Saturday 30 April 2016

Herb's Baptist Beginnings

Interior of Hinson church, 1933
Gotta hand it to Gary and Dennis over at Banned. The latest post there features a recent photograph of Hinson Memorial Baptist Church in Portland "where HWA was baptized in 1927."

It's one of those factoids COG members tend to overlook. In the Autobiography it reads "It was probably May or June, 1927, when I was baptized. One Sunday evening we [Herb and Loma] attended a service at Hinson Memorial Baptist Church." Earlier he notes: "Next I went to a Baptist minister in Portland [John Marvin Dean], to learn why Baptists believe in baptism. He was courteous and patient, glad to explain his church's teachings. He seemed sincere, though he was later dismissed from his pastorate under accusation of some kind of disgraceful or sinful conduct." Strangely, Herb seemed reluctant to join the dots and come right out and say he had been baptized by a morally dubious Sunday-keeping Baptist. (Quotes from the 1967 edition).

And surely there's got to be some bizarre synchronicity in the mutually tarnished reputations of both Dean and Armstrong.

The Wikipedia article on Herb provides more details:
He was eventually baptized, along with his brother Dwight L. Armstrong, in the summer of 1927 by Dr. Dean, the non-Sabbatarian pastor of Hinson Memorial Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon. It is unknown, however, if he ever joined this denomination. He would later recollect over four decades later that he believed, "On being baptized I knew God then and there gave me HIS HOLY SPIRIT!" Despite his own unique teaching on baptism his own account is noteworthy for the absence of any mention of the process of laying on of hands or a special prayer in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, which were considered fundamental for membership in the Worldwide Church of God and reason for many a new convert's rebaptism.
Hinson church, mid-1950s
What! No laying on of hands? Maybe Dave Pack could explain that away. Or Bob Thiel with the undocumented ThD.

There's a separate Wikipedia entry on Herb's younger brother, hymn writer Dwight. Again, Hinson Baptist is mentioned.
Subsequently, both Armstrong brothers were baptized during the Pentecost season of that year by Dr. Dean, pastor of the Hinson Memorial Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon. In the 1986 edition of Herbert W. Armstrong's Autobiography edited by Dr. Herman L. Hoeh, on pages 416-417, it is suggested that Dwight answered an altar call given by his brother in December 1930 in Harrisburg, Oregon, and was subsequently baptized by his brother.
Does this mean Dwight was rebaptized by Herb? Sadly neither Herman nor the Armstrong brothers are in a position to explain what happened.

And what about Loma?

Joe Tkach - or possibly his ghostwriter - in Transformed by Truth also noted these Baptist roots.
In the midtwenties... was baptized by the pastor of the Hinson Memorial Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon. Mr. Armstrong once said of this pastor, "The man is the most godly man in all of Portland." There is some reason to suppose that Mr. Armstrong attended the Bible school which was associated with Hinson at that time; this Bible school met at the Portland library at the time Mr. Armstrong was beginning his studies.
As the photograph on Banned shows, Hinson Memorial Baptist Church is still there in Portland. One wonders how many members of the congregation today know that "Hogwash Herb" once warmed their pews.


Byker Bob said...

It is such a shame that Herb didn't stick with the Baptist doctrines! Just imagine all of the human pain and suffering which could have been avoided.


DennisCDiehl said...

Nice follow up and research. I only realized recently what I was driving by in my getting about Portland . Spent part of the the day at the Portland library today

DennisCDiehl said...

PS Having moved last year from Baptist Land in South Carolina I can assure you that the "your fired" rate among Baptist Ministers is the most of any denomination.

Gavin R said...

Portland Library... sacred space, lol. The church photograph was a brilliant idea. Good to hear from you Dennis.

Anonymous said...

According to Paul Woods, Pastor of the Seventh Day Church of God, Caldwell, Idaho, it was Church of God minister A. H. Stith, witnessed by his daughter, who actually baptized Herbert Armstrong. I believe his testimony over the lies of the Autobiography.

