“If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you are.”
—James Burke, founder, Knowledge Web
The development of the Free Will Baptist Historical Commission was initiated in July 1960 at the 24th National Association of Free Will Baptists in Fresno, California. Delegates approved a resolution to take the necessary steps to establish a historical organization to preserve and promote Free Will Baptist History.
The resulting commission was founded three years later, in 1963, when the association met in Detroit, Michigan. Original members included Damon Dodd, Bill Hill, and George C. Lee, Jr.
Since its inception, the Historical Commission has been instrumental in:
- Developing an Archival Collection. One of the most important tasks of the commission has been to collect and catalogue historical materials (many available on this website for review). From books and magazines to minutes of business meetings, pamphlets, letters, sermons, and more, the commission has amassed a large repository of historical documents located in the Free Will Baptist Historical Collection housed at Welch College Library in Nashville, Tennessee.
- Publications and Research. The commission produced History of Free Will Baptist State Associations (1976), and The Fifty-Year History of the National Association of Free Will Baptists (1988), both published by Randall House Publications. In 2005, the commission began publishing a series of pamphlets that trace the history and development of Free Will Baptist doctrine and practice. The board also assisted in production of “Honoring Our Heritage,” a full-length documentary released in 2012, which provided viewers a pictorial overview of Free Will Baptist history and doctrine dating from 1600 to the present.
- Digital Archive. In 2013, the commission introduced FWBHistory.com. The website makes important Free Will Baptist historical documents available for
download, including books of historical record, biographies, periodicals, minutes from the national conventions, and more. It also contains a regularly updated history blog and an ever-growing list of publically accessible Free Will Baptist history collections.
The board also participates in the annual Heritage Week at Welch College and occasionally makes funds available for historical preservation projects, ranging from the historic Ridge Church project in New Durham, New Hampshire, to grants for historic research and writing projects.
(Some information taken from A Free Will Baptist Handbook by J. Matthew Pinson, Randall House Publications, 1998.)