Religions of America

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Overview

This fascinating new book reflects the results of the turmoil and change in the religions of America since Leo Rosten first wrote about them.
The first section consists of nineteen articles by distinguished men, each one a recognized authority on the creed for which he speaks, setting forth the clear and candid stories of our own faiths and those of our neighbors. All religions are covered, from the major established groups to the "charismatic" cults. There are also chapters ...

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Overview

This fascinating new book reflects the results of the turmoil and change in the religions of America since Leo Rosten first wrote about them.
The first section consists of nineteen articles by distinguished men, each one a recognized authority on the creed for which he speaks, setting forth the clear and candid stories of our own faiths and those of our neighbors. All religions are covered, from the major established groups to the "charismatic" cults. There are also chapters about the agnostic, the non-churchgoer and what he believes, and the scientist. A multitude of questions are raised and answered, such as: What percent of ministers profess they no longer believe in God? In which leading church can homosexuals be married? How many priests condone birth control devices? Abortions? Which faiths feel what way about intermarriage? Divorce? Have churches that participated in social activism in the 1960s gained or lost in their membership and their finances? Have the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches significantly changed their 400-year-old schism?
Part Two is the Almanac, a massive compendium that is more complete and far-ranging than any other existing one, with the statistics, public opinion polls, basic documents, sociological résumés and psychological analyses of the role, conflicts, influences and trends that characterize religion in the United States today. These basic authoritative facts and figures are accompanied by the author's own essays and comments on material that is rarely subjected to critical examination. There is also a Glossary of religious terminology.
Those familiar with Leo Rosten's A Guide to the Religions of America (1955) and his Religions in America (1963) need not be told of the extraordinary reception both volumes received from the reviewers and the public. They were acclaimed by theologians of all faiths. Each book sold hundreds of thousands of copies. But this new Religions of America renders those two volumes entirely out of date. There is no other book even remotely comparable to it.

With over 300,00 copies of previous editions, this revised, expanded and updated edition proves to be the new, definitive guide to theological America.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671219710
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 6/28/1975
  • Pages: 672
  • Sales rank: 1,236,341
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

WHAT IS A BAPTIST?

NOTE TO THE READER: The original text of "What Is a Baptist?" was written by the late William B. Lipphard. Many new answers (to new or old questions) have been supplied for this new, revised edition by Dr. Frank A. Sharp.

Wherever the text has been supplied by Dr. Sharp, his initials appear in brackets.

WILLIAM B. LIPPHARD / Mr. Lipphard wrote from an editorial background of nearly fifty years of professional association with the American Baptist Convention, which consists of over 6,500 churches. He was president of the Associated Church Press from 1947 to 1949 and served for ten years as its executive secretary. He was for twenty years editor of the Baptist publication Missions Magazine and served as a delegate to Baptist World Congresses in Sweden, Canada, Germany, the United States, Denmark, and England.

Mr. Lipphard was born in Evansville, Indiana, and was educated at Yale University, from which he received a B.A. and M.A., and at Colgate-Rochester Divinity School, where he earned his B.D.

From 1940 to 1943, Mr. Lipphard was secretary of the World Relief Committee of the American Baptist Convention. He was a member of the Joint Commission on Missionary Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ and a member of the American Friends of the World Council of Churches and the Foreign Policy Association. Mr. Lipphard received an award from the Associated Church Press for eminence in editorial writing. He served as director of the Church Press at the 1954 second assembly of the World Council of Churches at Evanston, Illinois. He died in 1971.

FRANK A. SHARP / The Reverend Frank A. Sharp is director of the Department of Public Interpretation of the American Baptist Churches (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania). His weekly column in the American Baptist News Service is widely distributed throughout the United States.

A graduate of Colgate and the Colgate-Rochester Divinity School, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in 1948 and served as pastor of several Baptist churches.

Dr. Sharp has traveled widely as a representative to, and reporter on, many Baptist and interdenominational conventions — in Europe and Latin America. In 1966 he attended the World Conference on Church and Society in Geneva; in 1968, the Fourth General Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Uppsala, Sweden; in 1970, the Baptist World Alliance Congress in Tokyo.

His writings have appeared in many journals on religion, including Christian Century, Churchman, and International Journal of Religious Education.

NOTE TO THE READER: It should be emphasized that neither the American Baptist Convention nor the Southern Baptist Convention has ever adopted an "official" statement of doctrine and faith; accordingly, minor differences among Baptists, on specific points of creed or practice, may be regarded as individual, not official, variations. [LR]

What Is a Baptist?

Baptists have never adopted one of the historic Christian creeds — because Baptists have been dedicated to a high degree of personal independence and to the right of the individual to interpret the New Testament for himself in matters of faith and practice. It is difficult, therefore, to present one fixed set of criteria by which to characterize a Baptist.

Among Baptists, there is a great deal of diversity because of their insistence on purity, on personal responsibility, and on freedom of belief and worship.

Any attempt to describe a Baptist would include the following points:

1. Belief in the supremacy of the Scriptures, rather than in the church or a hierarchy.

2. Belief in religious liberty, in the freedom to worship without any compulsion from or by the state.

3. Belief in the baptism of believers, rather than the baptism of infants.

4. Belief in the independence of the local church. [FAS]

Is There Then No Baptist Hierarchy or Central Authority?

Baptists have no hierarchy, no centralized control of religious activity, no headquarters that conduct an "oversight" of churches — or liturgies, practices, or regulations.

The local Baptist parish church is a law unto itself. Its relations with other Baptist churches, its compliance with recommendations from national church headquarters, its acceptance of any resolutions formulated at regional, national, or international conventions — all these are entirely voluntary on the part of the parish church, without the slightest degree of compulsion from any central or national or international body.

Indeed, Baptists are more properly called a denomination, not a church.

Why Do Baptists Call Themselves a Denomination Instead of a Church?

Most Baptists do not believe that they constitute a "church" because they are organized into independent, local "churches."

The local parish church is the sovereign, all-powerful ecclesiastical unit.

The term "Baptist Church" is used for convenience; "denomination" is preferred by most Baptists. In fact, a recent attempt to change the name to "American Baptist Church" was discarded in favor of the name "American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A."

Can Any Group of Believers in the Baptist Faith Form a Congregation or Church?

Yes.

A Baptist congregation needs no specific chain of historical events in order to be a true church. Any group of dedicated, regenerated, Bible-oriented people can form a Baptist church that can be an authentic part of the Body of Christ.

Such a church would not need a fully accredited, ordained pastor in apostolic succession — because originally Baptist churches were run by laymen, and even today pastors are ordained by local churches. [FAS]

Do Baptists Accept the Literal Interpretation of the Bible?

Some do; some don't.

All Baptists believe in the inspiration of the Bible and accept the Bible as infallible in religious teachings: as a trustworthy record of the progressive revelation of God, climaxed by the supreme revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ.

"Progressive" and "liberal" Baptists regard some sections of the Bible as written in the thought patterns of Biblical times — that is, as allegorical, figurative, and legendary yet conveying eternal religious truths.

