Conservative Baptist Association of America
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Founder
William Bell Riley
Time Period
5/17/1947
Description
During the 1920s, Minnesota preacher William Bell Riley led the fundamentalist faction during the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy in the Northern Baptist Convention (NBC). However, when the Baptist Bible Union split from the denomination in 1923, Riley kept his membership in the NBC, seeking to influence the denomination from within.

Tensions arose in 1943 when the NBC's missions agency appointed a theological modernist to the mission field. Outraged, Riley and the fundamentalists formed a separate missions agency that would never, in Riley's words, appoint a "man who would turn from the Gospel of the Shed Blood to a Social Gospel." The NBC responded by denying pension benefits to anyone who signed up with the fundamentalist-run agency. In 1947, just seven months before Riley's death, he pulled out of the Northern Baptist Convention and formed the Conservative Baptist Association of America. Today, the organization claims 200,000 members in 1,200 churches.
Interactive Timeline(s)
Baptist Religious Events and People in American History
Narrative
Fundamentalist preacher William Bell Riley, who pastored in Minneapolis for 50 years, founded Northwestern Bible School in 1902. During the 1920s, Riley led the fundamentalist faction during the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy in the Northern Baptist Convention (NBC). However, when the Baptist Bible Union split from the denomination in 1923, Riley kept his membership in the NBC, seeking to influence the denomination in a more conservative direction from within. By 1930 more than a third of the Northern Baptist ministers in Minnesota were graduates of Northwestern Bible School. That percentage grew as the decade wore on, giving Riley de facto control of the state convention.

In 1943, the NBC's missions agency appointed a theological modernist to the mission field. Riley and the fundamentalists were outraged and formed a separate missions agency that would never, in Riley's words, appoint a "man who would turn from the Gospel of the Shed Blood to a Social Gospel." The NBC responded in kind, denying pension benefits to anyone who signed up with the fundamentalist-run agency. In 1947, just seven months before Riley's death, he pulled out of the Northern Baptist Convention, took the Minnesota State Convention with him, and formed the Conservative Baptist Association of America. After Riley's death, evangelist Billy Graham took over the presidency of Northwestern Bible College until 1952; after he left, the school went into decline and closed in 1966, but was restarted in 1972 as the University of Northwestern. The Conservative Baptist Association today claims 200,000 members in 1,200 churches.
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Biographies
Graham, William "Billy"
Riley, William Bell
Photographs

First Baptist Church of Minneapolis, CBAmerica church where William Bell Riley served as pastor- Wikimedia Commons- photo by Elkman (CC BY-SA 3.0)

William Bell Riley portrait- Hennepin County Library Special Collections
Source(s)
Trollinger, William Vance, 1990. God's Empire: William Bell Riley and Midwestern Fundamentalism. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Web Page Contributor
Paul Matzko
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in History

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