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The first steps toward church organization above the level of the individual congregation appear to have been taken by the church of Independence, Texas, in 1840 when it formed an "association" with two other churches to promote evangelical, educational, and benevolent causes. In an effort to harmonize the variety of Baptist styles brought to Texas from other states, they adopted the name "Union Baptist Association." Ibid., p. 144. This supra-church group faced dissension and indifference, but its missionary and educational goals, in particular, justified its existence. Union Baptist Association succeeded in appointing a Home Mission Society that supported several ministers, including Morrell, and a Texas Baptist Education Society that founded Baylor University in 1845. William Tryon took the initiative in the latter and was possessed with the vision of a Baptist university that would "secure permanence to our denomination" and form a "nucleus around which the denomination would rally”; Southern Baptist Missionary Journal, II, 4 (September, 1847), pp. 98-100, as cited in Robert A. Baker, The Blossoming Desert (Waco: Word Books, Publ., 1970), p. 84. but when presented with the charter for the university he filled in the name of another Education Society member, Judge Baylor. Link, I, 150. The university opened in Independence with twenty-five students, both male and female, and progressed slowly until a stone building was completed for the male students in 1851. Because of the concentration of population, other denominations also chartered schools in the same vicinity: the Methodists at Chappell Hill, the Presbyterians at Gay Hill, and the Episcopalians at Anderson.

The dissolution of the Republic of Texas and the adoption of statehood in 1845 did not immediately end the conflicts with Mexicans and Indians, but it did bring thousands of immigrants westward and, since the state was allowed to keep its public land, provided for economic stability. The total population, estimated at 35,000 in 1836, jumped to 142,000 in 1847, 213,000 in 1850, and over 613,000 in 1860. Baker, p. 92-3.

The Baptists grew and prospered along with the state. Acting from its position as the "mother association," Union Baptist Association sought a wider organizational base and called for the formation of a statewide group, or "convention," to be gathered at Anderson in 1848. At that time, Morrell estimated there were seventy-five Baptist churches in the state, composed of over 2,000 members. Morrell, p. 305. The churches that answered the call were primarily from the southern and southeastern portions of Texas. Determined "by conference and cooperation [to] sweep over the whole State, . . . following close on the heels of the Indian and buffalo," Ibid., p. 291. they formed the Baptist State Convention, carefully checking their own power with a constitutional disclaimer to any authority over church or association.

For a variety of reasons Texas Baptists chafed under even this loose ecclesiastical organization. One factor was the disparity of church polity and tradition in the states from which they had immigrated. These differences were further exaggerated by an individualistic style that motivated them to pull up roots and strike out for new land. In addition, the distances encompassed by Texas and poor transportation and communication facilities obstructed goals of denominational cohesion and concerted activity. Therefore, while the Convention acted consistently with a doctrine of local autonomy and limited its power to voluntary participation by individuals ( not delegates) from churches and missionary societies, it discovered that many Baptists in the state were disposed to think solely in terms of the local church. Any statewide organization met with suspicion and often opposition.

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Source:  OpenStax, Patricia martin's phd thesis. OpenStax CNX. Dec 12, 2012 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11462/1.1
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