William Troy: Virginian and First Baptist Minister in Windsor, Ontario

Believe it or not, the first Baptist pastor in Windsor, Ontario, Canada was a black man from Virginia, Wiliam Troy (1827-1905)–the first pastor of First Baptist Church of Windsor.

Troy was a free man born in Essex County, Virginia. His father was a slave and his mother, who was half white, was free.  He was secretly educated by white friends of the family, breaking the laws of the time. Troy became a Christian in June 1843 and became a Baptist. Eventually, Troy became disgusted with his church’s support of slavery, saying that “the law of the country knew me as a thing, [and] the church knew me in the same way”.  He married and in 1848 he moved to Cincinnati and studied to be a minister and then moved to Canada. He is said to have lived in Amherstburg, Ontario for three years, pastoring a church there before he became the founding pastor of First Baptist Church of Windsor, Ontario in 1853, where he preached to a community of runaway slaves.

In 1861, William wrote a book, Hair-breadth Escapes from Slavery to Freedom, which was a set of accounts of fugitive slaves. It was published in England and he traveled through England to raise money for the new Windsor, Ontario church, a congregation “composed chiefly of fugitive slaves”.

In the preface of William’s book, Arthur Mursell says “Of Mr. Troy’s mental qualities, and his graphic powers, I need say nothing, as both speak out in the narrative he has written. But of his sterling attributes of heart, those only who know him intimately can form a true idea. A real man and a finished gentleman, the author of this little book stands forth as another living contradiction of the doctrine which disparages the African as gifted with inferior intellect and possessed of baser feelings than the European; and he shows that colour is no barrier to the attainment of high culture and scholarship, and no hindrance to the possession of a delicately attuned emotion.”

Simultaneously, in 1857-1859, William also pastored Second Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan.  Apparently, some (or all?) baptisms in Windsor were performed in the Detroit river, as is confirmed by a biographical note about Rev. H. P. Davis, who had escaped from Alabama and was baptized by William.

William is recorded as saying: “I rejoice to be able to say that God has added his blessing to my labours in Windsor and the region adjoining: and I pray that I may be of even greater service to the people for whom I am laboring.”

William did encounter racism in the Windsor area. He said: “The coloured people in this part of Canada have had, and still have, much to contend with from the prejudices of the white people, which may be considered as the result of the influence of their contact with Yankees. The prejudice is being removed slowly”.

At some point after the civil war, William moved back to Virginia and became pastor of Second Baptist Church of Richmond, VA.  In 1865, he became the first president of the Consolidated American Baptist Missionary Convention. By 1875, he would leave and found Moore Street Baptist Church and remain there until 1881.Apparently, in 1890, William preached an ordination sermon in King William County, Virginia. The text was Titus 1:5 – “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you.” It seems that William died in 1905. I hope to be able to write more about him in the future.


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It’s Not Often You Get Someone Disagreeing With Your Poem

I was amazed today to see that my poem Surveiller over at Second Nature Journal elicited a rather strong response from a commenter named “Bob”.

Now, as a poet, you typically get used to a lack of strong responses (whether they positive or negative). I know, I know, there was a day when, if you pushed the boundaries enough, you could get blacklisted and have your books of poems seized by the U.S. postal service.  That said, nowadays, it seems you’d have to push the boundaries quite a long way to even get some isolated critic in Boring, Oregon to write something that even registers on the I-dont-like-it-a-meter, let alone a concerted campaign of censorship against your poetry.

So, back to Bob’s comment. I won’t reproduce Bob’s comment in its entirety, but I will provide a couple short excerpts on which I will comment. I share this mainly because I feel like there are some interesting points to raise about surveillance here. And, perhaps, poetry.

There is a sense that all feedback is good feedback. And, so, I am glad Bob took the time to read my poem and comment on it.  So, for that I am thankful, even though I will be disagreeing with his assessments. I’m also honored that he took my poem seriously enough to respond.

I must confess, I found his comments rather funny. I will, however, respond with some serious observations:

Bob said: “You are just one out of 8,000,000,000 (eight BILLION!) people who are at this moment inhabiting the Earth — do you really think that you’re THAT important that somebody, anybody, may be wasting their time spying on you? It’s just in your head!”

