Southern Baptist Convention
Overview
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is a United States-based Christian denomination
Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and...

. It is the world's largest Baptist
Baptist
Baptists comprise a group of Christian denominations and churches that subscribe to a doctrine that baptism should be performed only for professing believers , and that it must be done by immersion...

 denomination and the largest Protestant
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 body in the United States, with over 16 million members. It is also the second largest Christian body in the United States, after the Catholic Church.

The word Southern in Southern Baptist Convention stems from its having been founded and rooted in the Southern United States
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

.
Encyclopedia
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is a United States-based Christian denomination
Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and...

. It is the world's largest Baptist
Baptist
Baptists comprise a group of Christian denominations and churches that subscribe to a doctrine that baptism should be performed only for professing believers , and that it must be done by immersion...

 denomination and the largest Protestant
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 body in the United States, with over 16 million members. It is also the second largest Christian body in the United States, after the Catholic Church.

The word Southern in Southern Baptist Convention stems from its having been founded and rooted in the Southern United States
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

. The SBC became a separate denomination in 1845 in Augusta, Georgia
Augusta, Georgia
Augusta is a consolidated city in the U.S. state of Georgia, located along the Savannah River. As of the 2010 census, the Augusta–Richmond County population was 195,844 not counting the unconsolidated cities of Hephzibah and Blythe.Augusta is the principal city of the Augusta-Richmond County...

, following a regional split with northern Baptists
American Baptist Churches USA
The American Baptist Churches USA is a Baptist Christian denomination within the United States. The denomination maintains headquarters in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The organization is usually considered mainline, although varying theological and mission emphases may be found among its...

 over the issues of slavery. After the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, another split occurred: most black Baptists in the South separated from white churches and set up their own congregations.

Since the 1940s, the SBC has moved away from some of its regional identification. While still heavily concentrated in the US South, the SBC has member churches across the United States and 41 affiliated state conventions. Southern Baptists emphasize the significance of the individual conversion experience, affirmed by a total immersion
Immersion baptism
Immersion baptism is a method of baptism that is distinguished from baptism by affusion and by aspersion , sometimes without specifying whether the immersion is total or partial, but very commonly with the indication that the person baptized is immersed completely...

 in water for a believer's baptism
Believer's baptism
Believer's baptism is the Christian practice of baptism as this is understood by many Protestant churches, particularly those that descend from the Anabaptist tradition...

, and rejection of infant baptism
Infant baptism
Infant baptism is the practice of baptising infants or young children. In theological discussions, the practice is sometimes referred to as paedobaptism or pedobaptism from the Greek pais meaning "child." The practice is sometimes contrasted with what is called "believer's baptism", or...

. SBC churches are evangelical
Evangelicalism
Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s and gained popularity in the United States during the series of Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.Its key commitments are:...

 in doctrine and practice. Specific beliefs based on biblical interpretation can vary somewhat due to the congregational governance
Congregationalist polity
Congregationalist polity, often known as congregationalism, is a system of church governance in which every local church congregation is independent, ecclesiastically sovereign, or "autonomous"...

 system that gives autonomy to individual local Baptist churches.

Colonial Era

Most early Baptists in the British colonies came from England in the 17th century, when the established Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

 persecuted them for their dissenting religious views. The oldest Baptist church in the South, First Baptist Church
First Baptist Church (Charleston, South Carolina)
First Baptist Church is a historic Baptist church in Charleston, South Carolina. The congregation was founded in 1682 under the leadership of William Screven. It is one of the oldest Baptist congregations in the American South. The church was originally organized in Kittery, Maine under the...

 of Charleston
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is the second largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. It was made the county seat of Charleston County in 1901 when Charleston County was founded. The city's original name was Charles Towne in 1670, and it moved to its present location from a location on the west bank of the...

, South Carolina, was organized in 1682 under the leadership of Rev. William Screven
William Screven
William Screven was a 17th-century Baptist preacher from England who founded the first Baptist church in the South.William Screven was born in England, in 1629 and immigrated to New England in the 1640s...

. A Baptist church was formed in Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 in 1715 through the preaching of Robert Norden
Robert Nordén
Robert Fredrik Nordén was a Norwegian economist, civil servant and politician for the Labour Party. He was the director of the Norwegian State Railways from 1978 to 1988....

 and another in North Carolina
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

 in 1727 through the ministry of Paul Palmer
Paul Palmer (minister)
Paul Palmer was the founder of a couple of General Baptists. Palmer started several early Baptist churches in North Carolina, including the first known Baptist church in the state. It is not certain if he was Calvinian or Arminian...

. They operated independently of the state-established Anglican churches at a time when non-Anglicans were prohibited from holding political office. By 1740, there were about eight Baptist churches in the colonies of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, with an estimated 300–400 members.