"Fundamentalist" or "extreme" Baptists accept the Bible literally, regarding it as infallible and final in every detail.

But no official dogma prescribes how any individual Baptist shall interpret the Bible.

Do Baptists Have Sacraments?

No. What are known as sacraments are regarded by Baptists as simple, dignified ordinances with no supernatural significance and no sacramental value.

But Do Not Baptists Observe the Communion Service, or the Lord's Supper?

The Lord's Supper, or communion service, is usually observed on the first Sunday of the month. It is a reminder of the death of Christ and is observed in obedience to His command to commemorate the Supper on the night before He was crucified.

But whatever grace a Baptist derives from participating in the Lord's Supper depends on his own awareness of what the Supper signifies as a memorial service. No grace is supernaturally bequeathed to him — neither by the officiating clergyman nor by partaking of the bread and of the cup. Whatever blessing a Baptist receives comes through some new rededication, by him, in the communion service to a life of righteousness and service to his fellow men.

Why Do Baptists Baptize Only by Immersion?

For two reasons:

1. Immersion is the mode of baptism described in the New Testament; John the Baptist immersed his converts in the Jordan River; Christ Himself was so immersed.

2. Baptists regard baptism as a public confession of Christian faith and as a symbol of the burial and resurrection of Christ, as stated by Paul in his Epistle to the Colossians. Hence, Baptists look upon immersion as realistic symbolism, through which the life of sin is buried in baptism and the new life of faith emerges.

Incidentally, "baptize" is a transliteration (not a translation) of the Greek word baptizein, meaning "to immerse." Therefore, to say that Baptists "baptize by immersion" is redundant; baptism originally was immersion.

Why Don't Baptists Baptize Infants?

Baptism is a voluntary public profession of Christian faith; therefore, Baptists believe, only persons old enough to understand its significance and its symbolism should be accepted for baptism.

Baptists give their children the right to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to be baptized as a public profession of Christian faith. We believe that such a decision makes the ceremony of baptism, and religion itself, more meaningful.

Is Baptism Mandatory for All Baptists?

There are differences of opinion among Baptists in regard to baptism. Some churches limit their membership to immersed believers only (closed membership); other churches admit members by letter from other Christian bodies — but limit the right to vote on certain issues (associate membership); and still other churches admit members on their profession of faith, leaving the question of baptism to the conscience of the believer (open membership).

There are also some Baptists who refuse to regard baptism as valid and call it "alien baptism" if it is or was administered by any other than a New Testament church, which is usually interpreted as being a Baptist church of like mind and theology.

Most Baptists do regard immersion as the New Testament mode, but some hesitate to make that mode a theological absolute, feeling that the confession of faith is more important than the symbolic rite. [FAS]

Do Baptists Accept the Doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Christ?

A great majority undoubtedly do. A substantial minority do not.

For the majority, the doctrine of the Virgin Birth is essential to faith in the deity of Christ. The minority need no such support, since they find no reference to the Virgin Birth in the writings of Paul or in the Gospels of Mark and John.

Baptists pay no special homage to Mary but respect her as the noblest of women. They have never accepted the doctrine of her immaculate conception or the doctrine, announced in 1950 by Pope Plus XII, of the Assumption of Mary.

Since Baptists have no authoritarian creed to control their faith and practice, each local parish church has the right to decide whether or not to make acceptance of the doctrine of the Virgin Birth a condition of church membership.

Do Baptists Accept the Doctrine of the Trinity?

Most Baptists do.

This is a basic doctrine of Christianity. The trinitarian formula, "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," is used at every baptism.

The sublime mystery of the Trinity, of the eternal and infinite essence of God manifested in three persons — these, the Baptist leaves to theologians to interpret. He accepts them.

What Do Baptists Believe About Sin and Salvation?

Baptists believe that every true believer in Christ as personal Savior is saved — without the intervention of preacher or church.

The confession of sin is a personal matter between the individual and God.

Each individual must give evidence of his personal redemption by faith, good works, and the Christian way of life. [FAS]

Do Baptists Believe in Heaven and Hell?

Most Baptists believe in some form of life beyond the grave. Ideas range from a nebulous, indefinable existence to a definite place, like a city of golden streets or a region of everlasting torment.

Some Baptists find it difficult to reconcile the fact of an all-merciful God with endless punishment for sins committed within the short span of a lifetime on earth. [FAS]

Do Baptists Approve of Divorce?

No, except when there has been adultery.

But there is no regulation among Baptist churches regarding divorce. Annual conventions of Baptists have often condemned the rising divorce rate in the United States. Each Baptist clergyman depends on his conscience in deciding whether or not to officiate at the marriage of divorced persons. No church law prescribes what he must do.

What Is the Baptist Attitude Toward Black People?

Our denomination has passed a resolution as follows:

We recognize the —

Failure of the white-dominated society to respect and rely on the voice of the poor citizens, and especially poor black men, in decisions affecting their welfare in white-owned, white-dominated and white-maintained ghettos.

We call our churches to —

Develop and support opportunities for all, especially the minority group poor, to participate in decisions by religious, governmental, industrial, commercial, welfare and other institutions affecting their lives.

Join with the victims of discrimination in securing legislation and business practices that insure open housing in established and new communities, and that improve opportunities for full participation in economic life by all citizens. [FAS]

What Is the Status/Role of Women Among Baptists?

d

At the Seattle, Washington, National Convention in 1969, a resolution was passed urging the American Baptist Convention, and its affiliated organizations and constituent churches, to:

1. Reverse the declining number of positions held by professionally trained women in local churches, states, cities, and regional and national staffs.

2. Establish policies and practices in electing and appointing persons to offices, committees, and boards to ensure more adequate opportunities for women.

3. Urge member churches to give equal status to women in positions of major responsibility (deacons, moderators, trustees, etc.) within the local church. [FAS]

Can Women Be Ordained?

The American Baptist Churches already have some fifty women ordained as ministers. Some of them serve in churches, others in executive positions. [FAS]

Do Baptists Sanction Birth Control?

No parish Baptist church and no ecclesiastical convention of Baptists has ever by resolution expressed approval or disapproval of birth control or planned parenthood.

Even if it had, such resolution would not be binding on any Baptist. Most Baptists would resent and repudiate any such resolution as an unwarranted intrusion into the private life of husband and wife.

What Is the Baptist Attitude Toward Abortion?

There is no official or single stand. Every Baptist is free to make up his own mind.

The nearest thing to "the" Baptist attitude may be found in the resolution adopted by our National Convention. (These resolutions, be it noted, express and reflect only the attitudes of the delegates, but many Baptists, no doubt, are influenced by the National Convention's deliberations and resolutions.)

With reference to abortion, the American Baptist Churches meeting in Boston, in 1968, passed a resolution asking that the termination of a pregnancy, prior to the end of the twelfth week of pregnancy, be at the request of the individual or individuals concerned and be regarded as an elective medical procedure, governed by the laws regulating medical practice and licensure.

