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The Southern Baptist Convention & The Confederate States by Dr. Richard Lee Montgomery

The Southern Baptist Convention & 
The Confederate States
Dr. Richard Lee Montgomery

Now, to begin with, as far back as I can remember, I was raised a Southern Baptist in Corpus Christi, Texas. I heard the Gospel preached at Lindale Baptist Church and it was there, that the mercy and grace of God was extended to me and it was there that the Lord Jesus Christ regenerated my soul and it was there that I was saved and in obedience to my Lord, I received a believers baptism. As a Junior
in high school, I received the call of God to serve the Lord Jesus in ministry. To prepare for this call, I attended Southern Baptist institutions: Howard Payne College and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and graduated from both. I have served in Southern Baptist
Churches in both Texas and Wyoming, for twenty six plus years. Point is, Southern Baptist principles, theology and history, played a pivotal roll in my life. 

Also important, is the fact that, as I grew up, I was not ignorant of words or terms like “Confederate soldier, Johnny Reb, Stonewall Jackson, Robert E.
Lee, etc.” It was my grandma, my mother’s mother, who made sure that my brothers and I had Confederate kepi’s. True, this family culture may not have meant much to me then, but it was there. As I grew into adulthood, serving in Southern Baptist Churches, it would not be until February of 2012, that I became a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans under my great, great grandpa’s John L. Wynn  Confederate service, who served in the Thirty-Second Alabama Infantry for the Confederate States of America, and was killed at the Battle of Tunnel Hill, Georgia.

In recent years, with the banning of “All things Confederate” based on the idea that the “War For Southern Independence” was over the institution of slavery and considered the history of the Confederacy as a population of racist. So, in June of 2016, the Southern Baptist Convention met in St. Louis and from the Resolutions Committee, they stated pinpointed resolutions: “RESOLVED, That we call our brothers and sisters in Christ to discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole Body of Christ, including our African-American brothers and sisters; and be it finally RESOLVED, That we urge fellow Christians to exercise sensitivity so that nothing brings division or hinders the unity of the Body of Christ to be a bold witness to the transforming power of Jesus.” 1  

It needs to be said, that according to documented history of this Confederate Battle Flag, it was never used or associated with slavery – never. This flag originated with the Confederate States of America, especially used in the Army of Northern Virginia as the “soldiers flag” – nothing more – nothing less. This flag was created in order to give better clarification or better identification of the
Southern troops versus the Northern troops on the battle field. In fact, after the confusion at the First Battle of Manassas, it was concluded that something had to change. Listen to Robert Alonzo Brock as he quotes General Gustave T. Beauregard on this issue: “At the Battle of Manassas, on the 21st of July, 1861, I found it difficult to distinguish our then Confederate flag from the United States flag
(the two being so much alike, especially when General Jubal A. Early made the flank movement which decided the fate of the day); and I then resolved to have ours changed, if practicable, or to adopt for my command a battle-flag which would be entirely different from any State or Federal flag.” 2

Now, even if the Southern Baptist Convention is basing their affirming these resolutions based on hate groups using the Battle Flag for their promotions, it really presents a problem. Do all flags used by these hate groups are now qualified to be banned? It is a
fact that the Confederate Battle Flag is not the primary flag that is used by the Ku Klux Klan and many other hate groups. It is the United States Flag – the American Flag. Henry Peck Fry wrote a book entitled, The Modern Ku Klux Klan, published in 1922 and gives for us the description of a new initiate, who is identified as “alien” 3: “Line after line the candidates marched in, led by a gigantic masker who bore high overhead the Fiery Cross. The candidates marched before the scrutinizing ranks of silent Klansmen. Then every man veteran Klansmen and new-made members bowed before the American flag and through the night boomed out the watchword of the order: ‘All men in America must honor that flag if we must make them honor it on their knees!’” 4

Fry goes on to describe the activity – of the new initiate or “alien”: “Having been duly warned of death and dishonor, the ‘alien’ is then led to the ‘sacred altar’ where rests the American flag, upon which is the Holy Bible, opened at the twelfth of Romans which ... says is his ‘spiritual charter’ and across the pages of the Word of God is a naked dagger, grim reminder of the preceding warning of the snake.” 5 Point is, not the Confederate Battle Flag, but the United States Flag is the primary flag for many hate groups.

Now, in May, 1861, the Southern Baptist Convention met in
Savannah, Georgia and Dr. Richard Fuller, of Baltimore, was elected President. On the motion of William Hillary McIntosh, of Alabama, a committee, composed of Richard Fuller, of Maryland, Basil Manly, Sr., of Alabama; Patrick Hues Mell, of Georgia; Robert Boyte Crawford Howell, of Tennessee; James Boardman Taylor, of Virginia; Edwin Theodore Winkler, of South Carolina; L. W. Allen, of Kentucky; William Carey Crane, of Louisiana; Granville Hopewood Martin, of Mississippi; James Emilius Broome, of Florida; John Lamb Prichard, of North Carolina, was instructed to report  on the “State of the Country.” 