American Revolution period

Isaac (1974) analyzes the rise of the Baptist Church in Virginia, with emphasis on evangelicalism and social life. There was a sharp division between the austerity of the plain-living Baptists and the opulence of the Anglican planters, who controlled local and colonial government. Baptist church discipline was misinterpreted by the gentry for political radicalism, but it served to ameliorate disorder. The Baptists intensely monitored each others' moral conduct, watching especially for sexual transgressions, cursing, and excessive drinking; they expelled members who would not reform.

The struggle for religious toleration erupted and was played out during the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

, as the Baptists worked to disestablish the Anglican church. Beeman (1978) explores the conflict in one Virginia locality, showing that as population became more dense, the county court and the Anglican Church were able to increase their authority. The Baptists protested vigorously; the resulting social disorder resulted chiefly from the ruling gentry's disregard of public need. The vitality of the religious opposition made the conflict between 'evangelical' and 'gentry' styles a bitter one. Kroll-Smith (1984) suggests the strength of the evangelical movement's organization determined its ability to mobilize power outside the conventional authority structure.

In Virginia and most southern colonies before the Revolution, the Church of England was the state-established church and was supported by general taxes, as it was in Britain. It opposed the rapid spread of Baptists in the South. Particularly in Virginia, many Baptist preachers were prosecuted for "disturbing the peace" by preaching without licenses from the Anglican Church. Both Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry was an orator and politician who led the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779 and subsequently, from 1784 to 1786...

 and the young attorney James Madison
James Madison
James Madison, Jr. was an American statesman and political theorist. He was the fourth President of the United States and is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being the primary author of the United States Constitution and at first an opponent of, and then a key author of the United...

 defended Baptist preachers prior to the American Revolution in cases considered significant to the history of religious freedom. In 1779, Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

 wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom
Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom
The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was drafted in 1777 by Thomas Jefferson in the city of Fredericksburg, Virginia. In 1786, the Assembly enacted the statute into the state's law...

, enacted in 1786 by the Virginia General Assembly. Madison later took his own ideas and the ideas encompassed in this document regarding religious freedom to the Constitutional Convention where he ensured they were incorporated into the national constitution.

New members, both black and white, were converted chiefly by Baptist preachers who traveled throughout the South during the 18th and 19th centuries, in the eras of the First Great Awakening
First Great Awakening
The First Awakening was a Christian revitalization movement that swept Protestant Europe and British America, and especially the American colonies in the 1730s and 1740s, leaving a permanent impact on American religion. It resulted from powerful preaching that gave listeners a sense of personal...

 and Second Great Awakening
Second Great Awakening
The Second Great Awakening was a Christian revival movement during the early 19th century in the United States. The movement began around 1800, had begun to gain momentum by 1820, and was in decline by 1870. The Second Great Awakening expressed Arminian theology, by which every person could be...

. The early Baptist missionaries promoted equality of men and argued for manumission
Manumission
Manumission is the act of a slave owner freeing his or her slaves. In the United States before the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished most slavery, this often happened upon the death of the owner, under conditions in his will.-Motivations:The...

 of slaves and abolition of the institution of slavery. Baptists welcomed African Americans, slave and free, to more active roles than did other denominations, allowing them as preachers and equal members in some congregations. As a result, black congregations and churches were founded in South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia
Province of Georgia
The Province of Georgia was one of the Southern colonies in British America. It was the last of the thirteen original colonies established by Great Britain in what later became the United States...

 before the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

. Some managed to keep their independence even after whites tried to exercise more authority after the Nat Turner
Nat Turner
Nathaniel "Nat" Turner was an American slave who led a slave rebellion in Virginia on August 21, 1831 that resulted in 60 white deaths and at least 100 black deaths, the largest number of fatalities to occur in one uprising prior to the American Civil War in the southern United States. He gathered...

 Rebellion of the early 19th century.

National unification and regional division

In 1814, Baptists unified nationally under what became known informally as the Triennial Convention
Triennial Convention
The Triennial Convention, founded in 1814, was the first national Baptist denomination in the United States of America. Headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it was formed to advance missionary work...

 (because it met every three years) based in Philadelphia. It allowed them to join their resources to support missions
Mission (Christian)
Christian missionary activities often involve sending individuals and groups , to foreign countries and to places in their own homeland. This has frequently involved not only evangelization , but also humanitarian work, especially among the poor and disadvantaged...

 abroad. The Home Mission Society
Home mission society
The American Baptist Home Mission Societies is a Christian missionary society. It was established in New York City in 1832 to operate in the American frontier, with the stated mission "to preach the Gospel, establish churches and give support and ministry to the unchurched and destitute." In the...

, affiliated with the Triennial Convention, was established in 1832 to support missions in frontier territories of the United States. By the mid-19th century, numerous social, cultural, economic, and political differences existed among business owners of the North, farmers of the West, and planters
Plantation
A plantation is a long artificially established forest, farm or estate, where crops are grown for sale, often in distant markets rather than for local on-site consumption...

 of the South. The most divisive conflict was primarily over the deep sectional issues of slavery and secondarily over missions.

