American Baptist Churches USA

American Baptist Churches USA

Overview
The American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) is a 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...

 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...

 within the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. The denomination maintains headquarters in Valley Forge
Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
The Village of Valley Forge is an unincorporated settlement located on the west side of Valley Forge National Historical Park at the confluence of Valley Creek and the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania, United States. The remaining village is in Schuylkill Township of Chester County, but once...

, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

. The organization is usually considered mainline, although varying theological and mission emphases may be found among its congregations, including 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:...

 orientations. It traces its history to the First Baptist Church in America
First Baptist Church in America
The First Baptist Church in America is the First Baptist Church of Providence, Rhode Island, also known as First Baptist Meetinghouse. The oldest Baptist church congregation in the United States, it was founded by Roger Williams in Providence, Rhode Island in 1638...

 (1638) and the Baptist congregational associations, which organized 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...

 in 1814.
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Encyclopedia
The American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) is a 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...

 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...

 within the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. The denomination maintains headquarters in Valley Forge
Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
The Village of Valley Forge is an unincorporated settlement located on the west side of Valley Forge National Historical Park at the confluence of Valley Creek and the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania, United States. The remaining village is in Schuylkill Township of Chester County, but once...

, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

. The organization is usually considered mainline, although varying theological and mission emphases may be found among its congregations, including 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:...

 orientations. It traces its history to the First Baptist Church in America
First Baptist Church in America
The First Baptist Church in America is the First Baptist Church of Providence, Rhode Island, also known as First Baptist Meetinghouse. The oldest Baptist church congregation in the United States, it was founded by Roger Williams in Providence, Rhode Island in 1638...

 (1638) and the Baptist congregational associations, which organized 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...

 in 1814. From 1907 to 1950, it was known as the Northern Baptist Convention, and from 1950 to 1972, as the American Baptist Convention.

In 2008, the denomination had 1,331,127 members in 5,469 churches. The ABCUSA is a member of the National Council of Churches
National Council of Churches
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA is an ecumenical partnership of 37 Christian faith groups in the United States. Its member denominations, churches, conventions, and archdioceses include Mainline Protestant, Orthodox, African American, Evangelical, and historic peace...

, the Baptist World Alliance
Baptist World Alliance
The Baptist World Alliance is a worldwide alliance of Baptist churches and organizations, formed in 1905 at Exeter Hall in London during the first Baptist World Congress.-History:...

 and the World Council of Churches
World Council of Churches
The World Council of Churches is a worldwide fellowship of 349 global, regional and sub-regional, national and local churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service. It is a Christian ecumenical organization that is based in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland...

.

History


Roger Williams
Roger Williams (theologian)
Roger Williams was an English Protestant theologian who was an early proponent of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. In 1636, he began the colony of Providence Plantation, which provided a refuge for religious minorities. Williams started the first Baptist church in America,...

 established the First Baptist Church in Providence (now the First Baptist Church in America
First Baptist Church in America
The First Baptist Church in America is the First Baptist Church of Providence, Rhode Island, also known as First Baptist Meetinghouse. The oldest Baptist church congregation in the United States, it was founded by Roger Williams in Providence, Rhode Island in 1638...

) in 1638. Regarded by the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony
Massachusetts Bay Colony
The Massachusetts Bay Colony was an English settlement on the east coast of North America in the 17th century, in New England, situated around the present-day cities of Salem and Boston. The territory administered by the colony included much of present-day central New England, including portions...

 as a heretic
Heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

 for his Baptist faith tradition, Williams was banished into the New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 wilderness where he and his followers created the settlement of Providence
Providence, Rhode Island
Providence is the capital and most populous city of Rhode Island and was one of the first cities established in the United States. Located in Providence County, it is the third largest city in the New England region...

 and later, the colony of Rhode Island
Rhode Island
The state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, more commonly referred to as Rhode Island , is a state in the New England region of the United States. It is the smallest U.S. state by area...

. Williams is credited with being the founder of the Baptist movement in America, the founder of the state of Rhode Island, and the first highly visible public leader in America to call for the separation of church and state
Separation of church and state
The concept of the separation of church and state refers to the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state....

.

Having a congregational polity, early Baptist churches in America operated independently from one another, following an array of Protestant theological paths, but were often unified in their mission to evangelize. In the 18th century, they sometimes created local congregational associations for support, fellowship, and work (such as the founding of Brown University
Brown University
Brown University is a private, Ivy League university located in Providence, Rhode Island, United States. Founded in 1764 prior to American independence from the British Empire as the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations early in the reign of King George III ,...

