Baptists have a rich history in Kentucky. Imbued with the spirit of the Baptist pioneers who conquered the Alleghenies and headed westward with the Gospel of Christ, the commonwealth has long taken a leadership role in the life of the Southern Baptist denomination.
The Kentucky Baptist Convention was formed in 1837 – eight years before the Southern Baptist Convention was founded – and is one of the oldest state Baptist conventions.
Historical highlights include:
- The first preacher to set foot on Western soil was Squire Boone II, visiting Kentucky in 1769.
- The first preaching in the West was conducted by Thomas Tinsley and William Hickman, at Harrodsburg in April of 1776.
- The first evangelical church, organized west of the Alleghenies, is Severns Valley, at Elizabethtown, founded June 18, 1781.
- The first district association west of the Alleghenies is Elkhorn, organized September 30, 1785, at Clear Creek Church.
- The idea for the plan of the American Baptist Home Mission Society was developed in Kentucky, by John Mason Peck and Jonathan Going, at Shelbyville in September, 1831.
- In 1842, Louisville was chosen as the first “location of the Board of Managers” of the American Indian Mission Association.
- The first seminary in the West, Western Baptist Theological Institution, was founded at Covington in 1845.
- Russellville, because of its economic prosperity, was the first city in the South to entertain the Southern Baptist Convention after the Civil War, May 22-26, 1866. The same forces led to relocating The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from Greenville, South Carolina, to Louisville, Kentucky, in 1877.
- Spring Meadows Children’s Home, established June 30, 1869, as the Louisville Baptist Orphans’ Home, is the oldest Baptist children’s home in the South.
- The idea of the Cooperative Program originated in Kentucky. On November 16, 1915, the General Association of Baptists in Kentucky met at Jellico, Tennessee, near the Kentucky state line and adopted a budget plan for the support of all denominational objects, state and Southwide. “This was ten years before the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting at Memphis in 1925, adopted a similar budget plan known as the Cooperative Program.” A leader in this plan was Harvey Boyce Taylor who developed the idea at the First Baptist Church of Murray beginning about 1900.
- The 30,000 Movement had its inception in the mind of C. C. Warren from a tragedy which occurred in an unchurched family at Danville, Kentucky, in June, 1930, when Dr. Warren was pastor of the Lexington Avenue Church there.
- Three Kentuckians have served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention: James P. Boyce, E.Y. Mullins, and John R. Sampey; each one was also president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at the time he was president of the Convention.
(Excerpted from the Kentucky Baptist Historical Society, Publication No. 6, 1964.)