Origins of the FBFI – A Clarification

Fred Moritz

Dr. Kevin Bauder serves as Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minneapolis. He publishes a weekly newsletter under the title “In the Nick of Time.”

In Dr. Bauder’s July 17 letter, he reports on his recent visit to the national meeting of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship Association in Kansas City. He reviews some of the history of the organization, and reports on this year’s meeting. It is a heartwarming account of the meeting.

In the article Dr. Bauder distinguishes between the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship Association and the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International. In making that proper distinction, Dr. Bauder makes a statement that calls for some clarification.

He states:

Unless you are one of a handful of people, you probably do not know about the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship Association. In fact, you probably think that I am talking about the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, International — but I am not. They are distinct organizations, though each is (as you might expect) both Baptist and fundamentalist. The FBFA is the older of the two and was the first to call itself the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship (the FBFI likes to trace itself to 1920, but the present organization effectively dates from the mid-1960s).

I approach this clarification with trepidation. First, Dr. Bauder is my friend and I don’t want my words to be construed as anything but the words of a friend. Second, Dr. Bauder is a professor at Central Seminary, which is my alma mater. I owe a debt of gratitude to Central and to the Fourth Baptist Church in the Twin Cities. Third, I am honored to teach at Maranatha Baptist Seminary, and I do not want this to be seen as a parochial conflict. I speak only to Dr. Bauder’s statement concerning the FBFI. I know little of the FBFA, but I speak with respect for those who are brothers in Christ and in the cause of a separatist, Baptist testimony.

The point that needs clarification is Dr. Bauder’s identification of the FBFA (formed in 1962) as the older of the two organizations. He then says “the FBFI likes to trace itself to 1920, but the present organization effectively dates from the mid-1960s.”

The FBFI is the continuation of what James Leo Garrett says first bore the name of “The National Federation of Fundamentalists of the Northern Baptists.” Because of the weak leadership in that early organization, the Baptist Bible Union was born in 1922. Out of its demise came the GARBC in 1932. The GARBC brethren made an earlier (and more proper) separation from the Northern Baptist Convention. The leaders of the Fundamental Fellowship (William Bell Riley, J. C. Massee, Earle V. Pierce, et al.) were not separatists. They chose to protest within the convention rather than leave it.

By 1943 a new group of leaders were rising, and they proved themselves as biblical separatists. Some of those leaders were R. V. Clearwaters, G. Archer Weniger, his brother Arno Q. Weniger (whose father F. W. Weniger was a Northern Baptist separatist pastor), George Carlson, B. Myron Cedarholm, and others. In 1943 the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society was formed. In 1947 the Conservative Baptist Association of America came into existence, followed by the Conservative Baptist Home Mission Society from 1948-50.

It was after the last fundamentalist defeat in the Northern Baptist Convention in 1946 that the Fundamentalist Fellowship changed its name to the Conservative Baptist Fellowship. The Conservative Baptist movement consisted of an association of churches, two mission agencies, and a fellowship of pastors.

The Fundamental Fellowship in the Northern Baptist Convention became the Conservative Baptist Fellowship in 1946. It took the name Fundamental Baptist Fellowship in 1967 and then in 2001 changed its name to the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International. We must clarify that it existed well before the mid-1960s. In fact, in 1961 (before Dr. Bauder’s assertion that the FBFI effectively dates to the mid-1960s), this very organization formally issued the call for the formation of a new fundamentalist, Baptist mission agency. That agency was organized September 15, 1961 and was known as World Conservative Baptist Mission. In 1967 the WCBM changed its name to Baptist World Mission, which thrives today.

This article is long enough, but if we had more time we could demonstrate that there was a contiguous succession of leadership through the name changes. The names of Weniger, Clearwaters, Weeks, and Cedarholm appear in the history of the organization, whatever name it bore at the time. Some of the men who were leaders in the Conservative Baptist Fellowship were involved in the leadership well into the days when the organization was known as the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship.

Dr. Bauder also wrote about the FBFI on July 18, 2014. A perusal of that article finds we are in agreement about many of the historical facts. We at the FBFI believe a friendly clarification of Dr. Bauder’s recent statement is in order.

Fred Moritz
Maranatha Baptist Seminary
July 21, 2015

Fred Moritz serves as a Professor at Maranatha Baptist Seminary and is the Executive Director Emeritus, Baptist World Mission