Association, or "Society, vs. Convention

Discussion in 'Baptist History' started by thisnumbersdisconnected, Sep 17, 2013.

  1. thisnumbersdisconnected

    thisnumbersdisconnected
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    The history of the Baptist churches in America is sharply marked by the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention on May 10, 1845. The generally accepted story is that the trigger was that Baptists in the South had sought input from the Northern-based Baptist associations -- the associations cooperated in discussing church and doctrinal issues but, as the SBC today, left the final authority in the local church -- as to the appointment of slaveholders to association leadership. The associations said "No," and the basis for a split was set up.

    But that isn't the whole story. The issue was primarily home missions, and the feeling among Baptists in the South that their needs as a region of the U.S. were being neglected by the Northern associations, not having the beginnings of urban organization that were becoming prevalent in the North. The South was, and would remain for another 75 years, primarily rural in nature. This made the Southern churches suspicious of the association, or societal, mode of relationship vs. convention (as it later became known) mode of relationship. Robert A. Baker writes in his Southern Baptist Beginnings ...

    Baptists, like other denominations which give final authority to the local churches, have had difficulty in trying to form an effective general body without threatening the local authority. This was the reason that the association-type plan had been viewed with suspicion by some churches, resulting in the adoption of the society plan for missionary and other Christian work.

    In safeguarding the authority of the churches, however, the society plan made it difficult to secure unity and effectiveness in denominational work. Southern Baptists, at their meeting in 1845, deliberately rejected the method of having a separate society for each kind of Christian service. They chose instead to follow the more centralized pattern of the older associational plan to form only one general convention closely related to the churches for all Christian ministries. They felt that they could provide safeguards in Convention operation that would protect the authority of the local churches. Rather than form independent societies for Christian ministries, Southern Baptists elected a board of managers to supervise foreign missions and another to supervise home missions, both under the authority of the Convention. Other boards for additional Christian ministries would be formed later by the Convention.

    Northern Baptists eventually adopted more or less the same approach, but have -- in my opinion -- been unable to eliminate the tendency to interfere with local church autonomy. In fact, many of the Baptist bodies in the U.S. have dropped all pretense of having a non-authoritative stance and actively dictate to their member churches.

    My question is (took me long enough, didn't it?) do you who are not Southern Baptists or other affiliation that relies on total local autonomy, appreciate the leadership from afar in your denomination? If not, do you feel your denomination, can do better, or should they? And finally, whether SBC or otherwise, does your church convention or organization that preaches autonomy effectively remove itself from the local church's authority?
     
    #1 thisnumbersdisconnected, Sep 17, 2013
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  2. Squire Robertsson

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    By "Northern Baptists" do you mean the Northern Baptist Convention and its follow on the American Baptist Convention (which changed its name a few years ago)? And are you including the groupings that have spun off from the NBC (the GARBC, the FBFI et al.)?
     
  3. thisnumbersdisconnected

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    My original use of the word "Northern" referred to the multiple northern Baptist associations of the mid-19th century. It is a catch-all term, as there were no truly central assocations, or one "Baptist society" that succeeded in establishing itself and gaining support from the American local churches for more than a year or two. All such efforts collapsed due to the local churches' adversity to central authority. The first real "central authority" was the SBC. So I'm referring collectively to the churches of the North as opposed to the churches of the South, all of which in either region of the country belonged primarily to local associations only.

    By the way, "a few years ago"? Try 1972.
     
    #3 thisnumbersdisconnected, Sep 17, 2013
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  4. DocTrinsoGrace

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    These are very good questions. As I understand it, Baptists have always been distrustful of human organizations with a greater authority than the local congregation. Associations of Baptists (or whatever similar title that they may use) are primarily to leverage collectively that which functions primarily out of the local congregation, not to supplement it or to enforce it, etc.

    Our ARBCA churches all hold to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. (Chapter 26 gives a full definition of what we mean by the church.

    Nonetheless, the last paragraph has pertinence to your question:
    Thus, you can see that the old divines are specifically limiting the purposes, function, and authority of an association of churches.

