The Nigeria Baptist Convention is an umbrella body which most Baptist churches in Nigeria belong. The NBC initially was known as the Yoruba Baptist Association which brought together all Baptist churches in the country into one fold. The association was Yoruba in outlook due to the fact that most of the churches that formed it where all geographically situated in Yoruba land. However, 1919 became the year in which there was a change of name and as such it became known as the Nigeria Baptist Convention. This research topic focus mainly on the emergence of the Nigeria Baptist convention, the challenges over the years and more importantly their contributions in general from 1914-1950. The year 1914 is the beginning date of the research topic because it's marked the emergence of the body while 1950 is the terminal date which make it the thirty-six years of it establishment and also the beginning of 100 years Baptist work in Nigeria.

Background to the Study

Baptist mission in Nigeria started with the appointment of Thomas Jefferson Bowen as the first Southern Baptist missionary to Nigeria in 1850. It is important to briefly give a narrative about who Thomas Jefferson Bowen was due to his pioneering role in beginning Baptist enterprise in Nigeria. He was born in Jackson county, Georgia, U.S.A on January 2, 1814. Jefferson had three siblings and lost his mother when he was young. He was named after Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding father of America, in which case he would later become the founding father of Baptist work in Nigeria.[1] Baptist presence spread all across the Country over time and as such in the 1914, an association was set up known as the Yoruba Baptist Association  in order to coordinate the affairs of Baptist churches in Nigeria. However, in 1919, it was changed to the Nigeria Baptist Convention  (NBC). In the year 1888, there was disunity in the First  Baptist Church, Lagos in which members left and formed a new Baptist Church which can be considered as a native or indigenous one. From that time there was series of division in the Baptist family until the formation of Yoruba Baptist Association in 1914 and the subsequent change of name in 1919 which brought all if not most Baptist Churches in Nigeria under an Umbrella body. It should be stated that before the establishment of the NBC there were over 2,880  Baptists in the then Colony of the Nigeria, with over 30 churches in the Yoruba territory.[2] This work contributes to the existing body of literature with regard Baptist work in Nigeria however it focus on the early yeas of the establishment of the Nigeria Baptist Convention bringing to reality that initially it was known as the Yoruba Baptist Association, he challenges, and the contributions of the convention in the early years which transcend into the modern era.

The Origin of Nigeria Baptist Convention

The Nigeria Baptist Convention is a rallying body of which Baptist Churches come together to pilot their affairs. It is important to state that Nigeria Baptist Convention is an association that comprise of Baptist denomination which serves as the bases of cooperation and unity for the Baptist churches in Nigeria.  The NBC brought Baptist Churches all across the Country into a  union such that they were able to further embark on more organized evangelism within and beyond Nigeria.[3] It instructive to state that during the second decade of the 20th century precisely in 1914, Baptist Churches came together to set up what is now known as the Nigeria Baptist Convention(NBC). This body was once regional in outlook, but now it has churches in all thirty-six states of Nigeria Federation. Not all Baptist Church cooperated with the Nigeria Baptist Convention however, the NBC remains the unifying body for all Baptist churches in which they join voluntarily.  It should be noted that the NBC can be regarded as church union in which all Baptist in Nigeria have a sense of belonging to a national community. The NBC provides opportunity for development of Baptist missionary work such that forum for evangelist and expansionist drives is widely encourage and supported. [4]

