabitants, masters of families, incorporated together into a township, and such others as they shall admit into the same, only in civil things."

Dr. John Clark organized the second Baptist Church in 1644 at Newport, Rhode Island, with eleven members.

The following list suggests the spread of Baptist principles in America:

(a) second church organized in Newport, 1656
(b) at North Kingston, 1665.
(c) Seventh-day Baptists, Newport, 1671
(d) South Kingston, 1680
(e) Dartmouth, 1685.

"Like the waters cover the sea" so Baptists began to cover New England. Massachusetts soon became the scene of expression of baptistic polity. Notwithstanding, persecution followed these religionists in every section. Truly, this period can be labeled "The Troublous Period."

"Bonds and imprisonment" were words and actions of welcome accorded all Baptists who came to New England. Their congregating for public worship was occasional and infrequent. But, when the privileged came they derided infant baptism.

The spread of Baptist church organizations is continued in the following citation:

(a) church at Swansea, Massachusetts, 1663
(b) church at Kittery, Maine, 1682
(c) church at Charleston, South Carolina, 1683
(d) church at Cold Spring, Pennsylvania, 1684
(e) church at Pennepek, Pennsylvania, 1688
(f) church at Middleton, New Jersey, 1688.

In the year of our Lord 1688, there were only thirteen churches in the United States, representative of the thirteen colonies which are designated in "Old Glory."

Baptists, in general, are classified under one of two divisions; namely, General and Particular, the former being influenced by Arminianism and the latter by Calvinism.

ARMINIAN THEOLOGY

Dr Newman in his "Manual of Church History" volume I gives the following summation of strict Arian views:

(a) "The Son was created out of nothing; hence, He is different in essence from the Father; that He is Logos, Wisdom, Son of God, is only of grace. He is not so in Himself.
(b) "There was, when he was not; he is a finite being.
(c) "He was created before everything else, and through him the universe was created and is administered.
(d) "In the historical Christ, the human element is merely the material; the soul is the Logos. The historical Christ, therefore, had no human soul, and the human elements that appear so prominently in the Gospels are attributed to the Logos. This is one of the favorite arguments of the Arians for the finiteness and imperfection of the Logos. The earlier theologians, with the exception of Origen, had made no distinction between the divine and the human in Christ, and the orthodox theologians were not able to meet this telling argument of the Arians by making such distinction.
(e) "The Arians held that although the incarnate Logos is finite, and hence not God, he is to be worshipped as being unspeakably exalted above all other creatures, the immediate Creator and Governor of the universe, and the Redeemer of man.
(f) "The Arians adhered to the Scriptures, and were willing to employ as their own any scriptural statements of doctrine."

CALVIN'S THEOLOGY

"A History of the Christian Church" by Walker summarizes Calvin's Theology in the following manner:

Man's highest knowledge, Calvin taught, is that of God and of himself. Enough comes by nature to leave man without excuse, but adequate knowledge is given only in the Scriptures, which the witness of the spirit in the heart of the believing reader attests as the very voice of God. These Scriptures teach that God is good, and the source of all goodness everywhere. Obedience to God's will is man's primal duty. As originally created, man was good and capable of obeying God's Will but he lost goodness and power alike in Adam's fall and is now, of himself, absolutely incapable of goodness. Hence no work of man can have any merit; and all men are in a state of ruin meriting only damnation. From this helpless and hopeless condition some men are undeservedly rescued through the work of Christ. He paid the penalty due for the sins of those in whose behalf He died; yet, the offer and reception of this ransom was a free act on God's part so that its cause is God's love.

