Arthur Clayton was
Pastor of the Deaf
June 1, 2015 - Present
First Baptist Church of Knoxville - Deaf Ministry
147 years (1868 - 2015)
In 1868 the church first began its ministry to the Deaf. Church minutes record that April of that year, Four young deaf women (maids -- Misses Martha A. Gorman, Emma Rutledge, Mary A. Pope and May A. Mangum), domestics in the city, came to the First Baptist Church and asked to become members. They would come to worship before going to work.
A list of questions was written out for them and they were required to sign their names to the answer they had made.
The church leaders accepted the four deaf women as members. Mark 7:37 said: They were completely amazed and said, “Jesus does everything well. He makes the deaf hear! And those who can’t talk he makes able to speak.” (NCV)
In 1874, twelve children from the Tennessee School for the Deaf (TSD) were received in the church (FBC).
Thomas L. Moses, Superintendent of the Tennessee School for the Deaf from 1887 to 1917, was a deacon of the FBC. T. L. Moses' great-grandfather was General James White, the founder of Knoxville. T. L. Moses's father was Judge John Leese Moses who was
Thomas L. Moses
James C. Moses was
James C. Moses
John L. Moses joined the church 1843. Clerk 1844-1955. Editor of Knoxville Register, President East Tennessee Baptist Convention, President State Line Railroad, Secretary-Treasurer Knoxville-Ohio Railroad. Judge of County Court. Trustee East Tennessee University. Trustee (former) Tennessee Deaf and Dumb School (
John L. Moses
The Moses family had a strong interested in the deaf and encouraged the church's participation.
During Dr. Ethel Poore’s time as Superintendent, religious training was provided on campus. Many students chose to as members of First Baptist Church, and with their parents’ permission were baptized at the church (FBC).
Fifty-four years later Mrs. Laura Formwalt would begin giving the sermon in sign to the deaf in the congregation.
In 1947, The twenty-fifth anniversary of Laura Formwalt's work with the deaf at First Baptist was recognized. More than one hundred members were at the time in the deaf class, working in three groups: Sunday School, Training
The year 1973 saw a week-long celebration
Laura Johnson Formwalt
During this period
Helen (Trentham) Duncan
Rev. William Ed Davis was
Rev. William "Ed" Davis
In 1967 the church recognized the first-year anniversary of the Deaf Department's program for younger children from the Tennessee School for the Deaf. The Deaf Department had an enrollment of 336 and was organized into five groups: Adults, Young People, Intermediates, Juniors and Primaries. Dr. J. Wayne Waller was Coordinator of the program.
Dr. J. Wayne Waller
Mrs. Doreen (Maxfield) Howell, sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention, came as a missionary in August 1973. She directed the program for the deaf under Mr. Dave Ward’s leadership. Mr. Art Nine was elected to be the director of the deaf department in 1974. There were several pulpit guests and an interim minister until 1975.
Doreen's comment: I remember my two years at FBC very fondly. I especially enjoyed the "Feelin' Alright" coffee house we had in the basement for the young deaf adults and all the captioned movies we watched together. Thank you for the memories.
Doreen (Maxfield) Howell
At the same
Then in 1975, Dr. Jerry Seale came from Texas was elected Assistant Minister, especially as a worker for the Deaf, on July 23, 1975.
Dr. Jerry M. Seale
Counseling has become a significant part of Dr. Jerry Seale's work with the deaf. Parents of deaf children often seek help, and there is
Rev. Greg Johannsen was Interim Pastor in August 2008 until December 31, 2008. He became first Deaf Pastor on January 2009 until August 26, 2012. He retired. August 25,
Rev. Greg Johannsen
2012-2014 (Interim Pastor)
1) First Baptist Church Deaf Congregation - Knoxville, TN (140th Anniversary - April 5, 2008) by Jerry M. Seale
- Jack r. Gannon, Deaf Heritage, 1981
- Lillian McPherson, an essay on the history of the Deaf Ministry, 1959
- Edith Pell Chandler, an article from The Silent Worker, 1959
- 150th Anniversary Book of The First Baptist Church, 1993
- Photos from the Tennessee School for the Deaf, 2008
- Southern Business Guide, 1879-80 Illustrated
2) First Baptist Church - Knoxville, TN - 1843-1993 by Nancy J. Siler
3) Photos and inform from the Tennessee School for the Deaf, 2014
At First Baptist Church Knoxville, we are two congregations but one church family. For more information on the founding and ministry of the First Baptist (hearing) congregation, please read here.
The FBC Deaf Congregation members want to say "Thank You" to Jerry Seale and Nancy J. Siler.
Jerry Seale, who was minister for the Deaf from 1975-2008, 33 years. He wrote the book "First Baptist Church Deaf Congregation (1868-2004), Knoxville, TN -- 140th Anniversary (April 5, 2008)". Also, Nancy L. Siler, who is