- American Baptist Churches U.S.A.
- one of the larger Baptist bodies in the United states, the American Baptist Churches in the U.s.A. continues the history begun by Roger Williams with the founding of the first Baptist congregation in America at Providence, Rhode island. in colonial times, Baptists were strongest in Pennsylvania, and it was in Philadelphia that the first association of Baptist churches was formed (1707). The Philadelphia Association had leanings toward Calvinist theology and adopted the London Confession of Faith.The call to support foreign missions was the occasion for several Baptist associations to come together in 1814 to organize the General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in America. After the initial gathering, the convention met every three years, became known as the Triennial Convention, and served as a model for additional conventions that supported education, home missions, and the publication of literature. These four conventions tended to meet at the same time and place and gradually the lines of distinction became blurred.In 1845, a split developed over slavery issues. The great majority of the congregations in the southern states withdrew and created the SOUTHern Baptist Convention. The Triennial Convention evolved in subsequent decades and was known for a period as the Northern Baptist Convention, assuming its present name in 1972.The group won the loyalty of many African-American Baptists in the years after the American Civil War, as it poured large sums into education and publishing for its African members. However, many blacks felt the need for an autonomous, black-led organization, and separate groups were eventually formed. still, about one-third of the American Baptist membership remains African American.Missionary zeal has led the American Baptists around the world. Beginning with the initial mission of Adoniram Judson (1788-1850) in India, during its first generation the Triennial Convention sent more than 100 missionaries to Europe, Africa, Asia, and the American West. In the 20th century, the missions they founded matured into 100 different Baptist bodies around the world.The American Baptists witnessed some of the most heated verbal battles during the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the 1920s and 1930s. Many of the more conservative ministers and churches withdrew to found new fundamentalist and Evangelical denominations. Leaders with liberal leanings gained control of the denominational agencies and educational institutions, though many with conservative leanings remain in the membership. The American Baptist Churches is among the few Baptist bodies that are ecumenically oriented; it belongs to both the Baptist World Alliance and the World Council of Churches.In 2001, the American Baptist Churches reported a membership of 1.5 million members. its partner churches around the world have an additional 2.6 million adherents.See also Baptists.Further reading:■ William H. Brackney, ed., Baptist Life and Thought, 1600-1980: A Source Book (Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1983)■ H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman Press, 1987)■ Robert G. A. Torbet, A History of the Baptists (Philadelphia: Judson Press, 1963).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.