Associations - Fellowships - Conventions --- Are They of God or of Men?
   Associations - Fellowships - Conventions
   Are They of God or of Men?

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(Thumbnail Sketch of The History of The A. B. A.)


A. "Associations" in and of themselves are Neutral.

1. They are neither Good nor Bad.

2. They are neither Scriptural nor Un-Scriptural --- the Bible Is Silent concerning them as it is with Many other things, Which Are Good.

a. Sunday Schools,
b. Seminaries, Bible Colleges, etc.
c. Orphans Homes,
d. Youth Camps,
e. Organized Churches.

(Read what J. Frank Norris preached and Ben M. Bogard wholeheartedly endorsed concerning "Organized Churches")

3. There are as many Scriptures dealing with an Organized Churches as there are that deal with an Organized Associations --- No! there is Nothing Wrong with a church being organized.

a. I am Not talking about what you "Read Into" the Scriptures --- I am talking about what the Word of God says.

b. I am Not talking about your Common Sense or your Rationalization (that differs with every individual), I am talking about what the Word of God says.

B. I realize that the Bible has a Lot to say about Churches Associating Together but absolutely Nothing about an Organized Association.

1. This Does Not Mean that "Associations" are Bad; any more than Sunday Schools, Seminaries, Bible Colleges, Orphans Home or Youth Camps are bad.

2. Most of the Arguments that people use Against "Associations" are the Same Arguments that the "Church of Christ" uses Against Instrumental Music in church services --- it is a lot of "Nonsense", so-called "Common Sense" and "Rationalization".

( These may vary widely with each individual. However, the Bible, the Word of God never changes and is much more reliable than the Carnal Rationalization of Fallen Man. )

C. Whether an Association is good or bad; scriptural or unscriptural; is determined by How It Is Used By Its Leaders --- as Allowed by its fellowshipping churches.

1. Whether Instrumental Music is right or wrong in church services is Not Determined By The Instrument used but by How They Are Used and the Type of music.

2. Whether an Association is right or wrong is Not Determined By The Fact That The Association Is Organized --- but by "How It Is Used".

D. Can a Church Exist And Be A Scriptural Church Apart From The "Association"? --- Yes! --- Certainly! --- Absolutely!

1. The Association Does Not Authorize, Approve, Certify, Ratify, Empower, or Legitimize the Local Church.

2. The Association Does Not Determine whether the Church is Scriptural, the Church Determine whether the Association is Scriptural.

3 To Whom Did God Give authority, power, and the Great Commission? --- the Church - or- the Association? --- Ans: - The Church.

E. I was taught, as a young preacher, that the A.B.A. (American Baptist Association) Does Not Even Exist Between Annual Sessions --- I still believe that.

1. True, we have Committees and Employees who are Authorized By The Churches to perform Certain Duties between sessions.

2. However, if they should desire to make some changes or do something differently, they Must Wait Until The Next Annual Session of The Churches To Get Approval to do so.

3. If some Critical Situation should arise in our nation, for which it would be wise for Christians to speak out on, we have No Leader Who Is Authorized To Speak For The A.B.A. --- We would have to wait until the next annual session and have the Churches Approve any such resolution or statement.

(The Moderator, President, of the A.B.A. could speak for himself or for his own local church, but not for the A.B.A.)

F. Neither The Church I Pastor, Nor I, Are Members of The A.B.A. --- And neither are you or your church.

1. There is No Such Thing As Membership In The A.B.A.

(Remember, between sessions, the A.B.A. does not even exist. If you were a member, you would be a member of A None Entity.)

2. The A.B.A. is an "Association" of "Independent Baptist Churches" who fellowship together in the Lord's work.

(I can assure you that there are no "Independent Baptist Church" that are more independent than what the churches that fellowship with the A.B.A. are.)

3. Since most of you who read this do not know me. Allow me to present just a little background, before I make the next few statement, so that you will know where I am coming from.

