Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Dissentient Voices and the Fate of Luther Rice

Your labors will be ultimately appreciated and the page of history will do you ample justice, notwithstanding the dissentient voice of the narrow-minded of the present day. -Adoniram Judson to Luther Rice
The true Father of the Southern Baptist Convention (IMHO) never actually was a Southern Baptist.
  • The driving force behind Baptists in America ever organizing churches to support mission work in the first place? Luther Rice
  • The most aggressive advocate of his time for the convention method over the society method? Luther Rice
  • The impetus behind the founding of a gaggle of state conventions, associations, and domestic institutions? Luther Rice
In my opinion, other than the embarrassing support of racial slavery, virtually everything else distinctive about the Southern Baptist Convention can be traced to the mind and work of Luther Rice in some fashion.

Luther Rice's Great Strengths

Luther Rice had a missionary heart. From the very day of his conversion (14 September 1805), Rice resolved to "be willing to give Deity a blank and let him fill up [Rice's] future destiny as He should please." At Williams College Rice (an exuberant Congregationalist) encountered four other young men with a similar resolve for service, and together they formed an informal accountability and encouragement group nicknamed "The Brethren." The group was entirely resolved to pursue vocations in foreign missions, even though no structure existed in North America to support them in the venture. Eventually Rice and other of the Brethren wound up at Andover College with another young Congregationalist, Adoniram Judson. The group brashly approached the Massachusetts state Congregationalist association about setting up a missions-sending structure for them, and they succeeded. When the world opposed Luther Rice's missionary vision, he went about changing the world to suit himself. Luther Rice was a tireless servant of Christ. Rice described his own ministry: "I have traveled 6,600 miles, in populous and dreary portions of country, through wilderness and over rivers, across mountains and valleys, in heat and cold, by day and by night—in weariness, painfulness, fastings and loneliness." Luther Rice really had no home but Heaven. They buried him in South Carolina simply because he happened to be there when he died. He never married. His life in its entirety was given to the Lord. Luther Rice dared to see a bold vision for the Baptist people. Once convinced of Baptist doctrine, he tenaciously clung to it. He was not the kind to dodge confessional statements, issue caveats, or wriggle out of fiduciary responsibility. Rice boldly proclaimed to the Congregationalists, "those persons only, who give credible evidence of piety, are proper subjects; and…immersion is the only proper mode of Christian baptism"—Here is the voice of a man of integrity. Rice believed that missionaries should seek funding from those who agreed with their ecclesiology, so he singlemindedly pursued Baptists in America, daring them to dream with him a dream of what they could do together with the Lord's help. Although Rice founded many Missionary societies, his vision favored the convention plan:
My mind became impressed with the importance of a general combination of the whole Baptist interest in the United States, for the benefit alike of the denomination here, and the cause of missions abroad
In 1814, after a mere two years' work by this thirty-one-year-old, Luther Rice's efforts yielded the famous Triennial Convention, an every-three-years meeting of American Baptists designed to serve as Rice's "general combination of the whole Baptist interest." Notice, by the way, that this former-Congregationalist was quite content with simply a "combination of the whole Baptist interest." Luther Rice loved to see young people called out and trained into the Lord's work. In 1815, Rice recognized the potential of John Mason Peck. In response to Rice's encouragement and tutelage, Peck embarked upon missionary work in Missouri and became the father of Baptist home missions in America. Rice founded Columbian College (now George Washington University) in order to train Baptist laborers for the harvest.

Luther Rice's Bold Accomplishments

By 1820, Luther Rice had propelled Baptists into cooperative foreign missions, home missions, education, and publication. Sometimes he had worked with amazing diplomacy; often he had pushed projects forward by fiat and bravado. But however he pursued it, the vision he had for Baptists in America was very similar to what Southern Baptists ultimately organized for themselves. Luther Rice was not perfect. I do not offer an unqualified endorsement of everything Luther Rice ever did. But, as I have indicated in an earlier post, I am not so naïve as to ignore the reality of human depravity. I do not expect perfection out of our denominational servants—only a spirit of respectful submission to the expressed will of those whom they serve.

