Louisiana Baptists’ first denominational paper began in 1855 at Mount Lebanon, LA. Named Louisiana Baptist with Hanson Lee as its first editor, the paper was reportedly “ranked with the ablest religious journals of the south.” Nonetheless, the paper suffered fatal ups and downs over the next two decades, changing owners several times, until it was sold to J.R. Graves in 1869 and subsequently discontinued.
Almost ten years passed when Louisiana pastor, S.C. Lee heeded the call of Louisiana Baptists the state over of the need for a weekly newspaper to keep Baptists informed.1 In 1878, Lee began The Baptist Messenger at Farmersville later moving it to Arcadia (1881).
S. C. Lee was born in Wilcox County, Alabama on September 2nd, 1826 to Baptist parents who were “anti-missionary” Baptists. S.C.’s father was a deacon in the church, and so S.C. was raised in the “anti-missionary” culture. Converted at 13 years of age, he joined the church by baptism. S.C. continued in the “anti-missionary” Baptist movement until 1850. At that time, he dissented from what historian W.E. Paxton describes as the “extreme Calvinistic views and anti-mission tendencies of his brethren, and especially on the extent of the Atonement.” Consequently, the church responded with official action: “he was arraigned and excluded for heresy.”
S.C.’s life afterward was a spiritual roller coaster. He studied for two years the theological questions leading up to his dismissal for heresy from the church of his childhood but finally sided with the “Missionary Baptists” subsequently joining a missionary Baptist church. However, spiritual darkness set in, and according to Paxton, S.C. “strove to cast off his impressions, and to drown the sense of duty, became to some extent disorderly. He became a habitual drinker, and turned politician.”
Fortunately, God was not finished with S.C. Lee.
After the dark period of prodigal living, S.C. “came to himself” (Luke 15:17) in 1861, recommitted his life to Christ, was later ordained to the gospel ministry, and went on to serve as pastor of several Louisiana churches. He also served both as moderator and clerk of Concord Baptist Association, including a commission to travel as Concord’s appointed missionary in 1869. Paxton writes of S.C. Lee’s accomplishments in education:
“He conceived the first idea of establishing an associational school within the bounds of the association. As the fruit of his labors in this direction, the ‘Concord Institute,’ an excellent school, was established at Shiloh. He traveled three months in the interest of the school, and obtained an endowment of $10,000; sufficient to secure permanency to the academy.”
Who knew that an Alabama boy growing up in a Louisiana “anti-missionary” Baptist church and, because of later rejecting the “extreme Calvinism” he was taught, was tried for heresy and dismembered from his church; yet, after going through a prodigal period in a backslidden condition, would ultimately become the catalyst God would use to launch The Baptist Messenger for Louisiana Baptists?
1The narrative is dependent upon the entry “Elder S.C. Lee” in The History of the Baptists of Louisiana From the Earliest Times Until The Present. W.E. Paxton. St. Louis: C.R. Barnes Publishing Co. 1888.