Academic journal article Baptist History and Heritage

Who and Where in the World Are the Baptists? When the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Was Founded in London, England, in 1905, Seven Million Baptists Lived throughout the World. as We Enter 2005, Our Centennial Year, 48 Million Baptized Believers Are Members of Baptist Churches (1)

Academic journal article Baptist History and Heritage

Who and Where in the World Are the Baptists? When the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Was Founded in London, England, in 1905, Seven Million Baptists Lived throughout the World. as We Enter 2005, Our Centennial Year, 48 Million Baptized Believers Are Members of Baptist Churches (1)

Article excerpt

This number does not include the worshipping community of unbaptized children, other friends, and adherents. If we were to include all hose who attend Baptist churches, the number would be at least 110 million. Of all the "Christian World Communions," the BWA then would represent the largest Protestant fellowship. (2)

Cardinal Bellarmine at the Council of Trent stated that the Reformation churches were not part of the true church because they were not missionary-sending churches. That statement could not be made about Baptism. Evangelism and missions have been distinctives of our Baptist movement. Basically, Baptists are a mission society announcing the Good News of Jesus Christ, calling men and women to repentance, baptizing them in the name of the triune God, and gathering together as the beloved community to extend the Kingdom of Christ. Baptists reject infant baptism,

originally associated with a state-church polity in which citizens of a country were automatically members of the church at birth and by state law.

Baptists promoted separation of church and state and endured persecution and imprisonment because of the rejection of a coerced faith imposed by the state. Thus, the defense of religious freedom has always been a Baptist distinctive. This distinctive was further emphasized in the new world by the first Baptist church founded in the Americas by Roger Williams in Providence, Rhode Island. Rhode Island's charter was the first to proclaim religious liberty for all people. Baptists need to remember that this belief in religious freedom was an extension of their belief in missions and evangelism. In 1792, William Carey, considered the father of modern missions, awakened the whole of Protestantism to the rediscovery of the Great Commission and the necessity of world evangelism. Since then, all of Protestantism has taken up the call to missionary endeavors worldwide.

One of the most remarkable trends in recent years has been the growth of the Christian Church throughout the world. In 1900, 85 percent of the Christians in the world resided in Europe and North America. In 2005, 60 percent of the Christians live in the so-called "Two-thirds world," or the developing countries, of the southern hemisphere. (3) Baptists are a significant part of this growth. This article will identify the location of significant numbers of Baptists and highlight their concerns, problems, and hopes.

Baptists in Africa

In the past, as explorers ventured into new territories, they often brought along chaplains, whose task was to convert the native populations, not just to Christianity, but to their particular denominational tradition. Thus, Anglicanism often became the state religion of the British colonies, and Catholicism took root in areas in which French or Belgians settled. For example, much of the population of the Democratic Republic of the Congo became Catholic, many of the people of Nigeria became Anglican, and natives of Tanzania became Lutheran. Yet, Baptists did not follow the pattern established by other denominational traditions. Baptists did not accept the concept of "Volksmission," where often a whole tribe became Christian because the chief accepted Christianity. With an emphasis on the necessity of individual repentance and regeneration by being born again, Baptist missions usually attracted converts one by one. Despite this emphasis, substantial Baptist communities exist in Africa.

The largest single convention in Africa is the Baptist Convention of Nigeria, which claims to have three million members. This substantial convention has considerable influence on African Baptist life. The first general secretary of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship (AABF) was the Nigerian Baptist leader, Samuel S. T. O. Akande, and the second president for two terms was Samuel Fadeji. Both men had served as general secretary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. Outstanding civil and religious leaders have come from Nigeria. …

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