The Southern Baptist Convention Was NOT Founded Just to Defend Slavery

True enough, ONE of its founding principles was to counteract the abolitionists in the North; but it has to be said, and it must be said, that the slavery issue was not the only issue at hand and under consideration.

The press seems to be making slavery the only concern which moved Baptists in the South in 1848 to establish their own Convention but of course there never are single reasons for anything.  Mind you, the defense of slavery was immoral.  It was wrong and it was wicked.  But it is historically dishonest to pretend that a bunch of backwoods racist hicks got together in order only to defend their right to own other human beings and hatched a denomination for that exclusive purpose (as the ignorant amongst the press seem to be implying).

Southern Baptists in Convention at the birth of their new denomination also desired, with all their hearts, to promulgate the Gospel, educate ministers, send missionaries, and coalesce in fellowship with persons of like mind who asserted the validity of believer’s baptism and the authority of Scripture for life and practice.

It is woefully tiresome to see the press parade half facts and semi-truths simply to make hay.  The press, and readers of news media, are morally obliged to get the whole story and not just the part which suits them.

The SBC has a past, we all admit that.  But our past isn’t all wickedness and racism.  We have done, and continue to do, marvelous things as the people of God, aided by his grace.  We live, we grow, we learn.  Can the press, can the media, say the same?  That same media which buries retractions on page 6b bottom corner where people are sure to overlook them…

18 thoughts on “The Southern Baptist Convention Was NOT Founded Just to Defend Slavery

  1. Thank goodness it was only ONE of the reasons. That settles everything! Move along, nothing to see here, just the use of the pulpit to support and encourage treating other humans as animal sub-humans. No sin in that, just good business sense down on the plantation, as long as you tithe to the church. As Rick Warren likes to say, as long as you tithe we don’t care where the money comes from! Thank goodness it has a solid base of pro-slavery theology and NOT sin like those rascal Episcopals. WWJD? The moral teeter- toter = treating those as sub-humans or recognizing gays as human begins? I’m sure WWJD always come down on the side of cruelty.

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    • nonsense. you fail to comprehend both history and reality. the world was a different place in 1848. stop trying to make those people into 20th century folk. and second, stop dragging homosexuality into every discussion. all the world isn’t about gay rights. are you incapable of discussing one thing or must everything involve gayness? if i discuss bread, will you want me to talk about gay rights and bread? get real.

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  2. The 20th Century Southern Baptists may not have owned slaves but many of its leaders ( Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Jesse Helms etc ) fought civil rights legislation in the US and supported apartheid in South Africa. Billy Graham decided not to preach to segregated audiences early in his career but I’m not sure how much he encouraged the integration of black and white churches and the BGEA continues to be a largely white male led ministry.

    In 1980 my UK Baptist Church hosted a young Southern Baptist pastor for 3 months. He came from a large Baptist Church in Dallas with very right wing views and I remember how shocked many of us were on his support of seperate Churches for seperate ethnic groups…….black, white, hispanic, vietnamese etc. I see that he is now a Professor of OT studies at the South Western Baptist Theological Seminary.

    However, in more recent years I have had contact with the International Baptist Church in Berlin where a Southern Baptist pastor leads a very interesting English speaking congregation drawn from every continent and ethnic group.

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      • Billy Graham and his wife were raised Presbyterian and when young attended First Presbyterian Church of Swannanoa (PCUSA). The Grahams chose to retire in Montreat, NC which is a Presyterian stronghold with over 100 retired ministers in Montreat and the nearby town of Black Mountain. I understand is is hard to fine a sunday school teacher for the adult/retired groups due to the intimidation factor. I have an understanding that the Grahams actually lived simply with the foundation run by Franklin controlling most of the assets. Mrs. Graham had stated a preference to be buried in the church cemetery in Swannanoa but upon her death her body was carted off to Charlotte to be the centerpiece of the Graham Library run by Franklin. My impression was that these were simple people placed on a national stage and did what they could while proving in their latter years that the son is not the father. After all what good Republican would not turn the death of their parents into a theme park.

