75 Million Dollar Campaign and Cooperative Program

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Leon McBeth illustrates, “After the turn of the century, prosperity and optimism prompted Southern Baptists to project larger programs… [and] in 1919, Southern Baptists launched their “Seventy-Five Million Campaign,” in an effort to raise $75 million for Baptist causes over a five-year period between 1919 – 1924.”[1] This was the biggest fundraising endeavor the Southern Baptists had ever engaged in, which led to an even more aggressive campaign of publicity and promotion. Unfortunately, as McBeth highlights, “The seventy-five million dollars proved easier to pledge than to collect.”[2] This was largely in part to the economic recession that hit the south in 1920, which led to crop prices dropping by half and farmer’s income by over sixty percent.[3] The campaign also had both good and negative impacts, but the good far outweighed the bad. Despite being vulnerable for Fundamentalist attack or causing embarrassment on the part of individuals unable to pay what was previously pledged, the campaign not only led to Baptists tripling annual giving, but also led to major spiritual renewal and a new spirit of unity within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

McBeth explains, “Due to the success of the campaign, in 1920, the SBC appointed a Conservation Committee to preserve the results of the campaign… [and] out of it came a permanent convention financial plan startling in its simplicity, yet revolutionary in its impact. Launched in 1925, the Cooperative Program (CP), called for churches to send their offerings for denominational ministries to their state conventions.”[4] This program became the lifeline of Southern Baptist ministries and no method, even to this day, has come close to the effectiveness of the CP. Part of the program’s success rests in its ability to provide both balance and perspective, by providing a way to equally support all ministries under the SBC umbrella. However, as McBeth states, “Any assessment of the CP must also include its drawbacks, such as some speaking to rather than through the program, as if it were an end in itself.”[5] Despite this, the CP allowed churches to play an active role in not just some of the denomination’s ministries, but in all of them. This was one more initiative that led to the SBC growing numerically and geographically. McBeth records, at the turn of the century, “Records showed a total of 1,586,709 members 18,873 churches and these churches were grouped into 16 state conventions. By 1983 reports showed 14,208,226 members in 36,500 churches, gathered into 37 state conventions, many of which were located outside the South.”[6] This numerical and geographical growth can be directly linked to these previous programs and it is truly astonishing to see how far the SBC has come and the amazing things God has done in and through this denomination.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987.

[1] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987), 618.

[2] Ibid., 619.

[3] Donnie Gerald Melton, “The Seventy-Five Million Campaign and Its Effects upon the Southern Baptist Convention,” Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1975): 188.

[4] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 622.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 623.

Baptists and the Ecumenical Movement: Article Critique

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John H. Y. Briggs, formally a professor of Baptist History at the University of Oxford, past chairman of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), and former editor of The Baptist Quarterly[1] records the role and history of Baptists in the overall scope of the ecumenical movement. Briggs links the origins of the Baptist movement in the history of the Radical Reformation and within the logic of English Separatism, making it difficult not to view the Baptists as being a schismatic movement. The specifics of this journal article summarize how some European Baptists were involved in that movement and the purpose of this critique will be to verify Briggs’ findings.

SUMMARY

Briggs begins by identifying how, “Early Baptists, though separating from State Churches, were well aware of the dangers of becoming isolated and sectarian.”[2] This was a peculiar development in the Baptist movement, as the majority of Baptists during this time period had just escaped persecution from the State Church, yet one of the first things established was a State Church, which led to the ostracizing of many other Baptist groups. Briggs cites E. A. Payne’s analysis of John Owen’s True Nature of a Gospel Church in 1689 as being very influential in this move away from the State Church. Briggs emphasizes this, “Separation from a corrupt state church that was seen as only partially being reformed, was nevertheless anxious to avoid lapsing into sectarianism.”[3] Because of this, the Baptist denomination is often viewed as being separatists, but Briggs’ overall goal seems to be showcasing how even during times of isolation, theological differences, and division, Baptists were still extremely effective in evangelism, and spreading the gospel message domestically and internationally. J. D. Hughey would agree with this statement and adds, “The great majority of Baptists have always felt kinship with large number of other Christians… [and] in a very important sense, Baptists have long been a part of the ecumenical movement.”[4] Christian union was and continues to be a lofty ambition and throughout the history of Baptists, considerable efforts were made to attain unity.

