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It Started with a "Greenback"

Baptist deacons from around the state gathered in Paris, Texas, July 18, 1877, to form a Deacons Convention. About 50 charter members were called to order by Deacon J.L. Williams, serving as temporary moderator.

Three days later, on July 21, 1877, a group of those deacons gathered around R.C. Buckner under the shade of a spreading oak tree near First Baptist Church of Paris, 145 years ago today. Dr. Buckner pulled out a “greenback” from his purse, laid it upon his knee and said to those assembled, “Brethren, just to give this thing a start, here is my dollar.”

Baylor University Professor B.H. Carroll, who would later start Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, gave the same amount, seconding the action with his “Amen!” Others followed suit and by the time the collection was complete, a total of $27 was given. “This thing” would become Buckner Orphans Home, the predecessor to Buckner International.

But this gathering was not by accident. For more than a year, Buckner had pleaded with Texas Baptists to do something about the plight of vulnerable children in the wake of the Civil War. Widows and orphans filled the state and Buckner was convinced and convicted that followers of Jesus had a biblical obligation to act.

Writing in the Texas Baptist, a Buckner-owned newspaper with more than 4,000 subscribers, he appealed to Baptists in 1876. He believed they must meet the needs of “unfortunate persons.”

“It is more blessed to give than to receive,” he wrote. “So it is more glorious to be the benefactor than the beneficiary. He is poor of spirit who is the beneficiary of all and the benefactor of none. Man’s true glory consists in ministrations of goodness and benevolence to others.”

In another article he wrote, “Money may be separated from religion, but religion can never be separated from money. There is but one kind of pure religion in the world and that is: ‘To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep himself unspotted from the world. Religion is piety and liberality – the heart given to God; the hand to man. What avails the offering of the hand when the light is withheld from the altar?’”

I’m humbled to walk in the shoes of R.C. Buckner, serving as only the sixth the president/CEO of this great, Christ-centered ministry. This year marks our 143rd consecutive year serving others. We have never drifted from that day under the oak tree when those deacons committed themselves and their resources to serving orphans and widows. Yes, our methods have changed with the times, but our mission is as strong and true on July 21, 2022, as it was on July 21, 1877.

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