It was my privilege to speak at the commencement exercises of the Landmark Baptist College in Ironton, Ohio, where Dr. Clifford Gore is president. The school is sponsored by the Sugar Creek Missionary Baptist Church where Michael Long is pastor. For the past ten years or so this church has fellowshipped with the churches of the American Baptist Association but since its beginning in 1889 it has been a part of the Ohio Baptist Association.
For years I have heard about this group of sound Missionary Baptist Churches in Ohio who had never been associated with any national group and I have always wanted to visit them. Well, my wish came true.
I have never been in a place where there were as many churches that were over 100 years old. We visited the building of the Ohio Baptist Church that was organized near the Ohio river in 1804. At that time it was the only church of any kind from Cincinnati to Marietta, a distance of over 200 miles.
The Ohio Baptist Association was organized on November 11, 1820 with eight churches with authority from the Tayses (Teas) Valley Association of Virginia. (Teas Valley became a part of West Virginia in 1863 as a result of the Civil War.) Ohio Baptist Association is still in existence today, almost 187 years later. The first moderator was John Lee (c1769 - 1840) who remained moderator 20 years until his death. We visited his gravesite in an old cemetery that is now grown over.
In 1845 meeting a query came from a church asking, "Is it proper to grant a letter to a member wishing to unite with an anti-Baptist church?" The answer seems as direct as it is simple. It is "NO!"
In 1848 a committee gave the following report. "That in our opinion, a member excluded from one church in the Association has not a right to join another church without using the necessary means for reconciliation with the church that dismissed him. Neither has any church a right to receive such a member, knowing that satisfaction has not been given the sister church."
In 1833 the association formed a Missions Society ". . .to consult on the best means to promote the Gospel in the destitute parts of this Association."
In 1851 it was reported that "Seven Ministers, having been appointed by the Association . . . covered almost all meetings, preaching 830 sermons, baptizing 423 people, traveling 4,700 miles and received $550.00."
During the 1858 meeting the Ohio Baptist Sunday School Convention was organized and became a part of the Association. ("Convention" meaning an assembly made up of delegates from the churches and had nothing to do with the Northern or Southern Baptist Conventions.) It was designed to assist the churches to better organize and instruct the young folk, especially in the truth of God's Word. It was stated that the Schools were to be "the church at work," therefore under the supervision of the church.
In 1860 it was said that "Generally there was a devotional with prayer and an introductory sermon. Then the delegations would either repair to the grove on the church property to carry on the business of the Association or stay in the building and the people would go to the grove for religious services."
In 1868 singing is reported for the first time in the Sunday School Convention.
In 1869 for the first time an obituary report is given.
It is interesting to note that in the 1869 minutes concerning baptism the following appears: "It has been the doctrine and practice of the Regular Baptist Churches, from time immemorial in all lands to require, first, a converted person as the subject; second, immersion as the Scriptural mode; third, a legal administrator, and, that we adhere to this usage and practice."
During the 1864 meeting it is reported that singing was just now beginning to be reported and soon the whole meetings were permeated with the "Hymns of Zion."
In the 1872 meeting a resolution made it clear that there was a clear division between them and their anti-missionary friends. It was made clear that they would not receive members by letters or practice inter-communion. The first Bible Institute for teachers was held during the Sunday School Convention, which was continued in years to come.
In 1877 for the first time a musical instrument was used in the meeting (the kind of instrument was not given).
In 1881 a resolution stated that "The churches are urged to meet as often as every Lord's Day for prayer and conference, even though there is none present to preach the Word of God." The "conference meeting" later came to be known as the "testimony meeting."
In 1881 for the first time women were sent as delegates to the Sunday School Convention and in 1886 to the Association.
In 1905 it was reported their first foreign missionaries, going to Ung Kung, China, from one of the Associational churches.
A Ladies Missionary Society had originated in 1876 and met with the Association for the first time in 1906 and "had a very inspiring session."
In 1907 it was reported that two of their Ministers had been to college. But, it is pointed out that one of their best preachers could not read until the Lord called him to the Ministry. He then learned to read from the Bible.
In 1911 there were visitors from Twelve Pole, West Virginia, Clinton, Greenup, Guyandotte, Mud River and Mt. Vernon Associations.
In 1913 there is a resolution urging the people to give one tenth (the tithe) to the services of the Lord.
In 1915 a resolution "Urges our churches to ordain no one to the Gospel ministry who has not completed the eighth grade in public school or its equivalent . . ."
An interesting note, in 1917 it was reported, "The horses can't get used to the noisy Fords and Chevrolets so they are hard to handle and occasionally, there is a runaway."
In 1925 a resolution was made against those in the Ohio Baptist Convention and the Northern Baptist Seminaries and colleges that taught modernism.
In 1928 an "interested person began to look for Baptist material and wrote to the Baptist Sunday School Committee of Texarkana, Texas, for samples of their Sunday School material for all classes." Soon all or most of the Sunday Schools were using the literature.
In 1930 it was reported that the messages were enjoyed, except for one. That one was by a visitor to the Association, J.R. Gilpin, who spent some time denying that women have any place in public worship. His message prompted a resolution disagreeing with his stand.
It was a thrill to be around these churches. At some later time I would like to do short articles on John Lee and also on the Ohio Baptist Church.
OHIO BAPTIST ASSOCIATION
by Raymond McAlister