I was born and raised in a church that fellowship with the A.B.A. I grew up under such great men as Walter Lovelady, Conrad Glover, A. T. Powers, Hoyt Chastain, Albert Garner and many others. D. N. Jackson and Ben M. Bogard, both, stay in my folks home when I was a child. L. D. Foreman, President of the Missionary Baptist Seminary, questioned me at my ordination. I have preached revivals in churches all across this country, from New Mexico to Florida and from Louisiana to Kansas that fellowship with the A.B.A. (Including Antioch when L.D. Foreman was pastor, Unity when Paul Goodwin was pastor, etc) I have attended sessions of the A.B.A. since 1959. With that in mind, I want to make the following statements:

(And keep in mind, that I do not hold any office in the A.B.A., I am not on any committee in the A.B.A., I am not speaking for the A.B.A., or any of the men mentioned above. I am speaking for myself only.)

G. I Have Never Known of Nor Hear of The A.B.A. Ever:

1. Requiring any church to fill out a Petitionary Letter for membership in the A.B.A. --- It has never been done.

2. Voting any church Into Membership of the A.B.A. --- It has never been done.

3. Voting to Seat Messengers from any church of like faith and order that voted to fellowship with us. --- It has never been done.

4. Voting Not To Seat Messengers from any church of like faith and order that voted to fellowship with us. --- It has never been done.

(The only exception that I know of to the above statement was in 1937 when a group brought a resolution to the meeting trying to keep Ben. M. Boagard and his church from being seated as messengers. It failed, as it should have.)

5. Voting any church Out of The A.B.A. --- It has never been done.

6. Requiring any church to Sign Any Kind of A Doctrinal Statement or that they are even in agreement with the doctrinal statement of the A.B.A. --- It has never been done.

(I received an e-mail where a pastor of a church fellowshipping with the A.B.A. stated: "The American Baptist Association only accepts churches into the fellowship who sign a form stating full agreement with the associationís doctrinal statement." The only thing wrong with that statement is that it is Just Not True. --- It has never been done.)

H. In other words, the A.B.A. is an "Association" of "Independent Baptist Church" that voted to fellowship together in carrying out the Great Commission.

I. Example --- If Your Church is of like faith and order and voted to fellowship with the A.B.A., you could come to the next session and have a vote in the business meetings. We Will Not Vote To Seat or Not To Seat You. That Was Done By Your Church.

J. Landmark editor J.B. Gambrell said, "A church cannot delegate its powers to merge its sovereignty through delegates into a general body. It may send messengers to represent its views and wishes, but not delegates invested with its sovereignty of authority."

Now, Let Me Share With You A
Thumbnail Sketch of The History of
The A.B.A. And Its Founders

I. J. R. Graves, The So-Called "Father of Landmarkism," Was Excommunicated From His Church --- Rather Than Apologize He And His Followers Then Proclaimed Themselves To Be The True Church.

A. J. R. Graves was raised a Congregationalist in his native Vermont.

1. He moved to Nashville, Tenn. in 1845 and became a member of the First Baptist Church of Nashville.

2. He soon became Pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Nashville.

3. In 1846 Graves was elected Assistant Editor of the Tennessee Baptist and in 1848, Succeeded R. B. C. Howell As Editor.

4. Graves would edit the Tennessee Baptist for the next 47 years.

B. Graves Owned A Publishing Firm and sought to gain Control of the Sunday School literature away from the Southern Baptist Publication Society.

1. As editor of "The Tennessee Baptist," Graves fueled the controversy on "Baptism" and writes:

"In 1846 I took charge of The Tennessee Baptist, and soon commenced agitating the question of the validity of alien immersions, the propriety of Baptists recognizing, by any act, ecclesiastical or rninisterial, Pseudo-Baptist societies or preachers as churches and ministers of Christ."

2. John L. Waller, Editor of "The Western Baptist Review" in Kentucky refuted Graves and said The Faith of The Person Being Baptized Is More Fundamental Than The Qualifications of The Administrator. If the validity of baptism depends upon the "baptizedness" of the administrator, then No One Can Be Sure he is baptized. Waller said, "If any link in the succession {of baptism} be broken, the most skillful spiritual smith under the whole heavens cannot mend the chain...An improper administrator twenty generations removed, is as fatal to the genuineness of the ordinance as such a one but one generation removed. "

C. Graves used his paper to strongly attack Waller and his position --- this war of words results in setting up a meeting on June 24, 1851 in Cotton Grove, Tenn.

