“The Baptists” is a bit of a misnomer, because there are hundreds of different Baptist denominations with widely different viewpoints, held together by the key similarity in their belief regarding Baptism (and not much else). It’s kind of like trying to pinpoint the theological viewpoint of all the people who have the same favourite colour. While this can be said about all of my articles thus far, I only just now came up with that simile.
Because of this wide-ranging belief, we are in fact just going to touch on Northern and Southern Baptist denominations in the United States because they comprise the largest percentages of Baptist belief.
The Southern Baptist Convention is not just the leading Baptist denomination; it’s also the second largest denomination in the United States after the Catholic Church. Which is definitely nothing to sneeze at. The SBC came about in the North-South divide during the Civil War, with the Northern Baptists becoming the American Baptist Churches USA. Prior to that, Baptists were loosely organized and originated in the belief of believer’s Baptism, which is the full immersion Baptism for which Baptists are well-known. (The argument being that baptism is a choice one should make in full competency of the beliefs and practices of their church; a contrast with Catholic infant Baptism.) This isn’t all Baptists have in common, as the ABC-USA site puts it, “American Baptists, Southern Baptists and all the scores of other Baptist bodies in the U.S. and around the world grew out of a common tradition begun in the early 17th century. That tradition has emphasized the Lordship and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, believers’ baptism, the competency of all believers to be in direct relationship with God and to interpret Scripture, the influence of the Holy Spirit on individual lives and ministries, and the need for autonomous congregations free from government interference or hierarchical polity.”
After the split, however, Southern Baptists and Northern Baptists eventually further split into various congregations, and today the largest of these include the SBC, the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. (the predominately Black southern Baptist denomination that came about shortly after the Civil War), and the ABC-USA. (There are other Northern denominations, but the ABC-USA remains the largest, and is primarily the defacto ‘Northern Baptist church’.)
Baptist beliefs regarding LGBTQ+ people are varying, and often congressionally individualized, but some denominations have more wiggle room than others. The Southern Baptists aren’t really one of these.
I won’t quote out all of their statements regarding (specifically, as usual) homosexuality, but the key points are: “RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 17–18, 2003, affirm that legal and biblical marriage can only occur between one man and one woman; and be it further RESOLVED, That we continue to oppose steadfastly all efforts by any court or state legislature to validate or legalize same-sex marriage or other equivalent unions; and be it further […] RESOLVED, That we oppose all efforts by media and entertainment outlets and public schools to mainstream homosexual unions in the eyes of our children; and be it further […] RESOLVED, That we call on Southern Baptists not only to stand against same-sex unions, but to demonstrate our love for those practicing homosexuality by sharing with them the forgiving and transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ”.
On a perhaps more middling area of the spectrum (if one could even say such a thing), while the ABC-USA has stated, “Who submit to the teaching of Scripture that God’s design for sexual intimacy places it within the context of marriage between one man and one woman, and acknowledge that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Biblical teaching”, various congregations were so deeply divided on the issue that six of them were dismissed for supporting LGBTQ+ people, and not every damaging statue in regard to LGBTQ+ people passed in front of their General Board.
Those five churches were dismissed for supporting, specifically, the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, which could not have a more ‘we’re Queer-friendly’ name, though the rainbow symbol does add that extra something. Along with the AWAB, the Alliance of Baptists is also working towards social reform and acceptance (including LGBTQ+ politics and social issues), and, as AWAB puts it, “The mission of the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists is to create and support a community of churches, organizations and individuals committed to the inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the full life and mission of Baptist churches”.
So the next time someone tells you that all Baptists are crazy and conservative just explain that they haven’t heard about the right Baptist denominations.
Craze is an undergraduate in Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. When they’re not yelling at people for misusing dialogue tags, they’re busy abusing the English language themselves. Their hobbies include crying at TV shows, excitedly explaining history and biblical criticism to their friends, and reading comic books. Pretend this sentence is the obligatory ‘crazy’ pun.