Divisions over slavery

Slavery in the 19th century became the most critical moral issue dividing Baptists in the United States. Before the Revolution, Baptist and Methodist evangelicals in the South had promoted the view of the common man's equality before God, which embraced African Americans. They challenged the hierarchies of class and race and urged planters to abolish slavery. They welcomed slaves as Baptists and accepted them as preachers.

As Baptists struggled to gain a foothold in the South, the next generation of Baptist preachers accommodated themselves to the society. Rather than challenging the gentry on slavery, they began to interpret the Bible as supporting its practice. In the two decades after the Revolution during the Second Great Awakening
Second Great Awakening
The Second Great Awakening was a Christian revival movement during the early 19th century in the United States. The movement began around 1800, had begun to gain momentum by 1820, and was in decline by 1870. The Second Great Awakening expressed Arminian theology, by which every person could be...

, preachers abandoned their pleas that slaves be manumitted. They first attracted common planters and yeomen farmers and later began to attract planters among the elite. Many Baptist preachers argued to preserve the rights of ministers to be slaveholders, a class which included prominent Baptist Southerners and planters. The Triennial Convention and the Home Mission Society adopted a kind of neutrality concerning slavery, neither condoning nor condemning it.

In 1844, Basil Manly, Sr.
Basil Manly, Sr.
Basil Manly, Sr. was an Alabama planter, Baptist preacher and educator.The family moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1837, when Manly became president of the University of Alabama, a post he held until 1855...

, president of the University of Alabama
University of Alabama
The University of Alabama is a public coeducational university located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, United States....

, prominent preacher and a planter who owned 40 slaves, drafted the "Alabama Resolutions" and presented them to the Triennial Convention. These included the demand that slaveholders be eligible for denominational offices to which the Southern associations contributed financially. These resolutions failed to be adopted. Georgia Baptists then decided to test the claimed neutrality by recommending a slaveholder to the Home Mission Society as a missionary
Missionary
A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin...

. The Home Mission Society's board refused to appoint him, noting that missionaries were not allowed to take servants with them (so clearly could not take slaves) and that they would not make a decision that appeared to endorse slavery. Southern Baptists considered this an infringement of their rights to determine their own candidates.

In June 1995 at the 150th Anniversary of the Southern Baptist Convention, the SBC adopted a resolution officially denouncing racism and expressing remorse over the role that Southern Baptists have played in the acceptance of racism in the past. This resolution clearly calls racism a "deplorable sin" and apologizes to African Americans for "condoning and/or perpetuating individual and systematic racism."

Missions and organization

A secondary issue that disturbed the Southerners was the perception that the American Baptist Home Mission Society did not appoint a proportionate number of missionaries to the southern region of the U.S. This was likely a result of the Society's not appointing slave owners as missionaries.

Baptists in different regions also preferred different types of denominational organization. Baptists in the North preferred a loosely structured society composed of individuals who paid annual dues, with each society usually focused on a single ministry. Baptists in southern churches preferred a more centralized organization of congregations composed of churches patterned after their associations, with a variety of ministries brought under the direction of one denominational organization.
The increasing tensions and discontent of Baptists from the South regarding national criticism of slavery and issues over missions led to their withdrawal from the national Baptist organizations. They met at the First Baptist Church of Augusta in May 1845. At this meeting, they formed a new convention, naming it the Southern Baptist Convention. They elected William Bullein Johnson (1782–1862) as the new convention's first president. He had served as president of the Triennial Convention in 1841.

Formation and alienation of black Baptists

African Americans had gathered in their own churches early on. Some were established after 1800 on the frontier, such as the First African Baptist Church
First African Baptist Church (Lexington, Kentucky)
First African Baptist Church is a historic church at 264-272 E. Short Street in Lexington, Kentucky. The congregation was founded c. 1790 by Peter Durrett and his wife, slaves who came to Kentucky with their master, Rev...

 of Lexington
Lexington, Kentucky
Lexington is the second-largest city in Kentucky and the 63rd largest in the US. Known as the "Thoroughbred City" and the "Horse Capital of the World", it is located in the heart of Kentucky's Bluegrass region...

, Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

, which by 1850 had 1,820 members, the largest of any Baptist church in the state. In 1824, it was accepted by the Elkhorn Association. In 1861 it had 2,223 members.

After the Civil War, blacks wanted to practice their form of American Christianity away from racial discrimination and attempts by whites at control. In the late 1860s, they rapidly set up several separate state Baptist conventions. In 1866, black Baptists of the South and West combined to form the Consolidated American Baptist Convention. In 1895 they merged three national conventions to create the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
The National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. is the largest predominantly African-American Christian denomination in the United States and is the world's second largest Baptist denomination...

. With 8 million members, it is the largest African-American religious organization and is second in size to the Southern Baptist Convention.

