Southern Baptist Polity In 1948

Discussion in 'Baptist History' started by West Kentucky Baptist, May 19, 2012.

  1. West Kentucky Baptist

    West Kentucky Baptist
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    This article shows the doctrinal beliefs and practices of Southern Baptists back in 1948. While our beliefs are not based on history, it is interesting to see what our forefathers believed about these things.

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    [The following is clipped from the Illinois Baptist. The author, Rev. Kenneth K. Marshall of Carbondale, Illinois, states: "I have authentic evidence to support every statement in this article, and take complete responsibility."]

    ON FEBRUARY 14, 1948, I sent a letter to each secretary of every state convention affiliated with both the Northern and the Southern Baptist Conventions asking them about the practice of the churches in their state concerning alien immersion and open communion. The result of this survey is tabulated below.

    Those churches which include people of other denominations other than Baptists in observing the Lord's Supper are classified as "open communion." Those churches which will receive the immersions of Pedo-Baptists and Disciples as baptism are classified as "alien immersion." Those churches that will receive members from other denominations into full membership are known as "open membership," and those that will receive sprinkled persons from other denominations into membership with slight restrictions as to voting on certain issues are known as "associate membership." Not every state answered my letter, but those that did are as follows:

    Southern Baptist Convention

    The results of the survey showing the presence of open communion and alien immersion in the Southern Baptist Convention are as follows:

    Open Communion, Alien Immersion

    Alabama Slightly more than 2%, About 2%
    Arizona None, None
    Arkansas None, None
    California None, None
    District of Columbia 1/3, Several
    Florida About 2%, About 2%
    Georgia A few, A few
    Illinois None that directly, A few will receive teach open communion baptism of apostate Baptist Churches
    Kentucky Not more than 6, Not more than 6
    Louisiana None, None
    Maryland Almost all, All
    Mississippi None None
    Missouri About 1/2 About 1/2
    North Carolina 5% practice outright Many, if not a open communion, and majority many more have no practical restrictions
    New Mexico None, None
    Oklahoma None, None
    South Carolina None, None
    Tennessee None, None
    Texas None, None
    Virginia Almost all, Almost all

    It can be readily seen from this survey that about 95 per cent of the Southern Baptist churches practice restricted communion and are anti-alien immersionists. There are, however, slight traces of liberalism in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. The State of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri and the District of Columbia seem to have a larger measure of liberalism. Maryland and Virginia seem to be almost entirely liberal.

    Needless to say, this tendency toward alien immersion and open communion is an innovation among Southern Baptists. These things were almost unknown in Southern Baptist circles a generation ago. According to a well-known official of one of our boards, this leaven of liberalism was introduced by graduates of Northern Baptist or other liberal seminaries that have come to pastor our churches, especially in Virginia and Maryland.

    Alien immersion and open communion are the first steps toward more and more liberalism. If this tendency is not arrested, it will not be many years until the Southern Convention will be permeated.

    [From the Western Recorder, August 12, 1948, pages 5 and 13
     
  2. saturneptune

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    I have been in West Kentucky a long time. I see no connection between alien Baptism and open communion. Our local church, going way back past 1948 practiced and still practices believer's Baptism by immersion, as a sign of salvation in Jesus Christ. At the same time, our church has always practiced open communion.

    Also, open or closed communion is a decision of the local church. It has nothing to do with the demise or lack thereof of the SBC. I believe they are alive and well today. The standard of conduct for the local church is the Bible, not a collection of myths thought up by various church members fifty years ago.

    If this is one of "the good old days" threads, that is also a myth. Our minutes reflect a couple was disfellowshipped in the 20s for dancing with each other. They were husband and wife. What a bunch of baloney. Our church should have hung its head in shame.

    What keeps local churchs and the SBC vital and growing is following the Lord, and the Bible, not listening to a bunch of garbage for the early 20th century.
     
  3. Tom Butler

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    The church saturneptune and I serve is sort of a mixed bag. To my knowledge it has never accepted "alien immersion" or sprinkling as valid baptism and has never admitted anyone to membership without dunking them or who had not been immersed in a Baptist church or a church of like faith and order.

