This has been a sore point with some Baptists I’ve argued with in the past and I’m arguing with one today. When I point out that a church founded primarily over disagreements as to whether or not slavery was moral and should be legal really shouldn’t be that terribly sure that there church is always right on moral and ethical issues I’m often told that I don’t know what I’m talking about and that the SBC was founded for many reasons, slavery being but a minor one.
The story as I understand it (and one that seems to be corroborated by this Baptist website is, in a nutshell, this: In 1844 Baptists in several slaveholding states became irritated when the American Baptist Home Mission Society (the domestic missionary group) denied the rights of slave owners to serve as missionaries. This led to argument and debate among American Baptists with ministers and other Baptists on both sides of the Mason Dixon line voting for and against slavery as a just institution. Ultimately the southern (smaller case s) Baptists convened in Augusta, Georgia in 1845 and voted to break with the American Baptist church and the Southern (larger case s) Baptist Convention was born. The seceding pastors and congregations did have other changes besides (a bit more autonomy among churches, for instance, than in the north), but the driving force and primary bone of contention was whether slavery was Biblically justified.
If this is incorrect or way too simple, I would be very appreciative to learn the truth of the matter. I am curious for a variety of reasons, but all of the research I have done seems to indicate the above version is, in abstract, what happened and that slavery was if not the only incentive then at least the major one.