The Luther Rice Slapdown

Many Northern Baptists opposed the convention method, favoring the society plan instead. Those who opposed Rice's ideas and those who opposed Rice's personality coalesced into an anti-Rice, anti-Convention mob at the 1826 meeting of the Triennial Convention. Their strategy was as effective as it was simple:
  1. Slander, attack, and accuse Luther Rice personally, thereby emboldening those who disagree with him and demoralizing those who agree with him.
  2. Use the momentum from the tearing down of the man to tear down the movement.
They succeeded. The anti-Rice group alleged malfeasance against Rice and Columbian College, ultimately securing Rice's ouster from the employ of the Convention. Even Francis Wayland, previously a bold visionary for Baptists, was cowed by their rhetoric. When the Triennial Convention canned Rice, the anti-Convention forces swept the field, thoroughly reverting the Triennial Convention to nothing more than a Foreign Missions society. By the late 1820s, the Triennial Convention had abandoned home missions, educational ministries, publication ministries—everything that would embody the convention methodology of Luther Rice. Ultimately, many people who favored the convention method wound up in the Southern Baptist Convention. Long after Luther Rice's great Baptist convention had been torn down, the lengthy investigations commissioned in 1826 exonerated Luther Rice of financial wrongdoing. His financial recordkeeping hadn't been the best. He had been daring on some occasions when he ought to have been more circumspect. In no way, however, had he at any time tried to line his own pockets with God's money. The allegations were bald slander, but Rice's vindication came far too late to do any good for the Baptist people of America.

Today's Dissentient Voices in the SBC

Expect this year to see the same kind of attacks launched toward Dr. Paige Patterson. Indeed, it has already begun. I know Dr. Patterson only barely as a person, but I know publicly of his vision for a Southern Baptist Convention that honors the conservative theology of its churches and people. He has taken every opportunity to keep the SBC anchored to the Bible. In that regard, his actions have been consistent with his words. I do not strike any parallels in this post between Rice and Patterson, but between Rice's opponents and Patterson's opponents. Many don't like Patterson's ideas. Many wish the Conservative Resurgence had never happened. Many long for 1978. The best way to tear down the Conservative Resurgence in a hurry is to tear down the people who carried it forward. Ben Cole has revealed to us the alleged dire financial straits of SEBTS in 1999. Here is Paige Patterson's "Columbian College"—SEBTS allegedly on the financial ropes in 1999, and all apparently (according to Bro. Ben) due to poor presidential leadership. But wait a minute: Today is 2007. Did SEBTS go into receivership? Did the professors and staff have to forego their paychecks (not an unprecedented happening for Southern Baptist professors)? Are padlocks on the doors in Wake Forest? Did Dr. Patterson leave Southeastern sitting on the side of a North Carolina street with a beggar's cup? No. No. No. and No. SEBTS was undeniably stronger when Dr. Patterson left than it was when he arrived. Ben doesn't give the whole story. Ben Cole has revealed to us that someone once-upon-a-time sued the Pattersons claiming that they extracted a deathbed request under duress in 1982. But wait a minute: Today is 2007. What was the outcome of that lawsuit? Did the Pattersons greedily fight some poor widow to deny her a living? Was there a misunderstanding? How did the relationship turn out? TCarnes asked Bro. Ben for more information in a comment on the post, but Ben refuses to give the rest of the story. Why? I don't know. And then there was the discussion about enrollment and graduation numbers (see here, here, here, and here). In my posts I hope you see the major components of the story left out by Ben (I hate to pick on Ben, and I'll gladly stop doing so when he stops picking on others). What else does Bro. Ben have to reveal? I don't know that, either. But I expect the most salacious revelations, if there are any, to come very close to the convention meeting—too close for anyone to have time to ferret out the details. When the goal is to find the truth, you give everyone enough time to pursue the quest to its fruition. When the goal is deception, you pull an "October surprise." After all, it worked on Luther Rice. As far as I know, Dr. Patterson is not running for anything this year. I will not hazard a guess at his age, but he's older than I am and probably will not be pursuing another thirty years of denominational service. Why go after him now? Because doing so is the best chance for rolling back the Conservative Resurgence, as anyone would know who's been hanging around with Herb Reynolds, John Baugh, Bill Underwood, Jimmy Carter, et al. Will Dr. Patterson's "labors…be ultimately appreciated"? By conservatives, they will. Thank God for the Conservative Resurgence and thank God for all those who took the tough stands to make it happen. To the degree that Paige Patterson was a part of that, thank God for him. I was a conservative long before our paths ever crossed. If tomorrow's Star-Telegram publishes pictures of Dr. Patterson offering animal sacrifices to the ghost of Harry Emerson Fosdick, I'll still be a conservative tomorrow and the day after that. I don't agree with Dr. Patterson because I like him; I like him because I agree with him. Like Judson with Rice, I'm content to let the "page of history do [Patterson] ample justice." Is it possible that Dr. Patterson has ever done something that would scandalize me? Sure, it's possible. I can guarantee you that I've done things that would scandalize every one of you. We are sinners, brothers. But let us keep the convention focused on ideas, not personalities. Let us not make the SBC a forum for people to pursue personal vendettas. What is the end result of this really lengthy post? First, my stomach churns a little every time I hear Bro. Ben assure us all that San Antonio will be "interesting." I'm steeled against the prospect of allegations and tactics that would make Dick Tuck blush. Second, I'm determined to keep my focus on the principles, not the people. I'm determined that 2007 will not be 1826 all over again. Dirty politics will only work if people knee-jerk in response to allegations. Whatever scandalous allegations or gossip we hear in San Antonio, let us retain a helping of prudence. Knowing the publicly expressed strategy of ad hominem attacks against Dr. Patterson as a diversionary tactic to cloak a push for ideological change in the SBC, let us resolve to remain committed to a conservative vision for the SBC. Knowing all of the half-stories that have been told us this year, let us investigate carefully and thoroughly any allegations that are made, and then let the chips fall where they may only after we have the whole story.


