By Greg Linscott
Baptist fundamentalism was in decay and decline. Conservatives were fracturing away from one another, unable to arrive at any organizational unity. Educational institutions were splintering and struggling to stay open. Disputes over ministry methods and doctrinal issues obstructed fellowship. The pressure to conform to the approach of seemingly successful leaders in broader evangelicalism was strong.
Such was the landscape of fundamentalism in the early 1960s. Yet these “Fightin’ Fundamentalists,” somehow agreeing to be agreeable, gathered at Temple Baptist Church of Detroit in 1963. From that first meeting to the last one held in 1978, these gatherings proved so successful that they eventually had to leave the confines of church buildings and be housed in arenas like Cobo Center, home to the NBA’s Detroit Pistons.
The list of participants seems almost impossible to conceive today. The 1963 meetings were co-chaired by Paul Jackson, representing the GARBC; G. Beauchamp Vick of the Baptist Bible Fellowship; and Lehman Strauss of the Conservative Baptist Fellowship. Bryce Augsburger and R. V. Clearwaters represented another strain of Conservative Baptists. Individuals linked with the Association of Regular Baptist Churches (Canada), the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Canada, the World Baptist Fellowship, and the Southern Baptist Premillennial Fellowship were included in those early days. Each of these groups had its own unique set of issues and idiosyncrasies. Still, the foundational distinctives, the “great idea” they held in common, provided a collective sense that they were fellow pilgrims walking the same road.