Friday, June 27, 2008

Materials Toward a History of Feet Washing by R. L. Vaughn

No, I'm not talking about a book on personal hygiene.

Robert L. Vaughn, who comments sagaciously around many of the blogs that I frequent, has written a book on the practice of foot-washing as a Christian ordinance among Baptists. I've asked him to prepare a blurb to place here. In my experience, these sorts of studies are fascinating. One of my favorite papers that I wrote in seminars dealt with the laying on of hands among early Baptists. Really intriguing (at some points, even bizarre!) stuff. So I offer my recommendation for R.L.'s book, even though I have not yet held it in my own hands.

This weekend we make the first presentation of our proposed Constitution and Bylaws. As you all know, this is a process that has been ongoing at FBC Farmersville for quite a while. Count on me being hard to find around this blog for a good while.

And now, I give you R. L. Vaughn:

Allen Matthews "...donated land for the Hopewell Meeting House (Church) in Copiah County...He donated land for the Palestine Baptist Church...He was a very religious man. When his church he went to in Copiah County decided they were going to do away with the practice of ‘foot washing’, he got his towel and washbasin and walked out. They started another church on the other side of the Pearl River, in Simpson County, called Palestine..."

Don't trace your ancestry if you're afraid of what you might find. That holds true of human genealogy and Baptist history. In Materials Toward a History of Feet Washing among the Baptists, the author traces his history and finds feet washing was practiced not only by Free Will Baptists and Primitive Baptists, but also by the Missionary Baptists. The book compiles data on the relationship of the rite of feet washing and Baptists, particularly as practiced in Missionary Baptist churches. Arranged in a chronological and geographical format, Materials allows the reader to see records, controversies and variations of washing the saints’ feet in Baptist churches.

What Others Say

Vaughn did an excellent job researching an obscure subject of which contemporary Baptists have little knowledge. This book is a needed contribution to Baptist historiography. I know of nothing like it. – C. B. Anderson. Retired Chairman, Department of Social Sciences, Jacksonville College, Jacksonville, TX

The volume by R. L. Vaughn, Materials Toward a History of Feet Washing Among the Baptists, is an exhaustive compilation of source materials on feet washing as practiced by Baptists and even others. The work covers practically every aspect of the subject, including definitions of the rite, its biblical and historical roots, its manner of observance past and present, its practice by group and geographical location, and even arguments of those opposed to it. Although the work focuses on Missionary Baptists in the USA and abroad as over against Primitive Baptists, it nevertheless includes all Baptist parties and even bodies outside the Baptist fold. An extra bonus is its appendix that includes a listing of Baptist groups and subgroups in the USA and British Isles , a comprehensive and detailed listing not found elsewhere. This work is an excellent study, providing a most valuable list of sources on a practice, although bypassed by a great many today, that is observed by others as an observance with a biblical mandate. – Albert W. Wardin, Jr., Professor Emeritus of History, Belmont University, Nashville, TN; author of The Twelve Tribes of Baptists in the USA: a Historical and Statistical Analysis

A couple of excerpts

"Even those churches that do sacramentalize and enact foot washing try to mitigate the intimacy of the act...But it is precisely the scrupulous toenail clipping and pre-church scrubbing of feet that points to the real gift of foot washing. For our attempts to have clean, sweet-smelling feet to offer betray the many ways we are rendered vulnerable by our bodies." – Stephanie Paulsell in Honoring the Body: Meditations on a Christian Practice

"Rather than teach a disrespect for any part of God's words or examples, or a lack of confidence in his wisdom as to what was needful to be taught and practiced by his disciples, for God's sake, if for no other, stay off of the question if you will not accept the example of being worthy of following..." – A. T. Green in The Lord's Supper and Foot Washing

For more information, e-mail Baptist.waymark[at] or write:

3528 CR 3168 W

Materials Toward a History of Feet Washing among the Baptists, consisting of Historical References to the Practice among the Missionary Baptists, including miscellaneous notes on other groups. R. L. Vaughn Mt. Enterprise, TX: Waymark Publications. 2008. 978-1-60458-249-9 pb. 232 pages. $21.99


Anonymous said...

I don't know Robert Vaughan but any book recommended by C. Barnwell Anderson has to be a winner!

Amy Downey

Anonymous said...

C. Barnwell Anderson's "little written exercises with an ink dispensing instrument" are legendary. The only shame is that so few people got to experience his genius and ability to bring history alive for all to enjoy.

Amy Downey

R. L. Vaughn said...

Bart, thanks for the plug on the book. I hope it will be a useful addition to the study of Baptist history.

Amy, I enjoyed reading your great comments on Brother Anderson. He and Sister Anderson are two of the most wonderful people I know.

Anonymous said...

R. L. Vaughan,

How do you know the Anderson's? I cleaned the JBC library for her every Thursday for work study my freshman year.

Still one of the proudest moments for me is receiving the Outstanding History Award ... because it came from him.

Amy Downey

R. L. Vaughn said...

Amy, I first remember knowing the Andersons through gospel singing. When I was growing up, my father attended (and took us) to most of the singings around the area. As you probably know, this is a big part of the Andersons' lives. But I also know them through church. I'm hoping that our church will invite Bro. Anderson to preach a couple of nights some weekend soon.

Congratulations on the Outstanding History Award!

Dave Miller said...

Bart, if you are reading this at all, I mentioned you in my sermon today.

Actually, I mentioned the idea of Sunday School you mentioned a few weeks ago, a structured curriculum like they have in regular school.

People really liked it.

I should have taken credit for the idea.

Now, all you have to do is build the curriculum!

(Did you notice my effective management skills in delegating that duty to you?)

Timothy said...

>"But it is precisely the scrupulous toenail clipping and pre-church scrubbing of feet that points to the real gift of foot washing. For our attempts to have clean, sweet-smelling feet to offer"

Interesting. The chrches I have attended have always leaned towards asking random males to have their feet washed by the pastor. I have never had any foreknowledge and have never prepared my feet beforehand.

I find the come as you are approach to foot washingto be the more biblical.

God bless... +Timothy