A Serious Problem at Georgetown College
By Frank M. Masters, 1953
In the Summer of 1934, Dr. Henry Noble Sherwood, assistant professor of History in the University of Louisville, was elected President of Georgetown College and was in the third month of his administration when the General Association convened in Henderson. The fact had become well-known that Dr. Sherwood was formerly a minister in the Christian Church, commonly designated Campbellites, and united with a Baptist church in Indiana without having been baptized on the authority of that church. In 1927 he united with the Highland Baptist Church, Louisville, by letter from that Baptist Church in Indiana.
Early in the session of the General Association at Henderson several resolutions and memorials were presented condemning the action of the Board of Trustees of Georgetown College for employing Dr. Sherwood with the irregularity in his church membership. Dr. J. W. Porter, pastor in Lexington presented the following: “Whereas, Georgetown College now has a President, who was received into a Baptist church on his Campbellite immersion and thus teaching preachers and others by precept and example, that Campbellite baptism is Scriptural baptism, and should, therefore, be received by Baptist churches. And whereas, Baptist churches are unwilling to discredit their age-long contention against Baptismal regeneration, and make an unconditional surrender to those, who for the past century, have opposed our faith and baptism;
"Therefore, be it Resolved: That on, and after July 1, 1935, the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky withhold all funds from Georgetown College, so long as the College has a President, who has not received baptism authorized by a Baptist church."
After the resolution was discussed by Brethren J. W. Porter and W. W. Stout, L. R. Riley read a communication from West Union Association, which was in substance as follows: “It is our understanding that the President of Georgetown College has been received into a Baptist church on his Campbellite baptism . . . . In view of these facts your committee recommends that our association ask our General Association to demand that these matters be corrected, and if not promptly done, that financial support to Georgetown College be withdrawn.” After a prolonged discussion, participated in by George Ragland, Clarence Walker, Professor J. A. Tolman, O. M. Shultz, M. P. Hunt, J. B. Head, and T. C. Ecton, the subject was made a special order for 9:15 Wednesday morning.
At the appointed hour the Porter resolution was again taken up for consideration. After instructions by the Moderator, E. C. Stevens, and some remarks by S. E. Tull and T. C. Ecton, President Sherwood addressed the body. S. F. Dowis, pastor in Louisville, offered a substitute for the Porter resolution: "Resolved that the General Association of Kentucky Baptists go on record, as saying to the Trustees of Georgetown College that unless the President sees fit to conform to Baptist teaching as to baptism or else
resign his position as President of the College . . . by January 1, 1935, that all funds shall be withheld from the College until the General Association shall be satisfied about the matter."
After further discussion, H. S. Summers, offered the following Resolution, which after considerable discussion was adopted as the action of the body:“Whereas it has come to our knowledge that the Trustees have elected to the Presidency of Georgetown College an educator whose baptism is irregular; . . . . andAt the meeting of the Executive Board the will of the General Association was carried out by holding all funds in reserve allotted to Georgetown College, pending the adjustment of the relation of that institution to the General Association.1 The discussion and contention continued unabated in every session of the General Association until 1941 in which year the Board of Trustees voted 12 to 9 not to re-employ Dr. Sherwood. At the end of his tenure of office at Georgetown College he moved to Lexington and joined the Central Christian Church and accepted work with the University of Kentucky. Still later he became Chancellor of Transylvania University, operated by the Disciples.
"Whereas, Kentucky Baptists are unwilling to be untrue to the principles and faith and polity of the New Testament; and
“Whereas, the place of President of our leading Baptist College is of such tremendous importance among us; Therefore be it resolved:
"First, That the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky, assembled at Henderson, November 14, 1934, reaffirm our solemn pledge of loyalty to our time-honored faith, and disapproval of irregularity in following the same;
“Second, That we call upon the Trustees of Georgetown College, as representatives and trustees of Kentucky Baptist interests, to take immediate steps to correct existing conditions:
"Third, That in case the condition of irregularity be existent on January 20, 1935, the matter be referred to a called meeting of the State Mission Board for immediate action according to the spirit of this resolution, which would prevent the further distribution of funds to any institution out of line with Kentucky Baptist principals [principles] and practices.
"Fourth, That we affirm our love for Georgetown College, and express our confidence in the willingness of its trustees to bring about the conditions so essential for the growth of the institution and the maintenance of the fellowship of Kentucky Baptists."
1 Minutes of the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky, 1934, p. 17-19, 28, 29, 31, 35-38, 40, 51, 84, 85.
[From Frank M. Masters, A History of Baptists in Kentucky, 1953, pp. 523-524. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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