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A Texas Baptist Power Struggle

The Hayden Controversy

Joseph E. Early, Jr.

Publication Year: 2005

The Hayden Controversy was one of the most bitter feuds in Baptist history. In the nineteenth century, Protestant denominations in Texas endured difficult transitions from a loosely organized frontier people to a more cooperative and organized body capable of meeting the needs of growing denominations. The Methodists, Churches of Christ, and Baptists all endured major splits before their survival was certain. Of all the Protestant bodies, however, the Hayden Controversy was the fiercest and most widespread, with repercussions that continue to affect current Baptist life. Joseph E. Early, Jr., tells the story of how one man, Samuel Augustus Hayden, almost destroyed the newly organized Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) before it could take root. In the final decades of the nineteenth century, Hayden caused such unrest among Texas Baptists that after a failed attempt to take over the BGCT, he was expelled from the state body. In turn, he created a rival organization, the Baptist Missionary Association (BMA), which continued to fight perceived oppression by the BGCT. While trying to take over the BGCT, Hayden, through his newspaper, accused his enemies of embezzlement, heresy, arson, and strong-arm tactics. Haydens high-profile opponents included some of the most powerful and well-known Baptists in Texas: George Washington Truett, Benajah Harvey Carroll, and James Britton Cranfill. Through their newspapers they asserted that Hayden was insane, a liar, and a heretic. Baptists in Texas were forced to take sides in the struggle. After more than twenty years of turmoil, the controversy came to a dramatic conclusion on a train bound for the Southern Baptist Convention, where Cranfill and Hayden scuffled over a pistol. Two shots were fired; miraculously, no one was hurt. Though the main events of the Hayden Controversy occurred more than one hundred years ago, history appears to be repeating itself. On August 11, 2004, the Baptist Standard called on all Baptists to recognize that they are reliving the Hayden Controversy. Once again Texas Baptists are being asked to take sides in a struggle for leadership with the formation of a new organization called the Southern Baptists of Texas (SBT). Both the BGCT and the SBT have strong leaders intent on guiding Texas Baptists in doctrinal and denominational matters. The BGCT once again finds itself dealing with a splinter group on some of the same issues fought over in the Hayden Controversy.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

Controversy seems almost second nature to Texas Baptists. When not waging war against external enemies from afar, they have often turned inward upon one another with unbecoming zest. At one point in the late nineteenth century rancor had produced five rival sate conventions, two hostile newspapers, and two competing universities. ...

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pp. ix-xiii

Generally, Texas Baptists are known for two specific attributes. The first is evangelism. Wherever there are Texas Baptists one almost always finds a burning desire to lead the lost to Christ. The second attribute is not quite so noble. The Baptist denomination in Texas is also well known for its infighting. Whenever an enemy common to all Baptists ...

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CHAPTER 1. Problems on the Horizon

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pp. 1-25

THE NINETEENTH CENTURY WAS a time of religious foment in the United States. The disestablishment that had accompanied the American Revolution meant that previously unfavorable religious bodies such as Baptists and Methodists were now free to compete with one and all for converts. As a result ...

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CHAPTER 2. An Unhappy Marriage

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pp. 26-37

RECONSTRUCTION HAD BEEN DIFFICULT in Texas. Even though the state had been largely spared the scarred images of battlefields, the economy was in ruins. The financial problems that devastated the entire country had their roots in the overexpansion of the railroads. After the Civil War, the railroad added some ...

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CHAPTER 3. Bad Blood in Dallas Leads to Ill Will Across Texas

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pp. 38-49

DURING THE 1880S, UNIFICATION was an important concept not only in the Baptist General Convention of Texas, but also in the many different areas of the secular world in Texas. The railroad in particular was a unifying force and Texas experienced significant growth in this industry. Prior to the Civil War there had ...

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CHAPTER 4. B. H. Carroll Takes the Lead

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pp. 50-64

THE EMERGING TUMULT AMONG Texas Baptists was paralleled in the early 1890s by economic tumult within the state and nation. The Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 was a major cause of a severe economic downturn that culminated in the “Panic of 1893.” With the addition of western states with large silver ...

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CHAPTER 5. Hayden’s Reform Movement

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pp. 65-73

DESPITE HIS BELIEF THAT J. M. Carroll was a far better Corresponding Secretary than J. B. Cranfill, Hayden proclaimed that times were lean and that the salaries of the Board were excessive. He constantly belittled the increased salary of J. M. Carroll. Hayden suggested that Carroll’s $400 salary increase over his ...

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CHAPTER 6. Winner Takes It All

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pp. 74-96

ALTHOUGH TROUNCED AT MARSHALL, Hayden refused to give up. To his call for reform he now added sensational charges: J. B. Cranfill was an embezzler, B. H. Carroll was an autocrat, R. T. Hanks was an adulterer, and J. M. Carroll was preoccupied with the love of money.1 In addition, President Buckner was under ...

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CHAPTER 7. The End of an Era

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pp. 97-111

EVEN IN THE MIDST of Hayden’s litigation and incessant diatribes, the Board believed another victory was within its grasp. Several favorable elements combined as the Convention was called to order. The 1898 regular session of the BGCT took place at Waco, a city known for its support of the Board and its anti-Hayden ...

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pp. 112-121

THE FINAL DECADES OF the nineteenth century were periods of transformation and controversy for Texas Baptists. The denomination’s forefathers who established the Baptist presence in Texas were slowly passing from the scene. This change in leadership was embodied in the rising influence of B. H. Carroll, J. M. Carroll, R. ...


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pp. 122-143


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pp. 144-157


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pp. 158-166


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pp. 167-172

E-ISBN-13: 9781574413991
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574411959

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 12 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2005