"All that Christ has wrought is without avail unless it becomes a man's personal possession. This possession is effected by the Holy Spirit, who works, when, how and where He will, creating repentance; and faith which as with Luther, is a vital union between the believer and Christ. This new life of faith is salvation, but it is salvation unto righteousness. That the believer now does works pleasing to God is proof that he has entered into a vital union with Christ. 'We are justified, not without, and yet not by works.' Calvin thus left room for the conception of 'works' as strenuous as any claimed by the Roman Church, though very different in relation to the accomplishment of salvation. The standard set before the Christian is the law of God, as contained in the Scriptures, not as a test of his salvation, but as an expression of that will of God which as an already saved man he will strive to fulfill. This emphasis on the law as the guide of Christian life was peculiarly Calvin's own. It has made Calvinism always insistent on the character, though in Calvin's conception man is saved to Character rather than by Character. A prime nourishment of the Christian's life is by prayer.

"Since all good is of God, and man is unable to initiate or resist his conversion, it follows that the reason some are saved and others are lost is the divine choice, election, and reprobation. For a reason for that choice beyond the will of God it is absurd to inquire, since God's Will is an ultimate fact. Yet to Calvin, election was always primarily a doctrine of Christian comfort. That God had a plan of salvation for man, individually, was an unshakable rock of confidence, not only for one convinced of his unworthiness, but for one surrounded by opposing forces even if they were those of priests and Kings. It made man a fellow laborer with God in the accomplishment of God's Will.

"Three institutions have been divinely established by which the Christian life is maintained, the Church, the sacraments, and civil government. In the last analysis the church consists of 'all elect of God'; but it also properly denotes 'the whole body of mankind, who profess to worship one God and Christ. Yet there is no true church where lying and falsehood have usurped the ascendency. The New Testament shows as church officers, pastors, teachers, elders, deacons, who enter on their charges with the assent of the congregation that they serve. Their 'call' is twofold: the secret inclination from God and the 'approbation of the people.' Calvin thus gave to the congregation a voice in the choice of its officers not accorded by any other Reformation party except that of the Anabaptists, though circumstances at Geneva were to compel him to regard that voice there as expressed by the city government. Similarly, Calvin claimed for the church full and independent jurisdiction in discipline up to the point of excommunication. Further it could not go; but it was a retention of a freedom which all other leaders of the Reformation had abandoned to state supervision. Civil government has, however, the divinely appointed task of fostering the church, protecting it from false doctrine, and punishing offenders for whose crime excommunication is insufficient. It was essentially the mediaeval theory of the relations of church and state.

"Calvin recognized only two sacraments:

Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Regarding the burning question of Christ's presence in the Supper he stood, like Butzer, part way between Luther and Zwingli; nearer the Swiss reformer in form, and nearer the German in spirit. With Zwingli he denied any physical presence of Christ; yet he asserts in the clearest terms a real, though spiritual presence received by faith. Christ, out of the substance of His flesh, breathes life into our souls, nay, diffuses His own life into us, though the real flesh of Christ does not enter."

HOW BAPTISTS DEVELOPED IN NORTH AMERICA

"He Who Transplanted Still Sustains"
At the beginning of the "Quiet Period" Baptist Churches numbered thirteen while in 1740 marked progress was exhibited, for there were thirty-seven churches of this faith with some 3,000 constituents; 872 churches and 64,975 members were a remarkable credit to Baptist development in 1790. It was during this period that "Calvinistic views began to predominate, and the bitter opposition to the Baptists disappeared."

Baptists were forced to pay taxes for the upkeep of Congregationalism, the "Standing Order" in the New England States. The refusal of payment on the part of our predecessors very frequently led to imprisonment, and their movable and immovable properties were distrained from them.

The most pernicious practice ever to be enjoined upon Baptist progress was the deliberate admission of individuals into the church without any evidence of personal religion which was occasioned by introduction of the "half-way covenant", that "persons who had been baptized in infancy, and were not scandalous in life, were admitted to membership."

