“Standing Firm” Lecture Three: The Battle for the Convention
The 1919 Denver Convention • Layman’s Committee on Survey: “as a denomination we record our acceptance of the conception that the mission of the Christian Church is to establish a civilization, Christian in spirit and in passion, throughout the world.” • Established a denominational paper, the Baptist. It was liberal from the beginning. • Created a General Board of Promotion, with majority control in the hands of liberal sympathizers. • Voted to participate in the Interchurch World Program under the label New World Program.
Interchurch World Program • Interdenominational fund-raising campaign, promoted by different name in each denomination. • Baptists voted for $100 million as the New World Program. • Tied to a postmillennial agenda. • Proceeds to be divided among convention agencies without reference to whether the money went to liberals or not. • This meant that some percentage of every dollar given would support liberal causes.
Reactions • Many conservatives had been at the establishment of the World’s Christian Fundamentals Association. • Robert T. Ketcham and W. B. Riley campaigned against the New World Movement, others joined in. It became a financial disaster. • R. E. Neighbour and Oliver W. Van Osdel began to talk about leading a Baptist Bible Union out of the convention. • J. C. Massee and a committee of seven from Brooklyn called for a pre-convention conference to address liberalism in 1920.
The Pre-Convention Conference • Massee and sympathizers represented a moderate party: no doctrinal test, mild protest. • Riley and sympathizers represented a militant party: confession of faith, attempt to expel liberals. • Agreed to propose an investigation of the schools. • Agreed to propose that the NBC sell the Baptist to the highest bidder. • Massee was appointed to lead the fight on the floor. • High spirits and expectation of victory.
1920 Buffalo Convention • Substitute motion to “inquire into the loyalty” of the schools. Massee accepted the substitute. • Voted to get out of the Interchurch World Movement, but to pay $2.5 million in arrears to the organization. • Motion to sell the Baptist surprised the liberals, who responded with a motion to commit. • For whatever reason, Massee endorsed the motion to commit, which then carried. • The conservatives left the convention without a single victory to show.
1920 Convention Aftermath • No victories were won on the floor. • The conservative group was now a self-aware bloc. • Curtis Lee Laws of the Watchman Examiner gave the group a new name.
Curtis Lee Laws, July 7, 1920 We here and now move that a new word be adopted to describe the men among us who insist that the landmarks shall not be removed. “Conservatives” is too closely allied with reactionary forces in all walks of life. “Premillennialists” is too closely allied with a single doctrine and not sufficiently inclusive. “Landmarkers” has an historical disadvantage and connotes a particular group of radical conservatives. We suggest that those who still cling to the great fundamentals and who mean to do battle royal for the fundamentals shall be called “Fundamentalists.” By that name the editor of The Watchman-Examiner is willing to be called. It will be understood therefore when he uses the word it will be in compliment and not in disparagement.
So What Is Fundamentalism? • Like all Christians, fundamentalists still cling to the great fundamentals. • Unlike some other Christians, fundamentalists “mean to do battle royal for the fundamentals.” Militancy. • Militancy was understood as organizational opposition to liberalism in the effort to end fellowship with liberals and to truncate their influence. • Massee thought this could be done by a smiling protest. Riley understood that it would require direct opposition through the denominational structure. The difference was over strategies, not goals.
In Other Words Fundamentalism is distinguished by separatism.
1921 Des Moines Convention • Van Osdel had been pushing Massee behind the scenes. • The mood had shifted in favor of a confession of faith. • The pre-convention conference voted to offer a basic one written by Frank Goodchild. • The investigation of the schools produced a whitewash. • The sale of the Baptist was never approved. • Massee (leading the fundamentalists) failed even to introduce the Goodchild Confession on the floor of the convention. • For the second year, the fundamentalists left with nothing to show for their efforts.
1922 Indianapolis Convention • Massee had been busy trying to get fundamentalists to bail the convention out financially. • The fundamentalist conference agreed to put the New Hampshire Confession on the floor. • Liberals also began holding strategy sessions. • Riley led the charge and actually moved the NHC. • Cornelius Woelfkin offered a substitute motion that the New Testament be affirmed as the “all sufficient ground” of faith and practice. • Woelfkin’s motion carried 1,264 to 637.
The Baptist Bible Union • Planned by R. E. Neighbour, O. W. Van Osdel, and William Pettingill. • Originally separatistic and premillennial. • The addition of W. B. Riley, J. Frank Norris, and T. T. Shields deflected the separatism and premillennialism, turning the BBU into a protest organization. A. C. Dixon was also added. • First meeting held in a big tent in Kansas City, May 1923. • By then, the “Big Three” had taken over. • Intended to work in all three conventions. • Worked in tandem and tension with Massee’s group.
