Tuesday, June 24, 2008

National Baptists Part 2 of 3

The first harbinger of a future schism within the National Baptist Convention (NBC) came in 1897, when a small group of Eastern leaders, advocating closer black-white cooperation opposed a separate publishing arm and withdrew from the NBC to form the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention. It should be mentioned that several of the Lott Carey leaders also worked for the American Baptist Publication Society (ABPS) and were not happy with the Foreign Mission Board’s move from Richmond to Louisville.

Following a decision of the ABPS in 1890 to withdraw an invitation to black scholars to write lesson materials, and with the added encouragement of Southern Baptist Women's Missionary Union President Annie Armstrong, the NBC in 1898 moved to commission the Home Mission Board to begin a Publication Board. Within three years it published nine titles, distributed six million quarterlies, and took over The National Baptist Magazine. Soon it would be the largest black publishing house in the world. R.H. Boyd became so necessarily focused on publishing that home mission work fell by the wayside, partly because home missions cost money and publishing made money.

The Publication Board was destined to rip the NBC in two. The problem was that in the establishment of the Publication Board, the NBC neglected to add the important phrase “of the National Baptist Convention.” Therefore Boyd, who had moved the press to Nashville and set it up on his own dime, effectively ran the Publication Board as a privately owned publishing house and pocketed all the profit the press made.

In 1915, it all came to a head. Morris and Boyd had long disliked each other, and it was about to get worse. NBC President E.C. Morris tried to alleviate the stickiness by separating the Publication Board from the Home Mission Board, thereby removing the publishing arm from Boyd’s control. Boyd resisted, and the NBC filed suit to take control of the Publication Board.

The way Morris and the NBC understood it, the Publication Board was established by the convention for the convention with all property and copyrights belonging to the convention. The court found, however, that since Boyd had purchased property and remodeled facilities in Nashville at his own personal expense and had retained the title deeds and copyrights in his own name, that Boyd in fact held ownership and lawful control of the Publication Board.

The bottom line: the denomination split 51% - 49% over personality and publishing profits. The Morris faction legally incorporated the NBC, going over the entire organization with a fine tooth comb, making sure all boards and properties were legally and safely owned by the convention.

The Boyd faction pulled out and formed their own convention. The National Baptist Convention of America (Unincorporated) (NBCA), first led by R.H. Boyd, by 1995 claimed 1.7 million members in 6,716 churches. It is headquartered in Shreveport, LA.

The publishing board caused another schism in 1988. The National Missionary Baptist Convention of America (NMBCA) formed in Dallas in disagreement over the relationship of the NBCA and the National Baptist Publishing Board (now the R.H. Boyd Publishing Corporation). The NMBCA, strongest in California and Texas, claims over 500 churches and one million members. In 1999, a splinter group led by H.J. Johnson of Dallas withdrew from the NMBCA and formed the Institutional Missionary Baptist Conference of America after Johnson failed twice to win the presidency.