Yoruba Baptist Association

The Yoruba Baptist Association (YBA) was established in 1914, by two   two Baptist bodies, the Southern Baptist Convention controlled churches and the Independent Baptist churches, and later transform into the Nigeria Baptist convention. It was at a conference held at the First Baptist Church Idikan, Ibadan from 11 to 14 March, 1914 that the association was founded. The association of course was Yoruba in outlook and regional due to the reality that it was within the territories in Yoruba land. [5] It should be noted that at the emergence of the Yoruba Baptist Association, Dr Mojola Agbebi was elected as the first President of the association, then he was  the leader of the Independent Baptist movement.  Also, other elected officials were Rev. L. M Duval the vice president, Mr Ade William was the Treasurer. It was these individuals that were the pioneering executives of the Yoruba Baptist Association.[6] It is significant to point out that the emergence of the YBA in 1914, create a forum of unity for the Baptist mission work in Nigeria since the schism of 1888 in which at the Lagos Baptist church there was division due to the rift that emerged between the pastor in charge of then First Baptist church, Lagos, W.J David and his assistant Moses L Stone. It was as a result of the racial question in which African then believed they could propagate the gospel without the whites and as such the ensuing disagreement between these two leaders led to the great division in the Baptist church. The formation of the YBA brought the divided Baptist groups into one fold again and together they forged ahead what later turn out to be a glorious race. The year 1919, was when the YBA changed its name to the Nigeria Baptist Convention such that it was charged with the responsibility of expanding Baptist mission and influence throughout the Country. [7] The change of name was as a result of the need to give  other Baptist churches outside Yoruba land a sense of belonging in the NBC. It was at the annual general conference which was held at Abeokuta, in which Baptist Churches in the Eastern part of Nigeria was represented by Rev W.E Amakiri. A motion was moved for the change of the YBA by Dr George  Green and was seconded by John Davies which was later adopted and rename the Nigeria Baptist Convention.  The Nigeria Baptist Convention was radically organized to embark on evangelism and other missionary activities outside Yoruba land throughout the whole of Nigeria Federation.

Dr Mojola Agbebi, The First President of the Yoruba Baptist Association (Later the Nigeria Baptist Convention) in 1914.

Churches that established the Nigeria Baptist Convention in 1914.

In order to bring the Baptist Church under one fold, the American controlled Baptist Churches and Indigenous Baptist churches came together in March 1914, to form the YBA which initially was regional and Yoruba in outlook and later it name change to the Nigeria Baptist Convention.[8] The year, name and location of the formation of the churches that established the association are in the table below.

Year of Establishment Name and location
1855

1855

First Baptist Church, Lagos

Oke’lerin Baptist Church, Ogbomoso

1858 First Baptist Church, Idikan, Oyo
1862 Ijaye Baptist Church, Abeokuta
1895 First Baptist Church, Ejigbo
1898

1898

1898

First Baptist Church, Igbajo

First Baptist Church, Iresi

Ijeru Baptist Church, Ogbomoso

1900 First Baptist Church; Ede
1901

1901

First Baptist Church, Iloran

Oke-Saje Baptist Church, Abeokuta

1902 First Baptist Church,Shaki
1903

1903

Araromi Baptist Church, Lagos

Ago-Owu Baptist Church, Abeokuta

1904 First Baptist Church, Idikan, Ibadan
1905

1905

First Baptist Church, Iree

First Baptist Church, Aawe

1907 Baptist Church, Oganla
1910 First Baptist Church, Fiditi

Source:  S.Ademola Ajayi(2014) The Nigeria Baptist Convention 1914-1950: A Historical Appraisal.pg 70-73. Also S.Ademola Ajayi(2010) Baptist work in Nigeria: 1850-2005. A comprehensive History.pg 363-366

List of Representatives who came for the conference that led to the emergence of YBA in 1914 are in the table below.

Name of place/Branch Representative(s)
Lagos Mojola Agbebi, N.A Williams, B.Ogunsuwa, Ade. M Williams, Charles S. Odebiyi, J.R Williams, E.A Alawode
Ede Benjamin Laniyi, Samuel Foyle, Daniel Dada
Oyo B.L Locket, James Peers to, Solomon Momoh
Abeokuta John Agboola, Samuel George Kinnock, James Kusinmo, Amos L Ololade, James Ogunsola, Joseph Ojo, J.A Adediran
Ogbomoso George Green, Solomon Adebisi, Emmanuel Alao, Joseph Odeyinka
Ibadan Albert S. Allen, Baba A. Onishina, Solomon Fowler, Joseph J. Williams, Emmanuel Noah Philips, Thomas Kugbiiji, Edwin Charles Olani, Joseph Ladiran, D.A Obasa.
Saki Daniel O Toyin, Daluko
Igbajo John A. Lafinhan, James Bello
Awe Joseph Aderinto(Rev Babalola), Isaac Adekunle(I.A Adejumobi).
Iree Daniel Oganla, James Ajibodu
Iloran Johnson Lanrewaju, Joseph Afolabi, P. Atanda
Oganla Emmanuel Sangotayo, Adegoke
Iresi Joseph Ladiran, Daniel Odebunmi
Ejigbo J.D Ladanu
Fiditi Daniel Adegoke

 

