Pilgrims through the years: the bicentennial of First Baptist Church, Savannah, Georgia: an overview.Christian in commitment, Baptist by choice, Southern Baptist Noun 1. Southern Baptist - a member of the Southern Baptist Convention
Southern Baptist Convention - an association of Southern Baptists
Baptist - follower of Baptistic doctrines through historical circumstances, First Baptist Church First Baptist Church may refer to many churches: Canada
The congregation under consideration is only one of over 2 million Christian congregations with over 1.5 billion members in over 20,000 denominations worldwide. Though Baptist, the congregation is associated with only one of over fifty different Baptist denominations in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. , for the Baptist family within the Protestant movement of the Christian tradition Christian traditions are traditions of practice or belief associated with Christianity.
The term has several connected meanings. In terms of belief, traditions are generally stories or history that are or were widely accepted without being part of Christian doctrine. is probably more fractured than any other. Martin Luther's major principles of the priesthood of every believer and sola so·la 1
A plural of solum. scriptura were wonderfully evangelical, but from a practical standpoint they opened up Pandora's box Pandora’s box
contained all evils; opened up, evils escape to afflict world. [Rom. Myth.: Brewer Dictionary, 799]
See : Evil of almost endless fragmentation. This openness to the judging and renewing hand of God led to a plethora of interpretations as to the essence of Christian faith and practice. (2) In the seventeenth century, as Baptists appeared on the religious scene, these two principles of Luther saw the addition of several other radical for-their-time views by this "modernist" left-wing tradition. They included the concepts of the separation of church and state
Religious Scene in Georgia
Georgia itself was a Johnny-come-lately colony. On February, 12, 1733, a "town" of four tents marked the beginning of the colony and Savannah Savannah, city, United States
Savannah, city (1990 pop. 137,560), seat of Chatham co., SE Ga., a port of entry on the Savannah River near its mouth; inc. 1789. itself. (4) A sprinkling of Baptists were among these first residents of this "sickly hole in the woods," but it was not even until 1771 or 1772 that the first Baptist church was founded in the colony, the Kiokee Baptist Church now located near Appling in Columbia County Columbia County is the name of eight counties in the United States:
Movement toward unity or cooperation among the Christian churches. The first major step in the direction of ecumenism was the International Missionary Conference of 1910, a gathering of Protestants. marked the religious communities--that which unites rather than that which divides was the major experience. (5)
By 1790, the city had granted specific lots to the Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Jews, and Baptists. By 1795, the "Calvinistic Baptist Noun 1. Calvinistic Baptist - group of Baptist congregations believing the teachings of the French theologian John Calvin who believed in strict predetermination
Baptist denomination - group of Baptist congregations Society" had a lot on the corner of Bryan and Montgomery Streets, facing Franklin Square Franklin Square, uninc. city (1990 pop. 28,205), Nassau co., SE N.Y., on Long Island. Although it is chiefly residential, there is significant manufacturing, including fire extinguishers, dye castings, electrical machinery, and lighting fixtures. . During the year, though there was no officially constituted church, the Baptists erected a frame building of some fifty by sixty feet on the northwest corner of Franklin Square. In late 1796, after a vicious fire had burned a number of churches, the Baptists began to share their structure with kindred Calvinists--the Presbyterians. In 1799, these Presbyterians called as their "supply minister" the Reverend Henry Holcombe, a Baptist. When the Presbyterians moved to their new structure in 1800, the Baptists fortunately had a resident minister available if they so chose, and they did. Ecumenism marked the beginning of Baptist life in Savannah and would be warp and woof warp and woof
The underlying structure on which something is built; a base or foundation: "profound dislocations throughout the entire warp and woof of the American economy" David A. of the experience of First Baptist Church throughout its future history. From the start, these Baptists committed themselves to the principle of "engaged fallibilistic pluralism." (6)
Baptists in Savannah were indeed fortunate to have such a capable first pastor as this hulk of a man, Henry Holcombe. After last building touches, the structure on Franklin Square was dedicated on April 17, 1800, though the church was not formally constituted until November 26, 1800. Five males and eleven females became "church" in Savannah in an official way on this late day in November 1800. The legal Charter of Incorporation was not granted until December 10, 1801, and listed ten males as the applicants. The Baptist Church in Savannah was given legal sanction by this civil document signed by the governor of the state of Georgia, Josiah Tattnall This article is about the United States Naval Officer. For his father, the former U.S. Senator and Governor of Georgia, see Josiah Tattnall (Senator).
Commodore Josiah Tattnall, Jr. Jr. (7)
Holcombe's interests ranged widely (8) as he set precedents in relation to commitments of this church which would continue to the present time. He made major contributions to Savannah and the entire state in education, social reform, Baptist interdenominational in·ter·de·nom·i·na·tion·al
Of or involving different religious denominations.
among or involving more than one denomination of the Christian Church
Adj. cooperation, and journalism. Indeed, by 1807, he was requesting relief from some of his burdens that he might be allowed "to give his exclusive attention to the appropriate duties of his office, as preaching the Word and administering the ordinance of Christ; the exercise of Gospel discipline, and visiting my Christian friends whenever sent for as their minister." This self-educated pastor must have blushed as he read Savannah's dismissal letter for him to Philadelphia's First Baptist Church in 1811: "Meek and humble, benevolent and humane, fervent in prayer ... singular talents, gifts, and graces ... valuable, rare, and singular character." (9) In place in Philadelphia by early 1812, Holcombe served this 1,100-member church until his death in 1824. Though certainly no saint, Holcombe was a godsend god·send
Something wanted or needed that comes or happens unexpectedly.
