Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 16, 1956

Meeting With North Baton Rouge Church

W. Curtis Porter, Monette, Arkansas

From November 9 to 20 I assisted in a meeting with the North Baton Rouge church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This is a new. congregation that began a few months ago. The Gospel Advocate of December 1, 1955, carried a report from the elders of the Convention Street church stating that they had withdrawn fellowship from this new congregation as an "unscriptural group" and that one Buster Hall Davis, who came there from Little Rock, Arkansas, had led in the "unrighteous move" that established this congregation. It might be well, therefore, for some brethren to know something about this "unscriptural group."

For a long time a number of families in Baton Rouge had wanted to start a congregation in the northern part of the city, but Convention Street church kept putting them off as far as lending any encouragement to the idea. Baton Rouge is a city of 150,000 people. Except for a small colored congregation and one or two small anti-Bible class groups, Convention Street was the only other congregation in the city, and, of course, many sections of the city were not even being touched with the preaching of the gospel. Feeling the extreme need of other congregations, a few families who were members of the Convention Street church withdrew their membership from the Convention Street church to start a congregation in the north part of the city. Brother Davis, even before he moved from Little Rock to Baton Rouge, learned of the small number of congregations in the city, and decided to try to establish a congregation in some other part of the city for the sake of lost souls who were not being reached. This was the "unrighteous move" with which he was charged. The brethren who withdrew wrote the Convention Street elders a letter setting forth their purpose in starting a church in the northern part of the city. I have read the letter and do not see how anyone who is concerned about reaching lost souls could ask for anything more than was contained in the letter. But the elders were not willing for the congregation to be started and they withdrew fellowship (after the group had already severed their connection with Convention Street) because of "rebellion against the elders."

During my meeting there I was present in a meeting with representatives from both congregations in an effort to get difficulties adjusted and heard both sides of the story. The situation appeared to be simply this: Convention Street was in the midst of a drive to put on a big building program for a new church building and did not want to lose the financial support of the group who was starting the new congregation. But the group who had started the new congregation were more concerned about reaching people with the gospel than they were in erecting a building that was beyond the financial ability of the congregation. So their move was "unrighteous" and they were withdrawn from as an "unscriptural group."

To show the inconsistency of the thing, I might state that the day before my meeting closed one of the members of the Convention Street church died of a heart attack. The Convention Street church through their preacher contacted one of the leaders in the new congregation and asked him to take charge of the singing for the funeral service and to get the other singers from the North Baton Rouge church to help him with it. The new congregation, wishing to cooperate in every righteous way, conducted the singing as requested. So the Convention Street church could fellowship them in burying the dead but they could not fellowship them in saving the living, for when the funeral service was over the withdrawal of fellowship act became effective again.

I write this that justice might be rendered to the brethren of North Baton Rouge. They are a scriptural group, meeting in a scriptural way and carrying on a scriptural work and worship for the Lord. There is much leadership ability in the new congregation; both from the standpoint of singing and teaching, and their influence will be felt in the north part of the city. I predict for them a thriving congregation within a reasonably short time. A dozen other congregations are needed in the city. But it was stated in the meeting mentioned above that no one would have a right to come into the city of Baton Rouge and start a congregation in any part of the city without first going to the elders of the Convention Street church and getting their consent. I wonder if this would constitute a diocesan eldership.