These names may not mean much to you, but they are a few of the founding fathers of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845, who, in 1861 gave full support to the Confederacy. What followed next,  Chairman Dr. Richard Fuller of this committee – gave the report on the “State of the Country” – and by the way – the vote was unanimous in its adoption.

Here is a portion of that report: “We hold this truth to be self-evident, that governments are established for the security, prosperity and happiness of the people. When, therefore, any government is perverted from its proper design, becomes oppressive and abuses its power, the people have a right to change it. 

As to the States once combined upon this continent, it is now manifest that they can no longer live together as one confederacy. The Union, constituted by our forefathers, was one of co-equal sovereign States. The fanatical spirit of the North has long been seeking to deprive us of rights and franchises guaranteed by the Constitution; and, after years of persistent aggression, they have, at last, accomplished their purpose. In vindication of their sacred rights and honor, in self-defence, and for the protection of all which is dear to man, the Southern States have, practically, asserted a right of seceding from a Union so degenerated from that established by the Constitution and they have framed for themselves a government based upon the principles of the original compact—adopting a character which secures to each State its sovereign rights and privileges. 

This new government, in thus dissolving former political connections, seeks to cultivate relations of amity and good will with its late confederates, and with all the world; and they have thrice sent special commissioners to Washington, with overtures for peace, and for a fair, amicable adjustment of all difficulties. The government at Washington has insultingly repelled these reasonable proposals, and now insists upon devastating our land with fire and sword; upon letting loose hordes of armed soldiers to pillage and desolate the entire South, for the purpose of forcing the seceded States back into unnatural union, or of subjugating them, and holding them as conquered provinces.”

The reports goes on – and coming to the committees resolutions:

“Resolved, 1. That impartial history cannot charge upon the South the dissolution of the Union. She was foremost in advocating and cementing that Union. To that Union she clung, through long years of calumny, injury and insult. She has never ceased to raise her warning appeals against the fanaticism which has obstinately and incessantly warred against that Union.

Resolved, 2. That we most cordially approve of the formation of the government of the Confederate States of America, and admire and applaud the noble course of that government up to the present time.

Resolved, 3. That we will assiduously [a-sid-oo-uh slee] invoke the divine direction and favor in behalf of those who bear rule among us, that they may still exercise the same wise, prompt, elevated statesmanship, which has hitherto characterized their measures; that their enterprises may be attended with success; and that they may attain great reward, not only in seeing these Confederate States prosper under their administration, but in contributing to the progress of the transcended kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Resolved, 4. That we most cordially tender to the President of the Confederate States, to his Cabinet, and to the members of the Congress now convened at Montgomery, the assurances of our sympathy and entire confidence. With them are our hearts and our hearty co-operation. Resolved, 5. That the lawless reign of terror at the North, the violence committed upon unoffending citizens, above all, the threats to wage upon the South a warfare of savage barbarity, to devastate our homes and hearths with hosts of ruffians and felons, burning with lust and rapine, ought to excite the horror of all civilized people. God forbid that we should so far forget the spirit of Jesus as to suffer malice and vindictiveness to insinuate themselves into our hearts; but, every principle of religion, of patriotism and of humanity, calls upon us to pledge our fortunes and lives in the good work of repelling an invasion designed to destroy whatever is dear in our heroic traditions—whatever is sweet in domestic hopes and enjoyments—whatever is essential to our institutions and our very manhood—whatever is worth living or dying for.

Resolved, 6. That we do now engage in prayer for our friends, brothers, fathers, sons and citizen-soldiers, who have left their homes to go forth for the defence of their families and friends, and all which is dearest to the human heart; and we commend to the churches represented in this body, that they constantly invoke a holy and merciful God to cover their heads in the day of battle, and give victory to their arms.

Resolved, 7. That we will pray for our enemies in the spirit of the Divine Master, who, ‘when he was reviled reviled not again,’ trusting that their pitiless purposes may be frustrated; that God will grant to them a more politic, a more considerate, and a more Christian mind, that the fratricidal strife which they have decided upon, notwithstanding all our commissions and pleas for peace, may be arrested by that Supreme Power who maketh the wrath of man to praise Him; and that thus, through the divine blessing, the prosperity of these sovereign and once allied States may be restored under the two governments to which they now and henceforth, respectively belong.

Resolved, 8. We do recommend the churches of the Baptist denomination in the Southern States, to observe the first and second days of June, as days of humiliation, fasting, and prayer to Almighty God, that He may avert any calamities due to our sins as a people, and may look with mercy and favor upon us.

