This week the annual conference of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches will be held here in Lakeland, Florida. I am planning on being there for most of it, and blogging what I can. Chances are good I will be the only one blogging the conference.
Below is an article about the GARBC that appeared recently in the Lakeland Ledger. It is pretty interesting, although I think many of my Regular Baptist bretheren would blanch at the idea of being called the “Northern cousins” of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Regular Baptists Convene In Polk | theledger.com
By Cary McMullen
Ledger Religion Editor
Almost anywhere in the South, to be a Baptist usually means belonging to a Southern Baptist church. Less well-known and fewer in number are their Northern cousins, the Regular Baptists, who are preparing to hold their national conference in Lakeland next week.
About 2,000 delegates, or “messengers,” will gather Wednesday for the annual meeting of the General Association of Regular Baptists at The Lakeland Center. The three-day national conference will draw pastors and lay persons for a series of workshops and business meetings, preceded by an evangelism seminar on Tuesday.
It will be the third time the Regular Baptists have held their annual conference in Lakeland. The association met here in 1978 and 1996. The city was chosen because Polk County has six churches affiliated with the General Association of Regular Baptists, the highest concentration in the state, said Don Anderson, assistant to the national representative at the denomination’s headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill., a suburb of Chicago.
The churches in Polk County affiliated with the association are: Cornerstone, Heritage and Fellowship Baptist churches in Lakeland; Shepherd Road Baptist Church in Mulberry; Faith Baptist Church in Winter Haven and Open Door Baptist Church in Polk City. There is also a Regular Baptist church in Zephyrhills.
The Rev. Nathan Osborne, pastor of Faith Baptist Church, is scheduled to deliver one of the keynote addresses, “His Vision for Multiplying Workers,” at 10:20 a.m. Wednesday. The choir of Faith Baptist will give a concert Wednesday night.
The Rev. Bill Boulet, pastor of Heritage Baptist, whose church has helped with local arrangements, said a highlight of the meeting will be reports from Regular Baptist chaplains.
“It’s been a big part of the conference the last couple of years. They give us a perspective on what’s going on in Iraq,” he said.
The association places a lot of emphasis on youth at its conference, Anderson said. On Thursday, the conference will hold a talent competition with 12 categories. First-place winners receive a $5,000 scholarship, and second-place winners receive a $2,500 scholarship, he said.
The General Association of Regular Baptists is a small, conservative denomination whose chuches are mostly in the Midwest, Northeast and Florida. It dates from 1932, when a group split from what was then the Northern Baptist Convention, later renamed the American Baptist Association, over allegations the Northern convention was becoming too liberal, Anderson said.
The term “regular” refers to the association’s doctrine, over against the “irregular stance of theological liberalism,” according to its Web site (www.garbc.org). “The Association stands for the true, Scriptural fundamentals of the faith,” the Web site states.
For example, the question of ordaining women, a controversy which raged during the 1980s in the Southern Baptist Convention, has not been an issue with the Regular Baptists, Anderson said.
“We fully recognize the important role of women in ministry, but we believe the scriptures teach only men should be ordained to the ministry,” he said.
The association has almost 1,400 churches in 46 states, Canada and Saipan. Figures are incomplete, but the association counts at least 127,000 members, Anderson said.