What are Baptists

Baptists are a mainstream Christian group. However,we have four distinctives:

  • As our name suggests, we practice Believers' Baptism by total immersion of those who profess a real faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as their own personal Saviour.
     
  • Local Baptist Churches are independent, linked only to other Baptist churches by voluntary association. There is no national Baptist Church, only a Union of independent local Baptist Churches. 
     
  • Baptist churches are gathered churches in that they consist of those who have 'gathered together' by mutual consent. Members of a local Baptist Church "opt into" membership, rather than entering it by default through tradition or location. 
     
  • Each local Baptist Church is congregationally governed. This means that all the major decisions about the life and work of a local Church are made by its own members. There is no central governing body of Baptist Churches.

Apart from these four distinctives we also emphasise the importance of individual faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, freedom of religious conscience, the importance of the local Christian community and its lifestyle, and the independence of the church from the state.

The modern denomination was founded in the early 17th Century because certain groups of Christians felt the need for reform and change. Our roots can be traced back earlier still to the Anabaptists of Europe in the sixteenth century. The first Baptist Church in this country was founded in Spitalfields, London, in 1612.

There are many Baptists around the world including large numbers in the USA and the former states of the USSR. We are the biggest single Protestant grouping in the world.

Famous Baptists of the last 100 years include Martin Luther King and Billy Graham. Famous Baptists of previous centuries include John Bunyan (seventeenth century) and Charles Haddon Spurgeon (nineteenth century).

 

European Baptist Statement of Identity

 

1. We are part of the whole, world-wide Christian Church and we confess faith in One God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

2. We affirm the need for personal faith in Jesus Christ and for discipleship in his likeness.

3. Our final authority in faith and practice is Jesus Christ, as revealed in the Scriptures and present among his people through the Holy Spirit.

4. We recognise the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the primary authority for knowing God's revelation in Christ.

5. We understand the Church to be a fellowship of believers, sharing the table of the Lord.

6. We practice baptism, for believers only, into the Body of Christ.

7. We affirm the freedom and responsibility of each local congregation to discover the purpose of Christ for its own life and work.

8. We affirm the "priesthood of all believers", in which all members of the church are called to ministry; but some are called to exercise spiritual leadership, which is always to be understood as serving.

9. We believe that the mutual commitment expressed in baptism and in membership of the local church should lead to wider partnerships between churches wherever possible.

10. We believe that every Christian disciple is called to witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and that the Church as a part of God's Kingdom is to share in the whole mission of God in the world.

11. We affirm the need to preserve freedom of conscience, and so we accept differences among us.

12. We stand for the separation of church and state, rooted in the sole lordship of Christ and concern for religious liberty.

13. As Christian believers, we live in hope of the final appearing of Christ in glory, and the transforming of all creation.

This is an abstract from a fuller statement approved by the European Baptist Federation Council in September 1992.