To help us keep up with the ad hominem attacks, I have devised something of a new award. I have set up the domain name, which will always point to the blog with the most recent attack upon Dr. Patterson.


Luke said...

Bro. Bart,
One thing you have convinced me of is my need to be involved in the convention. I will not be at San Antonio but I have already addressed my church about my need to be at next years and so forth after that. They were in agreement so, Lord willing, wherever the 2008 SBC meeting is, I'll be there.

I appreciate the time that you spend helping others to be aware of what is happening out there. My prayer as well as my church's prayer is that the convention will not step back from the change that was implemented in '78.

May the only "interesting" thing that comes from Ben in San Antonio be that nothing comes from Ben in San Antonio. But as you said, let the truth be revealed and let the chips fall where they man.


dwm III said...


As Ben has pointed out on his blog. The "October Surprise" may soon be called the "Southwestern Report Suprise." See his ten post series on Saul Alinsky, he reveals it in one of those. (since I'm too stupid to know how to do links here I'll just refer you to them)

Maybe after reading those someone can do a piece on why the ends do not justify the means. God is intimately concerned with the means, isn't he? And thus, since there is so much "evil" that needs to be extracted from the SBC, it means that some can do things that otherwise would be frowned upon. At least if you hold his view. And since I am not a great wordsmith, I'll leave it to others.

And maybe, if someone reads those, they'll see why people get so upset at Ben's humor. Its the way to say things without offending people and controlling the simple minded. Those, words are more of a summary of the view held Alinsky. And, Ben lists them in his "Rules for Radical."

So, as Ben opines he jests because its seen as comedy rather than what it is—his opinion.

I just add that to the half-stories, we also have the truths in the jokes.

Thanks Bart! As is the running joke. YOUR BEST POST EVER! :)


Benjamin S. Cole said...

Zing, Zap, Zong, Brother Bart.

You really nailed me on this one. Your stomach churns a little, eh? Please don't let my little blog cause you any intestinal unrest. I promise, I would never want to cause a flare up in your diverticulum. Any pain you are feeling in the gut is purely collateral and/or sympathetic.

There are other Baptist bowels that are the focus of my agitation. :)

And to think you've been able to assess my strategy so carefully. You must have been reading my blog, cause I've really spelled it all out there for anybody to read.

We'll see how San Antonio plays out. Whatever happens, I promise it will be "interesting."


