Editor's note: This is the official Letter sent to all the associations that the Miami Baptist Association had fellowship with at the time of the Mission / Anti-Mission division. - Jim Duvall.
Miami Baptist Association (OH), 1836
By S. W. Lynd
The Miami Baptist Association, to the Associations with whom she corresponds, sends greeting:
BELOVED BRETHREN, - The circumstances under which we address you this year are one of so peculiar a character, that we solicit your patience to a brief exposition of facts that have transpired within our body during its session. For a few years past considerable excitement has prevailed among us upon the subject of the benevolent institutions of the day, part of the Association being in favor of them, and part opposed to them. No special action was taken upon this agitating topic, until the annual session of 1835, when the following preamble and resolution were passed and recorded upon the minutes, viz: - "Whereas there is great excitement and division of sentiment in the Baptist denomination, relative to the subject of the benevolent institutions of the day, so called, such as Sunday Schools, Bible, Missonary, Tract, and Temperance Societies:Therefore, Resolved, That this Association regards those said societies and institutions as havng no authority, foundation, or support in the Sacred Scriptures; but we regard them as having had their orgin in, and as belonging exclusively to the world, and as such we have no fellowship for them,as being of a religious character; but do not hereby declare non-fellowship with those brethren and churches, who now advocate them."By this resolution it was distinctly understood that the Association did not declare non-fellowship for any of those brethren or churches, who were in favor of the benevolent institutions of the day; and here we hoped the subject would rest. But immediately after the organization of the present session a resolution was presented to drop from the Minutes the following churches, Sixth-street, of Cincinnati, Middletown, Dayton, Lebanon, and such part of the Fairfield and other churches, as favor the benevolent institutions of the day. So much of the resolution as related to parts of churches was subsequently stricken out.
The resolution was opposed upon the ground of its being an unconstitutional measure, and one which affected the independence of the churches, which point is specially guarded in the rules of the Association.
The Association was established upon principles held in common by the churches composing it, and it was contended that no church could be justly cut off from the body, except for a violation of those principles. No charge was preferred against the churches proposed by the resolution to be dropped from the minutes, for a violation of the constitution, and of course they were members in good standing. According to all former usage among the Baptists, the part of a church or association which departs from the articles of faith is not considered the church or the association. In relation to churches this point has been fully illustrated in the history of our own body.
The minority of the Dayton church, at the time the majority departed from the confession of faith were held in fellowship, by the association, as the Dayton church. This has been the uniform practice in Baptist Associations. The resolution, therefore, to drop the above named churches from the body was an unconstitutional act, and a departure from the faith and practice upon which the body was organized. The churches which carried out this unconstitutional act, cannot of course be regarded as the Miami Association.
This resolution being grounded on the fact that the above named churches were in favor of the benevolent institutions, such as Sunday Schools, Bible, Missionary, and Tract Societies, it was contended that the measure proposed would, in the event of its being sustained, directly interfere with the independence of the churches, a vital point in the estimation of Baptists. The whole denomination as far back as the days of the Apostles have regarded a separate and independent community of Christians as the highest religious tribunal known to the Word of God. And when they have formed voluntary associations for promoting the interests of religion among them they have uniformly been exceedingly tenacious of the independence of the churches, and have regarded such Associations, not as ecclesiastical bodies, but merely as advisory councils.
While, therefore, the majority of the Association at the session of 1835, thought it advisable to spread upon the minutes their opinion of the benevolent operations of the day, without interfering with the action of such brethren and such churches as were in favor of these operations, the minority felt prepared to meet with their brethren annually, upon the original platform, and aid in the ordinary business of the Association. They believed then, and still believe that every one should act, according to the light he has received, in the furtherance of the cause which lies near the hearts of all true saints. If any think that they can advance the interests of religion by contributing to the circulation of the Bible, or to the support of those ministers of Christ who have gone to preach the Gospel to the heathen, let them have their Christian liberty. And so also of those who are opposed to the benevolent societies. Let not him who is in favor of them despise him who is not; and let not him who is opposed to them judge him who is their advocate.
These principles we are assured have, in several instances, been carried out in the practice of our Association, At the meeting of this
body in 1814 at Sugar Creek, measures were pursued for the formation of a Missionary Society, which was afterwards organized by a part of the churches. The Association did not only recognise the independence Of the churches in this matter, but even pursued measures in their own body which resulted in the formation of a Domestic Missionary Society. This Society voted to open a correspondence with the Baptist Board of Missions in Philadelphia, and for some years continued that correspondence. When the Ohio Baptist State Convention was formed many of the churches in this Association were represented in that Convention, and the acting Board was located one year within the bounds of the Association, most of the ministers acting as officers of the Board. Elder Childers, the mover of the unconstitutional resolution, was employed for about two years as a traveling missionary. Elders Gard and Thompson advocated strongly the claims of missions, and sowed the seed in all the churches. In the year 1832 when the Association was held with the Bethel Church, Elder Lynd was appointed to preach a Missionary sermon, and a collection of about $40 was taken up in aid of the funds of the Convention.
The proposed resolution was therefore regarded by the minority as an infringement of the rule which guarantees the independence of the churches, and consequently a departure from the faith and practice on which the Association was based. That the spirit of this measure was in hostility to the independence of the churches, is further developed by the resolution passed by the majority on the following day, in these words -"Resolved, That the Association advise such of the brethren in the churches, that were dropped from our Minutes yesterday, as are not engaged in advocating or supporting any of the societies which were denounced by this Association at her 1st session, as being unauthorised by the Scripture, to embody themselves together, and exclude from their fellowship, all such as.they cannot reclaim by Gospel discipline; and at our next session to report the result of their labors to the Association."Here is a direct interference upon their part to stir up division among the churches, and thus most unequivocally to trample upon the rights of independent bodies.
It was also contended that the proposed measure was altogether at variance with uniform Baptist practice. No charge was specifically made against any of the churches; no dealing was ever had with them, by aggrieved churches, by committe of the association, or otherwise; the resolution of the last year recognized distinctly their fellowship with said churches; no change had taken place in their faith or practice; and yet it was moved and finally carried, to drop them from the Minutes. The measure was believed by the minority to be unparalleled in the history of Baptist Associations, an act of arbitrary power, and a complete abandonment of constitutional principles? [.] By this act four churches were at once laid under censure, churches which contained nearly half of all the church members in the Assoociation. These churches were prohibited from voting on the question. It is true that some of the delegates refused to vote, because they considered the measure illegal, but the votes of others who gave their names were refused. According to this mode of procedure a church can exclude all others belonging to the same body. All
they have to do is to lay all the other churches under censure, and prohibit them from voting. The minority, therefore, considered the measure carried by the majority, to be on their part a total abandonment of all right and interest, and fellowship in the Association.
Under these circumstances, the minority through their delegates adjourned to meet in the adjoining village of New Haven, and invited such delegates of the churches as were determined to abide by the constitution, to meet with them in order to prosecute the. business of the Miami Association. For the proceedings of our meeting we refer you to our minutes, and for any additional information to our messengers appointed to meet with you. We desire a continuance of your correspondence.
May the Great Head of the Church guide your deliberations, and cause you always to triumph in his name.
S. W. LYND, Moderator. D. BRYANT, Clerk. ===============
[From Miami Baptist Association Minutes 1836. Document from the Miami Baptist Association Office, Cincinnati. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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