1. The "Cotton Grove Resolution" was the results of this meeting.

a. Can Baptists, consistently with their principles or the Scriptures, recognize those societies not organized according to the pattern of the Jerusalem Church, but possessing different governments, different officers, a different class of members, different ordinances, doctrines and practices, as churches of Christ? - NO

b. Ought they to be called gospel churches, or churches in a religious sense? - NO

c. Can we consistently recognize the ministers of such irregular and unscriptural bodies as gospel ministers? - NO

d. Is it not virtually recognizing them as official ministers to invite them into our pulpits, or by any other act that would or could be constructed into such a recognition? - YES

e. Can we consistently address as brethren those professing Christianity, who not only have not the doctrine of Christ and walk not according to his commandments, but are arrayed in direct and bitter opposition to them? - NO

2. Graves has won the battle but lost the war --- The Resolution Was Not Embraced By The Bulk of The SBC.

D. When Graves moved to Nashville, Howell was the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Nashville and Editor of The Tennessee Baptist, both positions in which Graves Would Succeed Howell.

1. You now have the two most powerful and influential men of the SBC, both with a power base, both prolific writers and speakers, both with very different theological views, on a sure collision course.

2. The flash point for this collision would be the "S. S. Literature" publishing.

3. In 1858, Graves proposed his publishing group take over the literature of the SBC.

4. His pastor, R.B.C. Howell opposed this and supported the existing publication society out of Charleston, which Graves had repeatedly attacked in his publications.

5. Graves began to publicly, through his paper, openly criticize his own pastor --- these attacks became very personal.

6. On Sept. 8, 1858, two church members called for a trial to Discipline J. R. Graves --- There were Five Charges:

a. That Graves had sought to bring reproach and injury to the pastor by bringing him into conflict with A.C. Dayton, late secretary of the Bible Board, and now one of the associate editors of The Tennessee Baptist. Graves was accused of trying to destroy the character and influence of Howell throughout the Southwest, and, with this object in view, of publishing various false and malicious representations.

b. That Graves had sought to distract and divide the church by inciting in The Tennessee Baptist a conflict between the pastor and four of the deacons.

c. That Graves had published in his paper foul and atrocious libels against the pastor.

d. That at various times in his paper he had published malicious attacks and slanders against other Baptist ministers of high reputation, throughout the country.

e. That Graves had uttered and published nine wilful deliberate falsehoods.

7. On Oct. 12, 1858, Graves demanded that the church drop the charges.

a. After Five Hours of Discussion, the church voted about midnight by ninety-one to forty-eight to proceed with the trial.

b. After Nine Subsequent Meeting, in which Graves was neither present nor represented, the church voted unanimously to convict him on all charges and exclude him from the church.

c. During the next year, Forty-Six of Graves' Remaining Followers Were Also Excluded.

E. Graves Never Apologized To The Church --- He and twenty-three of his followers Declared Themselves To Be The True Church.

1. This was A Great Irony:

a. Howell stood for Convention (Association) Control Over Church Authority.

b. Graves taught that Church Authority Was Supreme.

c. However, when church authority excluded him --- Graves Rejected The Church's Authority And Went To The Association To Override The Church.

2. Graves called a council of twenty churches of the Concord Association, which was sympathetic to him, to appeal the charges, which the Nashville church made against him.

The Concord Association Exonerated Graves from all charges which his own Nashville church had voted against him.

Like they say, "I guess it Depends upon Whose Ox Is Gored what position you take."

F. Two years earlier, in his book, "The Great Iron Wheel" he wrote:

"The Baptist Churches are pure democracies, and the only form of purely democratic government in the world. Each Church--The Congregated Membership--Calls And Dismisses Its Pastors, Receives, Dismisses, Disciplines And Excludes Its Members. Before the whole Church the accused person is tried. The Bible alone is the criterion, it being the only rule of faith or practice acknowledged. The Decision of The Majority Is The Ultimate Verdict, and since the Church is independent, There Is No Power Above It, and consequently there is No Appeal From Its Decisions; which agrees with Matt. 18 'If he will not hear the Church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.' The Church can reconsider her act, whenever a majority can be found in favor of it."