    The Lord Supper, on the other hand, is a different story. We really don't have an official policy, but if we're open communion, it's simply because we don't question anyone who takes it when it's served.

    If you were to question most of our members, I think we'd find that most of them are "close" communionists--that is, Baptists only.

    Personally, I'm a "closed" communionist (members only), but the church has decided not to make an issue of it (and so have I).

    It's just my opinion, but one of the reasons we don't argue over the Lord's table is that we went through some conflict 30 years ago, and the older members in our church want no part of another church fight.
     
    #3 Tom Butler, May 19, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: May 19, 2012
  4. saturneptune

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    In full agreement with Tom. Unlike the original post that pictures the demise of local churches due to alien Baptism and open communion, one has not happened, and the other has made no difference one way or the other.

    Several years ago, at our ordination service for deacon, a pastor spoke who talked about avoiding presenting problems that do not really exist. That has stuck with me. For example, there is no need to pound the podium week after week about abortion in church when 100% of the church is against abortion. Or why give sermon after sermon about some aspect of the Catholic Church that we do not agree with, when everyone sitting there is Baptist. Even if there was a Catholic sitting there, I doubt a sermon like that would move them to become Baptist after listening to a half hour of insults. The time at the podium could be much better spent telling about the Gospel and edifying members of the church.

    I am going to guess a closed communion resolution in our church now would be voted down, depending on who showed up for the given meeting. However, as Tom said, it is not an issue that is a battle worth fighting about. If the church tomorrow voted closed communion, I would have two choices, to join the will of the church in peace, or go somewhere else. Staying and causing problems is never an option. All differences should be discussed before the vote. In my particular case, it the church voted closed, I would not break fellowship and would stay. Tom would do the same thing regardless of the vote. Baptism has never been an issue at our church. I would be more likely to fight for keeping immersion in lieu of alien baptism than I would be a fight over communion.

    Church fights over frivilous issues are very destructive to the work of the Lord.
     
  5. gb93433

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    That would have put Spurgeon as one of the leading liberals.
     
  6. Jerome

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    And we discussed in another thread how the first Southern Baptist Convention in 1845 spanned over a Sunday, when the messengers/Founders dispersed among Augusta's churches (including other denominations!) to worship. Founding SBC President Johnson himself recounted to the Convention his celebrating the Lord's Supper at First Baptist of Augusta, where he of course was not a member. This predates the OP's 'our Baptist forefathers of 1948' survey by more than a century. And is hardly in keeping with the Landmarkist dogma/innovation.
     
  7. West Kentucky Baptist

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    Jerome,

    You are confusing closed and close communion. The 1948 survey asked for the combined number of closed communion AND close communion Southern Baptist churches in each state as opposed to open communion.

    Here are definitions:
    Closed = only the members of that particular Baptist church
    Close = Either only immersed believers or only immersed believers of like faith and order.
    Open = Any believer or anyone who wants to partake.

    Many Landmarkers like B.H. Carroll and J.M. Pendleton defended close communion while others like J.R. Graves and H. Boyce Taylor defended closed communion.

    The 1845 example you sight is an instance of close communion. The Lord's Supper was served by a local church and visitors were able to participate at the invitation of that local church.
     
  8. West Kentucky Baptist

    West Kentucky Baptist
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    This survey was written in 1948. The author contacted the state convention secretaries (who would be in a position to know) to find out about the doctrinal practices of the Southern Baptist churches in their particular state. So the numbers are very accurate.

    The article also warns of how open communion and alien immersion lead to further liberalism. This happen in both England and the old Northern Baptist Convention. In both instances many churches moved from open communion and alien immersion to open membership. This is beginning to happen in the south. Many CBF churches have open membership. (Meaning they accept non-immersed believers as church members) This is also beginning to happen with conservative Baptist churches such as John Piper's church and Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma.

