Southern Baptist Convention

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Southern Baptist Convention
Reaching the world for Christ.
TheologyEvangelical Baptist
Geographical areasUnited States
OriginMay 8–12, 1845
Augusta, Georgia
Separated fromTriennial Convention
SeparationsAmerican Baptist Association,
Alliance of Baptists,
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship,
Church on the Rock- International
Members15.98 million
Statistics for 2005[2]
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Southern Baptist Convention
Reaching the world for Christ.
TheologyEvangelical Baptist
Geographical areasUnited States
OriginMay 8–12, 1845
Augusta, Georgia
Separated fromTriennial Convention
SeparationsAmerican Baptist Association,
Alliance of Baptists,
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship,
Church on the Rock- International
Members15.98 million
Statistics for 2005[2]

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is a United States-based Christian denomination. It is the world's largest Baptist denomination and the largest Protestant body in the United States, with nearly 16 million members as of 2012.[3] This also makes it the second largest Christian body in the United States, after the Catholic Church.[4]

The word Southern in Southern Baptist Convention stems from its having been founded and rooted in the Southern United States. In 1845, members at a regional convention being held in Augusta, Georgia created the SBC, following a split from northern Baptists over the issue of forbidding churches in slaveholding states from sending missionaries to spread the gospel. After the American Civil War, another split occurred: most black Baptists in the South separated from white churches to set up independent congregations, regional associations, and state and national conventions, such as the National Baptist Convention, the second largest Baptist convention.

Since the 1940s, the SBC has moved away from some of its regional identification.[5] Especially since the late twentieth century, the SBC has sought new members among minority groups and become much more diverse. In addition, while still heavily concentrated in the Southern US, the SBC has member churches across the United States and 41 affiliated state conventions.[6][7] At its annual convention in 2012, the SBC unanimously elected as president Fred Luter Jr., the first African American to hold the position which has a term of one year.[8]

Southern Baptists emphasize the significance of the individual conversion experience which is affirmed by the person having a total immersion in water for a believer's baptism. As a result, they reject the practice of infant baptism.[7] SBC churches are evangelical in doctrine and practice. Specific beliefs based on biblical interpretation can vary somewhat due to their congregational governance system which allows autonomy to each individual local church.[9]



Colonial Era

Most early Baptists in the British colonies came from England in the 17th century, after the established Church of England persecuted them for their dissenting religious views. The oldest Baptist church in the South, First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina, was organized in 1682 under the leadership of Rev. William Screven.[10] A Baptist church was formed in Virginia in 1715 through the preaching of Robert Norden and another in North Carolina in 1727 through the ministry of Paul Palmer.

The Baptists operated independently of the state-established Anglican churches in the South, at a time when non-Anglicans were prohibited from holding political office. By 1740, there were about eight Baptist churches in the colonies of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, with an estimated 300–400 members.[11] New members, both black and white, were converted chiefly by Baptist preachers who traveled throughout the South during the 18th and 19th centuries, in the eras of the First Great Awakening and Second Great Awakening.[12]

Baptists welcomed African Americans, both slave and free, allowing them to have more active roles in ministry than did other denominations by licensing them as preachers and, in some cases, allowing them to be treated as equals to white members. As a result, black congregations and churches were founded in Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia before the American Revolution. Some black congregations kept their independence even after whites tried to exercise more authority after the Nat Turner slave rebellion of 1831.[13]

American Revolution period

Before the Revolution, Baptist and Methodist evangelicals in the South had promoted the view of the common man's equality before God, which embraced slaves and free blacks. They challenged the hierarchies of class and race and urged planters to abolish slavery. They welcomed slaves as Baptists and accepted them as preachers.[14]

Isaac (1974) analyzes the rise of the Baptist Church in Virginia, with emphasis on evangelicalism and social life. There was a sharp division between the austerity of the plain-living Baptists, attracted initially from yeomen and common planters, and the opulence of the Anglican planters, the slaveholding elite who controlled local and colonial government in what had become a slave society by the late eighteenth century.[15] The gentry interpreted Baptist church discipline as political radicalism, but it served to ameliorate disorder. The Baptists intensely monitored each other's moral conduct, watching especially for sexual transgressions, cursing, and excessive drinking; they expelled members who would not reform.[16]

In Virginia and in most southern colonies before the Revolution, the Church of England was the state-established church and supported by general taxes, as it was in Britain. It opposed the rapid spread of Baptists in the South. Particularly in Virginia, many Baptist preachers were prosecuted for "disturbing the peace" by preaching without licenses from the Anglican Church. Both Patrick Henry and the young attorney James Madison defended Baptist preachers prior to the American Revolution in cases considered significant to the history of religious freedom.[17] In 1779, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, enacted in 1786 by the Virginia General Assembly. Madison later applied his own ideas and those of the Virginia document related to religious freedom during the Constitutional Convention, when he ensured that they were incorporated into the national constitution.

