Editor's note: This Circular Letter was written because of anti-mission sentiments that developed in this association; it explains the developments that led to the organization of a new association. — jrd
Which bears date from May 1846; the Convention, which met for consultation on the expediency of attempting a new organization out of the old community, set forth their reasons for their doings in the following
To the churches which I shall here insert. It will serve as a specimen of the rending and distracting course which has been pursued in too many places in the south and west.
"Dear Brethren: — A crisis has arrived in the history of the Washington Association. At its late meeting, the Constitution has been wantonly violated, by establishing n new test, which we consider contrary to the word of God in its character, and intolerant and oppressive in its operation. The 6th Article of the Constitution says: — 'New Churches may be admitted into the Union, who shall petition by Letter and Delegates; and if found upon examination orthodox and orderly, shall be received by the Association and manifested by the Moderator giving the right hand of fellowship.' Such a Church presented itself at its late meeting. It was admitted that it had been regularly constituted of members in good standing, and they set forth, in their communication to the Association, a declaration of those doctrine, which have had adopted by that body as orthodox. Yet, strange as it may appear, this Church (the Church recently organized at Marion), was rejected, and its members refused a seat in the Association, solely because the Church favored missionary operations, and its Pastor,
(Elder N. C. Baldwin), had received an appointment from the General Association of Virginia. This must appear, to every unprejudiced mind, a palpable violation of the Constitution. And it is certainly known that, in the former actions of the Association, missionary or anti-missionary sentiments have never been known as a test of fellowship, or a condition of its privileges. In addition to this, all correspondents from sister Associations, who favored missionary enterprises, were on that account rejected. The Holston Association, from which this body originated, and with whom an uninterrupted correspondence has been maintained ever since the Washington Association was first organized, sent ant affectionate Letter of Correspondence, by the hands of several well known brethren, who have always, before this time, been most cordially greeted. These brethren were rejected, because they, and the body to which they belong, were identified with missionary operations. The General Agent of the General Association of Virginia reported himself as a correspondent from that body, and was rejected on the same account.
"On the other hand, a letter was presented from the Mountain Association, in which that body arrogantly required the Washington Association to dissolve its connection with the Holston Association and the Greenbrier Association, and all other bodies which have any connection with the benevolent enterprises of the day, or else they (the Mountain Association) will maintain, no further correspondence with them. This letter and these correspondents were received, and a correspondence continued. This is not all. A correspondence was also opened with the New River Association, which it is well known has long since declared non-fellowship with all those who are engaged in the missionary enterprise, and is distinguished for its inveterate hostility to almost every thing that is calculated to elevate the human character, and better the condition of our race. While there acts were done by a majority of the Association present on this occasion, we are confident that it is not a representation of the sentiments and wishes of a majority of our Churches. And we consider that the action of this body is a virtual declaration of non-fellowship with those of our own Association, who favor those enterprises, on account of which the corresponding brethren were rejected. Being deeply grieved on account of these unconstitutional and intolerant measures, a number of the brethren convened at Lebanon, as you see from the above Minutes, for the purpose of adopting measures for the restoration of peace to our Churches, and the maintenance of our rights as men and as Christians.
"And now, dear brethren, we have laid before you our grievances, entertaining the assurance that there will be found many Churches and brethren whose sympathies are with us, and who will promptly respond to our call, by sending up a delegation to the meeting proposed above. We are assured that there are many, and we believe a large majority of the churches, who will not consent to rudely tear asunder long cherished bonds of union and affection with sister Associations and with Ministers of our own body, simply because they are doing something to send the Light of Life into the dark corners of our own country, and to the benighted heathen. And we trust that there are very many, who will not suffer themselves to be hindered in their co-operation in this glorious work of Christian philanthropy, by intermeddlers, who not only do nothing themselves, but deride and oppose those who would work for God. We earnestly request that you seriously and prayerfully consider these things. Consider the claims that the cause of our Master, and the wants and woes of a perishing world have upon the Christian Church, and take such action in this matter as duty dictates.
"Grace, mercy and peace be multiplied.
"Your brethren and companions in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.
"NOAH C. BALDWIN, "ELISHA MARTIN, "LEWIS B. DULANY. Committee."
[From David Benedict, A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America, 1848; rpt. 1977, pp. 675-676. — jrd]
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