Kentucky Baptists

200th Anniversary of Buck Run Baptist Church

Cover of BRBC History

Cover of forthcoming history of Buck Run Baptist Church

On January 31, 1818 (200 years ago today), the “Baptist Church of Christ at Buck Run” was constituted. The initial meeting was held in the home of Isaac Wilson near Buck Run Creek on the Forks of the Elkhorn in Franklin County, Kentucky. Wilson was one of twenty-one charter members of the church. Present at this gathering were some of the most prominent of the Baptist preachers in Kentucky. The pioneer preacher William Hickman was there and served as the moderator for the meeting. Silas Mercer Noel, a Circuit Court Judge turned preacher and one of the founders of the First Baptist Church of Frankfort two years earlier) was there and served as the clerk for the meeting. Also present as a charter member was the inimitable John Taylor and his wife, Elizabeth.

Like all Baptist churches of the period, the church was formed with two primary documents—a confession of faith (what they agreed to believe together) and a church covenant (how they agreed to live together). Baptist churches are not formed based on geography or genealogy. In other words, a person does not become a member of a Baptist church simply by living in a certain area or by being born into a particular family. Baptist churches believe in what is called regenerate church membership. This means that only professing believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who give credible evidence of that profession are admitted as members. Therefore, the only reason a Baptist church can exist is if a group of believers come together sharing a common set of beliefs (a confession of faith) and an agreement of how these believers are going to dwell together (a church covenant).

Although similar in form and content to other churches’ founding documents, the Buck Run documents were principally authored by the legendary Pioneer Kentucky Baptist preacher John Taylor. The sixty-five-year-old Taylor had by this point been laboring in gospel ministry for forty-five years. He was a well-respected leader among the Baptists who had seen many converted through his preaching and had helped to establish many churches. Taylor would later write that, in the constituting documents adopted by Buck Run, “the creed of my own heart on these subjects, is very [sic.] fully expressed.” He went on to say that these ideas were not a recent revelation to him, but instead reflected his “unwavering opinion from my youth.” In these documents, Taylor declared, one could “see the complexion of my whole soul in theology.” Although he had considered writing an explanation of the beliefs contained in these documents, he said “they stand explicit for themselves.” In these beliefs, Taylor said, “I have lived long, by them I expect to die, which I hope is not far distant.”[1]

Taylor would live another seventeen years to the age of eighty-four years. Those extended latter years were given in service to the Buck Run Church. A contemporary young man whose job it was to ring the court house bell to announce the beginning of preaching services for the various churches in the Frankfort area reminisced of how often he “hammered That old Cort [sic.] house Bell For … old man Tailor [sic.], “the Father of the Buck Run Church.”[2] Clearly, Taylor was recognized as the founding father of Buck Run by those in the community.

To read the church’s founding confession of faith, see here.

If you would like to pre-order a copy of this history, please comment below and I will send you the information on how to secure your copy at the special pre-release price of $25 (it will retail for $40).

[1] John Taylor, A History of Ten Baptist Churches, 2nd ed. (Bloomfield, KY: Will. H. Holmes, 1827), 199-200.

[2] Frances L. S. Dugan and Jacqueline P. Bull, ed., Bluegrass Craftsman: Being the Reminiscences of Ebenezer Hiram Stedman Papermaker, 1808-1815 (Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1959), 80.

Articles of Faith of Buck Run Baptist Church (1818)

Article 1

Article 1 of the Buck Run Confession (1818)

On January 31, 1818, the Buck Run Baptist Church on the Forks of the Elkhorn in Franklin County, Kentucky, was constituted with twenty-one members. Like all Baptist churches of the period, the church was formed with two documents—a confession of faith (what they agreed to believe together) and a church covenant (how they agreed to live together). These documents were principally authored by the legendary Pioneer Kentucky Baptist preacher John Taylor, who was called by a contemporary “the Father of the Buck Run Church.” Taylor said that in these eight articles “the creed of [his] own heart on these matters is fully expressed.”

The confession as it appears in Buck Run’s Minute Book reads:

1st There is but one true and living God – the maker and preserver of all created things, visible and invisible; and that in this adorable Godhead there are three personal relations, a Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And these three are one – equal in glory, dignity, eternity, and power. Though, as to the true humanity of Jesus Christ, He is often spoken of in the New Testament as inferior to the Father.

2nd That the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as stated in their canonical books, is the uniform doctrine of faith; and that this sacred volume is the only infallible rule of all our faith and practice.

3rd That by the disobedience of the first Adam, all his posterity became guilty, and sinful in every part; and helpless as to any aid they can give, in the great work of converting their own souls.

4th That according to God’s foreknowledge, previous to time, he did predestinate his people to life, and they being chosen in Christ before the world began, He did as our second Adam, the Lord from heaven, assume their nature, yet without sin when he became incarnate, and by his obedience and atoning sacrifice brought in everlasting righteousness for the rebellious and where said blessed merit is imputed or applied to them, they are thereby justified before God and being efficaciously called by his grace shall finally persevere therein to eternal happiness and glory.