The other part of the resolution stated that after the twelfth week of pregnancy, the termination of the pregnancy shall be performed only by a duly licensed physician, at the request of the individual or individuals concerned, in a regularly licensed hospital, for one of the following reasons — as suggested by the Model Penal Code of the American Law Institute:

1. When there is danger to the physical or mental health of the woman;

2. When there is documented evidence that the conceptus possesses a physical or mental defect;

3. When there is documented evidence that the pregnancy was the result of rape, incest, or other felonious acts. [FAS]

What Is the Baptist Attitude Toward Homosexuality?

Again, there is no official, single position.

No resolution pertaining to homosexuality has yet been presented before a national convention. [FAS]

How Do Baptists Propagate Their Faith?

The historic Baptist view holds that every church member and every professing Christian is an evangelist. By word, deed, and character, he is committed to proclaim his Christian faith and to seek to win others to its acceptance. Throughout their history, Baptists have engaged in very active missionary effort, at home and abroad. Baptist foreign missions have been successful on every continent.

Do Baptists Cooperate in the Ecumenical Movement?

Some do and some don't. Because of their cherished independence, many Baptist groups do not become involved in ecumenical movements on the national and world levels. (There may be more interdenominational activity on the local level because such action is nearer home and there is the feel of participation.)

Out of twenty-seven Baptist bodies in the United States, only ten belong to the Baptist World Alliance and five belong to the National Council of Churches. Out of 115 Baptist groups around the world, ten are members of the World Council of Churches.

But there are some notable exceptions. The American Baptist Convention has been a part of the ecumenical movement from its inception.

Baptists were active in the formation of the American Bible Society (1816), the American Sunday School Union (1824), the Federal Council of Churches (1908), and the National and World Council of Churches.

A recent survey showed that the American Baptist Convention has provided more staff workers — in national, state, and local councils of churches — than any other major denomination. [FAS]

Are Baptists Active in Social Issues?

Once again, because of their sense of independence and their conservative outlook, most Baptists are inclined to emphasize the responsibility to evangelize individuals, in the hope that the individuals will in turn change society. A few Baptists attempt to apply Christian principles to the political and social issues of the day. Some Baptists would attempt to do both, seeing evangelism as the total witness of the Christian to all of his relationships in society.

The most activist group in the area of social concern is the American Baptist Convention. Written into its Articles of Incorporation, in 1910, were these words:

The objects of the corporation shall be to give expression to the opinions of its constituency upon moral, religious, and denominational matters, and to promote denominational unity and efficiency in efforts for the evangelization of the world. [FAS]

How Many Baptists Are There?

NOTE TO THE READER: Since membership is limited to baptized believers, all of these figures do not include young children. Most young people are ten to twelve years old when they join the Baptist church. [LR]

Baptists (as a family of denominations) constitute the largest Protestant group in the United States. The World Almanac for 1974 lists 21 different Baptist bodies with a total membership of 26,315,235.

The largest single Baptist body in the United States is the Southern Baptist Convention: 34,441 churches, with 11,826,463 members.

The next two largest Baptist denominations are Negro: the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., with 27,396 churches and 6,487,003 members; and the National Baptist Convention of America, with 11,398 churches and 2,668,799 members. (In fact, 50 percent of all Negroes in the United States belong to some Baptist body.)

The fourth largest Baptist denomination in the United States is the American Baptist Convention, with 6,090 churches and a membership of approximately 1,472,478.

A full list of Baptists in the United States would also include many less commonly known groups, such as the General Six Principle Baptists, the Primitive Baptists, the Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists, the Duck River and Kindred Associations of Baptists, Free Will Baptists, Seventh Day Baptist General Conference — as well as Baptist groups established by immigrants from European countries — from Sweden, Germany, Norway, and Italy, for example.

According to the 1972 statistics released by the Baptist World Alliance there are Baptists in 115 countries around the world.

One of the largest Baptist bodies outside the United States is located in the USSR (about 550,000). Next in size are Baptists of Zaire, Africa, with 450,000 members, and Britain, with a membership of 215,000.

In all of Europe there are 1,161,606 Baptists; 1,079,471 in Asia; 808,266 in Africa; 442,859 in South America; 215,670 in Central America; and 145,412 in the Southwest Pacific. [FAS]

Where Did the Baptist Movement Begin?

Because of the independent character of Baptists, they are related to, and were a part of, the same spirit that brought about the Reformation — although Baptists are not directly related to Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, or Knox, the great reformers.

Baptists are spiritually related to those who wanted freedom from the established church: freedom to read and interpret the Scriptures according to the leading of the Holy Spirit, freedom from government interference, and freedom to hold a strong belief in an adult believer's baptism as opposed to infant baptism.

Most historians would place the historical roots of Baptists in England, growing out of the Puritan and Separatist movements. The early Baptists were those who wanted to reform, or who withdrew from, the established church in England, whether it was Roman Catholic or the Church of England.

In 1602, John Smyth, an Anglican preacher, renounced the episcopacy while speaking at Lincoln Cathedral. He was removed by the church authorities and became pastor of a small group of Separatists. This congregation, along with some others, moved to Holland in 1606. Smyth's convictions led him to the conclusion that a church did not have to be part of a historical succession and that its membership should be composed only of those who had repented of their sins, had confessed their faith in Jesus Christ, and were baptized.

In 1609, thirty-six men and women in Amsterdam formed the first Baptist church on record: Smyth poured water upon himself, first, and then upon the others. (Pouring was employed initially as the mode of baptism; by 1641, immersion was the established form.)

In 1611, Thomas Helwys and part of the Amsterdam congregation returned to England and established the first Baptist congregation there. This church and its descendent congregations were "General Baptists," so called because they believed that salvation was for everyone. Another branch came into existence in London in 1638 called Particular Baptists, because their Calvinist theology included predestination or the limitation of salvation to a particular group. In 1891, both groups of Baptists in Britain joined to form the Baptist Union for Great Britain and Ireland. [FAS]

When Did Baptists Originate in the United States?

When New England was settled by the English, they brought with them the same religious affiliations as they had had back home: There were Puritans, Pilgrims, Separatists, Congregationalists, and a few Baptists. To this day there is an argument whether the Newport Church of Rhode Island or the Providence Church was the first Baptist church in America. The reason is historically interesting.

In 1639, Roger Williams, a young Puritan minister, came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony seeking religious freedom. But the Puritan Congregationalists did not allow freedom of worship, and Williams was expelled by the authorities. In 1636, he founded the colony of Rhode Island — for the purpose of granting full religious freedom for all. In 1639, in Providence, he founded the First Baptist Church in America.

But Roger Williams remained a Baptist for only a short time (although he is listed as the founder of Baptists in America). An English physician, John Clarke, remained a Baptist leader all of his life. He spent twelve years in London until he secured the final charter, from Charles II, establishing Rhode Island as a colony in 1663. John Clarke became pastor of the Baptist Church at Newport, Rhode Island. [FAS]

How Do Local Congregations Work Together?

