views updated May 23 2018


African-American Baptists are Christians who trace their common descent to Africa and share similar Biblical doctrines and congregational policies. They share these values with the broader American Baptist religious tradition. African-American Baptists represent the largest and most diverse group of the many African-American denominations in the United States. They are known for their emphasis on emotional preaching and worship, educational institutions, economic leadership in the community, and sociopolitical activism.

The origin of African-American Baptists must be understood in the context of the interracial religious experiences of colonial American history and the African roots of the spirituality of slaves. White Baptists were initially slow in their evangelistic efforts among African slaves, as language barriers and economic considerations prevented the rapid evangelization of transplanted Africans. However, by the second half of the eighteenth century, a few persistent Baptist evangelists eluded these barriers and converted growing numbers of slaves.

Antebellum Baptists

The movement began largely on plantations in the South, where the vast majority of African slaves resided, and it spread to urban areas. Generally, the conversion of slaves tended to follow the denominational lines of white masters. Hence, the numbers of African-American Baptists tended to grow along with the remarkable expansion of Baptists in the South between 1750 and 1850. On occasion, Baptist evangelists were invited by slaveholders belonging to local Baptist congregations to preach to their plantation slaves. On other occasions, slave owners would allow slaves to accompany them to church or hold devotional services in their own "big houses."

There were scattered instances of African Americans attending biracial churches during the late colonial period. As early as 1772, Robert Stevens and eighteen other African Americans were members of the First Baptist Church of Providence, Rhode Island. By 1772, the First Baptist Church of Boston was also receiving blacks into its congregation. Very likely, the Baptist churches of the South had some black members prior to the 1770s. As a result of interracial evangelizing between 1773 and 1775, David George organized the first black Baptist church in North America, at Silver Bluff, South Carolina, near Savannah, Georgia. This increasing tendency to receive slaves into the Baptist churches created the interracial Baptist church experience in colonial American society.

By the early national period, the presence of slaves exceeded the numbers of whites in a few churches in the South. However, whether they were the majority or minority presence in these churches, African-American Baptists were still limited in their membership privileges and responsibilities. Slavery and racism prevented the existence of authentic fellowship based on Christian principles within these early churches. These social pressures later resulted in the demise of racially mixed churches and the emergence of Baptist churches organized along racial lines.

Slave preachers were the first to verbalize the need for churches separate from the white Baptists. Some of them had been previously exposed to leadership roles, having served as religious leaders in Africa. They wanted a style

of Baptist life and witness that would permit the free expression of spirituality and the involvement of African-American preachers in pastoral leadership. The first movement toward separate black Baptist churches took place when African Americans stole off to the woods, canebrakes, and remote cabins to have preaching and prayer meetings of their own. These meetings were usually held early in the morning, when the patrols over the slaves would retire from night duty to sleep during the day. Hence, early morning prayer meetings were created out of necessity.

Among the early African-American Baptist preachers who pioneered the plantation missions and the movement toward separate churches were: "Uncle Jack," who went from plantation to plantation in Virginia in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, preaching to whites as well as African Americans; "Uncle Harry" Cowan, who labored extensively in North Carolina; and George Liele (17521825), who preached on the plantations of South Carolina and Georgia and actually paved the way for the planting of the first separate churches among African-American Christians. Liele's evangelistic ministry inspired the founding of the Silver Bluff Baptist Church in Aikens County, South Carolina, by David George (17421810) in the late 1700s and of the First Colored Baptist Church of Savannah, Georgia, by Andrew Bryan (17371812) in the 1780s. There were other African-American preachers who labored on plantations for the evangelization of slaves and the subsequent separate Baptist church movement, but most of their names are now lost.

Within a decade after the founding of African-American Baptist churches in South Carolina and Georgia, slaves and free blacks in other parts of the country began similar movements away from white-dominated churches and toward the creation of their own churches. During the American Revolution, the African-American Baptists of Petersburg, Virginia, organized the Gilfield Baptist Church and the Harrison Street Baptist Church (both in Petersburg) and the first Baptist churches in both Williamsburg and Richmond, Virginia.

African-American Baptist churches were soon organized in the north. The Joy Street Baptist Church, originally called the African Meeting House, was constituted in Boston in 1805. The Abyssinian Baptist Church of New York City was organized in 1808, presumably by a group of traders who came to New York City from Ethiopia (then called Abyssinia). These were followed by the Concord Baptist Church of Brooklyn, New York (May 18, 1847); the First African Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (June 19, 1809); the First African Baptist Church in Trenton, New Jersey (1812); the Middlerun Baptist Church in Xenia, Ohio (1822); and the First Colored Peoples' Baptist Church of Baltimore (1836). This lists only some of the more important churches.

The roots of the Baptist cooperative movement go back to the antebellum period. In the early 1830s, organizational consciousness emerged among black Baptists in Ohio with the evolution of the associational movement. Baptists began to see the need for united Christian ministries among churches in near proximity. Hence, local churches began the formation of associations to advance such causes as education, home missions, and foreign missions. In 1834 they organized the Providence Baptist Association in Berlin Cross Roads, Ohio. This was followed by the founding of a politically oriented movement called the Union Anti-Slavery Baptist Association, also organized in Ohio in 1843. Slowly, the associational movement spread to other states. The organization of Baptist state conventions began in North Carolina with the founding of the General State Convention in 1866.

The cooperative efforts of African-American Baptists were prompted by a growing consciousness of an interest in doing missionary work in Africa. Lott Carey and other pioneer African-American missionaries inspired early church leaders to seek even greater cooperation among their separate churches. As early as 1840, black Baptists of New England and the Middle Atlantic states met in New York's Abyssinian Baptist Church to organize the American Baptist Missionary Convention, their first cooperative movement beyond state lines.

Civil War and the Era of Church Growth

The Civil War era and Reconstruction gave impetus to the organization of several cooperative movement bodies. The Baptists of the West and Southwest met in St. Louis in 1864 and organized the Northwestern and Southern Baptist Conventions. In 1866 these two regional conventions met in a special session in Richmond, Virginia, and organized the Consolidated American Baptist Convention, representing 100,000 black baptists and two hundred ministers. The new convention was an attempt to promote unity, discourage sectionalism, and create a national spirit of cooperation. The work of the Consolidated Convention was fostered by the formation of district auxiliary conventions, state conventions, and associations.

In 1873 the African-American Baptists of the West organized the General Association of the Western States and Territories, and in 1874 those in the East organized the New England Baptist Missionary Convention. These two bodies soon overshadowed the spirit of unity expressed in the Consolidated American Baptist Convention. A persistent spirit of independence and sectionalism on the part of both eastern and western Baptists caused the decline of the Consolidated Baptist Convention, resulting in its termination at its last meeting in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1878. A vacuum in the cooperative missionary movement resulted.

In response, William W. Colley, a missionary to Africa appointed by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, returned to the United States with a determination to revive a cooperative spirit among African-American Baptists. He led the way for the organization of the Baptist Foreign Mission Convention on November 24, 1880, in Montgomery, Alabama. This convention effectively revived an expanding interest in the evangelization of Africa.

The next steps toward separate denominational development came with the organization of the American National Baptist Convention (1893) and the Tripartite Union (1894). On September 28, 1895, these organizations merged to form the first real denomination among African-American Baptists, the National Baptist Convention (NBC) U.S.A. For the first time, the combined ministries of the churches throughout the nation were fostered by a separate national organization of African-American Baptists.

Primitive Baptists

A number of African-American baptists were opposed to the organization of missionary associations, in part because the Arminianism of the mid-nineteenth-century revivals was in conflict with traditional notions of predestination. The major outgrowth of the antimission movement was the rise of the African-American Primitive Baptists. Initially, Primitive Baptists inherited their antimission spirit from white Baptists. As early as 1820, the Saint Barley Primitive Baptist Church of Huntsville, Alabama (originally organized as the Huntsville African Baptist Church), evolved as one of the earliest separate Primitive Baptist churches. Subsequently, a number of churches joined with them. By 1907 these churches had gained sufficient strength to organize themselves into the National Primitive Baptist Convention. However, their rate of growth was far below that of the National Baptists. Still smaller in numbers and influence were the United American Freewill Baptists. Today, both the Primitive and Freewill Baptists still constitute a minority presence among African-American Baptists.

The question of missions also played a major role in a split at the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A. In 1897 a controversy erupted at the annual session of the convention, convening that year in Boston. The major issues in dispute were the financial administration of foreign mission programs and cooperation with white Baptists. The majority opinion favored the fiscal policy of the convention and the exclusive operation of the denomination independent of white Baptist influence.

However, a minority of delegates from Virginia, North Carolina, and several other Atlantic Coast states, as well as Washington, D.C., decided to organize a separate missionary society that, with white support, was designed exclusively to advance a foreign mission enterprise. They met at the Baptist Church, in Washington, D.C., and organized the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention. These leaders adopted a constitutional provision requiring at least 75 percent of all funds collected by the convention to be sent to foreign missions.

The great break within the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A. came during its formative years, in 1915. Efforts to maintain unity and harmony within the convention had previously posed vexing challenges to church officials. Unlike the crisis that led to the Lott Carey Convention movement, the crisis of 1915 was primarily a legal problem regarding the ownership and management of the National Baptist Publishing Board, headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Signs of dissent within the leadership of the convention were apparent for almost a decade before the actual separation of 1915.

The crisis came to a head during the annual session in Chicago. It took the form of a legal struggle between two groups: the majority, who supported convention control of the publishing board, and those who favored the independence of the publishing board as a separate corporate entity. The court decided in favor of the majority, and unity between the factions could not be restored. The result was the organization of a new denomination. The majority faction incorporated as the National Baptist Convention U.S.A., Inc; the minority group met on September 9, 1915 at the Salem Baptist Church and organized the National Baptist Convention of America. It is now called the National Baptist Convention of America. Members of the publishing board played the key role in the development of the new denomination, which has policies similar to those of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc.

Progressive National Baptist Convention

The Progressive National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., organized in 1961, grew out of a major crisis within the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., relating to the issues of tenure and civil rights strategies. Joseph H. Jackson, the president of the National Baptist Convention, was opposed to the civil rights agenda of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and related organizations. He was opposed by Gardner C. Taylor, pastor of Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York, and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., president of the SCLC.

The initial struggle erupted in 1961 when Taylor challenged Jackson's bid for re-election to the presidency on the grounds that Jackson had exceeded the tenure requirement. The challenge was marked by violence, controversy, and a legal battle. The "Taylor team" was determined to defeat Jackson and plan a new course for the convention. However, Jackson's popularity prevailed in the vote on the floor of the convention and was upheld in a civil court. The Taylor team did not accept this defeat, however, since they were determined to lead African-American Baptists in a new and progressive direction, especially in the area of civil rights.

On September 11, 1961, a national news release invited progressive-minded leaders to join forces with the Taylor team and organize a new denomination named the Progressive National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. The new denomination promoted the civil rights program of Martin Luther King, Jr. and launched a program of cooperation with the largely white American Baptist Churches, U.S.A. The new program was called the Fund of Renewal, designed to promote specialized mission projects. This program also engendered a new spirit of cooperation between African-American and white Baptists.

Black Baptist churches were one of the anchors of the civil rights movement, with Baptist ministers such as Vernon Johns, Benjamin Mays, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Martin Luther King Jr., David Abernathy, and Gardner Taylor in the forefront of the struggle for black equality. The contribution of black Baptists to the civil rights movement, and the inspiration that it has provided to both Americans and oppressed people elsewhere, is one of the greatest legacies of twentieth-century African-American Baptists.

The vast majority of African-American Baptists have been strong supporters of foreign missions. Early pioneers of the missionary enterprise, besides Lott Carey (17801829) and George Liele, were Prince Williams and W. W. Colley. These men set the stage for an aggressive missionary program in India, Africa, Central America, and the

West Indies. With the rise of foreign missions boards among the denominations, African-American Baptists developed a sophisticated approach to the evangelization of non-Christians. They developed schools, hospitals, clinics, and agricultural projects, and they established new churches in various parts of the world. The Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention pioneered the movement to utilize indigenous people in leadership positions in foreign missions, which facilitated the philosophy of self-help and independence among peoples in developing nations. Many of the leaders within these nations came out of the missionary agencies.

