Friday, September 30, 2022

Orientation to the 2022 Keach Conference


Image: Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia, Steering Committee members (two each on ends) and 2022 Keach Conference speakers (center): L-R: J. Riddle, R. Davidson, A. Rice, T. Decker, J. Henson, L. Peterson, S. Clevenger, V. Loomis.

Note: It was my pleasure to provide an Orientation and Introduction to the 2022 Keach Conference last Saturday (September 24) at the start of our meeting at Grace Baptist Chapel in Hampton, Virginia. Here are my notes:

Dear friends in Christ,

Greetings in the matchless name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am Jeff Riddle, pastor of CRBC of Louisa. On behalf of the steering committee of the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia, I want to welcome you to this 2022 Keach Conference, a theology and ministry conference for confessional Reformed Baptist churches in Virginia.

The other members of this committee include Steve Clevenger, of Covenant RBC, Warrenton; Van Loomis, of Redeeming Grace BC, Matthews; and Ryan Davidson, of our host Grace Baptist Chapel, Hampton.

Believe it or not, this is the 21st consecutive fall in which a gathering of this sort has taken place. By God’s grace, I have been able to attend each one of those meetings. I was 36 years old at the first meeting (you can do the math to figure out how old I am). I’m guessing Ryan might have been in Freshman high school Algebra class that year!

At the beginning, this meeting was quite different. It was a small gathering of Calvinistic Baptist pastors who wanted to see reform and renewal in their (mostly SBC) churches, and it was then called the Evangelical Forum.

The first meeting was held in 2002 at the First Baptist Church of Virginia Beach, with then Pastor Jay Smith as our host. Our first speaker was Calvin Frett, a PCA minister and former missionary to Japan, who led (and still leads) a ministry to pastors called “Pastor-in-Residence.” That choice reflected the struggles many were having at that time in efforts to reform their churches.

In the beginning most of those who gathered, me included, were largely unaware of the handful of faithful 1689 churches that already existed in Virginia. As time went on and we learned more, this meeting began to move beyond soteriological Calvinism to a more robust confessionalism.

In 2007 at our sixth consecutive annual meeting, we began a series through the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1677, 1689), devoting each annual gathering to a consecutive consideration of one of its 32 chapters. That plan continues today.

Given that we began that pilgrimage 16 years ago, one may wonder why we are only on chapter 15, “Of Repentance Unto Life and Salvation.”

It is not because we skipped a year due to the covid pandemic. We held our 2020 meeting as usual at CRBC, Louisa.

The reason we are on chapter 15, you’ll recall, is that in 2017 we skipped ahead and devoted that year’s meeting to chapter 26, “Of the Church,” given the interest and expertise of our guest speaker, Pastor Poh Boon Sing of the Damansara RBC, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.

In 2010, in our ninth consecutive meeting, reflecting our further development as self-identified confessional Reformed Baptists and having made firm connections with other already established Reformed Baptists in Virginia, we officially changed the name of this gathering to the Keach Conference, in honor of Benjamin Keach (1640-1704), an early English Particular Baptist pastor and an original signer of our confession. We have met under that banner since then (except for that year 2017 [an odd year indeed] in which we unofficially dubbed it the “Hanserd Knollys” conference, since our speaker had more admiration for Knollys than he did for what he called the “prickly” personality of Keach).

Over these years, we have been blessed to be ministered unto through the preaching and teaching of the Word by many of the Lord’s choice servants.

Here is just a sample: In 2009, Dr. Derek Thomas, then of the Reformed Theological Seminary of Jackson, Mississippi, spoke to us on chapter 3 (“Of God’s Decrees”); in 2014 Pastor Jim Savastio of the RBC of Louisville, spoke to us on chapter 8 (“Of Christ the Mediator”); and last year in 2021 Dr. James Renihan of the IRBS spoke to us on chapter 14 (“Of Saving Faith”). BTW, we are thankful to have Dr. Renihan back as a guest again this year, this time in his role as an ambassador for IRBS.

This year we are blessed to have no less than four gifted ministers from across the state come to us and break open the bread of life.

We hope and trust that this meeting will not only stir our minds, as we consider the precious doctrines exposited in our confession, but also kindle a warm spirit of fellowship or “communion” among like-minded believers from confessional RB churches across our Commonwealth.

We extend our thanks to Pastor Ryan Davidson and to the members of Grace Baptist Chapel for offering welcome and hospitality to us today. With nearly 200 people registered for this meeting it is one of our largest ever (if not the largest in our history).

May the Lord bless this meeting, as he has been so pleased to do in the past, for the furtherance of his glory and for the blessing of his people.


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