The birth and growth of the Baptist Missionary Association in America.
This date is accurate in terms of its current organizational structure, but in actuality, the BMAA is fifty years older. The BMAA's genesis is in the Baptist Missionary Association (BMA) of Texas. Organized in 1900 and based in East Texas, the BMA is the direct ancestor of the BMAA. This paper depicts how and why the BMA/BMAA came into existence, its growth, ecclesiology, schisms, and how these elements gave shape to its current vibrant worldwide fellowship.
The last twenty years of the nineteenth century was a period of transformation and conflict for Texas Baptists. The denomination's forefathers who established the Baptist presence in Texas were slowly passing from the scene. B. H. Carroll, J. M. Carroll, R. C. Buckner, J. B. Gambrell, and J. B. Cranfill were the most influential of the new leaders. These five men personified the vision of the new Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) that had consolidated virtually all Texas Baptist entities in 1886. Their presence dominated the denomination well into the twentieth century. Moreover, Samuel Augustus Hayden was also a leader in Texas Baptist life at this time and had a significant role in the BGCT's formative years. Hayden, however, disagreed with the direction in which these men were leading the convention, took action to stop it, and soon a debilitating controversy engulfed Texas Baptist life.
Though dubbed the Hayden Controversy, (1) the eponymous controversy began well before Hayden came on the scene. The problems began with the Waco Policy. Anchored by the powerful pastor of First Baptist Waco, B. H. Carroll, and the Baptist General Association (BGA), the Waco Policy desired that the home of all denominational, administrative, and educational bodies be located in Waco. In 1875 R. C. Buckner served as the editor of the Texas Baptist. One of his primary tasks was to advance the Waco Policy by garnering statewide support for Waco University. J. B. Link, editor of the Texas Baptist Herald, was a Baptist State Convention (BSC) advocate and supporter of Baylor University at Independence. He too was for the centralization of the Baptist schools, but opposed basing the school in Waco. He believed a more neutral location would be better suited to serve Texas Baptists. Both men were members of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, champions of their fellowships, and used their newspapers to advocate their causes. As a result, the events that crippled Texas Baptist life were rooted in First Baptist Dallas.
J. H. Curry was pastor of First Baptist Dallas when trouble began. He was an outspoken opponent of the Waco Policy. In order to secure some future status for East Texas and Dallas, he permitted Link to join the First Baptist Church of Dallas in October of 1878. It was storming, a Wednesday night service, and because of the weather, many who opposed Link's membership later claimed they believed the service had been cancelled. Moreover, the church's normal practice was to accept new members at only the Sunday morning service. Link's acceptance caused immediate dissension within the church, promoted acrimonious allegations between the editors, and led to a show trial before the BGA in 1880 to determine which congregation was the true First Baptist Church of Dallas. The church then split, with Link remaining with Curry and Buckner joining the schismatic Live Oak Church. It was after these events that S. A. Hayden came to Dallas in 1883 and accepted the pastorate of the Live Oak Church. (2)
Soon after his arrival in Dallas, Hayden bought Buckner's newspaper. After helping to reconcile the two factions of the First Church of Dallas, he then secured Link's newspaper at the first 1886 annual session of the BGCT. Named the Texas Baptist and Herald, Hayden now had the only denominational organ in Texas. This gave him an uncontested voice in Texas Baptist life. His problem, however, was that in order to secure that paper, he had to remain loyal to his Dallas following and ensure that the periodical would remain in their city. This went against the Waco Policy, and especially against B. H. Carroll, who having gained Baylor University for Waco, would have further prospered had the newspaper been located in his city. The denominational politics placed these ambitious men perpetually at odds. (3)
Just as Hayden and Carroll were rivals, so were Dallas and Waco. This rivalry grew stronger with the bad blood between Hayden and Carroll. Carroll openly sided against Link at the BGA trial of the First Church of Dallas to secure a Buckner or Waco faction victory in 1883. Hayden consolidated the Baptist newspapers and their maintenance in Dallas rather than in Waco. Carroll played a role in the birth and promotion of the Waco-based Baptist Standard to rival Hayden's newspaper. (4) Carroll played a major role in the change of venue for the 1897 BGCT annual session, where Hayden first lost his seat in the convention, from Weatherford, only sixty miles from Dallas, to Temple, only forty-one miles from Waco. (5) Further proof is in Hayden's realization that he had little chance of regaining his seat at the 1898 Waco convention, but his belief that his chances for regaining his seat were excellent at the Dallas convention of 1899.