Source:   S.Ademola Ajayi(2014) The Nigeria Baptist Convention 1914-1950: A Historical Appraisal.  Pg74-75

Nigeria Baptist Convention in relation to Baptist World Alliance

The Nigeria Baptist Convention belong to the Baptist World Alliance which comprise of Baptist union of countries all across the world. The Baptist World Alliance is the largest Baptist organization in the World which comprise of 51 million people, 128 countries and over 245 members bodies. It should be noted that membership of the Baptist world Alliance is open to any general union, convention or association of any country. It important to state that the BWA was founded in 1905 at a congress which was attended by over 3,000 delegates.[9] The BWA is further divided into six regional fellowship which are; Asia-Pacific Baptist Federation, All-Africa Baptist fellowship, Caribbean Baptist fellowship, Union of Baptist in Latin America and lastly European Baptist Federation in which they are all headed by an Executive Secretary.[10]  The Nigeria Baptist Convention is under the All-Africa Baptist fellowship which is a regional arm of Baptist world Alliance established in 1982 which is a forum for the coordination of Baptist bodies on the continent of Africa.[11] The unique relationship between the NBC and the WBA is based on the confession of Baptist faith and the propagation of Baptist denomination to the world.[12] It should be noted that the Nigeria Baptist Convention is the largest body in the All-Africa Baptist fellowship and the second largest body in the Baptist World Alliance. The NBC being part of the BWA created worldwide opportunities for the Baptist mission in Nigeria in which they could relate with their fellow denomination bodies and also embark on closer relationship and partnership in terms of evangelistic work and the spread of Baptist work worldwide. [13]

Organ of the Nigeria Baptist Convention 

Several NBC organs were established in order to achieve the association goals..  These ministries are the Baptist Women Missionary union (WMU), Men Missionary Union (MMU), Education Ministry, Welfare services. It significant to note that the organs of the NBC over the years continue to exist and perform their functions over the years. Additionally, other organs have also been added after the early years of the NBC to perform other functions.

Baptist Women Missionary Union (WMU)

This organ worked closely with the Nigeria Baptist Convention.  The Women missionary union was an auxiliary to the NBC. It is self-governing and it acted as a helper to the Nigeria Baptist Convention.  This ministry focused more on women in the Baptist fold. This union was established on April 14, 1916 in Lagos in which it was known as the Young Women’s league. It name was changed in 1919, during the transition of name from the Yoruba Baptist Association to the Nigeria Baptist Convention.  The year 1925, was an important one for the Women Missionary Union in which It was granted the status of an auxiliary.  This union have worked tirelessly to expand Baptist presence in Nigeria. The Women of Baptist Church have been properly indoctrinated in Bible study, Christian services and systematic giving which has led to the advancement of Baptist presence in Nigeria.  [14]

Baptist Men Missionary Union

The Baptist Men Missionary Union (MMU) was set up in 1988,  also a ministry in the NBC which objective is to equip men for missionary work. The men missionary union has sponsored missionary work within and beyond Nigeria. This union work closely with the NBC in provision of basic necessity like water and also sponsoring children of the less privileged to school in order to reduce illiteracy in society.[15]

Education Department

This is one of the vital ministry that work closely with the NBC. It should be noted that the founding father, Thomas Jefferson wife, Mrs Bowen, started Baptist education by setting up a primary education on January 2, 1854. The NBC inherited the Baptists mission to established schools and focused on ensuring their members are literate and that all Nigerians have access to western education. So many schools have been set up, primary, secondary and even tertiary and theological institutions which was establish and this has greatly advance Baptist work in Nigeria. The NBC over the years have financed the building of churches which in turn got support to build schools. The NBC collaborated with churches in building of schools however higher institutions and theological schools were solely built by the NBC.[16]

Department of Welfare services

The missionaries at their inception in Nigeria provided basic medical care to the inhabitants of the region. It should be noted that the Nigeria Baptist convention further consolidated on the provision of health services to Nigerians, through various hospitals established and maintained by the NBC and this has contributed immensely to the health sector in Nigeria. The establishment of Bowen university Teaching hospitals is a testament to the reality of how the Baptist has greatly advance it health and welfare services to Nigerians. It significant to note that welfare services were provided by the NBC during the early years even up to the 21st century.[17]

Challenges of the Nigeria Baptist Convention

In the second decade of the twentieth century, when the Nigeria Baptist Convention was established , the association faced numerous challenges. However in spite of the leadership factor and  unity in their midst, the association still faced a lot of challenges that affected its operations in the early years. This is one of the research objective for this work in which it was primarily gotten mostly from interview of  individuals.