5th Since the day of the Apostles, there is no higher ecclesiastical authority on earth than the congregated worshiping church of Christ being God’s heritage here below, there [sp.] right is to govern themselves by their own voices, select their own officers as Bishops and Deacons, who are their servants for Christ’s sake. So that no conclave of bishops or any counsel [sp.] appointed by themselves or even their own officers have a right to lord it over the church.

6th That as it is appointed for men once to die so there shall be a resurrection of the just and unjust on which awful day Jesus Christ will judge all men in righteousness; when the wicked shall go into everlasting punishment and the righteous into life eternal.

7th We consider baptism valid only by profession of faith and immersing the whole body under water.

8th We most seriously consider the preaching of repentance, and the invitations of the gospel to all characters of men to be one of the most interesting subjects of the gospel ministry, and that they who persecute, neglect or disobey, the gospel more highly aggravate their own guilt.

Indian Creek Baptist Church, Cynthiana, Kentucky (Audio included)

received_2102075659817998.jpegIn the year 1790, the Indian Creek Baptist Church (Harrison County) was founded. They applied for membership to the Elkhorn Baptist Association the same year. They would remain in the Elkhorn Association until 1813 when they were founding members of the Union Association of Baptists. They were founded by Augustine Eastin, a man who later became a Unitarian under the influence of a governor of Kentucky who was a member of the Cowper Run Baptist Church where Eastin pastored.

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The church claims to have the longest run of continuous worship west of the Alleghenies. Indian Creek as experienced a revitalization in the last fifteen years or so through the ministry of Pastor Tom Moore. I was privileged to speak this past Sunday at their annual
Legacy Celebration. The theme this year was Kentucky Baptist history. I delivered two lectures/sermons for the event. I was asked to speak on Kentucky Baptist history, but it was in the context of a local church worship, so I tried to combine both. Below are links to the audio of the attempts.

  1. “The First Kentucky Baptists”
  2. “The Great Revival”

You should be able to download the MP3s.

 

“Satan…will do anything to hold up evangelism and divide Christians.” J.I. Packer

e&sJ.I. Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God should be required reading for all who desire to understand and discuss the relationship between divine sovereignty and human relationship with its implications for evangelism. It is at once a plea to take Scripture’s teaching regarding both divine sovereignty and human responsibility seriously and a call to declare the gospel indiscriminately to all. In the paragraph below, first published in 1961, Packer presciently responds to the current debate between Calvinists and Traditionalists in the Southern Baptist Convention. His words are a stern warning against the tendency of both sides “to grow self-righteous and bitter and conceited as they criticize each other.”

This is a question that troubles many evangelical Christians today. There are some who have come to believe in the sovereignty of God in the unqualified and uncompromising way in which (as we judge) the Bible presents it. These are now wondering whether there is not some way in which they could and should witness to this faith by modifying the evangelistic practice which they have inherited from a generation with different convictions. These methods, they say, were devised by people who did not believe what we believe about God’s absolute sovereignty in salvation; is that not of itself reason enough for refusing to use them? Others, who do not construe the doctrine of divine sovereignty in quite this way, nor take it quite so seriously, fear that this new concern to believe it thoroughly will mean the death of evangelism; for they think it is bound to undercut all sense of urgency in evangelistic action. Satan, of course, will do anything to hold up evangelism and divide Christians; so he tempts the first group to become inhibited and cynical about all current evangelistic endeavors, and the second group to lose its head and become panicky and alarmist, and both to grow self-righteous and bitter and conceited as they criticize each other. Both groups, it seems, have urgent need to watch against the wiles of the devil.

J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (InterVarsity Press, 1961, rev. ed. 2008), 94.

Baptists and Religious Liberty: A Call for Action

Baptists have historically defended the principle of religious liberty. Since Baptists have always believed in churches made up only of professing, baptized believers, they have always rejected the idea of a state church union which results in a church composed of all citizens. In the sixteenth century, the European Anabaptists opposed the use of the sword to mandate matters of the conscience. Seventeenth-century proto-Baptists such as Thomas Helwys (in England)  and Roger Williams (in Colonial America) spoke directly to the governing authorities appealing for religious liberty. Baptists have always stood on the side of religious liberty for all. In fact, it was a group of Baptists in Danbury, CT, concerned about the infringement of the newly formed federal government upon the consciences of American citizens, to whom Thomas Jefferson responded in a letter with the famous expression of “separation of church and state” that has become such an important part of the American discussion concerning religious liberty. This expression was a summary of the rights guaranteed in the 1st amendment that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