The struggle for religious toleration erupted and was played out during the American Revolution, as the Baptists worked to disestablish the Anglican church in the South. Beeman (1978) explores the conflict in one Virginia locality, showing that as its population became more dense, the county court and the Anglican Church were able to increase their authority. The Baptists protested vigorously; the resulting social disorder resulted chiefly from the ruling gentry's disregard for public need. The vitality of the religious opposition made the conflict between 'evangelical' and 'gentry' styles a bitter one.[18] Kroll-Smith (1984) suggests that the strength of the evangelical movement's organization determined its ability to mobilize power outside the conventional authority structure.[19]

National unification and regional division

In 1814, Baptists unified nationally under what became known informally as the Triennial Convention (because it met every three years) based in Philadelphia. It allowed them to join their resources to support missions abroad. The Home Mission Society, affiliated with the Triennial Convention, was established in 1832 to support missions in frontier territories of the United States. By the mid-19th century, numerous social, cultural, economic, and political differences existed among business owners of the North, farmers of the West, and planters of the South. The most divisive conflict was primarily over the deep sectional issue of slavery and secondarily over missions.

Divisions over slavery

Slavery in the 19th century became the most critical moral issue dividing Baptists in the United States. Struggling to gain a foothold in the South, after the American Revolution, the next generation of Baptist preachers accommodated themselves to the leadership of southern society. Rather than challenging the gentry on slavery and urging manumission (as did the Quakers and Methodists), they began to interpret the Bible as supporting the practice of slavery and encouraged good paternalistic practices by slaveholders. They preached to slaves to accept their places and obey their masters. In the two decades after the Revolution during the Second Great Awakening, Baptist preachers abandoned their pleas that slaves be manumitted.[20]

After first attracting yeomen farmers and common planters, in the nineteenth century, the Baptists began to attract major planters among the elite.[21] While the Baptists welcomed slaves and free blacks as members, whites controlled leadership of the churches, their preaching supported slavery, and blacks were usually segregated in seating.[22]

Black congregations were sometimes the largest of their regions. For instance, by 1821 Gillfield Baptist in Petersburg, Virginia had the largest congregation within the Portsmouth Association. At 441 members, it was more than twice as large as the next ranking church. Before the Nat Turner slave rebellion of 1831, Gillfield had a black preacher. Afterward, it could not call a black preacher until after the American Civil War and emancipation.[23] After Turner's slave rebellion, whites worked to exert more control over black congregations and passed laws requiring white ministers to lead or be present at religious meetings (many slaves evaded these restrictions).

In addition, from the early decades of the nineteenth century, many Baptist preachers in the South argued in favor of preserving the right of ministers to be slaveholders (which they had earlier prohibited), a class that included prominent Baptist Southerners and planters.[24]

The Triennial Convention and the Home Mission Society adopted a kind of neutrality concerning slavery, neither condoning nor condemning it. During the "Georgia Test Case" of 1844, the Georgia State Convention proposed that the slaveholder, Elder James E. Reeve, be appointed as a missionary. The Foreign Mission Board refused to approve his appointment, recognizing the case as a challenge and not wanting to overturn their policy of neutrality on the slavery issue. They stated that slavery should not be introduced as a factor into deliberations about missionary appointments.[25]

In 1844, Basil Manly, Sr., president of the University of Alabama, a prominent preacher and a major planter who owned 40 slaves, drafted the "Alabama Resolutions" and presented them to the Triennial Convention. These included the demand that slaveholders be eligible for denominational offices to which the Southern associations contributed financially. These resolutions failed to be adopted. Georgia Baptists decided to test the claimed neutrality by recommending a slaveholder to the Home Mission Society as a missionary. The Home Mission Society's board refused to appoint him, noting that missionaries were not allowed to take servants with them (so he clearly could not take slaves) and that they would not make a decision that appeared to endorse slavery. Southern Baptists considered this an infringement of their right to determine their own candidates.[26] From the Southern perspective, the Northern position that "slaveholding brethren were less than followers of Jesus" effectively obliged slaveholding Southerners out of the fellowship.[27]

