Free Will Christian Baptist, Church of Christ, was once the official name of the Cumberland Association in Tennessee.
Robert Heaton and Wilson L. Gower organized the association in 1843, under the name Cumberland Association of Separate Baptists. By 1856 Free Will replaced Separate, although either name may appear on documents of the time.
Sometime around 1886, the Rev. J.L. Welch, father of the better known John L. Welch, convinced the Christian Baptist Stone Association to separate from the Cumberland and retained the name.
Seven churches composed the Cumberland Association in 1843: Heads, Liberty, Blue Spring, Good Springs, Charity, Mount Zion, and Sycamore. Heads Church apparently has a continuous history up to the present, and perhaps Mount Zion as well. Good Springs also continues, but with some breaks in its history. The other churches no longer exist, although Liberty continues in two successor churches that came from it: Brandon’s Chapel and Pleasant Hill.
Today, the Cumberland Association includes more than 80 churches.
About the Writer: Mary Wisehart served as chairman of the Free Will Baptist Historical Commission