During the 1890s, four events were central to the escalation. First, J. B. Cranfill became the BGCT corresponding secretary in 1889, and held the position for three lean financial years. During his tenure, Hayden used the Toms Baptist and Herald to accuse Cranfill of monetary indiscretions and of withholding the convention's financial records from its constituency. He also claimed that BGCT board members were covering for Cranfill, knowing of his wrongdoing. Cranfill defended himself in the pages of the Jkxas Baptist Standard. The feud became so personal that it led to a gunfight aboard a train bound for the Southern Baptist Convention in 1904.
Second, Hayden took issue with the salary of BGCT Corresponding Secretary J. M. Carroll in 1894. Hayden believed that the board paying Carroll $2,500 when missionaries on the field received much less was an irresponsible use of mission funds. (6)
A third issue arose at the 1895 BGCT annual convention where it was determined that "The Convention is composed of persons chosen by churches, associations, and societies, as their messengers, and when such persons are convened, they and not the churches, are the Convention." (7) Hayden believed this statement interfered with the sovereignty of the local church. (8) It also gave the convention grounds to deny him a seat at the 1897 BGCT.
The fourth issue was the money-based system in which larger churches could purchase additional messengers to the BGCT annual meeting. Though this had been included in the original BGCT constitution, which Hayden had agreed to, he now spoke out against it. He believed that each church should have an equal say regardless of its size or wealth. In reality, Hayden may have realized his strongest allies were from poor rural churches that could not afford additional messengers. In response, Hayden began what he called the "Reform Movement." He also called those who sided with him and the Reform Movement the "Church Party," and those who opposed him the "Convention Party." (9) Both sides used their newspapers to support their positions and deride the opposition. The result was a full-fledged newspaper war that further divided Texas Baptists.
Because Hayden supported the sovereignty of the local church even while the BGCT was in session, in addition to his incessant attacks on the corresponding secretary's handling of missions, his adversaries accused him of advocating an Americanized version of the Gospel Missions Movement. T. P. Crawford, a missionary to China and founder of the Gospel Missions Movement, believed that only local churches were to send out missionaries, not conventions or mission boards. Crawford held that for a mission board to appoint, set salaries, and give directions for missionaries was tantamount to an episcopal function. At no point did Hayden advance this mode of operation.
Hayden was a member of the board of the BGCT as late as 1894. When Hayden spoke out against the Board, he was speaking out against certain members who, he perceived, were dominating the BGCT's affairs and possibly covering up their roles in some malfeasance, some of which concerned the corresponding secretary's use of mission funds. Uncovering and disseminating these activities, as well as correcting them, were the goals of the Reform Movement. The accusations against Hayden that implied he was a Crawfordist were rooted in articles in the Missionary Worker and the Baptist Standard that either insinuated or clearly stated that he supported this movement. The publication of these accusations appears to have been a conscious strategy of the anti-Hayden faction in order to sway the allegiance of some of Hayden's followers to back the BGCT board. Hayden flatly denied the allegations in several editions of the Texas Baptist and Herald. However, he did not help his own cause by maintaining that the BGCT board was an episcopacy with J. B. Gambrell as its "pontiff."
Even though he was not a Crawfordist, Hayden was a Landmarker. His argument for the sovereign church's right to seat its own duly elected messengers and his denial of the convention's right to remove them are germane to the Landmark tenets directly related to the sovereignty of the local church. However, B. H. Carroll, J. M. Carroll, J. B. Cranfill, and J. B. Gambrell were also Landmarkers. For whatever reason, possibly pragmatism, this latter group appears to have been more selective in the Landmark tenets it upheld. Being an advocate of Landmarkism in Texas was not atypical, and the Hayden Controversy began years before the sovereign church versus the board argument ever came into play. The controversy was only secondarily about ecclesiology. The leaders of the BGCT must have believed that as long as Hayden and his followers could be seated and continually disrupt their proceedings, the Baptist denomination's growth in Texas would be stunted and never fully prosper. For this reason, Hayden's adversaries may have been willing to redefine some of their own ecclesiological beliefs in order to remove Hayden from their midst.