Missions and organization

A secondary issue that disturbed the Southerners was the perception that the American Baptist Home Mission Society did not appoint a proportionate number of missionaries to the southern region of the U.S. This was likely a result of the Society's not appointing slave owners as missionaries.[28]

Baptists in different regions also preferred different types of denominational organization. Baptists in the North preferred a loosely structured society composed of individuals who paid annual dues, with each society usually focused on a single ministry.[29]

Original location of First Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia

Baptists in southern churches preferred a more centralized organization of congregations composed of churches patterned after their associations, with a variety of ministries brought under the direction of one denominational organization.[29]:p.505 The increasing tensions and the discontent of Baptists from the South regarding national criticism of slavery and issues over missions led to their withdrawal from the national Baptist organizations.[11]

In May 1845, the southern Baptists met at the First Baptist Church of Augusta in May 1845.[30] At this meeting, they formed a new convention, naming it the Southern Baptist Convention. They elected William Bullein Johnson (1782–1862) as the new convention's first president. He had served as president of the Triennial Convention in 1841.

Formation and alienation of black Baptists

African Americans had gathered in their own churches early on, in 1774 in Petersburg, Virginia[31] and in Savannah, Georgia in 1788.[32] Some were established after 1800 on the frontier, such as the First African Baptist Church of Lexington, Kentucky. In 1824, it was accepted by the Elkhorn Association of Kentucky, which was white-dominated. By 1850 First African had 1,820 members, the largest of any Baptist church in the state.[33] In 1861 it had 2,223 members.[34]

First African Baptist Church, Savannah, Georgia, constructed 1856.

Generally whites in the South required that black churches be under the supervision of white ministers and associations. In practice, as noted above, in churches with mixed congregations, blacks were made to sit in segregated seating, and white preaching supported Biblical interpretations that slaves should accept their places and try to behave well toward their masters.

After the Civil War and emancipation, blacks wanted to practice their form of American Christianity away from racial discrimination and attempts by whites at control. They had interpreted the Bible as offering hope for deliverance, for their own Exodus out of slavery. They quickly left white-dominated churches and associations. In the late 1860s, they rapidly set up several separate state Baptist conventions. In 1866, black Baptists of the South and West combined to form the Consolidated American Baptist Convention. In 1895 they merged three national conventions to create the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc..[35] With 8 million members, it is the largest African-American religious organization and is second in size to the Southern Baptist Convention.

Free blacks in the North had founded churches and denominations in the early nineteenth century that were independent of white-dominated organizations. In the Reconstruction Era, missionaries both black and white from several northern denominations worked in the South; they quickly attracted tens and hundreds of thousands of new members from among the millions of freedmen. The African Methodist Episcopal Church attracted the most new members of any denomination.[35] White Southern Baptist churches lost black members to the new denominations, as well as to independent congregations organized by freedmen.

After Reconstruction, SBC members were among the southern legislators who voted for disfranchising laws and constitutions that, by the turn of the twentieth century, essentially eliminated blacks as voters, reducing them to second-class status. They also had passed Jim Crow laws establishing racial segregation. During the following half century, into the 1960s and the Civil Rights era, most Southern Baptist pastors and most members of their flocks rejected integration and defended white supremacy, further alienating African Americans.[36]

Historical controversies

During its history, the Southern Baptist Convention has had several periods of major internal controversy.

In the 1850s–1860s, a group of young activists called for a return to certain early practices, or what they called Landmarkism. Other leaders disagreed with their assertions, and the Baptist congregations became split on the issues. Eventually the disagreements led to the formation of Gospel Missions and the American Baptist Association (1924), as well as many unaffiliated independent churches. One historian called the related Graves-Howell controversy (1858–1860) the greatest to affect the denomination before that of the late 20th century involving the "fundamentalist-moderate" break.[37]

In the "Whitsitt controversy" of 1896–1899,[29]:pp.446–458, Dr. William H. Whitsitt, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, suggested that, contrary to earlier thought, English Baptists did not begin to baptize by immersion until 1641, when some Anabaptists, as they were then called, began to practice immersion. This overturned the idea of immersion as the practice of the earliest Baptists, as some of the Landmarkists contended.