Free blacks in the North founded churches independent of white-dominated organizations. In the Reconstruction Era, missionaries both black and white from several northern denominations worked in the South and quickly attracted tens and hundreds of thousands of new members among the millions of freedmen. The African Methodist Episcopal Church
African Methodist Episcopal Church
The African Methodist Episcopal Church, usually called the A.M.E. Church, is a predominantly African American Methodist denomination based in the United States. It was founded by the Rev. Richard Allen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1816 from several black Methodist congregations in the...

 attracted the most new members of any denomination. White Southern Baptist churches lost black members to the new denominations, as well as to independent congregations organized by freedmen.

Historical controversies

During its history, the Southern Baptist Convention has had several periods of major internal controversy.

In the 1850s-1860s, a group of young activists called for a return to certain early practices, or what they called Landmarkism. Other leaders disagreed with their assertions, and the Baptist congregations became split on the issues. Eventually the disagreements led to the formation of Gospel Missions and the American Baptist Association
American Baptist Association
The American Baptist Association , formed in 1924, is an association of nearly 2,000 theologically conservative churches that are Landmark Baptist in their missions and teachings...

 (1924), as well as many unaffiliated independent churches. One historian called the related Graves
James Robinson Graves
James Robinson Graves was a US Baptist preacher, publisher, evangelist, debater, author, and editor. He was born in Chester, Vermont, the son of Z. C. Graves, and died in Memphis, Tennessee. His remains are interred in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis.Though raised in a Congregational background, he...

-Howell controversy (1858–1860) the greatest to affect the denomination before that of the late 20th century involving the "fundamentalist-moderate" break.

In the "Whitsitt controversy" of 1896–1899,, Dr. William H. Whitsitt, professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary , located in Louisville, Kentucky, is the oldest of the six seminaries affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention . The seminary was founded in 1859, at Greenville, South Carolina. After being closed during the Civil War, it moved in 1877 to Louisville...

, suggested that, contrary to earlier thought, English Baptists did not begin to baptize by immersion until 1641, when some Anabaptist
Anabaptist
Anabaptists are Protestant Christians of the Radical Reformation of 16th-century Europe, and their direct descendants, particularly the Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites....

s, as they were then called, began to practice immersion. This overturned the idea of immersion as the practice of the earliest Baptists, as some of the Landmarkists contended.
The Conservative Resurgence of 1979 was a major internal disagreement that captured national attention. Russell H. Dilday
Russell H. Dilday
Russell H. Dilday is a pastor, educator, former seminary president, and chancellor of B.H. Carroll Theological Institute.-Career:He served as President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary starting in 1978. He was fired in March 1994 by the seminary's board of trustees in a 26-7 vote during...

, president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1978 to 1994, described the resurgence as having fragmented Southern Baptist fellowship and as being "far more serious than a controversy". Dilday described it as being "a self-destructive, contentious, one-sided feud that at times took on combative characteristics". Since 1979, Southern Baptists had become polarized into two major groups: moderates and conservatives. Reflecting the conservative majority votes of delegates at the 1979 annual meeting of the SBC, the new national organization officers replaced all leaders of Southern Baptist agencies with presumably more conservative people (often dubbed "fundamentalist" by dissenters).

Recent history

There are Southern Baptist congregations in every state and territory in the United States, though the greatest numbers remain in the Southern United States, its traditional stronghold.

In 1995, the Convention voted to adopt a resolution renouncing its racist roots and apologizing for its past defense of slavery. This marked the denomination's first formal acknowledgment that racism played a role in its early history. By the early 21st century, there were increasing numbers of ethnically diverse congregations within the convention. In 2008, almost 20 percent were estimated to be majority African American, Asian or Hispanic. The SBC then had an estimated one million African-American members.

The national scope of the Convention inspired some members to suggest a name change. In 2005, proposals were made at the SBC Annual Meeting to change the name from the regional-sounding Southern Baptist Convention to a more national-sounding "North American Baptist Convention" or "Scriptural Baptist Convention" (to retain the SBC initials). The proposals were defeated.

Theology and practice

The general theological perspective of the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention is represented in the Baptist Faith and Message
Baptist Faith and Message
The Baptist Faith and Message is the confession of faith of the Southern Baptist Convention . It summarizes key Southern Baptist thought in the areas of the Bible and its authority, the nature of God as expressed by the Trinity, the spiritual condition of man, God's plan of grace and salvation,...

 (BF&M). The BF&M was first drafted in 1925. It was revised significantly in 1963 and again in 2000, with the latter revision being the subject of much controversy. The BF&M is not considered to be a creed
Creed
A creed is a statement of belief—usually a statement of faith that describes the beliefs shared by a religious community—and is often recited as part of a religious service. When the statement of faith is longer and polemical, as well as didactic, it is not called a creed but a Confession of faith...

, such as the Nicene Creed
Nicene Creed
The Nicene Creed is the creed or profession of faith that is most widely used in Christian liturgy. It is called Nicene because, in its original form, it was adopted in the city of Nicaea by the first ecumenical council, which met there in the year 325.The Nicene Creed has been normative to the...