Benjamin S. Cole said...

Oh, one more thing, Bart:

An October surprise is only needed when an election is a squeaker. I don't think there is much chance that Frank Page will face any serious challenge, so I'll hold some trumps for now, if you don't mind?

Of course, I'm not the only one holding trumps.


Ron P. said...

Bro. Bart,

Thank you for a most excellent analysis of the attacks coming from the blogs.

For the last 20 years I have heard over and over again how "I'm conservative but..." and then the personal vitriol begins. I see it even more today, with the incessant claim of being conservative, accompanied with sanctimonious self righteous attacks coming from the more frequented blogs that try to justify their rants. Yet, if anyone dares question the actions of these bloggers, much less their motives, it is they that call us names such as Independent Fundamentalists.

I agree with you. This is about taking our denomination back to a pre CR. Since they can not do it attacking the Word of God directly, they have to demolish the leaders, and then once again state: I am a conservative, but..."

Anonymous said...

i hope the sbc in san antonio will be interesting because the Spirit of Lord has moved so mightily amonst us that we are all left in awe. i'm praying that we will be lifted up to heaven as we worship and pray, and even in the business sessions. i'm hoping that it will be interesting because we have once again stayed true to the Word of God.


Bart Barber said...


On one thing we certainly agree: I will be voting for Frank Page in San Antonio.

Benjamin S. Cole said...


How kind of you after his appointments to the Committee on Committees.

There is a post that has been brewing for my blog for several weeks now. It is, in short, my thoughts on why the personality cult of the Conservative Resurgence. I'm also trying to sort through some thoughts about the why all this has happened now. When it's completed -- and sufficiently edited for grammatical errata -- I'll be sure and let you know.

For now, keep your focus on my focus on Paige. As long as you do, it keeps the conversation about Patterson.

Or perhaps you don't see how you keep this going just as much as I?


Benjamin S. Cole said...

Why the personality cult of the CR arose, that is.

Debbie said...

Bart: I find some of the blogs that you comment on pretty full of vinegar, yet that would be ok? At least Ben has documented facts, this is something I find lacking in many of those who decry being called "fundamentalist".

Anonymous said...

Debbie give it a rest we all know you are a Wade/Ben groupie

Jack Maddox said...


It is I fear the truth that you portray in your opine of Ben and the Boys...One can only wonder what the next port of call is for such ideology which seems fit to utilize the tactic of personal character assignation such as the likes of a James Carville or Karl Rove instead of that of the Lord Jesus...

I am a simple Baptist preacher who will never grace the decor of anyone’s platform...but I know right from wrong...and I know a mean spirit...and I intend with all that I am to stand against it in San Antonio...

God help us


Debbie said...

Well, your information is wrong. I do think for myself, I would like a name to go with the anonymous however. It does show responsibility. You are correct in pointing out however, that on these issues I am in full agreement. That may not be the case in other issues. Calling the kettle black seems to happen every year around this time.

I just think if blogs that are supposedly "picking" are to be brought to light there are many more that would disagree with Ben, Wade or even myself that could be brought to light, some of which Bart himself has given rally to. Truth and the whole truth in information should be brought to light.

Debbie said...

Your comment for example anonymous I would put under the heading that Bart so amply attempts to put Ben under. Just an observation.

Anonymous said...



Ron P. said...


Please quit giving those on the left reason to question our motives. If you can not put your name to what you say and stand behind it, please do not say it.

I do not object to anonymous posts in general, as I do not have a login account myself. But I will put my name to it.

On comments across various blogs, I am not so naive as to believe that anonymous posters are actually supporting the position they claim they are. I think this is especially true of the ones that are more obtuse and anonymous. And no, I am not wearing a tin foil hat.

Put your name by what you say.

Ron P.

Anonymous said...


Speaking of Jimmy Carter, I saw an article by Les Kinsolving entitled “Mugabe’s Horror—And Who Praised Him” that had a paragraph that I think you might find interesting. Here’s the last part of that article:

“What also needs very much to be remembered is the considerable amounts of money liberal American church denominations contributed to Mugabe when his terrorist group, Zimbabwe African Nationalist Union (ZANU), was fighting to overthrow the Rhodesian government.