B. H. Carroll Memorial Building, the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's main administrative building.

The Conservative Resurgence of 1979 was a major internal disagreement that captured national attention.[29]:pp.681ff Russell H. Dilday, president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1978 to 1994, described the resurgence as having fragmented Southern Baptist fellowship and as being "far more serious than a controversy".[38] Dilday described it as being "a self-destructive, contentious, one-sided feud that at times took on combative characteristics". Since 1979, Southern Baptists had become polarized into two major groups: moderates and conservatives. Reflecting the conservative majority votes of delegates at the 1979 annual meeting of the SBC, the new national organization officers replaced all leaders of Southern Baptist agencies with presumably more conservative people (often dubbed "fundamentalist" by dissenters).[39]

Recent history

President George W. Bush meets with the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2006 in the Oval Office at the White House. Pictured with the President are Dr. Morris Chapman, left, Dr. Frank Page and his wife Dayle Page.

In 1995, the Convention voted to adopt a resolution renouncing its racist roots and apologizing for its past defense of slavery, segregation, and white supremacism.[40][41] This marked the denomination's first formal acknowledgment that racism had a profound role in its early and modern history. The convention has recognized that the demographics of the United States were changing and has made an effort to recruit new members among minority populations.

By the early 21st century, there were increasing numbers of ethnically diverse congregations within the convention. In 2008, almost 20 percent were estimated to be majority African American, Asian or Hispanic. The SBC had an estimated one million African-American members.[42] The convention has passed a series of resolutions recommending the inclusion of more black members and appointing more African-American leaders.[43] In the 2012 annual meeting, the Southern Baptist Convention elected Fred Luter Jr. as its first African-American president. He had earned respect by his leadership skills shown in building a large congregation in New Orleans.[44]

The increasingly national scope of the Convention has inspired some members to suggest a name change. In 2005, proposals were made at the SBC Annual Meeting to change the name from the regional-sounding Southern Baptist Convention to a more national-sounding "North American Baptist Convention" or "Scriptural Baptist Convention" (to retain the SBC initials). These initial proposals were defeated.[45]

The messengers of the 2012 annual meeting in New Orleans voted to adopt the descriptor "Great Commission Baptists." The legal name of the convention remains "Southern Baptist Convention," but churches and convention entities can voluntarily use the descriptor.[46]

Theology and practice

The general theological perspective of the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention is represented in the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M).[47] The BF&M was first drafted in 1925. It was revised significantly in 1963 and again in 2000, with the latter revision being the subject of much controversy. The BF&M is not considered to be a creed, such as the Nicene Creed. Members are not required to adhere to it. Churches belonging to the SBC are not required to use it as their statement of faith or doctrine, though many do in lieu of creating their own statement. Despite the fact that the BF&M is not a creed, faculty in SBC-owned seminaries and missionaries who apply to serve through the various SBC missionary agencies must affirm that their practices, doctrine, and preaching are consistent with the BF&M.

In addition to the BF&M, the SBC has also issued the following position statements:


Southern Baptists observe two ordinances: the Lord's Supper and Believer's baptism (also known as credo-baptism, from the Latin for "I believe").[7][47] Furthermore, they hold the historic Baptist belief that immersion is the only valid mode of baptism.[7]

Gender-based roles

Beginning in the early 1970s, in response to their perceptions of various “women’s liberation movements”,[57] the Southern Baptist Convention, along with several other historically conservative Baptist groups,[58][59] began as a body to assert the propriety and primacy of what it deemed "traditional gender roles". In 1998, the SBC appended a quasi-male leadership understanding of marriage to the 1963 version of the Baptist Faith and Message, with an official amendment: Article XVIII, "The Family". In 2000, it revised the document to reflect support for a male-only pastorate with no mention of the office of deacon. This is a long-standing practice of the great majority of SBC churches, based on the idea that the church and Christ existed simultaneously.[60] [56]

The SBC contains no mechanism to trigger the automatic expulsion of congregations that adopt practices or theology contrary to the BF&M.[9] As individual churches affiliated with the SBC are autonomous, local congregations cannot be compelled to adopt a male-only pastorate.[9] But, some SBC churches that have installed women as their pastors have been excluded from membership in their local associations of Baptist churches; a smaller number have been expelled from their state conventions.[61]