One of the important changes in the black Baptist church since the 1960s has been the changing status of women. Nannie Helen Burroughs (18831961), through her longtime leadership of the Women's Convention Auxiliary of the National Baptist Convention, was a dominant figure in twentieth-century African-American Baptist life. Until the latter half of the twentieth century, however, women were not allowed to be preachers or to take active roles in church leadership. The Baptists were slow to ordain women for the ministry; black women were not ordained until the 1970s, and even then only in small numbers. Other leadership roles were also denied to women, such as that of deacon. The bias against promoting women to positions of prominence in the Baptist has changed, however, although too slowly for many.


The ministry of education of African-American Baptists has been in the forefront of the cooperative programs of associations, state conventions, and national conventions. The Civil War marked the beginning of strong cooperative strides among local churches to advance the intellectual development of blacks. Many churches served as schools during the week and houses of worship on Sundays. Moreover, local associations organized schools in many of the rural areas and small towns of the South. With the rise of public education, most of the associational secondary schools were closed.

The development of higher education for African Americans, however, has been among the lasting contributions of African-American Baptists. The magnitude of the task prompted African-American Baptists to cooperate with whites in the development of schools of higher learning. This evolution may be classified into two groups: cooperative schools with whites, and independent African-American schools. There are a number of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that were founded with Baptist support. These colleges, most of which were created in the South in the postbellum years, had two main purposes. Some of these schools were seminaries and helped train young men for the ministry. An even more pressing task in the minds of many of the college founders was to create a cadre of teachers who could, in turn, educate freedmen in primary schools. However, due to funding problems, many of the Baptist HBCUs functioned as little more than secondary schools in their early decades.

Many Baptist HBCUs were founded by whites, one of the driving forces being the American Baptist Home Mission Society (ABHMS). Wayland Seminary, the first seminary for black Baptists, later incorporated into Virginia Union University, opened in Washington, D.C., in 1865. Another root of the Virginia Union University was the Richmond Theological Center, founded in Richmond, Virginia, also in 1865. Other HBCUs founded by white Baptists include Shaw University (originally Raleigh Institute, 1865) in Raleigh, North Carolina; Morehouse College (originally Augusta Institute, 1867) in Atlanta, Georgia; Spelman College (originally Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary, 1881) in Atlanta; Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina (1870); Jackson State University (originally Natchez Seminary, 1877) in Jackson, Mississippi; and Florida Memorial College (originally Florida Baptist Institute, 1879) in Miami.

Many of these schools represent substantial efforts by white Baptists in the intellectual development of African Americans. They financed, administered, and staffed most of these schools, and only gradually did African-American Baptists assume responsibility for directing the schools. A number of schools were founded by African-American Baptists, but, because of problems with funding, they faced severe operating difficulties and had to close. The first independent African Baptist school of higher learning founded by black Baptists was Guadelupe College in Seguin, Texas. Others appeared in rapid succession: Houston College at Houston, Texas (1885); Walker Baptist Institute in Augusta, Georgia (1888); and Friendship Baptist College in Rock Hill, South Carolina (1891). Only Morris College in Sumter, South Carolina (1908) remains open in the early twenty-first century.

In the early twentieth century, Baltimore became a center of Baptist seminaries. The Colored Baptist Convention of Maryland organized Clayton-Williams Academy and Biblical Institute in 1901; the Maryland Baptist Missionary Convention organized Lee and Hayes University in 1914; the Independent Colored Baptist Convention organized Williams and Jones University in 1928; and the United Baptist Missionary Convention organized Maryland Baptist Center and School of Religion in 1942. These Baltimore schools were largely the result of convention rivalry and survived only a few years. In 1921 two other schools were organized: Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Topeka, Kansas, and Northern Baptist University in Rahway, Nw Jersey. Both schools provided educated leadership for blacks, and many of the graduates have helped to advance the social, political, economic, and religious progress of African Americans. The Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia, was formed in 1958 by a merger of a number of African-American seminaries, including the former Morehouse School of Religion.

Music and Liturgy

From the beginning of separate religious services, African-American Baptists utilized music in their worship. This music was an expression of the deep sentiment of the people as they reacted to the severe oppression of life in America. It grew out of the secular songs of plantation slavelabor gangs. As slaves were converted to Christianity, they incorporated their new religious beliefs into the songs of the plantations. The result was Negro spirituals. These songs played a major role in church life until the postbellum era, when Protestant hymns from the white religious experience began to become more important in church services. However, groups such as the Fisk Jubilee Singers (1871) sustained the spiritual tradition in the late nineteenth century. Their concert tours of Europe and America introduced spirituals to a new and highly receptive audience.

Gospel music has been one of the most important innovations in church services in the twentieth century. Thomas A. Dorsey, a pioneer gospel music composer, exponent, and instructor, was largely responsible for the introduction of gospel music in the worship of these churches. In 1932 the National Convention of Gospel Choirs was organized to promote the work of Dorsey in the churches. This organization encouraged the introduction of contests of choirs, quartets, and soloists in local churches. Two other major individuals contributed to the development of music in the religious experience of African Americans: James A. Cleveland, through his National Workshop Choir, and Glenn T. Settle, the originator of Wings Over Jordan, a nationally acclaimed chorus. Subsequently, most of the performing artists in the broader culture received training, inspiration, and exposure from serving in local church choirs and choruses. Currently, many African-American Baptist churches are influenced by recording artists on popular gospel music radio stations.

Similarly, drama has played a role in the development of African-American Baptist churches. African-American preaching itself emerged as a unique art form. The dramatic presentation of the sermon was characteristic of these churches; preachers literally acted out the contents of their messages to their congregations. Moreover, these churches served as the central stage for dramatic presentations of other performing artists in talent shows, plays, and pageants. The recitation of religious poetry became a component of the artistic expression of church programs.

Painting has been less influential in African-American Baptist churches, which have tended to accept white expressions of religious art. However, the Black Power and black theology movements altered the art works in the churches. In the late twentieth century, some churches, like New Shiloh Baptist Church of Baltimore, began developing Afrocentric murals of the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and scenes from African-American life and culture.

Because of the inherent autonomy of African-American Baptists, there remains much variety in size, political

involvement, and religious practice of independent congregations. Some of the larger urban churchessuch as Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., Mount Olivet in Chicago, Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York, and the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlemhave long been centers of community activity and have served as political bases for their pastors. On the other hand, small rural Baptist churches, while their numbers have declined, remain the backbone of numerous communities.

Since the 1930s, and with even more emphasis since the 1960s, many black Baptist pastors have emphasized the social aspects of their ministry. They have stressed social outreach, particularly working with disaffected teenagers and prison populations and discouraging drug use. Baptist churches represent the largest denominational group among African Americans, and they continue to shape black cultural, political, and spiritual life in countless ways. In 1990 there were approximately twelve million African-American Baptists. Black Baptists will likely continue to endure and change in response to the myriad challenges of contemporary African-American life.

See also Abyssinian Baptist Church; Burroughs, Nannie Helen; Carey, Lott; King, Martin Luther, Jr.; Liele, George; Missionary Movements; National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc.; Primitive Baptists; Protestantism in the Americas; Theology, Black


Boyd, Jesse L. A Popular History of the Baptists in Mississippi. Jackson, Miss., 1930.

Goodwin, Everett C., ed. Baptists in the Balance: A Tension Between Freedom and Responsibility. Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1997.

Higginbotham, Evelyn Brooks. Righteous Discontent: The Women's Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993.

Lincoln, C. Eric, and Lawrence H. Mamiya. The Black Church in the African-American Experience. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1990.

Lumpkin, William L. Baptist Confessions of Faith. Chicago: Judson Press, 1959.

McKinney, Lora-Ellen. Total Praise: An Orientation to Black Baptist Belief and Worship. Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 2002.

Piepkorn, Arthur Carl. "The Primitive Baptists of North America." Concordia Theological Monthly (May 1971): 297-313.

Sobel, Mechal. Trabelin' On: The Slave Journey to an Afro-Baptist Faith. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1979.

Sobel, Mechal. The World They Made Together: Black and White Values in Eighteenth-Century Virginia. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987.

Washington, James M. Frustrated Fellowship: The Black Baptist Quest for Social Power. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1986.

leroy fitts (1996)
Updated bibliography


views updated May 21 2018


Protestant churches, congregational in ecclesial polity, greatly diverse in theological orientation, with a strong emphasis on autonomy and diversity. All Baptist congregations generally subscribe to a common core of beliefs, including: (1) the sovereign lordship of Jesus Christ, (2) Bible as divinely inspired, the sole rule of life;(3) the freedom of everyone to approach God directly; (4) salvation by one's faith and God's grace; (5) the two ordinances of baptism by immersion and the Lord's Supper,(6) independence of a local congregation, (7) the church as a group of regenerated believers baptized upon confession of faith in Christ, and (8) rejection of infant baptism as unbiblical.

Distinctive Theological Emphases. Baptists differ from many Christians regarding the visible manifestation of church. Most Christian churches are territorial, indiscriminately embracing all believers within a given area regardless of spiritual qualifications, and level of faith commitment. Baptists, to the contrary, held that membership in visible churches should be limited to those who were members of the true people of God. In their own terms, "Visible churches are made up of visible saints."

Although Baptists conceded the impossibility of ascertaining perfectly who belonged to God's elect, they believed that there were signs that indicated whether a person were truly regenerate. Therefore, applicants for membership were required to relate their experience of God's grace before the entire congregation. When convinced of the authenticity of such a testimony, the church "by a judgment of charity" approved the person for baptism. Once admitted into the church, a member accepted covenant obligations and was subject to the discipline of the congregation. Baptists were not perfectionists, but they expected sincere commitment and an earnest attempt to be obedient to Christ.

Baptists also placed great importance upon each local congregation. Denying that the Universal Church is embodied in a single, concrete institution, they insisted that it is visible primarily in particular congregations. To every such "gathered church," they held, authority had been given to order its own affairs under the headship of Jesus Christ. All members were expected to participate in the worship and in the church meeting at which the will of Christ was sought on pertinent issues. The strong emphasis upon the local congregation was balanced by a recognition of the need for fellowship with other churches and for cooperation in common concerns. This sense of interdependence they acknowledged through forming associations.

In connection with their concept of the Church, Baptists had a strong conviction regarding religious liberty. Believing that congregations of disciplined Christians were a sensitive instrument for seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they insisted that they should be free to obey the Lord's will. Therefore, they opposed interference from outside authorities, either civil or ecclesiastical.

Origin and Development in England. A late offshoot of the English Reformation, Baptists represented a variety of Puritanism. Although some have claimed for Baptists an unbroken succession from the 1st century, this view cannot be substantiated. Another theory relates Baptists to the Swiss Brethren of Zurich, via the Mennonite line; but if such a connection existed, it was very tenuous and had little significance for subsequent Baptist history (see anabaptists; mennonite churches). That Baptists emerged from English Congregationalism early in the 17th century is demonstrable, and there is no need to seek beyond this source to account for characteristic emphases of the Baptist faith (see congregational churches).

At two distinct points, Baptist branches sprouted from the Congregationalist stalk. The first instance was that of an English refugee group of Congregationalists in Amsterdam, Holland, of whom John smyth was pastor. In about 1609 Smyth concluded that infant baptism was invalid, and he proceeded to baptize himself and the rest of his congregation, reconstituting the church on the basis of believer's baptism. Subsequently a part of that congregation returned to England to become the first Baptist church there. Two pastors of that church, Thomas Helwys and John Murton, published early pleas for religious freedom. Another separate emanation of Baptists occurred about 1638, when members of a Congregationalist church in London seceded to organize a new church that practiced believer's baptism. It appears that prior to 1641 Baptists practiced affusion, but after that date the rite was administered by the mode of immersion.

From these two churches the General and the Particular Baptists developed. In most respects they were alike, but they disagreed over the questions of predestination and human freedom. The General Baptists, stemming from Smyth's congregation, held that Christ's atoning death was general. This tinge of arminianism can be accounted for by their residence in the Netherlands when these issues were being fiercely debated. The Particular Baptists, arising from the London congregation of 1638, believed in a limited atonement. That is, since God had predestined those whom he would save, the atonement of Christ sufficed only for particular individuals who were of the elect.