[Alteration of Middle English goddes sand, God's message : goddes, genitive of God, God as the first pastor of those who called themselves Baptist in the young frontier town of Savannah.
William Bullein Johnson
If any Baptist figure of the nineteenth century has been beatified be·at·i·fy
tr.v. be·at·i·fied, be·at·i·fy·ing, be·at·i·fies
1. To make blessedly happy.
2. Roman Catholic Church by Baptist historiography, that person is surely William Bullein Johnson. (10) Some revisionism re·vi·sion·ism
1. Advocacy of the revision of an accepted, usually long-standing view, theory, or doctrine, especially a revision of historical events and movements.
2. is now necessary in relation to telling the story of this terribly flawed young man who was the second pastor of the Baptist Church in Savannah. Very late in December 1811, church minutes note: "Our beloved Pastor preached his two first sermons to us in the fore and afternoon of this day, highly satisfactory." (11) In later years, these kind words would never be used. Johnson was young, still in his twenties, and had youthful vision especially in relation to mission work by Baptists. He saw to it, for example, that there were some "free" pews in the church during the time of rental of pews for financial stability. He also brought Luther Rice to Savannah in 1813, and the next year both of these men were involved in the founding of the General Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States for Foreign Missions--the first national organization of Baptists in the country. The story of his major role later in 1845 in the founding of the Southern Baptist Convention Noun 1. Southern Baptist Convention - an association of Southern Baptists
association - a formal organization of people or groups of people; "he joined the Modern Language Association"
Southern Baptist - a member of the Southern Baptist Convention is a well rehearsed tale. Johnson by that time was a real "organization man."
His tenure in Savannah, however, was greatly tainted by his immaturity and arrogance. Johnson did not even complete three full years as pastor. His last three months were marred by controversy and his own disrespect for congregational collegiality col·le·gi·al·i·ty
1. Shared power and authority vested among colleagues.
2. Roman Catholic Church The doctrine that bishops collectively share collegiate power. . The church would even suffer its first schism and be reduced from seventy-eight to sixty-six members. In brief, Johnson urged that it was scriptural to have weekly communion as well as to conduct all of the business of the church on Sunday. The church disagreed and after a few attempts to arrive at a peaceful compromise, on Sunday, October 23, 1814, Johnson "made injudicial remarks, pronouncing pro·nounc·ing
Relating to, designed for, or showing pronunciation: a pronouncing dictionary. the church a corrupt body" and walked out. (12) His tenure was immediately suspended and Johnson returned to Columbia, South Carolina Columbia is the state capital and largest city of South Carolina. As of 2006, estimates for the population of the city proper is 122,819. Columbia is the county seat of Richland County, but a small portion of the city extends into Lexington County. . Interestingly, the young Johnson should have been excommunicated (a nineteenth-century Baptist usage of this word) for his actions and for the schism he caused. Lay persons were excommunicated for far less grievous causes in the nineteenth century, but since Johnson was their pastor, justice was moderated by mercy. The church perhaps forgave for·gave
Past tense of forgive.
the past tense of forgive
forgave forgive but never forgot. Their centennial celebration never mentioned his name.
As is widely known, Johnson in later years went on to greater glory as he appeared in Augusta, Georgia, in 1845 with the plan for the organization of the Southern Baptist Convention in his hip-pocket. Rejecting any loosely structured societal plan, he supported centralization and wielded a great deal of power as first and continuing president of the new organization which was born of the slavery context as well as southern provincialism pro·vin·cial·ism
1. A regional word, phrase, pronunciation, or usage.
2. The condition of being provincial; lack of sophistication or perspective. Also called provinciality.
3. . The power of the office of president would evolve in the next century to the kind of fundamentalist takeover more committed to the authority of the local minister as opposed to congregational collegiality as well as to the principle of the priesthood of every believer.
Founding days for Savannah Baptists had been extremely interesting ones. They had been indeed fortunate to have had such an ecumenical and mature first pastor committed to all those principles which would become the essence of the Baptist movement within the United States. Then, with their second young, comparatively inexperienced and immature pastor, they had enjoyed the honeymoon days only to experience the grief of divorce within a few years. The congregation had refused to be blackmailed by ministerial authority even if it meant the further pain of schism. The fledgling congregation was finding its own maturity in its continuing commitment to those major principles which make Baptists Baptist--especially the collegiality and mutual respect of a covenanting congregation which balances the freedom of the priesthood of every believer with the spirit of a covenanting and ecumenical community. This essence of religious experience would mark its first two hundred years of historical pilgrimage in an indelible way.
Thomas Meredith The Rev. Thomas Meredith, D.D., F.T.C.D. (1777 – 1819) was an Irish clergyman, mathematician, and Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin. Early life
Thomas Meredith was born at Templerainy House, Co. Wicklow in 1777, and baptised at the Protestant church in Rathdrum.
Until past mid-century, pastors of this congregation usually had brief tenures and some reflected the youthful immaturity and arrogance of W. B. Johnson. On November 1, 1823, Thomas Meredith violently disagreed with the idea of a yearly call as well as an unstable salary and informed the congregation as follows: "The proceedings of the church have been so ridiculous and corrupt I have no further fellowship with her and wish to be free of all charge from the present evils." (13) Like Johnson, he gained maturity and socialization socialization /so·cial·iza·tion/ (so?shal-i-za´shun) the process by which society integrates the individual and the individual learns to behave in socially acceptable ways.
n. and, in his case, went on to greater glory in North Carolina North Carolina, state in the SE United States. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean (E), South Carolina and Georgia (S), Tennessee (W), and Virginia (N). Facts and Figures
Area, 52,586 sq mi (136,198 sq km). Pop. Baptist history where he founded the state convention as well as the Baptist Interpreter (later, the Biblical Recorder). Due to his efforts in female education, the Baptist school for women in the state was later renamed Meredith College Since 2000, Meredith College has hosted Governor's School East each summer. History
Chartered in 1891 and named for Thomas Meredith, founder of the Biblical Recorder, the Baptist Female University opened in 1891 in a facility in downtown Raleigh. . Savannah often served as a training ground for young pastors, but it also paid the price of immature leadership.