Which begs the question: Was Herbert Armstrong actually baptized twice?

What is this, pick and choose?

Or did Armstrong want to so distance himself from the Church of God Seventh Day that he created the fiction that a Baptist minister performed the baptism.

Like so many anomalies about Herbert Armstrong's own testimonies, it may be that we will never know.

When dealing with Armstrong, always remember the line from the Rangers spin off of Babylon 5: "Just remember that no one is exactly who they seem."

Byker Bob said...

Heh. It would surprise me not at all if Dorothy had actually baptized HWA as part of their "role playing" after Friday night dinner and dance night.


Unknown said...

The Baptist minister's full name was John Marvin Dean. Interestingly enough, Dean was actually from Pasadena CA!

He was removed from the pulpit by his board of deacons, around July of 1929 for "behavior unbecoming to a minister". It had something to do with his time of serving parallel to his ministry at Hinson Baptist and his time at Western Theological Seminary, which was a co-ed institution. Apparently he had involvement with some of the female students, or at least that was what was being implied by many major newspaper articles that ran the story all over the western United States. It was a huge scandal.

More things change, the more they stay the same!

Gavin R said...

@ Connie. That's amazing - not what happened, but how you managed to track it down. As Yoda might say, "impressed am I."

@ BOM. Very weird. Hard to see how the embarrassment of the Baptist story (naughty, Sunday-keeper officiating) would be preferable to a COG7 baptism, but who knows. Have you got a reference for Wood's version?

Anonymous said...

No. Paul Woods told me this personally at the Feast of Tabernacles in 2008. Apparently though, there were other church of God ministers who knew this as well.

I would surmise that being that Herbert Armstrong was an insufferable narcissist (you may remember in his Autobiography [flipping book online] how he depicted the Church of God minister of being less than nice to him. Now I'm not a CoG7D member, though I have attended, but I do know that the CoG7 does want those coming for baptism to "show forth fruit of repentance" as a Scriptural requisite. It would not be beyond reason that Herb would have been quite insulted by this, assuming that he had fully repented and would not brook anyone questioning him on the topic.

A Baptist minister probably would not have adhered to the requirement and thus would have satisfied Armstrong much better than being subjected to what he would see as humiliation.

As I say, not beyond possibility. It's all speculation at this point, but speculation based on his arrogant personality of hubris.

Anonymous said...

I just noticed something. In the Autobiography on page 282, Herbert Armstrong wrote that he went to a Baptist minister in Portland and goes on to tell of his experiences with several others.

Then on Page 285, he says he was baptized.

At least in THAT version of the Autobiography, he doesn't say who baptized him.

Where did he tell us that?

Anonymous said...

eh, I was baptized into the Baptist Church too, and later into God's Church...nothing unusual there.

Byker Bob said...

It would seem that the name "Dean" has held significance over several aspects and eras of HWA's life.

I have to laugh any time someone uses the phrase "God's Church". If that isn't the ultimate Armstrong shibboleth, I don't know what is!


Stephen said...

"eh, I was baptized into the Baptist Church too, and later into God's Church...nothing unusual there."

Which church is that? I can't tell, because you haven't specified which god.

If, by any chance, you might be referring to an Armstrongist church, what would be unusual is not that you were re-baptized, but that, unless I miss my guess, Herbert was not. Why would you need to be rebaptized if he did not.

Why are persons on pedestals so often held to lower standards than said persons hold their followers to?

Anonymous said...