Resolved, 9. That, whatever calamities may come upon us, our firm trust and hope are in God, through the atonement of His Son, and we earnestly beseech the churches represented in this body (a constituency of six or seven hundred First Confederate Cabinet thousand Christians), that they be prompt and importunate in prayer, not only for the country, but for the enterprises of the gospel which have been committed to our care. In the war of 1812, the Baptists bated not a jot of heart or hope for the Redeemer's cause. Their zeal and liberality abounded in their deep afflictions. We beseech the churches to cherish the spirit, and imitate the example of this noble army of saints and heroes; to be followers of them who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises; to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as they know that their labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Resolved, 10. That these resolutions be communicated to the Congress of the Confederate States, at Montgomery, with the signatures of the President and Secretaries of the Convention.” 6 

Now – it was important for all these resolution to be read in order to show indeed the contrast of the affections of the Southern Baptist Convention of 1861, and the affections of the Southern Baptist Convention of 2016. So all in all, the Southern Baptist Convention has bowed down to the political correctness of our time, which has brought great harm to our country, as a tool of division. The position of the Southern Baptist Convention today is this, it has identified the Confederate Battle Flag as a hate symbol, which by the way, is the logo of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. By this resolution, the Southern Baptist Convention has alienated all Southern Baptist members, who are members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

I would like to remind the Southern Baptist Convention that in 1861 – the influential men of the Southern Baptist Convention, who shaped this denomination, served the Confederacy in  complete support. For instance – here are but a few:

Robert Boyte Crawford Howell was elected as one of it’s Vice Presidents of the Convention in May of 1861. Howell supported the States Rights theory and when the war began, he expressed his sentiments publicly. He was loyal to the Confederate States. He was very pro-Confederate and was imprisoned in the main state prison in Nashville, from June to August 1862 for refusing to take an oath of allegiance to the United Sates government. During his tenure as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Nashville during the war, it supplied more than one hundred soldiers for the Confederacy. Howell served as the second President of the Southern Baptist Convention, from 1851 to 1859. Even at his death he was one of the conventions vice-presidents.

Patrick Hues Mell was elected as one of it Vice Presidents of the
Convention in May of 1861. Two months later, P. H. Mell to an oath: “I, P. H. Mell, do solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the State of Georgia, and to the utmost of my power and ability, observe, conform to, support and defend the Constitution thereof, without any reservation or equivocation whatsoever, and the Constitution of the Confederate States. P. H. Mell. Sworn to and subscribed before me, this the 5th day of July, 1861.” 7 At the beginning of the war, a group of volunteers organized a company known as the Mell's Riflemen or Mell's Volunteers and it was the Governor of Georgia, Joseph E. Brown who appointed Mell as the unit's Captain. 8 At the death of his first wife, Mell went home on
leave and he reported back to active duty in 1863, now as a Colonel, 9 in the Ninth Georgia State Guards, in General Bragg's Army. As a side-note, my first cousin fourth removed, Dickerson Holliday Walker, served as Lieutenant Colonel under P. H. Mell, and was a Southern Baptist deacon. During the invasion of Sherman's march of Georgia in 1864, Mell served as commandant of Athens with a cavalry company, an artillery company and two infantry companies under his command. 10 Mell would later become the fourth president of the Southern Baptist Convention, from 1863 to 1871 and the sixth president, from 1880 to 1887. 

Jeremiah Bell Jeter was elected as President of the Foreign
Mission Board in 1861. Jeter’s position was: “As an original question, he was opposed to secession. He deplored the necessity for war, and sought in his way to prevent it. If all men had possessed his pacific and Christly temper, the country would never have been torn by strife or stained with blood. But he went with his people. He was emphatically a war man. Espousing the Southern cause, he ardently prayed for the success of the Confederate arms. He watched the course of events with profound solicitude, rejoicing over victories, mourning over defeats and cherishing hopes, even in the midst of thickening disasters. But he was not bitter; this he could not be. For those against him he had no enmity, and never uttered malignant prayers. He loved his chosen cause, but he had no curses for his enemies.” 11 He also served as the President of Trustees, for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.