Henry O. Wyer
In late 1825, Henry O. Wyer was "ordained or·dain
tr.v. or·dained, or·dain·ing, or·dains
a. To invest with ministerial or priestly authority; confer holy orders on.
b. To authorize as a rabbi.
2. " (14) pastor of the church and is described as a man with a deep intellect, a "sonorous sonorous
resonant; sounding. voice," and a sanctified sanc·ti·fy
tr.v. sanc·ti·fied, sanc·ti·fy·ing, sanc·ti·fies
1. To set apart for sacred use; consecrate.
2. To make holy; purify.
3. heart. In addition, he had what the church needed--mature leadership. Within four years of his coming, the membership had more than doubled, growing from 63 to 131. In 1828, a lay act with important educational implications occurred. Deacon Josiah Penfield's last will and testament left $2,500 to the Georgia Baptist Convention for the education of young men to the ministry on the condition that the convention would match his gift with an equal amount. It did and this became the seed money for the later foundation of Mercer University. (15) Penfield designated another $2,500 toward the erection of a new house of worship Noun 1. house of worship - any building where congregations gather for prayer
house of God, house of prayer, place of worship
bethel - a house of worship (especially one for sailors) . Granted new lots by the city on Chippewa Square, the congregation laid the cornerstone of their new church on February 2, 1831. Their former lots and church building were sold to the First African Baptist Church, and by April 1832 the church was worshiping and conducting business in its new building. Through the years this building would be enlarged, remodeled, repaired and repainted numerous times, but it would survive hurricanes, fires, and the yearly ravages rav·age
v. rav·aged, rav·ag·ing, rav·ages
1. To bring heavy destruction on; devastate: A tornado ravaged the town.
2. of time to remain the oldest standing religious structure in Savannah.
A singular incident evolving during the 1830s reflected social tensions, attitudes toward slavery, and theological tensions. Andrew Marshall was at this time the charismatic leader-pastor of the First African Baptist Church, and he had subscribed to some of the teachings of Alexander Campbell, considered by most Baptists as a "heretic." Savannah Baptist was chagrined that their former building now housed heretical he·ret·i·cal
1. Of or relating to heresy or heretics.
2. Characterized by, revealing, or approaching departure from established beliefs or standards. leadership, called for Marshall's removal, and at one point requested the city to close the church which was, in part, "the property of our citizens." The black church retained its self-determination, however, and Marshall even dropped his Campbellite views by the close of the decade. Perhaps Baptist ecclesiology ec·cle·si·ol·o·gy
1. The branch of theology that is concerned with the nature, constitution, and functions of a church.
2. The study of ecclesiastical architecture and ornamentation. was the real victor in this controversy and within the context of racial tension. (16)
In 1847, a second much more serious schism occurred within the church. The issue revolved around the dropping of the yearly call in favor of an "extended" call. Approximately 40 percent of the congregation opposed this change so vigorously that they left and for twelve years were known as the Second Baptist Church. The schismatic schis·mat·ic
Of, relating to, or engaging in schism.
One who promotes or engages in schism.
schis·mat group bought the meeting house of the Unitarians located on the corner of Bull and York Streets. Extended friendly relations finally brought the two congregations together and on February 6, 1859, eighty-eight members were received by unanimous vote from the dissolved Second Baptist Church. The electric moment was celebrated with the ritual of total unity--communion. The unified congregation soon called Sylvanus Landrum as pastor. He would have a comparatively long tenure of twelve years and would guide the church through the chaotic times of the Civil War.
Sylvanus Landrum and Timothy Harley
The Savannah Baptist Church was one of the few churches in the South that never closed its doors during the War. Not even Sherman's march to the sea resulted in its closing. Landrum preached to Confederate soldiers one Sunday and the next to Union soldiers. Though many religious buildings were put to secular use by Sherman, the Baptist Church was spared. Economic recovery was painful but rapid, and by 1870 the church had even built its first mission. Committed to education, missions, and social services throughout the healing process of his ministry, Landrum in 1871 left for the distant city of Memphis, Tennessee. (17)
Following Landrum's successful tenure, the church showed its international outlook by calling a native Englishman, Timothy Harley. He came from New Brunswick, Canada, and for this reason was even more unprepared for the stifling heat of this southern town. He even published a notice in The Christian Index complaining of the heat in Savannah and praying for God's call elsewhere! Harley's almost yearly resignation was finally accepted in 1879, and he left for cooler climes. In 1878, he had, however, witnessed the first formal motion in the church to give females voting privileges. The motion was tabled. (18)
J. E. L. Holmes and John D. Jordan
After a brief return by Landrum, J. E. L. Holmes began a decade-long ministry which ended with a grieving congregation, for he was the first pastor who died while still serving the church. Sunday following his death was indeed memorable, for the sermon which he had prepared for the day was read from the pulpit by the chair of the deacons. Duffy Street Baptist Church was only one of many churches sending resolutions of appreciation for Holmes. Theirs was different at one salient point, however, for they referred to him as "our father." On April 5, 1891, Duffy Street Mission was constituted as Duffy Street Church--the first permanent mission-church founded in the city by Savannah Baptist. Today, the distinguished Bull Street Baptist Church dates its beginnings to this specific context. (19)
John D. Jordan was Savannah Baptist's last pastor of the nineteenth century and the first pastor of the twentieth. Eminently successful in building membership, Jordan witnessed a 50 percent increase during his tenure--from 614 in 1897 to 974 in 1906. In April 1899, Baptists from all over the state were hosted in Savannah at the meetings of the Georgia Baptist Convention. This final session of the convention in the nineteenth century reported 1,758 churches, 66 associations, and 167,559 members. Baptists had grown from rather obscure beginnings to become a major force in religious life in the state. The outlook for the twentieth century was laced with optimism.
