Southern Baptist Convention


Southern Baptist Convention

▪ American religious organization
      largest Baptist group in the United States, organized at Augusta, Georgia, in 1845 by Southern Baptists who disagreed with the antislavery attitudes and activities of Northern Baptists.

      Like Baptists in the North, Baptists in the South trace their history back to the Baptist churches established in the American colonies in the 17th century. The number of Baptist churches increased and spread throughout the colonies in the 18th century, primarily because of the missionary work of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, which was organized in 1707 by five Baptist churches in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Early associations of Baptist churches in the South included the Charleston Association (1751) in South Carolina, the Ketochton Association (1765) in Virginia, and the Kehukee Association (1765) in North Carolina.

      In the 19th century the Baptist churches and associations in the North and South cooperated in organizing national organizations concerned with foreign and home missions and religious publications. The slavery question, however, soon caused disagreements between Southern and Northern Baptists, and in 1845 the Southern Baptists set up their own organization. About 300 churches joined the new group.

      From its beginnings the Southern Baptist Convention was a more centralized denominational organization than had been usual among the Baptists. It developed its own missions, publications, and educational and other boards that functioned under the direction of the convention. The centralized organization of the Southern Baptists has been credited with aiding the amazing growth of the convention following a period of recovery after the devastation of the American Civil War (1861–65).

      Generally considered more conservative than the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., the Southern Baptist Convention has not taken an active part in ecumenical activities. Though joining in the Baptist World Alliance, it has not joined the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. or the World Council of Churches. In a historic reversal, the convention adopted a resolution in 1995 denouncing racism and repudiating its past defense of slavery and opposition to the civil rights movement. The Southern Baptist Convention has become a national rather than a regional organization, and it has long been by far the largest American Protestant body and one of the most rapidly growing. Its membership now includes a substantial fraction of ethnic minorities. There are state conventions, and a general convention is held annually.

      In 1997 the Southern Baptist Convention reported 15,891,514 members and 40,887 congregations; the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists reported 8,228 members and 130 congregations. Headquarters are in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Universalium. 2010.

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