Although each local Baptist church is independent, soon after new churches began to spring up in New England and throughout the American colonies, the churches felt the need for mutual guidance and fellowship. So they organized themselves into voluntary groups, known as associations. In 1707, when five congregations formed the Philadelphia Baptist Association, the first association of Baptist churches in America was organized.

National Baptist work was also organized on a voluntary basis to support foreign missionary work. In 1814, the Triennial Baptist Convention came into being to support Ann and Adoniram Judson, the first foreign missionaries to leave American shores for service in India and Burma. This organization's descendant is known as the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society.

Other cooperative efforts were found to be necessary inasmuch as printed materials were needed to evangelize the Indians and to follow the trek westward on the frontier. In 1824 the General Tract Society was organized (today called the American Baptist Board of Education and Publication). In 1832 the American Baptist Home Mission Society was founded. Until 1845, practically all Baptists belonged to the same national body, the Triennial Convention.

When Did Baptists Separate from This Convention?

In 1845, a clash over the slavery issue — and a difference over the organizational structure (independent societies vs. related boards) — caused the withdrawal of those Southerners who formed the Southern Baptist Convention.

Baptists of the North continued to be related to all of the original societies and to the Triennial Convention,until 1907. Because of the need for a single financial appeal to the churches and for a stronger voice to speak out on social issues, the Northern Baptist Convention was created.

In 1950, the name was changed to the American Baptist Convention. In 1972, the name was changed to American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.

Copyright © 1975 by Cowles Communications, Inc.

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Table of Contents

CONTENTS

EDITOR'S PREFACE

By Leo Rosten

PART ONE/RELIGIOUS BELIEFS AND CREDOS

— in question-and-answer form

WHAT IS A BAPTIST?

By William B. Lipphard and Frank A. Sharp

WHAT IS A CATHOLIC?

By Donald W. Hendricks

WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH?

See who are the disciples of christ?

WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST?

By J. Buroughs Stokes

WHAT IS A CONGREGATIONALIST?

See what is The United Church of Christ?

WHO ARE THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST (Christian Church)?

By James E. Craig and Robert L. Friedly

WHAT IS AN EPISCOPALIAN?

By W. Norman Pittenger

WHAT IS A GREEK ORTHODOX?

By Arthur Douropulos

WHO ARE JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES?

By Milton G. Henschel

WHAT IS A JEW?

By Morris N. Kertzer

WHAT IS A LUTHERAN?

By G. Elson Ruff and Albert P. Stauderman

WHAT IS A METHODIST?

By Ralph W. Sockman and Paul A. Washburn

WHAT IS A MORMON?

By Richard L. Evans

WHAT IS A PRESBYTERIAN?

By John S. Bonnell

WHAT IS A QUAKER?

By Richmond P. Miller and R. W. Tucker

WHAT IS A SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST?

By Arthur S. Maxwell

THE "UNCHURCHED" AMERICANS: WHAT DO THEY BELIEVE?

By Edward L. Ericson

WHAT IS A UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST?

By Karl M. Chworowsky and Christopher Gist Raible

WHAT IS THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST?

By The Church Office of Communication

WHAT IS AN AGNOSTIC?

By Bertrand Russell

THE RELIGION OF A SCIENTIST

By Warren Weaver

PART TWO/ALMANAC

A comprehensive collation of facts, events, opinion polls, statistics, analyses, and essays on the problems and crises confronting the churches today

I. ABORTION

Supreme Court Decision, 1973: Highlights and Analysis of Effects

American Attitudes Toward Abortion

Response of Catholics Prior to the Supreme Court Decision

Analysis of 72,988 Abortions Performed in the United States: 1970-1971

Abortions Performed on Catholic Women: International Data

Abortion and Young Blacks

Lutherans and Abortion

Effects of Legalizing Abortion

II. "ACTIVISM": THE GROWTH OR DECLINE OF RELIGIOUS GROUPS RELATED TO THEIR SOCIAL ACTIVISM IN THE 1960s AND 1970s

Should the Churches Speak out on Social and Political Issues?

Opinions of Priests, Ministers, and Rabbis

Comparison of Attitudes

Are "Socially Oriented" and "Liberal" Churches Losing Members? Are "Conservative" Churches Gaining?

Has the Catholic Church Gained or Lost Members?

Sunday Sermons: What Do They Say?

III. AFFIRMATIONS OF RELIGIOUS IDENTITY: CATHOLICS, JEWS, PROTESTANTS, AGNOSTICS

What Is Your Religious Preference?

Is Religion a Relevant Part of Your Life?

U.S. Census Bureau Voluntary Survey

AGNOSTICS IN THE UNITED STATES

See Part One, "The 'Unchurched' Americans: What Do They Believe?" by Edward L. Ericson; and Part Two, Chapters III and XXII

ANTI-SEMITISM IN THE UNITED STATES

See Part Two, Chapters XXV, "Jews," and XXX, "Prejudice and Religion"

IV. BELIEF IN GOD

"Do You Believe in a God?"

Comparison of the United States with Ten Other Nations

Belief in God: Priests, Ministers, and Rabbis

V. BELIEF IN HEAVEN, HELL, THE DEVIL, LIFE AFTER DEATH

"Do You Believe in Heaven?"

Comparison of United States with Ten Other Nations

"Do You Believe in Hell?"

"Do You Believe in the Devil?"

"Do You Believe in Life After Death?"

Belief of Clergy in Life After Death

VI. THE BIBLE

The Ecumenical Bible: 1973

Facts About the Bible: Editor's Summary in Question-Answer Form

Chart of the English Bible: Its Origin and History

Historical Highlights of the Bible

Catholic Bibles

Protestant Counterparts of Douay-Rheims Bible

The New American Bible

VII. BIBLE READING IN THE UNITED STATES

"Have You Yourself Read Any Part of the Bible at Home Within the Last Year?"

"Which Version of the Bible Did You Read...?"

VIII. BIRTH CONTROL

U.S. National Statistics

Roman Catholic Contraception and Fertility: An International Survey

Use of Birth Control Devices by Catholic Women

Statistical Tables on Birth Control Among U.S. Roman Catholic Women

Trends in Attitudes Toward, and Use of, Birth Control Devices in the United States

Family Planning

Poll of Roman Catholics on Birth Control and the Pill

Catholic Priests and Birth Control

Pope Cautions United Nations on Birth Control as Means of Coping with World Population

IX. BLACK AMERICANS AND THE CHURCHES

Black Militance

Blacks and the Christian Church

Statistics: Black Church Membership

Intermarriage of Whites and Nonwhites: Current Statistics

Black Roman Catholics

Black Muslims

Early Negro Churches in the United States

X. CATHOLICS: FACTS, OPINIONS, TRENDS, FERMENT, AND SCHISMS

Catholicism Today: An Essay

Statistical Summary: Population, Clergy, Schools, Baptisms, Marriages

Opinions of U.S. Roman Catholics on Key Issues

Encyclical of Pope Paul VI: "Humanae Vitae"