The following chart is an account of Baptist propagation from 1703 to 1812:

State

City

Year

Delaware

Welsh Tract

1703

Connecticut

Groton

1705

Virginia

Burleigh

1714

New York

 

1714

North Carolina

Perquimans

1727

Maryland

Chestnut Ridge

1742

New Hampshire

Newtown

1755

Vermont

Shaftesbury

1768

Georgia

Kiokee

1772

Tennessee

Buffalo Ridge

1780

Kentucky

Nolinn

1781

Ohio

Miami

1790

Illinois

New Design

1796

Louisiana

Calvary

1812

The onward march of the Baptist denomination demanded that the churches organize themselves into associations, which type of organizations has proved itself to be very vital to the success and prosperity of Baptists. Early in the history of associations the "fathers" carefully guarded against the assumption of ecclesiastical authority, and avoided entanglement and interference with the affairs of individual churches. Personal edification was advanced; Christian fellowship inspired; and questions of theoretical and practical aspects were posed.

In 1707 the first associational organization was formed and called the Philadelphia Association.

At the close of the eighteenth century, according to Dr. Cramp, the following statistics of Baptists throughout the world were evident:

Churches

Members

United States

13,355

1,109,926

Great Britain and Ireland

2,411

280,000

British North America

567

41,000

West Indies

205

36,000

Burma, Assam, Siam

375

17,000

Continent of Europe

292

23,494

India

70

3,000

Total

17,275

1,500,420

 

THE ORIGIN OF WHITE BAPTIST CONVENTIONS

Having a spiritual zeal for the propagation of Christ and the spreading of Baptist views, Baptists of England formed a missionary society to send a missionary, William Carey, to India. Baptist Churches of the United States expressed their interest in this activity by contributing to the cause. In 1814 the General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States of America for Foreign Missions was organized.

A tract society was brought into being in 1824. In 1840 it was renamed the American Baptist Publication Society.

During this period slavery in the United States was slowly but surely destroying the social, political, and religious morale of the people. Many Baptists considered slavery repugnant, inconsistent, and antagonistic. Consequently, the matter was brought to the attention of the Triennial Convention as to whether or not a person who owned slaves would be appointed a missionary. Northern Baptists were generally antislavery and Southern Baptists were as a rule pro-slavery. The question involved was rendered a negative response. Southern Baptists named the decision a denial of constitutional rights, therefore, they withdrew in 1845. The result was three conventions, Northern, Southern, and National Baptist Conventions.

NEGRO BAPTISTS' BEGINNINGS

"Nothing Without God"
It is with humility of heart, unreservedness of soul, and determination of mind that the task of writing on Negro Baptists: their beginning, growth, and Present Status is assumed. Humility of heart because our age has not produced the type of growth that the "fathers" beginning anticipated; unreservedness of soul because the relinquishment of a privilege so renown is expedient; and determination of mind because both the subjective and objective elements of historical analysis must be employed.

The rise and progress of "Negro Baptists" is a monument of dedication to the courage, simplicity and prayer of the pioneers.

The period involving 1619 to 1773 has very logically been described as "The Day of Darkness." A span of 154 years expired from the landing of the first twenty African slaves at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, when a Dutch ship passing by stopped to buy provisions sold these Negroes to the colonists because they were needed to work in the tobacco fields, before an account of the first Negro Baptist Church is given.

This has been very largely attributed to the fact that the purchasers of these slaves considered themselves superintendents of the slaves, consequently, the slave who became Christians were added to white churches.

The first Negro Baptist Church whose nature or tendency excluded other race groups from religious participation or social relation, according to record, was founded at Silverbluff, Aiken County, South Carolina, about 1773. It was organized in a community on the Savannah River near Augusta, Georgia, with an original membership of eight (8) slaves. From all indications David George was the first pastor.

In 1778 Savannah was captured by the British which ultimately demoralized the First African Baptist Church; nevertheless, it was reorganized in 1788. At one time the Reverend George Lisle, ordained May 20, 1775, as the first ordained Negro Baptist preacher in North America, served as pastor.

