Our Heritage

The Baptist Denomination

Those sections of the Christian Church, which broke away from Rome at the time of the Reformation adopted various forms of polity, such as Episcopal, Presbyterian and Congregational types. Baptists emerged as a distinct body in the 17th century, representing that phase of the Protestant Reformation that developed the principles of evangelicalism and spiritual democracy as far as it as possible to carry them. The new knowledge of the Bible accompanying the Reformation showed that the New Testament furnished very strong support for the Baptist position. In addition to the two principles already mentioned, the Baptists tried to copy the practice of the New Testament churches. This led, ultimately to adoption of two ordinances: Believer’s Baptism, as a profession of faith, and the observance of The Lord’s Supper, as a memorial of Christ’s death, and a symbol of our union with Him.

Today, there are self-governing Baptist churches in almost every country in the world, with a total membership of about 31 million. Since these people are communicant members, and do not include “Adherents”, it is perhaps correct to say that the Baptist churches constitute the largest body of the Protestant churches in the world. As might be expected, Baptists have the strongest influence in those countries that have been the most receptive to democratic ideals, and in the United States, alone they number more than 27 million.

Baptist churches place a strong emphasis on the right of each congregation to be self-governing, but at the same time, like the churches of the New Testament, they recognize that there must be the closest possible cooperation if the work of the Kingdom is to be effectively done. Our churches are therefore organized on a worldwide scale, and each congregation, even every member, must be considered part of the vast fellowship in which all are voluntarily associated for Christian service.