First, I think Bob misread my poem. He seems to be making the mistake of assuming that, since I wrote the poem, I myself must be featured in the poem. Immediately upon reading the poem, one sees that there are no pronouns except for you/you’ve. Quite frankly, there is no solid clue as to who is under surveillance and who is perpetrating it.  Though poems do often address serious topics (and this one does), there is a sense in which poetry is an art form. And it is very much about playing with words. Overall, the poem I wrote is quite stark and non-personal. It harbors emotions, but is largely cold and clinical in its approach. Perhaps even choppy.

Second, even IF I saw myself in the poem, the U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has found that in 2013 alone, over 89,000 Americans have been targeted for collection under Section 702 of the Patriot Act.  Now, granted, that is a pretty small slice of Americans. But, by the same token, it is not a pie-in-the-sky-it-would-never-happen-to-anyone sort of thing either.  One in every several thousand Americans have been targeted by Section 702 of the Patriot Act in 2013 (let alone other forms of surveillance–some of which are more sweeping in nature).  Is it rational, in light of what we already know to suppose that none of those 89,000+ people are being targeted even though they are not even remotely connected to the matters in question?

Bob also says: “Stop spreading anarchist/paranoid nonsense and label it as “Christian”!”

I must object to the use of the word “anarchist” here. Setting aside the definitional difficulties with this word, I object to the supposition that concern about surveillance is an “anarchist” cause.  In fact, depending on how one defines “anarchism”, illegal surveillance (rather than opposition to it) may very well be a classic case of anarchism.  My contention would that the impulse to object to indiscriminate surveillance is wholly compatible with (if not an integral part of) the rule of law and a well-ordered  governmental authority.

In conclusion: I do not seek out controversy, but it is rather satisfying to know that my poem has “struck a chord”, so to speak :-) If there’s anything you take from this post, please know that I do NOT appear in the poem Surveiller. Not as the watched nor the watcher!

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Thoughts For Keach’s Warrior Children: Confessionalism


The title of this post comes from the title of John Frame’s essay regarding the squabbles in American Presbyterian history, Machen’s Warrior Children.  This title is a spin-off of that article. That’s about where the similarity ends. The “Keach” part, of course, refers to the English Particular Baptist, Benjamin Keach (pictured here in what might be said to be the artistic tradition of “partial realism”). Keach was a signer of the Second London Baptist Confession. I will hereafter refer to the confession as “the 1689 Confession”, which is its common name, even though it was actually first published in 1677.

I’ve had this post bouncing around in my head for quite some time now. It wasn’t until more recently, though, that its come down to the tips of my fingers. This post is best understood as a bit of reflection on my readings of recent Reformed Baptist interactions on the Internet. I hope and trust you will find these observations charitably written, if not always agreeable to everyone. I write this both so others can hopefully benefit from it, but also so I can further clarify my thoughts and continue to apply these things to myself.

A Goodly Heritage

As Reformed Baptists, we have a wonderful heritage in the 1689 Confession. We also have some wonderful catechisms (such as Keach’s Catechism and An Orthodox Catechism). It would behoove us, however, to examine how we are using these excellent documents and also whether we are using them in a way that is consistent with the main objectives for which they were written. I will not purport to put forward such an examination in this post. Rather, I will just offer a few “thoughts for the journey”, so to speak.

Functional Thoughts

In my mind, a healthy confessionalism balances two functions: a restrictive function and a permissive function. On one hand, it narrows, restricts, and provides shelter from the other side of the line. On the other, it is generous, permissive, expansive, and fosters diversity, and provides leeway for genuine differences. When either one of these aspects take an unhealthy prominence to the exclusion of the other, problems arise and confessionalism becomes ugly.

Reformed Confessionalism, in general, can be a wonderful thing. And we have much reason to rejoice in somewhat of a revival in Baptist confessionalism over the last several decades. However, when confessionalism turns elitist or provincial in nature, it becomes ugly, no matter how historic or doctrinally solid it is.  Much attention is paid to the “what” of confessionalism, but we ought to pay attention to the “how” also.