Hayden's enemies won a signal victory in 1897 when the convention voted to deny him a seat at the annual BGCT meeting, though his local church appointed him a messenger. This happened again at the 1898 and 1899 annual sessions where his support continued to decline. Moreover, at the 1899 BGCT meeting the messengers added Article 9 to the constitution, allowing the general body, while in session, to remove by a majority vote a member deemed hostile to the convention. Hayden's advocates held that the convention was claiming the right to refuse sovereign churches the right to express their views and represent themselves. In effect, they accused the BGCT of acting as an episcopacy. Hayden's supporters were ready to leave the BGCT and form their own convention. Hayden was against leaving the BGCT. The schism, however, was inevitable and occurred on July 6, 1900, at Troupe, Texas, with the birth of the East Texas Baptist Convention (ETBC). In December of that same year at its first organizational meeting, the ETBC changed its name to the Baptist Missionary Association. Representatives of only forty-five churches attended this inaugural meeting. When word of the schism spread, however, churches began to join the BMA in droves. More than 2,000 messengers were present at the 1901 BMA annual meeting. In contrast, the BGCT annual meeting numbered 1,672. The BMA reported that 312 churches sent representatives to the 1902 meeting, 474 in 1903, and 563 in 1904. Though Hayden provided the impetus for the birth of the BMA and his newspaper served as its first organ, he was not one of its true leaders.
Instead, he continued his attacks on the BGCT until his death in 1910. The BMA leaders moved on without him.
A BMA historian, R. C. Vance listed three reasons for creating the BMA. The first two are the primary rationale:
1. The money basis of representation which made it possible for the rich church to send more messengers to annual meeting and thereby control the sessions.
2. The Ninth Article to the Constitution which enabled the Convention to refuse a messenger from a church and yet received other messengers from the same church if the body so desired. In the opinion of the leaders of the Association this caused the Baptist General Convention to become an Episcopal body. (10)
The BMA Constitution addressed these issues. Article Three Section One stated, "The messengers holding the sessions of this convention shall be CHOSEN BY their respective churches which they represent." (11) Therefore, the churches are sovereign in the election and seating of their messengers. The convention cannot remove them. Article Three Section Four stated, "Each church admitted to this convention shall be entitled to two messengers and in event that a church has 200 or more members it shall have three messengers." (12) This article ensured that the larger and wealthier churches would not be able to dominate the smaller and less affluent at the convention. All churches were equal in the BMA.
The BMA wasted little time beginning its ministries. Within fifteen years, the BMA acquired Jacksonville College (1902), had seventy state missionaries (1904), created the B.M.A. News (1907), established an orphanage (1913), and inaugurated foreign mission work in Brazil (1915). (13) While the BMA's ministry endeavors intensified, its membership was decreasing.
