Vol.IV No.VI Pg.6
July 1967

"End Of Independence"

Robert F. Turner

I have long desired to compile information about the historic struggle for congregational independence among the denominations of the world, as well as among the Lord's people. Reading the history of James O'Kelley and the "Republican Methodists"; or the "Separatist" in Ireland; or of Scotch Baptists; one is frequently tempted to substitute current names and dates.

Every legitimate gain made for local autonomy has been made through proper use and application of the same scriptural principles "we" must use; and I am persuaded all lost independence follows the same ecclesiastical paths "our" liberal brethren followed in 1849, and follow today.



Contrary to the notions of most Baptists, there have always been strong centralizing tendencies among Baptists -- just as there have been among all the others. Which is another reminder that the human nature of a Baptist is the human nature of all the others.

In England in 1671 the General Baptists organized themselves into a General Assembly. They wanted a "strong government." The General Assembly did what you would expect such an ecclesiastical body to do; it exercised authority over churches, pastors, and church members. The General Assembly soon had two parties. In 1689 it divided. A new Assembly was formed, and by 1750 most of the General Baptists had become Unitarians. That was followed by shallow preaching and every form of worldliness. (Cf. "Short History of Baptists," by H. C. Vedder.) The first associational history published in America enumerated among the eight advantages of an association "a general union of the churches" and "The extirpation of heresy."

In 1832 the Dover Association in Virginia was having "delegates" instead of "messengers." "We, therefore, the assembled ministers and delegates of the Dover Association..." (Cf. "The Baptists of Virginia," by G. Ryland.)

We could go on indefinitely with such examples. The winds have always carried the seeds of ecclesiastical tares into Baptist fields. At times, as we have seen, they have come up and choked out the wheat of New Testament autonomy and independence. The phenomenal success of the Baptist people, especially Southern Baptists, in preserving New Testament freedom has been due to the fact they have had leaders who kept the tares cleared out of their fields. For example, in its great days the Southern Baptist Convention was constantly reminding the country that it was not a convention composed of "delegates" but a convention composed of "messengers."

But today all such leaders are viciously branded as "critics of our great denomination."


(From "End of Independence of Southern Baptist Convention Churches" (pg.11) by Noel Smith.)