The hardening of SBC positions on gender roles and restrictions of women's participation in the pastorate contributed to the decision by members now belonging to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) to break from the SBC in 1991.[62]

Worship services

Most Southern Baptists observe a low church form of worship, which is less formal and uses no stated liturgy. Worship services usually include hymns, prayer, choral music by a choir, soloist, or both, the reading of Scripture, the collection of offerings, a sermon, and an invitation to respond to the sermon.[63] People may respond during the "invitation" by receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and beginning Christian discipleship, entering into vocational ministry, joining the church, or making some other publicly stated decision.[64]



The SBC reports having 15.98 million members in 45,764 churches throughout the US in 2012.[65] One internal study by the SBC shows that on average 38 percent of the membership (6,138,776 members, guests and non-member children) attend their churches' primary worship services.[66] Southern Baptists do not track church attendance by numbers in the primary worship service; they track attendance through participation in Sunday School, which 4,154,270 Convention members (less than 26 percent of SBC total membership) attend.[67] Sunday School enrollment in the United States decreased by 123,817 members between 2007 and 2008.[68]


The SBC has 1,200 local associations and 41 state conventions, and fellowships covering all 50 states and territories of the United States. The five states with the highest rates of membership in the SBC are Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee.[71] Texas has the largest number of members, with an estimated 3.5 million.

Through their Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists support thousands of missionaries in the United States and worldwide. Although the SBC fielded over 10,000 missionaries in 2005, budget constraints are expected to reduce the number of missionaries by at least 600 in 2010.[72]


Data from church sources and independent surveys indicate that since 1990 membership of SBC churches has declined as a proportion of the American population.[73] Historically, the Convention grew throughout its history until 2007, when membership decreased by a net figure of nearly 40,000 members.[74] The total membership, of about 16.2 million, was flat over the same period, falling by 38,482, or 0.2 percent. An important indicator for the health of the denomination is new baptisms, which have decreased every year for seven of the last eight years. As of 2008, they had reached their lowest levels since 1987.[75] Membership continued to decline from 2008 to 2012.[8]

This decline in membership and baptisms has prompted some SBC researchers to describe the Convention as a "denomination in decline".[76] Former SBC president Frank Page declared that if current conditions continue, half of all SBC churches will close their doors permanently by the year 2030.[77] This assessment is supported by a recent survey of SBC churches which indicated that 70 percent of all SBC churches are declining or are plateaued with regards to their membership.[78]

The decline in membership of the SBC was an issue discussed during the June 2008 Annual Convention.[79] Curt Watke, a former researcher for the SBC, noted four reasons for the decline of the SBC based on his research: the increase in immigration by non-European groups, decline in growth among predominantly European American (white) churches, the aging of the current membership, and a decrease in the percentage of younger generations participating in any church life.[77] Some believe that the Baptists have not worked sufficiently to attract minorities.[80]

On the other hand, the state conventions of Mississippi and Texas report an increasing portion of minority members.[80] In 1990 5% of SBC congregations were non-white. In 2012, the proportion of SBC congregations that were of other ethnic groups (African American, Latino and Asian) had increased to 20%.[36]

The decline in SBC membership may be more pronounced than these statistics indicate because Baptist churches are not required to remove inactive members from their rolls. In addition, hundreds of large moderate congregations have shifted their primary allegiance to other Baptist groups, such as the American Baptist Churches USA or the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, but have continued to remain nominally on the books of the Convention. Their members are thus counted in the SBC's totals although these churches no longer participate in the annual SBC meetings or make more than the minimum financial contributions.[81]

In some cases, groups have withdrawn from the SBC because of its conservative trends. The Texas State Convention in 2000 voted to cut its contributions to SBC seminaries and reallocate more than $5 million in funds to three theological seminaries in the state which members believe are were more moderate: these include the Hispanic Baptist Theological School in San Antonio, Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, and Hardin-Simmons University's Logsdon School of Theology in Abilene. Since the controversies of the 1980s, more than 20 theological or divinity programs directed toward moderate and progressive Baptists have been established in the Southeast. In addition to Texas, schools in Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina and Alabama were established in the 1990s. These include the Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, McAfee School of Theology of Mercer University in Atlanta, Wake Forest, Gardner Webb and Campbell Divinity schools in North Carolina and Beeson Divinity School at Samford University to name a few. These schools contributed to the flat and declining enrollment at Southern Baptist seminaries operating in the same region of the United States. Texas and Virginia have the largest state conventions identified as moderate in theological approach.[82]


The Southern Baptists' typical form of government is congregationalist: each local church is autonomous without formal lines of responsibility to organizational levels of higher authority.

