The Niagara Bible Conference And American Fundamentalism -- By: Larry D. Pettegrew

Journal: Central Bible Quarterly
Volume: CENQ 20:1 (Spring 1977)
Article: The Niagara Bible Conference And American Fundamentalism
Author: Larry D. Pettegrew


The Niagara Bible Conference And American Fundamentalism

Larry D. Pettegrew, Th.D.

Pillsbury Baptist Bible College Owatonna, Minnesota

[Part two in a series. This article is a portion of Dr. Pettegrew’s Th.D. dissertation at Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas, and printed with permission. The dissertation is entitled “The Historical and Theological Contributions of the Niagara Bible Conference to American Fundamentalism.”]

I. The Rise Of The Niagara Bible Conference (Cont’d.)

American Private Bible Meetings

The telling of how an Irish private Bible meeting came to America and then developed into a public Bible conference becomes the task of this section of the study. Two men, George C. Needham and James Inglis, are particularly important in this connection and they need to be identified. These men initiated a series of private Bible meetings in 1868 which ran to 1871, and then began again in 1875. After the 1876 meeting, the public was invited, and a new phase of the Niagara movement emerged.

Co-Founders Of The Niagara Bible Conference

George C. Needham — Credit for the founding of the early private Bible meetings which led to the Niagara Bible Conference should go equally to George C. Needham (1840–1902) and James Inglis (1813–1872). The first, George C. Needham, was born on the shore of the Kenmare Bay in the south of Ireland of Protestant parents.1 Though reared in a religious atmosphere, Needham did not make definite his salvation until he was eighteen at the beginning of the great revival that swept through Ireland. When he was nineteen, Needham entered business in Dublin, but soon left his work to enter into evangelism. After a brief but successful ministry in Ireland, Needham was invited to England where he ministered not far from Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s church. Though Needham proposed to enter Spurgeon’s college, Spurgeon, “seeing the work he was doing, advised him to continue preaching Christ.”2 1866, Needham, along with Henry Grattan Guinness, made an evangelistic tour of Ireland with good results. Then in 1868, Needham came to the United States, proceeded by a letter of recommendation to the American churches by Spurgeon.3

An historian of revivalism, William McLoughlin, describes Needham’s style of evangelism as in the tradition of an old and noble style. He says:

The three British itinerants, Varley, Moorehouse, and Needham, were lay preachers affiliated with the Plymouth Brethren. Like...

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