As early as 1905, the number of messengers attending BMA annual meeting had decreased to only 321 churches. (14) The reason for this decline is most likely due to the BMA's close affiliation with Ben Bogard and the Landmarkism he was espousing in Arkansas. In 1902 he attempted to force the Arkansas Baptist Convention (ABC) to embrace Landmark principles. (15) He and his followers failed, left the ABC, and formed the General Association of Arkansas Baptists (GAAB) later that same year. Bogard was a radical Landmarker, despised the office of corresponding secretary, and demanded that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) move away from the Mission Board or his group would leave. The SBC rejected the dictum, and Bogard led his group out of the SBC and created the General Association of Baptists (GAB) in 1905. Unlike Hayden, Bogard was a genuine advocate of the Gospel Missions Movement. Many of the BMA members were angry with the BGCT, but did not want to leave the SBC. Though most held Landmark inclinations, they were not prepared to make such a radical move and follow a well-known autocrat. Many of these members quietly made their way back to the BGCT. The exodus of BMA members continued in 1906 and 1907 as their affiliation with the ABA increased. (16)
Consolidation, however, was a foregone conclusion. The union occurred in Texarkana on March 4, 1924. Tb demonstrate their desire to be a national body, the BMA and ABA groups took the name American Baptist Association (ABA). Several BMA members, however, were hesitant about joining the Bogard-led group. Therefore, the BMA became a part of the ABA, but it also continued to exist as a state organization and its members were not required to affiliate with the ABA. Hesitant GAB members also enacted a similar plan. The majority of the former BMA members were pleased with the formation of the ABA. They saw it as an opportunity to improve their mission work, consolidate their publishing enterprises, (17) improve their schools, and disseminate Landmark principles.
On December 10, 1924, the ABA adopted a statement of faith that closely followed the New Hampshire Confession of Faith with the addition of twelve doctrinal statements. These twelve statements were already included in the previous GBA doctrinal statement of 1905. The final three statements demonstrate the convictions forged in the trials faced by both the BMA and GAB and their strong commitment to Landmarkism:
10. We also hold in common what real Baptists have ever held. That the great commission was given to the churches only. That in the kingdom activities the church is the unit and the only unit that the churches have, and should exercise equal authority, and responsibility should be met by them according to their several abilities.
11. That all co-operative bodies such as Associations, Conventions, and their Boards or Committees, etc., are and properly should be the servant of the churches.
12. We believe that the great commission teaches that there has been a succession of missionary Baptist churches from the days of Christ down to this day. (18)
For twenty-five years the ABA went about its mission peacefully. Its numbers increased, missionaries were numerous and reported success, publishing endeavors were flourishing, and its educational institutions were prosperous. Tb all appearances, the ABA was thriving. Below the surface, however, rivalries festered between the Texas and Arkansas factions. The problems were those that chronically plagued the Missionary Baptists: church sovereignty, equal representation at the annual session, and who could serve as a messenger.
From its inception until 1934, the ABA had two primary institutes of higher education: Jacksonville College in Jacksonville, Texas, and the Missionary Baptist College of Sheridan, in Sheridan, Arkansas. Because of financial difficulties, the latter closed in 1934. Tb provide Arkansas with an ABA college, Antioch Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas, opened the Missionary Baptist Institute and Seminary (MBI) in that year. The majority of its students attended Antioch Baptist Church where Ben Bogard served as pastor. In 1948 Calvary Baptist Church of Henderson, Texas, created the Texas Baptist Institute (TBI). The majority of its students attended Calvary Baptist Church. Though most of its students attended First Baptist Jacksonville, Jacksonville College had no parent church.
The students at these schools often served as part-time pastors to local churches, sometimes at more than one church. As part-time pastors, they were not members of the congregation they served. Instead, they remained members of the church, more often than not, affiliated with their school. Many of these churches elected their student-pastor as their representative to the annual association meeting. This appears to have been a common practice in both the BMA and ABA prior to consolidation in 1924. Many ABA members, particularly those who also belonged to the BMA of Texas, began to protest this practice. They believed that by allowing a person to represent a church of which they were not a member, a disproportionate number of messengers--more than three--were in actuality given to the parent church. The focus of this protest was clearly against MBI and Bogard, whom they believed was using the system to gain more power and influence in the ABA. The BMA of Texas amended its constitution in 1949 so that a messenger must be a member of the church he represents.
The BMA was having problems prior to the college/messenger debate. In 1949, at the Dallas County Association meeting, the majority voted to deny representatives from two churches, deemed antagonistic, their seats. The convention then passed a resolution stating that the convention could deny a seat to a messenger deemed unfriendly to the cooperative work. Several messengers left in protest and formed the Missionary Baptist Association of Texas (MBAT). Ironically, the convention's ability to deny a sovereign church its right to have its messengers seated was one of the primary issues that led to the birth of the BMA in 1900. At this point, both Texas associations were still members of the ABA.