. Members are not required to adhere to it. Churches belonging to the SBC are not required to use it as their statement of faith or doctrine, though many do in lieu of creating their own statement. Despite the fact that the BF&M is not a creed, faculty in SBC-owned seminaries and missionaries who apply to serve through the various SBC missionary agencies must affirm that their practices, doctrine, and preaching are consistent with the BF&M.

In addition to the BF&M, the SBC has also issued the following position statements:
  • Autonomy of local church — Affirms the autonomy of the local church.
  • Church and state — Supports a free church in a free state. Neither one should control the affairs of the other.
  • Cooperation — Identifies the Cooperative Program of missions as integral to the Southern Baptist Convention.
  • Creeds and confessions — Statements of belief are revisable in light of Scripture. The Bible is the final word.
  • Missions — Honors the indigenous principle in missions. The SBC does not, however, compromise doctrine or its identity for missional opportunities.
  • Priesthood of all believers — Laypersons have the same right as ordained ministers to communicate with God, interpret Scripture, and minister in Christ's name.
  • Sanctity of life — At the moment of conception, a new being enters the universe, a human being, a being created in God's image.
  • Sexuality — Affirms God's plan for marriage and sexual intimacy—one man and one woman, for life. Homosexuality is not a valid alternative lifestyle.
  • Soul competency — Affirms the accountability of each person before God.
  • Women in ministry — Women participate equally with men in the priesthood of all believers. Their role is crucial, their wisdom, grace and commitment exemplary. Women are an integral part of Southern Baptist boards, faculties, mission teams, writer pools, and professional staffs. The role of pastor, however, is specifically reserved for men.

Ordinances

Southern Baptists observe two ordinances: the Lord's Supper
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 and Believer's baptism
Believer's baptism
Believer's baptism is the Christian practice of baptism as this is understood by many Protestant churches, particularly those that descend from the Anabaptist tradition...

 (also known as credo-baptism, from the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 for "I believe"). Furthermore, they hold the historic Baptist belief that immersion
Immersion baptism
Immersion baptism is a method of baptism that is distinguished from baptism by affusion and by aspersion , sometimes without specifying whether the immersion is total or partial, but very commonly with the indication that the person baptized is immersed completely...

 is the only valid mode of baptism.

Gender-based roles

Beginning in the early 1970s, in response to their perceptions of various “women’s liberation movements”, the Southern Baptist Convention, along with several other historically conservative Baptist groups, began corporately asserting the propriety of what it deemed "traditional gender roles". Specifically, the SBC passed a series of resolutions at its annual meetings affirming a complementarian view of marriage and a fully patriarchal view of ordained Christian ministry. In 1998, the SBC appended a quasi-male leadership understanding of marriage to the 1963 version of the Baptist Faith and Message, with an official amendment: Article XVIII, "The Family". In 2000, it revised the document to reflect support for a male-only pastorate, the long-standing practice of the great majority of SBC churches. This view was integrated into Article VI on the nature of the church.

The SBC contains no mechanism to trigger the automatic expulsion of congregations that adopt practices or theology contrary to the BF&M. As individual churches affiliated with the SBC are autonomous, local congregations cannot be compelled to adopt a male-only pastorate. But, some SBC churches that have installed women as their pastors have been excluded from membership in their local associations of Baptist churches; a smaller number have been expelled from their state conventions.

This movement towards an increasingly official ban on women in the pastorate is one of the issues that contributed to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is a Christian fellowship of Baptist churches formed in 1991. Theologically moderate, the CBF withdrew from the Southern Baptist Convention over philosophical and theological differences, such as the SBC prohibition of women serving as pastors. The Cooperative...

's (CBF) decision to break from the SBC in 1991. Their 1900 member churches represent what they believe is a moderate position.

Worship services

Most Southern Baptists observe a low church
Low church
Low church is a term of distinction in the Church of England or other Anglican churches initially designed to be pejorative. During the series of doctrinal and ecclesiastic challenges to the established church in the 16th and 17th centuries, commentators and others began to refer to those groups...

 form of worship
Christian worship
In Christianity, worship is adoration and contemplation of God.-Overview:Throughout most of Christianity's history, corporate Christian worship has been primarily liturgical, characterized by prayers and hymns, with texts rooted in, or closely related to, the Scripture, particularly the Psalter;...

, which is less formal and uses no stated liturgy
Liturgy
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

. Worship services usually include: hymns, prayer, choral music by a choir, soloist, or both, the reading of Scripture, the collection of offerings, a sermon, and an invitation to respond to the sermon
Altar call
An altar call is a practice in some evangelical churches in which those who wish to make a new spiritual commitment to Jesus Christ are invited to come forward publicly. It is so named because the supplicants gather at the altar located at the front of the church building. In the Old Testament, an...

. Recently, many churches have incorporated various instruments and styles of music into their worship services (see contemporary worship
Contemporary worship
Contemporary worship is a form of Christian worship that emerged within Western evangelical Protestantism in the twentieth century. It was originally confined to the charismatic movement, but is now found to varying extents in a wide range of churches, including many that do not subscribe to a...