STRENGTHS/WEAKNESSES

Briggs does a worthy job detailing the Baptist’s history and role in the Ecumenical Movement, but very little was mentioned about the patterns of growth and decline. For example, H. Leon McBeth illustrates how, “One of the most persistent and puzzling problems facing English Baptists in the twentieth century has been their steady numerical decline.”[5] However, Briggs provides ample information pertaining to individuals like John Bunyan and Thomas Grantham who were in favor of wider patterns of interrelationship, as well as the interworking of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the BWA, which Briggs himself served on. These individuals and organizations were vital in defining the two dimensions of ecumenism: international and inter-confessional, changing the ecumenical question of relating to other people who were alike, to relating to other people groups who were nothing alike. Finding common ground, without sacrificing core doctrine would have helped Briggs’ illustration of this dilemma.

As Briggs addresses the issue of persecution and lack of civil rights, he draws an important conclusion, which remains just as relevant today: “Persecution in Eastern Europe [and other parts of the world] has drawn Christians closer together and when the pressure has been removed, old tyrannies have reasserted themselves.”[6] For Baptists, persecution led to the Evangelical Revival and made way for itinerancy and village preaching and overseas missionary endeavors. Unfortunately, the revival also led to problems for the Baptists, but in the end would reemphasize the case for open communion. This was area Briggs should have covered in more detail, since there are still many churches that observe the stance of closed communion. Had Briggs included what reasons led to the case for open communion and the change in tradition, this would have enhanced his details of the Evangelical Revival’s impact on the denomination. Despite that, Briggs uses this landscape, to make a profound assertion that; “Evangelicalism and ecumenism are far from being opposed; rather the one is the child of the other.”[7] In the WCC, Briggs then demonstrates how the Baptists continually worked for peace and reconciliation in a world torn apart by violence and how the Council carries that same faith and commitment today.

CONCLUSION

Briggs accomplishes the task he set out to do and while his list is not exhaustive of Baptist history in the Ecumenical Movement, he has demonstrated the Baptist contribution has been sacrificial, substantial, and often unrecognized.[8] He also clearly articulates how Baptists have continually been open to dialogue with other denominations, in an endeavor to fulfill the Great Commission and reach a lost and hurting world. Briggs could not be more accurate than when he said, “How can we expect an unbelieving world to take us seriously in our talk about a gospel of reconciliation when we remain so obviously un-reconciled one to another?”[9]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Briggs, John H Y. “Baptists and the ecumenical movement.” Journal Of European Baptist Studies 6, no. 1 (September 2005): 11-17. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2017).

Hughey, J. D. “BAPTISTS AND THE ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT.” The Ecumenical Review, 10 (July 1958): 401–410. doi: 10.1111/j.1758-6623.1958.tb01882.x (accessed April 19, 2017).

Manchester Wesley Research Centre Website. http://www.mwrc.ac.uk/briggs/ (accessed April 19, 2017).

McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987.

[1] Manchester Wesley Research Centre Website. http://www.mwrc.ac.uk/briggs/ (accessed April 19, 2017).

[2] John H. Y. Briggs, “Baptists and the ecumenical movement,” Journal Of European Baptist Studies 6, no. 1 (September 2005): 11. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed April 18, 2017).

[3] Briggs, “Baptists and the ecumenical movement,” 12.

[4] J. D. Hughey, “BAPTISTS AND THE ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT.” The Ecumenical Review, 10 (July 1958): 401. doi: 10.1111/j.1758-6623.1958.tb01882.x (accessed April 19, 2017).

[5] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987), 507.

[6] Briggs, “Baptists and the ecumenical movement,” 13.

[7] Ibid., 14.

[8] Ibid., 16.

[9] Ibid., 17.