John Albert Broadus was a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and became it’ second president from 1888 to 1895. It is true that Dr. Broadus was an anti-secessionist but he did serve as an evangelist 12 and chaplain 13 to Confederate troops. I think we need to hear this narrative about Dr. Broadus during the war: “Stonewall Jackson urged Doctor Broadus, saying to Doctor Jones: ‘Write to him by all means and beg him to come. Tell him that he never had a better opportunity of preaching the gospel than he would have right now in these camps.’He promptly replied that he would be glad to come; that he had been seriously and prayerfully considering the question; and that he had only been prevented from entering the army before by a doubt as to whether his feeble health could stand the exposure of camp life; but that he would at least try it as soon as he could make his arrangements. When I met General Jackson a few days after the reception of Doctor Broadus's letter, and told him that he would come, the great soldier said in his characteristic phrase: ‘That is good; very good. I am so glad of that. And when Doctor Broadus comes you must bring him to see me. I want him to preach at my headquarters, and I wish to help him in his work all I can.’ Alas! the battle of Chancellorsville came on a few days afterward, and before the great preacher could see the great soldier, Stonewall Jackson had ‘crossed over the river to rest under the shade of the trees.’” 14

And then there was James Petigru Boyce, who served as the first president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, from 1859 to 1888, and served as the fifth and seventh president of the Southern Baptist Convention (1872-1879,1888). He was also a anti-secessionist but he too, went with his State of South Carolina. Dr. Boyce served as chaplain for the Sixteenth South Carolina Infantry. This is what was said of him by Colonel James McCullough: “Dr. Boyce served with us as chaplain while in this State, on the coast, in the winter of 1861-1862, at Charleston, Adams Run, Johns Island, and elsewhere. He was always found at his post of duty, and was highly esteemed and much loved by the entire regiment. They all had absolute confidence in his Christian integrity and manhood. He used to preach us some very able and feeling sermons. My mind recurs to one especially, where he had almost the entire regiment in tears. ... I loved Dr. Boyce very much, and so did my men; and I believe the influence of his godly life was felt by more than one.” 15

One last person, but certainly not the least, and that is Benjamin Harvey Carroll. He was the founder and first president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Here again, we see that Carroll was an anti-secessionist. But he to, follows his state. When Texas seceded, Carroll “enter(ed) the ranks of the army of the Confederacy, and from rendering most valiant service in the famous [Ben McCulloch's] Texas Rangers. At different times, in the camps of his command, where for diversion and personal improvement, debating societies were maintained, he repeated the same sentiments, speaking always as a loyal Southern soldier, and predicted the events which were destined to occur in the issue of the terrible struggle.” 16

Just know, there were countless others who supported and served the Confederacy, who were members of Southern Baptist Churches – pastors and members. Point is – the Southern Baptist Convention supported the Confederate States, at the beginning of Northern aggression. Perhaps  you might be wondering, did the sentiments remain throughout the war for Southern Baptist? Well – when the Southern Baptist Convention met two years later, May 8-12, 1863, at the Green Street Baptist Church, Augusta, Georgia, resolution were presented by the Committee on the “State of the Country.” Overall, there were seven resolutions but here is the first one: “Resolved, 1st. That the events of the past two years have only confirmed the conviction expressed by this Convention at its last session, that the war which has been forced upon us is, on our part, just and necessary, and have only strengthened our opposition to a reunion with the United States on any terms whatever; and while deploring the dreadful evils of the war, and earnestly desiring peace, we have no thought of ever yielding, but will render a hearty support to the Confederate Government in all constitutional measures to secure our independence.” 17  

Coming to a conclusion and giving only a brief viewing of the Southern Baptist Convention resolutions of 1861 and 1863 and now comparing them to the resolutions of the 2016 Convention, we clearly see that Southern Baptist then and Southern Baptist now, are at two opposite poles.

End Notes

1 flag Suffice it to say – I was dismayed by these actions.

2 R. A. Brock, Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 38 (Richmond: Published by the Society,1910), 259.

3 Henry P. Fry, The Modern Ku Klux Klan (Boston: Small, Maynard & Company Publishers, 1922), 89.

4 Ibid., 50. 

5 Ibid., 89-90.

6 Proceedings of the Southern Baptist Convention at its Eight Biennial Session Held in 6 the First Baptist Church, Savannah, Georgia May 10-13, 1861 (Richmond: McFarlane & Fergusson, Printers, 1861), 62-64.

7 P. H. Mell Jr., Life of Patrick Hues Mell (Louisville: Baptist Book Concern, 1895), 136.

8 Ibid., 135-136.

9 Ibid., 143.

10 Ibid., 143.

11 William E. Hatcher, Life of J. B. Jeter (Baltimore: H. M. Wharton & Company, 1887), 261-262.

12 Charles F. Pitts, Chaplains In Gray: The Confederate Chaplain's Story (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1957), 140.

13 Ibid., 134.

14 Archibald Thomas Robertson, Life And Letters Of John Albert Broadus (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1901), 197-198.

15 John A. Broadus, Memoir of James Petigru Boyce (New York: A. C. Armstrong & Son), 188-189.

16 B. F. Riley, History of the Baptists of Texas (Dallas: Published for the author, 16 1907), 149-150.

17 Proceedings of the Southern Baptist Convention at its Ninth Biennial Session Held in the Green Street Baptist Church, Augusta, Georgia May 8-12, 1863 (Macon, Georgia:: Burk, Boykin & Company, 1863), 56-57. 


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