Respect The Intent Of The Framers

Besides respecting and noting the intent of the framers in the doctrinal formulations contained in a confession, we should also respect and notice their overarching purposes, as those will be very helpful in looking at “how” we should be confessional.

Anyone who wants to use the 1689 Confession to produce an exclusive, critical, elitist, and narrow community seems to run counter to the framer’s stated intention that it be “for the information and satisfaction of those that did not thoroughly understand what our principles were”.

The document also was ecumenical, in the good sense of the word. It had the goal of standing “with many others whose orthodox Confessions have been published to the world”. Clearly, the signers themselves (especially Mr. Keach) were comfortable with diversity in at least some areas and unafraid to think outside of the box and even disagree with their brethren at times.  And that’s without even knowing all the historical details of who was in the minority report in various areas of the confession.

Anyone who wants to hit someone over the head with the 1689 Confession should read the preface: “we hope we have also observed those rules of modesty and humility as will render our freedom in this respect inoffensive, even to those whose sentiments are different from ours”.

Our Posture To Others

In the spirit of our confession’s preface, we should give due honor to other good, orthodox confessions of faith such as the Westminister Confession, the Belgic Confession, the Abstract of Principles, the New Hampshire Confession, and others. It is, of course, appropriate to prefer the confession we subscribe to, but we need to guard against a provincial, dismissive attitude and the impulse to enlarge the “faults” of other confessions to just win some sort of playground game.  That is ugly confessionalism. We should also, incidentally, be careful to not carelessly assume that being older and more detailed necessarily makes a confession better!

If we love and treasure our historic Reformed confessions, then it behooves us to adorn those confessions well, in gentlemanly and gracious conduct and kindness to those we interact with. 17th century theology doesn’t show well when elucidated by curmudgeons. Not that a curmudgeonly slant is always necessarily wrong, but we must seek balance!  I think, in general, the Reformed community has enough warriors and bull dogs. We need more statesmen and ambassadors. But are we producing more statesmen and ambassadors? This is an important question to consider.

Could it be that some are so focused on negatively defining their theology, that they are losing a positive presentation of it? One can be so wrapped up in being not-dispensationalist, not-new-calvinist, not-charismatic, not-fundamentalist, not-new-covenant-theology, not-plain-vanilla-evangelical, not-baxterian, not-paedobaptistic, not-presbyterian, not-arminian, not-federal-visionist, etc., that they forget who they really are and end up presenting a very truncated and negative identity. Not to say that these areas of controversy are unimportant. It’s just that defining a community’s theology too exclusively on these lines may result on a stunted community that isn’t very robust.

Is easy (and true) to say that we must engage in polemic at times. It is far harder to have the discernment to have the necessary balance–to know how and when to do it.  We must lose our proclivity to squabble at a drop of a hat. Sadly, sometimes contending becomes a pastime (and all-encompassing project in and of itself). Alas, to a man with a hammer, everything is a nail! For instance, many have been eager to engage with the topic of “New Calvinism”. Sadly, though, some have proceeded  with an unfortunate style of polemic that lacks charity and lacks accuracy. I personally, along with Iain Murray from the Banner of Truth, have questions about the accuracy and usefulness of a strict Old/New dichotomy when it comes to modern Calvinism. But, in any case, if any “Old Calvinism” is not characterized by humility or brotherly love, it is worse than worthless.

Here is a burning question: Are we teaching the up and coming generation to thoughtfully engage the scriptures on these issues in a way that shows historic continuity and confessional integrity, or are we just trying to enlist new warriors to be “on our side” and subscribe fully without question to a confession? Ironically, ugly confessionalism turns into a subtle form of anti-confessionalism, turning people away from confessionalism in droves.

Guard Against Overplaying Confessionalism

It’s been often repeated that here is a “cage stage” with the Doctrines of Grace, when people who newly discover them need to be careful about being a little too zealous. What if the same thing applies to confessionalism? What if it is easy to overplay the benefits of confessionalism, especially before we’ve ridden along for the long-haul, and haven’t yet seen how messy and difficult some confessional issues can really be?