Post-Schism Effects on Northern and Southern Baptist Churches in 1845

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Leon McBeth attributes the schism of 1845 as the main event which divided Baptists into Northern and Southern branches.”[1] The final two straws that led to this were the “Georgia Test Case” and the “Alabama Resolutions” and while 1814 marked the beginning of an era for Baptists, 1845 marked its end.[2] Part of the problem was rooted in the fact that Baptist churches were scattered with very few associations and no general organization. While the rise of the mission movement moved Baptists to begin forming structures, neither the south nor the north could agree on theology, let alone denomination and this tension was only made worse by the slavery controversy. Even after talks aimed at reunion, McBeth illustrates, “The chasm seemed wider in 1900 than it had in 1845, [and] the impact of different socioeconomic forces shaped the Baptists in the two regions into separate molds. While both entered the twentieth century with strengths, their strengths were just as different as their weaknesses.”[3]

In the north, McBeth explains the Baptist decline was a result of, “massive European immigration, the rise of organized labor, and the development of an industrial economy. In that environment, they developed different methods of evangelism and different emphases in theology, particularly in the Social Gospel which emerged late in the century”[4] With over 250,000 immigrants coming to America between 1790 – 1820, the north faced a unique challenge as 20 million new immigrants arrived between 1880 and 1900 for an average of 1 million per year.[5] When you take what the north faced and how they reacted and compare that with what was going on in the south, McBeth illustrates, “Baptists in the south confronted a newly freed black population of about four million whose physical and spiritual needs were overwhelming. [In addition,] political turmoil, economic devastation, sharecropping, and poor healthcare were facts of life in the postwar South.” The way the Southern Baptists handled these conditions is what largely contributed to their numerical growth. For example, McBeth demonstrates, “Most of the blacks who accepted Christianity became Baptists, the influx of freed blacks and Scotch-Irish immigrants provided educational opportunities, and the camp meetings tended to fix a certain evangelical style upon Southern religion which Baptists turned to their own advantage.”[6] These factors faced by the Southern Baptists and how they were able to adapt and thrive is what most significantly led to their numerical growth.

As time went on, regional isolation, war bitterness, and different emphases in theology created a larger chasm, which could no longer be crossed. Interestingly, one would think the north would have been poised with the potential for growth and expansion given the circumstances of a rising economy and conceivable prosperity. Given this paradigm, another potential explanation for the decline of Baptists in the north could be contributed to a materialistic mindset instead of being mission focused. While the north did form the American Baptist Missionary Union (AMBU), there was and still continues to be much debate over home office versus field direction, education versus evangelism, the development of indigenous churches, and the role of women in missions. In the south, the formation of the Foreign Mission Board (FMB) got off to a great start and for years dominated other agencies partly due to it being autonomous. An early focus was on China, which eventually led to mission’s work in Liberia, Nigeria, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, and Japan. The FMB took missions to a new level and by 1900, McBeth notes, “They reported 6,537 members in 113 churches in six nations, with a total of 94 foreign missionaries.”[7] Ultimately, the south stayed mission focused and the north lost sight of their God-given purpose, which led to the numerical growth in the south while the materialistic north faltered. Throughout history, and even in present times, when the people of God are most persecuted and facing the harshest of circumstances, there exists a great opportunity for spiritual growth and that is exactly what happened as the north declined and the south grew numerically.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987.

[1] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987), 392.

[2] Ibid., 388-391.

[3] Ibid., 463.

[4] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 393.

[5] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 405.

[6] Ibid., 392.

[7] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 423.

Baptist Persecution in Colonial America & Religious Freedom

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          H. Leon McBeth cites Joseph Dawson’s conclusion regarding the emergence of religious liberty in America, “If the researchers of the world were to be asked who was most responsible for the American guarantee for religious liberty, their prompt reply would be ‘James Madison.’ However, if James Madison might answer, he would as quickly reply, ‘John Leland and the Baptists.’”[1] This struggle for religious liberty was hard-fought. While no known Baptists were martyred in America, McBeth details, “many Baptists were severely whipped, forced to pay taxes to support the state church, had property confiscated, and suffered lingering imprisonments.”[2] The First Great Awakening and the Enlightenment, as McBeth reveals, “set the stage and influenced the nature and extent of [religious] freedom.”[3]