). The evangelical mission led to the establishment of the national 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...

 in 1814, a collaborative effort by local churches to organize, fund, and deploy missionaries. The ABCUSA descends from this Triennial Convention. Through the Triennial Convention structure a number of mission-oriented societies were formed, including the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society
American Baptist Missionary Union
American Baptist Missionary Union is an international Protestant Christian missionary society founded in 1814 in the United States...

 (1814), American Baptist Home Mission Society (1832), American Baptist Publication Society (1841), and the American Baptist Education Society (1888).

In 1845 a majority of Baptists in the South withdrew support from the Triennial Convention, largely in response to the decision of the Triennial Convention delegates to ban slave holders from becoming ordained missionaries, and formed the Southern Baptist Convention
Southern Baptist Convention
The Southern Baptist Convention is a United States-based Christian denomination. It is the world's largest Baptist denomination and the largest Protestant body in the United States, with over 16 million members...

 (SBC). The Triennial Convention was loosely structured, and the SBC offered Baptists a more centralized organizational structure for carrying on missionary and benevolent work. In contrast, however, the Triennial Convention afforded local churches a higher degree of local autonomy, a more traditional characteristic of Baptist polity. The majority of churches in the North continued to work through these separate cooperating societies for missions and benevolence. The societies were united under the umbrella of a unified convention in 1907.

The Northern Baptist Convention was founded in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 on May 17, 1907. Charles Evans Hughes
Charles Evans Hughes
Charles Evans Hughes, Sr. was an American statesman, lawyer and Republican politician from New York. He served as the 36th Governor of New York , Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States , United States Secretary of State , a judge on the Court of International Justice , and...

, the governor of New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 and later Chief Justice of the United States
Chief Justice of the United States
The Chief Justice of the United States is the head of the United States federal court system and the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Chief Justice is one of nine Supreme Court justices; the other eight are the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States...

, served the body as its first president. The purpose of the Northern Baptist Convention was to bring about a consistent cooperation among the separate Baptist bodies then existing. It was the first step in bringing together Baptists in the North "with ties to the historic American Baptist mission societies in the nineteenth century." These had contributed to establishing many schools for freedmen in the South 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...

, as well as working on issues of health and welfare. Many of their missionaries and members had worked as teachers in the South. Soon after it was founded, most of the churches of the Free Will Baptist General Conference
Free Will Baptist Church
Free Will Baptist is a denomination of churches that share a common history, name, and an acceptance of the Arminian theology of free grace, free salvation, and free will. Free Will Baptists share similar soteriological views with General Baptists, Separate Baptists and some United Baptists...

 merged with it in 1911.

The name of the Convention was changed in 1950 to the American Baptist Convention (ABC), and it operated under this name until 1972. It was the second step at bringing together on a national level Baptists with ties to the mission societies. The ABC was characterized from 1950-1966 with annual resolutions at its conventions having to do with the Civil Rights Movement
Civil rights movement
The civil rights movement was a worldwide political movement for equality before the law occurring between approximately 1950 and 1980. In many situations it took the form of campaigns of civil resistance aimed at achieving change by nonviolent forms of resistance. In some situations it was...

 and race relations.
"Without exception, these resolutions were progressive and genuinely encompassing. They addressed both the need for individual change in attitude and action, and the need for broader social change that could only be instituted through political action."
As in many cases, the rhetoric of the annual conventions was sometimes ahead of local activity, but the denomination gradually made progress. In 1964 it created the Baptist Action for Racial Brotherhood (BARB), which early the next year produced a pamphlet outlining actions for change in local churches. In 1968 the national convention was challenged by "Black American Baptist Churchmen Speak To the American Baptist Convention," demands that challenged how the denomination had "conducted its business relative to black American Baptists." The black churchmen said the Convention had excluded them from decisionmaking positions, even while working with good intentions on behalf of black American Baptists. The following year, Dr. Thomas Kilgore Jr., pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Los Angeles, was elected the first black president of the Convention. The 1968 Convention also voted to create the Study Commission on Denominational Structure (SCODS). Its recommendations changed the denomination of a variety of ways, after being adopted at the 1972 Convention.

To reflect its new structure, the Convention in 1972 changed its name to the American Baptist Churches USA. Rather than relying on decisionmaking at the annual Convention by whichever churches happened to send delegates, the SCODS restructuring resulted in the following:
"A General Board was composed of duly elected representatives from geographically designated districts. Three-fourths of those representatives would be elected by the American Baptist regional bodies; one-fourth would be elected as at-large representatives, or in the official terminology, "Nationally Nominated Representatives." These representatives would be "chosen so as to provide the necessary balance among the Representatives in respect of racial/ethnic inclusiveness, geographic area, age, gender, and desirable skills."