For three days, November 25-27, 1900, The Morning News of Savannah gave full page and more coverage of the celebration by Baptists of one hundred years of ministry in Savannah. Luminaries from the state and national conventions were in attendance along with local multi-denominational ministers. Baptists in Savannah had definitely come of age and were a major force in their beautiful city.
The nineteenth century was loaded with days of discipline among Baptists. In his Democratic Religion, Gregory Wills estimates that in Georgia alone there had been 40,000 excommunicated Baptists prior to the Civil War. (20) Baptists expected loyalty and commitment to their local congregation's belief, practice, and morality. Pastors and deacons, men and women, clergy and laity, and sometimes even outsiders were involved in the cross-section of issues. Non-attendance, attendance and participation in other denominations and their rites, drinking, Sabbath violations, dancing, attending the theater, questionable acts in other cities, doctrinal errors, acts of physical violence, gambling, and card playing were only a few of the issues. Though redemption and reform were the goals, Baptists were not hesitant to excommunicate ex·com·mu·ni·cate
tr.v. ex·com·mu·ni·cat·ed, ex·com·mu·ni·cat·ing, ex·com·mu·ni·cates
1. To deprive of the right of church membership by ecclesiastical authority.
2. over these and other subjects. It is certainly amazing in this multi-faceted context that in October 1871, Savannah Baptists reported: "Our membership as a whole is orderly in Christian walk and conversation, and but little occasion has existed and does exist, for arraignments, of our membership for misconduct." (21) The yearly letter of 1871 was prophetic of the next century when teaching, education, pastoral care, and counseling replaced the old ways of doing things. A constellation of reasons, then, led to a redefinition of church discipline. Unfortunately in the late twentieth century, the question of discipline has been turned on its head and the understanding of Baptist history on the local congregational level has been "broken" by near-papal pronouncements. In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently , there has taken place a prostitution of the principle of discipline which aimed at establishing the kingdom of God among us as collegial col·le·gi·al
a. Characterized by or having power and authority vested equally among colleagues: "He . . . and committed congregations to a power principle determined to produce people and churches that sing and play the very same tune of faith and practice as a select group of neo-fundamentalist leaders have composed. The history of discipline in Savannah Baptist Church gives the lie to this approach.
Worship and Theology
After three services per Sunday and/or baptism being performed at the river just at sunrise, Baptists in Savannah often staggered home refreshed! Sunday School became a regular part of the day after April 22, 1827, as well as the background activities of the Presbyterian musician and educator, Lowell Mason. (22) Until 1906, the common cup of wine, not grape juice, was used in communion and the softened New Hampshire New Hampshire, one of the New England states of the NE United States. It is bordered by Massachusetts (S), Vermont, with the Connecticut R. forming the boundary (W), the Canadian province of Quebec (NW), and Maine and a short strip of the Atlantic Ocean (E). Confession of 1833 was followed in the doctrinal statements of the various church manuals. Double-edged predestinarianism pre·des·ti·nar·i·an
1. Of or relating to predestination.
2. Believing in or based on the doctrine of predestination.
One who believes in the doctrine of predestination. had been rejected in favor of a position that allowed freedom of the will, missions, and that kind of evangelicalism evangelicalism
Protestant movement that stresses conversion experiences, the Bible as the only basis for faith, and evangelism at home and abroad. The religious revival that occurred in Europe and America during the 18th century was generally referred to as the evangelical which often expressed itself in revivalism revivalism
Reawakening of Christian values and commitment. The spiritual fervour of revival-style preaching, typically performed by itinerant, charismatic preachers before large gatherings, is thought to have a restorative effect on those who have been led away from the . Local autonomy was valued but always in the larger contextual circle of the associational principle both with Baptists as well as other denominations. From the start, Savannah Baptist had been creatively ecumenical and committed to the principle of engaged or dedicated fallibilistic pluralism which continuously evolves as pilgrims continue down their road of faith. Savannah Baptist practiced exchanges of pulpits, alien immersion, (23) multiple hymn time, joint services, and individual good character letters to other denominations in relation to membership changes. Pastor Timothy Harley was even present in 1878 for the dedication of Mickve Israel Synagogue in Savannah. In June 1904, Pastor Jordan was an honorary pallbearer at the funeral of the venerated Rabbi Isaac Mendes. The ecumenical stance of nineteenth-century Savannah Baptists displayed the same spirit that had been expressed in 1790 in England by the famous Baptist, John Rippon, as he wrote:
Though I feel it an honor to rank with the Calvinists, whose system commonly called orthodox, is peculiarly dear to me; yet conceiving that all who hate sin, and love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, are good men, if they do not think of Baptism as I do, nor embrace half my Creed, I delight in such, as my brethren, and embrace them, by thousands, in the bosom of warm affection--and, with my views, it would be criminal not to do so.... (24)
The ground of Savannah Baptist Church was fertile for the seeds sown by the great new fact of the next century--the ecumenical movement.
