What are Baptists?
Baptists are a mainstream Christian group.
We have the name “Baptist” because we believe that the New Testament teaches that baptism is for those who have come to a personal faith in Jesus Christ. For this reason we practice Believers’ Baptism – that is baptism of adults by total immersion following a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as their own personal Saviour. (See Watch a Baptism!)
Apart from baptism, we emphasise the importance of individual faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, freedom of religious conscience, the importance of the local Christian community and its lifestyle, and the independence of the church from the state. You can learn more about what we believe by reading the Statement of Identity produced by European Baptists in 1992.
There are about 300 Baptist Churches in London with a total of about 25,000 members. There are many Baptists around the world including large numbers in the USA and the former states of the USSR. Famous Baptists include Martin Luther King and Billy Graham. Famous Baptists of previous centuries include John Bunyan (seventeenth century) and Charles Haddon Spurgeon (nineteenth century).
Local Baptist Churches are independent and self-governing – decisions are taken by regular meetings of Church members. There is no national Baptist Church as such, only local independent Churches which might join local associations and national unions of independent local Baptist Churches. Baptist Churches don’t have to belong to those organisations – it is up to each Church to decide for itself what it does.
The London Baptist Association is a regional association within the Baptist Union of Great Britain. About 300 Churches currently belong to the LBA – you can find a list of them in the LBA Church Finder. There is probably one near you.
The only way to find out what we are really like is to visit a Baptist Church. You could also visit some of the websites run by London Baptist Churches – click here for a list of links. The website of Teddington Baptist Church has a lot of additional material explaining what Baptists are like and what we believe.
The modern denomination was founded in the early 17th Century because certain groups of Christians felt the need for reform and change. The roots can be traced back earlier to the Anabaptists of Europe in the sixteen century. A short history of UK Baptists and of the London Baptist Association is also available. For a well presented history of a typical London Baptist Church founded in the 1880s, see the website of Teddington Baptist Church.
A Statement of Identity by Baptist Christians in Europe
1. We are part of the whole, world-wide Christian Church and we confess faith in One God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
2. We affirm the need for personal faith in Jesus Christ and for discipleship in his likeness.
3. Our final authority in faith and practice is Jesus Christ, as revealed in the Scriptures and present among his people through the Holy Spirit.
4. We recognise the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the primary authority for knowing God’s revelation in Christ.
5. We understand the Church to be a fellowship of believers, sharing the table of the Lord.
6. We practice baptism, for believers only, into the Body of Christ.
7. We affirm the freedom and responsibility of each local congregation to discover the purpose of Christ for its own life and work.
8. We affirm the “priesthood of all believers”, in which all members of the church are called to ministry; but some are called to exercise spiritual leadership, which is always to be understood as serving.
9. We believe that the mutual commitment expressed in baptism and in membership of the local church should lead to wider partnerships between churches wherever possible.
10. We believe that every Christian disciple is called to witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and that the Church as a part of God’s Kingdom is to share in the whole mission of God in the world.
11. We affirm the need to preserve freedom of conscience, and so we accept differences among us.
12. We stand for the separation of church and state, rooted in the sole lordship of Christ and concern for religious liberty.
13. As Christian believers, we live in hope of the final appearing of Christ in glory, and the transforming of all creation.
Note: This is an abstract from a fuller statement approved by the European Baptist Federation Council in September 1992.