Sovereign Grace Baptist Fellowship: Inaugural Meeting
September 11, 2001
The steering committee that labored to produce a Confession of Faith and Constitution and By-Laws for a Fellowship of sovereign grace churches and pastors, meeting in Nashville, Tennessee on March 6, 2001, set Tuesday, September 11, 2001, as the day of the official beginning of the Sovereign Grace Baptist Fellowship (SGBF). Moderator pro-tem, Holmes Moore, pastor of the Bible Baptist Church, St. Louis, Missouri, volunteered to be the host for the meeting.
At 9AM, the assembly of representatives from the churches for the formation of the Sovereign Grace Baptist Fellowship began with a devotion from God’s Word and a prayer meeting, led by George McGuinness, pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee. The church messengers gathered with heavy hearts, hearing only minutes before the beginning of this first session of the day, about the shocking events taking place in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. Ours was a solemn assembly throughout the day. Much prayer was made for our nation, our president, and the families of the victims in the tragic loss of life at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Pastor McGuinness began by reading Acts 4:18-30, and then emphasized the importance of prayer in all we do as servants of Christ. As the early Christians, in the midst of their spreading the gospel and being persecuted for it, “lifted up their voice to God with one accord,” so we too assemble today to cry out to God in harmony together for the furtherance of the gospel in our day. After this exhortation, various pastors called upon the Lord for wisdom and guidance in the affairs of the day.
At 10 AM, moderator pro-tem welcomed the church representatives and others who had gathered on this day. He remarked that September 11, 2001, will live in infamy, much like December 7, 1941, due to the terrorists atrocities committed in our nation. But we had assembled for worship and to discuss how our churches might toil together in the work of Christ, so the meeting would proceed as scheduled.
Steve Long, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Ozark, Missouri, led the congregation in singing “Holy, Holy, Holy,” followed by “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.” Approximately 100 were in attendance for the morning services.
Tom Henry, assistant pastor of the Bible Baptist Church, brought a brief devotion from Mark 2:1-5. Mr. Henry brought spoke about the four men who brought the paralytic to Christ. Jesus saw “their faith” and healed the man. These men persisted in their efforts to bring their friend to Christ, overcoming great obstacles. They combined their efforts to do what they could not do in isolation. So we must combine our efforts to do together what we cannot do alone. This is the purpose for establishing a Fellowship of sovereign grace churches.
After the devotion by Tom Henry, Steve Long led the congregation in singing, “Faith of our Fathers.” Sharon Bagley then sang, “When I Read My Title Clear.”
Terry Worthan, pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church, Winston, Georgia, had been asked by the moderator to preach the first message of the day. Mr. Worthan has been involved in promoting unity and fellowship among sovereign grace churches for over 30 years. How appropriate that a man with roots deep in the sovereign grace movement in our country be asked to preach the first message of the day. And how appropriate for him to take as his text, Matthew 1:21, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins,” and preach the glorious message of the sovereign grace of God. Mr. Worthan declared that sovereign grace was the issue of the day. There are disagreements among us over other doctrines, like eschatology, but there must not be any disagreement among us over the preeminence of the gospel of God’s sovereign grace.
Pastor Worthan gave three reasons why we must preach sovereign grace. (1) It is the gospel. Grace, in the Bible, is free and sovereign. A freewill gospel is another gospel. (2) It is in the text. Matthew 1:21 sets forth total depravity, unconditional election, particular redemption, irresistible grace, and perseverance/preservation of the saints. (3) It gives greater glory to God. God directed Moses (Exodus 33:19) to behold, not creation or providence, but His sovereign disposition to do as He pleases. The freewill of God in salvation, not the freewill of man, brings glory to God. Necessity is laid upon us to preach this gospel.
After a ten-minute break, another service of worship was conducted. Steve Long led us in singing, “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord” and “Atlas and Did My Savior Bleed.”
Dean Olive, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Madison, Alabama, brought the second message of the day. Mr. Olive preached from Titus 3:8, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.” The message was about the importance of believers maintaining good works. As believers in sovereign grace, we must not be mired in the quicksand of legalism, but neither must we be cast upon the rocks of antinomianism. Those who preach the free and sovereign grace of God must not despise holy living. A faith that does not work is not genuine faith. Some sovereign grace people are antinomian but that is not true of the Sovereign Grace Baptist Fellowship. We believe, as Hebrews 11:14 declares, without holiness, no man shall see the Lord. No works, no heaven, not because works are the cause of salvation but because they are the sure and certain fruit.
After lunch, the afternoon business session started at 2 P.M. More than 20 churches had representatives for the business meeting. Moderator pro-tem, Holmes Moore, began the session by updating us on the tragic events taking place in our country and expressing our concern, but pointing out that our main burden was for the gospel. He then asked several of the church representatives to lead us in prayer. After a time of prayer, copies of the Confession of Faith and Constitution and By-Laws, previously mailed out, were made available. A hearty thank you was expressed to George McGuinness and Larry Dean for their work in preparing and printing this document. Mr. Moore then shared with the church representatives all that had preceded the events of the day. He chronicled how a group of pastors concerned about establishing a fellowship of sovereign grace churches met in Nashville, Tennessee, at the Sovereign Grace Baptist Church, to discuss the possibility of forming a Fellowship. Two meetings were held by this group of men: February 22, 2000, and March 6, 2001. Out of these meetings, a Confession of Faith and a Constitution and By-Laws was formulated. This unofficial steering committee appointed temporary officers: Holmes Moore, moderator; Dean Olive, secretary; and Larry Dean, treasurer.
Mr. Moore emphasized that it was determined to establish a Fellowship, not a Convention or Association. The reason for this was in order that the autonomy of each local church could be maintained. The purpose of the Fellowship, as stated in the By-Laws, was read and explained by the moderator pro-tem.
Dean Olive, Secretary