Theology and practice


American Baptists believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God and the final authority in matters of faith. The ABCUSA affirms the Trinity
Trinity
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...

, that the one God exists as three persons in complete unity: God the Father
God the Father
God the Father is a gendered title given to God in many monotheistic religions, particularly patriarchal, Abrahamic ones. In Judaism, God is called Father because he is the creator, life-giver, law-giver, and protector...

, God the Son
God the Son
God the Son is the second person of the Trinity in Christian theology. The doctrine of the Trinity identifies Jesus of Nazareth as God the Son, united in essence but distinct in person with regard to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit...

, and God the Holy Spirit. They confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord through whom those who believe can have fellowship with God. He died, taking on the sins of the world, and was resurrected, triumphing over sin and death.

ABCUSA churches recognize two ordinances: 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 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...

. Baptism is by immersion, and those being baptized must be of an age to understand its significance. Believing in the priesthood of all believers
Priesthood of all believers
The universal priesthood or the priesthood of all believers, as it would come to be known in the present day, is a Christian doctrine believed to be derived from several passages of the New Testament...

, the ABCUSA avoids using creeds, affirming the freedom of individual Christians and local churches to interpret scripture as the Holy Spirit leads them. The ABCUSA affirms the ordination of women
Ordination of women
Ordination in general religious usage is the process by which a person is consecrated . The ordination of women is a regular practice among some major religious groups, as it was of several religions of antiquity...

.

Organization


The American Baptists Churches USA has a congregationalist polity
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"...

 emphasizing local church autonomy. Local churches are organized into 35 regions. The General Board makes policy for the denomination's national agencies. However, General Board resolutions are not binding on local congregations. Three-fourths of the representatives to the General Board are nominated and elected by the regions. One-fourth of the representatives are nominated by the Nominating Committee and are elected by the regions. The General Secretary executes the policies and decisions of the General Board. A. Roy Medley is ABCUSA's General Secretary.

A substantial portion of the ABCUSA consists of African-American churches that may have joint affiliations with the ABCUSA and historic bodies such as the National Baptist Convention
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...

 or the Progressive National Baptist Convention
Progressive National Baptist Convention
The Progressive National Baptist Convention, Incorporated is a convention of African-American Baptists emphasizing civil rights and social justice....

.

Membership trends


In 2006, the American Baptist Churches USA reported 1,371,278 members in 5,659 churches. Membership remained fairly steady during the 20th century. In 1925, there were just over 1.4 million members. Membership peaked in the early 1980s at around 1.6 million. Congregations are concentrated in the Midwest and Northeast.

Affiliated seminaries


There are a number of universities and colleges affiliated with the ABCUSA. There are ten seminaries affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA:
  • American Baptist Seminary of the West
    American Baptist Seminary of the West
    The American Baptist Seminary of the West is a theological school affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA and the Progressive National Baptist Convention. It is located in Berkeley, California, USA. It is part of the Graduate Theological Union, a consortium of theological schools and...

    , Berkeley, California
    Berkeley, California
    Berkeley is a city on the east shore of the San Francisco Bay in Northern California, United States. Its neighbors to the south are the cities of Oakland and Emeryville. To the north is the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington...

     http://www.absw.edu
  • Andover Newton Theological School
    Andover Newton Theological School
    Andover Newton Theological School is a graduate school and seminary located in Newton, Massachusetts. It is America's oldest graduate seminary and the nation's first graduate institution of any kind...

    , Newton, Massachusetts
    Newton, Massachusetts
    Newton is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States bordered to the east by Boston. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the population of Newton was 85,146, making it the eleventh largest city in the state.-Villages:...

     http://www.ants.edu
  • Central Baptist Theological Seminary
    Central Baptist Theological Seminary
    Central Baptist Theological Seminary is the name of several Baptist seminaries:*Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Kansas City, in Shawnee, Kansas, is a professional graduate school of theology affiliated with the American Baptist Churches U.S.A. and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship...

    , Shawnee, Kansas
    Shawnee, Kansas
    Shawnee is a city located in northwest Johnson County, Kansas, United States and is a western suburb of Kansas City, Missouri. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 62,209. Shawnee's fur trading and pioneering heritage blends histories of these Kansas Territory townships: Monticello and...

     http://www.cbts.edu
  • Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School
    Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School
    Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School is a theological college of Baptist origins. The present day school, which sits on the top of a hill in the beautiful setting of Highland Park in Rochester, New York is a product of several mergers....