G. Graves later wrote more about church authority in the conclusion of a book he wrote regarding a church constitution. He said,

"Each Particular Church Being Independent And Sovereign, Is The Highest Source of Authority, And From Its Decisions There Can Be Not Appeal.....It is the right and duty of each Church, as such, to decide and declare what it considers the teachings of Christ are respecting Church order, Church ordinances, laws, terms of communion, Christian doctrine and duties, and to govern it members accordingly."

H. Fellower Landmarker A. C. Dayton agreed with Graves regarding church authority. In his book, "Theodosia Ernest," Dayton wrote:

"A Baptist Church, in all that concerns its own members, as independent of the associations as it is of the Methodist Conference, or of the grand lodge of Odd Fellows. {When a member is excluded}....There Is No Appeal To Any Association, Local or General, or To Any Convention of Body Outside Itself...The Church Is Under No Necessity To Belong To Any Association, And Is Neither More Nor Less A Church When She Does Belong To One. {The Church}...dare not give up to minister, or to anybody else, the power of discipline, which is by the authority of Christ vested in the ekklesia alone."

I. Apparently, Grave Believed This So Long As It Did Not Apply To Him. However, when it was he, who the sovereign local church had excluded, his convictions seem to change. Remember, Graves Rejected The Authority And Sovereign of The Local Church Where He Held Membership And Appealed To The Associaiton Which Then Overrode The Actions And Authority of His Own Local Church.

II. The First Association of Landmark Missionary Baptist Began Because of A Split In First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas --- The Trouble Began In 1879.

A. Samuel A. Hayden of Dallas, Texas, led a Split out of the Fist Baptist Church of Dallas.

1. The splitting faction was Landmark oriented and organized into the Live Oak Baptist Church --- Hayden became their pastor in 1883.

2. Hayden Reunited the Live Oak Baptist Church back into the First Baptist Church and served as an unofficial assistant pastor.

3. While in this position, Hayden Edited the paper, "The Texas Baptist".

(A similar situation as that of J. R. Graves and his pastor 25 years earlier.)

B. R. T. Hanks was now Pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas.

1. In 1886, R. T. Hanks lead a unification of the various overlapping conventions into one "Baptist General Convention of Texas."

2. This was established on the basis of a "Missionary Board".

3. The conflict between the Landmark Anti-Board position and the SBC Pro-Board position became heated.

4. Hayden started Attacking His Pastor (R. T. Hanks) and the Pro-Board Position in his Paper. --- (Remember J. R. Graves 25 years earlier)

C. In 1894, Hayden proposed Changes in the new Texas Mission Program which would change it into a Landmark mission program.

1. The Convention Refused Hayden's proposals.

2. Hayden intensified his attacks in his paper and the SBC perceived these attacks as ridicule, harassment and slander --- and accused Hayden of "undermining the mission work, drying up the mission spirit, and sowing down our once fertile fields with salt."

3. In 1897, 1898, 1899, and 1900, the state convention Refused To Seat Him.

4. On April 28, 1898 Hayden Sued The SBC for violating his civil rights in breach of the First Amendment --- he was awarded $100,000 (well over one million dollars in today's money).

D. In order to Keep Hayden Out, the SBC passed Article IX.

"Whenever any church or association or society shall by a majority vote of the Convention be declared to be in an Attitude of General Or Continued Hostility Or Unfriendliness to the work or purpose of the Convention, or when any Person is Declared To Be In Such An Attitude, then such Church or association or society shall, by such majority vote, be Denied The Privilege of Sending Messengers To The Convention."

1. In other words, if your attitude is unfriendly to what we want to do, then you are "out of here".

2. Hayden's argument was that the state convention was made up of churches, and the Convention Could Not Refuse To Seat Delegates Without Violating The Autonomy of The Local Church.

3. However, the Convention Voted, "the Convention is Composed of Persons Chosen By Churches, associations, and missionary societies as their messengers, and that when said persons are convened They, And Not The Churches Are The Convention."

4. Historian James Tull said, "To Hayden, this meant that the Convention Was Presuming To Dictate To A Local Church."

5. Landmark editor J. B. Gambrell said, "A church cannot delegate its powers to merge its sovereignty through delegates into a general body. It may send messengers to represent its views and wishes, but not delegates invested with its sovereignty of authority."

