Monday, October 23, 2006

Missionary Baptists and Primitive Baptists meet

No, it didn't happen this weekend, but on October 23rd, 138 years ago.

When the Mt. Zion (Missionary) Baptist Association met at Beulah Church in Rusk County, Texas in September of 1868, the following resolution was offered by Elder John Sparkman and adopted by the association: "Resolved, That a committee of seven be appointed by this body to meet with a like number to be appointed by the Little Hope Association, for the purpose of adjusting all difference between what is known as Missionary and Primitive Baptists, in order to their union; said committees to meet at Holly Spring Church, Rusk county, on Friday before the 4th Sabbath in October 1868; and that said committee be, and is hereby, required to report the result of their conference to this body at its next annual meeting,and the various churches comprising the same." The committee: Elder John Sparkman, Elder William Sparkman, W. H. Cooper, A. J. Welch, Elder R. M. Humphrey, Elder W. H. H. Hays, and G. W. Butts. Alternates: Elder Ben Griffin, G. W. Harris, W. Lassiter. [Mt. Zion minutes, Sept. 1868, p. 2]

When the association met at New Salem Church, Rusk County, Texas in 1869, the following was reported: "Your Committee appointed at your session in 1868, to meet a like Committee from the Little Hope Association of Primitive Baptists, attended as directed. The Little Hope Association failed to meet us by Committee, but several of its members being present, organized themselves into a Committee with which we consulted and unanimously adopted the following: We believe and agree that a gospel church is the highest ecclesiastical authority on earth. That each church is an independent body, not amenable to Associations, Conventions, Conferences, Presbyteries, Synods, general Assemblies, Elders, Bishops, Priests, Popes, Kings or any or all the Organizations, Institutions, or Combinations of men on earth; she is subject only to Christ, who alone is lawgiver in Zion. That church members are equals and fellow-citizens, and all contributions for the maintenance of the church, or support of the ministry, must be voluntary, as each member purposeth in his own heart." Mt. Zion: Elder G. W. Rogers, Elder John Sparkman, A.J. Welch; Little Hope: Elder Thos. Brittain, Elder J. M. Roquemore, B. H. Barton [Mt. Zion minutes, 1869, p. 4]

Note: At the 1869 Mt. Zion meeting, Primitive Baptist Elder Thomas Brittain preached the introductory sermon from Eph. 4:1-8 (Minutes, p. 1), was among those invited to seats as a visiting minister of like faith and order, preached at 10 a.m. on Saturday (p. 1), and preached following William McCollough on Monday (p. 2). I have not found the relevant minutes of the Little Hope Primitive Baptist Association to see if it is addressed in them. Perhaps Elders Sparkman and Brittain were the driving forces behind this attempt at union. Elder Brittain only of the Little Hope Association attended the Mt. Zion Association. He also attended a conference of the old Union Church in Nacogdoches, where Elder Sparkman was pastor. They both preached, presented the resolution to Union Church, and Union Church adopted it. Evidently nothing much else ever came from it. The Bethlehem (Missionary) Baptist Association, further south in the Jasper, Tyler, Polk Counties areas also elected messengers to attend the October 1868 meeting in Rusk County, but I do have enough information to know whether they did.

This may seem strange to us, but realize this was only about 50 years after Daniel Parker, John Taylor and others had drawn the sword against Mission Boards, et al., and less than 40 years since the main splitting occurred. If you didn't know a particular church favored missionary methods or were opposed to them, you probably could attend an 1868 Texas Missionary Baptist and Primitive Baptist church and not tell that much difference from one to the other -- quite unlike today.

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