The Big Three J. Frank Norris T. T. Shields W. B. Riley
The Henshaw Situation • Bertha Henshaw was an employee of ABFMS and a member of J. R. Straton’s church in New York. • She discovered evidence of liberalism on the mission field and told her pastor where to find it. • Straton and a committee of 30 walked into the ABFMS offices and demanded to see the evidence. • The ABFMS board blocked access. • The fundamentalists were able to dig up evidence on a specific liberal missionary by the name of Hartley. • They determined to pursue Hartley at the convention.
The Inclusive Policy • Announced by ABFMS in November 1923. • Stated that the board would send missionaries representing all theological perspectives within the convention. • Conservatives understood this to mean that liberals would definitely be sent. • They determined to pursue this matter at the upcoming convention. • In other words, foreign missions was going to be a big deal in 1924.
The 1924 Milwaukee Convention • Fundamentalists were ready to go after Hartley and the inclusive policy. • The liberals approached Massee with a deal: leave Hartley alone and they would agree to an investigation of the mission. • Massee and the fundamentalists took the deal. • The liberals were able to trade an urgent, hot issue (Hartley) for a committee. • Ultimately, the liberals were able to structure the committee in a way that was favorable to them • The ABFMS announced its “Evangelical Policy.”
The Evangelical Policy • ABFMS was catching heat over the Inclusive Policy. • It subsequently announced a new “Evangelical Policy.” • The board promised to appoint only missionaries who were committed to the gospel. • Some conservatives were reassured. • Other fundamentalists saw the Evangelical Policy as a dodge. • The Evangelical Policy remained very vague about the nature of the gospel, permitting a fair number of liberals to be sent. • For years, the Inclusive Policy and the Evangelical Policy were played off against each other as need required.
The 1925 Seattle Convention • Everyone expected missions to be an issue. The “Hinson Resolution” would have recalled every missionary who denied any of the fundamentals of the faith. • A new issue erupted when Park Avenue Church in NYC decided to accept unbaptized members (Open Membership). • The fundamentalists tried for a constitutional amendment that would ban Open Membership. Eventually it was ruled illegal. • The report on missions was a whitewash. • The Hinson Resolution was defeated by a large margin.
The 1926 Washington Convention • The air had been poisoned by the Scopes Trial in Dayton, TN. Mockery by H. L. Mencken. • There had been disintegration among the BBU leadership. Neighbour, Pettingill, Dixon were all gone. • The Fundamentalist Fellowship waffled on Open Membership and opposition failed. • A conservative ballot for ABFMS was defeated 3 to 1. • Massee called publicly for a six-month moratorium on all compromise. The BBU appeared to be poor sports. • Massee publicly attacked the BBU in August.
The Chipps Shooting • Norris verbally attacked the mayor of Ft. Worth, H. C. Meacham. • Meacham fired all First Baptist members who were employees of his department store. • Norris redoubled his attacks in print and from the pulpit. • D. E. Chipps, a friend of Meacham, threatened Norris. • Chipps went to Norris’s office and renewed the threat, making a “hip pocket move.” • Norris shot and killed Chipps. The trial and publicity created a major scandal.
The 1927 Chicago Convention • The leadership of the BBU was in crisis. Norris gone, Shields exhausted, Riley distracted, money tight. • Determined to attempt an alternate ballot for all convention officers. Ketcham got it printed in the small hours of the AM. • The alternate ballot received less than 20% of the vote. • This was the last straw for many in the BBU, like Ketcham. They now saw the convention as irretrievable.
Des Moines University • Taken over by the BBU from Iowa Baptists in 1927. • $200K indebtedness, shrinking student population. • Kept most of the old faculty, who were moderates. • Installed Edith Rebman as resident board member. • Conflict during 1928/29 between Rebman and President Wayman. • Shields not popular (foreigner). • Unwise decisions by the administration and board. • Result was a student riot in May 1929. Closed the school.
Des Moines University Administration Building Arts and Sciences Building
T. T. Shields Harry Hamilton Howard Fulton Max Schimpf Edith Rebman Oliver W. Van Osdel
Disintegration of the BBU • 1929 Toronto was devoted to the DMU mess. • 1930 Grand Rapids voted to reorganize as a nationwide association, appointed a committee of five. • 1931 the committee of five failed even to call for a meeting. • Shields was backing away, focusing on Canada. • Ketcham didn’t want a church fellowship. • Schimpf was a layman, felt he had little voice. • Walkinshaw tried but nobody listened. • Fulton was in transition from Buffalo to Chicago. • Van Osdel stepped up to get things moving.