    You asked if associations could improve. Given that associations are organizations of living human beings, then yes. There were always be room for improvement, until we are finally all one congregation in the final consummation of God's eternal purpose in glory.

    Lord, come quickly!
     
  5. robt.k.fall

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    Thank you for your clarification. It is well to keep in mind "Missionary Baptists" of both the North and South met together in The General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States of America for Foreign Missions (aka the Triennial Convention) from 1814 until the withdrawal of the Southern associations in 1845.

    Have you read Francis Wayland's Notes on the Principles and Practices of Baptist Churches (1857)? If you haven't I heartily recommend it to you. Dr. Wayland (1796-1865)was a leading Northern Baptist. I would also recommend Hiscox's The New Directory for Baptist Churches. Wayland laid out the principle of a Baptist church cannot be represented in an outside body which would make a binding decision for it. That's why the bodies you refer to were organized on functional lines. While churches most certainly contributed to their support, the bodies were organizationally made up of like minded individuals not churches. Hiscox gives a snapshot of these organizations in the late 19th century.
     
    #5 robt.k.fall, Sep 17, 2013
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  6. thisnumbersdisconnected

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    Thanks, Robert, but I am aware of all these facts, and these authors. I was hoping to spark discussion, not seek guidance, but I appreciate it nonetheless.
     
  7. robt.k.fall

    robt.k.fall
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    It is a discussion. Others may not have your background. So, they need the further information. My bottom line is, The Southern Baptist Convention is not my mother convention. My home church is Hamilton Square Baptist Church of San Francisco, CA. HSBC was founded and organized in 1881 without any SBC influence whatsoever. In the following years, HSBC identified herself with the Northern Baptists. We left the NBC in 1948.
     
  8. thisnumbersdisconnected

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    I'd venture to say you have some very well-informed answers to my original questions, then. I'd enjoy reading them. :thumbsup:
     
  9. robt.k.fall

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    HSBC as a church does not belong to any association or convention. We do identify ourselves as an Fundamental Baptist church (viewing Independent as redundant when applied to Baptists). As individuals, our members fellowship with the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International.
     
  10. robt.k.fall

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    Did I adequately answer you questions?
     
  11. Mexdeaf

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    I speak as a "Johnny come lately" to the SBC, as I was saved, trained, sent and served as an "independent" Baptist for over 30 years before becoming involved with the SBC. I have to say it was NOT easy for me to move away from what I knew, because I had heard for so long how SBC churches were NOT "independent" churches, etc.

    Having now been involved in several facets of SBC ministry (pastor, BSM director, and church planter), I have found that SBC churches are, indeed, just as independent OR dependent as they choose to be upon/from the organizations that they choose to ally themselves with.

    Could the SBC do better? Sure. I think they have too many "layers" on the onion and there is too much duplication. It requires little effort to be accepted and to raise support as a church planter on the local level but to gain NAMB support requires one to jump through so many hoops it likely discourages some, especially those who are in non-traditional ministries as we are.

    But all in all, I could work in either group - the "indies" or the "denoms". Both have strong and weak points, and neither is perfect.
     
  12. thisnumbersdisconnected

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    Great post, Mex. That's what I'm looking for. I am considering a men's ministry affiliated through the Kansas-Nebraska Association, and was wondering what to expect in the way of cooperation. I don't need their funding. I can raise that myself, and incorporate as a 501(c)(3). I just wonder how supportive they will be of letting churches in the Association I am around, and if they will cooperate in introducing me to the Missouri Baptist Association down the road.
     
  13. Mexdeaf

    Mexdeaf
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    I'll just say this- the DOM is your best friend. :smilewinkgrin:
     
  14. DocTrinsoGrace

    DocTrinsoGrace
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    Just a quick aside, pastor... thank you for your tending and feeding of the flock. I pray that you will be able to give account to our Lord with joy, a la Hebrews 13:17. Thank you, also, sir for your post.
     
  15. robt.k.fall

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    From the last few replies, I am perceiving your question to be SBC centric. I initially assumed you were looking for input from those of us who have no relationship the SBC.
     

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