A Baptist Division

In the 1920's, a conflict within the Baptist faith occurred. Sudbury's Baptist community was part of the Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec. The organization was extremely divided on the theological teachings at McMaster University, a Baptist-supported institution. The instruction of one of the professors at the University was considered by a high-ranking Baptist Reverend as liberal theology. This sparked an intense debate and the division of the faith.

In 1928, a group of like-minded believers broke away from the Convention and formed the Union of Regular Baptists, while another group of Baptists also distanced themselves from the Convention and created the Fellowship of Independent Baptists. This resulted in the formation of three sects of Baptist faith in Ontario.

First Baptist Church - 2004.  Photo courtesy of Carolyn Salem.The impact to Sudbury was experienced in 1926 during Reverend Munroe's ministry. The Sudbury Baptists supported the fundamentalist viewpoint and decided to withhold support to McMaster University until the offending professor was removed. When the Baptist split of 1928 occurred, the Sudbury congregation changed their viewpoint and became supporters of the Baptist Convention and the teachings at McMaster University.

In 1931, the Sudbury Baptist parish received a new minister, Reverend Leyland Gregory, a graduate of McMaster University. Everything appeared fine in the parish upon his arrival, but in 1936, the parish treasurer abruptly resigned from his post and left the church. He started attending the Union of Regular Baptists Church (which had been established in Sudbury under the direction of J.R. Boyd around this time) because it aligned more closely with his beliefs. Other parishioners of the Sudbury Baptist Parish soon followed in the treasurer's footsteps and departed for the Union of Regular Baptists. This sparked a conflict between the two churches that would last for a number of years.

By 1938, Reverend Gregory left the Sudbury church and was replaced by Reverend W.J. Macdonald. Reverend Macdonald took on the enormous task of healing the existing conflict. His efforts to bring back those members who had left the parish were very successful. During his term, church membership increased and the mortgage on the church was paid off. On June 4, 1940, the mortgage was burned in a special ceremony.

In 1939, the Sudbury Baptist Church changed its name to the First Baptist Church to reflect its historical position in the Sudbury community.

Today, there continues to be two sects of the Baptist faith in Sudbury.


Material compiled from The Religious Tradition in Sudbury: 1883-1983.

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