    Lastly the author puts open communion and alien immersion together. Typically churches that oppose one will oppose the other. There are some exceptions to this. East Baptist in Paducah is one such exception. They used to practice closed communion. Strong Landmarkers like John T. Odle, Wendell Rone, and Harold Cathy all pastored there in the past.
     
  9. Tom Butler

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    I knew all of those men and they are giants of the faith to me. I share most of their views.

    I want to clarify something. Our church does not overtly invite anyone to participate in the Lord's Supper. Neither does it refuse to serve the elements to anyone who will take them. I do see a slight distinction between inviting and not refusing.

    Folks, I saw our church torn apart over the issue of relocation a quarter-century ago. I vowed I'd never be part of another church fight unless it involved heresy or flagrant behavior. That's why many of us just do not want to fight over this question.

    Today, I suspect I am one of the few closed communion people in my church. I'm guessing most would be "close" communion, and a number of "open" folks.

    When you've been through church conflict, you'll be pretty discriminating about the issues you want to have a debate over.
     
  10. saturneptune

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    Tom has been a major calming and unifying influence for at least the last 35 years. He provides good cousel and advice.
     
  11. saturneptune

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    This is why I am not understanding your points. All three of these individuals have been pastor of our church in the past. I have met two of them, and extensively studied the third for a Homecoming Day we had some time back. Open communion and alien baptism have no direct relationship. None. Our church functioned pretty much like it is today during their terms of office.

    Another correction. Open communion is not anyone partaking. It is a believer in the death, burial, and Ressurection of Jesus Christ. You make it sound like there are no standards. The first question I would ask you is how does allowing a member on the rolls of a local church participate in closed communion who has not darkened the door for decades create a conservative atmosphere within the local church that ensures its continued growth.

    Another final point. A sign that the two ordinances are not related are that while we would not debate communion, I have a feeling there would be major opposition to the other position you talk about, alien baptism.
     
  12. Tom Butler

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    Where one comes out on the extent of the Lord's Table depends on where he goes in.

    I hold that the Lord's Supper is a church ordinance. That we observe it as a congregation. And the congregation is charged with guarding its integrity. That's why I'm a closed communionist.

    Others see it as a Christian ordinance. That's why they're quite comfortable welcoming any professing believer to the Lord's table.

    So we're never going to resolve the question of open, close, closed until we come to some agreement on which type of ordinance it is.

    From my viewpoint, the Christian ordinance view (and open communion) is a lot more risky than the others, because it opens the Lord's table to unbaptized people, people who have been disfelloweshipped from another church, or people who are living in flagrant sin. The integrity or the ordinances is closely related to church discipline.

    It allows churches to disregard Paul's admonition to guard the ordinances and by extension could make those churches indirectly responsible for some taking the LS in an unworthy manner (and dying as a result).
     
  13. Tom Butler

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    I want to be sure that readers understand that I am not trying to minimize the concerns expressed by West Kentucky Baptist. They are real. Already, some churches in our area have started accepting non-Baptist baptism as valid. In other words, they are admitting to membership those from other denominations without re-baptizing.

    Those churches have left their associations because of it (or were pushed out), and West Kentucky Baptist can shed more light because they're right in his back yard.

    Although the church saturneptune and I serve is somewhat soft on the Lord's table, it is definitely not soft on the baptism question. And I certainly think some vigilance is necessary, since the 1948 survey does in fact show some connection between open communion and alien immersion.
     
  14. Tom Butler

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    Implicit in the subject we've been discussing is whether it's an issue worth breaking fellowship over?

    I've already mentioned that as a "closed" kind of guy, I'm probably in a minority in my congregation. So that begs the question, is this the kind of issue that would cause you to leave for another church?

    In this case, my answer is no.

    However, alien baptism (of whatever mode)is another kettle of fish entirely. That would be a test of fellowship for me. I could not vote to accept for membership someone whose baptism is other than immersion. I could not vote to accept immersion by another faith group that was non-Baptist or not of like faith and order.

    And I could not remain as a member of a church which did.
     
  15. Tom Butler

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    In addition to one's view on whether the ordinances are Church ordinances or Christian ordinances, one's view of what a church is also drives one's position.