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  3. As a Baptist who is not part of the SBC I read with amusement the writings of those who would villainize today’s members for things people who lived years ago stood for. The SBC apologized for that ago. And as for Falwell, Robertson, and Helmes, they too realized they were wrong and said so publicly. I guess if you ever once espoused something you must believe it the rest of your life. So much for President Obama’s evolving view of gays–he must believe what he did years ago since that’s what he said back then.
    Terry Reed
    Small Church Tools

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  4. Jim, I assure you not only am I already real I also understand history. Even in 1848 there were those who stood on the right side of history as well as the wrong side. While current Southern Baptists can not be held liable for their father’s sin I hope we can agree that slavery is and has always been a sin. I’m also sure that you as a student of history know that the reaction of the white Christian community after the two great slave revolts each of which were lead by black men who had been taught to read the Bible, was to withdraw the Word of God from slaves such that it was illegal to teach slaves to read and write, specifically the Bible theme of redemption from slavery.
    This is not to condemn current members of the Southern Baptist church but as they have a habit of stating and restating their purity of faith to the exclusion of all others, perhaps the acknowledgement of their foundation, even partially based on the sins of man, might approach others with a bit more modesty and introspection.
    Also it is hard to refute that hard core right wing racists and bigots tend to gravitate toward the SB perhaps for conversion by the fine preaching.

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    • your contempt of the sbc notwithstanding, right. so exactly how does your hatred of southern baptists (or more generally, theological conservatives) differentiate you from those who hated african americans and justified their enslavement?

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      • Jim, why in the world do you think I hate Southern Baptists? I was baptised in the First Baptist Church of Tullahoma, TN in 1963. I was a faithful RA. I don’t hate at all. How could any rational person claim to hate an entire group of people? After my wife and I had our son we moved to the Presbyterian church because we were tired of being yelled at. That is all. I sought to understand God’s purpose for me and to replace those years of fear with that purpose. I don’t hate them at all. I would just pray that their view of the world be more colored with a humble understanding of their past and the shameful things done to others in the past of us all. I do agree with you however that a logical outcome of hearing nothing but fear, hatred is a logical outcome. I was blessed to have dodged that bullet.

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        • my ability to read. since you wrote-

          This is not to condemn current members of the Southern Baptist church but as they have a habit of stating and restating their purity of faith to the exclusion of all others, perhaps the acknowledgement of their foundation, even partially based on the sins of man, might approach others with a bit more modesty and introspection. Also it is hard to refute that hard core right wing racists and bigots tend to gravitate toward the SB perhaps for conversion by the fine preaching.

          i’ve bold faced your hate-speech.

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  5. Jim, I don’t know what to say. You are the expert (no, seriously, I defer to your expertise, given you have lived as a Southern Baptist, and a damn good one at that, people like you cause me to respect Southern Baptists), but would you mind providing some source material for me to look at, since much that is out there is very confused concerning the formation of the SBC?

    Also, this type of rhetoric (that SBC was founded over the issue of slavery) sounds like it originates in the SAME camp that says the War of Northern Aggression was over the issue of slavery (it was about states’ rights). People are very narrow in their treatment of the South, and refusal to see the idiocy of the North. I am not trying to drag North-South into this thread, but I see echos of the same line of thinking in this line of reasoning.

    Appreciate any sources you could cite for those of us not raised in Baptist Traditions to help us understand US Baptist dynamics would be MOST appreciated.

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  6. by the way, if you want to know what baptists have believed and presently believe through our own ‘confessions’, i recommend you visit – http://theology.edu/QHPH/ and scroll down to the third entry, titled ‘Baptist Confessions…’ it’s quite good. 😉

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  7. Weren’t there other Baptist organizations which served “to promulgate the Gospel, educate ministers, send missionaries, and coalesce in fellowship with persons of like mind who asserted the validity of believer’s baptism and the authority of Scripture for life and practice”?

    Which matters relatively little, anyway. None of the founders of the SBC are still alive (physically) and the current SBC doesn’t endorse slavery, or even segregation.

    I’m not sure that I would invest a lot of time in trying to defend the SBC’s history, but it should be judged on what it’s doing now rather than its past.

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    • i’m not defending the indefensible. i’m suggesting that there is a skewed perception OF that past that needs to be corrected.

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  8. Frank

    I understood that Billy Graham was ordained as a Southern Baptist Minister although his wife remained Presbyterian. Ruth’s father Dr Lemuel Nelson Bell, who had a great influence on Billy, was extremely conservative both politically and theologically and not at all supportive of the aspirations of the civil rights movement in the US.

    I share your concern about Franklin Graham’s activities, including the use of Samaritan Purse funds for political purposes and wonder where he will take the BGEA in the future given his continuous anti-Obama rhetoric and support of some very dubious politicians including Sarah Palin and Donald Trump.

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