Clergy and Orders: Problems, Defections, the Radical Nuns, the Jesuits

Celibacy: The Problem

Papal Authority and Papal Infallibility: Priests Versus Bishops

On Vatican II

Catholic-Jewish Relations

Catholics and Blacks

Vatican Policy Change on Communism

Catholicism Today

Catholic Holidays, Feasts, and Devotions

XI. CHURCH ATTENDANCE IN THE UNITED STATES

Church Attendance

Drop in Catholic Attendance at Mass

The Clergy's Opinions on Churchgoing

Comparison of Churchgoing in Seven Nations

XII. CHURCH MEMBERSHIP: SEVENTY-NINE DENOMINATIONS

Census of Religious Groups in the United States

Comparative Annual Figures

Church Affiliation and Population Growth: Figures and Trends

Census of World Religious Groups

Comparison of Protestant and Catholic Membership Statistics

Church Membership Statistics by States and Regions

Sex and Race Composition

Age Composition

Education and Church Affiliation

Occupation and Church Affiliation

Income and Church Affiliation

Composition by Regions

Community Size and Church Affiliation

Critical Evaluation of Statistics on Religion

XIII. THE CLERGY

Statistics for Forty Religious Groups

Income of Protestant Ministers

Clergymen's Estimate of Their Relation to the Laity

Clergymen's Criticism of Church Performance

Clergymen's Vote on the Role of the Church

Protestant Clergymen's Attitude: "Would You Enter the Clergy Today?"

Women in the Protestant Ministry: Statistics, Attitudes, Problems

Catholics and the Ordination of Women

Jewish Women and the Rabbinate

Lutherans and the Role of Women

XIV. DENOMINATIONS AND THEIR "FAMILY" GROUPS

Church Groupings in the United States

Church Mergers

Lutheran Mergers

Clergymen's Preference on Protestant Church Merger

XV. DIVORCE AND RELIGION

Desertion as Divorce

National Divorce Figures and Projections

Catholic Divorce Rate and Trend

Catholic Attitudes Toward Divorce: 1967-1971

Catholic Law on Divorce

Catholic Theologians on Second Marriages

A Jesuit's View

Episcopalians Liberalize Divorce

XVI. ECUMENISM: HISTORY, HOPES, AND DISAPPOINTMENTS

Poll of Catholics and Protestants on Church Unification

The Ecumenical Movement: A Historical Summary

Less Optimistic Aspects

Papal Infallibility Reaffirmed

Obstacles to Ecumenism

Notable Studies — and Predictions

XVII. EDUCATION IN RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS IN THE UNITED STATES

Religious Instruction (Denominations of 100,000 or more)

Catholic Education in the United States

Poll on Parochial Schools

Parochial Schools and Racial Integration

Crisis in Parochial School Financing

Predictions: Parochial Schools

Enrollment in Jewish Schools: 1969-1970

XVIII. FAMILY SIZE AND PLANNING: POLLS AND STATISTICS

Decline in Family Size and Birth Rate

Poll Trend on Family Size

Catholic Fertility and Birth Rates in Various Countries

Opinions on Fertility Control: Religious Groupings

Fertility and Jews: A Special Problem

XIX. FEDERAL AID TO EDUCATION

Supreme Court Rulings on Parochial Schools

Federal Aid "Revoked"

Effects on Catholic Schools

XX. HOLY DAYS AND RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCES: ALL FAITHS

Calendar and Description

Tables of Movable Holidays: Christian and Secular, and Jewish: 1974-1982

Extended Catholic Calendar: 1974-1999

XXI. HOMOSEXUALITY: THE CHURCHES AND PSYCHIATRY

XXII. HUMANISTS: MANIFESTO II

XXIII. INFLUENCE OF RELIGION: OPINION POLLS

Is Religion Losing Its Influence?

Confidence in and Respect for the Church as Compared with Other Institutions

Clergymen's Estimate of Religion's Influence

Influence of Sermons: Sociologists' Views

Optimism Regarding Future of Religion

XXIV. INTERMARRIAGE — STATISTICS, OPINIONS, AND CONVERSION DATA: CATHOLICS, PROTESTANTS, AND JEWS

American Attitudes Toward Intermarriage

Opinions on Intermarriage: 1969

Attitudes Toward Marriages Between Christians and Jews

Attitudes of Jews Toward Intermarriage

Catholics and Intermarriage: Apostolic Letter

Opinions by Groups

Intermarriage in a Denominational Society: Comparison of Rates and Religious Groups

Intermarriage and Conversion: Catholics, Protestants, and Jews

Research on Mixed Marriages

"JESUS MOVEMENTS"

See Part Two, Chapter XXVII, "Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements in the 1970s"

XXV. JEWS

Population Figures

Faith and Religious Observance

Education

Changes in the Status of Jewish Women

Jews and Intermarriage

Jewish Women and the Rabbinate

Opinions of Jews: Anti-Semitism, Pride

Intermarriage: Opinions

Storm Within the Rabbinate over Intermarriage

Family Life and Judaism

Jews and Politics

Jewish Holidays

Jewish Calendar

XXVI. LUTHERANS: RECENT CRISES

Editor's Summary

MARRIAGE AND RELIGION

See Part Two, Chapters XV, "Divorce and Religion," and XXIV, "Intermarriage"

XXVII. PENTECOSTAL AND CHARISMATIC MOVEMENTS IN THE 1970s

Nature of the Movements

How Large Are the Pentecostal Movements?

What Is Pentecostalism?

Church Responses

Four Different Pentecostal Groups

Psychology of Pentecostalism

Drugs and Pentecostalism

Historical Note

Prediction

A New Roman Catholic Mass

XXVIII. POLITICS AND RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION

XXIX. PRAYER IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

XXX. PREJUDICE AND RELIGION

Attitudes Toward Other Faiths: Catholics, Protestants, Jews

Religious Prejudice and Politics: Catholic, Jewish, Black, Woman President

Prejudice Among Teen-Agers

Christian Faith and Anti-Semitism

Catholics and Jews

Papal Declaration on Anti-Semitism and Historical Background

Summary: Catholic-Jewish Relations Since Vatican II

Anti-Semitism Among Lutherans

XXXI. RELIGION IN U.S. HISTORY

Chronology: Highlights

Religious Affiliation of Presidents of the United States

Religious Affiliation of Justices of the Supreme Court

Religious Affiliation of Colonial Leaders

WOMEN AND RELIGION

Data on women are included in various chapters of Part One; see Almanac above for polls, statistics, material on the clergy, different denominations, etc., especially Chapter XIII

XXXII. YOUTH AND RELIGION

College Students: Relevance of Religion

College Students: Religion and Today's Problems

College Students: Church Attendance

Youth Attitudes: Birth Control, Abortion, Divorce

High-School Response to "Right and Wrong"

Interpretation of Data on Youth and Religion

REFERENCE AIDS

Headquarters of Denominations with Membership of 100,000 or More

Glossary of Religious Terms

INDEX

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First Chapter

Chapter 1 WHAT IS A BAPTIST?

NOTE TO THE READER: The original text of "What Is a Baptist?" was written by the late William B. Lipphard. Many new answers (to new or old questions) have been supplied for this new, revised edition by Dr. Frank A. Sharp.