One of such challenges that affected the NBC was the need to train Baptist pastors. It should be noted that during the twentieth century, there were few pastors compared to the growing churches. Most of the churches then were under the control of layperson who were not properly trained in the Baptist doctrine and as such it served as one of the challenges of the NBC.[18]

Another challenge that affected the NBC in its early years was the issue of finance which posed a problem to the organization. Obtaining finance for programs, building of churches, building of schools was hard. The funds coming from leaders, mission groups did helped out but the NBC still face financial incapacity which weakened it operations during the early years.[19]

Another challenge is that of the use of new ideas and beliefs system during the early years of the association. It should be noted that words like ‘Hallelujah’,also speaking in tongues, prophecy, vigil were newly introduced during the early years. During this era, these new practices did not really settle well with members of the NBC. Due to the exposure of some members to the doctrine of other mission work, they tried to make it work in the NBC and this pose a big challenge such that the NBC was further divided and some members left Baptist church.[20]

Another challenge of the NBC during the early years is the fear of losing members to other churches. Members then practise all sort of doctrine in local churches which were not in line with Baptist doctrine. It created some issues of the consistency of the religious practice and the fear of losing members shook the foundation of the NBC.[21]

Another challenge was the Yoruba culture which serve as a hindrance to NBC during the early years. They could not penetrate into the interior part of the Yoruba land due to its culture. The people of the region were involved in so many practices of which polygamy was inclusive, not too mentioned the fact the NBC frowned at the type of marriage institution. Polygamy was an issue which divided the association.  This led to members leaving the local churches and this was a challenge during the early years of the Nigeria Baptist convention.[22]

Contributions of the Nigeria Baptist Convention

With its formation in 1914, the NBC have contributed immensely within and beyond the Country. It should be noted that in-spite of its challenges in the early years, the NBC also contributed to the development of the society. The contributions of the NBC during its early years; Spread  Faith, Educational development, Health care development, and Producing Capable Leaders. The NBC in its early years was able to solve their challenges by embarking on extensive meeting with all their churches and also they always contributed funds in order to embark on project which greatly helped to sustain and also galvanized Baptist work in Nigeria.

Spread of Christianity and Baptist Faith

At the inception of the association, in 1914, this has tremendously aided the spread of Christianity and Baptist Faith within and beyond Nigeria. As a result of the merging of both the American controlled Baptist Churches and the Independent/Indigenous Baptist Churches, this enable them to have enormous resources with which they were able to finance evangelism into the interior part of both Southern and Northern Nigeria. Also through the drive for expansion of Christianity and Baptist Faith in particular, they were able to send Missionaries to Sierra Leone and the then Gold Coast now Ghana.[23]

Educational development

The Nigeria Baptist Convention during the early years contributed to the educational development of the Country which further led to the intellectual development of the people. Primary, Secondary, Theological institutions were set up which aided the rise of literacy in the Country thereby facilitating the spread of western education in the Country. It is important to state that the educational development also contributed in ways in which training institutions were set up for the training of Baptist pastors. The Nigeria Baptist Theological seminary, Ogbomoso was set up on May 3, 1898 in which it serves as a training school for intended pastors of the Baptist churches. This training institutions was established before the formation of the NBC however it was further equipped and organized under the NBC patronage which during the early years also aided the training of Baptist Pastors.[24]

Provision of Health care services

It should be noted that the NBC during it early years provided health care services to the people of Nigeria. Hospitals were built such as the Baptist medical center, Ogbomoso which was established in 1907 but open for use to the public in 1923.[25] The Nigeria Baptist Convention greatly focus more on establishing Health care center in order to provide health services not only to their members but also to their host communities.  Baptist hospital, Iwo(1922), Baptist hospital, Eku (1947), Baptist hospital, Shaki (1952) just to mentioned a few came to existence due to the effort of the Nigeria Baptist Convention during the early years. [26]

 

Producing Capable Leaders

The Nigeria Baptist Convention have greatly produced capable leaders who have left their prints not only within the Baptist but also beyond the conclave of Baptist fold. Nigeria men and women have served in prestigious positions in the Baptist world Alliance.  For instance, Dr James Tanimola Ayorinde served as the Vice-president of Baptist World Alliance. Also series of Nigeria Political leaders have one point in time attended Baptist schools for instance Obafemo Awolowo, Samuel Akintola, Olusegun Obasanjo just to mention a few have passed through the Baptist Schools and other outreach which greatly modeled them to be great individuals to the society.

