Academic journal article Baptist History and Heritage

Fellowship in the Gospel: Scottish Baptists and Their Relationships with Other Baptist Churches, 1900 to 1945: Scottish Baptists Began the Twentieth Century in Good Heart after Sustained Growth in Numbers of Both Members and Churches Following the Formation of the Baptist Union of Scotland (BUS) in 1869 (1)

Academic journal article Baptist History and Heritage

Fellowship in the Gospel: Scottish Baptists and Their Relationships with Other Baptist Churches, 1900 to 1945: Scottish Baptists Began the Twentieth Century in Good Heart after Sustained Growth in Numbers of Both Members and Churches Following the Formation of the Baptist Union of Scotland (BUS) in 1869 (1)

Article excerpt

This study will examine one aspect of the collective life of this group of Baptist congregations, namely, its relationships with other Baptist churches, primarily but not exclusively with other Baptists in the United Kingdom, Europe, and North America. Of necessity this study can, at best, provide only an overview of this subject. The unfortunate paucity of personal diaries and other private sources requires greater dependence on institutional records such as the minutes of various Baptist union bodies, but an alternative, though complementary, account from the period comes from the independently controlled periodical, the Scottish Baptist Magazine (SBM).

Relations with Other British Baptists

The strongest ties of the BUS in this period were with the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland (BUGBI). One constant irritation to Scottish Baptists was the assumption on the part of the larger body that the smaller Baptist unions in Scotland and Wales were formally affiliated to it. There were consistent references to BUGBI as the "English Union," (2) with the exception of formal citations from documents. One source of grievance arose over plans for a scheme of Ministerial Recognition. The BUS was interested in participating in the scheme established by BUGBI but sought a number of changes in its regulations prior to recommending the proposals to its own constituency. The BUS was determined to retain control over the accreditation of its own ministers and to avoid being swallowed up by a numerically larger body. Preservation of a distinctive Scottish identity, within a British Baptist context, was a recurring theme in the first quarter of the twentieth century.

The confidence of the BUS appeared to grow in the next few decades as a sense of apparent "inferiority" to the larger body diminished. A significant contributing factor to this favorable development was the regular movement of ministers between congregations in England and Scotland. This activity was possibly the strongest factor in strengthening ties between these two denominations. Ownership of the link between BUGBI and BUS had to be in the hands of the members of local churches. By the middle of the twentieth century, mutual respect and confidence in their respective identities characterized the relationship between these two Baptist unions.

The overwhelming number of references to other Baptists in the minutes of BUS committees and in the pages of the SBM concerned the largest of the British Baptist unions. Some references were made, however, to the bodies in Wales and Ireland. The Baptist Union of Wales received the least attention with only a handful of references, mainly to the movement of ministers between Scotland and Wales; but there was also an article in 1906 on the Welsh Revival's impact on the statistics of the Baptist churches in that land. The attention given to Irish Baptists was mainly restricted to reports on the Annual Assembly of the Baptist Union of Ireland in the SBM, although an article in 1910, with favorable comments, reported protests by Irish Baptists to their South African colleagues over a proposed ecumenical venture, in which the Baptist Union of South Africa was intending to participate. Since all the references to these two sister unions were favorable, their affairs presumably were not prominent in the list of priorities of Scottish Baptists.

One Baptist body around which most British Baptists united was the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS). A consistent record of generous financial giving for its overseas mission activities was maintained even in the darkest days of World War II. Regular features on the work of this mission agency also appeared in the SBM. China received the most attention with fourteen major stories between 1900 and 1945. These accounts tended to focus on particular Scottish missionaries, including the Moir Duncans who served mainly in the province of Shensi. The SBM contained short biographical sketches of distinguished native Christians such as Hannah Liu, the daughter of a Chinese Baptist pastor, who was one of the first women, in 1931, to be elected to the Chinese parliament. …

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