300th Anniversary of
Broadmead Church – Now Hanham Baptist
Prayer in England brought the Toleration Act
Pastor George Fownes proposed that the congregation seriously consider the steps that should be taken if the services were interrupted by law officers. On August 03, 1680, they determined to continue their services unless the magistrate himself used violence. This tactic worked well until Dec. 18, 1681, when the civil, ecclesiastical, and military powers invaded the house of God on the Lord’s Day and Pastor Fownes was sent to prison at Newgate. After six weeks in jail, he appeared before the judge and was acquitted due to a flaw in the warrant. Returning to his flock, for safety’s sake, they began holding services in the fields rather than in their church building, regardless of the weather. In March of 1682 Pastor Fownes was arrested again and committed to Glouchester Jail for six months. His persecutors declared that he would not leave the jail alive. The pastor served as his own attorney and the jury returned a verdict of “not guilty”, but he was returned to the prison in spite of the verdict. When his six months were ended he demanded his freedom and a bond was demanded of him and the promise to stop preaching. He requested a judicial inquest. Two justices appeared before the judge and said that if he was released “he would draw all the country after him.” He was held for two more years in prison until the Lord in mercy released him in death in Dec. of 1685. After the Act of Toleration, the Broadmead Baptist Church, in Bristol, England finally knew peace, and Pastor Fowne’s son, George Fownes, became pastor in 1693. In 1695 “the church built a new meeting house 50 feet long by 40 feet, with no debt.”
Dr. Greg J. Dixon: From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 318-19.
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