Both General and Particular Baptists early declared their views in confessions of faith. Although they are frequently referred to as belonging to the "left-wing" variety of Puritanism, along with Quakers, Baptists placed much more importance upon objective authority of Scriptures, confessional statements, and procedural regularity than did the latter group (see friends, religious society of). The most important document of the General Baptists was the Orthodox Creed of 1678. Explicitly affirming acceptance of the Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds, this document set forth the theological views of the General Baptists in detail. The classic formulation of Particular Baptists was the Second London Confession of 1677. For more than a century and a half it was used as a standard in both England and America.

Both groups had a similar understanding of baptism and the Lord's Supper, which they referred to as sacraments or ordinances. Baptism was regarded as the sign of engrafting into the body of Christ, of remission of sins, and of fellowship with Christ in his death and resurrection. Baptists differed with regard to the degree of authority that belonged to their respective general assemblies, and there were some differences in their church officers. In relationship to other Christians, they felt particularly close to Congregationalists and Presbyterians, but they refused to join in observing the Lord's Supper with any paedobaptists.

During the Civil Wars and Cromwell's Protectorate (164160), Baptists flourished. Many were in positions of leadership in the army and navy. Even after the Restoration (1660) they survived, although many of their number, such as John bunyan, were persecuted. In 1689 the Act of Toleration brought religious freedom to all Protestants, but in the ensuing years both General and Particular Baptists lapsed into a period of stagnation.

Renewal came toward the end of the 18th century. A new theological development, led mainly by Andrew Fuller, brought a breath of fresh air into the atmosphere of hyper-Calvinism that had stifled the Particular Baptists. This Fullerism provided a platform for an aggressive evangelistic stand in England and for a new era in foreign missions, launched by William carey and the Baptist Mission Society. Throughout the 19th century, the Particular Baptists were vigorous, but the General Baptists faded into obscurity; nevertheless, a revitalized movement known as the New Connection General Baptists sprang from them in 1770. In 1891 the Particulars merged with the New Connection group. Out of the British Baptists have come great preachers, such as Robert Hall, Charles Haddon spurgeon, and John Clifford. They have also had renowned scholars, such as T. R. Glover, H. Wheeler Robinson, and H. H. Rowley. By mid-20th century British Baptists were diminishing in numbers, as they faced the secularism that has blighted both the Established Church and the Free Churches.

History in the U.S. In America, the first Baptist church was formed by Roger williams in rhode is land. After his expulsion from Massachusetts Bay, he established a colony in which complete religious freedom was granted to all people. In 1638 he renounced infant baptism and formed a church of persons baptized upon a profession of faith. Soon thereafter, another Baptist church was organized at Newport by John Clarke. Before long both General and Particular Baptists were represented in Rhode Island, and at Newport in 1671 a Seventh Day Baptist church was constituted. Until about 1740 the General (Six-Principle) Baptists were predominant in New England, and in 1770 they organized an association. Their growth, however, was very slow.

Growth to 1800. The Particular Baptists were destined to become the mainstream of the denominational life in America as in Britain, and their earliest strength was in the Middle Colonies. In 1707 five churches in New Jersey and Pennsylvania organized the Philadelphia Baptist Association, which was to have great influence upon Baptist life in America. Delegates from churches met annually to discuss common interests, settle problems, and promote fellowship. Although each church retained its freedom of action, the association could eject churches that did not conform to the corporate will of the churches. By means of the association, doctrinal uniformity was long preserved, a ministry was provided, disputes were settled, and education was encouraged.

In keeping with the distinctive emphasis outlined earlier, each church was a close-knit fellowship. New churches were formed by means of a covenant that set forth the obligations of church members, and strict discipline was maintained by each congregation. Services of worship were simple, consisting of congregational songs, prayers, a Scripture lesson, and a lengthy sermon. Adornments and symbols such as candles, crosses, pictures, stained glass windows, and musical instruments were eschewed, and neither Christmas nor Easter was observed. Organization, too, was simple, vested in a pastor, deacons, clerk, and ruling elders. Ministers usually had little formal education, although a few attended colonial colleges and others were tutored by older ministers. The need of an educated ministry, however, was widely recognized, and many ministers achieved a surprising degree of learning by their own efforts. Ordination was kept in the power of each local church, but representatives from other churches were invited to help determine a candidate's fitness and to aid in the ordination service.

With the advent of the great awakening, Baptists began to grow. In New England, Baptists benefited by the accession of hundreds of New Light, or Separate, Congregationalists. It was in the South that Baptists experienced the greatest increase, as Separates from New England moved into that region. Beginning with Shubael Stearns and William Marshall, who came from New England to Sandy Creek, NC, a series of revivals produced numerous churches and pastors in a short time. From a handful of Baptists in the southern colonies in 1740, their number grew to more than 1,300 churches by 1800.

Baptists played an active role in the struggle for freedom. In the Revolutionary era they generally sided with the patriots, taking part in politics and serving as chaplains and soldiers. John Hart of New Jersey was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. In Massachusetts and Virginia, where they had suffered discrimination on religious grounds, Baptists carried on a vigorous campaign against the establishment. Isaac Backus, John Leland, and others made important contributions to the theory of religious liberty that became integral in American life.

Development after 1800. The early 19th century witnessed unprecedented activity in the churches, as interest in evangelism, missions, and education developed. In 1814 the Baptists organized a national society for foreign missions, when three Congregationalists became Baptists. Adoniram judson, Ann Judson, and Luther rice had been sent to India by the Congregationalists. but when they decided that infant baptism was unwarranted by the Scriptures, they became Baptists. Learning that the Judsons and Rice were available to serve as their missionaries, Baptists in America organized the Triennial Convention. Within a few years, they had also organized a publishing society, a home mission society, and a Bible society. Simultaneously, state conventions and educational societies were being established. All of these agencies were composed of interested persons who paid annual dues. The adoption of this "society method" for supporting missions and education was of great significance, for it meant that denominational organization would for a long time be based upon single-purpose voluntary societies that had no direct relationship to the churches. No national Baptist convention was formed in the North until the 20th century. Accompanying the rising interest in missions were other signs of vitality. Sunday Schools were organized rapidly after 1820, and academies and colleges were established in nearly every state. Newton Theological Institution, Mass., was founded in 1825. Colgate, Rochester, and Southern Baptist seminaries also were founded prior to the Civil War. And Baptists were active in reform movements, particularly the temperance cause.

Divisions. With rapid growth, diverse cultural influences, and increasing individualism, Baptists began to form separate groups. Out of the Great Awakening had come the Free Will Baptists, when Benjamin Randall sought to maintain an Arminian theology. In the 1830s, on the other hand, an Old School (Primitive) Baptist movement arose in protest against abandonment of the traditional predestinarianism of the Baptists. About 1850, under the leadership of James R. Graves, the Landmark Baptist movement started. Insisting that Baptists comprised the only true church, the Landmarkists (now the American Baptist Association) refused to recognize other churches. They held that the term "church" in the New Testament always refers to a local church, and thus they further encouraged particularistic tendencies among Baptists.

No division was more important than that which resulted over slavery. For years the home and foreign mission societies maintained neutrality on this issue, but in 1845 an open break occurred. Consequently, the Southern Baptist Convention was founded at Augusta, Ga. Instead of adopting the "society method" of supporting missions, the Southern Baptists organized a convention with integral boards responsible for home and foreign missions.

After the Civil War, Black Baptist churches flourished. Prior to that time blacks and whites had belonged to the same churches, but after the war the freed blacks preferred their own churches. These were at first affiliated with the regular associations and state conventions, particularly in the North. In 1880 the National Baptist Convention was organized, and in 1916 it divided into two parts, the National Baptist Convention of America and the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc. These two bodies comprise the bulk of the Black Baptist population.

Other Changes. Rapid industrialization, urban growth, and changing intellectual climate brought new challenges after 1865. Under the impact of new conditions, Baptists underwent further change. Social problems became more complex, as the gulf between rich and poor widened and city slums expanded. Among the Baptists who helped to awaken the social conscience of the churches were Walter rauschenbusch, Shailer ma thews, Leighton Williams, and Samuel Zane Batten. Edward Judson developed a great institutional church in New York City, and Russell H. Conwell, in Philadelphia, PA, developed institutions to help the working classes. At the same time new scientific theories and Biblical criticism posed a threat for traditional theological systems. Baptists shared in the theological ferment, producing such leaders as William Newton Clarke and William Rainey Harper, who helped to popularize the new theological outlook.

As church memberships increased and organization became more complex, covenants fell into disuse and discipline declined. In the North, open communion (partaking the Lord's Supper with paedobaptists) became prevalent by World War I, and by mid-20th century open membership had become common (receiving paedobaptists without requiring that they be rebaptized). Worship services were tending toward greater formality, and there was much more use of symbolism in the sanctuaries. For the sake of efficiency, the Northern Baptist (now American Baptist) Convention was formed in 1907. Southern Baptists have been more reluctant to adopt open communion and open membership.

Many Baptists resisted the new social emphasis, the changing views of the Bible, and centralizing tendencies; but no party of protest was crystallized until about 1920. In the 1920s a "Fundamentalist" group within the Northern Baptist Convention sought to purge the schools and mission societies of unorthodox elements (see funda mentalism). The flames were fed when Harry Emerson Fosdick, a Baptist minister, preached a sermon entitled "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" By 1925 the Modernist-Fundamentalist controversy had reached a climax. Some of the more disaffected elements withdrew from the convention, and in 1932 the General Association of Regular Baptists was established. Dissatisfaction continued to smoulder within the convention, and in the 1940s the conflict was resumed, leading to a further exodus of churches to form the Conservative Baptist movement.

Southern Baptists were not as deeply affected by the social gospel movement or theological modernism in the 1920s. Evolution created a stir in some colleges, and a few professors were suspected of being unorthodox. In 1925 the Southern Baptist Convention voted to recommend the New Hampshire Confession of Faith to their churches, but the controversy did not reach major proportions as it had in the North. Four decades later, however, Southern Baptists were experiencing a tardy reaction to the changing views of Scripture that had penetrated at least some of their seminaries.

Membership and Organization. The growth rate of the various Baptist groups in the 20th century differed greatly. Black Baptists experienced considerable growth, but the American Baptist Convention remained nearly static after 1930. The newer, fundamentalist bodies also increased rapidly. It has been the Southern Baptists, however, whose expansion has been phenomenal. Not only did their number become nearly double in 30 years, but they had expanded into every state of the Union by 1960.

Of the many Baptist groups in the U.S. in 1964, about 90 per cent of them belonged to the four largest: the Southern, American, and two National Baptist Conventions. In underlying principles and general structure, the larger bodies are similar, although there are important differences in operation. On various levels are the associations, state conventions, and national conventions, each of which is directly related to the local churches. At the national level are boards that shape policy and program for missions, education, evangelism, publications, and pensions. Each board has a permanent staff of professional workers, which is responsible to trustees elected by delegates (or messengers) to the annual meeting of the national body. To coordinate the work of various boards, there is a national executive officer and some type of executive committee. State conventions may develop their own programs, but much of the time of their staffs is devoted to implementing policies national in scope. Associations seldom have permanent staffs, and their functions are usually confined to fellowship gatherings and cooperation in local matters.

Within this system juridical power is weak, and the authority of connectional bodies is not clearly defined. The associational principle implies that some authority resides in the wider fellowship, but there is disagreement as to how much authority belongs to associations and conventions. Individual churches cannot be coerced into conformity with a convention policy with which they disagree, although the latter body can withdraw fellowship from an uncooperative church. In general, cooperation depends upon agreement in purposes, moral suasion, and Christian unity.

The lack of a strong central jurisdiction affects the process of ordination to the gospel ministry. Authority to ordain has traditionally been claimed by the local church, but in practice others have always shared in the process. Other churches are asked to send delegates to examine candidates and to take part in the act of ordination, and conventions may set standards for their recognition of an ordination. There is considerable diversity in ordination practices and in the educational level of ministers in all of the conventions. In a congregational system, each church is responsible for securing a minister after a pulpit becomes vacant. Recommendations may come from seminaries, other ministers, or state secretaries; but a pastor is chosen by vote of the congregation. It should be noted that women may be ordained.

