Southern Baptists and American Baptists share a common origin. Each Christian denomination owes its existence to Roger Williams, who helped settle Rhode Island. Williams founded the first Baptist church in America around 1638. Southern Baptists formed a separate convention in 1845 when slave owners were not allowed to serve as missionaries in the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society.
This marked the beginning of Southern Baptists and American Baptists veering off onto different doctrinal paths. Southern Baptists have adopted a much more conservative stance on matters of faith and social issues than American Baptists.
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American Baptist churches, according to the American Baptist Churches USA
, are "represented in our churches are equally diverse worship styles, cultural mores, and approaches to Scriptural interpretation."
This has led to involvement in many liberal and progressive causes from civil rights to equal rights for women. American Baptists count female pastors in their leadership and are welcoming of same-sex couples.
Southern Baptists take a decidedly more conservative viewpoint. Women do not serve as pastors in Southern Baptist churches. The denomination is also at the forefront among fundamentalist and evangelical Christian groups in condemning same-sex marriage. This has created additional distance between them and American Baptists since the initial 19th century split over slavery.
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Both denominations take the idea of missionary work to heart. The Southern Baptist Convention reported 4 million baptisms
inside the United States and another 5 million baptisms around the world in the first decade of the 21st century.
Hundreds of American Baptist home and international missionaries serve each year in the United States and 20 other countries in their effort to obey the command of Jesus to "make disciples of all nations."
Each denomination practices a believer's baptism. Once in the fold, matters of faith are slightly different for each one. Southern Baptists follow a statement of beliefs contained in "The Baptist Faith and Message" as a guide for following Christ's teachings. American Baptists embrace individualized worship not bound by creeds or statements of belief. They encourage diversity of thought in allowing a Christian to interpret scripture and develop a relationship with God.
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