When the Southern Baptist Convention is called to order each year, one of several historic gavels is used to open the meeting, and then those same gavels are alternated throughout the proceedings. Each gavel is literally a chip off the old block of Southern Baptist history:
l. The Broadus Gavel
Used continuously since 1872, this gavel was presented to James Petigru Boyce, then president of the Southern Baptist Convention, in 1872 by John A. Broadus, a scholar and teacher at Southern Seminary.
The gavel's handle was made of balsam wood, grown near the Jordan River, and its head was made from olivewood, harvested from the Mount of Olives. Since Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River and ascended into heaven on the Mount of Olives, Broadus said, “This simple mallet thus suggests to us the beginning and the end of our Lord's public work on earth.”
Boyce, who founded Southern Seminary, and Broadus are largely credited with keeping the seminary open during the struggling days following the Civil War.
2. The Judson Gavel
Made from the teakwood bedpost of Adoniram Judson, this gavel was brought from Burma by SBC president M. E. Dodd and presented to the Convention in 1935.
Judson was the first Baptist foreign missionary from the United States. In 1812, he married Ann Hasseltine, and two weeks later, the couple sailed for India as missionaries of the Congregational Board. On the long sea voyage, Judson studied the New Testament mode of Baptism and became convinced of the Baptist position. After being baptized, the Judsons wrote letters to Baptists in America, offering themselves as their missionary representatives, should Baptists see fit to organize for their support.
3. The Charleston Gavel
Made from mahogany wood from the old pulpit stand of First Baptist Church, Charleston, SC, this gavel was presented to Louie D. Newton in 1948 by John A. Hamrick, pastor of First Baptist Church, Charleston. This church is often called the mother church of Southern Baptists. It was established in Kittery, Maine, in 1682, and later moved to Charleston, SC, under the leadership of William Screven.
In 1948, the Southern Baptist Convention met in Memphis, TN, and had a registration of 8,843, which, at that time, was the largest messenger registration in the Convention's history. By way of contrast, the SBC registered 45,519 messengers for the annual meeting in Dallas, TX, in 1985.
4. The Bunyan Gavel
This gavel was made from an oak piling in the foundation of the prison where John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim's Progress.
The gavel was presented to R. G. Lee in 1949 by M. Theron Rankin of Virginia. Lee was president of the convention in 1949 when the Convention met in Oklahoma City, with just over 9,000 messengers registered. Rankin was the executive secretary of the Foreign Mission Board from 1945 until his death in June 1953.
5. The Luther Rice Gavel
Luther Rice, identified as the father of American Baptist foreign missions, died in a house in the Edgefield District of Southern Carolina. This gavel was made from a pine timber from that house.
The gavel was presented to Convention president R.G. Lee in 1950 by J. Aubrey Estes of South Carolina.
6. The Sandy Creek Gavel
Also called the Shubal Stearns Gavel, this gavel was made from the old hitching post at Sandy Creek Baptist Church in Randolph County, North Carolina. Sandy Creek pastor Stearns, along with 15 other church members, are credited with planting 42 other Baptist churches in less than twenty years. Sandy Creek is also often called the mother of all Baptist churches.
The gavel was presented to R.G. Lee in 1951 by Diffle O. Wright, pastor of Sandy Creek church at that time.
7. The Lottie Moon Gavel
This gavel was made of wild cherry wood from a tree cut at Viewmont, which was Lottie Moon's birthplace near Scottsville, Virginia. It was made by a member of the Scottsville Baptist Church and presented to the Southern Baptist Convention by Woman's Missionary Union in 1981.
The WMU presented this gavel and the Annie Armstrong gavel (below) to the Convention to be used during the reports of the Foreign Mission Board, the Home Mission Board and the Woman's Missionary Union.
8. The Annie Armstrong Gavel
Annie Armstrong was a founding member of the Eutaw Place Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland. The Annie Armstrong gavel was made from a stair railing post in the church. The church has been relocated and is now known as the Woodbrook Baptist Church in Baltimore. The old Eutaw Place church building still stands and is occupied by a National Baptist congregation.
This gavel, along with the Lottie Moon gavel, reminds the Convention of the important business of missions.
9. The Cartersville Gavel
Lottie Moon left Cartersville Baptist Church in 1873 to spend 39 years in occupied China as a pioneer to the missionary movement of Southern Baptists.
The Cartersville gavel was hewn from a heart pine support beam taken from the original building of the Cartersville Baptist Church, now known as the First Baptist Church of Cartersville, Georgia.
This gavel was presented to Morris H. Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, by David L. Drake, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Cartersville at the 134th session of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Atlanta.
10. The Pine Pleasant Baptist Church Gavel
This gavel was presented to Harold C. Bennett for display in the Executive Committee offices. It is made from timber taken from the original meeting house of Pine Pleasant Baptist Church, which is the burial place of Luther Rice. Rice called the church and its graveyard “the most peaceful spot on earth.”
The following two gavels were left off of the original 1995 article and are included below.
11. The Augusta Gavel
This gavel was turned from the organ pipes constructed of sugar pine, which were installed in the First Baptist Church of Augusta, Georgia, in 1901. First Baptist Church Augusta was where the Southern Baptist Convention was formed in 1875. The mahogany is from Honduras and represents foreign missions while the sugar pine represents home missions. Tom McCollum, a Baptist layman in Augusta, turned the gavel.
12. The Warren Gavel
This gavel was presented to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention by the 28th SBC President, C. C. Warren, pastor of First Baptist Church Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1953. The gavel is made out of olive wood from Gethsemane.
Adapted from a 1995 SBC LIfe article