Bibliography: r. g. torbet, A History of the Baptists (rev. ed. Valley Forge 1963). n. h. maring and w. s. hudson, A Baptist Manual of Polity and Practice (Valley Forge 1963). w. l. lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (Chicago 1959); Baptist Foundations in the South (Nashville 1961). w. w. barnes, The Southern Baptist Convention, 18451953 (Nashville 1954). o. d. pelt and r. l. smith, The Story of the National Baptists (New York 1960). w. s. hudson, ed., Baptist Concepts of the Church (Chicago 1959). c. c. goen, Revivalism and Separatism in New England, 17401800 (New Haven 1962). p. m. harrison, Authority and Power in the Free Church Tradition: A Social Case Study of the American Baptist Convention (Princeton, NJ 1959). Baptist Advance: The Achievements of the Baptists of North America for a Century and a Half (Nashville 1964). The Chronicle (Chester, PA 193857), a Baptist historical quarterly. Succeeded by Foundations: A Baptist Journal of History and Theology (New York 1958), with important descriptive and interpretive articles. The Review and Expositor (Louisville, KY 1904), a quarterly journal of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. a. gilmore, ed., Christian Baptism (Chicago 1959). r. e. o. white, The Biblical Doctrine of Initiation (Grand Rapids 1960). g. r. beasley-murray, Baptism in the New Testament (New York 1962). f. s. mead, s. s. hill and c. d. atwood, Handbook of Denominations in the United States, 11th rev. ed. (Nashville 2001).

[n. h. maring/eds.]


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Growth. Although the revolutionary period as a whole was a time of religious disaffection, two groups in particular resisted that tendency. Along with the Methodists, the Baptists laid the groundwork in these years for the spectacular growth that they experienced in the early national period. In 1740 there were only thirtythree Baptist churches in the New England colonies and few elsewhere. Most of these predated the Great Awakening, and they did not adhere to the revivalistic principles that soon became popular. Many were so-called General Baptists, who were much less rigid in their thinking about salvation than most of their Calvinist neighbors. By 1784 there were more than 150 Baptist congregations in New England alone, with more than 8,000 communicants, and by 1790 Virginia had more than 200 churches. Most of these were of a different character than the General Baptists. These were the Separate Baptists, named this because many emerged during the revivals as believers separated from their old churches and formed new congregations on strict Calvinist principles. The experiences of these groups were so fundamental to the patterns of religious development in America that they deserve to be examined in detail.

Baptist Beliefs. Baptists were distinguished from other Protestants by the way they baptized converts. Instead of sprinkling the head of newborn children with water as a sign of welcome into Gods community, Baptists believed in immersing converts completely in water, following the biblical example. They also rejected the idea of baptizing children since they thought that baptism should mark a persons free acceptance of Gods presence in their life, something only an adult was capable of doing. By having only full believers as members, Baptists hoped to purify the church even further than their Puritan ancestors had been able to do. This was a controversial position since many people were eager to have the churchs symbolic protection extended to their children. To many, leaving their children outside the church was tempting fate even if they agreed that people should eventually come to their own acknowledgment of sin and acceptance of Gods forgiveness. The difficulty of accepting these beliefs kept the numbers of Baptists small in the American colonies before 1750. The Baptists also highly valued the independence of their individual congregations. They disliked the efforts of Congregationalists to place some general authority in groups of neighboring ministers joined in regional consociations, or the similar practice of Presbyterians who organized churches under regional governing bodies called synods. For Baptists each congregation stood apart from all others and could follow its own way. They also rejected the need for an educated clergy, opening the way for greater lay authority over religious matters.

New England. Baptists grew dramatically in the years after the Great Awakening of the 1740s. Many of the people touched by the intense religious feelings of that period continued their spiritual journeys after the mass experiences of the revivals faded away. They were encouraged by the revivals emphasis on personal religious experiences of conversion, which they called the New Birth. These people, called New Lights, found themselves increasingly unable to share worship with their Old Light neighbors who remained untouched by the experience of rebirth in the spirit that was the key feature of a successful revival. Many decided to separate. In town after town in New England and in the Middle colonies, the church broke into two groups, often after intense disagreements over theology and church property. Many of these Separate Congregationalists eventually embraced Baptist principles, and they continued to search for the purest church possible. Across the colonies at least 130 new Baptist congregations formed in this way. They were helped in this process by Baptists sent after 1762 from the Middle colonies, including James Manning, Hezekiah Smith, and Samuel Stillman. These men were college-educated ministers and brought with them organizational experience that New England Baptists lacked. They were instrumental in establishing Rhode Island College (later Brown University) in Providence in 1764, an important step in providing a more-able ministry for the spread of Baptists during the early national period. They also helped form the Warren Association in 1767, a loose association of Baptist congregations. Despite the independence of those congregations, they needed a forum for the discussion of theology and disputes and the coordination of various religious efforts, including the campaign for greater religious liberty. The Warren Association was the first such body in New England. By 1780 it had thirty-eight members, and there were four other such groups in New England.

Isaac Backus. The best illustration of the growth of Northern Baptists in the years following the Great Awakening and during the Revolution is the career of Isaac Backus. Backus had experienced conversion during the revivals of the Great Awakening and became a New Light Congregational minister in the small town of Middleborough, Massachusetts, in 1748. He gradually became a Baptist, following the logic of his reading of the Bible, but for a time he refused to impose this belief on his congregants. Although he tried to foster tolerance in his church, dissension followed, and in 1756 he and some of his congregation formed a separate Baptist church. Backus served that church for fifty years. In keeping with his separatist and Baptist origins, the great theme of his lifes work was promoting the sanctity of an individuals conscience. He worked to bring his congregants to an interior awareness of Gods power that would lead them to baptism and struggled against many obstacles in the path of his vision of true religion.

Church and State. Those obstacles included the colonial and, later, state laws that tried to ensure religious conformity. During these years Congregationalism was the established religion in New England, except in Rhode Island. It was supported by taxes that paid ministers salaries, and there was only limited toleration for dissenting groups. Baptists were exempted from the taxes, although they had to petition for the privilege of not paying them, a time-consuming process that often went against them despite the letter of the law. Backus fought those restrictions and in the process became an important early spokesman for American religious freedom. In 1769 a long series of disagreements over the tax involving the Baptists of Ashfield, Massachusetts, provoked the Warren Association to form a committee to attack the problem in an organized way and petition the government for redress. The matter eventually reached the king, who decided in favor of the Baptists in 1771. This case was only one of many, however, and by 1773 Backus led the Baptists in endorsing broader opposition to the system of limited toleration. Backus began to argue that governments should never be allowed to interfere with church matters and to consider religious liberty as a natural right, not a privilege granted selectively by the state. Backuss tract, An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty (1773), made the case for the separation of church and state. Backuss vision for the new order was not a secular one, however. He considered the separation necessary in order to promote true religion, which in his experience was being held back by the state. Instead he offered a picture of a voluntary religion, where true believers would come to embrace their faith in the absence of any influence other than Gods spirit. At this point the cause seemed stalemated since the legislature would not change the rules and the Baptists were reluctant to appeal to the king, given how unpatriotic that would seem. The same year, though, saw the Boston Tea Party, and in 1774 the First Continental Congress met to deal with the growing crisis. Backus made the Baptists appeal to Congress. Congress was not able to respond immediately, but Backuss efforts helped put religious liberty at the center of the goals of the Revolution. The Baptists supported the Revolution as it advanced, and Backus had greater success when it came time to form the new state governments. Backus worked hard behind the scenes of the Massachusetts constitutional convention in 1779 to insure the protection of religious liberty. The final version did protect individuals right to their own beliefs but still allowed for religious taxation, and so the fight continued. It lasted beyond Backuss death in 1806, and the final dismantling of this system came only in 1833. Despite this delay, Backuss defense of religious freedom and the separation of church and state was crucial during the formation of the new nation. Only Thomas Jefferson had a comparable influence on this issue.

Baptists during War. The Baptists were the main beneficiaries of the revivals that took place during the war years in New England. From 1778 to 1782 a revival called the New Light Stir replayed the emotions of the Great Awakening across the mountainous terrain of the Northern frontier areas. It was fueled by the uncertainty and social disruption of the war. People in the area were finding it difficult to cope with these problems without the help of religion, and churches were only poorly supported in this sparsely settled land. Baptists tried to fill the gap. The Warren Association sent four missionaries north in 1778 in response to a request from Baptist elder Caleb Blood of New Hampshire. Their success prompted four more to arrive in 1779, and by 1780 the Baptists had six new churches along the northern reaches of the Connecticut River and informal meetings in at least a dozen other towns. Even further north Baptist itinerant minister Samuel Shepard reported that some hundreds of souls are hopefully converted. The years 1780 and 1781 saw record numbers of baptisms in the churches joined in the Warren Association, which nearly doubled its membership in these two years, as it forged one of the most successful domestic missionary efforts ever pursued. As early as June 1780 a new association formed in Shaftesbury, Vermont, to provide structure and moral guidance to the new frontier churches. Before 1778 New England Baptists had founded a total of fifty-three churches; thirty-six more emerged from 1778 to 1782, indicating the power of this revival movement, and the appeal of Baptist thought and practice, especially on the frontier.


Roman Catholics accounted for fewer than thirty-five thousand of the roughly four million people living in the former colonies at the end of the War for Independence. It was not until 1790 that an American bishop was appointed and the church began a period of growth that would make it the largest single religious group in the United States by the time of the Civil War. Despite their small numbers, Catholics had a large role to play in the emerging American culture, even if that role was not exactly welcome. Prejudice against Catholics was strong in colonial America. In part this was because of the old rivalry between all Protestants and the Roman church they broke away from. Many American Protestants, especially those in New England, were descendants of Puritan settlers who had a special animosity toward Catholics. To the Puritans the Catholics stood for the elaborate religious ceremonies and the hierarchy of bishops that had been at the heart of their original quarrel with other English Protestants and had motivated their move to America. Sermons denouncing the Pope were a staple of Puritan literature despite the lack of any real threat to American Protestantism from Catholicism in this period. Nevertheless fears about Catholics came to the forefront several times in the revolutionary era.

In 1756, during the Seven Years War, 454 French Canadian Catholics arrived in Philadelphia. They were part of a group of 6,000 Catholics who had been forced to move from their homes in eastern Canada by the British, who were trying to break up potential French allies. Their arrival caused an uproar in Pennsylvania, still reeling from Frances devastating victory over General Braddock at Fort Duquesne, near present-day Pittsburgh, a few months earlier. The colony quickly filled with rumors of popish plots to seize power. A special census of Catholics in the colony revealed only around 1,300 potential enemies, but it did not alleviate fears. Only the Quaker dominance of the legislature kept restrictions on Catholic religious practices from being enacted. Tensions flared again in 1774, when Parliament passed the Quebec Act that guaranteed religious freedom for Catholics in Canada. The Continental Congress quickly condemned this act in the Suffolk Resolves of September 1774. Anti-Catholicism was in the press as well. Charles Carroll of Carrollton, later the only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence, used letters in the Maryland Gazette in 1773 to mount a defense of Catholics ability to be true patriots, against attacks by Daniel Dulany, an ally of the unpopular royal governor. There were bad feelings in the army too. George Washington intervened in 1775 to stop the troops from burning the Pope in effigy as part of a traditional Guy Fawkes Day celebration. Still hoping that the Canadians would join the American fight, he said, To be insulting their Religion, is so monstrous, as not to be suffered or excused.

Source: John Tracy Ellis, American Catholicism, second edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969), pp. 2840.

Southern Baptists. Baptists grew even more dramatically in the Southern colonies in the revolutionary period. Preachers from New England helped spread the Baptist principles they had just embraced as they traveled through the Chesapeake Bay colonies during and after the Great Awakening. Shubael Stearns was one such person, heading south from Connecticut in 1754 and founding six churches in northern North Carolina. In 1758 they associated together in the Sandy Creek Association. Stearns and his fellow itinerants aggressively promoted their beliefs along the coast and into the backcountry. In newly settled areas, with immigrant populations, they offered discipline and a sense of belonging through conversion and baptism. That sense of orderliness was comforting to many, especially since it was attuned to life in these areas. Baptists did not value the trappings of more-formal religion, and they had egalitarian principles, such as allowing lay preaching, that appealed to men and women trying to make new lives for themselves far from established towns. Baptists also innovated to maintain this appeal. They developed new rituals, such as laying hands on the sick and washing each others feet, that were based in the Bible and also emphasized the interdependence of their members. Baptists grew steadily, as small groups of neighboring families were converted by itinerants. The first Virginia church came in 1760, and they moved north of the James River into more-settled parts of the Tidewater area in 1767. Between then and 1774 fifty new churches formed, as Baptists took the lead from Presbyterians as the religion of the evangelical South.