Savannah Baptist Church met the new century as the largest white congregation in the city. The average pastorate pas·tor·ate
1. The office, rank, or jurisdiction of a pastor.
2. A pastor's term of office with one congregation.
3. A body of pastors.
Noun 1. for the first one hundred years was less than five years. The twentieth-century pastorate would average more than eight years with the two longest ones being seventeen and nineteen. Longer tenures allowed deeper pastoral imprints by Leroy G. Cleverdon and Thomas D. Austin.
J. Judson Taylor
J. Judson Taylor wrote his acceptance letter to become pastor of Savannah Baptist in December 1914. He spoke of the "pang" of leaving Knoxville and also observed that "a new pastorate always has some elements of uncertainty." Though a prophet, little did he know at the time of the pain that would come to him in three years. The winds of war were blowing strong as the "war to end all wars" approached; Judson was an avowed a·vow
tr.v. a·vowed, a·vow·ing, a·vows
1. To acknowledge openly, boldly, and unashamedly; confess: avow guilt. See Synonyms at acknowledge.
2. To state positively. and published pacifist. In 1917, at the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans, Taylor opposed a resolution on the floor of the convention which endorsed the nation's participation in the war. Upon his return to Savannah, Taylor reflected on the situation from the pulpit and elaborated on his views. Things were tense for a few months, in the church and finally the board of deacons requested his resignation. To protect the church from more pain and division, Taylor resigned and moved to North Carolina. Prophets sometimes are honored at a later time, for in 1922, with the peace movement gaining strength, he was elected a vice-president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Perhaps contextually understandable, but the Baptist pilgrims of Savannah were obviously wayfarers in their handling of this situation. The price of unity had resulted in pain for both sides.
Luther Rice Christie and Norman W. Cox
Luther Rice Christie, following Judson, was busy soon enough mending bridges and restoring unity within the hurting congregation. He also presided over a major repair and building program that stretched the economic resources of the congregation to the limit. Its name for a long while on the streets was finally adopted on November 30, 1921, and thereafter the church would formally be First Baptist Church. Only one traditionalist vote opposed the name change! (25)
In March 1922, services in the virtually new sanctuary were held without a pastor-in-residence. Later in 1922, after Norman W. Cox had arrived as the next pastor, he said of the finished product: "We now have what is pronounced by many competent critics, the most beautiful church auditorium in America. One of our friends of discernment recently said of it: `Its exterior is a dream in stone, and its interior a sublime poem in its chaste simplicity.'" (26)
After leading the church to top the entire state among Baptists in Sunday School attendance (1,361 in attendance on February 24, 1924), Cox witnessed the sparkling new educational building being used for the first time on November 7, 1926 (27) and the next year reveled in special services that marked one hundred years of Sunday School at the church--one of the oldest in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Cox had been one of the most ecumenical pastors in the history of the church, and, as well, had made valuable use of his wide-ranging contacts to bring national figures in Baptist circles to Savannah, including A. T. Robertson and E. McNeil Poteat Jr.
In June 1927, Cox left Savannah for Meridian, Mississippi. Cox, a young man in his late thirties, was destined des·tine
tr.v. des·tined, des·tin·ing, des·tines
1. To determine beforehand; preordain: a foolish scheme destined to fail; a film destined to become a classic.
2. to make a major contribution to Baptist life. Keenly interested in local church history while in Savannah, he later began to urge Southern Baptists to establish a historical commission. In 1951, the commission was finally created, and Norman Cox was appointed as the first directing executive secretary of this agency. In this capacity, he made major contributions not only to historical awareness on the part of Baptists but also to the preservation of numerous church records from the local level. Grassroots history was given a creative boost by this former Savannah pastor who had "made" so much history there.
John E. White and Arthur M. Jackson
Times had changed by 1927, and attitudes mellowed, for John E. White, a published pacifist, came to Savannah and would become one of the most beloved pastors in the history of the church. At the time of his sudden death in the summer of 1931, (28) he had already become known as the "social conscience of Southern Baptists," and was serving as president of the Georgia Baptist Convention and first vice-president of the Southern Baptist Convention. If he had lived longer, First Church of Savannah would doubtless have had its only pastor also to serve as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He was that popular and revered among all Baptists.
Within a few months of White's death, Arthur M. Jackson came to the flatlands
Flatlands is a type of terrain similar to savanna and grassland. of Georgia from the Blue Ridge Mountains Blue Ridge also Blue Ridge Mountains
A range of the Appalachian Mountains extending from southern Pennsylvania to northern Georgia. It rises to 2,038.6 m (6,684 ft) at Mount Mitchell in the Black Mountains of western North Carolina. town of Hendersonville. He would need to lead the church out of the doldrums of the Depression. At one point, his commitment to do this even resulted in his own salary cut. He was a short man with a commanding, booming voice (the nearby Presbyterians heard two sermons each Sunday--that of their pastor as well as Jackson's) (29) and an evangelistic style of delivery. During his tenure over one thousand members would be added. If the debt of over $96,000 which he inherited was to be taken care of, more giving members were needed, and he was indeed the man of the hour.
The church was without a pastor on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941, for Jackson had left for Morningside Baptist Church Morningside Baptist Church (or simply MBC for short) is a Baptist church originally located in Holy Corner, Edinburgh. From 2006 it is currently using the Braid Centre down the road for Sunday worship although the original building is still used for other activities. in Atlanta on the last day of November. This was indeed a time for a fresh realization of the doctrine of the priesthood of every believer. The church became a congregation of ministers to one another and to outsiders during these dreadful days of the United States entering the worst war in the history of humanity. It would be six months before the new pastor-in-residence arrived.
