Baptists in the United States

Baptists in the United States

Brief history

The origins of the Baptist faith go back to the Reformation in England in the sixteenth century. Various dissenters, known as "Puritans", called for the Church of England to be stripped of its remaining Catholic influences and return to the simple faith of the New Testament Christians. These dissenters also called for strict accountability in their covenant with God. One of the prominent dissenters who arose in the seventeenth century was John Smyth. Smyth was a strong proponent of adult baptism and in 1609 went so far as to rebaptize himself and others. Smyth's action was a sign of the first English Baptist church. Smyth also introduced the Arminian view that God's grace is for everyone and not just predestined individuals.

__TOC__Both Roger Williams and Dr. John Clarke, his compatriot in working for religious freedom, are credited with founding the Baptist faith in North America. [ [ Newport Notables ] ] In 1639, Williams established a Baptist church in Providence, Rhode Island and Clarke began a Baptist church in Newport, Rhode Island. According to a Baptist historian who has researched the matter extensively, "There is much debate over the centuries as to whether the Providence or Newport church deserved the place of 'first' Baptist congregation in America. Exact records for both congregations are lacking." [Brackney, William H. (Baylor University, Texas). "Baptists in North America: an historical perspective." Blackwell Publishing, 2006, p. 23. ISBN 1405118652] Baptist churches exist in each of the United States today. It is estimated that more than 70% of all Baptists worldwide reside in the United States.

Though each Baptist church is autonomous, Baptists have traditionally organized into associations of like-minded churches for mutual edification, consultation, and ministerial support. The constituency of these associations is based on geographical and doctrinal criteria. Many such associations of Baptist churches have developed in the United States since Baptists first came to the continent.

Until the early 1800s these Baptist associations tended to center around a local or regional area where the constituent churches could conveniently meet. However, beginning with the spread of the Philadelphia Baptist Association beyond its original bounds and the rise of the modern missions movement, Baptists began to move towards developing national associations.

The first national association was the Triennial Convention, founded in the early 1800s, which met every three years. The Triennial Convention was a loose organization with the purpose of raising funds for various independent benevolent, educational and mission societies.

Over the years, other nationwide Baptist associations have originated as divisions from these two major groups. There are a few smaller associations that have never identified with any of the national organizations, as well as many Independent Baptist churches that are not part of any organization, local or national.

In the United States, there are still Baptist groups that support and actively attempt to maintain the separation of church and state. At least 14 Baptist bodies, including the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Baptist General Convention of Texas, the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., and American Baptist Churches USA support financially and ideologically the mission of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. This organization tries to uphold the traditional Baptist principle of the separation of church and state. On the issue of school prayer, for instance, the Baptist Joint Committee argues that prayer is most pleasing to God when offered voluntarily, not when the government compels its observance. [ [ Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty ] ]

Major Baptist organizations in the U.S.

The Handbook of Denominations in the United States identifies and describes 31 Baptist groups or conventions in theUnited States. [Atwood, Craig D., Frank S. Mead, and Samuel S. Hill. "Handbook of Denominations in the United States," 12th ed. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2005.] A partial list follows. (Unless otherwise noted, statistics are taken from the Baptist World Alliance website, and reflect 2006 data.) []

*Alliance of Baptists: 100 congregations, 60,000 members []
*American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA): 5,800 congregations, 1.4 million members
*Baptist General Convention of Texas: 5,700 congregations, 2.3 million members
*Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV): 1,400 congregations, 400,000 members
*Baptist General Conference: 1,000 congregations, 140,000 members
*Conservative Baptist Association (CBAmerica): 1,200 congregations, 200,000 members
*Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF): 1,900 congregations, 700,000 members
*General Association of Regular Baptist Churches: 1,400 congregations, 130,000 members []
*National Association of Free Will Baptists: 2,000 congregations, 200,000 members []
*Old-Line Primitive Baptists
*Progressive Primitive Baptists
*Southern Baptist Convention (SBC): 44,000 congregations, 16.3 million members []

*African-American Baptist groups:
** National Baptist Convention of America, Inc.: 12,000 congregations, 3.1 million members
** National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.: 33,000 congregations, 8.5 million members
** National Missionary Baptist Convention of America: 300 congregations, 400,000 members
** National Primitive Baptist Association: 1,500 congregations, 250,000 members []
** Progressive National Baptist Convention: 1,200 congregations, 2.5 million members

*Associations holding to Landmarkism
**American Baptist Association: 1,800 congregations, 275,000 members []
**Baptist Missionary Association of America: 1,300 congregations, 235,000 members []
**Interstate & Foreign Landmark Missionary Baptist Association

* Independent (non-aligned) Baptist churches
**Baptist Bible Fellowship International: 3,400 congregations, 1.4 million members
**Independent Baptist Fellowship International: 540 congregations []
**Southwide Baptist Fellowship: 900 congregations []
**The Spiritual Baptist Archdiocese of New York, Inc.
**World Baptist Fellowship: 900 congregations []
**In addition, there are many Independent Baptist churches not aligned with any group

American Baptist Churches USA

The American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) are the descendants of the Triennial Convention. From 1907-1950 it was known as the Northern Baptist Convention. While its theology was originally rooted in the same Confessions of Faith as more traditional Baptists, as a rule the ABCUSA churches have adopted a more modernist approach to the Scriptures and are thus more tolerant of doctrinal diversity.

The primary strength of the ABCUSA is in the northeast, but it also has a strong presence throughout the midwest, the southwest, and on the west coast. They operate a number of colleges and other benevolent enterprises.

outhern Baptist Convention

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the largest non-Catholic denomination in the United States. [ [ BGAV: The Right Choice, Part 2 ] ] Its greatest numerical strength is in the south, but it has churches in every state and a strong presence in many northern and western states. The Home Mission Society gave a statement saying that a person could not be a missionary and keep his slaves as property. This caused the Home Mission Society to separate northern and southern divisions. As a result of this the Baptists in the south met in May 1845 and organized the Southern Baptist Convention.

