Thursday, June 30, 2011

So You're a Baptist—

What might that mean?

In 2007, the Baptist World Alliance reported that there were about 53 million Baptists in the world, with about two-thirds of them located in the United States. When compared with Catholics, Anglicans, Seventh-day Adventists, Pentecostals, and other Christian groups that in recent decades have become thoroughly international, this concentration of the Baptists in one country is striking. Yet comparison with the situation a century earlier shows that Baptists too have been experiencing the globalization that is now standard for other Christian movements. Early in the 20th century, only 3 percent of the world's Baptists lived outside of the United States, Canada, and Britain. Today that proportion is about 30 percent.

What is the best way to take account of the world's self-described Baptists? Do they constitute a movement with any real cohesion? Or is the term "Baptist" so flexible that it designates only a loosely defined collection of heterogeneous fragments clustered haphazardly in one vaguely outlined section of the world Christian landscape?

One way to illustrate the problem of Baptist identity is simply to start listing the various groups that call themselves by that name. In the United States we have, as only a partial list....

To read more, click here.

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