Conclusion

What begins as a regional association and Yoruba in outlook have transcend the whole of the Country and even beyond Nigeria. Its emergence have greatly advance Baptist missionary work in country such that it brought about almost all Baptist churches under one body with which they collaborated and this has significantly expanded the church influence not only in the Yoruba territories but also in other part of Nigeria. The Nigeria Baptist Convention initially known as the Yoruba Baptist Association has contributed significantly to the Country in areas such as Education, Health and  in spreading the gospel of Christ while the challenges in the early years were mostly that of finance, training of pastors and losing members which affected the body during it early years(1914-1950). However, the body has been a force for good in the Country due to its mission which is the unification of Baptist churches, advancement of Christianity, spread of education, and also provision of health and welfare services.

References

[1]  S. Ademola Ajayi (2010) Baptist work in Nigeria 1850-2005, A comprehensive History. Ibadan: Book wright publishers

[2] S. Ademola Ajayi (2014) The Nigeria Baptist Convention 1914-1950: A Historical Appraisal. Book Wright Publishers, Kongi Ibadan, Nigeria.

[3] Ibid.

[4] S. Ademola Ajayi (2010) Baptist work in Nigeria 1850-2005, A comprehensive History. Ibadan: Book wright publishers.

[5] S. Ademola Ajayi (2014) The Nigeria Baptist Convention 1914-1950: A Historical Appraisal.

[6] Ibid.

[7] S. Ademola Ajayi (2010) Baptist work in Nigeria, P. 132.

[8] S. Ademola Ajayi (2014) The Nigeria Baptist Convention 1914-1950: A Historical Appraisal.

[9] The history of Baptist world Alliance retrieved from https://baptistworld.org/history/.

[10] Baptist World Alliance, Regional Fellowships, baptistworld.org, USA, gotten on 21 June.

[11] The history of All-Africa Baptist fellowship retrieved from  http://www.allafricabaptist.org/about.html.

[12] Baptist World Alliance, Beliefs, baptistworld.org, USA, retrieved June, 2022.

[13] S. Ademola Ajayi (2014) The Nigeria Baptist Convention 1914-1950: A Historical Appraisal.

[14] S. Ademola Ajayi (2010) Baptist work in Nigeria.

[15] Emmanuel. A, Akeem. A (2021) Sustainable Development Goals and the Baptist convention in Nigeria: A critical review. International journal of research and innovation in social science(IJRISS). Volume V.

[16] S. Ademola Ajayi (2010) Baptist work in Nigeria, see also Emmanuel. A, Akeem. A (2021) Sustainable Development Goals and the Baptist convention in Nigeria: A critical review. International journal of research and innovation in social science(IJRISS). Volume V.

[17] Emmanuel. A, Akeem. A(2021) Sustainable Development Goals and the Baptist convention in Nigeria: A critical review. International journal of research and innovation in social science(IJRISS). Volume V.

[18] Interview with Pastor Bola Oladipupo of Rock of Age Baptist church, Oke Ado Baptist church on 16th of May 2022.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Helen O.I(2021), Pastor Leadership Behaviour and the sustenance of Baptist Heritage in the Nigeria Baptist convention. IAR J Human cul.Stud.2(4)

[22] Interview with Mr Funmi Saliu Imalado (Teacher, PhD student) in City of Faith, Secondary school, Agbowo, Ibadan.

[23] S. Ademola Ajayi (2014) The Nigeria Baptist Convention 1914-1950: A Historical Appraisal.

[24] Interview with Pastor Bola Oladipupo of Rock of Age Baptist church, Oke Ado Baptist church on 16th of May 2022.

[25] Interview with Mr Funmi Saliu Imalado (Teacher, PhD student) in City of Faith, Secondary school, Agbowo, Ibadan.

[26] S. Ademola Ajayi(2010) Baptist work in Nigeria 1850-2005, A comprehensive History. Ibadan: Book wright publishers.

Okewole Charles Tolulope
University of Ibadan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.