Conflict with Anglicans. Baptist growth in the South was also encouraged by the weakness of the Anglican Church there. It was much less able than New England Congregationalism to resist the challenge presented by the Baptists. Given the few Anglican ministers available, for example, the Baptist practice of lay preaching was much easier to promote. Baptists offered an alternative to an establishment that was often absent, and in many places were the first religious authorities on the scene. They were not afraid to explicitly reject the restrictions the colonies tried to place on them. They failed to apply for preaching licenses, and they freely attacked the Anglican ministry as immoral and ineffective. They were often jailed for disturbing the peace in these ways, although this hardly affected their popularity. Aside from the formal challenges Baptists presented to Southern laws on religion, they offered a broader cultural challenge as well. The statutes were also fiercely resisted by Anglicans and their gentry allies. As Baptists gained strength during the 1760s, they began to be more critical of the gentry lifestyle. They considered the dancing, gambling, and horse racing that was the basis of polite Southern society to be immoral. These activities, once the signs of social order, came to be seen as disorderly. Baptist preaching focused on a new kind of order, one based on the moral rules contained in the Bible. Many people came to prefer this kind of order, especially as the political challenges of the Revolution began to emerge. Then, Anglican gentry were associated with the immorality of British imperial rule while the Baptists seemed to stand for the republican virtue that was the basis of the new nations existence. The end result was that the Baptist challenge to Anglican religious authority came to be part of a larger effort to establish a more open society, with more opportunities for people from lower social levels to have important public roles to play. Just as the uneducated preacher was a valued member of the Baptist order despite his lack of a college degree or training in genteel manners, so could every farmer be a valued republican citizen. The logic behind Baptist beliefs ultimately would find its parallel in the democratic society that developed in the early nineteenth century and in the antislavery movement that led up to the Civil War.

Methodist Rivals. Baptists prevailed against an established church that was further weakened by a revival movement that emerged from within. This was the Methodist movement, and by the 1770s Methodists were rivals of the Baptists as well. Although both groups shared an emphasis on conversion through emotional preaching and ecstatic experience, there were important differences between them that over time let them appeal to somewhat different groups. The Baptists never left the path of strict Calvinism, and always adhered to the doctrine of Gods election of the saints and the inability to earn ones salvation. The Methodists placed more stress on behavior and free will. They emphasized the discipline of a godly life, a factor appealing to the slowly emerging middle class, with their need for thrift and industriousness. Even more important, Methodists were centrally organized. While Baptists expanded through individual missionary efforts sponsored by one or a few churches, the Methodists arranged for itinerant ministers to cover the backcountry in an orderly way. This systematic recruiting effort brought thousands into their meetings, and laid the basis for the huge revival meetings on the frontier in the 1790s and early 1800s. Baptists did not lose their appeal by not following these methods. They always remained true to the ideal of the independent congregation. After the end of the Revolution, with egalitarianism sweeping the country and the beginnings of a more democratic society, this form of organization had tremendous appeal to many people. As the new nation moved west, Baptists and Methodists together led the way to founding a godly nation.


Rhys Isaac, The Transformation of Virginia, 17401790 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982);

Donald Mathews, Religion in the Old South (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977);

William G. McLoughlin, Isaac Backus and the American Pietistic Tradition (Boston: Little, Brown, 1967).


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The early Baptists who trickled to the American colonies in the seventeenth century were less disposed to creating distinctive doctrines than simply seeking an opportunity to be "faithful and obedient," which they believed was impossible in any of the established churches. Most Baptists were Calvinist in theology. However, they were more specifically recognized for certain practices: baptism of adults only and then only by immersion; worship inspired by the Holy Spirit and not directed by a set liturgy or prayer book; ministry by "gifts" rather than by hierarchy, with little distinction between clergy and laity; opposition to the use of oaths in court or elsewhere; and, most radically, a belief that no Christian in good conscience could execute the office of civil magistrate.

Over time Baptists articulated their beliefs in the language of freedom: Scriptural freedom asserted that every Christian was free and obligated to study and obey the scripture. Soul freedom affirmed that each believer should deal with God without imposition of creed, direction of clergy, or interference by civil government. Church freedom maintained that local churches were to be free under the Lordship of Christ and should identify their membership, order their work, empower their leadership, or participate (or not) with the larger body of Christ as they determined locally. Religious freedom asserted that the necessity of freedom of religion, freedom for religion, and freedom from religion was absolute. These beliefs made the sacrifice and burden of being Baptist large; consequently, the number of members of the denomination was small in its early days. But in the eighteenth century the Baptists were reinvigorated by their adoption of the "warm" theology of the Great Awakening and by their advocacy of a theology of freedom that fit well with the political inclinations of the Revolutionary era.

From 1820 to 1870 Baptists in America were thus a dynamic force gathering momentum. By 1820 Baptists had left behind their identity as a tiny minority of isolated, independent-minded people who mostly derived from the Puritan traditions of New England. Their new growth was most notable in the old West and the South. In New England and the Middle Atlantic their preachers and leaders were still often among the educated elite. Their published sermons focused on explaining biblical texts, inspiring their congregations, and providing guidance for moral development. In areas of new growth Baptists communicated more frequently in person than in print.

Baptist literary contributions beyond sermons included participating in biblical and theological controversies, shaping ecclesiastical matters (particularly in support of overseas "missions"), and challenging leaders of government and community to maintain strict distance from the internal affairs of religious groups. The latter focus was first expressed around the broad themes of religious liberty and freedom of conscience, especially regarding taxation for support of established religious groups. It was then conceptualized as the doctrine of separation of church and state, which was expressed during the Revolutionary era in the writings of Isaac Backus (1724–1806) in Massachusetts and John Leland (1754–1841) in Virginia. Led by Backus and Leland, Baptists in many locations bartered support for the Revolutionary cause in return for consideration of religious liberty. The ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1789 and the Bill of Rights in 1791 achieved this most distinctive of Baptist goals. By 1833 it was a doctrine established in every state as well.

By 1820 Baptist literary focus reflected four developments: the adoption of overseas missions as a unifying and energizing force; the success of evangelism and home missions, especially among the marginally educated people of the frontiers and immigrants from Europe; the rapid growth of the Baptist movement into the expanding populations of the new territories; and the growing theological and regional tensions rising among Baptists.


During this period Baptists developed strong Sabbath school programs to reach and educate children and founded a number of weekday schools, academies, and colleges. Although an attempt to establish a "national college," Columbian College in Washington, D.C. (1821), ultimately failed by mid-century, the founding of Baptist colleges was unusually frequent in this period. Notable examples in the North included such institutions as the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution, later renamed Colgate University (New York, 1819); Franklin College (Indiana, 1834); the University at Lewisburg, later renamed Bucknell University (Pennsylvania, 1846); and the University of Chicago (1857, reorganized 1891). In the South, Georgetown College (Kentucky, 1829), Wake Forest College (North Carolina, 1834), Richmond College (Virginia, 1840), Mercer University (Georgia, 1837), Howard College (Alabama, 1841), and Baylor College (1856, Baylor University in 1886) were all established. Originally intended to train ministers, these institutions quickly had a much broader impact among the general population. In 1859 the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was established at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, but following the Civil War was moved in 1877 to Louisville, Kentucky.

Baptists also effectively established publication societies, primarily to support the curriculum needs of their educational programs and to print tracts in support of their efforts in evangelism and missions. First organized in 1824 as the Baptist General Tract Society and then later as the American Baptist Publication and Sunday School Society, the Baptist publishing organization was incorporated in 1845 as the American Baptist Publication Society. By 1865 it had established the National Baptist, a periodical, and pioneered in publishing multilingual resources for use among immigrant peoples.

To achieve distribution of their materials the Publication Society developed a "colportage program" by which printed materials were transported by colporteurs, a French term meaning "bearers" that was commonly associated with peddlers and purveyors of religious literature. These adventurous agents carried the materials on foot and by horse-drawn wagons and rail. Later this program expanded to include "chapel cars," which were railroad cars outfitted as small churches that included living quarters for missionaries who also delivered printed material to newly developing towns and hamlets near the rail lines. Between 1824 and 1886 the society reported circulating 330,087,724 copies of religious publications.

Baptists, especially Baptist scholars, published widely during this period, but few were broadly received beyond denominational circles. One clear exception was Francis Wayland (1796–1865), Brown University's notable president from 1827 to 1855, whose over seventy published works, most significantly his Elements of Moral Science (1836), made important contributions to the then-emerging fields of moral science, political economy, and political philosophy. But if Baptists were limited in their contributions to national literature, their vitality on the frontier and in rural areas made a strong impact on popular thought and values. Communication through sermons and publications serving the needs of those with a rudimentary education encouraged and enabled the Baptist tendency to urge laypersons to aspire to leadership in the church. Also, their emphasis on biblical knowledge and education through Sabbath schools and academies helped to significantly raise literacy among uneducated populations. The colporteurs of the Publication Society, for example, took printed literature and rudimentary education to people in frontier and remote areas with no access to libraries, schools, or regular distribution of literature.


In this period Baptists developed an ethos—even a significant subculture—around the support of missions and missionaries. Baptist missions were perpetuated by continued distribution of stories about the travels of missionaries. Missionary reports and tales soon developed what might be called a "mythology of Baptist missions." Many who became missionaries were inspired by the tales and reports of mission activity and the mythology of adventure, sacrifice, and noble, godly purpose their commitments reflected. The huge enterprise that mission activity fashioned in this era was fueled by a fusion of religious fervor tinged with the romanticism of the age.

The core, enduring story of missions was generated by the activities of missionaries Adoniram and Ann Haseltine Judson. Adoniram Judson (1788–1850) was reared as a Congregationalist Deist with an emphasis on rationalist thought. Later he experienced a conversion to more evangelical Christian beliefs during the Second Great Awakening, which was a countrywide revival between 1790 and 1820 expanding the personal, emotional, and evangelical religious sentiments first experienced in the mid-eighteenth century. This powerful movement added an urge to humanitarian reform and missions to non-Christians to the personalism of evangelical theology. Judson then attended Andover Seminary, where he determined to be a missionary. Later, while onboard ship to India, Judson, his wife Ann (1789–1826), and their compatriot Luther Rice (1783–1836) all converted to Baptist views. Their shift deprived Congregational missions of a rising star and brought to Baptist missions not only a new and dynamic ambition but also dedicated, talented, and charismatic personalities to lead it. The Judsons established an enduring Christian presence in Burma (Myanmar). As part of their work the Judsons translated portions of the Bible into Burmese languages.

Ann Judson also learned Siamese (Thai) and translated significant biblical texts into that language. Ann became a frequent contributor to American periodicals and publications that communicated stories about her life amidst a culture unknown to most Americans. In this time when women's roles were largely confined to the home, and before the publication of popular magazines, especially women's magazines, her observations, stories, and personal expressions of faith, especially in the face of family loss and tragedy, were eagerly read by a wide audience. Poor health caused her return to the United States in 1822, where she wrote a history of the Burmese work titled American Baptist Mission to the Burman Empire, published in 1823.

Work in foreign missions was dangerous, especially for women who faced childbirth and its frequent complications in a primitive environment without medical attention. Judson's experience of loss was typical: Ann Judson died in 1826. Adoniram's second wife, Sarah Hall Boardman (1803–1845), also died in service. Judson met his third wife, Emily Chubbuck (1817–1854), a professional writer, while searching for someone to write Sarah's biography. Emily accomplished this task before her own death in 1854. The romanticized stories and biographies of the Judsons and, soon, those who followed them in mission service both in America and abroad inspired generations of Baptists and others. Francis Wayland recounted Judson's work in a scholarly tone in A Memoir of the Life and Labors of the Rev. Adoniram Judson, D.D. in 1853. And through their missionary reports and writings and the interpretations of them by others in such magazines as the Baptist Missionary Magazine, the Latter Day Luminary (1818), the Christian Watchman (1819), the Columbian Star (1822), and the Religious Herald (1828), missionaries expanded popular knowledge of the American West and of cultures around the world. Indeed, published and unpublished writings of Baptist missionaries remain the strongest source of Western knowledge about the cultures and social dynamics of Asia, Africa, and elsewhere during this period.


