Baptist History Celebration
The Baptist History Celebration was held at the First Baptist Church, Charleston, South Carolina, August 1-3. The meeting was planned to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the Philadelphia Association, the oldest Baptist Association in America. I had the privilege of serving on the Steering Committee which planned this meeting. We met annually for the past five years and it really was a great experience to see people from various groups of Baptists working together on this project. The places we visited, the speakers we heard and the fellowship enjoyed were a blessing. I want to express special appreciation for Gary Long for his untiring efforts to make the meeting a success.
Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church, extended his welcome to the Conference and was indeed a gracious host for this meeting. A number of profiles were presented on individuals who played a significant role in Baptist history. These included: Obadiah Holmes by Jeff Faggart, Shubal Stearns by John Sparks, Spencer Cone by John Thornbury, and The Marshalls by Thomas Ray.
There were several presentations on Baptist Hymnody. Irvin Murrell spoke on Southern Ante-Bellum Baptist Hymnody. In tracing the hymns that were in use by various Baptist groups before the Civil War, Murrell noted that twenty-three of those hymns are still in Primitive Baptists Hymnals today, that being twice the number appearing in other Baptist Hymnals in current use. Harry Eskew spoke about William Walker and the influence on the Scared Harp style of singing. Charles Walker spoke on The Birth of Gospel Music and provided a very moving rendition of Thomas Dorsey’s well know composition Precious Lord Take My Hand.
Speakers included Bill Brackney, Edwin Gaustad, and Tom Nettles. There were Breakout sessions covering such subjects as: Baptists and The Civil Rights Movement, Baptist Theological Controversies, Spurgeon and American Baptist Spirituality, History of The Primitive Baptists, and Baptist Preachers and Their Sermons. A wide variety of views were presented which made it an interesting look at Baptist history and provided some insight as to where they are today.
As the 300th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Association is recognized, it should not be forgotten that this Association adopted the London Confession which then became known as the Philadelphia Confession. Over the past 300 years many Baptists have moved far away from the doctrines contained in the Old Confession but it is encouraging to know there are those today who still respect it and love the truth of the sovereignty of God expressed in it and are continuing to preach the message of His sovereign grace.