100-Year-Old Recalls Service on the 1963 Committee That Drafted the Baptist Faith and Message

Walter Davis, who turned 100 this month, is believed to be the lone surviving member of the committee that drafted the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message. Submitted photo

At age 100, with some memories fading, Walter Davis still remembers the 1962 phone call he received from then-Southern Baptist Convention President Herschel Hobbs to ask if Davis would serve on a committee to revise the Baptist Faith and Message.

“It was an honor to serve on the committee,” Davis told Baptist Press with help from his son Greg.

Walter Davis turned 100 this month and is believed to be the only surviving member of the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message committee.

In 1962, Davis was among 23 Baptist state convention presidents placed on the Committee to Study Baptist Statement of Faith and Message along with Hobbs as chairman, according to the 1962 SBC Annual. The suggestion to assemble a committee of state convention presidents came as a recommendation from the SBC Executive Committee and was affirmed by messengers. Davis was president of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana.

Immediate past SBC president Steve Gaines — who served on the committee that drafted the BF&M 2000 and wrote his doctoral dissertation on the 1963 BF&M — said, “I am grateful that Dr. Hobbs and other godly men like Walter Davis were used by the Lord to write the BF&M of 1963.”

Like Hobbs, Davis affirmed biblical inerrancy, yet he recalled that the committee “made a concerted effort to write the document in such a way as to avoid controversy between the conservative and moderate wings of the convention,” according to an email from Greg Davis.

In 1962-63, avoiding SBC controversy was a tall order.

The committee was assembled amid a tumultuous milieu in the convention, according to a 2004 Southern Baptist Theological Seminary doctoral dissertation on the BF&M by A.J. Smith.

In 1961, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Ralph Elliott published “The Message of Genesis,” a book questioning the historical accuracy of some stories in Genesis. Many Southern Baptists objected to Elliott’s views. Southern Seminary professor Dale Moody also “rocked the SBC” in the early 1960s by seeming to teach believers could lose their salvation. Both professors were viewed as symptomatic of increasing theological progressivism in SBC seminaries, Smith wrote.

“As president of the Convention,” Smith wrote, “Hobbs found himself faced with a monumental task. He had to find a way to preserve the organic unity of the Convention” by satisfying “the conservative base that sound doctrine would be taught in the schools and published by the Sunday School Board” while also assuring “members of the academy that they would enjoy intellectual and academic freedom.”

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Source: Baptist Press