A basic Baptist principle is the autonomy of the local church.[9] The Convention is therefore conceived as a cooperative association by which churches can pool resources rather than as a body with any administrative or ecclesiastical control over local churches. It maintains a central administrative organization in Nashville, Tennessee. The SBC's Executive Committee exercises authority and control over seminaries and other institutions owned by the Southern Baptist Convention. However, the Executive Committee has no authority over affiliated state conventions, local associations, individual churches or members.

The First Brazilian Baptist Church in Charlestown, Massachusetts. The Southern Baptist Convention has around 10,000 ethnic congregations.[83]

Commitment to the autonomy[9] of local congregations was the primary force behind the Executive Committee's rejection of a proposal to create a convention-wide database of SBC clergy accused of sexual crimes against congregants or other minors[84] in order to stop the "recurring tide"[85] of clergy sexual abuse within SBC congregations. A 2009 study by Lifeway Christian Resources, the Convention's research and publishing arm, revealed that one in eight background checks for potential volunteers or workers in SBC churches revealed a history of crime that could have prevented them from working.[86]

The Convention's confession of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message,[47] technically is not binding on churches or members due to the autonomy[9] of the local church. Politically and culturally, Southern Baptists tend to be conservative. Most oppose the use of alcohol as a beverage, homosexual activity and abortion with few exceptions.[7]

There are four levels of SBC organization: the local congregation, the local association, the state convention, and the national convention.

Pastor and deacon

Generally, Baptists recognize only two scriptural offices: pastor-teacher and deacon. The Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution in the early 1980s recognizing that offices requiring ordination are restricted to men. According to the Baptist Faith and Message, the office of pastor is limited to men based on certain New Testament scriptures. However, there is no prohibition in the Baptist Faith and Message against women serving as deacons.[87] Neither the BF&M or resolutions are binding upon local churches. Each church is responsible to prayerfully search the Scriptures and establish its own policy.

State conventions

Individual congregations and associations may choose to affiliate with state conventions or fellowships which in turn can affiliate with the SBC. There are 41 affiliated state conventions or fellowships.[6]

Annual Meeting

President Jimmy Carter addressing the Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta, Georgia in 1978.

The Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting consists of messengers from cooperating churches. In the month of June, they gather to confer and determine the programs, policies, and budget of the SBC. Each church may be represented by up to 10 messengers, the exact number being determined by the church's number of members and contributions to the national SBC organization.[88]

The following quotation from the SBC Constitution explains the membership and description of messengers to each annual meeting:

Article III. Membership: The Convention shall consist of messengers who are members of missionary Baptist churches cooperating with the Convention as follows:

  1. One messenger from each church which (1) Is in friendly cooperation with the Convention and sympathetic with its purposes and work. Among churches not in cooperation with the Convention are churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior; and (2) Has been a bona fide contributor to the Convention's work during the fiscal year preceding.
  2. One additional messenger from each such church for every two hundred and fifty members; or for each $250.00 paid to the work of the Convention during the fiscal year preceding the annual meeting.
  3. The messengers shall be appointed and certified by the churches to the Convention, but no church may appoint more than ten.
  4. Each messenger shall be a member of the church by which he is appointed.
Article IV. Authority: While independent and sovereign in its own sphere, the Convention does not claim and will never attempt to exercise any authority over any other Baptist body, whether church, auxiliary organizations, associations, or convention.

SBC Constitution[89]

Missions and affiliated organizations

Cooperative Program

The Cooperative Program (CP) is the SBC's unified funds collection and distribution program for the support of regional, national and international ministries.[90] The CP is funded by contributions from SBC congregations.[90]

In the fiscal year ending September 30, 2008, the local congregations of the SBC reported gift receipts of $11.1 billion.[91] From this they sent $548 million, approximately 5 per cent, to their state Baptist conventions through the CP.[91] Of this amount, the state Baptist conventions retained $344 million for their work. $204 million was sent on to the national CP budget for the support of denomination-wide ministries.[91]

Missions agencies

The Southern Baptist Convention was organized in 1845 primarily for the purpose of creating a mission board to support the sending of Baptist missionaries. The North American Mission Board, or NAMB, (founded as the Domestic Mission Board, and later the Home Mission Board) in Alpharetta, Georgia serves missionaries involved in evangelism and church planting in the U.S. and Canada, while the International Mission Board, or IMB, (originally the Foreign Mission Board) in Richmond, Virginia sponsors missionaries to the rest of the world.