The following chart represents Baptist Church organizations up to 1880:

Name Year Place
1773 Silverbluff, S. C.
First African Baptist Church Savannah, Ga.
First Baptist Church 1780 Richmond, Va.

First Baptist Church

1785

Williamsb'g, Va.

First Baptist Church

1790

Lexington, Ky.

Springfield Baptist Church

1793

Augusta, Ga.

Second Baptist Church

1802

 

Ogeechee Baptist Church

1803

 

Joy Street Baptist Church

1805

Boston, Mass.

Stone Street Baptist Church

1806

Mobile, Ala.

Abyssinia Baptist Church

1808

New York

First African Baptist Church

1809

Philadelphia, Pa.

Calvary Baptist Church

1812

Louisiana

First Baptist Church

1812

Trenton, N. J.

First Baptist Church

1823

St. Louis, Mo.

First African Baptist Church

1826

New Orleans, La.

Union Baptist Church

1827

Cincinnati, O.

Fifth St. Baptist Church

1829

Louisville, Ky.

Union Baptist Church

1832

Philadelphia, Pa.

19th St. Baptist Church

1833

Wash'ton, D. C.

First Baptist Church

1836

Baltimore, Md.

First Baptist Church

1838

Jack'nville, Fla.

Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church

1843

Columbia, Tenn.

Spruce St. Baptist Church

1853

Nashville, Tenn.

 

STATE ORGANIZATION

Before the smoke of countless Civil War battlefields had cleared the ethereal sky, white men and women sympathizers were sent to four million, five hundred thousand freedmen in all sections of the war-torn, battered and shattered south-land to preach to them the gospel of the Lowly Nazarene. It was anticipated that full and complete privileges in missionary and educational endeavors would be accorded the Negro by his white brethren, but, instead he was looked upon as one possessing an inferior personality. Consequently, in order that the Baptist Cause would be generated, regenerated, and perpetuated, loyal, enthusiastic, and energetic Negro Baptists deemed it fitting and proper, necessary and expedient to expand their denominational activity from the local church situation to state organization. Hence, in 1836 the Providence Missionary Baptist District Association was formed, thus becoming, perhaps, the oldest self-supporting and self-sustaining Negro Baptist Organization.

The following is a chart of early State Baptist Organizations:

Name

Year

State

Wood River Association

1838

Illinois

Mississippi River Asso'tion

1865

Louisiana

State Convention

1866

North Carolina

State Convention

 

Alabama

State Convention

1867

Virginia

State Convention

1868

Arkansas

State Convention

1869

Kentucky

State Convention

1869

Mississippi

Missionary Baptist Conv.

1870

Georgia

 

NATIONAL CONVENTIONS

Slower in the developmental process than White Baptists due to certain inconsistencies, impediments, and retardations, National Baptist Conventions among Negroes did not begin evolutional excrescency before 1880.
While England faced a spirit of reform which brought her face to face with many problems resulting from unrest in many lands of her dominion, such as: (1) the problem of labor which made the laborer more secure by acts which were passed by Parliament; (2) through a Minister of the Crown provisions for compulsory attendance at elementary schools were strengthened; and (3) even cobwebs were whisked away from the military system, the most costly, least efficient, and most minute from a point of enlightenment of all the activities of the British government, the Holy Spirit moved within the heart of the Reverend W. W. Colly of Virginia, who had rendered service as a missionary in Africa, supervised by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, to actuate the Negro Baptist brethren to organize the churches into a National Convention.

While the Boers of South Africa were at the point of insurrection because of their treatment by England, and while during the same period the conflict between England and the Boers was accelerated as the Boers vainly sought complete autonomy, the Negro Baptist Brotherhood grasped with elation and the spirit of prayer the actuation at the hand of Reverend Mr. Colly.

