Sunday, May 06, 2018

Happy 180th

Old North Baptist Church was organized this day 180 years ago, May 6, 2018. “At a meeting at Liberty School House on Sunday, May 6, 1838, the church was officially organized when ministers Isaac Reed and Robert G. Green preached and invited people with church letters who wanted to constitute a church to come forward. John and Betsy Eaton, Charles Whitaker, Sarah Tipps, Mary Crain, Emily Knight, Ruth Anderson, and Anthony and Chancy, the last two slaves, came forward.” It was organized as Union Baptist Church, but eventually became known as Old North. The claim on Handbook of Texas (and Texas Day by Day) that “It was originally called Union Baptist Church because settlers from various religious denominations made up the first congregation” is incorrect at worst and misleading at best. While other denominations may have used the building to worship or attended the services of the Union Baptist Church, the congregation membership itself was made up of Baptists only.

Old North is considered the oldest active missionary Baptist Church in Texas (it is part of the Southern Baptist Convention) -- but it was not organized as missionary Baptist -- both Isaac Reed and R. G. Green, while not as far right as Daniel Parker, were opposed to mission boards and missionary societies.

A Brief History of Union Baptist Church (Old North Church)

Corinth The Corinth Primitive Baptist Church at Appleby also claims the 1838 organization date of Union Baptist Church. They are an iteration of a minority split of the Union Baptist Church back in the 1850s. Since the people who stayed at Old North were the majority, they kept the name, church book, etc., but in some ways the Corinth church is more like the original church of Reed and Green than the present Southern Baptist Church. Both churches share the same early history.

Johnson Chapel According to tradition, the Johnson Chapel Missionary Baptist Church was formed by former slaves who were members of Union/Old North. “In 1873, Erasmus Johnson founded the Johnson Chapel Baptist Church in the North Redland community of Mahl. The congregation worshipped in a house in the community until 1924 when a church building was constructed. Erasmus Johnson, called “Ras”, was born a slave in Georgia in 1820. When he was 13 years old, he was sold to the Johnson family and was brought to Texas. Ras Johnson married Mary Hill in 1867 and they were the parents of twelve children.”

According to Z. N. Morrell in Flowers and Fruits from the Wilderness: “Elder Reed, the pastor of this little flock, although full of the mission spirit, was opposed to boards and missionary societies, and the church, called Union, was at first opposed to missions...Reed, and those who acted with him, violently opposed all mission organizations.”

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