As missions emerged as the common focus of Baptist development, better denominational structure and organization were required. In order to encourage and provide financial support for mission activity, local, regional, and national missionary societies quickly developed. Frequent correspondence between these bodies became the journals of Baptist denominational development. Also, because Baptist churches were independent bodies and were generally protective of their local autonomy, a universally recognized need for guides to Baptist church "order" became urgent. Therefore, this period witnessed the emergence of a number of "church manuals"—volumes that guided church organizational life.

Baptist manuals achieved remarkable circulation among churches in need of direction. The first, William Crowell's (1806–1871) The Church Member's Manual, was published in 1847. Francis Wayland offered a somewhat intellectual and theological approach to Baptist practices in Notes on the Principles and Practices of Baptist Churches (1857). The New York pastor Edward T. Hiscox (1814–1901) published his The Baptist Church Directory in 1859, and James M. Pendleton (1811–1891) likewise published his Church Manual in 1867. The latter two works maintained a strong readership well into the twentieth century: by then Pendleton's manual had sold at least 150,000 copies. Hiscox's Directory was followed by several additional volumes, including Principles and Practices for Baptist Churches, which also enjoyed a long publication history. In the 1960s a volume that drew materials from several of his works was published as The Hiscox Guide for Baptist Churches, and in 1995 an expanded, revised, and rewritten work based on his materials was offered as The New Hiscox Guide for Baptist Churches.

Despite the unifying focus of missions and the creation of denominational structure to support it, controversy occupied much of Baptist energy in this period. One subject was the mission enterprise itself. The antimissionary Baptists reflected an extreme Calvinist view that because God alone offered salvation, mission attempts were a kind of interference in God's power. Daniel Parker (1781–1844), the move-ment's most articulate spokesman, published Views on the Two Seeds Taken from Genesis in 1826 as the move-ment's fullest articulation. From 1829 to 1831 he also circulated his beliefs through a journal called the Church Advocate.

Another movement, restorationism, grew out of Baptist ranks. It expressed the belief that the true church had become lost through corrupt doctrine and alliances with secular powers. Restorationists asserted that they had re-created apostolic Christianity, or the Christian church of the first generation of Christian believers, directly from the New Testament. Their perspectives were most fully expressed in the works of Barton Warren Stone (1772–1844), Thomas Campbell (1763–1854), and Alexander Campbell (1788–1866). Alexander Campbell was especially effective in articulating his opinions in several journals, notably the Christian Baptist (1823–1829) and the Millennial Harbinger (1830–1863). Eventually Campbell and his followers rejected Baptist affiliation and formed a new "Campbellite" (later, "Christian," or "Disciples of Christ") denomination.

Partly in response to the Campbellites, the land-markists claimed a unique historical authenticity for Baptists, tracing an unbroken line directly to the New Testament church. One leader, George Orchard, wrote that Baptists were "the only Christian community which has stood since the times of the Apostles" (p. xviii), thus preserving pure doctrines ever since. The term "landmark" was taken from an essay published in 1854 by James M. Pendleton in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in a pamphlet titled An Old Landmark Reset. Other works by Pendleton, James R. Graves (1820–1893), and Amos Cooper Dayton (1813–1865) asserted their claims. Dayton's landmark polemic was in the form of a novel published as Theodosia Ernest in 1857.

Adoniram Judson wrote the following poem after discovering his wife's death, which was followed soon after by the death of his infant daughter, Maria, both in 1826. Judson had been away from home when Ann's death occurred.

And when I came, and saw her not
In all the place around,
They pointed out a grassy spot,
Where she lay underground.
And soon another loved one fled,
And sought her mother's side;
In vain I stayed her drooping head;
She panted, gasped, and died.

Wayland, A Memoir of the Life and Labors of the Rev. Adoniram Judson, 1:110.

A number of other controversies regarding church organization, the use of musical instruments, a variety of theological interpretations regarding salvation, the role of humankind in salvation, and other matters also emerged in the period. However, no controversy compared to the debate engendered by slavery. Like the entire American nation, Baptists were subsumed in the debates and controversies leading to the Civil War from the 1830s onward. In 1845 this controversy resulted in the Baptists abandoning the loosely organized "Triennial Convention" structure that had provided the network to unify and support missions, encourage publications, and nurture educational and other joint endeavors since the 1820s. South and North went separate ways.

Baptists were well represented in expressing opinion in print, mostly in denominational journals and publications, arguing all sides of this towering issue in American life. In the South, Richard Furman (1755–1825) articulated views in defense of Christian support of slavery in "Exposition of the Views of the Baptists, Relative to the Coloured Population of the United States" (1823) and other articles published regionally. In his Elements of Moral Science, Francis Wayland argued that slavery was inappropriate, but he based his argument on Enlightenment rather than biblical approaches. Wayland, ever anxious about any authoritative body that might interfere in local church prerogatives, sought a middle way on the issue of churches and slavery and searched for allies to protect Baptist organizations from takeover by either abolitionist or proslavery sentiment. Ultimately no compromise was found, and Baptists, like the rest of the nation, were increasingly divided on this issue as the period came to a close.


The period 1820–1870 was a formative era for Baptists in the expanding United States. During that time Baptists' central passion was defined; foundations of denominational identity and structure were laid; theological issues were clarified, if not always resolved; and the extraordinary diversity that ultimately came to define Baptists theologically, racially, culturally, and politically appeared. A once-beleaguered minority among American Protestants was becoming a signifi-cant majority. As a result, their contributions to cultural and literary life were massive if not immediately recognized. Their most significant leaders, writers, and spokespersons would emerge in the next generations.

See alsoCalvinism; Evangelicals; Protestantism; Religion


Primary Works

Orchard, George H. A Concise History of Foreign Baptists. Nashville, Tenn.: Graves, Marks and Rutland, 1859.

Wayland, Francis. Elements of Moral Science. 1836. 4th ed. Boston: Gould, Kendall, and Lincoln, 1848.

Wayland, Francis. A Memoir of the Life and Labors of the Rev.Adoniram Judson, D.D. 2 vols. Boston: Phillips, Sampson, 1853.

Wayland, Francis. Notes on the Principles and Practices of Baptist Churches. New York: Sheldon, Blakeman, 1857.

Secondary Works

Brackney, William H., ed. Baptist Life and Thought,1600–1980: A Source Book. Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1983.

Copeland, E. Luther. The Southern Baptist Convention and the Judgment of History: The Taint of an Original Sin. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1995.

Goen, C. C. Broken Churches, Broken Nation: DenominationalSchisms and the Coming of the American Civil War. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1985.

Goodwin, Everett C. The New Hiscox Guide for Baptist Churches. Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1995.

Goodwin, Everett C., ed. Baptists in the Balance: TheTension between Freedom and Responsibility. Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1997.

Leonard, Bill J. Baptist Ways: A History. Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press. 2003.

Everett C. Goodwin


views updated Jun 27 2018


Baptists in the British colonies were a scattered, tiny, and counterculture people. Even in Baptist Rhode Island, the refuge of Roger Williams, the two early congregations of Roger Williams and John Clarke attracted few. Ministers drew support from farming or doctoring and Baptists left formal theological education to the Congregationalists and Anglicans. Early Baptists, mostly immigrants from England or Wales, clustered in New England, Virginia, and the Philadelphia area—including nearby New Jersey. Willing to suffer the jailings, whippings, and fines levied by Massachusetts and Virginia authorities in order to hold their own services, Baptists earned a reputation as fanatics and agitators, a people critical of the dominant culture.

great awakenings

Baptist numbers grew rapidly in the 1740s, when the first Great Awakening, a series of evangelistic revivals, followed traveling preachers across New England and in the 1750s spread south through Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. In each region hundreds of converts joined the older Baptist churches and some organized new congregations. The ministry of Shubal Stearns illustrates how the geographic mobility of Baptists helped spread the movement. A Connecticut New Light Baptist, Stearns in 1754 moved to the North Carolina backcountry, where his preaching resulted in mass conversions and new Baptist churches. By 1758 he had baptized nine hundred converts. Stearns's brother-in-law, Daniel Marshall, also a powerful preacher, assisted in these revivals before moving south to Georgia, where in 1771 he organized the first Baptist church in that colony.

Another Connecticut convert, Isaac Backus, was also a leading preacher and organizer of Baptists. He awakened to God's grace during a 1741 revival and joined his town's Congregational church—but not for long. Convinced that the Bible mandated a stricter, separate church, Backus moved through two strict Congregational churches and then, in 1756, founded a Baptist church, where adult conversion and believer's (not infant) baptism were prerequisites for membership. Like Roger Williams and John Clarke, Backus and his generation of awakened Baptists agreed on the need for adult conversion and baptism and emphasized each believer's duty to study and discern God's revelations in the Bible. This early emphasis on individual "soul liberty" made Baptists natural democrats. It also made lay preaching common—even, on occasion, by slaves and women.

Revivals continued in waves, each feeding converts into old and new churches. Between 1740 and 1804, the number of congregations in the formal network of Baptist associations in New England had grown from 25 to 312. In Virginia, Baptists enjoyed similar growth, aided greatly by a visitor from Massachusetts, John Leland. During his years in Virginia (1773–1791), Leland preached over three thousand sermons, baptized more than seven hundred, and strengthened and founded several churches. Despite this growth, Baptists remained a marginal people; most Baptists came from the lower ranks of society—African American slaves, women, or poor farmers—and as such lacked direct influence on community institutions. Despised as uneducated loud-mouths by elites in Congregationalist Massachusetts and Anglican Virginia, the ease with which Baptists pulled newcomers into worship, membership, and church leadership was disturbingly democratic. In fact Baptists allowed women and men, regardless of social standing, to speak and vote in church. And their popular style of singing and baptism by immersion were particularly attractive to Africans and African Americans.

freedom of religion

Many credit Baptists for the provision in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution for separation of church and state and freedom of religion. Baptists exerted this influence on the emerging American culture through their rising numbers and through two leaders, Isaac Backus and John Leland, the New England ministers best known for their preaching tours, many converts, and assistance in reviving or organizing congregations. As political leaders for a minority group, Backus and Leland were fearless. Asserting that their authority and direction came from God, these preachers ignored laws requiring them to obtain a preaching license in each town they visited.

It was John Leland who during the Revolutionary period urged Baptists to sign petitions for religious liberty. These documents flooded the Virginia legislature in the 1770s and 1780s as Baptists (joined by Presbyterians) protested against laws providing tax support for the Anglican Church. Decades earlier, however, Massachusetts and Connecticut Baptists had protested similar laws in support of the Congregationalist state church. And Baptists in Virginia were also long accustomed to petitioning local and state authorities for religious liberty. This experience of protesting the church tax and appealing for religious liberty, historian Harry S. Stout has argued, prepared Baptists and other New Light revivalists for the campaign against British control that led up to the American War for Independence.

Much of this lobbying for religious liberty was organized in the regional annual meetings of Baptist associations, the first of which took place in Philadelphia during 1707. With support from the Philadelphia Baptist Association, an earlier generation of New England Baptists had petitioned the Massachusetts government and the British Crown for religious liberty. Virginia Baptists also turned to Philadelphia for counsel and financial aid when suffering the jailing and fining of church leaders. By the 1770s, many Baptists considered freedom from British rule their best chance for religious liberty. Working through the association network, Baptists sent Isaac Backus to the first Continental Congress in 1774 so he could press the case for protecting religious as well as political liberty. In Philadelphia and New England, earlier generations of Baptists had allied with Quakers in support of religious liberty. In turn Philadelphia Baptists supported Baptists in other colonies, including in Virginia, where Baptists worked with Presbyterians to lobby for religious liberty. One result was the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, passed in 1786 and later a model for the first amendment that made up the Bill of Rights. Sharing the Baptist interest in liberty, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were receptive to pleas from Leland, whose conversations with Madison emphasized the need for constitutional protections of freedom of religious belief and practice.

In the early Republic, Baptists continued to oppose the dominant view, now represented by the Federalists, on the issue of church-state separation. In the presidential contest of 1800 between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, Adams and other Federalists represented the view that a tax-supported church in each state of the Union would provide needed stability. The Baptists opposed this position as they voted overwhelmingly for the alleged atheist, Jefferson. Rejoicing in Jefferson's triumph, several Baptist associations sent formal congratulations to the new president, and Baptists from Cheshire, Massachusetts, sent the most notable present, a giant cheese, delivered by John Leland.


