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Baptists are distinguished by their belief in baptizing only professed believers, and doing so by immersion rather than sprinkling. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a Baptist denomination because Baptist congregations are congregational.

Baptist groups are generally grouped together for the purpose of fellowship among churches with shared tenets or practices. National conventions of Baptists have been established to organize educational and missionary work, to administer pension plans, and for other purposes. For the purposes of categorization, these national conventions will be considered denominations.

State and regional conventions usually meet once a year, with delegates from member churches in the given area. Conventions receive reports, make recommendations, and raise funds for missions, but they have no enforcement authority over the member churches. Each congregation enjoys a large degree of freedom. Perhaps because of this, the Baptists are a very diverse group, and a large one; particularly in the United States.

The Southern Baptist Convention is second only to the Roman Catholic Church in number of members. The largest Baptist conventions worldwide are the Southern Baptist Convention, National Baptist Convention, Nigerian Baptist Convention, National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, National Baptist Convention of America, Baptist Union of Uganda, Baptist Community of Western Congo, Baptist General Convention of Texas, Baptist Convention of Tanzania, and the Brazilian Baptist Convention.

Baptist themes were found in the 16th century Anabaptists, but they didn't come together as an identifiable community until much later. Most Baptist historians trace their history to Amsterdam in the early 17th century, naming John Smyth as the first Baptist pastor. Ordained as an Anglican priest in 1594, Smyth soon broke with the Church of England. He became acquainted with a group of Anabaptists in the Netherlands after fleeing England. He adopted many of the traits of the Anabaptists, namely the rejection of infant baptism in favor of the baptism of believers, which became the hallmark of the Baptists.

Along with Thomas Helwys, Smyth fo.unded the General Baptist denomination. According to some histories, disputed by others, Smyth and a part of the church later joined a Mennonite church in Amsterdam, while Helwys returned to England where he founded the General Baptist denomination.

Whatever their origins, when the Baptists emerged on the religious scene in England, they were associated with the Puritans, also known as English Separatists. They agreed with much of the theology held by the Puritans, but broke with them over the issue of infant baptism.

From the start, Baptist congregations were independent and, like the Anabaptists, they called for a separation of church and state, denying that the state should have no authority to suppress religious beliefs. English Baptists struggled to exist in a hostile environment. Nevertheless, a number of other Baptist churches emerged, and became known as the General Baptists. Another group of Baptists, known as the Particular Baptists, were formed when a group of Calvinist Separatists adopted believers' baptism.

The first Baptists came to America from England, and from the Netherlands, in the 17th century. The first Baptist church in America was established at Providence, Rhode Island, by Roger Williams in 1639. In 1702, Paul Palmer began a movement among the General Baptists that became the Free Will Baptists. Before the end of the 17th century, the Free Will Baptists had grown considerably, particularly in the South, but there were also several congregations in Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

The first Baptist association was formed in William Penn's colony in 1707. The Philadelphia Association adopted the London Confession of Faith, later revising it as the Philadelphia Confession of Faith. In the early 19th century, it was again revised as the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, which became the most popular statement of faith among Baptist groups in the United States. The Philadelphia Association was the model from which other associations were later formed.

Baptist preachers were particularly effective in converting African-Americans to Christianity prior to emancipation. Most African-Americans, in the North and the South, were either Baptist or Methodist. In the South, church was one place where blacks and whites interacted socially, although slaves had to sit in the galleries of white churches. On ocassion, a black preacher would be emancipated so that he could work full-time among black congregants. A few black churches were established in the South prior to the Civil War, but mostly they met clandestinely. Following emancipation, Baptist congregations divided along racial lines, and many remain so today.


American Baptist Association

American Baptist Churches USA

Baptist Bible Fellowship International

Baptist Missionary Association

Converge Worldwide

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Free Will Baptists

Independent Fundamental Baptists

International Baptist Convention

National Baptists

North American Baptist Conference

Particular Baptists

Primitive Baptists

Regular Baptists

Seventh Day Baptists

Southern Baptist Convention



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