Baptist Church Constitutions and Doctrinal Statements

I have been doing some reading about Baptist History. I have also had some discussions about Church Polity (i.e. how a church governs itself). Does anyone have any idea as to when we started using a written Constitution or Doctrinal Statements?
I know the reason why we have them, and I know they can be dangerous tools if used incorrectly. However I also believe that if the congregation understands the necessity of them, why we have them, and what their proper use is, they can be extremely useful.

Any references or ideas would be greatly appreciated!

In Christ,

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PastorShinn's picture

I have recently read a book called, "Baptist History in the South." It talks primarily about the role that separatist Baptist played in the Great Awakening. It is a great read and I would recommend it to anyone. I read in this book that the primary reason that Separate Baptist avoided establishing any kind of formal by-laws or creeds was to avoid, people following these creeds like they had done in several of the denominations that they had broken away from. They had previously been blind by the creeds and doctrines of other churches and had found a lot of them to be contrary to God's Word. They were afraid that if they established a covenant or statement of faith, that these would be more strictly adhered to than God's Word.

I am not sure when churches of our stripe began using constitutions, but I would be willing to guess that it was something that came about somewhere near the birth of the fundamental movement. While it isn't specifically stated in the book, "Sacred Betrayal" by James Beller, he talks about when we began to use the word "fundamental" to describe ourselves. So I believe in an effort to set themselves apart from the mainstream of their specific denominations they began to adopt doctrinal statements to set themselves apart from the mainstream. Then I believe as certain tax laws evolved and our society grew more and more litigious they became a tool to help protect the interests of the church. I also have seen were they have seriously hindered and even ended ministries.

Pastor Jacob Shinn
Matthew 18:11