Members of a Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief team prepare to cook food after the Greensburg, Kansas Tornado in 2007.

Among the more visible organizations within the North American Mission Board is Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. In 1967, a small group of Texas Southern Baptist volunteers helped victims of Hurricane Beulah by serving hot food cooked on small "buddy burners." In 2005, volunteers responded to 166 named disasters, prepared 17,124,738 meals, repaired 7,246 homes, and removed debris from 13,986 yards.[92] Southern Baptist Disaster Relief provides many different types: food, water, child care, communication, showers, laundry, repairs, rebuilding, or other essential tangible items that contribute to the resumption of life following the crisis – and the message of the Gospel. All assistance is provided to individuals and communities free of charge. SBC DR volunteer kitchens prepare much of the food distributed by the Red Cross in major disasters.[93]

Seminaries and colleges

Binkley Chapel at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

There are six SBC theological seminaries devoted to religious instruction and ministry preparation.

Other organizations

See also


  1. ^ a b Southern Baptist Convention Statistical Summary – 2009 (PDF). Retrieved 2011-02-13.
  2. ^ "Denominational Profile Association of Religion Data Archives". Retrieved June 18, 2009.
  3. ^ Eileen Lindner, ed. Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches 2010 p. 11; the United Methodist Church is second with 8 million members
  4. ^ National Council of Churches (February 14, 2011), "Trends continue in church membership growth or decline, reports 2011 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches", National Council of Churches-USA, retrieved February 17, 2011. The statistical figures used in the 2011 Yearbook were collected in 2008.
  5. ^ "Southern Baptist Convention", The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions.
  6. ^ a b "About Us: Meet the Southern Baptists". Southern Bapotist Convention. Retrieved August 25, 2010.
  7. ^ a b c d e Reuters (June 10, 2008). "FACTBOX: The Southern Baptist Convention". Retrieved July 6, 2010.
  8. ^ a b Hamil Harris and Jeannine Hunter, "Southern Baptists Elect a Black Leader and Raise Hopes for Diversity", Washington Post, 22 June 2012, accessed 25 June 2012 <>
  9. ^ a b c d e f g autonomy of local church. SBC position paper. Retrieved August 26, 2010.
  10. ^ "Baptist Pioneers in America". Mainstream Baptists. <> Accessed 3 Feb 2013
  11. ^ a b Baker, Robert A. (1979). "Southern Baptist Beginnings". Baptist History & Heritage Society. Retrieved 2012-10-28.
  12. ^ James Barnett Taylor, Virginia Baptist Ministers (1859) pp 57, 60, 71, 83 online edition
  13. ^ Albert J. Raboteau, Slave Religion: The "invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South (1979)
  14. ^ Dictionary of Afro-American Slavery. Greenwood Press, 1997. ISBN 0-275-95799-3, ISBN 978-0-275-95799-5
  15. ^ Peter Kolchin, American Slavery, 1619-1877, Hill and Wang, 1993
  16. ^ Rhys Isaac, "Evangelical Revolt: The Nature of the Baptists' Challenge to the Traditional Order in Virginia, 1765 To 1775," William and Mary Quarterly 1974 31(3): 345–368
  17. ^ Ketcham, Ralph L. James Madison: A Biography, Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1971; paperback, 1990, p. 57, ISBN 978-0-8139-1265-3. Retrieved 2009-02-06.
  18. ^ Richard R. Beeman, "Social Change and Cultural Conflict in Virginia: Lunenburg County, 1746 To 1774," William and Mary Quarterly 1978 35(3): 455–476
  19. ^ J. Stephen Kroll-Smith, "Transmitting a Revival Culture: The Organizational Dynamic of the Baptist Movement in Colonial Virginia, 1760–1777," Journal of Southern History 1984 50(4): 551–568
  20. ^ Christine Leigh Heyrman, Southern Cross: The Beginning of the Bible Belt, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998, pp. 10–18, 155
  21. ^ Christine Leigh Heyrman, Southern Cross: The Beginning of the Bible Belt, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998, pp.10–18, 155
  22. ^ Heyrman (1998), Southern Cross, pp. 10–18, 155
  23. ^ Albert J. Raboteau, Slave Religion: The 'Invisible Institution' in the Antebellum South, Oxford University Press, p. 188, accessed 27 Dec 2008
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  25. ^ Joe Early, ed. Readings in Baptist History: Four Centuries of Selected Documents, pp. 100–101, Retrieved Aug 25, 2010
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Further reading

