Baptists are a diverse group. Most people groups are represented both in America and across the world. Martin Luther King, Jr. was Baptist and so was segregationist governor Lester Maddox. Democratic presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and conservative Republican Senator Jesse Helms are all Baptists. Baptists are organized into various denominations including the Southern Baptist Convention (the largest Protestant denomination in America) but many choose to remain independent.
Within this diversity lies a distinctive group of beliefs that Baptists hold in common. These beliefs are not exclusive to Baptists, other denominations believe them as well. It is the combination of these beliefs that create the Baptist identity.
These beliefs include the authority of the Bible, soul competency, salvation by faith alone, local church autonomy, religious freedom and a strong emphasis on evangelism and missions. The Baptists are more commonly identified by the belief in believer's baptism by immersion.
Diversity and freedom are a common theme among Baptists but some headline-grabbing individuals within our denominational family make us look mean and controlling. It's important for Baptists to understand our history and doctrine. This Sunday I begin a sermon series about being Baptist that will be accompanied by this blog and a study of Baptist doctrine on Wednesday nights.