In 1872, the First Baptist Church of Portland, in what is now SW Fifth & Yamhill, saw a need to start Sunday school classes across the Willamette River. By 1879, 20 members of First Baptist are sent to constitute First Baptist Church of East Portland, with Rev. R.C. White as their pastor. Ministry is difficult in the Wild West, and in the first 15 years, 10 different men serve as pastor. But by 1894, reflecting a desire to grow as a metropolitan church, they vote to change their name to Second Baptist Church of Portland. Two years later, they construct and dedicate their first building on the corner of 7th and SE Ankeny.
It was during this time that the church encounters the influence of the social gospel movement. In 1901, a new pastor, W.E. Randall, was called, but in less than a year, he divides the church over the question of the church’s involvement in social issues. This leads to his resignation and a group going out with him to form Central Baptist Church on 20th and SE Ankeny. For almost 10 years, these two churches exist about a quarter mile from each other. But there is a happy ending. By 1910, many involved in the original debate have moved on, and so, the two churches agree to once again re-unite, now forming Eastside Baptist Church. And it’s around this time that we see the first period of significant growth.
In 1917, Eastside Baptist calls W.B. Hinson as pastor, and under his faithful evangelical ministry, the congregation begins to grow. When he arrives, there are about 200 members, but 9 years later, by his death, the congregation has grown to nearly 1,400. It’s during Hinson’s pastorate that the church acquires our present-day property on 20th and Salmon in 1918. It’s also under Hinson that this church begins to develop its passion for outreach & world missions, and also its leadership among conservative churches in the Northern Baptist Convention. Sadly, in 1926, Hinson suffers a stroke and passes away, and in memory of him, the church is renamed Hinson Memorial Baptist Church.
For the next 30 years, we see the continued growth of Hinson Baptist Church, as the building is expanded, and Western Conservative Baptist Seminary is founded right in our building. In 1934, Hinson calls Dr. Albert G. Johnson to be their pastor and he goes on to have the longest pastorate here at Hinson, for 21 years. But it’s during this time that conservative churches in the Northern Baptist Convention lose the fight for evangelical doctrine within the convention, and in 1947, in part under the leadership of Johnson, they leave the NBC to form the Conservative Baptist Association of America.
With Hinson becoming a prominent church in the CB denomination, what we see in the next 50 years is several short pastorates, as pastors serve at Hinson and then leave to serve in other ministries. This includes William Kerr, who goes on to serve as dean of a CB seminary, Herb Anderson, who goes on to serve as president of CB Foreign Missions Society, and Don Baker, who leaves to pastor a church in Illinois. During these years, Hinson continues to see growth, but they also watch the community around them change dramatically. As in other urban cities in America, people are emptying out to the suburbs, so by the time we get to the 90’s, Hinson is largely a commuter church and experiences some decline as its membership becomes less invested in this community.
Starting in the late 90’s, we see an increase in the outreach to the community and continued faithful preaching under the leadership of Bruce Boria and Gary Dozier. But in God’s providence, both of these men are led to serve elsewhere. Which brings us to our present day, as Michael Lawrence began his ministry here in 2010 and hopes to be here for a long, long time. Given the impressive history of this church, it’s easy to feel the pressure of our past to once again return to a state of prominence and size. However, it is important to remember that our history stretches back far beyond those “glory years”, even beyond those first 20 Christians starting a church on the east of the Willamette. In fact, when we take a broader look at the history of the church, we begin to see the faithfulness of Christ in preserving and building His church, from Jerusalem all the way to Hawthorne. And so, we feel a different kind of pressure. We’re encouraged to persevere in faithfulness to Christ, in whatever He may have for us.
Our hope is very much that we here at Hinson may resemble what we read about in Acts 2: a community of believers who are committed to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship of believers, to breaking bread and to prayer. By the grace of God, this church remains committed to the same Gospel believed by Christians through the centuries, and first proclaimed by Jesus Christ, who is the “same yesterday, today, and forever.”
More details and information can be found in our Discover Hinson booklet.