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The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Baptist denomination in the world, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, and the second-largest Christian denomination in the country, after the Roman Catholic Church.

The Southern Baptist Convention was organized prior to the Southern secession. Most of the Baptist churches, in both the North and South, had united under what was known as the Triennial Convention in 1814. However, by the 1840s, there were disagreements over organizational issues, but the most serious issue was that of slavery. The Mission Board, situated in Boston, refused to send anyone into the mission field who owned slaves. The Southern Baptist Convention was created in May of 1845 for the purpose of organizing local and foreign missions. Most of the churches and associations in the South withdrew from the Triennial Convention and reorganized under the SBC.

Devastated by the Northern invasion of the South, and by the severe losses incurred during the War, the Convention took years to recover. An anti-missionary effort that was popular during that time during the Reconstruction years further slowed recovery. Its membership declined even further when former slaves withdrew from white-dominated Southern churches to form their own congregations and conventions, such as the National Baptist movement.

The recovery of the Southern Baptist Convention was impressive, however. By 1890, more than a million Christians were Southern Baptists, most of them white. Today, its membership is well over fifteen million, and it is beginning to make inroads in the Northern United States, as well, although it remains strongest in the South.

The Southern Baptists have not been without controversy and division, though. Landmark Baptists within the SBC held that the origins of Baptist theology dated back to the time of the apostles and, failing to find support for this position within the Southern Baptist Convention, many of them found a home in the American Baptist Association or the Baptist Missionary Association.

Charismatics within the Convention broke with the SBC in the 1930s to form the World Baptist Fellowship, which has given rise to several large fundamental Baptist associations, such as the Independent Baptist Fellowship International and Liberty Baptist Fellowship.

On the other end of the spectrum, liberals have also broken with the Convention. The Southern Baptist Convention has remained theologically conservative, as compared to the Northern Baptists, who later became the American Baptists. Unable to move the Convention to the left, several liberal and moderate factions have left to join other bodies or to form their own. These have included the Alliance of Baptists and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. In 2000, a group of Southern Baptists opposed to what they deemed a fundamentalist domination of churches and state conventions formed the Network of Mainstream Baptists.

The Southern Baptist Convention has not elected to join the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA or the World Council of Churches. In 2004, the Convention withdrew from the Baptist World Alliance, largely over its promotion of female pastors.

Although its membership levels have dropped somewhat in the past decade, its decline has been less than that seen by most Christian denominations in the same time period, and its membership is nearly fifteen times that of its counterpart in the North.

Since the 1940s, the Convention has made an effort to widen its focus, finding new members among minority groups, as well as establishing a presence in the North. The SBC has forty-two state conventions, and fellowships covering all fifty states and territories in the United States.

The Southern Baptist Convention's doctrinal distinctives include the inerrancy of the Bible, the autonomy of the local church, the priesthood of believers, observance of the ordinances of the Lord's Supper and baptism of the believer, individual soul liberty, and separation of church and state.

Southern Baptist church services are generally less formal than that of Anglican or Presbyterian churches, and no stated liturgy is used. The form of worship may be traditional, contemporary, or a mixture of the two, the chief difference being the choice of music. Usually, the service will open and close with prayer, and there will be a prayer before the sermon. After the sermon, there is often an altar call, in which people may come forward to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior, request discipleship, seek baptism, request to join the congregation, or to make some other publicly declared decision or request.

This category is focused on the denomination known as the Southern Baptist Convention. Sites representing local congregations should be submitted to the appropriate Local & Global category.



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