About Us

In September 1870, plans were informally laid for Organization of Baptist Churches, an organization that would later develop into the Kenansville Eastern Missionary Baptist Association. A month later, a group of delegates met at First Baptist Church, Kenansville to formally form the association. The lay delegates were drawn from First Colored Baptist Church, Kenansville, Bear Swamp Baptist Church, Warsaw, Hill’s Chapel, Faison, Six Runs, and First Baptist Church, Clinton. In addition, visiting clergy from Goldsboro, New Bern, Washington, and Mount Olive were also present.

Reverend Thomas Parker was elected as the Association’s first moderator, with Abe Middleton serving as secretary and G.A. Bizzell as treasurer. The organization was soon named the Kenansville Eastern Missionary Baptist Association to distinguish it from the Eastern Missionary Baptist Association, an organization composed of non-minority churches.
Soon after its organization, a string of important sub-groups, each with is own focus of service and praise to God, were formed. In terms of organized Christian education, the Kenansville Eastern Missionary Baptist Sunday School Convention was formed in 1880. A. R. Middleton was elected as its first president. The Daughters of Zion Convention was formed in 1919 under the leadership of Adella Faison. The Baptist Young People’s Union (now B.T.U.) was organized in 1920 at Willard Chapel Church under the presidency of E.M. Butler. Noting the important of ushers serving in life of churches, the Kenansville Ushers Association was formed in 1946. The Reverend J.A. Lewis served as its first president. In 1948, the usher’s group was divided into northern and southern divisions. J.M. Bell served as the first president of the northern division, while Henry McClammy served as the first president of the southern division.
The responsibility of educating African Americans at this time rested largely with the churches. In 1909, the General Assembly of North Carolina passed an act incorporating the Faison Educational, Agricultural, and Industrial Institute as the Industrial Training School. With the robust support of the Association, and under the leadership of Professor J.N. Bennett as principal, the school operated successfully for many years, until the state provided education for African Americans.
Central to its commitment of spreading the Gospel, missionary work was also important to the Association. The first missionary from North Carolina to Africa was the Rev. James Hayes of First Baptist, Magnolia. This led to the organization of the Lot Cary Foreign Mission Convention. In addition, a unit of the National Baptist Convention, Inc. was organized as the result of the energetic work of Moderator Rev. J. Malachi Newkirk of Lisbon Street Baptist Church, Clinton.
For a number of years Thomas Parker and Abe Middleton were guiding lights of the Association. During Parker’s administration several churches were organized: First Baptist, Magnolia, First Baptist Kenansville, First Baptist (formerly Bear Swamp), Warsaw, Hill’s Chapel, Faison, Mt. Gilead, Eastern Chapel; he personally purchased the land upon which this church was built.
In 1872 there arose a dispute in the Association over the questions of church policy. While Reverend Parker took the stand that a church had superiority over the Association, Reverend Banks held that the Association was superior to the church. The dispute caused schism within the group. Reverend Banks along with a group of like-minded souls formed a group meeting in Ebenezer Baptist Church. This became known as the Middle District Baptist Association. The spirit of church superiority still holds true and is policy of our organization. Over time, as churches became more widely organized, several churches in Sampson County organized the West Union Baptist Association. These associations, with others since organized, annually exchange fraternal delegates and work in harmony for the extension of the Kingdom of God.
The Kenansville Eastern Missionary Baptist Association is continuously moving forward. Its destiny is interwoven in the missionary movement prevalent in many Baptist churches throughout America. The Association remains well supported by its churches, which meet on equal footing, “defending the faith one delivered to the saints.” As we enter our second century, with pride and praise to God Almighty, we greet ourselves with “hats off to the past; coats to the future.”
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