Wherever the text has been supplied by Dr. Sharp, his initials appear in brackets.

WILLIAM B. LIPPHARD / Mr. Lipphard wrote from an editorial background of nearly fifty years of professional association with the American Baptist Convention, which consists of over 6,500 churches. He was president of the Associated Church Press from 1947 to 1949 and served for ten years as its executive secretary. He was for twenty years editor of the Baptist publication Missions Magazine and served as a delegate to Baptist World Congresses in Sweden, Canada, Germany, the United States, Denmark, and England.

Mr. Lipphard was born in Evansville, Indiana, and was educated at Yale University, from which he received a B.A. and M.A., and at Colgate-Rochester Divinity School, where he earned his B.D.

From 1940 to 1943, Mr. Lipphard was secretary of the World Relief Committee of the American Baptist Convention. He was a member of the Joint Commission on Missionary Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ and a member of the American Friends of the World Council of Churches and the Foreign Policy Association. Mr. Lipphard received an award from the Associated Church Press for eminence in editorial writing. He served as director of the Church Press at the 1954 second assembly of the World Council of Churches at Evanston, Illinois. He died in 1971.

FRANK A. SHARP / The Reverend Frank A. Sharp is director of the Department of Public Interpretation of the American Baptist Churches (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania). His weekly column in the American Baptist News Service is widely distributed throughout the United States.

A graduate of Colgate and the Colgate-Rochester Divinity School, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in 1948 and served as pastor of several Baptist churches.

Dr. Sharp has traveled widely as a representative to, and reporter on, many Baptist and interdenominational conventions -- in Europe and Latin America. In 1966 he attended the World Conference on Church and Society in Geneva; in 1968, the Fourth General Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Uppsala, Sweden; in 1970, the Baptist World Alliance Congress in Tokyo.

His writings have appeared in many journals on religion, including Christian Century, Churchman, and International Journal of Religious Education.

NOTE TO THE READER: It should be emphasized that neither the American Baptist Convention nor the Southern Baptist Convention has ever adopted an "official" statement of doctrine and faith; accordingly, minor differences among Baptists, on specific points of creed or practice, may be regarded as individual, not official, variations. [LR]

What Is a Baptist?

Baptists have never adopted one of the historic Christian creeds -- because Baptists have been dedicated to a high degree of personal independence and to the right of the individual to interpret the New Testament for himself in matters of faith and practice. It is difficult, therefore, to present one fixed set of criteria by which to characterize a Baptist.

Among Baptists, there is a great deal of diversity because of their insistence on purity, on personal responsibility, and on freedom of belief and worship.

Any attempt to describe a Baptist would include the following points:
1. Belief in the supremacy of the Scriptures, rather than in the church or a hierarchy.
2. Belief in religious liberty, in the freedom to worship without any compulsion from or by the state.
3. Belief in the baptism of believers, rather than the baptism of infants.
4. Belief in the independence of the local church. [FAS]

Is There Then No Baptist Hierarchy or Central Authority?

Baptists have no hierarchy, no centralized control of religious activity, no headquarters that conduct an "oversight" of churches -- or liturgies, practices, or regulations.

The local Baptist parish church is a law unto itself. Its relations with other Baptist churches, its compliance with recommendations from national church headquarters, its acceptance of any resolutions formulated at regional, national, or international conventions -- all these are entirely voluntary on the part of the parish church, without the slightest degree of compulsion from any central or national or international body.

Indeed, Baptists are more properly called a denomination, not a church.

Why Do Baptists Call Themselves a Denomination Instead of a Church?

Most Baptists do not believe that they constitute a "church" because they are organized into independent, local "churches."

The local parish church is the sovereign, all-powerful ecclesiastical unit.

The term "Baptist Church" is used for convenience; "denomination" is preferred by most Baptists. In fact, a recent attempt to change the name to "American Baptist Church" was discarded in favor of the name "American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A."

Can Any Group of Believers in the Baptist Faith Form a Congregation or Church?

Yes.

A Baptist congregation needs no specific chain of historical events in order to be a true church. Any group of dedicated, regenerated, Bible-oriented people can form a Baptist church that can be an authentic part of the Body of Christ.

Such a church would not need a fully accredited, ordained pastor in apostolic succession -- because originally Baptist churches were run by laymen, and even today pastors are ordained by local churches. [FAS]

Do Baptists Accept the Literal Interpretation of the Bible?

Some do; some don't.

All Baptists believe in the inspiration of the Bible and accept the Bible as infallible in religious teachings: as a trustworthy record of the progressive revelation of God, climaxed by the supreme revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ.

"Progressive" and "liberal" Baptists regard some sections of the Bible as written in the thought patterns of Biblical times -- that is, as allegorical, figurative, and legendary yet conveying eternal religious truths.

"Fundamentalist" or "extreme" Baptists accept the Bible literally, regarding it as infallible and final in every detail.

But no official dogma prescribes how any individual Baptist shall interpret the Bible.

Do Baptists Have Sacraments?

No. What are known as sacraments are regarded by Baptists as simple, dignified ordinances with no supernatural significance and no sacramental value.

But Do Not Baptists Observe the Communion Service, or the Lord's Supper?

The Lord's Supper, or communion service, is usually observed on the first Sunday of the month. It is a reminder of the death of Christ and is observed in obedience to His command to commemorate the Supper on the night before He was crucified.

But whatever grace a Baptist derives from participating in the Lord's Supper depends on his own awareness of what the Supper signifies as a memorial service. No grace is supernaturally bequeathed to him -- neither by the officiating clergyman nor by partaking of the bread and of the cup. Whatever blessing a Baptist receives comes through some new rededication, by him, in the communion service to a life of righteousness and service to his fellow men.

Why Do Baptists Baptize Only by Immersion?

For two reasons:
1. Immersion is the mode of baptism described in the New Testament; John the Baptist immersed his converts in the Jordan River; Christ Himself was so immersed.
2. Baptists regard baptism as a public confession of Christian faith and as a symbol of the burial and resurrection of Christ, as stated by Paul in his Epistle to the Colossians. Hence, Baptists look upon immersion as realistic symbolism, through which the life of sin is buried in baptism and the new life of faith emerges.

Incidentally, "baptize" is a transliteration (not a translation) of the Greek word baptizein, meaning "to immerse." Therefore, to say that Baptists "baptize by immersion" is redundant; baptism originally was immersion.

Why Don't Baptists Baptize Infants?

Baptism is a voluntary public profession of Christian faith; therefore, Baptists believe, only persons old enough to understand its significance and its symbolism should be accepted for baptism.

Baptists give their children the right to decide for themselves whether or not they wish to be baptized as a public profession of Christian faith. We believe that such a decision makes the ceremony of baptism, and religion itself, more meaningful.

Is Baptism Mandatory for All Baptists?

There are differences of opinion among Baptists in regard to baptism. Some churches limit their membership to immersed believers only (closed membership); other churches admit members by letter from other Christian bodies -- but limit the right to vote on certain issues (associate membership); and still other churches admit members on their profession of faith, leaving the question of baptism to the conscience of the believer (open membership).