I was intrigued by "Black Ops Mikey"'s mention of the report that HWA had been baptized by A.H. Stith, a Church of God Seventh Day minister, which is different from HWA's claim in early editions of his Autobiography that he had been baptized by the pastor of the Hinson Baptist church in Portland. A.H. Stith to this day is claimed on the website of the Meridian [Idaho] Church of God Seventh Day as their founding pastor in 1923. Then another document ("Modern History of the Churches of God Seventh Day Observers #19" on a Keith Hunt website) notes that Stith and those with him were pro-pork-eating 7Day COG ministers, different from Dugger et al who were anti-pork eating. This should ring a bell for those familiar with the Autobiography: HWA recounts having been defrocked (or he resigned, whichever it was) by the Oregon Conference of the Church of God in 1931 over the issue of pork-eating: as HWA told it, the Oregon Conference board held that pork was not to be eaten and that HWA, hired by them to be their minister and representative, should teach converts this. As HWA recounted, he did not believe that it was necessary to teach new converts the doctrine against pork. HWA was NOT willing to teach new converts not to eat pork, before baptizing them. This is HWA's own account. Later, HWA became anti-pork too, but according to his own account he fell out with his former employing church board in 1931 over the issue that at that time he (HWA) was not rigorously anti-pork, against his employers the church board who were anti-pork. HWA portrays this as a personal dispute between him and his board and as a dispute over how soon converts needed to be taught this. HWA never directly says in his telling that he actually opposed the anti-pork doctrine, only that he was opposed to teaching new converts the anti-pork doctrine before baptizing them. There seems to have been a larger context to the pork issue at that time. HWA's account in the Autobiography seems to be one version (his) of one flash point in a larger context of debate over this issue in the Churches of God 7Day.

As for A.H. Stith, I do not recall a mention of that name in the Autobiography from memory (but unable to check for sure). However, there is a major theme or argument HWA makes in his Autobiography, in which he very much wants it to be known by his readers that he never was a member of the Salem, West Virginia organization (Dugger's 1933 reorganization). HWA claimed he was independent all along and only "cooperated" with them through most of the 1930s rather than being a "member of" them or employed by them. This has long come across as bizarre since he was for several years one of their ministers. It would be like Roderick Meredith denying he ever was a member of WCG even though he had been a leading WCG minister for years--that is how odd HWA's claim never to have been a member of the Salem, West Virginia organization sounded. HWA was part of some of these groups in those early years but fell out with them and then retrospectively sought to tell the history to minimize his dependence upon them as the source of his authority or credentials.

It is possible that one or the other of the two HWA baptism stories is in error or mistaken, but it is also possible both are true. If both were true, HWA later chose to "remember", and use and repeat in his narrative, the one that served the story best. If the A.H. Stith baptism story is true, it would be interesting to know the date and location that occurred. HWA recounted consulting with four ministers regarding baptism, one of whom was the Baptist minister in Portland, and then--in HWA's telling--HWA decided on the Baptist minister among those four as the best one for him to be baptized by. The other three were presented by HWA as consultations about baptism not resulting in baptism. Was A.H. Stith one of those four, or was Stith a fifth not told in HWA's recounting, or was the Stith baptism report mistaken? Who knows.


Anonymous said...

Scroller, that is very good.
It is my opinion contrary to ALL boards and people fighting Armstrong(ism) that hwa did not intentionally try to lie. (I believe Hoeh was the last person working on the last autobiography version.)

Hwa was of course moderately educated, so things that are "obvious" to people who have learned how to disect information, can seem as miracles, revelations, "special purposes", or open doors to him.
It can also seem as a personal right to remember as one sees fit, as long as all memories are true. From an outsider this may come across as "framing" or lying while to the person in question it happened as told by pointing at the results.

I see that process in my "gods" (managers). I tell a "random" story and they think that by revelation they found the answer to their questions because of their great leadership skills.


Anonymous said...

The Worldwide Church of God is just an offshoot of a Baptist group William Miller founded. SOME Baptists, just like Herbert Armstrong, try to explain that they can trace their roots through the Waldensians and other heretical groups. Turns out Armstrong was just another Protestant like the rest of William Miller's offshoots (SDAs, JWs).

Anonymous said...

That's right. People building houses nowadays have no lineage to the cathedral builders. Still they may do the same job.

There have been christian sabbath keepers throughout the ages, but there seems to be no link.
Although they have interacted now and then in those rare places of freedom throughout history. (or black holes to the powers that be)