Rhode Island can legitimately claim to be the home of Baptists in America. The first three varieties of Baptists in the New World—General Six Principle, Particular, and Seventh Day—made their debut in this small colony. And it was in Rhode Island that the General Six Principle Baptists formed the first Baptist association; the Seventh Day Baptists organized the first national denomination of Baptists; the Regular Baptists founded the first Baptist college, Brown University; and the Warren Baptist Association led the fight for religious liberty in New England.
In Retracing Baptists in Rhode Island, historian J. Stanley Lemons follows the story of Baptists, from their founding in the colonial period to the present. Lemons considers the impact of industrialization, urbanization, and immigration upon Baptists as they negotiated their identities in an ever-changing American landscape. Rhode Island Baptists, regardless of variety, stood united on the question of temperance, hesitated on the abolition of slavery before the Civil War, and uniformly embraced revivalism, but they remained vexed and divided over denominational competition, the anti-Masonic movement, and the Dorr Rebellion.
Lemons also chronicles the relationship between Rhode Island Baptists and the broader Baptist world. Modernism and historical criticism finally brought the Baptist theological civil war to Rhode Island. How to interpret the Bible became increasingly pressing, even leading to the devolution of Brown’s identity as a Baptist institution. Since the 1940s, the number of Baptists in the state has declined, despite the number of Baptist denominations rising from four to twelve. At the same time, the number of independent Baptist churches has greatly increased while other churches have shed their Baptist identity completely to become nondenominational. Lemons asserts that tectonic shifts in Baptist identity will continue to create a new landscape out of the heritage and traditions first established by the original Baptists of Rhode Island.
IntroductionPart One: Awakenings1. Baptist Beginnings2. Sixes & Sevens and Musical Discord3. The Rise of the Regular Baptists4. Calvinism ChallengedPart Two: Transformations5. The Freewill Baptists6. Contested Ground7. Missions and Sunday Schools8. Trials and TribulationsPart Three: Divisions9. Freemasons and Dorrites10. Slavery, Race, and Antislavery11. Rum, Romanism, and Americanization12. Brown University and the Baptists13. Wars of ReligionPart Four: Remakings14. Revivals and Revivalists15. The Daughters of Eve and the Better Half16. Tides of Change17. The Changing Mainline
Lemons certainly is the foremost historian of America's First Baptist Church, Providence, Rhode Island. In this fine volume he surveys historical developments, issues of unity and division, and theological distinctives with clarity and excellent documentation which will send scholars to multiple sources for additional study. Stan provides a well-written, superbly documented study of Baptist life in Rhode Island.~Bill J. Leonard, Dunn Professor of Baptist Studies and Church History Emeritus, Wake Forest University
Stan Lemons has written the definitive history of Baptists in Rhode Island. It is a feather in the Baptist cap and a great resource. He has sorted out complicated and confusing matters in the early history by assiduously sifting through the minutes and records that few scholars have the opportunity or patience to do. It will be the standard for years to come.~Curtis W. Freeman, Research Professor of Theology, Director of the Baptist House of Studies, Duke Divinity School
Most Baptist theological students and ministers know that Rhode Island played a significant role in the early history of Baptists in America, but their knowledge seldom extends beyond awareness that Roger Williams was instrumental in the foundation of the Providence colony and the formation there of the first Baptist congregation in America. While the standard Baptist history textbooks unfortunately supply little additional information, Lemons not only places those details within a much more intriguingly complex story of American Baptist beginnings—the book’s 'retracing' of the rest of the story of Rhode Island Baptists offers an instructive microcosm of the fortunes of American Christianity and its global connections.~Steven R. Harmon, Associate Professor of Historical Theology, Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity
Lemons has written an engaging and interesting history Baptists in Rhode Island. The writing style makes the work accessible to college students and the breadth of topics makes it valuable to graduate students. Individuals interested in the origins of Baptist in America, Baptists in New England, and Baptist polity and practice need to have this book in their libraries.~Lloyd Harsch, Baptist History and Heritage
Besides the enlightening text Lemons does an excellent job of providing resources for further study in his work… This work helps to remind historians that Baptists in Rhode Island did more thanhelp found the faith in America and that they need to communicate that to their students.~Alan J. Lefever, Journal of Ecclesiastical History
…Lemons provides the most comprehensive treatment of Rhode Island Baptists ever written by examining them from their early seventeenth-century beginnings to the present day.~Jacob Hicks, Church History