Thursday, May 04, 2017
The Baptist exception
Christians in the Global South now dominate every major Protestant tradition—except one.
en I wrote The Next Christendom back in 2002, I was quite proud of the wide range of global churches and Christian traditions that I covered. I did not notice a curious omission in my index: no mention of Baptists. The absence provoked one exasperated Baptist colleague to complain, semiseriously, “We spent how much on foreign missions last year, and this is what we get?” That gap was not intended as a slight or insult on my part, but it does point to a curious aspect of the modern Baptist tradition.
Fifty or a hundred years ago, Christian denominations were heavily concentrated in Europe or North America. Since that time, those bodies have expanded worldwide to the point that Global South believers now predominate, and they usually aspire to make their distinctive voices heard. Name any major Protestant tradition, and that is more or less its modern history. Baptists represent the conspicuous exception to this rule. As in previous generations, Baptists remain heavily concentrated in one Global North region, namely the United States, where they still constitute the largest Protestant tradition.
Estimates of the number of Baptists worldwide vary enormously—far more widely than for most churches. Guesstimates for the total of believers range anywhere from 50 to 110 million, taking all theological shades together. The most accurate figure lies in the lower part of that range.
Whatever the overall totals, what’s striking is the continuing size of the U.S. proportion. The largest 40 or so Baptist groups when combined account for around 55 million people, 40 million of whom adhere to bodies in the United States. That compares with 7 million members in Africa, 5 million in Asia, and 2 million in Latin America. Non-U.S. numbers rise if smaller denominations are included, but they count their numbers not in the millions but in the tens of thousands, and applying the same standard also raises U.S. figures comparably. Read More
Posted by Robin G. Jordan at 4:14 PM