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09.11.01 Rogers, James A., Richard Furman: Life and Legacy, published in 1985 by Mercer U. Press

Notes Concerning Author.

The author, James A. Rogers, is primarily concerned with drawing a picture of the man and his historical impact on Baptist mission, Southern Baptist organization and Baptist education.

Originally published in 1985, this 335-page book is  the first biography since 1913 devoted to the life of the pioneer Southern  Baptist pastor and statesman, Richard Furman.  The 1913 biography was written by Harvey T. Cook and was published by Baptist Courier Job Rooms.  Of the two, the Society recommends the work by Rogers, which is a worthy addition to the  growing body of literature on Baptist history and theology.


Furman  (1755-1825) was born into a Puritan family in New York shortly before their move to South  Carolina in 1756.  Converted under Baptist preaching in the early 1770’s, Furman  rejected his father’s Anglicanism for Baptist views and was ordained within a  few years of his baptism.  By the way, during the Revolution, Furman had a price set on his  head by the British General Cornwallis, who feared the prayers of Furman more than the combined might of two continental armies.

Furman was an advocate of a  pan-Protestant religious liberty, yet defended his own right as an ordained  minister to be a political representative at the state level and argued for  state funding of his religious school.  In church government, he moved his  congregation away from an aristocratic to a more democratic model.  For a time he was pastor of the First Baptist  Church of Charleston, South Carolina.

A  prominent leader in the Charleston Association, the first and leading Baptist  association in the South, he believed revival would come to the churches as a  result of ministerial education, lay indoctrination, attention to ecclesiology  and pious commitment.  During the Second Great Awakening, he lauded the  movement’s “great tendency to excite the attention, and engage it to religion,”  but warned about “some incidental evils,” especially the loss of rational  activity.  Furman was not only a dedicated pastor, but also the first  true denominational statesman among Baptists in the United States.  In 1813, he  was elected the first President of the Triennial Convention, the first national Baptist missions society in America. 

Soon after his 1817 address to that same  convention on the need for ministerial education, Baptists established at least ten now-prominent Baptist colleges and universities.  He was invited to preach before the President and Congress of the United States in 1814.  Unlike some  denominational leaders then and today, Furman understood that Baptists must  have a vote on those institutional decisions which affect the churches.  Furman University, the South’s first Baptist college, was founded in 1826 and named in his honor.

Furman established a unique form of ecclesiastical structure with the constitution of  the South Carolina Baptist Convention — a form that would empower the later  Southern Baptist Convention to become the greatest missionary and educational  denomination in the United States.

The Society appreciates the input use here, obtained from

Availability of this Book.

New and used copies of Richard Furman: Life and Legacy are available at inexpensive prices.  We suggest