Trouble in the Altar

One of the most difficult books to find about Free Will Baptists was co-authored by G.W. Million and G.A. Barrett titled Brief History of the Liberal Baptist People. The 351-page book was published in 1911.

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The Praying Man

In the last part of the 19th century a one-of-a-kind man greatly contributed to and influenced Free Will Baptists. William Bonaparte Woolsey was born in 1821, saved at age 21, and became a Baptist minister. His feeling about free will and open communion quickly identified him with Free Will Baptists. Woolsey and two fellow ministers organized their churches into a Free Will Baptist association.

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Tecumseh College

December 27, 1916, delegates from Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, and Texas met at Philadelphia FWB Church near Pattonsburg, Missouri, and organized the Co-operative General Association of Free Will Baptists.

They voted to establish a denominational school, and John H Wolfe, Pawnee City, Nebraska, was elected president. Wolfe’s personal library later became the basis for the historical collection at Welch College.

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North Carolina Free Will Baptists began a school in 1898, on Lee Street in Ayden, North Carolina. Its official name was Free Will Baptist Theological Seminary. Ayden Seminary, as it came to be known, was an elementary and high school with a ministerial course of study.

J.E.B. Davis was the first principal. Later in 1898 Dr. Thomas E. Peden came from Sciotoville, Ohio to teach Bible and be principal. He served until 1910.

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The Woman Needed a Horse

In Nancy A. Hardesty’s book, Great Women of Faith, she lists two Free Will Baptist women, Sally Parsons and Clarissa Danforth. Clarissa Danforth spoke at the Yearly Meeting in Tunbridge, Vermont, in 1818, along with Charles Bowles, a black minister. A black and a woman—Free Will Baptist women cite these as evidence of the “great foresight” of Free Will Baptists.

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The Chest of Jehoiada

Mrs. Lizzie McAdams, home missionary, evangelist and promotional and field worker for the National Association of Free Will Baptists, “invented, (as she said) the Jehoiada Chest to collect money for Free Will Baptist work.

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Discipline in the 19th Century Free Will Baptist Church

Discipline in the 19th century, in most denominations, was swift and severe. No one was immune. Pastors, deacons, and laymen alike were brought to public trial for public sins. More often than not, the occasion for discipline centered around the sins of drunkenness and “scandalous living.” The latter usually was related to popular vices that were declared unacceptable by the churches—card playing, horse racing, and dancing among others. Typically, public drunkenness was the most prominent culprit and, as often as not, it was the clergy who were accused and brought before the church conference for censure.

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Free Will Christian Baptist, Church of Christ

Free Will Christian Baptist, Church of Christ, was once the official name of the Cumberland Association in Tennessee.

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Sister Lizzie

Elizabeth Lawliss McAdams was born October 1, 1884, near Troy, Alabama. “Sister Lizzie,” as she became known, wanted to be a missionary when she was 13. At 25 she felt God’s call to preach.

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Music Then and Now

Music always has been a part of Free Will Baptist worship, but the present denominational hymn book is far different from the first one published in 1823. That hymnal was compiled by John Buzzell, a publisher among the Northern Free Will Baptists, and contained some original hymns written largely by the editor or by Benjamin Randall, the founder of the New England segment of the denomination. Others were written by internationally known hymnodists such as Watts, Doddridge, and Toplady.

At that time, musical instruments were not used in the church. In fact, they were not allowed in the church. Hymns were “lined out”—that is, the worship leader chose a tune for the hymn and then announced or sang each line for the congregation. The worshippers then repeated what they had heard. Hymn books offered only lyrics for each hymn. Other denominations must have been using instrumental music because David Marks, a popular Free Will Baptist musician, refused to use such “innovations” in his music.

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