While in Ireland there still existed a serious agrarian problem due to the fact that by age-long tradition the Irish tenant believed himself to have customary rights in the land which he rented, however, the landlords who lived in England raised the rent of these Irish tenants unfairly which brought about unpleasant and untold reactions from the Irish people which ended in evictions on the one hand and ceaseless agitation and outbreaks of lawlessness on the other hand, the Negro Baptist Brotherhood assembled in Montgomery, Alabama, on Wednesday, November 24, 1880 with 151 delegates, representing 11 states, answering roll call.

In reality the assembly was confronted with cries from the African Mission fields for means and missionaries, also with casual disagreements between colored and white brethren which had to do with the manner in which the natives were treated by white missionaries, consequently, the assembly named itself the Foreign Mission Baptist Convention of the United States of America with Dr. W. H. McAlpine of Alabama as the first president, and Reverends J. M. Armstead of Tennessee and G. H. Dwelle of Georgia as secretaries.

The first National Baptist Convention having been organized at Montgomery, Alabama, where aristocracy was at its height, which more nearly approached its counterpart in England than anything else in America; where class distinctions were rigidly maintained and the dimensions of the southern plantation were as spacious as its life was dignified and zestful: where the city was named in memory of a relation of Major Montgomery who fell in Quebec, Richard Montgomery, which city was founded in 1817 by Andrew Dexter and became the capital on January 22, 1846; the capitol being occupied in 1847; burned in 1849; and replaced by the present in 1851; the capitol stands on an eminence at the head of the main business street, which, according to tradition, was reserved for the purpose from 1819; where the commercial emporium of the Alabama Cotton Belt soon established itself in what might be considered the "cradle of the Confederacy," the seat of the Confederate military factories; but in 1886, the Foreign Missionary Baptist Convention learned that the American National Convention was organized in St. Louis, Missouri, with Reverend W. J. Simmons of Kentucky as president; this new organization attempted to serve independent of the first organization. Two years later (1888) a third National Convention was brought to the fore by a group of Baptists who were intensely and deeply interested in the development of Christian education and the growth of Negro Baptist educational institutions. The name given this convention, of which Doctors W. B. Johnson of Washington, D. C., and F. F. Morris of Virginia were chief exponents, was the Baptist National Educational Convention.

Apparently, neither one of the three conventions was doing its best to promote and further the cause it represented. They had reached their Jordan and were not able to cross their Red Sea; their lowest residuum had been met, and, therefore, Dr. Pegues of North Carolina offered the following resolution in 1894:

Whereas the interests and purposes of the three national bodies; namely, The Foreign Mission, National, and Educational Conventions can be conserved and fostered under the auspices of one body; and

Whereas the consolidation of the above named bodies will economize both time and money, therefore, resolved, that the Foreign Mission Convention appoint a committee of nine, who shall enter immediately into consultation with the Executive Boards of the National and Educational Conventions for the purposes of effecting a consolidation of the three bodies upon the following plan:

1.That there shall be one national organization of American Baptists.
2.Under this, there shall be a Foreign Mission Board with authority to plan and execute the foreign mission work according to the spirit and purpose set forth by the Foreign Mission Convention of the United States.
3.There shall be a Board of Education, and also, a Board of Missions to carry into effect the spirit and purpose of the National and the Educational Conventions, respectively.

The Committee on Resolutions was as follows:

Reverends W. H. McALPINE, Alabama
J. E. JONES, Virginia
A. W. PEGUES, North Carolina
A. S. JACKSON, Louisiana
J. H. FRANK, Kentucky
A. HUBBS, Texas
J. R. BENNETT, Arkansas
W. G. PARKS, Tennessee
A. J. STOKES, Alabama

In 1895 at Atlanta, Georgia, the Foreign Missionary Baptist Convention of the United States of America, the American National Convention, and the Baptist National Educational Convention coagulated under the following banner taken from the Constitution:

"Whereas, It is the sense of the Colored Baptists of the United States of America, convened in the city of Atlanta, Georgia, Sept. 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 American National Baptist 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 and do now 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 following is a list of the first officers of the consolidated convention:

President

 

Reverend E. C. MORRIS, D. D.