That ZANU was indeed terrorist was evident in the death of Southern Baptist clergyman Archie Dunaway of that denomination's missionary hospital in Senyate. He was taken from this hospital and his body was subsequently found – after he had been used as a live target for bayonet practice.

Mugabe was not at all displeased by this atrocity – or in his proud claim of blowing up a Woolworth's store in Salisbury (now Harare), wounding 76 civilians and killing 12 more – including two children and two expectant mothers – all blacks.

Earlier that year, Mugabe's men massacred seven Catholic missionaries at Musame – including four nuns. They also murdered several Pentecostal missionaries at the Elim Mission – preceding these murders with gang rape.

None of this stopped liberal church denominations through councils of churches from sending money to murderous, so-called "liberation" groups like Mugabe's ZANU.

Despite all this, Robert Mugabe was described as: "a notable world leader, exemplifying the finest aspects of humanity" in achieving "liberation and justice" based on "decency" and "freedom" in "a result which thrills the whole world."

Who made this tribute to Robert Mugabe?

President of the United States Jimmy Carter – who welcomed Mugabe to the White House.

In Nashville, the Rev. Mr. Dunaway's son, Mark, recalled:

"My father was murdered at almost the same time Jimmy Carter was down there at the Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta trying to get votes. We heard (messages of sympathy) from many others at that convention – but we never heard from Carter."”

Maybe next time Wade or Ben meet with President Carter directly and ask him if this is accurate.

Tim B

Anonymous said...

Bro. Bart,

As Batman, sovereign ruler of my own domain (blog), I exercised my Bat-power by putting sister Debbie (Cat Woman) on my Bat-Blacklist . . . maybe you will consider the same? Bart, you have the power!! KUP-POOOSH

doug munton said...

Thanks for the reminder of Luther Rice and the debt we owe him. Slander, attack and accusation- as you noted- are improper methods of disagreements. I do not mind disagreement- it can be healthy when done properly. But slander and accusation are no more fair today than they were in the days of Rice. Doug Munton

volfan007 said...

amen to what doug munton said. and again, i say amen!

bart, i think you've struck the proverbial nerve with this one. :)


Winning Truth w/Tim Guthrie said...

Your objective breakdown of the issues raised and the incomplete replies or lack of, are as usual "on target".

I just find it difficult to see how "the rest of story" is so obviously left out and others do not see that! Hmmmm Still thinking!

Great Post!

Debbie said...

Okay anonymous, now I know who you are. Batman the minister. :) I wondered but did not know for sure. Chadwick, again, I stand by what I said on your blog with no apologies.

david: It did strike a nerve with me and anonymous aka batman aka chadwick the minister is one of the reasons why. It's lowering itself to juvenile craziness.

Bart Barber said...

To all:

At this very moment precisely 15 years ago, my bride and I were leaving our wedding reception. Today we had lunch together to celebrate (a more elaborate celebration will take place later this year). My hand has been away from the blog tiller today, but thanks to everyone for stopping by.

Bart Barber said...


I hope our paths cross in San Antonio.

Bart Barber said...


I already have a strategy in place for the SWBTS report. I can't give all the details, but it involves Robin Foster in full football pads with about a ten-yard running start toward Ben's microphone.

Start making your checks out now to the ROBIN FOSTER LEGAL DEFENSE FUND...

Bart Barber said...

Ron P,

Yes, the caveats do indeed abound after that pesky little conjunction. Thanks for reminding us all.

Bart Barber said...


What a great thought.

Bart Barber said...

Tim B,

"Speaking of Jimmy Carter..."???

I mentioned his name once in the post, but I don't know that it really is that much of a post about Carter, per se.

Bart Barber said...

Anonymous (Chadwick??),

Of course I have the power: I'm BART-man.

Bart Barber said...

Doug, David, and Tim,

We are all on the same page, my friends.

Debbie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bart Barber said...

Yes, Debbie, and that is why you will never be exiled from Praisegod Barebones.

Bart Barber said...

But quiet about that "mild-mannered" part—you'll ruin my reputation.

Debbie said...

