I recall with great joy the first time I heard of this church at the Welsh Tract. I was a new student to church history. Bro. Paul Goodwin, my instructor in church history, related the circumstances of the organization of this church in South Wales and then its journey to the New World. Lately I have had the occasion to learn more of this old congregation and take the following from an account of their constitution as a church of the Lord Jesus Christ from a history of the Philadelphia Association.

"This church was constituted in Pembrokeshire, in South Wales, in the year 1701, at which time the first members of this church were about to come over into Pennsylvania; they then, by the advice and counsel of the churches they came from, in Pembrokeshire and Carmathenshire, entered into a church covenant, and state their number was sixteen persons; and among them was the Rev. Mr. Thomas Griffith, to be their minister. After their arrival in this country, they lived, near two years, near Pennepek and the parts adjacent; keeping together and meeting, as they were a distinct church, and had considerable addition to their number. In the year 1703, they removed and settled at the Welsh Tract aforesaid, and continued successful: and the said Mr. Griffith continued with them until he died, which was on the 25th of August, Anno Domini 1725: during which time, several able gifted ministers were raised, by the blessing of God, in the said church; they were Elisha Thomas and Enoch Morgan, both members when the said church was first constituted; the said Elisha Thomas was chosen pastor of the church, and after were Jenkin Jones, who removed to Philadelphia, and Owen Thomas. In the year 1730, Elisha Thomas died, and the said church continued under the ministry of the said Mr. Enoch Morgan and Mr. Owen Thomas; during which time, God raised up other two in the said church; viz., Mr. Abel Morgan, who since removed to Middletown, in East Jersey, and Mr. David Davis. On the 25th of March, 1740, died the said Enoch Morgan, and the church continues under the ministry of the said Owen Thomas and David Davis."

William Cathcart gives this account of the origin of this church,

"Welsh Tract Church, Del.—Sixteen Baptists in Wales about to emigrate to America formed themselves into a Baptist church in 1701, with Rev. Thomas Griffith, one of their number, as pastor. They came to Pennepek, now in Philadelphia, Pa., where there was a Welsh Baptist church. Leaving in this place some of their number, and receiving accessions in return, they removed, in 1703, to Iron Hill, in the Welsh Tract, New Castle Co., Del. (at that time a part of Pennsylvania). A small meeting-house was then erected upon the site now occupied by the present edifice, built in 1746."

The following information is taken from the records of the Welsh Tract church under the heading, "Our Beginnings as a Church". It is found in Vol. II of John T. Christian's History of the Baptists, P. 121.

"In the year 1701 some of us (who were members of the church of Jesus Christ in the countys of Pembroke and Carmathen, South Wales, in Great Britain, professing believers baptism; laying-on-of-hands; elections; and final perseverance in grace) were moved and encouraged in our own minds to come to these parts, viz.: Pennsylvania. and after obtaining leave of the churches it seemed good to the Lord and to us, That we should be formed into a church order, as we were a sufficient number; and as one of us was a minister: that was accomplished and, withal letters commendatory were given us, that if we should meet with any congregations of Christian people, who held the same faith with us, we might be received by them as brethren in Christ.

"Our number was sixteen; and, after bidding farewell to our brethren in Wales, we sailed from Milford-haven in the month of June, the year above mentioned, in a ship named James and Mary; and landed in Philadelphia the eighth of September following."

Another historian records the organization as follows: "In the year 1701, he [Thomas Griffiths] and fifteen of the members of the church went to America in the same vessel. They formed themselves into a church at Milford, in the county of Pembroke, South Wales, and Thomas Griffiths became their pastor in the month of June, 1701. They embarked on board the ship James and Mary, and on the 8th day of September following, they landed at Philadelphia. The brethren there treated them courteously, and advised them to settle about Pennepeck. Thither they went, and there continued about a year and a half. During that time twenty-one persons joined them, but finding it inconvenient to abide there, they purchased land in the county of Newcastle, and gave it the name of Welsh Tract, where they built a meeting-house, and Thomas Griffiths labored among them as their pastor till he died, on the 25th of July, 1725, aged eighty years."

Note the following facts concerning this church organization:

The folks composing it were from two different churches in Wales and were about to come to America.

These two churches advised and counseled them that they should enter into church covenant with one another.

Sixteen persons entered into covenant and became a church.

There is no indication that either of these two advising church voted to start the church; they only advised and counseled them to form themselves into a church.

Cathcart says they "formed themselves into a Baptist church in 1701."

In their own account of their beginning these brethren indicated they "obtained leave" from the two churches to form themselves into a church but make no mention of one of these churches voting to organize the church though both apparently gave "leave" for their forming themselves into a church.

Is it Scriptural for two churches to delegate church authority to a new church? Is the mere advising and counseling of folks that they organize themselves into a church the same as voting to start the church and delegating them authority? When two churches are credited with "giving leave" or permission to a group to form themselves into a new church, is that enough to satisfy those who say there must be authority delegated by a mother church for the formation of any church? Can a church have two mothers who are both equally involved in the delegating of authority? Does each church delegate 50% of the necessary authority? Or, does the new church get a (See WELSH TRACT Continued P. 11, L. Col.

WELSH TRACT, cont. From P. 2.

double portion of authority?