As the first settlers in New England were heavily influenced by Reformed theology, this led the Pilgrim Fathers to establish a form of theocracy. McBeth demonstrates, “Ironically, settlers who had just come from dissenter status in Old England established themselves as the official church in New England and persecuted those who dissented from them.”[4] Their laws required all citizens to support the Congregational Church established in New England. If one was unable or unwilling to pay, his or her belongings were seized and sold as auction, often at a fraction of their worth. McBeth details how, “Some dissenters were cast into jail until they paid their apportionment to support the official ministers, a practice which at some places so backfired that the ministers themselves paid the fines just to be rid of prisoners who were winning such a favorable hearing by preaching from jail windows.”[5] The persecution and restrictions placed on Baptists in Colonial America differed from what was encountered in England. In America, it was largely dependent upon the time and location and varied from mild harassment to severe persecution. For example, in 1679, the members of the First Baptist Church of Boston gathered for their first service to discover the doors had been nailed shut. On the other end of the spectrum, McBeth cites how, “the state church probably made one of their biggest mistakes when they imprisoned [the sickened] Elizabeth Backus, a widow and mother to Isaac Backus, the major Baptist spokesman for religious liberty in New England.”[6]

Baptists firmly believed in and fought for the freedom of religion. In an attempt to satisfy the uprising of Dissenters, “Exemption Laws” were instituted in order for non-Congregational Church attenders to apply to have their church taxes refunded, if they could proved they were regular church attenders and lived within five miles of a church in good standing, in that specific denomination.[7] These laws were cumbersome and mere smokescreens because they were only temporary, they were continually lapsing, and they required substantial resources for Separate Baptist church attenders to obtain the needed certificates. McBeth points out, “Baptists in America have a tradition not only of not only preaching and practicing religious liberty, but also of monitoring government legislation to protect the interests of Baptists and others.”[8] Out of this legacy came the formation of the Grievance Committee, which is the first organized religious lobby in America. The aim of this group was to gather and present evidence of Baptist’s suffering and persecution, in order to form legislation to alleviate religious discrimination.[9] Isaac Backus became a champion for the Baptist’s cause. His strategy revolved around two principles: (1) appealing not just to local authorities, but to London itself and (2) to stop paying church taxes and stop applying for the exemption certificates altogether.[10] This bold approach was highly successful because the last thing the Congregational Church wanted was for London leaders to seize and/or invalidate the Colonial charters. Additionally, as McBeth explains, “By deciding to ignore the human law in obedience to a higher law, the law of God… Baptists made more progress toward religious liberty in a year than they had made in the previous decade.”[11] Backus sought to show how the state church was treating Baptists the same way England had treated the colonies, so the tension of revolution within the colonies significantly strengthened his position.

Religious liberty in the Middle Colonies was much different than that found in the north. McBeth explains, “No church was established by law and two factors best account for the broad religious freedom allowed in the Middle Colonies: (1) the Quaker influence and (2) the religious pluralism that prevailed in that area.”[12] Pluralism was essential, due to the Middle Colonies being made up of primarily Catholics and Protestants, with neither group having large enough populations to dominate. McBeth demonstrates, “the Middle Colonies furthered the Baptist struggle for religious freedom by providing a model, [which proved non-government-sponsored religion was achievable,] and the Middle Colonies provided a haven where Baptists could flee when persecution became too severe elsewhere, [which allowed Baptist evangelization into the South.]”

In the South, law established the Anglican Church, and its influence could be felt all the way to Virginia and parts of South Carolina. McBeth illustrates, “Baptists and Presbyterians led the struggle for religious liberty in the South, along with statesman like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Patrick Henry and that Baptists endured hardships, especially the Separates.” John Leland was the primary spokesman for religious liberty in the South and Leland dealt with three primary hardships faced by Baptists: “(1) requirement to register meeting houses, (2) refusal of authorities to recognize the validity of Baptist-performed marriages, and (3) requirement to pay tithes in the form of tobacco and crops for the support of Anglican ministers.”[13] In the beginning of the 1760’s, McBeth illuminates just how bad things were, “Baptists in Virginia were whipped, fined, beaten by mobs, jailed, and/or exiled in an attempt to control them and between 1768 and 1777, at least thirty Baptist preachers in Virginia were imprisoned, whipped, or stoned, most of which were Separates.”[14]

The contributions of Baptists like Isaac Backus and John Leland can still be felt today. The fundamental issue facing every person is that one day, “each one of us will give an account of himself to God,”[15] so as Leland argued, “every man [and woman] ought to be at liberty to serve God in a way that he [or she] can best reconcile to his [or her] conscience.”[16] Leland believed religious establishments corrupted both the church and the state and alienated people from one another. Many feared Christianity would not survive without the support of the state to which Leland replied, “It is error, and error alone, that needs human support.”[17] The Baptists were unwavering in their quest to separate church and state and were fundamental in the development of the First Amendment. However, as McBeth concludes, “[While] Baptists bore the scars of religious persecution [required] to achieve religious liberty; it remains to be seen whether Baptists who live in comfort can preserve it, [despite the price those before them paid to be] the steadfast defenders of the First Amendment.”[18]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987.

