Baptist General Conference

From Academic Kids

The Baptist General Conference (BGC) is a national evangelical Baptist body with roots in Swedish Pietism.

The Baptist General Conference grew out of the great revival of the 19th century, but its roots can be traced back to Swedish Pietism. In 1852, Gustaf Palmquist emigrated from Sweden to the United States. Forty-seven days after his arrival, he and 3 others organized a Swedish Baptist church in Rock Island, Illinois. Frederick Nilsson, who was instrumental in leading Palmquist to Baptist views, arrived in America the next year with 21 immigrants. Some of these united with the Rock Island church, while others organized a church at Houston, Minnesota. Nilsson traveled widely, founding and strengthening churches. Anders Wiberg was another pioneer among these churches from 1852 to 1855, when he returned to Sweden as a missionary. Christian experience was a major emphasis among these Swedish Baptists, and they prospered from the awakenings in the 19th century. Immigration, aggressive evangelism and conversion through revivals brought rapid growth. John Edgren founded Swedish Baptist Seminary at Chicago, Illinois in 1871. In 1879, when the Swedish churches had grown to 65 in number, they formed a General Conference. The members of these churches assimilated into American society and gradually lost their separate ethnic identity. By 1940, most churches were English-speaking. In 1945, the Swedish Baptist General Conference dropped Swedish from its name and became the Baptist General Conference of America. Swedish Baptists had maintained an alliance with the American Baptist Publication Society, American Baptist home & foreign missions, etc., and later the Northern Baptist Convention. Some Swedish Baptists expected to merger with that body, but the groups moved toward different developments of theological emphasis. The conservative Swedish Baptists pulled back from growing inclusivism of the Northern Baptists, and in 1944 formed their own Board of Foreign Missions. This moved them toward independent existence, which they have maintained to the present. The BGC cooperates with the National Association of Evangelicals, the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, and the Baptist World Alliance, and was a charter member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

The Baptist General Conference operates the Bethel Theological Seminary and Bethel University near St. Paul, Minnesota, and maintains offices in Arlington Heights, Illinois. The official periodical is BGC World, and Harvest Publications offers a wide range of Christian education material. The Conference labors in national and world missions, with missionaries in Central America, South America, southern Europe, former Eastern Bloc nations, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and the Asian Pacific rim. John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and leader of Desiring God Ministries, is perhaps one of the most well known BGC ministers in the 21st century. Bethlehem was organized as the First Swedish Baptist Church of Minneapolis in 1871.

In 2000, the BGC had 140,925 members in 866 churches in the United States. These churches are also organized into 13 district bodies - Columbia, Florida/Caribbean, Great Lakes, Heartland, Iowa, Mideast, Michigan, Minnesota, Midwest, Northern California, Northeast, Rocky Mountain, and Southwest. There are 5 district bodies in Canada that cooperate together through the Baptist General Conference of Canada.

External links


  • A Centenary History as Related to the Baptist General Conference, by Adolf Olson
  • Religious Congregations & Membership in the United States, 2000, Glenmary Research Center
  • The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness, by H. Leon McBeth
  • Baptists Around the World, by Albert W. Wardin, Jr.

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