Seeing the need for schools where ministerial students would learn to emphasize the importance of religious liberty, evangelical preaching, and believer's baptism, leaders in the Philadelphia Baptist Association worked with New England Baptists to organize Rhode Island College (later Brown University) in 1764. After the Revolution other regional associations of Baptists created colleges in Hamilton, New York (1819), Waterville, Maine (1820), Washington, D.C. (1822), Georgetown, Kentucky (1829), and Newton, Massachusetts (1825). Presidents of these colleges, including Francis Wayland of Brown, stressed the importance of mission organizations, and none more so than the foreign mission society organized by Luther Rice.

While the colleges trained a new generation of leaders, it was the energy and zeal of Luther Rice that created a national denomination—something he urged Baptists to create if they wished to support the evangelical mission of Adoniram and Ann Judson in Burma. In 1812 a group of Congregationalists had commissioned the Judsons and Rice as missionaries to British India. But en route they concluded that the Bible taught adult baptism by full immersion—not the pedobaptism or sprinkling of infants practiced by most other churches. Accepting support from Congregationalists no longer seemed possible, so Rice returned to America to organize a Baptist mission society. Adapting the format of revival (and political) meetings, Luther Rice spoke in several states before calling Baptists in 1814 to Philadelphia to form the General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States of America for Foreign Missions. Usually dubbed the Triennial Convention because it was held every three years, the new denomination formed a board of volunteers, the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions, to handle business between conventions.

Rice found his work easier where he could build on preexisting regional organizations of Baptist associations. The "mother" association for American Baptists was formed in 1707, not surprisingly in Philadelphia, the home of the Society of Friends and freedom of religion. Founded by only five congregations from the region—three of them in New Jersey—the Philadelphia association by 1750 had grown so that its member churches included congregations as far south as Virginia and north to Massachusetts. Distances and the growing number of Baptists in each region made it advisable for the mother association to dismiss its farthest-flung churches to form their own associations. In 1766 Philadelphia leaders assisted in the forming of the Ketockton Association in Virginia. Also important in the building up of Baptist networks was the Warren (Rhode Island) Association, founded in 1767 for churches in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Leaders encouraged subscribing to the Baptist Missionary Magazine, the Massachusetts publication through which readers learned about overseas missions and regional revivals. The dramatic stories of mission work in Burma attracted many supporters, including some not Baptist, and increased the number of churches and local mission societies sending funds to the Judsons and other missionaries. But resistance to this new movement was also stiff: anti-mission Baptists, very strong in Kentucky and Illinois, resisted any national or outside leadership. These local and regional leaders denounced the new Baptist organizations and their traveling ministers like Luther Rice for tricking less-educated people into giving funds to national rather than local church organizations.


The rise of an overseas mission movement also provided an opening for Baptists to revisit the issue of slavery. When in the 1760s hundreds of African and African American slaves began converting to the Baptist faith, white Baptists faced a dilemma. Some accepted the need to teach their slaves to read—after all, many were fellow Christians. That such education could create new difficulties is clear in the case of Lott Cary, an ordained preacher and member of the First Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia. While the extraordinary Cary managed to buy his own freedom, he found his choices limited. For that reason, Cary reasoned, it was better to move to another kind of society. Commissioned and supported by both whites and blacks, Lott Cary left for Liberia, a missionary of the Richmond African Missionary Society, the American Colonization Society, and the Baptist Board of the Triennial Convention.

For most African Americans, freedom or missionary service overseas was not an option. Yet the Baptist faith continued to attract slaves and free blacks in large numbers. Initially, the interracial relationships that resulted raised concerns about the awkwardness, and perhaps even immorality, of Christians holding other Christians in slavery. In most places Baptists, white and black, met together for worship, although in the 1770s, separate "African" Baptist churches began meeting in slave districts like Williamsburg and Petersburg, Virginia (1776); Silver Bluff, South Carolina (1773); and Savannah, Georgia (1778). Not until 1808 did black Baptists further north form a separate congregation, the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City.

These separations, usually occurring with the assistance of sympathetic whites, suggest how quickly antislavery sentiment dissipated among white Baptists after the American Revolution. Earlier concern about the ethics of Christians holding other Christians in slavery were undercut by the economic profitability of slavery and by the desire among the white Baptists to move into a place of influence in their communities. Queries about slavery disappeared from the minutes of association meetings, with Baptists channeling any reservations about slavery into support for colonization of free blacks outside the country. In this regard white Baptists moved into the mainstream of American Protestantism, agreeing to view slavery as an evil and a burden, but one less pressing than the evil of disunity, which would distract from the broader missionary enterprise.

Increasingly organized, American Baptists by the 1820s had added to their foreign mission operation a tract and publication society, more newspapers and schools, and new leaders. Among the most prominent was John Mason Peck, appointed in 1817 a missionary to the West, headquartered in St. Louis. Traveling to dozens of frontier communities, Peck assisted local leaders in forming Sunday schools, churches, and mission and Bible societies. In 1828 he founded a newspaper that merged his religious and political interests, the Pioneer of the Valley of the Mississippi, and in 1832 Peck organized the American Baptist Home Mission Society so that there would be a national organization focused on missions in the West. Sectarian Baptists continued their criticisms of Peck and other mainstream Baptists. But growing interest in the mission enterprise had a unifying impact on American Baptists in general. By the 1820s Baptist churches and mission workers enjoyed support from a network of local, regional, and national voluntary associations. No longer forming a sectarian counterculture, Baptists continued to evangelize faster than the population grew, by 1820 boasting a membership that in denominational rankings was second only to Methodists.

See alsoAfrican Americans: African American Religion; Disestablishment; Frontier Religion; Missionary and Bible Tract Societies; Professions: Clergy; Religion; Revivals and Revivalism; Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom .


Buckley, Thomas E. Church and State in Revolutionary Virginia, 1776–1787. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1977.

Butler, Jon. Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990.

Essig, James D. The Bonds of Wickedness: American Evangelicals against Slavery, 1770–1808. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1982.

Isaac, Rhys. "Evangelical Revolt: The Nature of the Baptists' Challenge to the Traditional Order in Virginia, 1765–1775."William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd series, 31 (1974): 345–368.

Mathews, Donald G. Religion in the Old South. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.

Mulder, Philip N. A Controversial Spirit: Evangelical Awakenings in the South. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Stout, Harry S. "Religion, Communications, and the Ideological Origins of the American Revolution." William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd series, 34 (1977): 519–541.

Torbet, Robert G. A History of the Baptists. 3rd ed. Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson Press, 1973.

Wyatt-Brown, Bertram. "The Antimission Movement in the Jacksonian South: A Study in Regional Folk Culture." Journal of Southern History 36 (1970): 501–529.

Deborah Bingham Van Broekhoven

Colgate, William

views updated May 29 2018

Colgate, William

Colgate–Palmolive Company


William Colgate, founder of what is now the Colgate–Palmolive Company, revolutionized the American household products industry by discovering new methods for making and selling soap. Colgate–Palmolive Company is a household name and the leading seller of toothpaste in the country. The company also makes personal care products, including shampoo, soap, deodorants, household cleaning products, bleach, and liquid surface cleaners and boasts brands such as dishwashing soap Palmolive and Ajax cleaner, which are brand leaders. Colgate also incorporates a premium pet food division, Hill, which produces the leading Science Diet brand. The company posted $9.3 billion in sales in 2000 and employed more than 38,000 employees.

Personal Life

Colgate was born January 25, 1783, in Hollingsbourne parish, Kent, England, to Robert Colgate, a gentleman farmer, and Sarah Bowles. The family immigrated to the United States in 1795. Colgate married Mary Gilbert in 1811, and the couple had sons Samuel, Robert, and James Boorman. Colgate was a devout Baptist from 1808 on and donated a tenth of his earnings to support missionary work and education. He donated generously to such organizations as the Hamilton Literary and Theological Seminary in Hamilton, New York, which, by 1846, owed half its property to donations by Colgate and his company. The seminary had since become Madison University and was renamed Colgate University in his honor in 1890. Colgate helped organize the American Bible Society in 1816 with the aim of providing Bibles for every household in America. He also assisted in founding the American Baptist Home Mission Society in 1832, to spread the Gospel throughout North America; the American and Foreign Bible Society, serving as the organization's treasurer for thirteen years; and the American Bible Union in 1850, which offered its Revised Version of the Bible that emphasized Baptist beliefs. Colgate died in New York City, New York, in 1857. He withdrew from the Baptist church in 1838 and aided in the organization of a society which built the Tabernacle.

At the age of twelve, Colgate's family immigrated to the United States in order for his father, who spoke out against King George III in support of the French Revolution, to avoid charges of treason. They settled in an estate in Hartford County, Maryland, near Baltimore. They lost the house two years later after a discovery that they did not have clear title to the estate. The family then moved to Randolph County, West Virginia, where his father worked at farming and coal mining. His prospects dim, Robert Colgate moved the family back to Baltimore where he and William partnered with soap and candle maker Robert Mather. William was sparsely educated in England as well as in America and became a tallow chandler at age fifteen, which involved making candles using animal fat, in 1798. The Colgates' partnership with Mather did not last long and ended two years later but steered young William into what would become a very successful career.

After the break–up with Mather, the Colgate family moved again, to Ossining, New York, but William stayed behind in Baltimore, opening his own soap and candle shop. At that time in America, most people made their own soap by boiling a mixture of ash and tallow or fat. The soap was crude and harsh on the skin. Unlike in France and England, commercially–made soap in America at that time was little better, as the scientific process of converting a fat to soap through alkali was little known. Colgate realized there was a need for inexpensive, quality soap that could be mass produced. In 1803, Colgate closed the doors on his business and headed to New York where he joined John Slidell & company, a soap and candle manufacturer. Colgate, who began as a candle maker with the company, worked his way up to business manager.

Career Details

Colgate left Slidell in 1806 to found his own business, William Colgate & Company, on Dutch Street in New York City. To help with costs, Colgate was a one–person act in the business, doing all the manufacturing, buying, selling, delivering, and accounting. He began by selling mainly laundry soap but then began making hand soaps as well. He promoted sales by offering free delivery of his lime and tallow soap mixtures to local housewives. He sold an interest in the company to Francis Smith, who became his partner, in 1807. The 1807 and 1809 passage of the Embargo and Non–Intercourse Acts, respectively, aided the fledgling company by barring most competing European imports from vying with their soap market. From the profits of his growing business, Colgate bought a farm in Delaware County, New York. By 1812 he had amassed $5,000 and considered himself wealthy.

Soap itself was not new but had been produced by people since biblical times, and tallow soap had been made since around the eighth century. Soapmaking, however, even in Colgate's time was hard work. Water had to be boiled in large kettles, and the mixture had to be stirred by hand. Large chunks of soap were produced by this method, which then had to be cut with a knife into smaller pieces. The soaps of the time were harsh and often had a pungent odor. Colgate found a way to produce a better grade of soap, however, through saponification, which allowed the production of a variety of soaps and glycerin from combining tallow and oils.

Chronology: William Colgate

1783: Born.

1795: Came to the U.S.

1806: Founded William Colgate & Company.

1811: Married wife Mary Gilbert.

1817: Became New York's leading soapmaker.

1817: First Colgate ad appeared in a New York newspaper.

1838: Renamed business Colgate & Company.

1845: Constructed largest soap–boiling pan in existence.

1847: Moved operations to a plant in New Jersey.

1857: Died.

Over the next four years Colgate's company was steadily producing better quality soap that was affordable, and by 1817, he had grown to become the leading soapmaker in New York as well as a viable competitor abroad. His first advertisement ran that year in a New York newspaper offering "Soap, Mould & Dipt Candles." In 1820 he began manufacturing starch with his brother–in–law John Gilbert. For a time, he had the one of the country's largest starch factories before he later abandoned starch making altogether. Colgate then hit on a way to broaden his market and improve sales: scented soaps. The scented products Colgate formulated caught on and prompted the 1845 creation of what was dubbed "Colgate's Folly," a 43,000–pound capacity soap–boiling pan which several guessed to be the largest of its kind. Critics thought the construction of the pan would sink the company, but by 1847 Colgate was expanding his business even further by moving his company to a bigger, better–equipped plant in Jersey City, New Jersey, and formulating a line of premium hand soaps in 1850. His son Samuel also joined the company, which was renamed Colgate & Co. He remained a vital part of his company until 1856 and died in New York City on March 25, 1857.

