Executive Secretary, 1927-1946
Austin Crouch’s election as the first executive secretary-treasurer of the Executive Committee grew from deep roots in Convention participation and leadership. Born in Carrollton, Missouri, Crouch migrated to Texas where he was ordained as a pastor in McKinney, Texas, in 1893 and received his undergraduate degree at Baylor University five years later. He attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary before earning his master’s degree at Howard College. He was later awarded honorary degrees from Union University and Carson-Newman College. Crouch served ten pastorates in Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, and Tennessee.
Attending his first SBC annual meeting in 1898, Crouch steadily emerged as an insightful, trusted, and effective leader in Convention life, a consummate pastor and preacher, and a personal soul-winner. His 1924 book, The Plan of Salvation, the first of his five books, was widely used for witness training and was translated into other languages for use by overseas missionaries.
Crouch served multiple terms with the Young People’s Baptist Union in the opening decade of the twentieth century. In the years that followed, he served on the boards of trustees for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Commission on Ministerial Pensions, and the Commission on Ministerial Relief and Annuities. In 1920, Crouch was elected to both the Home Mission Board and the Education Board. In 1922 he became the superintendent of church extension for the HMB, returning to the pastorate two years later.
In 1925, Crouch recommended creation of the Business Efficiency Committee, serving as its chairman during its two-year study of the Convention’s structure and processes. In 1927, he was selected as a member of the reorganized Executive Committee and was elected shortly thereafter to serve as the Executive Committee’s first executive secretary-treasurer.
Crouch and his wife Myrtle Oldham Crouch regularly attended SBC annual meetings as messengers, their names appearing together in the Convention’s annual register of messengers. Mrs. Crouch was active in the Convention auxiliary On Woman’s Work, and served numerous terms on the Preservation of Baptist History Committee. She was later certified by the Sunday School Board and recommended to the churches as a “helper in training work.”
A synopsis of “five notable contributions” listed in Albert McClellan’s article on Austin Crouch in the Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists, volume 3.
- Crouch’s call for the Business Efficiency Committee to bring financial “order out of chaos” led to the restructure of the Executive Committee and creation of the SBC Business and Financial Plan.
- His multi-year effort to convince the states, many of whom were initially resistant, to voluntary support the Cooperative Program.
- His calming influence, allaying fears that the restructured Executive Committee would morph into a “super church” hierarchy.
- His business acumen and integrity to stabilize the Convention through two decades of seemingly insurmountable debt, compounded by the Great Depression and World War II.
- His spiritual leadership and commitment to the Convention’s mission “hand in hand with business leadership when both were necessary for survival” during troubling times.