Arkansas

Vice-Presidents

 

Reverend J. L. BARKSDALE

Virginia

Reverend A. D. HURT

Tennessee

Reverend R. W. BAYLOR

South Carolina

Reverend R. MITCHELL

Kentucky

Reverend G. B. HOWARD

West Virginia

Reverend J. P. ROBINSON

Arkansas

Reverend C. T. WALKER

Georgia

Reverend H. WATTS

Texas

Reverend W. M. MASSEY

Texas

Reverend G. L. P. TALIAFERRO

Pennsylvania

Reverend H. W. BOWEN

Mississppi

Reverend L. N. ROBINSON

Florida

Reverend G. W. LEE

District of Columbia

Reverend A. S. JACKSON

Louisiana

Reverend C. JOHNSON

North Carolina

Reverend W. C. BRADFORD

Alabama

Reverend J. W. CARR

Indiana

 

Recording Secretary

 

Reverend W. H. STEWARD

Kentucky

Assistant Secretary

 

Reverend S. T. CLANTON, D. D.

Louisiana

Treasurer

 

Reverend E. J. FISHER

Georgia

Statistical Secretary

 

Reverend S. N. VASS

North Carolina

Foreign Mission Board

 

Louisville, Kentucky

 

Reverend JOHN H. FRANK

Chairman

Brother WILLIAM H. STEWARD

Recording Secretary

Brother DOCTOR LUKE

Corresponding Secretary

Brother DANIEL A. GADDIE

Treasurer

Home Mission Board

 

Little Rock Arkansas

 

Reverend G. W. D. GAINS

Chairman

Reverend J. A. BOOKER

Recording Secretary

Reverend R. H. BOYD

Corresponding Secretary

Educational Board

 

Washington, D. C.

 

Reverend A. WILBANKS

Chairman

Reverend W. BISHOP JOHNSON,

Corresponding Secretary

 

It is to be remembered and acknowledged with graceful hearts that the American Baptist Publication Society furnished all Baptist Sunday Schools with Sunday School literature and did invite such scholars as Doctors W. J. Simmons, E. M. Brawley, E. K. Love, W. H. Brooks, and C. H. Parish to write for certain periodicals. As strange as it seems in a country aimed at the christianization of peoples, the Southern Baptist brethren denounced, with hatred and prejudice, the invitation extended black men by the American Baptist Publication Society. The strength and courage with which the Publication Society extended the invitation to black authors later became weakness and cowardice following the protest of southern white brethren, thereby resulting in a withdrawal of the invitation which created disappointment in the minds and hearts of Negro Baptists everywhere. Who knew the exact reason why such disappointment and discouragement had been brought to the fore at such a time as this? Plans were being discussed throughout the country relative to the establishment of a Negro Baptist Publishing Plant.

DEVELOPMENT OF NATIONAL BAPTIST PUBLISHING BOARD

In 1894 Doctor R. H. Boyd of San Antonio, Texas, raised the question concerning the publication of Sunday School lessons from the pen of Negro Baptist authors. Considerable controversy resulted and nothing further was done in that year.

In 1895 Doctor R. H. Boyd, Superintendent of Missions for the General Baptist Convention of Texas, held a conference with the Sunday School Executive Committee of the Central Baptist Association at Navasota, Texas. At this conference it was unanimously agreed that the Sunday Schools of said Association would forward their orders for literature to Doctor R. H. Boyd at San Antonio, Texas. The first order for Sunday School supplies represented thirty Sunday Schools and a personal check for $53.00. In 1896, third quarter, Doctor Boyd realized that the gross income from this proposition was at the rate of more than $2,000 a year, which information graced him with economic insight of what could be accomplished in the publication business.

