The Antipedo Baptists of Georgetown County, South Carolina, 1710-2010

The Antipedo Baptists of Georgetown County, South Carolina, 1710-2010

The Antipedo Baptists of Georgetown County, South Carolina, 1710-2010

The Antipedo Baptists of Georgetown County, South Carolina, 1710-2010

Synopsis

The Antipedo Baptists of Georgetown is the history of the First Baptist Church of Georgetown, South Carolina, as well as the history of Baptists in the colony and state. Roy Talbert, Jr., and Meggan A. Farish detail Georgetown Baptists' long and tumultuous history, which began with the migration of Baptist exhorter William Screven from England to Maine and then to South Carolina during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Screven established the First Baptist Church in Charleston in the 1690s before moving to Georgetown in 1710. His son Elisha laid out the town in 1734 and helped found an interdenominational meeting house on the Black River, where the Baptists worshipped until a proper edifice was constructed in Georgetown: the Antipedo Baptist Church, named for the congregation's opposition to infant baptism.

Three of the most recognized figures in southern Baptist history--Oliver Hart, Richard Furman, and Edmond Botsford--played vital roles in keeping the Georgetown church alive through the American Revolution. The nineteenth century was particularly trying for the Georgetown Baptists, and the church came very close to shutting its doors on several occasions. The authors reveal that for most of the nineteenth century a majority of church members were African American slaves.

Not until World War II did Georgetown witness any real growth. Since then the congregation has blossomed into one of the largest churches in the convention and rightfully occupies an important place in the history of the Baptist denomination. The Antipedo Baptists of Georgetown is an invaluable contribution to southern religious history as well as the history of race relations before and after the Civil War in the American South.

Excerpt

This is the story of what is today the First Baptist Church of beautiful and historic Georgetown, South Carolina. in 1710 there was no church and no town—simply a wild, unsettled place called Winyah. This work provides a brief overview of the origins of the Baptist faith and practices and then traces William Screven’s journey from Somerset, England, to Kittery, Maine, to Charleston, South Carolina, and finally to Winyah. His historical significance, simply stated, is that he brought Baptist beliefs to the South and organized the First Baptist Church of Charleston before moving to modern-day Georgetown. Screven’s youngest son, Elisha, is equally important—he named and laid out the town of Georgetown, South Carolina’s third-oldest port. Elisha also helped found the first non-Anglican church in the area, an interdenominational meeting house the Baptists shared with the Presbyterians and Independents. That meeting house was on the Black River, up from Georgetown in rich indigo country, and by the eve of the Revolution another jointly shared edifice had been built in Georgetown.

The three denominations were joined by a common purpose—their dissent from the established Anglican Church. Their role in the American Revolution, where religious toleration was key to their agenda, is significant. It is possible that had the British allowed freedom of worship, the Revolution may have taken a different turn in South Carolina. Sources indicate that South Carolina’s experience was similar to that of Virginia, as recently interpreted by John A. Ragosta in his 2010 Wellspring of Liberty: How Virginia’s Religious Dissenters Helped Win the American Revolution and Secured Religious Liberty. the early South Carolina Baptist leaders of that age—Oliver Hart, Richard Furman, and Edmund Botsford—were all involved in the war. Moreover, they had direct connections with Georgetown, nurturing the Baptists there. Botsford, known to historians for his writings on slavery, became the longtime pastor of the Baptist church in Georgetown, officially organized in 1794 as the Antipedo Baptist Church. Antipedo baptism is the archaic term for opposition to infant baptism, and, beyond the several historical markers in Georgetown, it is now rarely used.

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