These issues spilled over into the 1950 ABA annual meeting in Lakeland, Florida. The BMA attempted to pass resolutions that denied seats to non-members and to others deemed antagonistic. The majority in attendance disagreed with the BMA and voted down the resolutions. The disgruntled BMA members left the meeting never to return, and formed the North American Baptist Association (NABA) in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1950. In attendance were 828 messengers representing 463 ABA churches from 16 states. (19) The NABA adopted a 25-article doctrinal statement that expressed their continued adherence to Landmark principles. (20) While retaining the three Landmark statements of the ABA, the NABA added three more statements. Article 12 denied membership to anyone immersed by a non-Baptist. (21) Article 13 limited the Lord's Supper to the baptized. (22) Article 20 insisted on no pulpit affiliations with non-Baptists. Article 20 also stipulated that there should be no pulpit affiliations with unionism, modernism, modern conventionism, and one-church dictatorship. (23) The first two demonstrated the group's conservatism while the third was a clear jab at Ben Bogard.
The NABA wasted little time moving forward. It adopted Jacksonville College as its school, persuaded ABA missionaries in Brazil to join their association, and created a Sunday school publishing house. (24) The NABA changed its name to the Baptist Missionary Association of America (BMAA) in 1968. In 1988 the BMAA adopted a new confession of faith that closely resembles the New Hampshire Confession of Faith. A conservative and orthodox document, it upholds mainline Baptist ecclesiology but contains no strong Landmark positions.
Though it remains numerically strongest in East Texas, the BMAA is a national and international fellowship. Headquartered in Conway, Arkansas, BMAA has approximately a quarter million members and more than one thousand churches. It has several junior colleges, but Jacksonville College and Seminary still serves as its primary school. Mission work continues around the world and is strongest in Africa, East Asia, and the Philippines where national associations have developed. The Southern Baptists of Texas (SBCT) have lately made overtures to the BMA of Texas (BMAT), attempting to persuade them to join their convention. Perhaps the BMAT will join the larger SBCT, but the fellowship has traditionally shown a strong independent streak and such a marriage might not be as happy as the groups hope. History has provided many hints at the possible outcome, but only time will tell.
(1) For a more detailed history of the Hayden controversy, see Joe Early, A Texas Baptist Power Struggle: The Hayden Controversy (Denton: North Texas Press, 2005). A great deal of the research for the first half of this paper derives from this source.
(2) Ibid., 8-10.
(3) Ibid., 33-36
(4) Ibid., 51-53.
(5) Ibid., 91-93.
(6) Ibid., 66-68.
(7) L. R. Elliott, Centennial Story of Texas Baptists (Baptist General Convention of Texas, 1936), 57.
(8) H. L. McBeth, Texas Baptists: A Sesquicentennial History (Dallas: Baptistway Press, 1999), 120.
(9) Early, Controversy, 94-95.
(10) R. C. Vance, A History of the B.M.A. of Texas from 1900 to 1953 (n.c., n.p., 1953), 13.
(11) Ibid., 16.
(13) Robert Ashcraft, ed., History of the American Baptist Association: Commemorating the Seventy-Fifth Meeting, June 20-22, 2000 (Texarkana, Texas: Baptist Sunday School of the American Baptist Association, 2000), 156-161.
(14) Vance, B.M.A., 27.
(15) Early, Controversy, 107.
(17) J. Kristian Pratt, The Life of Ben Bogard: The Father of Modem Landmarkism (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2013), 90.
(18) Minutes of the ABA, 1924, 5-6.
(19) Don Hook, "The North American Baptist Association," Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1958) 2:984.
(20) James Leo Garrett, Baptist Theology: A Four-Century Study (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2009), 241.
(21) William Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (Philadelphia: Judson Press, 1959), 380.
(24) Pratt, Ben Bogard, 178.
Joe Early, Jr., is associate professor of theology at Campbellsville University in Campbellsville, Kentucky.
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|Author:||Early, Joe, Jr.|
|Publication:||Baptist History and Heritage|
|Article Type:||Organization overview|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2014|
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