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The State Association of Missionary Baptist Churches of Arkansas (also known as the Arkansas State Baptist Association), an organization representing some 600 Landmark Missionary Baptist Churches in Arkansas, was formed as a result of a dispute that arose in the 1890s among Baptists across the South concerning the nature of the church and the role of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in local congregational affairs. Many Baptists, especially the followers the Landmark principles set down by James R. Graves and James M. Pendleton earlier in the century, came to see the convention system, with its expanding system of boards and commissions, as a threat to local church impendence. Led by clergymen such as William A. Clark and Ben M. Bogard, representatives from a number of Landmark Baptist churches assembled in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on April 10–11, 1902, to form a new state Baptist body based upon the principle of strict “church equality,” meaning that each church, regardless of its size or location had an equal voice in denominational affairs. The new organization launched an aggressive missions program throughout the state and in foreign fields from Cuba to China. In 1905, it assumed the ownership of Buckner College at Witcherville (Sebastian County) in west Arkansas and operated it until 1914. In 1907, the association founded the Missionary Baptist Orphanage in Texarkana (Miller County). In 1917, it opened the Missionary Baptist College at Sheridan (Grant County). In 1924, it joined with the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas and others to form the American Baptist Association (ABA). During the 1920s, the association took a strong stand against the teaching of evolution and supported the efforts of Ben M. Bogard to outlaw its teachings in public schools. Since the 1920s, its churches have been active in supporting mission work through the missions program of the ABA.
During the early 1930s, the association closed its college in Sheridan and transferred its support to the newly founded Missionary Baptist Seminary in Little Rock. In 1950, a dispute within the ABA led to a division within the State Association and the formation of the Baptist Missionary Association of Arkansas. This group currently reports some 400 active congregations and operates the Central Baptist College in Conway (Faulkner County) and the BMA Children’s Home near Magnolia (Columbia County).
For additional information:Ashcraft, Robert. History of the Pine Bluff Missionary Baptist Association. Mabelvale, AR: Ashcraft Publications, 1995.
Ashcraft, Robert, et al. Pioneer Faith: The History of Missionary Baptist Associations and Churches in Arkansas from 1818 to 1920. Malvern, AR: State Association of Missionary Baptist Churches in Arkansas, 1994.
History and Archives Committee, American Baptist Association. History of the American Baptist Association. Mabelvale, AR: Ashcraft Publications, 2000.
Russell P. Baker
Arkansas History Commission and State Archives
Last Updated 12/4/2009
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