). People may respond during the "invitation
Altar call
An altar call is a practice in some evangelical churches in which those who wish to make a new spiritual commitment to Jesus Christ are invited to come forward publicly. It is so named because the supplicants gather at the altar located at the front of the church building. In the Old Testament, an...

" by receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and beginning Christian discipleship, entering into vocational ministry, joining the church, or making some other publicly stated decision.

Membership

The SBC claims to have more than 16.6 million members in 44,000 churches throughout the US. One internal study by the SBC shows that on average 38 percent of the membership (6,138,776 members, guests and non-member children) attend their churches' primary worship services. Southern Baptists do not track church attendance by numbers in the primary worship service; they track attendance through participation in Sunday School
Sunday school
Sunday school is the generic name for many different types of religious education pursued on Sundays by various denominations.-England:The first Sunday school may have been opened in 1751 in St. Mary's Church, Nottingham. Another early start was made by Hannah Ball, a native of High Wycombe in...

, which 4,154,270 Convention members (less than 26 percent of SBC total membership) attend. Sunday School enrollment in the United States decreased by 123,817 members between 2007 and 2008.
Year Membership
1845 350,000
1860 650,000
1875 1,260,000
1890 1,240,000
1905 1,900,000
1920 3,150,000
1935 4,480,000
1950 7,080,000
1965 10,780,000
1980 13,700,000
1995 15,400,000
2000 15,900,000
2005 16,600,000
2006 16,306,246
2007 16,266,920
2008 16,228,438
2009 16,160,088
Sources


The SBC has 1,200 local associations and 41 state conventions and fellowships covering all 50 states and territories of the United States. The five states with the highest rates of membership in the SBC are Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee. Texas has the largest number of members, with an estimated 3.5 million. Through their Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists support thousands of missionaries in the United States and worldwide. Although the SBC fielded over 10,000 missionaries in 2005, budget constraints are expected to reduce the number of missionaries by at least 600 in 2010.

Trends

Data from church sources and independent surveys indicate that since 1990 membership of SBC churches has declined as a proportion of the American population. Historically, the Convention grew throughout its history until 2007 when membership decreased by a net figure of nearly 40,000 members. Total membership of about 16.2 million was flat over the same period, falling by 38,482, or 0.2 percent. An important indicator for the health of the denomination is new baptisms which have decreased every year for seven of the last eight years, and as of 2008 have reached their lowest levels since 1987.

This decline in membership and baptisms has prompted some SBC researchers to describe the Convention as a "denomination in decline". Former SBC president Frank Page declared that if current conditions continue half of all SBC churches will close their doors permanently by the year 2030. This assessment is supported by a recent survey of SBC churches which indicated that 70 percent of all SBC churches are declining or are plateaued with regards to their membership. The decline of the SBC became an issue leading up to the June 2008 Annual Convention. Former SBC researcher, Curt Watke noted four reasons for the decline of the Southern Baptist Convention based on his research: increase in immigration, decline in growth among predominantly Anglo (white) churches, the aging of the current membership, and a decrease in the percentage of younger generations participating in church life. A failure to aggressively attract minorities also has been seen as a factor hurting Southern Baptist recruitment numbers. However in some state conventions in Mississippi
Mississippi
Mississippi is a U.S. state located in the Southern United States. Jackson is the state capital and largest city. The name of the state derives from the Mississippi River, which flows along its western boundary, whose name comes from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi...

 and Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 report a large portion of growing minority SBC members.

The actual decline in SBC membership may be more pronounced than these statistics indicate because Baptist churches, unlike United Methodist, Presbyterian and Evangelical Lutheran
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is a mainline Protestant denomination headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. The ELCA officially came into existence on January 1, 1988, by the merging of three churches. As of December 31, 2009, it had 4,543,037 baptized members, with 2,527,941 of them...

 congregations, are not required to remove inactive members from their rolls. In addition, hundreds of large moderate congregations have shifted their primary allegiance to other Baptist groups such as the American Baptist Churches USA
American Baptist Churches USA
The American Baptist Churches USA is a Baptist Christian denomination within the United States. The denomination maintains headquarters in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The organization is usually considered mainline, although varying theological and mission emphases may be found among its...

 or the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship but have continued to remain nominally on the books of the Convention—and their members are thus counted in the SBC's totals—although these churches no longer participate in the annual SBC meeting or make more than the minimum financial contributions.

Organization

Southern Baptists' typical form of government is congregationalist
Congregationalist polity
Congregationalist polity, often known as congregationalism, is a system of church governance in which every local church congregation is independent, ecclesiastically sovereign, or "autonomous"...

: each local church is autonomous without formal lines of responsibility to organizational levels of higher authority.

A basic Baptist principle is the autonomy of the local church. The Convention is therefore conceived as a cooperative association by which churches can pool resources rather than as a body with any administrative or ecclesiastical control over local churches. It maintains a central administrative organization in Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville is the capital of the U.S. state of Tennessee and the county seat of Davidson County. It is located on the Cumberland River in Davidson County, in the north-central part of the state. The city is a center for the health care, publishing, banking and transportation industries, and is home...