  • Ammerman, Nancy, Baptist Battles: Social Change and Religious Conflict in the Southern Baptist Convention. Rutgers University Press, 1990.
  • Ammerman, Nancy, ed. Southern Baptists Observed University of Tennessee Press, 1993.
  • Baker, Robert. ed. A Baptist Source Book. Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman Press, 1966.
  • Baker, Robert. The Southern Baptist Convention and Its People, 1607–1972. Broadman Press, 1974.
  • Barnes, William. The Southern Baptist Convention, 1845–1953 Broadman Press, 1954.
  • Eighmy, John. Churches in Cultural Captivity: A History of the Social Attitudes of Southern Baptists. University of Tennessee Press, 1972.
  • Encyclopedia of Southern Baptists: Presenting Their History, Doctrine, Polity, Life, Leadership, Organization & Work Knoxville: Broadman Press, v 1–2 (1958), 1500 pp; 2 supplementary volumes 1958 and 1962; vol 5 = Index, 1984
  • Farnsley II, Arthur Emery, Southern Baptist Politics: Authority and Power in the Restructuring of an American Denomination; Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994
  • Flowers, Elizabeth H. Into the Pulpit: Southern Baptist Women and Power Since World War II (University of North Carolina Press; 2012) 263 pages; examines women's submission to male authority as a pivotal issue in the clash between conservatives and moderates in the SBC
  • Fuller, A. James. Chaplain to the Confederacy: Basil Manly and Baptist Life in the Old South (2002)
  • Gatewood, Willard. Controversy in the 1920s: Fundamentalism, Modernism, and Evolution. Vanderbilt University Press, 1969.
  • Hankins, Barry. Religion and American Culture. Tuscaloosa and London: University of Alabama Press, 2002. Argues that Baptist conservatives see themselves as cultural warriors critiquing a secular and liberal America
  • Harvey, Paul. Redeeming the South: Religious Cultures and Racial Identities among Southern Baptists, 1865–1925. University of North Carolina Press, 1997
  • Hill, Samuel, et al. Encyclopedia of Religion in the South (2005)
  • Kell, Carl L. and L. Raymond Camp, In the Name of the Father: The Rhetoric of the New Southern Baptist Convention. Southern Illinois University Press, 1999
  • Leonard, Bill J. God's Last and Only Hope: The Fragmentation of the Southern Baptist Convention. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990.
  • Lumpkin, William L. Baptist History in the South: Tracing through the Separates the Influence of the Great Awakening, 1754–1787 (1995)
  • McSwain, Larry L. Loving Beyond Your Theology: The Life and Ministry of Jimmy Raymond Allen (Mercer University Press; 2010) 255 pages. A biography of the Arkansas-born pastor (b. 1927), who was the last moderate president of the SBC
  • Marsden, George. Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of 20th Century Evangelicalism. Oxford University Press, 1980.
  • Religious Congregations & Membership in the United States, 2000. Glenmary Research Center
  • Rosenberg, Ellen. The Southern Baptists: A Subculture in Transition. University of Tennessee Press, 1989.
  • Scales, T. Laine. All That Fits a Woman: Training Southern Baptist Women for Charity and Mission, 1907–1926 Mercer U. Press 2002
  • Smith, Oran P. The Rise of Baptist Republicanism (1997), on recent voting behavior
  • Spain, Rufus B. At Ease in Zion: A Social History of Southern Baptists, 1865–1900 (1961)
  • Sutton, Jerry. The Baptist Reformation: The Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention (2000).
  • Wills, Gregory A. Democratic Religion: Freedom, Authority, and Church Discipline in the Baptist South, 1785–1900. Oxford University Press, 1997
  • Yarnell III, Malcolm B. The Formation of Christian Doctrine (2007), on Baptist theology

External links