There are also some Baptists who refuse to regard baptism as valid and call it "alien baptism" if it is or was administered by any other than a New Testament church, which is usually interpreted as being a Baptist church of like mind and theology.

Most Baptists do regard immersion as the New Testament mode, but some hesitate to make that mode a theological absolute, feeling that the confession of faith is more important than the symbolic rite. [FAS]

Do Baptists Accept the Doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Christ?

A great majority undoubtedly do. A substantial minority do not.

For the majority, the doctrine of the Virgin Birth is essential to faith in the deity of Christ. The minority need no such support, since they find no reference to the Virgin Birth in the writings of Paul or in the Gospels of Mark and John.

Baptists pay no special homage to Mary but respect her as the noblest of women. They have never accepted the doctrine of her immaculate conception or the doctrine, announced in 1950 by Pope Plus XII, of the Assumption of Mary.

Since Baptists have no authoritarian creed to control their faith and practice, each local parish church has the right to decide whether or not to make acceptance of the doctrine of the Virgin Birth a condition of church membership.

Do Baptists Accept the Doctrine of the Trinity?

Most Baptists do.

This is a basic doctrine of Christianity. The trinitarian formula, "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," is used at every baptism.

The sublime mystery of the Trinity, of the eternal and infinite essence of God manifested in three persons -- these, the Baptist leaves to theologians to interpret. He accepts them.

What Do Baptists Believe About Sin and Salvation?

Baptists believe that every true believer in Christ as personal Savior is saved -- without the intervention of preacher or church.

The confession of sin is a personal matter between the individual and God.

Each individual must give evidence of his personal redemption by faith, good works, and the Christian way of life. [FAS]

Do Baptists Believe in Heaven and Hell?

Most Baptists believe in some form of life beyond the grave. Ideas range from a nebulous, indefinable existence to a definite place, like a city of golden streets or a region of everlasting torment.

Some Baptists find it difficult to reconcile the fact of an all-merciful God with endless punishment for sins committed within the short span of a lifetime on earth. [FAS]

Do Baptists Approve of Divorce?

No, except when there has been adultery.

But there is no regulation among Baptist churches regarding divorce. Annual conventions of Baptists have often condemned the rising divorce rate in the United States. Each Baptist clergyman depends on his conscience in deciding whether or not to officiate at the marriage of divorced persons. No church law prescribes what he must do.

What Is the Baptist Attitude Toward Black People?

Our denomination has passed a resolution as follows:
We recognize the --
Failure of the white-dominated society to respect and rely on the voice of the poor citizens, and especially poor black men, in decisions affecting their welfare in white-owned, white-dominated and white-maintained ghettos.

We call our churches to --
Develop and support opportunities for all, especially the minority group poor, to participate in decisions by religious, governmental, industrial, commercial, welfare and other institutions affecting their lives.

Join with the victims of discrimination in securing legislation and business practices that insure open housing in established and new communities, and that improve opportunities for full participation in economic life by all citizens. [FAS]

What Is the Status/Role of Women Among Baptists?

At the Seattle, Washington, National Convention in 1969, a resolution was passed urging the American Baptist Convention, and its affiliated organizations and constituent churches, to:
1. Reverse the declining number of positions held by professionally trained women in local churches, states, cities, and regional and national staffs.
2. Establish policies and practices in electing and appointing persons to offices, committees, and boards to ensure more adequate opportunities for women.
3. Urge member churches to give equal status to women in positions of major responsibility (deacons, moderators, trustees, etc.) within the local church. [FAS]

Can Women Be Ordained?

The American Baptist Churches already have some fifty women ordained as ministers. Some of them serve in churches, others in executive positions. [FAS]

Do Baptists Sanction Birth Control?

No parish Baptist church and no ecclesiastical convention of Baptists has ever by resolution expressed approval or disapproval of birth control or planned parenthood.

Even if it had, such resolution would not be binding on any Baptist. Most Baptists would resent and repudiate any such resolution as an unwarranted intrusion into the private life of husband and wife.

What Is the Baptist Attitude Toward Abortion?

There is no official or single stand. Every Baptist is free to make up his own mind.

The nearest thing to "the" Baptist attitude may be found in the resolution adopted by our National Convention. (These resolutions, be it noted, express and reflect only the attitudes of the delegates, but many Baptists, no doubt, are influenced by the National Convention's deliberations and resolutions.)

With reference to abortion, the American Baptist Churches meeting in Boston, in 1968, passed a resolution asking that the termination of a pregnancy, prior to the end of the twelfth week of pregnancy, be at the request of the individual or individuals concerned and be regarded as an elective medical procedure, governed by the laws regulating medical practice and licensure.

The other part of the resolution stated that after the twelfth week of pregnancy, the termination of the pregnancy shall be performed only by a duly licensed physician, at the request of the individual or individuals concerned, in a regularly licensed hospital, for one of the following reasons -- as suggested by the Model Penal Code of the American Law Institute:
1. When there is danger to the physical or mental health of the woman;
2. When there is documented evidence that the conceptus possesses a physical or mental defect;
3. When there is documented evidence that the pregnancy was the result of rape, incest, or other felonious acts. [FAS]

What Is the Baptist Attitude Toward Homosexuality?

Again, there is no official, single position.

No resolution pertaining to homosexuality has yet been presented before a national convention. [FAS]

How Do Baptists Propagate Their Faith?

The historic Baptist view holds that every church member and every professing Christian is an evangelist. By word, deed, and character, he is committed to proclaim his Christian faith and to seek to win others to its acceptance. Throughout their history, Baptists have engaged in very active missionary effort, at home and abroad. Baptist foreign missions have been successful on every continent.

Do Baptists Cooperate in the Ecumenical Movement?

Some do and some don't. Because of their cherished independence, many Baptist groups do not become involved in ecumenical movements on the national and world levels. (There may be more interdenominational activity on the local level because such action is nearer home and there is the feel of participation.)

Out of twenty-seven Baptist bodies in the United States, only ten belong to the Baptist World Alliance and five belong to the National Council of Churches. Out of 115 Baptist groups around the world, ten are members of the World Council of Churches.

But there are some notable exceptions. The American Baptist Convention has been a part of the ecumenical movement from its inception.

Baptists were active in the formation of the American Bible Society (1816), the American Sunday School Union (1824), the Federal Council of Churches (1908), and the National and World Council of Churches.

A recent survey showed that the American Baptist Convention has provided more staff workers -- in national, state, and local councils of churches -- than any other major denomination. [FAS]

Are Baptists Active in Social Issues?

Once again, because of their sense of independence and their conservative outlook, most Baptists are inclined to emphasize the responsibility to evangelize individuals, in the hope that the individuals will in turn change society. A few Baptists attempt to apply Christian principles to the political and social issues of the day. Some Baptists would attempt to do both, seeing evangelism as the total witness of the Christian to all of his relationships in society.