    I have very strong views about the local church. It is the local congregation which Jesus created and built during his earthly ministry. It is the local congregation for whom Jesus shed his blood. It is the local congregation to which He gave his Commission. It is the local congregation which is uniquely equipped to carry out that Commission. It was a local congregation which the Holy Spirit empowered on the day of Pentecost. It was local congregations to whom Paul wrote most of his letters, giving instructions and correction.

    Now you can see why I hold that the ordinances are church ordinances. And that explains why I'm a "closed" kind of guy.
     
    #15 Tom Butler, May 21, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: May 21, 2012
  16. saturneptune

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    Tom and I have a very strong Christian bond. Our views on the local church and baptism are the same. I will say something else about baptism. Tom is right. It would be an issue that would cause a heated debate, and some to leave. Besides mode, there is also no tolerance for churches that do immerse but use it as a requirement for salvation.

    We agree also that the local church is the authority for administering the ordinances. However, each local church has the right to set what type of communion. My view on this has moved towards Tom's over the years, now probably more towards close, but would not refuse someone without a church vote on the matter. My view or vote on such an issue would not make much of a difference in a final vote, as most would still vote it down.

    My one remaining problem with this type of thinking is exclusion instead of inclusion, especially the way most local churches ignore church discipline, and allow obviously lost people to remain on their rolls. That makes a mockery of the Lord's Supper to allow them to remain eligible, and thus weakens the local church.

    If I am ever in a church where communion comes to a vote, I would state my opinion before the vote, then abide by the will of the church. I either live with it, or move on. Staying after a vote and cause disunity is not an option. In the case of this issue, I would stay even if the vote went against me.
     
  17. West Kentucky Baptist

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    I didn't mean for this post to be a personal discussion of Tom Butler and Saturneptune's home church. I don't want to comment on that particular church

    I do however still content that open communion leads to further liberalism. Often this liberalism is ecclesiastical liberalism. Open communion Baptist churches usually do no believe in Baptist perpetuity. They almost always emphasis the universal church over the local church. And they often pratice pulpit affiliation and ecumentalism. In short open communion leads to a Protestant identity while closed / close communion tends to a Baptist identity. I could give multitudes of examples of this church.

    By the way, Judson Taylor, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Clinton, Fulton, and Murray, Kentucky in the 19th century wrote a good article on this subject. It is called "The Evils of Religious Liberalism" and deals with church truth.

    It is at: http://baptisthistoryhomepage.com/hall.memoirs.chapter5.html
     
  18. Salty

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    Actually, it has been interesting as we see how two brothers have some different views but are in total Christian fellowship within their local church.

    I would disagree. I have been a member of over 20 churches (due to my military moves, ect) and I have always been in conservative churches - and though we accept the universal church concept, in no way has it ever usurped the emphasis or importance of the local church.
    Just curious, what led to your conclusion?

    Again I have not seen this happen


    I am more concerned with BIBLE identity

    Please do
     
  19. Tom Butler

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    I certainly don't want to give the impression that I disagree with your general premise. I just wanted to provide an example of the exception to the rule.

    Even then, down the road a few years there may arise a generation who "knew not Joseph," so to speak, and there is a real danger that your premise could be fulfilled in SN's and my church.

    A church does not go from conservative to liberal overnight.
     
  20. Squire Robertsson

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    As a Historic Northern Baptist, I see one flaw in the 1948 survey cited in the OP. The survey's author said
    However, by 1948, the Fundamentalists\Conservatives (except for the Minnesota State Convention under Richard Clearwaters) had left the convention. And the Minnesota Baptist Convention had left the national organization around the same time.

    Churches affiliated with the General Association of Regular Baptists Churches left in the NBC beginning in 1923 with the formation of the Baptist Bible Union with the GARBC being daughtered in 1932.

    1948 also saw the birth of the Conservative Baptist Association.

    In other words, by 1948, the replies from the NBC sources would represent at the very least a compromised Neo-Evangelical viewpoint.
     
    #20 Squire Robertsson, May 23, 2012
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