    , Rochester, New York
    Rochester, New York
    Rochester is a city in Monroe County, New York, south of Lake Ontario in the United States. Known as The World's Image Centre, it was also once known as The Flour City, and more recently as The Flower City...

     http://www.crcds.edu
  • Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico
    San Juan, Puerto Rico
    San Juan , officially Municipio de la Ciudad Capital San Juan Bautista , is the capital and most populous municipality in Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the United States. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 395,326 making it the 46th-largest city under the jurisdiction of...

     http://www.seminarioevangelicopr.org
  • Morehouse School of Religion
    Interdenominational Theological Center
    The Interdenominational Theological Center is a consortium of denominational seminaries located in Atlanta, Georgia. Today ITC educates and nurtures women and men who commit to and practice a liberating and transforming spirituality; academic discipline; religious, gender, and cultural diversity;...

    , Atlanta, Georgia
    Atlanta, Georgia
    Atlanta is the capital and most populous city in the U.S. state of Georgia. According to the 2010 census, Atlanta's population is 420,003. Atlanta is the cultural and economic center of the Atlanta metropolitan area, which is home to 5,268,860 people and is the ninth largest metropolitan area in...

     http://www.itc.edu
  • Northern Baptist Theological Seminary
    Northern Baptist Theological Seminary
    Northern Baptist Theological Seminary is a seminary located in Lombard, Illinois, USA, near Chicago. It was founded in 1913 by the Second Baptist Church of Chicago to prepare students for church leadership, and it continues to represent a theologically conservative alternative within its...

    , Lombard, Illinois
    Lombard, Illinois
    Lombard, "The Lilac Village", is a suburb of Chicago in DuPage County, Illinois. The population was 42,322 at the 2000 census. The United States Census Bureau estimated the population in 2004 to be 42,975.-History:...

     http://www.seminary.edu
  • Palmer Theological Seminary
    Palmer Theological Seminary
    Palmer Theological Seminary was founded in 1925 as Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Originally located on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, it moved in 1940 to its present location in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, just across the street from the city boundary...

    , Wynnewood, Pennsylvania
    Wynnewood, Pennsylvania
    Wynnewood, Pennsylvania is a suburban community located outside of Philadelphia in Lower Merion Township, Pennsylvania and Haverford Township, Pennsylvania, United States. Wynnewood was named in 1691 for Dr. Thomas Wynne, William Penn's physician and the first Speaker of the Pennsylvania General...

     http://www.palmerseminary.edu
  • Shaw University Divinity School
    Shaw University
    Shaw University, founded as Raleigh Institute, is a private liberal arts institution and historically black university in Raleigh, North Carolina, United States. Founded in 1865, it is the oldest HBCU in the Southern United States....

    , Raleigh, North Carolina
    Raleigh, North Carolina
    Raleigh is the capital and the second largest city in the state of North Carolina as well as the seat of Wake County. Raleigh is known as the "City of Oaks" for its many oak trees. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city's 2010 population was 403,892, over an area of , making Raleigh...

     http://www.shawuniversity.edu/SUDS
  • The Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology, Virginia Union University
    Virginia Union University
    Virginia Union University is a historically black university located in Richmond, Virginia, United States. It took its present name in 1899 upon the merger of two older schools, Richmond Theological Institute and Wayland Seminary, each founded after the end of American Civil War by the American...

    , Richmond, Virginia
    Richmond, Virginia
    Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States. It is an independent city and not part of any county. Richmond is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Greater Richmond area...

     http://www.vuu.edu/theology/home.htm

Prominent members

  • Tony Campolo
    Tony Campolo
    Dr. Anthony "Tony" Campolo is an American pastor, author, sociologist, and public speaker known for challenging evangelical Christians by illustrating how their faith can offer solutions in a world of complexity. With his liberal political and social attitudes, he has been a major proponent for...

  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
    Martin Luther King, Jr.
    Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the...

  • James L. Kraft
    James L. Kraft
    James Lewis Kraft was a Canadian-American entrepreneur and inventor. Born near Stevensville, Ontario in Canada to Mennonite parents, George and Minerva Tripp Kraft, he was the first to patent processed cheese...

  • Helen Barrett Montgomery
    Helen Barrett Montgomery
    Helen Barrett Montgomery was an American social reformer, educator and writer. In 1921 she was elected as the first woman president of the Northern Baptist Convention . She had long been a delegate to the Convention and a policymaker...

  • John D. Rockefeller
    John D. Rockefeller
    John Davison Rockefeller was an American oil industrialist, investor, and philanthropist. He was the founder of the Standard Oil Company, which dominated the oil industry and was the first great U.S. business trust. Rockefeller revolutionized the petroleum industry and defined the structure of...

  • Senator Robert Byrd
  • Senator Mark Hatfield
    Mark Hatfield
    Mark Odom Hatfield was an American politician and educator from the state of Oregon. A Republican, he served for 30 years as a United States Senator from Oregon, and also as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee...


External links