[1] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987), 283.

[2] Ibid., 252-253.

[3] Ibid., 254.

[4] Ibid., 255.

[5] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 256.

[6] Ibid., 256-257.

[7] Ibid., 258.

[8] Ibid., 262.

[9] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 262.

[10] Ibid., 263.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., 266.

[13] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 268.

[14] Ibid., 270.

[15] Romans 14:12

[16] First published in New London, Connecticut, 1791. Reprinted in Greene, 181.

[17] First published in New London, Connecticut, 1791. Reprinted in Greene, 185.

[18] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 268.

Four Views of Baptist Origin

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Leon McBeth cites four views pertaining to the sources of Baptist origin: (1) the outgrowth of English Separatism, (2) the influence of biblical Anabaptists, (3) the continuation of biblical teachings throughout the ages, and (4) the succession of organized Baptist churches through the ages.[1] Proponents believing the outgrowth of English Separatism to be the origin of Baptists minimize any role or influence Anabaptists may have played in England before 1600 and instead focus on the diversities between Baptists and Anabaptists. McBeth, illustrates, “They maintain that every distinctive Baptist belief and practice is inherent within Puritanism/Separatism.”[2]

Supporters of the Anabaptist influence view set out to link Baptist origins to the influence of biblical Anabaptists. McBeth highlights, “Most of them acknowledge that Baptists emerged through English Separatism, but they believe Anabaptism both on the Continent and in England prepared the way for Separatism.”[3] Anabaptists can be difficult to classify because the name was associated with a diverse group of believers ranging from extreme mystics, like the Quakers, all the way to extreme rationalists. Some historians contend, “Baptists originated largely in response to the Anabaptist movement, [and] Anabaptists influenced the early Baptists at two points: (1) in preparing the way for Separatism and (2) by leading some to go beyond Separatism to believer’s baptism.”[4]

The latter two views are often both labeled under successionism. McBeth demonstrates, “While almost all recognize that early Baptists were related to the Separatists, disagreement centers around what preceded the Separatists.”[5] This third group looks to trace a continuity of Baptist teachings from New Testament times to the present, asserting the origin of Baptist-like faith and practice never completely died out. Thomas Crosby claimed, “that Baptist principles not only root in the New Testament but also can be traced through various groups since then.”[6]

Arising in the nineteenth century, the final argument for the origin of Baptists goes a step further than the previous. Sometimes referred to as the Jesus-Jordan-John (JJJ) theory, this view contends that Baptists originated with John the Baptist, Jesus, and/or baptisms in the Jordan. McBeth explains, “This theory assumes that John the Baptist represents a denominational affiliation and that Jesus formed a Baptist church and promised in Matthew 16:18 that Baptist churches would never vanish from the world.”[7] There are multiple variations of belief in this view ranging from the premise that: (1) organic succession can be proven and that it is essential, (2) succession is essential and does exist, but cannot be proven, or (3) succession can be proven, but it is not essential.[8]

While each view has merit, it seems the most convincing views pertaining to the origin of Baptists are explained by both the continuation of biblical teaching and that Baptists emerged from the Separatist movement. Tracing Baptist succession back to the New Testament is an admirable attempt to demonstrate provenance, but is seemingly impossible to prove and also unnecessary. While Anabaptist influence is still often debated, McBeth demonstrates, “the earliest Baptists recognized their Separatist background, but later historians obscured that heritage under layers of successionist theory.”[9] In the wise words of William T. Whitley, “For the sources of Baptist life, one must look not to the Anabaptists, but to the Scriptures and the desire for reform…” This new view of Scripture and recognition of what God was calling His followers to do arose as the Separatists moved away from the state church, ultimately leading to the formation of Baptists.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987.

[1] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic Publishing, 1987), 49.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 52.

[4] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 53.

[5] Ibid., 49.

[6] Ibid., 57.

[7] Ibid., 59.

[8] Ibid.

[9] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 50.