We have the first amendment, in large part, due to the efforts of American Baptists such as Isaac Backus and John Leland. Leland, prominent Baptist preacher at the turn of the 19th century, had petitioned his Virginia legislator, James Madison, directly regarding his concern that more needed to be done to ensure religious liberty in the new country than the “Religious Test” clause of Article VI, paragraph 3 of the Constitution. Since Baptists represented a significant portion of the vote in Madison’s district, Leland’s threat to run for Madison’s seat in the House of Representatives resulted in a visit by Madison to his home. Coming out of that meeting was a compromise that included Leland agreeing not to run for Madison’s seat and Madison agreeing to champion Leland’s and his fellow Baptists’ concern for religious liberty. Madison kept his word and pushed for the Bill of Rights. Without Baptist involvement in the political process, it is at least possible that the protection of religious liberty from Congress would not exist.

Today, more than at any point since the turn of the 19th century, religious freedom in America is in jeopardy. Once again, Baptists need to lead the way in guaranteeing that our commitment to freedom of conscience in religious matters is preserved. The Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky today vetoed a bill (HB 279) which included important protections of religious liberty on the state level. This bill passed both houses of the Kentucky legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support. The Kentucky Baptist Convention, in historic Baptist manner, championed this bill and called for its passage. Now, we stand in need for the Baptists of Kentucky to speak up and ask their representatives to overturn the governor’s veto. For information on how you can help, please see this post on the website of the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Committee on Public Affairs.

A Better Way Forward for Calvinists and Non-Calvinists in the SBC

Historically Baptists who desired to cooperate with one another have sought to unite around truths held in common, rather than seeking to divide over differing opinions on various matters of interpretation. Southern Baptists have agreed to cooperate together within a consensus statement, The Baptist Faith  and Message. This confession provides precise language where needed, but is broad enough to allow for both Calvinists and non-Calvinists to cooperate together for the sake of the Great Commission. As a historian, I believe that by looking backward we can often find our best way forward. A clear example of the type of cooperation needed today is seen in the Terms of Union Between Regular and Separate Kentucky Baptists of 1801. This document facilitated the cooperation between Calvinists and non-Calvinists which eventually resulted in the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.

On the second Saturday of October 1801, the Elkhorn (Regular) and South Kentucky (Separate) Associations were reconciled together as a single body of Baptists in full correspondence and communion based on the following statement:

We, the committees of the Elkhorn and South Kentucky Associations, do agree to unite on the following plan:
1st That the scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the infallible word of God, and the only rule of faith and practice.
2nd That there is one only true God, and in the God-head or divine essence, there are Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
3rd That by nature we are fallen and depraved creatures.
4th That salvation, regeneration, sanctification, and justification, are by the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
5th That the saints will finally persevere through grace to glory.
6th That believers’ baptism, by immersion, is necessary to receiving the Lord’s Supper.
7th That the salvation of the righteous and punishment of the wicked will be eternal.
8th That it is our duty to be tender and affectionate to each other, and study the happiness of the children of God in general; to be engaged singly to promote the honor of God.
9th And that the preaching Christ tasted death for every man, shall be no bar to communion.
10th And that each may keep up their associational and church government as to them may seem best.
11th That a free correspondence and communion be kept up between the churches thus united.

Unanimously agreed to by the joint committee. Ambrose Dudley, Joseph Redding, Robert Elkin, John Price, David Barrow, Daniel Ramey, Thos. J. Chilton, Samuel Johnson, Moses Bledsoe.

This is the historic approach for American Baptists which has worked for over two hundred years. While each individual, church, association, and entity is free to retain its own distinctives, we are united because we have agreed to cooperate under the banner of the Southern Baptist Convention for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission together. The Baptist Faith and Message sufficiently defines the kind of doctrinal agreement that we need to be able to do this effectively. I believe that this historic approach continues to be the best way forward in the days ahead.

Details on this Year’s J.H. Spencer Historical Society Meeting

J.H. Spencer Historical Society Annual Meeting
November 14, 2011, 10:00 am.
Florence Baptist Church, Room E-141
642 Mt. Zion Rd.
Florence, KY 41042

This year’s speakers include:

  • Jim Duvall, Editor,  Baptist History Homepage – “The Early Baptists of Northern Kentucky
  • Steve Weaver, Pastor, Farmdale Baptist Church –  “Ambrose Dudley (1752-1825): A Forgotten Founder of Kentucky Baptists

* * *  Everyone is invited to attend. * * *

The annual meeting of the J.H. Spencer Historical Society is always held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Kentucky Baptist Convention on the morning before the Pastor’s Conference.  You can join the J.H. Spencer Historical Society for 1 year for $10 or for 2 years at $17. Benefits of membership include the fellowship with others who are interested in Baptist History, periodic updates, a printed journal and other Baptist literature, as well as the advance announcements of future events. Membership in the JHSHS is open to all who are interested in promoting our Kentucky Baptist heritage and preserving our historic distinctives.