Sorry Bart, I mispelled and didn't want to get called on it. I will repeat what I have said so that your comment makes sense and thanks. :)

Yes, Bartman but I know you as the mild mannered history professor who when getting behind a keyboard turns into one who is seemingly now called Bartman. :)

Debbie said...

And Happiest of Anniversaries. :)

Bart Barber said...

Thanks, Debbie.

Grosey's Messages said...

Well done Bart, a wonderful historical perspective.. I must say that it bothers me when the ecu-baptists accuse leaders of being incompetent or fraudulent because they don't sign off on their political and personal agendas. I note that one ecubaptist today has accused the SBC President of this by stating he was forced to sign a letter that he himself did not write! I bet he never rang up to check the accuracy and integrity of his statement (in fact he says he hasn't at this time).
How do you guys tolerate it?

Wade Burleson said...

Mr. Grossey,

You write above that I said Frank Page "was forced to sign a letter that he himself did not write!

My exact written words were, "Those of us who have been in such positions as Frank know that, on occasion, denominational or state officials prepare statements and have the President sign it. That may or may not be what has happened here. Regardless, Frank probably saw the document and signed off on it"

I would be interested as to how you justify your comment.

Grosey's Messages said...

I don't think I am upset about the size of the false accusation, just the nature of it.

Wade Burleson said...

Mr. Grossey,

People may judge for themselves whose integrity may be at stake.

Grosey's Messages said...

I think they have already Mr Burleson. Are you still carrying through with your lawsuit against me?

Wade Burleson said...

Mr. Grossey,

As a minister of the gospel you are called to speak the truth. There is only an intention on my part but to challenge you to always be truthful in your communications. You seem at times to either fabricate or stretch the truth. Your comments in this string are an example. Blessings to you in Australia. I have no intention on suing you for libel. I wish to only challenge you to always speak the truth.

Grosey's Messages said...

Well thank you Wade,
As I know there was no libel on my part, I find your comment humurous, as I am sure did Mr. Richardson. So why did your threaten a law suit against me?

joerstewart said...

I'd love to see you dissect and discuss the Downgrade controversy in this context. You could even use five points.

Happy anniversary! Glad you got away to the Bart cave.

Debbie said...

I will not lower myself, I will not lower myself, I will not....

R. L. Vaughn said...

Bart, I have a few questions that are slightly off topic -- related to the history rather than the point you're making with the history -- but I hope you will find time to answer. Thanks.

You wrote that even Francis Wayland was cowed by the rhetoric of Rice's opponents. My main familiarity with Wayland is through his Notes on the Principles and Practices of Baptist Churches. But that was published 30 years after the 1826 Triennial Convention. Was Wayland originally a supporter of the Convention system/method as opposed to a societal one? Or do you have something else in mind?

Do you have any sense/opinion that Rice's status as a novice Baptist was the source of some of the problems between him and other Baptists? Opposition evidently came not only from frontier "anti-missionaries" like Parker and Taylor, but also from leading eastern pastors like Henry Holcombe of First BC in Philadelphia. The Triennial Convention was organized May, 1814. This was less than two years after Rice's baptism in India and less than one year after his return from India. I assume, but do not know for a fact, that the Congregationalists in the early 1800s would have leaned more favorably toward centralization than Baptists.

Happy anniversary! Congratulations and best wishes.

Anonymous said...

You have done a fantastic job in dealing with the "real" historic position of the SBC.

Thank you for your forthright spokesmanship, accurate analysis of SBC life, and exdposing the errors of those who think change is necessary.

The only change we need is more prayer and evangelism. I am grateful for Dr. Patterson for instilling that clarion call to his students, friends, and faculty. If we were prayed up and sharing the Gospel as we should...we would have no time and little desire to level these personal attacks on brothers in Christ.
Ironically the things leveled against Dr. Patterson such as manipulation, threats, coercion, and etc. seem to be the very tactics in which these critics are engage.
Our Convention is a different Convention than it was in the '60's and '70's, and even '80's because of godly men and women praying for God's will to prevail in a denomination that lost its moral compass, The Inerrant Word of God. We need to get back the Word, pray to change the bitter hearts of these who are our brothers, and strive to win the lost to Christ.

Keep up the Good work!