self/mother constituted...some considerations

Discussion in 'Baptist History' started by Frogman, May 18, 2003.

  1. Frogman

    Frogman
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    Shubal Stearns died on November 20, 1771, at the age of sixty-five. He served the Sandy
    Creek Baptist Church as Pastor for sixteen years. Stearns and his church influenced many lives
    as it became "mother, grand-mother, and great Grandmother to 42 churches, from which sprang
    125 ministers, many of which are ordained and support the sacred character as well as any sett
    [sic] of clergy in America . . ."58

    Taken from:

    Frontier Thunder: Principles Of Evangelism And Church Growth
    From The Life Of Shubal Stearns
    by
    Larry S. McDonald, D.Min., Ph.D. Candidate
    Adjunctive Instructor of Evangelism and Pastoral Ministry
    Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
    August 2000

    Frontier Thunder: Principles Of Evangelism And Church Growth

    Link: http://thebaptistpage.com/history/Stearns.pdf

    It is supposed that Matt. 18.20 constitutes an authority for churches to ‘self-constitute’. In this assumption, it is often said that the Sandy Creek Church is an excellent example, that if ‘self-constitution’ is denied, then would ultimately unchurch many churches in the U.S. This would seem to be the case, yet we see that Sandy Creek is considered the ‘mother, grandmother and even great-Grandmother of these churches. Why, or how does one consider that a ‘mother-less’ church is constituted then is able to ‘impose’ upon others a ‘mother’ relationship?

    Another point from the article:

    Stearns led one of the early Baptist groups settling into Virginia and North Carolina. This
    group, the Separates, became the most important of the area’s Baptist assemblies. In fact, Sandy
    Creek Baptist Church, founded by Stearns, has been designated the mother of all Separate
    Baptists. Some Southern Baptists see it as the mother of Southern
    Baptist churches. (1)

    In addition, these New Light churches experienced a
    controversy over infant baptism. Wait Palmer, the New Light
    pastor of the Baptist church in North Stonington, Connecticut,
    may have been the first to challenge Stearns on the issue of
    infant baptism versus believer’s baptism. After a thorough study
    of the Bible, Stearns declared himself a Baptist and received
    baptism from Palmer on May 20, 1751 in Tolland. Ordained by
    Palmer and Joshua Morse, Stearns became the pastor of a new
    Baptist church in Tolland where he served for approximately three
    years. (5)

    Stearns’ innovations may have led
    to the earliest record of a public invitation in American church
    history. (9)

    What are your thoughts? Isn’t it odd that the Sandy Creek Church is 'self-constituted' but is the 'mother' of so many others?

    Some more considerations:

    Unanimity in all decisions characterized the early Sandy Creek Baptist Association. In
    1770 the associational proceedings were blocked due to lack of unanimity. Lack of agreement (14) existed on the issue of associational authority, especially in disciplining churches and ordaining
    pastors. Stearns also may have held too strong of control. (15).

    Just some of my own thoughts on the topic of ‘mother-daughter’/ ‘self-constituted’ churches.

    God Bless.
    Bro. Dallas Eaton
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Squire Robertsson

    Squire Robertsson
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    My own home church in San Francisco was "self-constituted" in 1881. Though there were other churchs in the City at the time, none saw the need for a church on the then western fringe of San Francisco. So, the brethren involved held an organizational meeting adopting a statement of purpose and later hosted a recognition council of sister churchs in the area.
     
  3. rsr

    rsr
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    My current church was "self-constituted" in 1901, shortly after the area was opened to settlement.

    Since then it has been "mother" to at least three other churches that I can think of.
     
  4. Frogman

    Frogman
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    I am not sure, but I believe Grider Memorial was probably self-constituted.

    I do know that they separated from Glasgow Baptist because of that church 'calling' a seminary trained man. This, IMO, would not have been considered by Glasgow Baptist grounds to extend to them the relationship of the 'mother-daughter.'

    Then, as I am able to gather, Grider did gain organization through Mt. Tabor and later joined the Liberty Association.

    These are some things I have been able to learn by word of mouth. Our church history has been written by our late clerk brother Dale Rigdon. These notes are loaned to someone now, whenever it is possible that I review them maybe I will be able to clarify what I have said concerning Grider.

