A Revealing Survey On Church Practice
By Kenneth K. Marshall
[The following is clipped from the Illinois Baptist. The author, Rev. Kenneth K. Marshall of Carbondale, Illinois, states: "I have authentic evidence to support every statement in this article, and take complete responsibility."]
ON FEBRUARY 14, 1948, I sent a letter to each secretary of every state convention affiliated with both the Northern and the Southern Baptist Conventions asking them about the practice of the churches in their state concerning alien immersion and open communion. The result of this survey is tabulated below.
Those churches which include people of other denominations other than Baptists in observing the Lord's Supper are classified as "open communion." Those churches which will receive the immersions of Pedo-Baptists and Disciples as baptism are classified as "alien immersion." Those churches that will receive members from other denominations into full membership are known as "open membership," and those that will receive sprinkled persons from other denominations into membership with slight restrictions as to voting on certain issues are known as "associate membership." Not every state answered my letter, but those that did are as follows:
Northern Baptist ConventionOpen Alien Assoc. or Open Communion Immersion Membership
North California 90% 90% South California All but three All but three Colorado 95% 90-95% Illinois 90% 90% Indiana 90% 90% Iowa All All Kansas Most All but those who are now in SBC Maine All A11 25% Massachusetts Almost all Almost all Very many Montana, Idaho, Utah 95% All Nebraska All All New Hampshire 90% Almost all 25% Nevada All All New Jersey All All New York Almost all Almost all 50-60% Pennsylvania All All 3% Rhode Island All All 50% South Dakota Almost all All Vermont All All 15% Washington At least 95% At least 95% Wisconsin 90% 90% 10% Wyoming All but 2 All but 3 District of Columbia 1/3 Several West Virginia 2/3 3/4
Thus we see that approximately 98 per cent of the churches of the NBC practice open communion and receive alien immersion. Hundreds of churches, especially in the East, recognize sprinkling as valid baptism by accepting unimmersed persons into membership, either in full or associate fellowship. Even the over-whelming majority of those making up the conservative movement are open communionists and alien immersionists. The conservatives teach the direct inspiration of the Scriptures, the virgin birth, the blood atonement, the doctrines of grace, etc., but the majority of them are as liberal as many of the so-called modernists in respect to the doctrine of the church and the ordinances.
Surely, the conservatives ought to see that the practice of liberalism in respect to the ordinances is a compromise. Should not Baptists who are loyal to the other fundamental doctrines be just as loyal to New Testament ecclesiology? Are not Christ's churches and Christ's ordinances to be honored, even as are His teachings on other questions? When a man contends for the fundamentals as to the creation of man and as to Christ's deity, and denounces all who do not join in with him, should he then disregard the order of the ordinances and their relationship to the church and join with those who virtually repudiate the ordinances and say "one way is as good as another?"
Southern Baptist Convention
The results of the survey showing the presence of open communion and alien immersion in the Southern Baptist Convention are as follows:Open Communion Alien Immersion
Alabama Slightly more than 2% About 2% Arizona None None Arkansas None None California None None District of Columbia 1/3 Several Florida About 2% About 2% Georgia A few A few Illinois None that directly A few will receive teach open communion baptism of apostate Baptist Churches Kentucky Not more than 6 Not more than 6 Louisiana None None Maryland Almost all All Mississippi None None Missouri About 1/2 About 1/2 North Carolina 5% practice outright Many, if not a open communion, and majority many more have no practical restrictions New Mexico None None Oklahoma None None South Carolina None None Tennessee None None Texas None None Virginia Almost all Almost all
It can be readily seen from this survey that about 95 per cent of the Southern Baptist churches practice restricted communion and are anti-alien immersionists. There are, however, slight traces of liberalism in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. The State of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri and the District of Columbia seem to have a larger measure of liberalism. Maryland and Virginia seem to be almost entirely liberal.
Needless to say, this tendency toward alien immersion and open communion is an innovation among Southern Baptists. These things were almost unknown in Southern Baptist circles a generation ago. According to a well-known official of one of our boards, this leaven of liberalism was introduced by graduates of Northern Baptist or other liberal seminaries that have come to pastor our churches, especially in Virginia and Maryland.
Alien immersion and open communion are the first steps toward more and more liberalism. If this tendency is not arrested, it will not be many years until the Southern Convention will be permeated.
A Summary of the 1948 Survey by R. Charles Blair
[From the Western Recorder, August 12, 1948, pages 5 and 13. Document provided by Ben Stratton, Farmington, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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