Southern Baptist Convention
- The Southern Baptist Convention was an outgrowth of the sectionalism that split the united States over the issue of slavery and eventually led to the Civil War in 1860. Among Baptists, the triennial convention on Baptist missions provided the arena for the struggle.In the 1840s, Baptist leadership included both abolitionists and slaveholders, though the majority was moderately antislavery. At the 1844 triennial, the Georgia and Alabama delegations forced the issue by nominating a slaveholder as a home missionary and asking that slaveholders receive equal consideration as foreign missionaries. When both requests were denied, a breakaway convention was held in Augusta, Georgia in 1845, at which the Southern Baptist Convention was organized.The Southern Baptist Convention departed from the antiorganizational precedent of Baptists by unifying the home and foreign missionary concerns under a single organization. The convention added other services over time. The convention's Foreign Mission Board was located in Richmond, Virginia, and the Domestic Missions Board in Marion, Alabama (and later moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where it remains). The Foreign Missions Board sent its first representatives to CHINA. That program continued to grow until the disruptions of the Civil War and the poverty that followed it.Eventually, the number of boards and agencies multiplied, especially to meet Sunday school and publishing needs. A common set of Sunday school materials proved a significant force in overcoming the intense congregationalism so characteristic of the Baptist community. In 1925, its agency budgets were all unified.Doctrine was not at issue in the 1845 split and the Southern Baptists continued to affirm the two London Confessions (1677 and 1689), the Philadelphia Confession (1742), and the New Hampshire Confession (1838). These principles were reaffirmed in the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message statement, slightly revised in 1963.In the 1920s, many Southern Baptists supported the Fundamentalist cause, though the most strident supporters left the convention to form separatist denominations, the first being the World Baptist Fellowship founded by J. Frank Norris (1877-1952), a prominent and controversial Texas minister. Most Southern Baptists identified with the new Evangelical movement in the late 20th century, but the convention has refused to join any of the Evangelical ecumenical bodies.in the 1960s, the more conservative elements in the movement began to protest the nontradi-tional opinions expressed by some teachers at convention-supported schools and seminaries. By the 1970s they developed a strategy to take control of the convention and of all its boards, agencies, and schools and to ensure a more conservative perspective, especially as related to the authority of the Bible and the infallible and inerrant Word of God. Their campaign was eventually successful. Convention "moderates" have reacted by forming the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.During this ideological struggle, Southern Baptists have passed several controversial position statements, including the rejection of ordained women ministers. A statement on the submission of women in marriage, passed in 1988, caused the greatest comment and led to the withdrawal of the convention's most famous member, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter.in the 1960s, the Southern Baptists overtook the United Methodists as the largest Protestant church in America and have continued to widen the gap since then. Two major factors are responsible: an emphasis on evangelism and growing individual churches, and a decision to expand into the northern and western parts of the nation. The latter decision was prompted by the need to follow members who had moved, and strengthened by a recognition that the Southern Baptists and American Baptists had so diverged in belief and practice that they no longer were sister denominations.The Southern Baptist Convention has its headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. It began the 21st century with approximately 16 million members. It sponsors a host of colleges, universities, and seminaries and maintains missionary personnel around the world. It is a member of the Baptist World Alliance, but has generally refrained from other ecumenical attachments.Like other Baptist groups, Southern Baptists are organized congregationally. Individual Baptist churches can voluntarily affiliate with their state association and/or the national convention. Since the emergence of the Baptist Cooperative Fellowship, local churches, state associations, and schools have formed complex, shifting relationships to both the convention and the fellowship.Further reading:■ W W Barnes, The Southern Baptist Convention: 1845-1953. (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman Press, 1954)■ Joe Edward Barnhart, The Southern Baptist Holy War (Austin, Tex.: Texas Monthly Press, 1986)■ Jesse Fletcher, The Southern Baptist Convention: A Sesquicentennial History. (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman & Holman, 1994)■ Bill Leonard, Dictionary of Baptists in America (Downer's Grove, 111.: InterVarsity Press, 1994)■ Walter Shurden, Not a Silent People: Controversies That Have Shaped Southern Baptists. (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman Press, 1972)■ Sladen A. Yarbrough, Southern Baptists: A Historical, Ecclesiastical, and Theological Heritage of a Confessional People (Brentwood, Tenn.: Southern Baptist Historical Society, 2000).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.
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