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In the small town I grew up in, there were several different Baptist churches. The First Baptists, Trinity Baptists, Free Will Baptists…I always just assumed they were the same basic thing. You know, all part of the Baptist denomination.

Come to find out, Baptist isn’t really a denomination. Much like the Church of Christ, each individual church is self-governed. Oh yes, there are associations/conventions, like the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Baptist Convention, and Progressive National Baptist Convention. But these aren’t governing bodies necessarily. Church membership is voluntary (on both sides, as churches can be kicked out as easily as they join) so each isn’t an individual denomination. These conventions are more a way to pool resources and influence, though the Southern Baptist Convention does consider itself a denomination (others don’t seem to). The SBC “firmly hold to the principle of church autonomy and self-rule…{the SBC} does not ordain ministers, assign staff to churches, levy contributions to denominational causes, dictate literature and calendar, or assign persons to churches according to place of residence. These are local church matters.” Actually, the SBC itself could be studied for the whole month…their website is interesting, and some of the ideas seem a bit paradoxical.

So it seems the Baptists are another denomination that isn’t officially a denomination, which explains why there isn’t really a definitive place to learn about all the different baptists. Do a quick Google search and it’s mostly message boards. So many people wondering just what the difference is in all these Baptists, but no easy answer. I’m still looking into it!

I did find an interesting quote on Baptists from a Baptist: “Baptists are neither Catholic, nor Protestant, but Bible-believing Christians.” That kind of implies that Catholics and Protestants aren’t Bible-believing Christians, doesn’t it? Of course, I highly doubt most Baptists believe this. While Baptists do seem to pride themselves on saving people, they’ve never seemed the “we are the only right way” kind of group.

However, it does seem that most Baptists do not identify themselves as Protestant. Maybe it was just me, but I always thought you were either Catholic or Protestant. Obviously, there were lots of different versions of Protestants, but all the Lutherans, Baptists, Church of Christ, etc. fell into that category. I’ve learned a lot more about denominations this year so I realize that idea is a little too vague, as the Orthodox Church and the LDS Church wouldn’t fit in either category. But I still would’ve considered Baptists to be Protestant.

Looks like I still have a lot to learn about the Baptists…

Image by freefotouk used under Creative Common License.