Last week, I had the delight to spend a few days away with the love of my life, and drive down to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee. We chose to drive through Cades Cove, which is an ideal setting in the Park, although originally was privately owned. There were many families who settled around 1820, and two churches, until the split came, then there were three.1 Imagine that! There were problems in churches a couple hundred years ago! And to think problems didn’t start in the last few years!
By their organization and religious zeal, John and Lucretia Oliver established a branch of the Miller’s Cove Baptist Church in 1825. After a brief alignment with the Wear’s Cove Baptist Church, the Cades Cove Baptist Church became an independent entity in 1829. A few years went by in peace, but then the turmoil began. It grew throughout Baptist churches in eastern Tennessee and was called an “anti-missionary” movement.
The split hit Cades Cove Baptist Church in 1839. The Tennessee Association of United Baptists tried to intervene, but in the end, thirteen members departed to form the Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church later that year. The remaining members changed their name in 1841 to Primitive Baptist Church and they believed in a strict, literal interpretation of Scripture. The Primitive Baptists remained the dominant religious and political force until 1960 with meetings interrupted only by the Civil War.
There IS a spiritual point to this. Christians are one in Jesus, but they have trouble living that oneness in life. Was it worth it to divide because of a stand on missionary outreach? I wonder – if that energy was given to evangelism and discipleship, could more be won to Christ and establish new churches? I wonder – if we spent more time on what we have common in the Lord, could we could demonstrate to the world what God’s love is all about? I wonder – if we put aside our own preferences for the sake of truth and unity of the body of Christ, might there be more blessing given to the church and the Nation?
1Check out the article in Wikipedia under Cades Cove.