The Baptists trace their origins to John Smyth and the Separatist Movement beginning in England in 1608. Historians say that Smyth rejected baptism of infants and instituted baptism only of believing adults.
In America, several Baptist congregations came together in Augusta, Georgia in 1845 to form the largest American Baptist organization, the Southern Baptist Convention.
The Baptist denomination is the largest Free Church denomination in the world with 43 million members across the globe, where more than 33 million Baptists live in the United States. The Southern Baptist Convention comprises more than 40,000 churches. More than half of all Southern Baptists in the world live in five southern states: Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama.
Each Baptist congregation is free to act for and govern itself. Baptist churches are free to operate inside the guidelines of the Bible, elect its own pastor and manage its own business. There is no hierarchy of bishops, councils or any other authority that oversees groups of churches.
However, there are a large number of Baptist churches today that formed alliances and conventions, such as the Southern Baptist Convention, that are cooperatively submit themselves to a non-local church authority. The convention does not hold complete authority over churches that participate in them, but many have centralized governing power, which conflicts somewhat with the historic Baptist position of local church autonomy.
Baptists believe that baptism is a symbolic act that represents the salvation of an individual. Also referred to as “Believer’s Baptism,” a testimony of salvation is required before someone is baptized by immersion. Baptists also believe that the Bible and its clear, literal teachings are the final authority for faith and practice.
There are many notable Baptists; among some of a few are Billy Graham, Jimmy Carter, author John Grisham, Johnny Cash, Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood.
For more information on local Baptist churches, visit our church directory on page 19, or visit www.sbc.net.