Early Leadership of the South Carolina Baptist Convention
(This is the final article in a series of six articles about the early leaders of the South Carolina Baptist Convention known as General Agents.)
The work of the General Agents in South Carolina covers only twelve years but it may have been some of the most difficult years South Carolinians had ever seen. Trying times, yes, but also years of vision. How do we evaluate the work of South Carolina Baptists from 1866-1878? It is really inseparable from the work of these four men: Dargan, Pope, Morrall and Lamar who in the face of adversity remained faithful servants to the cause of state missions. The Civil War left destruction and devastation but their work reflected hope that is found through Jesus Christ. They kept their hands on the plow and produced a great harvest of new believers, new churches, new work and renewed enthusiasm for the spread of the Gospel around the world.
These excerpts from the 1879 Report of the Executive Board of the Convention say it best.
Dear Brethren: . . . we feel there are peculiar reasons for devout and earnest thanksgiving to Almighty God. Looking back to the beginning of our work, many of us will remember the dispondency [sic] which existed in regard to the future of State Missions, while the question of giving up the work was seriously debated. In preceding years, you had secured the services of able and noble men, who toiled under many and peculiar disadvantages growing out of the changed condition of our people. They were poor and reduced by the ravages of war, and besides, there was much indifference among the greater part of our churches from a want of information in regard to the work. In the face of all this, the brethren who served you accomplished a noble and an abiding work in preparing the way for the blessed results which have followed in these later years. The names of Dargan, Pope and Morrall (Lamar was still serving) and their self-sacrificing labors will always be cherished by the friends of State Missions. They are associated with it in the most trying years and their labors were not in vain.” (p. 13) In a later report on the resignation of A. W. Lamar as General Agent, it is stated that “. . . by his zeal in the work, and his devotion to the cause of Christ, [he] has endeared himself to the entire Baptist Family of South Carolina.” (p. 17)
We remain grateful for the work of these men because they remained faithful working with state missions long after their service as General Agents was over. They continued to lead as pastors and officers in association and convention work. We pray that we might also remain faithful to the call of Jesus Christ to plow the ground, plant the seeds, cultivate the crop and harvest the fields for the Kingdom of God. The challenge is eternal.