Leroy G. Cleverdon
Leroy G. Cleverdon came from the presidency of Judson college. Having allowed the students to have dances, he was accused by fundamentalists of sending the students to hell and forced to resign. Judson's loss was Savannah's gain, for he would have the longest tenure of office of any pastor of the church--nineteen years. He would also be the best educated man to be called as pastor as well as one of the most ecumenically active.
From an early Methodist background, Cleverdon attended and received degrees from Tulane University, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Baptist Theological Seminaryis a Baptist seminary located in Jagannaickpur, Church Square, Kakinada in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.
It was established by the missionaries of the Canadian Baptist Mission about a century ago. , and Yale University. At Yale he studied under the famous Kenneth Scott Latourette Kenneth Scott Latourette (August 6, 1884 – December 26, 1968) was an American academic historian and historiographer who specialized mainly in the History of Christianity and the History of China. and doubtless deepened his ecumenical commitments under this world renowned missiologist. He ably led the church through the tear-stained war years and on to the post-war financial success. By 1946, all debts were paid off, some dating back for two decades. Renovation and redecoration re·dec·o·rate
v. re·dec·o·rat·ed, re·dec·o·rat·ing, re·dec·o·rates
To change the appearance or furnishings of; refurbish.
To change a decorative scheme. of church property was followed by an elaborate sesquicentennial ses·qui·cen·ten·ni·al
Of or relating to a period of 150 years.
A 150th anniversary or its celebration.
Noun 1. celebration. By 1956, he had also seen to the founding and opening of the Savannah Baptist Center as a goodwill center. Ever committed to ecumenical relationships, in 1943 he participated in the "first interfaith endeavor involving clergy of the three major faiths" in Savannah. In 1946, he exchanged pulpits with the rabbi of Mickve Israel Congregation--the first such pulpit exchange in Savannah. (30) Cleverdon was also an accredited accredited
recognition by an appropriate authority that the performance of a particular institution has satisfied a prestated set of criteria.
cattle herds which have achieved a low level of reactors to, e.g. visitor at the founding of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam in 1948 and in 1952 was a delegate to the Conference on Faith and Order in Lund, Sweden. He was a delegate to the Baptist World Congress in 1955. The congregation's unique ecumenical awareness was definitely sharpened by this pastor who also contributed so much in relation to education and missions.
William Forrest Lanier
Following Cleverdon's retirement in 1961, William Forrest Lanier's wife served Ralph Crutcher, a member of the search committee, a delicious piece of her home-made coconut cake in Edinburgh, Scotland, where Lanier was doing post-graduate study. This may have been a major reason for Crutcher recommending that this man be called as pastor!
On Palm Sunday, 1962, this tumbleweed tumbleweed, any of several plants, particularly abundant in prairie and steppe regions, that commonly break from their roots at maturity and, drying into a rounded tangle of light, stiff branches, roll before the wind, covering long distances and scattering seed as pilgrim was in the pulpit and urging the implications of his favorite passage of Scripture, 1 Corinthians 13. Lanier soon faced two topics troubling the nation--the Civil Rights Movement and the Viet Nam War. On March 17, 1967, he and strong lay leadership led the church to be open to all persons for worship and membership. As early as the summer of 1967, he was also speaking of the "seemingly senseless war" as well as the "loss of the American conscience" in relation to that war. The congregation, fully matured since the days of pastor Taylor, listened carefully and attentively to Lanier's prophetic words. In his role as pastor, he was both prophet and priest. The year 1966 had also witnessed major improvements in the sanctuary, and Lanier reflected, "In the worst of times, we have wrought the best of buildings." (31)
Ecumenical to the core, Lanier had other Protestants, Catholics, and Jews to speak from the pulpit. As well, with a bit of levity lev·i·ty
n. pl. lev·i·ties
1. Lightness of manner or speech, especially when inappropriate; frivolity.
2. Inconstancy; changeableness.
3. The state or quality of being light; buoyancy. , on one occasion as he spoke to the Hibernian Society, with a twinkle in his eye he announced, "I'm going to give special dispensation DISPENSATION. A relaxation of law for the benefit or advantage of an individual. In the United States, no power exists, except in the legislature, to dispense with law, and then it is not so much a dispensation as a change of the law. to all Baptists. They can drink tonight."
Thomas David Austin
Late in 1969, Lanier left for Northside Drive Baptist Church in Atlanta and slightly less than a year later, young Thomas David Austin hit the sidewalks running after the long drive from Richmond, Virginia. Thus began the second longest tenure of ministry at Savannah's First Baptist Church. Numerous changes were in the wings, including new staff members. The famous organist Dwight Bruce, who had retired, was replaced by the soon-to-be equally famous James Richardson. He was joined by Skip Irby as assistant minister, another "comfort and challenge" young man. As well, Austin wore well the ecumenical robe of former pastors in his healthy ecumenical denominationalism de·nom·i·na·tion·al·ism
1. The tendency to separate into religious denominations.
2. Advocacy of separation into religious denominations.
3. Strict adherence to a denomination; sectarianism. . By 1974, Austin had tackled two matters which were controversial among Baptists and resolved them. In June the church adopted the position of "open membership" (32) and in November Mary Louise Claiborne and Rose Usher were elected as the first female members of the diaconate di·ac·o·nate
1. The rank, office, or tenure of a deacon.
2. Deacons considered as a group.
[Late Latin di . By 1981, the church had also ordained Peggy Stout--the first Baptist ordination of a woman as a minister in Savannah.
Austin was also keenly sensitive to the need for social ministries in the city. He played major roles in the formation of CRY (Congregations Responding to You), Emmaus House with its lunches for the hungry, and, with the help of J. Curtis Lewis Jr., the founding of Union Mission and its major ministry to the homeless.
