American Baptist Association

From Academic Kids

The American Baptist Association (ABA) is an association of independent Landmark-type Baptist churches fellowshipping to carry out missions, benevolence and education.

Though the American Baptist Association (distinct from the American Baptist Churches in the USA) was organized in 1924, the ABA stems from an independent "New Testament Church" movement, also known as Landmarkism. This movement is Baptistic in teaching, and is based on the history of Baptist churches stemming from those that existed during Christ's ministry. See Baptists.

The Baptist movement in America began with Roger Williams in Rhode Island in the early 17th Century. Independent and Baptist churches spread from New England through New York and Pennsylvania, to the Midwest and some Southern states. As the "New Testament Church" movement spread to the Virginias and the Carolinas, some churches decided to convene regularly for missionary and governmental policy-making, others holding to local church authority. These boards or conventions, gave rise first to the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions and later to the Southern Baptist Convention.

The modern formation of the American Baptist Association thus goes back to the mid 19th century. It involved a series of controversies rising within what, by the mid 1800's, was termed the Northern and Southern Baptist Conventions. Northern independent and Baptist churches (though including many churches in the geographic South), preached what would soon be termed Landmarkism. This was considered by these churches' leaders to be a restoration of Baptist theological and governmental principles. Important to early development of Landmarkism were leaders such as James R. Graves, James M. Pendleton, and Amos C. Dayton.

The Cotton Grove Resolutions, adopted at a meeting at the Cotton Grove Baptist Church (near Jackson, Tennessee) in 1851, were probably the first systematized expression of Landmarkism, though all the tenants existed among Baptists in some form or another prior to them. Logical application of Landmark emphases on "local church only" and "the Great Commission given to the church" led toward dissatisfaction with SBC structure and programs (such as Mission Boards). Conflicts between Landmarkers and non-Landmarkers were behind at least four important Baptist controversies in the late 1800's – Gospel Missions, the Whitsitt controversy, the "Hayden" Controversy in Texas, and the "Bogard" Controversy in Arkansas.

The two state controversies led to the organization of two new state associations - the Baptist Missionary Association (BMA) of Texas in 1900 and the State Association of Missionary Baptist Churches in Arkansas in 1902. Soon Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Louisiana would follow. The Texas association formed its own foreign mission work, but others desired to see a national organization for Landmark Baptists. Some of these organized the General Association of Baptists in the United States of America in 1905. The General Association never garnered full support of Landmark Baptists.

Southern Baptist Churches eventually decided that the standing boards or conventions were necessary to the efficient ministries of its participants, and made them permanent and binding bodies. Some local associations that withdrew from the Southern Baptist Convention still remain aloof from any national organization.

A move for unification of the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas and the General Association came to fruition at Texarkana, Texas in 1924. The BMA of Texas continued as a state organization. The General Association adjourned 'sine die,' and was replaced by the newly formed American Baptist Association (ABA). The ABA has steadily grown, but also suffered a serious setback in 1950 with a schism that led to the formation of two new general bodies – the North American Baptist Association (now Baptist Missionary Association of America) and the Interstate & Foreign Missionary Baptist Associational Assembly of America (now Interstate & Foreign Landmark Missionary Baptist Association of America). Other churches withdrew and remain independent.

The numerical strength of the American Baptist Association is in the Old Southwest – Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas – but there are several churches in California and Florida. Also there are several participating churches and missions in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Ohio. Initially a midwestern and southern movement, now there are at least a few ABA participating churches in most of the United States. Mission work has expanded the association worldwide. In 2000, there were 225,479 members and 1,867 churches in the US.

The American Baptist Association has developed a distinctive structure, though similar in principle and covenant with some SBC organization. The ABA is more oriented to the local church. Most churches participate in local and state associations in addition to the national body. Churches support local, state, interstate, and foreign missionaries, a publishing house, several seminaries (each sponsored by a local church), youth camps, etc.

The ABA participating churches are evangelistic; and for the most part are still partisans for the Landmark view of ecclesiology. Most churches will not accept "alien" immersion (immersion performed by other than Baptists), offering the candidate for membership a "Scriptural Baptism," in picture ordinance of Christ's baptism by John the Baptist. This has the candidate participate in a remembrance ordinance which "sets according to Scripture," one's baptism. Certain candidates can be received by letter from other ABA or Baptistic, "New Testament" churches.

Each ABA participating church holds "Closed Communion", which usually limits participation in the Lord's supper to only the members of that church. This is in accordance to the scriptural ordinance practiced by Christ with the Apostles, at the Last Supper. As the Apostles and Christ had removed themselves from the rest of the disciples, so the local church congregation shows reverence for the ordinance, offering the Lord's Supper only to members, with the observance of respected guests. Those observing are offered invitation to join the local church, thus allowing their participation as eventual members, by the church's covenant.

Premillennialism is the dominant eschatological view, and all churches hold some shared principles of the Christian faith: Genesis account of Creation, the Atonement, the Trinity (though in ABA churches the Trinity is generally referred to as the "Triune" God, for the more specific reference to the three distinct natures of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in One Creator); etc. They reject Calvinism. The ABA participating churches also hold to the inerrancy of the Bible, as the inspired word of God, through its authors. The Apocrypha and Psuedepigraphae are not generally recognized as Canon. The churches generally recommend the Authorized (King James) Version of the Bible for English services and study. Some others use the New King James Version (NKJV), or the New International Version (NIV) Bibles.

External links


  • Association minutes
  • Baptist Around the World, by Albert W. Wardin, Jr.
  • The American Baptist Association: A Survey and Census of Its Churches and Associations, by R. L. Vaughn
  • Handbook of Denominations, by Frank S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill
  • Religious Congregations & Membership in the United States, 2000, Glenmary Research Center

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