In the 17th century and into the middle 18th century, more than a few people envisioned a future without Baptists. From the English monarchy to the clergy of the Church of England in America and the Congregational and Anglican theocracies in colonial America, Baptists were heretical undesirables who needed to be eradicated (preferrably) or tightly contained (at the least).
While their ill-wishers were many, few cared for the people known as Baptists. The relative handful of Baptist churches that existed were small congregations. Converts were infrequent. Baptist faith convictions of freedom of individual conscience, believer’s baptism, democratic church polity, religious liberty for all, and church state separation did not solicit the good graces of the American public.
Yet a funny thing happened along the road of the government and church’s campaign to rid the world of Baptists.
Instead of taking down their church signs and fading into oblivion, Baptists double-downed on their faith convictions and began growing in number in the second half of the eighteenth century. In the 1770s and early 1780s, Baptist support for the American Revolution helped ensure victory over the British. And in the late 1780s and early 1790s, to the amazement of their many detractors, Baptist faith convictions of freedom of individual conscience, democracy, religious liberty for all, and church state separation emerged as the foundation of the new American nation.
It is not an exaggeration to say that without the Baptist witness – without the survival of the very people that governments and clergy wanted to eradicate – it is possible that America might not even exist today.
And so now, in the 21st century, we Baptists stand at another crossroads. The Baptist name is fading. Some (again) envision a world without Baptists. Does anyone care? And what would a 21st century world without Baptists look like?
The workshop features Andi Sullivan, co-founder of HisNets; Emily Hull McGee, minister to young adults at Louisville’s Highland Baptist Church; David King, missional congregations assistance at CBF National; and Doug Weaver, Associate Professor of Religion and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Religion.
The workshop is free, and registration is not required.