In the midst Adv. 1. in the midst - the middle or central part or point; "in the midst of the forest"; "could he walk out in the midst of his piece?"
midmost of unbaptistic changes in the SBC (1) (SBC Communications Inc., San Antonio, TX, www.sbc.com) A large, national telecommunications company that grew from a multitude of local and regional companies, including Southwestern Bell, Pacific Bell and Nevada Bell, into a single, unified brand by 2002. in 1984 and 1985, Austin, an excellent church historian, called on the congregation to commit itself to those principles which he considered to be at the heart of the Baptist way of life. (33) The church affirmed the priesthood of every believer, the autonomy of the local church, learning as a companion of faith, and the pursuit of freedom, truth, and undiluted integrity. By 1987, the church had aligned itself with the new moderate Southern Baptist Alliance (now, the Alliance of Baptists The Alliance of Baptists is a fellowship of Baptist churches and individuals espousing moderate-to-liberal theological and social stances. The Alliance was formed in 1987 by congregations in schism from the Southern Baptist Convention as a result of the 1980s ). A poignant cri de coeur cri de coeur
n. pl. cris de coeur
An impassioned outcry, as of entreaty or protest.
[French cri de c over these developments in the SBC was heard from Savannah First Baptist as well as from numerous sensitive centers of genuine Baptist commitment across the country.
Austin and the congregation did not fully understand, but God does work in mysterious ways. Austin left in early 1988 for Winston-Salem, North Carolina Winston-Salem is a city in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 185,776; in 2004 the city annexed an additional 17,483 raising the population to 203,259. , but he would never be forgotten by his fellow pilgrims in Savannah. They grieved as deeply as Winston-Salem in 1997 upon receiving news of Tom's untimely death from cancer.
During a long interim, the congregation was fortunate to have the services of Walter Shurden of Mercer University, one of the major interpreters in the nation of what had been and was happening in the SBC. (34) The minutes of the diaconate throb throb
To beat rapidly or perceptibly, such as occurs in the heart or a constricted blood vessel.
A strong or rapid beat; a pulsation.
a pulsating movement or sensation. with painful materials during these years as the church searched for denominational identity along with so many other moderates.
Fred Andrea's rather brief tenure as pastor commenced in the summer of 1989, and ended in early 1993. In his own words, he offered "a balanced model of proclamation, care, and pastoral leadership." A moderate, he urged purchase of The SBC Today, continued the relationship with the Alliance of Baptists, and initiated a relationship with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Inc. (CBF)—"a fellowship of Baptist Christians and churches who share a passion for the Great Commission of Jesus Christ and a commitment to Baptist principles of faith and practice. (CBF CBF Chesapeake Bay Foundation
CBF Cerebral Blood Flow
CBF Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
CBF Confederação Brasileira de Futebol
CBF Core Binding Factor
CBF Chicagoland Bicycle Federation
CBF Coronary Blood Flow
CBF cubic feet ). Ecumenical and socially sensitive, Andrea also led in the founding of the Aids Interfaith Network as well as planning with other clergy a series of special lectures and sermons on homelessness. In the early days of summer 1993, he carried these same commitments to Aiken, South Carolina Aiken is a city in Aiken County, South Carolina and is part of the CSRA. The population was 25,337 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Aiken CountyGR6, and is the site of the University of South Carolina at Aiken. .
John M. Finley
After a year's interim and the able leadership of Paul Craven, the present minister, John M. Finley, on July 1994, carried on the recent tradition of another tall, well-educated man in the high pulpit of the church. This thirty-second senior minister, amused by Walter Shurden's installation sermon's title, "On Being a Charismatic," began immediately to bring his own unique charisma to the congregation. Ecumenical and moderate, he continued relations with the Alliance of Baptists and the CBF as well as having a dialogical and warm relationship with other Protestant bodies and Jews in Savannah. A visionary in missiology Missiology, or mission science, is the area of practical theology which investigates the mandate, message and work of the Christian missionary. Missiology is a multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural reflexion on all aspects of the propagation of the Christian faith, embracing , he led the congregation to reclaim its identity as a church in mission through an evolving partnership with Cuban Baptists. Forrest Gump sat on a bench in Chippewa Square and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil brought tourists by the droves into the city. Meanwhile, Finley and his fellow pilgrims commenced their long-range Heritage and Hope campaign as well as working behind the scenes to do ministry in multi-faceted ways in a downtown urban setting.
To be a pilgrim "To be a Pilgrim" is the only hymn John Bunyan is credited with writing but is indelibly associated with him. It first appeared in Part 2 of Pilgrim's Progress, written in 1684 while he was serving a twelve-year sentence in Bedford Gaol on a charge of preaching without a licence. is to be a servant on the road. This congregation has flourished and will continue to do so as it offers costly grace to all who will join in this congregational pilgrimage. Through the years, this community has been self-critical, expressed entrepreneurship in seeking new resources and energies, tried new things and retained the right to fail, worked in a playful mood, expressed creative priestcraft Priest´craft`
n. 1. Priestly policy; the policy of a priesthood; esp., in an ill sense, fraud or imposition in religious concerns; management by priests to gain wealth and power by working upon the religious motives or credulity of others. , shown genuine hospitality, experienced healthy conflict, and always witnessed to a higher wisdom beyond this world. In brief, it has been an engaged, dedicated, fallibilistic, pluralistic community of Baptist pilgrims. Pilgrims and sometime wayfarers, the members of Savannah's First Baptist Church are convinced that somewhere down that pilgrim's road there is to be found the essence of the Christian as well as the Baptist way. They pray with that twentieth-century prophet, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin Noun 1. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin - French paleontologist and philosopher (1881-1955)
Teilhard de Chardin , as they bravely have entered the new century and millennium:
Jesus, Saviour of human activity to which you have given meaning, Saviour of human suffering to which you have given living value, be also the Saviour of human unity; compel us to discard our pettinesses, and to venture forth, resting upon you, into the uncharted ocean of love. (35)
(1.) For a full account of the history of Savannah First Baptist Church, see George H. Shriver shrive
v. shrove or shrived, shriv·en or shrived, shriv·ing, shrives
1. To hear the confession of and give absolution to (a penitent).
2. , Pilgrims through the Years (Franklin, Tenn.: Providence House Publishers, 1999). Copies of this book may be ordered from the church itself.