The most activist group in the area of social concern is the American Baptist Convention. Written into its Articles of Incorporation, in 1910, were these words:

The objects of the corporation shall be to give expression to the opinions of its constituency upon moral, religious, and denominational matters, and to promote denominational unity and efficiency in efforts for the evangelization of the world. [FAS]

How Many Baptists Are There?

NOTE TO THE READER: Since membership is limited to baptized believers, all of these figures do not include young children. Most young people are ten to twelve years old when they join the Baptist church. [LR]

Baptists (as a family of denominations) constitute the largest Protestant group in the United States. The World Almanac for 1974 lists 21 different Baptist bodies with a total membership of 26,315,235.

The largest single Baptist body in the United States is the Southern Baptist Convention: 34,441 churches, with 11,826,463 members.

The next two largest Baptist denominations are Negro: the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., with 27,396 churches and 6,487,003 members; and the National Baptist Convention of America, with 11,398 churches and 2,668,799 members. (In fact, 50 percent of all Negroes in the United States belong to some Baptist body.)

The fourth largest Baptist denomination in the United States is the American Baptist Convention, with 6,090 churches and a membership of approximately 1,472,478.

A full list of Baptists in the United States would also include many less commonly known groups, such as the General Six Principle Baptists, the Primitive Baptists, the Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists, the Duck River and Kindred Associations of Baptists, Free Will Baptists, Seventh Day Baptist General Conference -- as well as Baptist groups established by immigrants from European countries -- from Sweden, Germany, Norway, and Italy, for example.

According to the 1972 statistics released by the Baptist World Alliance there are Baptists in 115 countries around the world.

One of the largest Baptist bodies outside the United States is located in the USSR (about 550,000). Next in size are Baptists of Zaire, Africa, with 450,000 members, and Britain, with a membership of 215,000.

In all of Europe there are 1,161,606 Baptists; 1,079,471 in Asia; 808,266 in Africa; 442,859 in South America; 215,670 in Central America; and 145,412 in the Southwest Pacific. [FAS]

Where Did the Baptist Movement Begin?

Because of the independent character of Baptists, they are related to, and were a part of, the same spirit that brought about the Reformation -- although Baptists are not directly related to Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, or Knox, the great reformers.

Baptists are spiritually related to those who wanted freedom from the established church: freedom to read and interpret the Scriptures according to the leading of the Holy Spirit, freedom from government interference, and freedom to hold a strong belief in an adult believer's baptism as opposed to infant baptism.

Most historians would place the historical roots of Baptists in England, growing out of the Puritan and Separatist movements. The early Baptists were those who wanted to reform, or who withdrew from, the established church in England, whether it was Roman Catholic or the Church of England.

In 1602, John Smyth, an Anglican preacher, renounced the episcopacy while speaking at Lincoln Cathedral. He was removed by the church authorities and became pastor of a small group of Separatists. This congregation, along with some others, moved to Holland in 1606. Smyth's convictions led him to the conclusion that a church did not have to be part of a historical succession and that its membership should be composed only of those who had repented of their sins, had confessed their faith in Jesus Christ, and were baptized.

In 1609, thirty-six men and women in Amsterdam formed the first Baptist church on record: Smyth poured water upon himself, first, and then upon the others. (Pouring was employed initially as the mode of baptism; by 1641, immersion was the established form.)

In 1611, Thomas Helwys and part of the Amsterdam congregation returned to England and established the first Baptist congregation there. This church and its descendent congregations were "General Baptists," so called because they believed that salvation was for everyone. Another branch came into existence in London in 1638 called Particular Baptists, because their Calvinist theology included predestination or the limitation of salvation to a particular group. In 1891, both groups of Baptists in Britain joined to form the Baptist Union for Great Britain and Ireland. [FAS]

When Did Baptists Originate in the United States?

When New England was settled by the English, they brought with them the same religious affiliations as they had had back home: There were Puritans, Pilgrims, Separatists, Congregationalists, and a few Baptists. To this day there is an argument whether the Newport Church of Rhode Island or the Providence Church was the first Baptist church in America. The reason is historically interesting.

In 1639, Roger Williams, a young Puritan minister, came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony seeking religious freedom. But the Puritan Congregationalists did not allow freedom of worship, and Williams was expelled by the authorities. In 1636, he founded the colony of Rhode Island -- for the purpose of granting full religious freedom for all. In 1639, in Providence, he founded the First Baptist Church in America.

But Roger Williams remained a Baptist for only a short time (although he is listed as the founder of Baptists in America). An English physician, John Clarke, remained a Baptist leader all of his life. He spent twelve years in London until he secured the final charter, from Charles II, establishing Rhode Island as a colony in 1663. John Clarke became pastor of the Baptist Church at Newport, Rhode Island. [FAS]

How Do Local Congregations Work Together?

Although each local Baptist church is independent, soon after new churches began to spring up in New England and throughout the American colonies, the churches felt the need for mutual guidance and fellowship. So they organized themselves into voluntary groups, known as associations. In 1707, when five congregations formed the Philadelphia Baptist Association, the first association of Baptist churches in America was organized.

National Baptist work was also organized on a voluntary basis to support foreign missionary work. In 1814, the Triennial Baptist Convention came into being to support Ann and Adoniram Judson, the first foreign missionaries to leave American shores for service in India and Burma. This organization's descendant is known as the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society.

Other cooperative efforts were found to be necessary inasmuch as printed materials were needed to evangelize the Indians and to follow the trek westward on the frontier. In 1824 the General Tract Society was organized (today called the American Baptist Board of Education and Publication). In 1832 the American Baptist Home Mission Society was founded. Until 1845, practically all Baptists belonged to the same national body, the Triennial Convention.

When Did Baptists Separate from This Convention?

In 1845, a clash over the slavery issue -- and a difference over the organizational structure (independent societies vs. related boards) -- caused the withdrawal of those Southerners who formed the Southern Baptist Convention.

Baptists of the North continued to be related to all of the original societies and to the Triennial Convention,until 1907. Because of the need for a single financial appeal to the churches and for a stronger voice to speak out on social issues, the Northern Baptist Convention was created.

In 1950, the name was changed to the American Baptist Convention. In 1972, the name was changed to American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.

Copyright © 1975 by Cowles Communications, Inc.

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 10, 2012

    book not delivered!

    This book was ordered as a gift and was never received! Who do I talk to?

    I have an older edition of this book that I which was why I ordered it for a friends.
    Merry Stardust

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2006

    A mother and grandmother seeks answers

    This book, altho it may be outdated, answered some questions honestly. I liked the fact that it goes to each religion, rather than 'assuming this is what they believe' which happens far too often.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2004

    Good for superficial info

    This book is indeed out-of-date. However, if you are interested in a very surface layer of what some religions/denominations believe this will be valuable. My husband and I are very committed to our faith, but were interested in learning the hows and whys of other faiths and found this book to be an excellent starting point.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2002

    Steer Clear

    While this was a good source into the 80's, it has become very outdated. Many churches have revised, fine-tuned, and updated their positions (ie. ordination of women, etc). Avoid this book; there are better sources.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2008

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