Ten Years - Formation To Fall -- By: Anonymous
CenQ 8:2 (Summer 1965) p. 51
Ten Years - Formation To Fall
The development of the Baptist Bible Union was, in part, a learning process. It began almost without precedent, and its moving spirits seemed to be cast upon their reason and intuition. They began the Union in what was apparently the best way they knew. They were by conviction flatly opposed to the denominational leadership, especially to that of the Northern Baptist Convention. The weapon they forged was made according to their convictions, and moved by preaching and mass meetings; they believed in those things. Involving individualists as it did, the Bible Union had the very minimum of organization and allowed its members a maximum of liberty. As it failed to gain its original objective, the purging of the conventions, it became evident that biblical convictions would require another objective and another sort of weapon. Realizing this caused some men to grow; it caused other men to leave the Union.
The Baptist Bible Union had within it a number of deep tensions. Eschatology was a problem; the Bible Union men seriously tried to avoid the subject, and there is no evidence that it caused any noticeable conflict within the movement. Aggressiveness was a problem: just how blunt can a fighter be? The very name of the Bible Union connoted battle. This reputation seems to have kept many men from joining, and to have caused A. C. Dixon to
CenQ 8:2 (Summer 1965) p. 52
leave. Separatism was a problem from the beginning, and it was resolved only with difficulty. It may be said that the Bible Union was inherently separatistic; yet its early disavowals of separatism certainly retarded its progress in Michigan. As the Union developed and separation appeared to be inevitable, Riley quietly left the movement. Individualism was also something of an issue, and for better or for worse, the direction of the movement was largely shaped by its charismatic leadership.
The Bible Union never did have full-time leadership; at every point in its history the members of the executive committee were men who had full-time responsibilities elsewhere, and the leading figures were all heavily encumbered with their churches, their publications, and additional ministries. Except for the first months of 1927, the Bible Union never had the benefit of a paid general secretary to promote it. It would seem to be indicative of the vitality of the movement and of Shields that it went as far as it did.
At least some of the weaknesses of the Bible Union were deliberate. It has already been remarked that it was made up of individuals, not of churches, and that it had a loose organization. The evidence suggests that from the beginning to the end the leaders genuinely feared a strong organization. They were reacting against the moder...
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