Colgate, who has been described as an exceptionally good–natured, generous, and honest man, enjoyed a prosperous business during his entire career with Colgate & Co., which continued even after his death as the business continued to be successfully guided by his sons. Six years after Colgate's death, the company began manufacturing Cashmere Bouquet, the first milled perfume toilet soap to be registered as a trademark. In 1873 the company produced its first toothpaste, which was sold in jars. They revolutionized the product in 1896, when they introduced toothpaste packaged in a collapsible tube, much like modern toothpaste.

Colgate rival B. J. Johnson Soap Company, founded in 1864 and located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was about to become part of Colgate's destiny. In 1898 the company debuted Palmolive soap, a product that was selling so well, that B. J. Johnson decided to rename the company the Palmolive Company in 1916. The company merged with Palmolive–Peet Company in 1928 to become Colgate–Palmolive Company, which it remains to this day.

By its 100th anniversary, Colgate & Co. offered more than 3,000 different soaps, dental care products, 625 varieties of perfumes, and related products. In 1906 the company launched a plant expansion at its Jersey City site, and a new eight–story factory was opened on the site. A few years later, in 1910, the entire Colgate operation moved from the original site on Dutch and John streets into Jersey City. The first renowned Colgate clock was installed in 1908 on the roof of one of Colgate's factories in Jersey City. It was 37 feet in diameter and spanned an area of 1,104 square feet. The original Colgate clock, which became a landmark on the New Jersey Waterfront, was moved in 1924 to a new Colgate factory in Jeffersonville, Indiana, and replaced with another, larger clock. The new octagon shaped clock measured 1,963.5 square feet with a 25–foot–10–inch–long minute hand and a 20–foot–long hour hand. The timepiece is still one of the largest single–faced clocks in the world.

All three of Colgate's sons followed their father's path of success, albeit in different areas. His son Samuel continued running the family business and vastly expanded it during his period of leadership. His son Robert went on to head the Atlantic White Lead Works in Brooklyn, New York, and his son James Boorman founded the banking firm of J. B. Colgate & Co. on Wall Street in New York City.

Social and Economic Impact

Colgate vastly improved soap and the soapmaking process in his day, bringing better quality, affordable soaps to the American market at a price anyone could afford. The saponification process he utilized helped revolutionize the industry in the United States, which grew and thrived as his company was doing the same. He introduced "fancy"soaps, perfumed soaps and toiletries to the market. With an incredible business acumen, he was continuously prosperous throughout his entire career in soapmaking, even through the War of 1812. Through his company, Colgate & Company, he helped create what is today a billion dollar industry which includes detergents, soaps, cleansers, and personal cleaning products like toothpaste. The foundations he laid down for Colgate–Palmolive were key in building the nearly 200–year–old company into a $9 billion dollar industry leader with products and brands known worldwide.

Colgate was not only a renowned entrepreneur but was also a notable philanthropist and one of the most prominent members of the Baptist church for many years. His sizable donations to the Hamilton Literary and Theological Seminary gave the organization more than half its property by 1846 when it had become Madison University. To honor those contributions, the university was renamed Colgate University in 1890. He also donated a tenth of his earnings to various charitable organizations and helped found such religious organizations as the American Bible Union and the American and Foreign Bible Society.

Sources of Information


American Business Leaders From Colonial Times to the Present. ABC–CLIO, 1999.

American National Biography. Vol. 5., Oxford University Press, 1999.

Colgate–Palmolive Company. Available at

"Colgate–Palmolive Company." Hoover's, 2001. Available at

"Colgate–Palmolive: Tour—When It Happened" Colgate–Palmolive Company, 2001. Available at

"History." Colgate–Palmolive Company, November 2001. Available at

The National Cyclopedia of American Biography. Vol. 8., James T. White & Company, 1906.

Who Was Who in America. Vol. 1., Marquis Who's Who.

Colgate, William (Bill Colgate)

views updated Jun 11 2018

Colgate, William (Bill Colgate)



Actor and voice performer.


Television Appearances; Series:

Voice of Mr. Mole, a recurring role, Franklin (animated), Nickelodeon, between 1997 and 2004.

Pecola, 2001.

Multiple roles, Little People: Big Discoveries (animated), 2002.

Voice of Apollis, Power Stone, 2002.

Voice of Mr. Dickenson, Bakuten shoot beyblade (animated; also known as Beyblade, Beyblade G Revolution, and Beyblade V-Force), Fox Kids Channel, 2002-2004, then Toon Disney, 2004-2005.

Voice, Jane and the Dragon (animated), 2006.

Voice of Vector, Skyland, 2006.

Television Appearances; Movies:

OPP officer, The Last Season, CBC, 1986.

(As Bill Colgate) Bluffing It, ABC, 1987.

Maynard, Split Images, 1992.

Charlie, Bonds of Love, CBS, 1993.

Jim Sharp, Gregory K (also known as Gregory K: A Place to Be and Switching Parents), ABC, 1993.

Red, Spenser: Ceremony, Lifetime, 1993.

Isaac Bunnel, Mary Silliman's War (also known as The Way of Duty and L'appel du devoir), Lifetime, 1994.

Caseworker, Hidden in America, Showtime, 1996.

Reverend Hunter, White Lies, CBC, 1998.

Svenson, Pretend You Don't See Her (also known as Mary Higgins Clark's "Pretend You Don't See Her" and Mary Higgins Clark: Ni vue ni connue), PAX, 2002.

Mitch Martin, Crossed Over (also known as Destins croises), CBS, 2002.

Dr. Goldberg, Behind the Red Door, Showtime, 2003.

Clayton, Brave New Girl, ABC, 2004.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

Dr. Seawell, Thanks of a Grateful Nation (also known as The Gulf War), Showtime, 1998.

Richard Nixon, Jackie, Ethel, Joan: Women of Camelot, NBC, 2001.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Lieutenant Askew, "If the Shoe Fits," Alfred Hitchcock Presents, USA Network, 1987.

"Domestic Spirits," Diamonds, CBC, 1987.

Glenn Laxer, "The Waiting Chair," Street Legal, CBC, 1988.

Danny Cox, "Pressure," E.N.G., Lifetime, 1992.

Jim Anderson, "Hunters," Forever Knight (also known as Nick Knight—Der vampircop), CBS, 1992.

Ratcliffe, "Steve Sessler," Top Cops, 1992.

Sheriff Jenkins, "The Hit," Counterstrike (also known as Force de frappe), 1993.

Sanford Jones, "Stark in Love," The Hidden Room, 1993.

Professor Perry, "Cave Man," Tales from the Cryptkeeper (also known as New Tales from the Cryptkeeper), 1993.

Staff Sergeant Dietrich, "Fit Punishment," Street Legal, CBC, 1993.

Larry Briggs, "In the Beginning," The Mighty Jungle, The Family Channel, 1994.

Edward Feldstone, "Nanno," RoboCop (also known as RoboCop: The Series), syndicated, 1994.

Josef, "Language of the Heart," Picture Windows, Showtime, 1995.

Voice, "The Mystery of the Stone Circle/The Big Apple Christmas Caper/Who's Too Scared to Masquerade?," The Busy World of Richard Scarry, 1996.

Bartender, "Escape," Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, 1996.

Shadowy man, "Brainwash," La Femme Nikita (also known as Nikita), USA Network, 1997.

Voice of Gaston, Anatole, CBS, 1998.

George Hall, "Thank You Very Much," Relic Hunter (also known as Relic Hunter—Die schatzjaegerin and Sydney Fox l'aventuriere), syndicated, 1999.

(As Bill Colgate) Superintendent, "Heroes: Part 1," Blue Murder (also known as En quete de preuves), 2001.

(As Bill Colgate) Nick Jabbarian, "Missing Persons," Blue Murder (also known as En quete de preuves), 2001.

Jamie Vallente, "Our Lady of Chestnut Street/It's All in Your Mind Control," The 5th Quadrant, 2002.

(As Bill Colgate) Voice of Johnny B. Dead, "Warren's Nightmare," Monster by Mistake, 2003.

Detective, "Vanishing Point," Odyssey 5, 2003.

Charles Wiley, "Political Agenda," Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye (also known as Sue Thomas, l'oeil du FBI), PAX, 2004.

Israel Hands, "The Not-So-Jolly Roger," Time Warp Trio (animated), 2005.

"Patient X," 1-800-Missing (also known as Missing and Porte disparu), 2005.

Janitor, "Ready for Love," The Jon Dore Show, 2007.

Television Appearances; Other:

Bob, Shania: A Life in Eight Albums (also known as Shania—Une vie en huit albums), 2005.

Chet Greenfield, Warehouse 13, 2008.

Film Appearances:

(AS Bill Colgate) Gem club gambler, The Big Town, Columbia, 1987.

Jimmy, Landslide, Samuel Goldwyn, 1992.

Statistician, Searching for Bobby Fischer (also known as Innocent Moves), Paramount, 1993.

Voice of pilot, Pushing Tin (also known as Turbulenzen-und andere katastrophen), Twentieth Century-Fox, 1999.

Tom Peterman, Fall (also known as Fall: The Price of Silence), Annex Entertainment, 2000.

Mr. Sergei, White Knuckles, Tulchin Entertainment, 2004.

Armitage, The Last Hit Man, Peace Arch Releasing, 2008.



(As Bill Colgate) Voice, Far from Home: Canada and the Great War—Sam's Army (documentary), National Film Board of Canada, 1999.


views updated May 11 2018



Origins. Roger Williams and his fellow refugees from Puritan Massachusetts formed what is generally called the first Baptist church in America in 1639. They baptized each other by immersion after each had undergone a conversion experience. They came by their belief in adult baptism and separation of church and state on their own and were not influenced by the English and Welsh Baptists that had emerged from the English Reformation.

Variations. General Baptists, who believed in free will, emigrated from England, as did Particular Baptists from Wales, who believed in predestination. Some Puritan congregations came to believe in adult baptism and proclaimed themselves as Baptists. General (or Six Principles) Baptists were strongest in Rhode Island and formed a Rhode Island Yearly Meeting in early 1700 to serve as an advisory body to those churches. In 1701 the Particular Baptists formed the Philadelphia Baptist Association, which consisted primarily of Welsh Baptists in the area. They worked closely with the Presbyterians, whose beliefs on predestination and an educated clergy comported with their own. The Philadelphia Baptist Association soon attracted other newly organized churches in Virginia and North Carolina, many of which were composed of General Baptists from England, who modified their practices and beliefs to better conform to the Association. Later they changed their name to Regular

Baptists to distinguish themselves from the evangelical Baptists spawned by the Great Awakening.

Great Awakening. Baptist congregations remained small and weak until the Great Awakening when conversion came to be viewed as the decisive Christian experience, leading many to reject the baptism of infants too young to have undergone conversion. The revivalists also protested against an educated ministry and a tax-supported clergy, which hit a responsive cord in New England, Virginia, and other areas with established churches. In New England, New Light members separated from their congregations and formed voluntary churches which entered into the Baptist fold, where they could continue their emphasis on revivalism. The most influential leader in this region was Isaac Backus, who was converted in 1741 and launched a half-century of service as a pastor, evangelist, and historian in the cause of Baptists and religious freedom. These efforts bore fruit throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as itinerant evangelicals spread their message southward.


Jon Butler, Power, Authority, and the Origins of American Denominational Order: The English Churches in the Delaware Valley, 16801730 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1978);

Robert G. Horbert, A History of the Baptists (Philadelphia: Judson, 1950);

Norman H. Maring, Baptists in New Jersey: A Study in Transition (Valley Forge, Pa.: Judson, 1964);

William McLoughlin, New England Dissent, 16301833: The Baptists and Separation of Church and State (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991).


views updated May 09 2018

baptists formed one of the main protestant dissenting groups, holding that baptism should be undertaken by adults who could understand the ceremony and its significance, and that it should involve total immersion in water. These views may have been inherited from the 16th-cent. anabaptists, but baptists managed to shed the odium which had attached to the earlier group. The first baptist community was established in London in 1612 and the movement spread rapidly, in Britain and in the American colonies. The writings of John Bunyan in the Restoration period gained for baptists widespread respect. They did little more than maintain their numbers in early Hanoverian England but in the early 19th cent. expanded greatly and by 1851 had more than 2,700 congregations in England and Wales. Of these the large majority were Particular Baptists, who had retained a Calvinist outlook, as against the General Baptists who had moved towards unitarianism. Baptist churches and educational institutions are extremely strong in the United States.

J. A. Cannon

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