The Birth of the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists
The Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists (VAIB) began in the heart and mind of a pastor who believed religious liberty in Virginia was being threatened. That pastor was Dr. John Halsey of Great Hope Baptist Church in Chesapeake.
The assembly came into being for the specific purpose of protecting religious liberty in the Commonwealth. Church day cares were required to have a license to operate like any other day care. But in the 1970’s, some Independent Baptist pastors believed this was unscriptural as it placed the state in authority over a ministry of the church. It was not the desire of these pastors to be free of regulations or proper care of children. Neither did these pastors believe it was right for any ministry of the church to be licensed by the state. The second issue involved churches being charged sales and use tax. The Assembly sought to tackle both issues immediately.
Burdened over the intrusion by the state government into church ministries, Dr. Halsey contacted eight other pastors throughout the state in order to rally the Independent Baptist churches to work together in voicing their concerns. He along with these eight other Independent Baptist pastors from varied backgrounds, geographical locations, and differing “camps” met in 1976 to determine a strategy. The Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists was formed with these men as the first Steering committee. Independent Baptist churches throughout the state were contacted to attend the first annual meeting in 1977 to inform the churches of the need to work together to counteract the threats to religious freedom in Virginia. The turnout for the first annual meeting was fantastic! But how would they work to influence the changes needed to correct the problems?
In the beginning, lobbying work was carried out by the moderator of the Assembly. The moderator was also pastor of a church and it became clear that the work required of the moderator was too demanding. The Steering Committee discussed the matter and determined there was a need to hire someone to carry out the lobbying efforts of the Assembly. This new person would be named the Executive Director and he would be responsible to raise the additional income to pay his salary as well as the operating expenses. Independent Baptist churches in Virginia would be asked to support this ministry in the same way a missionary is supported by these churches.
Efforts to raise funds for the Executive Director began in 1985. At the same time, funds were being raised to pay the legal fees for the day care case. Like any ministry, there have been ups and downs in support through the years. Today, this ministry still depends on the financial gifts of churches with some supporting on a regular basis while others do so as they are able with special offerings.