. The SBC's Executive Committee exercises authority and control over seminaries and other institutions owned by the Southern Baptist Convention. However, the Executive Committee has no authority over affiliated state conventions, local associations, individual churches or members.

Commitment to the autonomy of local congregations was the primary force behind the Executive Committee's rejection of a proposal to create a convention-wide database of SBC clergy accused of sexual crimes against congregants or other minors in order to stop the "recurring tide" of clergy sexual abuse within SBC congregations. A 2009 study by Lifeway Christian Resources, the Convention's research and publishing arm, revealed that one in eight background checks for potential volunteers or workers in SBC churches revealed a history of crime that could have prevented them from working.

The Convention's confession of faith
Confession of Faith
A Confession of Faith is a statement of doctrine very similar to a creed, but usually longer and polemical, as well as didactic.Confessions of Faith are in the main, though not exclusively, associated with Protestantism...

, the Baptist Faith and Message, technically is not binding on churches or members due to the autonomy of the local church. Politically and culturally, Southern Baptists tend to be conservative. Most oppose the use of alcohol as a beverage, homosexual activity and abortion
Abortion
Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to viability. An abortion can occur spontaneously, in which case it is usually called a miscarriage, or it can be purposely induced...

 with few exceptions.

There are four levels of SBC organization: the local congregation, the local association, the state convention, and the national convention.

Pastor and deacon

Generally, Baptists recognize only two scriptural offices: pastor
Pastor
The word pastor usually refers to an ordained leader of a Christian congregation. When used as an ecclesiastical styling or title, this role may be abbreviated to "Pr." or often "Ps"....

-teacher and deacon
Deacon
Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions...

. According to the Baptist Faith and Message, the office of pastor is limited to men based on certain New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 scriptures. The Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution in the early 1980s recognizing that offices requiring ordination (pastor and deacon) are restricted to men.

State conventions

Individual congregations and associations may choose to affiliate with state conventions or fellowships which in turn can affiliate with the SBC. There are 41 affiliated state conventions or fellowships.

Annual Meeting

The Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting consists of messengers from cooperating churches. In the month of June, they gather to confer and determine the programs, policies, and budget of the SBC. Each church may be represented by up to 10 messengers, the exact number being determined by the church's number of members and contributions to the national SBC organization.

The following quotation from the SBC Constitution explains the membership and description of messengers to each annual meeting:

Cooperative Program

The Cooperative Program (CP) is the SBC's unified funds collection and distribution program for the support of regional, national and international ministries. The CP is funded by contributions from SBC congregations.

In the fiscal year ending September 30, 2008, the local congregations of the SBC reported gift receipts of $11.1 billion. From this they sent $548 million, approximately 5 per cent, to their state Baptist conventions through the CP. Of this amount, the state Baptist conventions retained $344 million for their work. $204 million was sent on to the national CP budget for the support of denomination-wide ministries.

Missions agencies

The Southern Baptist Convention was organized in 1845 primarily for the purpose of creating a mission board to support the sending of Baptist missionaries. The North American Mission Board
North American Mission Board
The North American Mission Board is the domestic missions agency of the Southern Baptist Convention. It exists to assist Southern Baptists in their task of fulfilling the Great Commission in the United States, Canada, and their territories through a national strategy for sharing Christ, starting...

, or NAMB, (founded as the Domestic Mission Board, and later the Home Mission Board) in Alpharetta, Georgia
Alpharetta, Georgia
-Demographics:As of the census of 2000, there were 34,854 people, 13,911 households, and 8,916 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,631.6 people per square mile . There were 14,670 housing units at an average density of 686.7 per square mile...

 serves missionaries involved in evangelism
Evangelism
Evangelism refers to the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others who do not hold those beliefs. The term is often used in reference to Christianity....

 and church planting
Church planting
Church planting is a process that results in a new Christian church being established. It should be distinguished from church development, where a new service, new worship centre or fresh expression is created that is integrated into an already established congregation...

 in the U.S. and Canada, while the International Mission Board
International Mission Board
The International Mission Board is a missionary sending agency affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention which operates in virtually every nation except the United States and Canada...

, or IMB, (originally the Foreign Mission Board) in Richmond, Virginia sponsors missionaries to the rest of the world.
Among the more visible organizations within the North American Mission Board is Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. In 1967, a small group of Texas Southern Baptist volunteers helped victims of Hurricane Beulah
Hurricane Beulah
Hurricane Beulah was the second tropical storm, second hurricane, and only major hurricane during the 1967 Atlantic hurricane season. It tracked through the Caribbean, struck the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico as a major hurricane, and moved west-northwest into the Gulf of Mexico, briefly gaining...

 by serving hot food cooked on small "buddy burners." In 2005, volunteers responded to 166 named disasters, prepared 17,124,738 meals, repaired 7,246 homes, and removed debris from 13,986 yards. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief provides many different types: food, water, child care, communication, showers, laundry, repairs, rebuilding, or other essential tangible items that contribute to the resumption of life following the crisis – and the message of the Gospel. All assistance is provided to individuals and communities free of charge. SBC DR volunteer kitchens prepare much of the food distributed by the Red Cross in major disasters.