    (Maybe they don't want me to read them because it does seem that Grider was self constituted :D )

    But whether they would agree with this or not I do not know, if when Grider separated from Glasgow they believed they had grounds, then it would have been Glasgow at least in their understanding that was 'unchurched.'

    I do see how and why this is a touchy subject. But it is one that I enjoy studying, thanks for the discussion thus far.

    God Bless.
    Bro. Dallas Eaton [​IMG]
     
  5. rsr

    rsr
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    I think your analysis is correct; separation or splitting would likely not promote a mother-daughter relationship.

    The three I mentioned above were all begun expressly as mission churches to serve new areas of town. Two of them still use the original church's name, with a geographic designator, even though they are fully autonomous.
     
  6. R. Charles Blair

    R. Charles Blair
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    Let's suppose, for discussion, that "self-constitution" may produce a valid congregation of NT believers. (This would still require that those so constituting have valid baptism first, I assume?) If we grant that premise, does it necessarily follow that this is the only, or proper, or "regular" way to begin churches?

    An analogy: is a person born out of wedlock still a person? Have some churches "given birth" without intending to do so? Is this the BEST way to have people, or to start churches? And would it necessarily follow that congregations with "mother churches" which started as "missions" were NOT churches? While we should recognize persons born under unusual circumstances as human beings (Jephthah, Judges 11:1), with full human rights, isn't it better to have familiesand continuity?

    Someone feel free to add a few thoughts?

    R. Charles Blair - Ro. 8:28
     
  7. Frogman

    Frogman
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    I agree with you fully here. The question is then, where a church is founded as a result of separating from what would ideally be the 'mother' church. This is how I understand the history of Grider. The church constituted by separation certainly is not recognized by the other church.

    The hope is that the church being separated from has fallen into error and refused to repent. I am trying to learn the history of my church (Grider Memorial). It seems Grider was started as a result of some separating from Glasgow Baptist when they called as pastor a man having a 'seminary' training. Grider was then recognized by other local churches when they were received into the Liberty Association. (All this is what I have been able to gather, I have not yet read anything from source materials etc.).

    I do know that Grider was in association with these other local churches when they separated from the Green River Assoc. and formed the Liberty.

    While I have not read the history of all churches and while many perhaps have not been 'officially' recognized by association with sister churches of like faith, from what I read of the Sandy Creek church (which I posted) seems to show they did receive letters, that they were not wholly constituted apart from any other association with any other church.

    Many who uphold that only 'self-constituted' churches are Scripturally organized point to Sandy Creek and all the churches that would be 'unchurched' if we do not accept this view. I do not think Sandy Creek as it were was wholly 'self-constituted.'

    Bro. Dallas Eaton
     
  8. Jeff Weaver

    Jeff Weaver
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    Bro. Dallas

    I would not assume that Sandy Creek was self-constituted, just because there was no official "arm" given from an older church. I know of several cases where individuals had moved from easy access to the church to which they belonged, who got together with others in a like situation, and asked for letters of dismission to form a new church. However, these folks would have called a presbytery to examine the church, help with a constitution, articles of faith, etc. In the case of Sandy Creek, it was organized by people who had migrated to what was then the western frontier. The folks at the appointed time showed up with their letters of dismission, found some ordained authority to constitute a presbytery and went forward. Perfectly orthodox in my understanding.

    Jeff.
     
  9. Frogman

    Frogman
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    Thanks Bro. Jeff,

    That is what I was trying to say. I have seen some writings claiming Sandy Creek as a 'self-constituted' church. I was trying, though maybe unsuccessfully, that in my understanding they were not.

    God Bless.
    Bro. Dallas Eaton
     
  10. Squire Robertsson

    Squire Robertsson
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    What is forgotten with today's modern easy communication is that in earlier times letters of dismissal(transfer) were given to members in good standing when they left the immediate area. As in the case of my home church, the folks doing the organizing were members in good standing of the pre-existing churchs (so they used the familiar to us letters of transfer). These churchs however were unwilling to step out and formally set up a daughter congregation. The only major difference between the new church and the older ones (other than location) was the matter of pew rents. The new church quite pointedly took a stand against the practice.
     

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