Baptists in America have been more a movement than a denomination, as chronicled in this latest CHM issue #126. Baptists are defined by the practice of baptism of adult Christian believers by water immersion, which revives a Biblical public statement of faith and challenged mainstream church resistance in sixteenth-century England, mostly among English Separatists and radical Puritans.
In colonial America, Baptists encountered persecution as they had in Europe, identifying leaders such as Roger Williams and Obadiah Holmes as law breakers and then freedom fighters. Roger Williams was one of the first to oppose early American colonists who practiced infant baptism.
By the early eighteenth century, Baptist churches proliferated across America, especially in the southeast region. Key figures bringing the Baptist movement south were George Whitefield and Shubal Stearns, who was converted by Whitefield. Stearns and his family located in North Carolina in 1754, in the Sandy Creek area, where they established a church that spawned 42 congregations within 17 years, becoming a center of Baptist revival in the South.
Baptists greatly influenced the founding of the United States of America. The spirit of Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island (and helped found Pennsylvania) as a place for worship in peace influenced James Madison & Thomas Jefferson and the debates that shaped America’s legal policy at its founding. Jefferson’s famous statement about a “wall of separation between church and state” came from a letter he sent to a group of Baptists.
American faith leaders, Martin Luther King Jr. and Billy Graham, both associated with the Baptist movement, pioneering the American the civil rights movement and continuing the quest for religious freedom undertaken by early American settlers.
“…If Baptist religion isn’t American religion, it’s got to be pretty close,” said the managing editor of Christian History, Jennifer Woodruff Tait. “True, the Baptist movement was birthed in England (see CHM issue #6). But in the Baptist journey, we see the struggles and triumphs of the United States, and of the Christian faith in the American context, as we do in the journey of almost no other group.”
CH issue #126, contains 7 features and 6 shorter side-bar articles; a chronology time-line; an archive of rare art-work & photos; a ‘letter to the editor’ section and an extensive reading list compiled by the CHM editorial staff. The magazine is available on-line and can be conveniently read, on screen at: www.christianhistorymagazine.org.
The entire CHM archive of 126 issues can be searched, along with related books, videos and study-guides, using the website’s search engine feature. A magazine subscription, combined with its accompanying website, is offered at no-cost as a study resource for home & homeschoolers, church libraries, middle/high schools, as well as to colleges & universities. It is the mission of CHI donors and staff to make this resource as widely and freely available as possible (donations gratefully accepted).
The following articles can be accessed on-line at: What’s Inside?
From outlaws to patriots by Thomas S. Kidd and Barry Hankins. Thomas S. Kidd is Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University and the author of books on evangelical Christianity and colonial history. Barry Hankins is professor of history at Baylor. This article is adapted from their book Baptists in America.
Which Baptist are you again? – What is behind the names of all those Baptist branches by Elizabeth Flowers, associate professor of religion at Texas Christian University and author of Into the Pulpit: Southern Baptist Women and Power since World War II.
The wall of separation – The Baptist battle for religious liberty, by Curtis W. Freeman: research professor of theology and Baptist studies & director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity School, an ordained Baptist minister, and the author of Undomesticated Dissent; A Company of Preachers; and Baptist Roots.
March to freedom – African American Baptists forged a strong identity in the face of oppression, by Adam L. Bond, associate professor of church history at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology, Virginia Union University and the author of several books and articles on the Baptist experience. He is an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches USA and senior minister of the Providence Baptist Church in Ashland, Virginia.
“For the public worship of almighty God and also for commencement” – Baptists founded schools early and often for many purposes, by Amy Whitfield, director of Marketing and Communication at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Attempting great things for God – Baptists spread the Good News around the world, by Melody Maxwell, assistant professor of Christian studies at Howard Payne University and the author of two books on Baptist women, The Woman I Am and Torches in the Corridor.
Multiplying by dividing (again) – Baptists wrestle with fundamentalism and liberalism, by Bill J. Leonard, Dunn Professor of Baptist Studies and professor of church history at Wake Forest University School of Divinity and author or editor of over 20 books, including Di ary of Baptists in America, Baptist Ways, Baptists in America, and The Challenge of Being Baptist.ction
“That’s where I used to go to church” – Black Baptists and white Baptists shared something important in the twentieth century: a penchant for splitting, by Barry Hankins Barry, professor of history at Baylor University and the author of numerous books on evangelicalism and Baptists, including Baptists in America with Thomas Kidd as well as Uneasy in Babylon and God’s Rascal.
Preachers, organizers, trailblazers – Some passionate men and women you may not know who carried forward the Baptist tradition in the United states, Mandy E. McMichael, associate director of Ministry Guidance and J. David Slover Assistant Professor of Ministry Guidance in the religion department at Baylor University.
“America’s Pastor” Prepared to Meet His Lord – Billy Graham (1918–2018), by Grant Wacker, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Christian History at Duke Divinity School and author of America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation. Excerpted from an article originally published at Duke Today and in the Washington Post, reprinted with permission from Duke University Divinity School. For more, see issue #111, Billy Graham.
Baptist Presidents and Vice Presidents – Several who held the high US executive offices were affiliated with Baptist churches, by Jennifer Woodruff Tait, Managing editor, Christian History.
Why Christian History?
“Christian history has been largely removed from the American public education system that Christian leaders began in the early years of this nation,” said Michael Austin, a Christian commentator. “After years of decline, our public schools no longer teach the Bible’s founding contribution to Western Civilization. Christians have influenced our culture’s values regarding faith, freedom and mercy. Yet, today, faith in God is being openly questioned and attacked.”
George Barna, speaking of data gathered in a recent survey, said, “Young people couldn’t think of anything positive that the church stood for.” In a video interview, Barna Further reported, “We’re essentially in the Dark Ages, in America today.” (View YouTube, titled: ‘Young Americans see nothing positive in church – says George Barna.’)
Christian History Institute is a non-profit Pennsylvania corporation founded in 1982. CHI publishes Christian History magazine and also produces books and videos featuring important Christian history, including Torchlighters®, an animated history series of biographies for children. CHI is a donor-supported organization providing church resources and self-study material making Christian history accessible to the widest possible audience, via video and the Internet. Contact Christian History Institute, Box 540, Worcester, PA 19490, www.ChristianHistoryInstitute.org.