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Free Will Baptists believe in free grace, free salvation, and free will. Although they have lost their majority status among Baptists, they have formed a variety of national organizations.

The Free Will Baptist movement goes back to the 17th century General Baptists in England, and Free Will Baptists have also been known as General Baptists. The General Baptists were Arminian-minded Baptists who migrated to the American Colonies from England. Contrary to Calvinists, Arminians hold that Christ died for all people, and every individual has the freedom to choose salvation. They reject the doctrine of predestination, teaching that people have free will in all matters of faith.

Free Will Baptists originated before the now larger Particular or Regular Baptist bodies, and they did not have a particularly easy time of it in colonial times. Americans are often taught that the continent was settled by people seeking freedom of religion. To a point that was true, but they weren't necessarily in favor of allowing others that freedom.

The first Baptists, followers of Thomas Helwys in England, were General Baptists. They believed that the atonement of Jesus Christ was for everyone rather than for an elect, as the Particular Baptists would come to believe. This was the beginning of the divide between Arminians and Calvinists. General Baptists were Arminian, while Particular Baptists were Calvinist.

The first Free Will Baptists originated with the English General Baptists in the Carolinas. Named "freewillers" by those who opposed them, they later adopted the name for themselves.

By the early 1800s, two distinct branches of Free Will Baptists were in place. The first was the original General Baptist movement, described above, which became known as the Palmer movement in North Carolina. The later movement was the Randall movement, which began in New Hampshire in the late 1700s.

In the early 1700s, a group of General Baptists in the Carolinas requested assistance in setting up a church from the General Baptist Association in England. Twenty-five years later, when no help had come from England, Paul Palmer founded the first General Baptist church in North Carolina in 1727, and later helped to organize three additional churches. By 1755, there were more than twenty Free Will Baptist churches.

Then the missionary efforts by the Philadelphia Baptist Association converted most of these churches to Particular Baptist positions, with a Calvinist theology. Only four General Baptist churches remained by 1770. By the end of the 1700s, these churches were referred to as Free Will Baptist churches. The churches in the Palmer line organized a general conference in 1921, and several Calvinistic Baptists, particularly Separate Baptists, became Free Will Baptists in the 19th century.

While the General Baptist movement in the South was losing members to the Particular Baptists, a new movement began in the North, led by Benjamin Randall. Originally, Randall had become a Particular Baptist, but broke with them a couple of years later due to a disagreement with their rigid views on predestination. In 1780, Randall formed a Freewill Baptist church in New Hampshire. Within a couple of years, they had grown to twelve churches.

The Randall line grew quickly but, in 1911, most of the Freewill Baptist churches merged with the Northern Baptist Convention. Those that didn't joined with other Free Will Baptists in the Southwest and Midwest to form the Cooperative General Association of Free Will Baptists in 1916.

Although communications were in place between Free Will Baptists in the North and South, the question of slavery and the Civil War prevented a union until the 20th century. In 1935, the General Conference (Palmer) and Cooperative General Association (a mixture of Randall and Palmer churches) united and formed the National Association of Free Will Baptists, which remains the largest of the Free Will Baptist groups.

Others include the Original Free Will Baptist Convention, the United American Free Will Baptist Church, the United American Free Will Baptist Conference, the Evangelical Free Baptist Church, and some unaffiliated Free Will Baptist local associations.

Generally, Free Will Baptists believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and without error. They hold to the Arminian position, based in general atonement, and they believe that it is possible to willfully reject faith, a position known as conditional eternal security. Free Will Baptists observe the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper, the latter including the washing of feet. Various Free Will Baptist groups differ on eschatology, some holding premillennial views, and others to amillennial views. Views on tithing may also differ.

The focus of sites listed in this category, or its subcategories, is on the Free Will Baptist movement.



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