Women began making great strides in 1872, when Henry Tupper of the Foreign Mission Board appointed Edmonia Moon for missionary service. She was the first woman to receive this honor. [Fletcher, Jesse. "The Southern Baptist Convention: A Sesquicentennial History." Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1994. p.74-75, 84-88.] In 1888, the Woman's Missionary Union was instituted. Women were recognized and encouraged to form missionary circles and children's bands in churches and Sunday Schools. [Barnes, W.W. "The Southern Baptist Convention: 1845-1953." Broadman Press, 1954. p.136] .

Although all Southern Baptists would be viewed as "conservative" by those outside the tradition, from the late 1970s forward there was a well-orchestrated takeover of the SBC by a conservative/fundamentalist group who wrested control from those who have come to be call "moderates."

In 1987, some moderates left the Southern Baptist Convention and formed the Southern Baptist Alliance, which later became the Alliance of Baptists. The Alliance is associated with the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, a group promoting greater inclusion of GLBT people within Baptist life.

In 1991, other moderates left the SBC and established the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), a group emphasizing global missions and what it considers "historic Baptist values" such as local church autonomy, priesthood of all believers and religious liberty. Unlike the Southern Baptist Convention, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship ordains women for ministry.

African-American Baptists

Before the American Civil War, most African American Baptists were, with some notable exceptions, members of the same churches as the whites (though often relegated to a segregated status within the church). After the war they left the white churches to start separate churches and associations.

Today there are several historically African-American groups in the United States, including the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., the National Baptist Convention of America, and others. A good number of African-American Baptist churches are dually aligned with a traditionally African American group and the ABCUSA, the Southern Baptist Convention, or the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF)

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) was formed in 1991, largely by moderate Southern Baptists who had been disenfranchised by the concerted, well-orchestrated fundamentalist/conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. CBF has been called a "quasi-denomination" since in many ways it provides many of the benefits of a convention, including ordination of women for ministry, but as yet has not declared itself a denomination. Its primary offices are located in Atlanta, GA.

maller Baptist groups

There are a number of smaller Baptist associations in the United States which maintain a separate existence from the larger groups for doctrinal reasons. Among these are the Freewill Baptists, the General Baptists, the Primitive Baptists, the Old Regular Baptists, various associations devoted to Landmarkism, the Conservative Baptist Association, the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, and many regional and local associations which do not affiliate with any national group.

Independent (non-aligned) Baptist churches

Independent Baptist churches are completely independent of any association or group, though they usually maintain some sort of fellowship with like-minded churches. They share the traditional Baptist doctrinal distinctives, but they adhere to what they see as a Biblical principle of churches' individuality.

Independent Baptists believe that this approach to ministry leaves pastors and people in the church free to work as a local ministry, instead of national work, which, in their view, can be less efficient.

Independent Baptists are strictly biblicist in their theology, adhering to the traditional Baptist understanding of the Bible and of faith. The same doctrinal variations that exist within (or between) the Baptist associations exist among Independent Baptists.

Independent Baptists operate educational institutions such as:

* Baptist Bible College (Springfield, Missouri), Springfield, Missouri
* Hyles Anderson College, Crown Point, Indiana
* Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia
* Northland Baptist Bible College, Dunbar, Wisconsin,
* Pensacola Christian College, Pensacola, Florida
* Providence Baptist College, Elgin, Illinois

The oldest Baptist churches in America

1. First Baptist Church of Providence, Rhode Island, (1639) [ (website)]

2. First Baptist Church of Newport, Rhode Island (1644)

3. Second Baptist Church of Newport, Rhode Island, (1656)

4. First Baptist Church of Swansea, Massachusetts, (1663) [ (website)]

5. First Baptist Church of Boston, Massachusetts, (1665) [ (website)]

6. First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina, (1683) [ (website)]

7. Pennepek Baptist Church, Pennsylvania, (1688)

8. Middletown Baptist Church, New Jersey, (1688)

9. Piscataway Baptist Church, New Jersey, (1689)

10. Cohansey Baptist Church, New Jersey, (1689) [ (website)]

11. First Baptist Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, (1698) [ (website)]

Baptist image in United States

According to surveys, at least half of Americans have a negative view of the Baptist faith. [Stetzer, Ed: "Planting Churches in a Post-Modern Age", page 235. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2003.] Many independent Baptist congregations are staunch fundamentalists, regarding all Baptist associations as too liberal for them to join. [ [ On Faith: Guest Voices: Falwell: Independent, Fundamentalist and Pragmatic ] ] Many of these congregations have a history of employing evangelism techniques that critics consider too extreme and abrasive for modern American culture. Independent Baptist author and publisher Jack T. Chick, for example, distributes cartoon tracts that depict teenagers being attacked by a chainsaw-wielding Satan, the Catholic Church as an Egyptian/Babylonian inspired cult, and moderate evangelical churches that use modern Bible translations rather than the King James Version as being duped by the Catholic Church's plot to bring about the one-world religion of the Anti-Christ. [ [ Chick Publications ] ] To avoid being mistakenly associated with fundamentalist groups, many moderate evangelical Baptist churches have adopted names such as "Community Church" or "Community Chapel" that leave out the denomination's name. This fits into a general trend by church planters from many denominations to de-accentuate their denomination's name. [Stetzer, Ed: "Planting Churches in a Post-Modern Age", page 235. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2003]


External links on Baptists in the USA

* [ of USA showing Percentage of Baptist Population in each county]

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