Thomas H. Pope
Born: July 4, 1839 Newberry County
Died: July 8, 1875 Greenwood County
Family: Wife – Mary Charles Gary, seven children
Education: Graduate of Furman University. Began theological education at Princeton University and finished at Baptist Theological Seminary, Greenville
Military service: Confederate veteran – 3rd South Carolina, Co. K
Churches served: Lower Duncan’s Creek (Whitmire First); Fairview, Enoree, Hurricane; Huntsville; Bush River; Siloam; Fellowship; Mount Moriah; helped start churches at Ninety-Six, Hodges and Greenwood
Other service: South Carolina Baptist Convention Missions Secretary ; General Agent of South Carolina Baptist Convention September 1868 – January 1870; helped organize Abbeville
A Penny A Member
It was 1869. J.O. B. Dargan led South Carolina Baptists as the Convention’s General Agent through desperate times immediately following the Civil War. He even distributed bushels of corn sent to relieve hunger of people whose farms had been devastated by war. When Dargan returned to the pastorate in 1868, Thomas H. Pope succeeded him. Times were still difficult but the Convention continued to move ahead promoting the work of Sunday School, state mission efforts and a plan of uniform giving for every church. In agricultural terms, he was planting the seeds for future ministry.
Pope’s report to the Convention in 1869 summarized his efforts to keep the work of God’s kingdom in front of Convention churches. He described his work as an attempt “to awaken the hearts of the brethren “ to needs around them. Sunday School was still a new and growing program in many churches and churches were seeing how important it was in training, teaching and growing its members. Associations were vitally engaged in promoting this work as well as providing ministry in areas where churches were weak and struggling. Pope commends churches and associations for their work but he also sees “the vast field before us, and its peculiar destitution, [and] how inadequate . . . these efforts seem.” If needs of South Carolina were to be met, all churches must work together to solve “the destitution in our own borders.” People who did not know Christ and areas where there were no Baptist churches were considered destitute by the General Agent and Convention. There was a tremendous burden for South Carolina’s citizens to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Pope asks the 1869 Convention, “Shall we go forward with the work of State Missions? It is asserted by a few that we are too poor as a people to do so. Never was there a greater mistake. If we fail to press forward this work, it will not be from the lack of ability, but of willingness.” He complains that Baptists spend more for tobacco than they give to promote the Gospel. He suggests that each church member contribute one penny a week for work of the Convention. If so, it would total about $20,000 a year and send missionaries out across the state making disciples and training them to “experience kingdom life” serving Christ.
During the year, he “planted a lot of seeds” travelling 3,300 miles, visiting 60 churches, preaching, teaching and challenging South Carolina Baptists to see beyond needs of the local church and association. His heart felt the need of all people to know Christ and in spite of problems before him, he called for commitment on behalf of every South Carolina Baptist to the needs of South Carolina and beyond even to the ends of the earth.