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American Baptist Churches USA
Classification Protestant
Orientation Mainline/Baptist
Polity Congregationalist
Associations National Council of Churches;
Baptist World Alliance
Geographical area United States
Origin May 17, 1907
Washington, D.C.
Branched from Triennial Convention
Merge of Free Will Baptist General Conference 1911
Congregations 5,780
Members 1.4 million
Official Website

The American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) is a Baptist Christian denomination within the United States. The denomination maintains headquarters in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The organization is usually considered mainline, although varying theological and mission emphases may be found among its congregations, including evangelical orientations.

In 2006, the denomination had approximately 1.4 million members [1] in 5,659 churches. The ABCUSA is a member of the National Council of Churches, the Baptist World Alliance and the World Council of Churches.



Roger Willliams established the First Baptist Church in Providence (now the First Baptist Church in America) in 1638. Regarded by the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony as a heretic for his Baptist faith tradition, Williams was banished into the New England wilderness where he and his followers created the settlement of Providence and, later, the colony of Rhode Island. Williams is credited with being the founder of the Baptist movement in America, the founder of the state of Rhode Island, and the first highly visible public leader in America to call for the separation of church and state.

Early Baptist churches in America largely operated independently from one another, following a wide array of theological paths, but were unified in their mission to evangelize. This evangelical mission led to the establishment of the Triennial Convention in 1814, a collaborative effort by local churches to organize, fund, and deploy foreign missionaries. The ABCUSA descends from this Triennial Convention. Through the Triennial Convention structure a number of mission-oriented societies were formed, including the American Baptist Home Mission Society (1832), American Baptist Publication Society (1841), and the American Baptist Education Society (1888).

In 1845 a majority of Baptists in the South withdrew support from the Triennial Convention, largely in response to the decision of the Triennial Convention delegates to ban slave holders from becoming ordained missionaries, and formed the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The Triennial Convention was loosely structured, and the SBC offered Baptists a more centralized organizational structure for carrying on missionary and benevolent work. In contrast, however, the Triennial Convention afforded local churches a higher degree of local autonomy, a more traditional characteristic of Baptist polity. The majority of churches in the North continued to work through these societies for missions and benevolence until the formation of a unified convention in 1907.

The Northern Baptist Convention was founded in Washington, D.C. on May 17, 1907. Charles Evans Hughes, the governor of New York and later Chief Justice of the United States, served the body as its first president. The apparent purpose of the Northern Baptist Convention was to bring about a consistent cooperation between the separate Baptist bodies then existing. Soon after this organization was founded, most of the churches of the Free Will Baptist General Conference merged with it in 1911. The name of the Convention was changed in 1950 to American Baptist Convention, and the current name, American Baptist Churches in the USA was adopted in 1972.

Part of a series of articles on
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Historical Background
Protestantism · Puritanism · Anabaptism

General · Strict · Reformed

Doctrinal distinctives
Priesthood of all believers · Individual soul liberty · Ordinances · Separation of church and state · Sola scriptura · Congregationalism · Offices · Confessions

Pivotal figures
John Smyth · Thomas Helwys · Roger Williams · John Bunyan · Shubal Stearns · Andrew Fuller · Charles Spurgeon · D. N. Jackson

Baptist Conventions and Unions

Baptism by immersion2.png Baptist portal

Theology and practice

American Baptists believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God and the final authority in matters of faith.[2] The ABCUSA affirms the Trinity, that the one God exists as three persons in complete unity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. They confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord through whom those who believe can have fellowship with God. He died, taking on the sins of the world, and was resurrected, triumphing over sin and death.[3]

ABCUSA churches recognize two ordinances: Believer's baptism and the Lord's Supper. Baptism is by immersion, and those being baptized must be of an age to understand its significance. Believing in the priesthood of all believers, the ABCUSA avoids using creeds, affirming the freedom of individual Christians and local churches to interpret scripture as the Holy Spirit leads them. The ABCUSA affirms the ordination of women.[3]


The American Baptists Churches USA has a congregationalist polity emphasizing local church autonomy. Local churches are organized into 35 regions. The General Board makes policy for the denomination's national agencies.[4] However, General Board resolutions are not binding on local congregations. Three-fourths of the representatives to the General Board are nominated and elected by the regions. One-fourth of the representatives are nominated by the Nominating Committee and are elected by the regions. The General Secretary executes the policies and decisions of the General Board. A. Roy Medley is ABCUSA's General Secretary.

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

Membership Trends

In 2006, the American Baptist Churches USA reported 1,371,278 members in 5,659 churches.[5] Membership remained fairly steady during the twentieth century. In 1925, there were just over 1.4 million members. Membership peaked in the early 1980s at around 1.6 million.[6] Congregations are concentrated in the Midwest and Northeast.[7]

Affiliated seminaries

There are a number of universities and colleges affiliated with the ABCUSA. There are ten seminaries affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA:

Prominent members


  1. ^ "2007 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches". The National Council of Churches. Retrieved 2007-08-07.  
  2. ^ ABCUSA. "10 Facts You Should Know About American Baptists". Retrieved 2009-10-21.  
  3. ^ a b ABCUSA. "We Are Guided by God's Word". Retrieved 2009-10-21.  
  4. ^ ABCUSA. "General Board". Retrieved 2009-06-20.  
  5. ^ [1]Data from the National Council of Churches' Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches
  6. ^ [2]Data from the National Council of Churches' Historic Archive CD and Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches
  7. ^ [3]Data from the 2000 Religious Congregations and Membership Study

External links



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