In July of the same year, Doctor Boyd consulted with Doctor E. C. Morris, then president of the National Baptist Convention, concerning the plausibility and possibility of carrying on such enterprise. However, Doctor Boyd did not meet the kind of response he anticipated from the President. Moreover, in September of the same year in the First Colored Baptist Church of St. Louis, Missouri, Reverend R. H. Boyd offered a resolution suggesting the operation of a publishing house. The resolution, like the interview with the President, did not receive applause, but the entire matter was submitted to the Home Mission Board and considered as a phase of it work. At a meeting of the Board, Doctor Boyd was elected Corresponding Secretary.

Doctors J. P. Robinson C. H. Clark, T. P. Bell, J. M. Frost, J. M. Moore, E. R. Carter, M. Vann, and C. S. Smith (Secretary of the A. M. E. Sunday School Union) gave untold assistance in every way to Doctor Boyd.

At the first meeting of the printing committee, Doctor C. H. Clark was elected chairman and Doctor R. H. Boyd, secretary-treasurer. Reverend E. C. Morris was elected editor-in-chief. The mailing name given the printing committee was the National Baptist Publishing Board of the National Baptist Convention of America with headquarters to be located at Nashville, Tennessee.

Very shortly a rather meager and ill-prepared office was opened with prayer in the city of Nashville. The first editorial staff as appointed by Editor Morris was comprised of the following individuals:

Doctors J. T. Brown, W. M. Brawley, C. H. Parish, W. A. Creditt, C. O. Booth, J. A. Booker, E. R. Carter, W. H. Brooks, W. F. Graham, J. L. Cohron, J. B. Bennett, Mesdames Lucy Cole, M. C. Kenney, E. M. Abner and Miss M. V. Cook.

The total number of periodicals circulated for the first quarter was 190,500.
Total receipts $1,774.06.
Total expenditures $1,518.77.
The National Baptist Publishing Board was incorporated in 1898.

DIVISION OF THE NATIONAL CONVENTION.

The National Baptist Publishing Board succeeded in every way until certain inconsistencies evolved which involved the National Baptist Convention proper causing a division of the convention at Chicago in September, 1915. The two divisions were designated as The National Baptist Conventions, Incorporated, and The National Baptist Convention, Unincorporated, Doctor E. P. Jones of Mississippi serving as president of the latter. The National Baptist Convention of America (the unincorporated convention) celebrates its sixty-first annual session this year at Shreveport, Louisiana, with untold reminiscences of the past. It is to be remembered that the late Doctor J. E. Woods succeeded Doctor Jones as president; the late Doctor John W. Hurse succeeded Doctor Woods and Doctor Green L. Prince, President incumbent, succeeded Doctor Hurse. Doctor Prince, having placed the convention on a very ethical scale of business procedure, differentiates the National Baptist Convention of America from the National Baptist Convention of the United States of America thus:

He points out that the difference is not denominational or doctrinal, but conventional, that is, the difference lies simply in "an attitude of faith in the capability of the race to build and manage racial institutions. "The National Baptist Convention of America has faith in the Negro's ability to do for himself anything necessary for his racial welfare without depending on any other racial group.

"The National Baptist Convention of the United States of America by its actions in depending upon others does not accept this principle of action without reservation."

It is the view the Historian of the National Baptist Convention of America that, since the brotherhood is energized by a feeling of divinity, that we should advocate and reassert Christian Liberty, Denominational Consciousness, and Religion of a Doctrinal, Experimental, and Practical nature.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

A History of the Christian Church, Walker; 1918.
An Outline of Baptist History. Pius; 1910
A Manuel of Church History, Newman; Vol. 1, 1933.
A Short History of the English People, J. R. Green; Vol. II.
A Story of the National Baptist Publishing Board, Boyd, Clark, Over.
Baptist History, Cramp.
History of the Church, Wickersham; 1900.
Lincoln Library of Essential Information.
Negro Baptist History, Jordan; 1930.

 
 
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