The CLEVELAND BAPTIST ASSN. began in 1832 as the Rocky River Baptist Assn., a cooperative body for area Baptist churches, and evolved into the local official voice of the American Baptist Convention. Although the Baptist religion shuns hierarchy, area Baptist churches realized a need for fellowship and help in solving problems of doctrine, finance, and pastor selection, especially for small, newly founded parishes. The Rocky River Baptist Assn. was founded in a Methodist church with the help of PRESBYTERIANS. Seven churches joined the first year, while 14, including the EUCLID AVE. BAPTIST CHURCH and the FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH of Cleveland, joined in the second and third years. The Lorain churches formed their own society in 1839. By 1852 Cleveland was added to the name; Rocky River was dropped from the name in 1859. Under the association's leadership, area Baptist churches became the most prosperous in the state. The association established Sunday schools, work begun by BENJAMIN and REBECCA ROUSE. The association also led many social causes: antislavery, human rights, the Social Gospel movement, labor organization, equal opportunity, and world peace. For example, by 1849 a member church established a mission for AFRICAN AMERICANS that became SHILOH BAPTIST CHURCH. In the 1950s and 1960s the association tried to involve blacks in American Baptist life, while many member churches participated in the INTERCHURCH COUNCIL OF GREATER CLEVELAND, the Inner City Protestant Parish (the Innercity Renewal Society), and the West Side Ecumenical Society. However, especially in the 1960s, the association was considered too conservative by many black activists. With headquarters at E. 18th and Euclid, the Cleveland Baptist Assn. had 34 member churches in 1993; 22 of which are African American.
Cleveland Baptist Assn. 150 Years of Mission to Greater Cleveland (1982).