Southern Baptist Convention

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is a Christian denomination based in the United States. It is the world’s largest Baptist denomination, and the largestProtestant[2][3] and second-largest Christian denomination in the United States, smaller than the Roman Catholic Church, according to self-reported membership statistics.

Largest Protestant Christian denomination in the United States

Southern Baptist Convention
Abbreviation SBC
Classification Protestant
Orientation Baptist
Theology Evangelical
Polity Congregational
President Ed Litton
Region United States
Origin May 8–12, 1845
Augusta, Georgia, U.S.
Separated from Triennial Convention (1845)
Separations
Congregations 47,592 (2020)
Members 14,089,947 (2020)
Weekly attendance = 4,439,797 (2020)[1]
Official website sbc.net
Southern Baptists
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The word Southern in “Southern Baptist Convention” stems from its having been organized in 1845 in Augusta, Georgia, by Baptists in the Southern United States who split with northern Baptists (known today as the American Baptist Churches USA) over the issue of slavery, with Southern Baptists strongly opposed to its abolition.[4] After the American Civil War, another split occurred when most freedmen set up independent black congregations, regional associations, and state and national conventions, such as the National Baptist Convention, which became the second-largest Baptist convention by the end of the 19th century.

Since the 1940s, the Southern Baptist Convention has spread across the states, losing some of its regional identity but nonetheless keeping its original name.[5] While still heavily concentrated in the Southern U.S., the SBC has member churches across the country and 41 affiliated state conventions.[6][7] Southern Baptist churches are evangelical in doctrine and practice, emphasizing the significance of the individual conversion experience, which is affirmed by the person having complete immersion in water for a believer’s baptism; they reject the practice of infant baptism.[7] The SBC says that other specific beliefs based on biblical interpretation can vary due to their congregational polity, and have resolved to balance local church autonomy with accountability against abuses by ministers and others in the Church.[8]

Self-reported SBC membership peaked in 2006 at roughly 16 million.[9] Membership has contracted by an estimated 13.6% since that year, with 2020 marking the 14th year of continuous decline.[10] Mean denomination-wide weekly attendance dropped about 27% between 2006 and 2020.[11][12]

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Further information: Baptists in the United States
First Baptist Church in Charleston, South Carolina

Most early Baptists in the British colonies came from England in the 17th century, after the Church of England persecuted them for their dissenting religious views.[13] In 1638, Roger Williams founded the first Baptist church in British America at the Providence Plantations, the first permanent European American settlement also founded by Williams in Rhode Island. The oldest Baptist church in the South, First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina, was organized in 1682 under the leadership of William Screven.[14] A Baptist church was formed in Virginia in 1715 through the preaching of Robert Norden and another in North Carolina in 1727 through the ministry of Paul Palmer.

The Baptists adhered to a congregationalist polity and operated independently of the state-established Anglican churches in the South, at a time when non-Anglicans were prohibited from holding political office. By 1740, about eight Baptist churches existed in the colonies of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, with an estimated 300 to 400 members.[15] 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 and Second Great Awakenings.[16]

Baptists welcomed African Americans, both slave and free, allowing them more active roles in ministry than did other denominations by licensing them as preachers and in some cases treating them as equals to white members.[17] As a result, black congregations and churches were founded in Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia before the American Revolution. Some black congregations kept their independence even after whites tried to exercise more authority after the Nat Turner slave rebellion of 1831.[18]

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