(2.) For an excellent overview of Reformation thought, see Robert M. Brown For the theologian and activist, see .
Robert M. Brown was the Chief Engineer for Union Pacific Railroad in the 1960s and 1970s. For his work with the railroad, Modern Railways magazine selected Brown to receive the magazine's Man of the Year award in 1978; the award has since , The Spirit of Protestantism (New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : Oxford University Press, 1961).
(3.) See Sydney E. Ahlstrom Sydney Eckman Ahlstrom, 16 December 1919 to July 3, 1984, was a Yale University professor and a specialist in the religious history of the United States.
Ahlstrom was born in Cokato, Minnesota, the son of Joseph T. and Selma Eckman Ahlstrom. , A Religious History of the American People (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972), and William Henry Brackney, The Baptists (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1988).
(4.) Kenneth Coleman (ed.), A History of Georgia History of Georgia can refer to:
Founded in 1938, the UGA Press is a division of the University of Georgia and is located on the campus in Athens, Georgia, USA. , 1991), 16-24.
(5.) James Adams Lester, A History of the Georgia Baptist Convention (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1972), passim PASSIM - A simulation language based on Pascal.
["PASSIM: A Discrete-Event Simulation Package for Pascal", D.H Uyeno et al, Simulation 35(6):183-190 (Dec 1980)]. .
(6.) Mabel Freeman La Far, The Baptist Church of Savannah, Georgia: History, Records, and Register (Savannah: N.E, 1941), Pt. 1, 7-32.
(7.) Shriver, Appendix A, 205-06.
(8.) LaFar, Pt. 1, 33 ff.
(9.) Ibid., Pt. 1,239.
(10.) H. Leon McBeth, "Patterns of SBC Presidential Authority," Baptist History and Heritage 31 (April 1996): 12-14; James M. Morton, Sr., "Leadership of W. B. Johnson in the Formation of the Southern Baptist Convention," Baptist History and Heritage (January 1970): 3-12; and J. Glen Clayton, "William B. Johnson; Shaper of Southern Baptist Origins," pamphlet published by the Historical Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1987.
(11.) LaFar, Pt. 1,261.
(12.) Ibid., 336-37.
(13.) Ibid., Pt. 2, 548.
(14.) Ibid., 605. Though Wyer was already a "reverend," the term "ordained" is used in the records. This usage certainly has the Congregationalist con·gre·ga·tion·al·ism
1. A type of church government in which each local congregation is self-governing.
2. Congregationalism background of the belief that if a man had no churchly church·ly
1. Of or relating to a church.
2. Appropriate for or suggestive of a church: "aspires to the pure fragrance of churchly incense" Martin Bernheimer. charge, he was not really "ordained." This logic is indeed sound.
(15.) Ibid., 639-40.
(16.) Ibid., 757 ff.
(17.) Minutes of the congregation and diaconate, August 13, 1871.
(18.) Ibid., October 28-November 25, 1878.
(19.) Ibid., April 5, 1891.
(20.) Gregory A. Wills, Democratic Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 12.
(21.) Minutes, October 30, 1871.
(22.) For a full account, see Margaret Freeman LaFar, "Lowell Mason's Varied Activities in Savannah," Georgia Historical Quarterly, 28 (September, 1944).
(23.) Minutes, New Sunbury Association, November 17, 1842. Immersion baptism by paedo-Baptist ministers was accepted in Savannah as early as 1842 and was allowed by the New Sunbury Association as a local congregational decision.
(24.) Cited in Brooks Hays and John E. Steely, The Baptist Way of Life; (2nd rev. ed.; Macon: Mercer University Press Mercer University Press, established in 1979, is a publisher that is part of Mercer University. External link
(25.) Church Minutes, November 30, 1921.
(26.) Cited in Margaret Freeman La Far, A Historical Sketch of the First Baptist Church (Savannah: N.E, 1975) 30.
(27.) The Messenger, November 7, 1926.
(28.) Ibid., July 26, 1931. Also see Shriver, Appendix I, 225-27.
(29.) Interview with Julian Quattlebaum Jr. by Joan Usher, 1997.
(30.) Saul Jacob Rubin, Third to None (Savannah: Congregation Mickve Israel, 1983), 308.
(31.) Church Minutes, February 13, 1967.
(32.) Ibid., June 3, 1974. Also see January 13, 1986.
(33.) Ibid., January 14-November 18, 1985.
(34.) See Walter B. Shurden (ed.), The Struggle for the Soul of the Southern Baptist Convention (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1993).
A host of works have appeared with their analyses of the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC. The latest book-length analysis is David Stricklin, A Genealogy of Dissent: Southern Baptist Protest in the Twentieth Century (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky The University Press of Kentucky (UPK) is the scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and was organized in 1969 as successor to the University of Kentucky Press. The university had sponsored scholarly publication since 1943. , 1999).
(35.) The Divine Milieu (New York: Harper and Row, 1960), 146.