Perhaps some eager advocates of confessionalism, in overplaying their hand a bit, are over-promising in their rhetoric regarding confessionalism, and that makes confessionalism ugly. From watching people talking about confessionalism over the last several years, I’ve become convinced that sometimes confessionalism has even become a fad (old things can be fads too!) or “the cool thing to be” in the Reformed community.  And then, of course there is sometimes a smug “and they aren’t confessional”. Almost but not quite accompanied by a proverbial thumb to the nose with a “na na na na na”.

Furthermore, I believe we must watch out that we don’t turn confessionalism into some sort of “blue pill” or panacea. As good and necessary as confessions may be, they are not panaceas! If we are going to adhere to Sola Scriptura, the church’s struggles are never going to be quite as simple as “just grab a confession and run”.

It is one thing to say that confessions are scripturally (or pragmatically) necessary, it is another to treat them like panaceas.  They are not going to magically confer doctrinal stability, soundness, and accountability. They do not remove or necessarily solve some of the thorniest questions that are facing the church. Their effectiveness will also depend on our church polity. They come with a whole host of practical issues that must be resolved.

And then there are a host of other issues such as what level of subscription will be require, what role the confession plays in everyday church life, and many other issues. Are some of us, perhaps, in our zeal for the historic Reformed confessions, giving the wrong impression about what confessionalism actually accomplishes? Are the value of historic Reformed confessions, as valuable as they are, sometimes oversold? I would suggest that we lose credibility when we overplay what confessionalism actually confers.


So, in conclusion, we Reformed Christians have great confessions and catechisms. And yet, before smugly looking at all those non-confessional Christians, we ought to ask ourselves if we are actually living up to our creeds!  Confessionalism must be something richer than merely being the “cool thing to do if you are Reformed”.  We ought to conduct ourselves in ways that adorn our creeds, not in ways that make them ugly. And we must give careful thought to the HOW of confessionalism. Hopefully this will be an area which is thoughtfully explored further within the international Reformed Baptist community.

Here are three articles from Bob Gonzales (of Reformed Baptist Seminary) which are very much worth reading and hopefully will spur readers on in this direction:

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Out And About (2014/07/04)



  • Every wonder how to describe how you want your eggs? This article is for you! If you ever serve eggs to me, I like them “over hard” (HT: Jenn)
  • If you make burgers, do yourself (and anyone who eats them) a favor, read this article over at the New York Times (HT: Jenn)



  • This article on soccer match fixing is pretty fascinating and helpful.
  • This comic book-style (and video) look at a few famous soccer penalty kicks is really neat (HT: Jason Delgado)


  • Over at Protestant Thunder, Shawna Tomes has a review of China’s Reforming Churches.

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William Knibb on Slavery

“The cursed blast of slavery has, like a pestilence, withered almost every moral bloom. I know not how any person can feel a union with such a monster, such a child of hell. I feel a burning hatred against it and look upon it as one of the most odious monsters that ever disgraced the earth. The iron hand of oppression daily endeavours to keep the slaves in the ignorance to which it has reduced them.” – Wiliam Knibb (1803-1845), English Baptist missionary to Jamaica

Source: Masters, P., 2006: Missionary triumph over slavery. Wakeman Trust, London. ISBN 1-870855-53-1. p. 11

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Books Finished in June

(1 paper book, 2 e-books, and 1 audio book)

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Out And About (2014-06-30)


  • In a short (but fascinating) biographical post, Douglas Wilson writes about his reading habits.


  • The Nazi’s clearly hated Jazz. In the Czech occupation, they came up with a list of 10 rules for musical performances. The list was meant to prevent plucking of strings, “Negroid excesses”, and the turning of “the noble sound of wind and brass instruments into a Jewish-Freemasonic yowl”. Here they are, featured at Open Culture.


  • Jonathan Tomes has a good review of Worshiping with Calvin by Terry Johnson

Foreign Policy

  • This article about how drones could lead to longer, more frequent wars is fascinating.

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Today Second Nature Journal has featured my poem, Surveiller.

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