Seminaries and colleges

There are six SBC theological seminaries devoted to religious instruction and ministry preparation.
  • Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
    Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
    The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary , located in Louisville, Kentucky, is the oldest of the six seminaries affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention . The seminary was founded in 1859, at Greenville, South Carolina. After being closed during the Civil War, it moved in 1877 to Louisville...

    , Louisville, Kentucky
    Louisville, Kentucky
    Louisville is the largest city in the U.S. state of Kentucky, and the county seat of Jefferson County. Since 2003, the city's borders have been coterminous with those of the county because of a city-county merger. The city's population at the 2010 census was 741,096...

     (1859, originally in Greenville, South Carolina)
  • Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
    Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
    Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, is a private, non-profit institution of higher education, associated with the Southern Baptist Convention...

    , Fort Worth, Texas
    Fort Worth, Texas
    Fort Worth is the 16th-largest city in the United States of America and the fifth-largest city in the state of Texas. Located in North Central Texas, just southeast of the Texas Panhandle, the city is a cultural gateway into the American West and covers nearly in Tarrant, Parker, Denton, and...

     (1908, originally part of Baylor University in Waco, Texas).
  • New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
    New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
    The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is a private, non-profit institution of higher learning affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, located in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana. It was the first institution created as a direct act of the Southern Baptist Convention. Missions...

    , New Orleans, Louisiana
    New Orleans, Louisiana
    New Orleans is a major United States port and the largest city and metropolitan area in the state of Louisiana. The New Orleans metropolitan area has a population of 1,235,650 as of 2009, the 46th largest in the USA. The New Orleans – Metairie – Bogalusa combined statistical area has a population...

     (1916, originally New Orleans Baptist Bible Institute)
  • Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary
    Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary
    Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is one of six official Southern Baptist seminaries. The main campus is located in Mill Valley, California.- History :...

    , Mill Valley, California
    Mill Valley, California
    Mill Valley is a city in Marin County, California, United States located about north of San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge. The population was 13,903 at the 2010 census.Mill Valley is located on the western and northern shores of Richardson Bay...

     (1944, originally in Oakland, California)
  • Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
    Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
    Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is a seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention , created to meet a need in the SBC's East Coast region. It was voted into existence on May 19, 1950 at the SBC annual meeting and began offering classes in the fall of 1951 on the original campus of Wake...

    , Wake Forest, North Carolina
    Wake Forest, North Carolina
    Wake Forest is a town and suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina in Wake County in the U.S. state of North Carolina and is located just north of the state capital, Raleigh. The population was 12,588 at the 2000 census. In 2009, the estimated population was 27,915...

     (1950)
  • Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
    Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
    Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is one of six official seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is located in Kansas City, Missouri. Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary also houses an undergraduate college, Midwestern Baptist College, SBC. Although the seminary focuses...

    , Kansas City, Missouri
    Kansas City, Missouri
    Kansas City, Missouri is the largest city in the U.S. state of Missouri and is the anchor city of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area, the second largest metropolitan area in Missouri. It encompasses in parts of Jackson, Clay, Cass, and Platte counties...

     (1957)

Other organizations

  • Baptist Men on Mission, formally known as Brotherhood, BMEN is the mission organization for men in Southern Baptist Churches.
  • Baptist Press
    Baptist Press
    Baptist Press is the official news service of the American Southern Baptist Convention based at the headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.- Origins and bureaus :...

    , the largest Christian news service in the country, was established by the SBC in 1946.
  • Guidestone Financial Resources (formerly called the Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, and founded in 1918 as the Relief Board of the Southern Baptist Convention) exists to provide insurance, retirement, and investment services to ministers and employees of Southern Baptist churches and agencies. Like many financial institutions during that time period, it underwent a severe financial crisis in the 1930s.
  • LifeWay Christian Resources
    LifeWay Christian Resources
    LifeWay Christian Resources, based in Nashville, Tennessee, is one of the largest providers of Christian resources in the world. LifeWay has been recognized as one of the "Best Employers in Tennessee" by BusinessTN magazine.-Background:...

    , founded as the Baptist Sunday School Board in 1891, which is one of the largest Christian publishing houses in America and operates the "LifeWay Christian Stores" chain of bookstores.
  • Woman's Missionary Union, founded in 1888, is an auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Convention, and helps facilitate two large annual missions offerings: the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
  • Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, is an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention that is dedicated to addressing social and moral concerns and their implications on public policy issues from City Hall to Congress. Its mission is "To awaken, inform, energize, equip, and mobilize Christians to be the catalysts for the Biblically-based transformation of their families, churches, communities, and the nation." The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission was formerly known as the Christian Life Commission of the SBC.

See also


External links

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