Since writing the above information about the Welsh Tract Church, I have received the following letter from her current pastor, Eld. James Poole. He has been pastor of the church for 27 years. He wrote,

You may find this little portion of history of interest, especially since it harmonizes with your sentiments below. It regards the Welsh Tract Baptist Church, the oldest of the Old School or Primitive Baptist churches in America.

The following brief quotation is selected from the Bi-Centennial Celebration of the Church, October 19th, 1903.

"In the spring of 1701, sixteen Baptists, in the counties of Pembroke and Carmarthen, South Wales, resolved to go to America. They formed themselves into a church, with Thomas Griffith, one of their number, as Pastor. They embarked at Milford Haven in June, 1701, arriving in Philadelphia September, 8th, the same year."

Notice-they formed themselves into a church.

In another place in the history, Morgan Edwards translated their early records and gave us this:

"In the year 1701, some of us, who were members of the churches of Jesus Christ in the counties of Pembroke and Carmarthen, South Wales, in Great Britain, (professing believers in baptism, laying on of hands, election, and final perseverance in grace), were moved and encouraged in our minds, to come to these parts, namely, Pennsylvania. And after obtaining leave of the churches, it seemed good to the Lord, and to us, that we should be formed into church order, as we were a sufficient number, and as one of us was a minister, that was accomplished, and withal letters commendatory were given us, that if we should meet with any congregations or Christian people, who held the same faith with us, we might be received with them as brethren in Christ."

There again, no mention of the sister churches participating in the formation of their church.

Since there are multitudes of churches that enjoy tracing themselves back to "Mother" Welsh Tract they would do well to pause and reflect. There is no record that I am aware of, and I have been pastor at Welsh Tract over 27 years, that exists showing anything more of the constitution of the church than the above.


Jim Poole

Here is another of those churches which would form the Philadelphia Association through which many trace their history. And, as Bro. Poole points out, many trace their history specifically to the Welsh Tract Church, a church that was formed when a group of baptized believers from two different churches in Wales "formed themselves into a church, with Thomas Griffith, one of their number, as Pastor."

Another interesting thing about this Welsh Tract Church is their reconstitution as a church in the year 1710. Here is an account of that reconstitution as recorded in the records of their 200th anniversary service. In 1710, by reason of a great addition by letters from churches in Wales, and by admission here, they came to another consideration, and thought best to be constituted again. We will read you the full copy of the new church covenant, as we feel sure it will interest you. It is as follows: The solemn covenant of ye church at its constitution, owned and professed by us whose names are underwritten in ye year 1710. We who desire to walk together in ye fear of ye Lord, do, through ye assistance of his holy Spirit, profess our deep and serious humiliation for all our transgressions, and we do also, solemnly in ye presence of God, and of each other, in ye sense of our unworthiness, give up ourselves to ye Lord, in a church state, according to ye Apostolical constitution, that he may be our God, and we may be his people, through ye everlasting covenant of his free grace, in which alone we hope to be accepted by him, through his blessed Son Jesus Christ, who we hope to be our High Priest, to justify and sanctify us, and our Prophet to teach us, and to be subject to him as our Lawgiver, and ye King of saints. And to conform to all his holy laws and ordinances, for our growth, establishment and consolation, that we may be a holy spouse unto him, and serve him in our generation; and wait for his second appearance, as our glorious Bridegroom. Be fully satisfied in ye way of church communion, and ye growth of grace (as we hope) in some good measure on one another’s spirits. We do solemnly join ourselves together in holy union and fellowship, humbly submitting of ye discipline of gospel, and all holy duties required of a people in such a spiritual relation. We do promise and engage to walk in all holiness and godliness, humility and brotherly love, as much as in us lieth, to render our communion delightful to God, comfortable to ourselves, and to the rest of the Lord’s people. We do promise to watch over each other’s conversations, and not to suffer sin upon one another, so far as God shall discover it to us, or any of us, and to stir up one another to love and to good works, to warn, rebuke and admonish one another with meekness, according to ye rules left to us of Christ in ye behalf. We do promise in a special manner, to pray for one another, and for his glory, and increase of his church, and for ye presence of God in it, and ye pouring forth of his Spirit on it, and his protection over it to his glory. We do promise to bear one another’s burdens, to draw to one another, and to have fellowship with one another, in all conditions, both outward and inward, as God in his providence shall cast any of us into. We do promise to bear with one another’s weakness, failings and infirmities, with much tenderness, not discovering to any without the church, nor within, unless according to .church rule, and ye order of ye gospel provided in that cause. We do promise to strive together for the truths of the gospel, and purity of God’s ways and ordinances, to avoid causes, occasions of divisions, and endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We do promise to meet together on Lord’s days, and at other times, as the Lord shall give us opportunities, to serve and glorify God in ye way of his worship to edify one another, and to continue in the good of his church. We do promise according to our ability, or as God shall bless us with ye good things of this world, to communicate to ye majesty of ye church. These and all other gospel duties we humbly submit unto promising and purposing to perform’ not in our own strength, but conscious of our own weakness, and in ye power and strength of our blessed God, whose we are, and whom we desire to serve, to whom be glory now and forevermore. Amen.

It should be pointed out that in their reconstitution, they were not reconstituted by the authority of another church. It was a decision they came to themselves and which they executed themselves just as in their first constitution.

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Last updated Friday, March 04, 2011


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