E. The SBC Lost This Legal Battle and was forced to Reinstate Hayden at the 1900 convention.

1. However, Hayden and his followers Walked Out and made plans to Start Their Own Convention, which they did in Troupe, Texas on July 6, 1900.

2. The first Landmark convention was called the East Texas Baptist Convention.

3. Later that year they changed the name to the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas.

4. Landmark Southern Baptist historian J. M. Carroll called this Baptist Missionary Association "an outgrowth of the Hayden affair."

F. In 1900 an effort was made by Arkansas Landmarkers Within The SBC to Change The Mission Program To A Landmark Style --- It Failed.

G. In 1901 a move was made to Abolish The Office of Corresponding Secretary in the Arkansas Convention by Landmarkers Within The SBC --- They Failed.

III. In April 1902, The Landmarkers in Arkansas Met In Antioch Landmark Missionary Baptist Church, Little Rock, Ark. And Formed The "General Association of Baptist Churches".

A. This group, at this point, had Not Declared Separation From The SBC Arkansas State Convention.

1. The Landmarkers Sought To Seek Reconciliation with the state convention and set out Six Propositions of Peace. They were:

a. The scriptural right of individual churches to commission and send forth missionaries must be recognized.

b. The reports of missionaries shall include only the work actually performed by the missionaries and paid for by missionary contributors.

c. The recognition of each church as a unit and entitled to equal representation with any other church in Association or Convention.

d. The absolute abolition of the office and expense of the corresponding secretary under whatever title.

e. The right of the churches to instruct their messengers on any subject to be recognized.

f. The abolition of the present plan of cooperation with the Home and Foreign Mission Boards of the Southern Baptist Convention.

2. After these six proposals were present to a committee representing the SBC Arkansas State Convention, the Committee Reluctantly Agreed To All The Propositions.

3. However, at the 1903 State Convention, one committee member urged the rejection of these six terms. His Minority Report Was Accepted by the state convention and thereby Rejected The Landmarker's Proposition.

4. This was the Final Break between the Southern Baptist Convention and the Landmarkers.

B. Ben M. Bogard sought to Unite the Texas Hayden group and his own Arkansas group under one banner.

1. In March 1905, a meeting was called in Texarkana, Arkansas for all interested churches to meet.

2. At the meeting Ben Bogard said:

a. "We believe in scriptural church cooperation and there is no general organization in America composed of churches which has for its object church cooperation in foreign mission work."

b. "We believe that a church of God, however small, is the equal in everything essential to every other church of God....We want churches represented as such and we suggest that only one messenger be sent from a church. The constitution of the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas and Statement of Principles of Arkansas and Territorial General Association to serve as a basis of organizing."

C. Representatives from about 50 Churches sent messengers.

1. They called themselves the "United States National General Association of Landmark Missionary Baptist"

2. A Committee was appointed to attend the Southern Baptist Convention in Kansas City May 12-17, 1905, for the purpose of Negotiating A Settlement of Differences --- They Failed.

D. On Nov. 24-26, 1905, a formal organization was accomplished in Texarkana.

1. One Hundred Seven Churches from twelve states and territories, met at the church which J. R. Graves' son-in-law pastored.

2. This group was know as the "United States National General Association of Landmark Missionary Baptist" --- commonly called the "General Association of Landmark Baptist" --- generally referred to today as the "Old General Association".

E. On December 10, 1924, this group met in Texarkansas and did more than just chang its name to the American Baptist Association (A.B.A.).

1. The details were worked out for the organization of the American Baptist Associaiton.

2. The Doctrinal Statement and the Articles of Agreements of the purposed organization were Referred Back To The Churches For Ratification.

3. The churches accepted the plans presented by the messengers, and In 1925, In Dallas, Texas, The Messengers of The American Baptist Associaiton Met For The First Time.

F. In 1950 there was a Split in the A.B.A and an additional group was formed which was called the N.A.B.A--- The North American Baptist Association.

I Will Be Adding A List of Sites Where You Can
Go For Much More Information On Church History.

If You Are Not Saved, Nothing Else Matters
There Is No Second Chance After Death!
Hebrews 9:27

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