Queensland Baptists: The development of Baptist evangelicalism, 1846-1926

O'Leary, Patrick John (1992). Queensland Baptists: The development of Baptist evangelicalism, 1846-1926 M.A. Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author O'Leary, Patrick John
Thesis Title Queensland Baptists: The development of Baptist evangelicalism, 1846-1926
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1992
Thesis type M.A. Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Total pages 189
Language eng
Subjects 220401 Christian Studies (incl. Biblical Studies and Church History)
Formatted abstract
There have been Baptists in Queensland since at least 1846. Although Queensland Baptists are a religious and social minority, representing about 0.4 per cent of the Queensland population, they have at times exercised a disproportionate religious and social influence. This is not to claim that their influence has rivaled that of the Anglican or Roman Catholic churches, but they have been one of the leading non-Anglican protestant churches in Queensland. Regardless of their small numerical size their story needs to be told because they are a significant aspect of the social history of Queensland.

The aim of this thesis is to trace the development of the Baptist church in Queensland from its earliest origins in the 1840s up until the formation of the Baptist Union of Australia, the consummation of their last major expansionary phase, in 1926. This thesis will attempt to trace the ideological and intellectual development of the denomination rather than its institutional growth. It will examine selected major historical developments in order to give context to these ideological and intellectual developments. The reasons for this emphasis are: firstly, to highlight the little known early liberal heritage of Queensland Baptists; and secondly, to broaden the historiography on the development of protestant evangelicalism in Queensland. It is hoped this thesis will begin to address both these issues by dealing with the development of the various phases of the denomination.

The aim of the first chapter will be to account for the earliest origins of the Baptist church in Queensland. This early history of Queensland Baptists is not a simple issue, as a review of the existing historiography indicates. The first part of this chapter will examine the available evidence in order to determine who were the first Baptists in the Moreton Bay region. After this contentious issue the remainder of the chapter will deal with the issues surrounding the establishment of the United Evangelical Church (U.E.C.) and its eventual disintegration in 1855. Several issues will be examined, including the immigration policy of the Rev J. D. Lang (which resulted in the eventual migration of all the early Baptists to Moreton Bay), the denominational mix of the U.E.C, and the process which led to the U.E.C.'s disintegration. The issues addressed in this chapter are the foundation to much of the remainder of this thesis.

Chapter two deals with the development of the Baptist church in Brisbane in its first decade, from 1855 to 1865. Despite the movement toward a more evangelical position by the British Baptists, the first decade of the Brisbane Baptists was anything but evangelical. The central theme of this chapter will be the theological and internal political development of the Wharf St Baptist church, Brisbane's first Baptist church. To achieve this it will be necessary to examine the early history of the two British Baptist denominations, there were two, up until the 1840s. This will prepare the way for an examination of the theological debates between the Arminian and Calvinist Baptists in Brisbane between 1857 and 1862. It will also partially explain the polity dispute within the Wharf St church between 1861 and 1865. The overall aim of this chapter will be to highlight the transference of ideas and divisions from Britain to Queensland. But tradition alone cannot explain the conflicts of this first turbulent decade. The theological and polity divisions were strengthened by personality conflicts.

Chapter three will examine the development of a distinctively evangelical strand among Queensland Baptists. The origin of this evangelical strand was not in the urban (Brisbane) churches, but the country and provincial churches. The Ipswich Baptist church, the second Baptist church in Queensland, nurtured the embryo of evangelicalism during the same period that Wharf St was being bitterly divided because of theological, internal political and personality differences. It, in turn, passed this ideal on to its affiliated churches among the German settlers living in the districts to the north, west and south of the town. In this instance, as well as in the provincial centres of Maryborough, Rockhampton and Toowoomba, the evangelical sentiment was more a matter of necessity for survival than of choice. The same could be said of the smaller urban churches which resulted from the collapse of Brisbane's Edward St church. For these smaller churches, conservative evangelicalism was the only way to survive, because they did not have the numbers to divide over theological and polity differences. It will also be noted that this evangelical sentiment was eventually adopted by the larger Brisbane churches, with the result being the formation of the Baptist Association of Queensland in 1877. Chapter four will discuss the results of this evangelical movement. The 1880s was the most expansionary decade in the history of Queensland Baptists, but in many ways this rapid growth merely mirrored the social and economic growth of Queensland. The growth was also assisted by the establishment of the Baptist Association and in particular the activities of two leading ministers, William Poole and William Whale. Indeed without Poole and Whale the Association may not have experienced the growth it did. Poole was instrumental in the formation of all the main ministry programs of the Association and Whale was instrumental in forcing the Association to utilise them. Whale can also be credited with leading the Association into the public arena. In essence it will be argued that the history of the Baptist denomination in Queensland during the 1880s is the history of the activities of Poole and Whale.

The 1890s was, perhaps, the most turbulent decade in the history of the Baptist church to date in the colony. Chapter five takes account of this period. It will examine the economic, social and political upheavals within Queensland in this period and how they affected the Baptist church. Central to this discussion will be the activities of William Whale. His political, social and religious activities will be outlined and contrasted with those of his Baptist colleagues and his contemporaries from other denominations. The remainder of the chapter will discuss the relationship between the English and German speaking Baptist churches in Queensland, examine the establishment of the Baptist College, and investigate, in a preliminary fashion, the origins of the Baptist federation movement. It will conclude with a brief discussion on the jubilee celebrations which commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the first Baptist church in Queensland.

The final chapter of this thesis will investigate the development of the conservative evangelical attitudes held by Baptists for most of the twentieth century. It will concentrate on the incubation of these attitudes from 1906 to 1926. It may, at first, appear that these dates are arbitrary. This is not entirely the case. 1906 was the year after the Queensland Baptist jubilee and 1926 was the year in which the Baptist federation movement was consummated in the Baptist Union of Australia. Apart from the Baptist federation movement there were several major issues which attracted Baptist attention. This chapter will examine Queensland Baptist attitudes to war, public morality (gambling, drunkenness and sexual immorality), education, world events and sectarianism. The development of their conservative evangelical attitudes will be traced and examined in detail. The aim will be to show that Queensland Baptist conservatism in this period grew out of their enthusiasm over the apparent successes of American conservative evangelicalism, rather than of an outright adoption of American Fundamentalism. Also, it will be shown that the conservative evangelicalism of most present day Baptists is a twentieth century development and that liberal evangelicalism is the original heritage of Baptists in Queensland.
Keyword Baptists -- Queensland -- History.
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