The Baptist Church

a short history

Baptists form the fifth largest Christian church in the world. Baptist churches are found in almost every country and have about 40 million members worldwide.

In Britain 2,150 churches belong to the Baptist Union of Great Britain, having 150,000 members between them.


The first Baptist congregation appeared in 1609 in Holland. It was here that the Church of England minister, John Smyth, performed a radical act of baptising himself by pouring water on his head. He then baptised his fellow reformer, Thomas Helwys and other members of the congregation.


myth and Helwys had left England for Holland in 1607 after being persecuted for wanting to rid the Church of England of all traces of Roman Catholicism. They believed that the Bible, not church tradition or religious creed, was the guide in all matters of faith and practice; that the church should be made up of believers only, not all people born in the local parish; and that the church should be governed by those believers.


The nineteenth century saw a period of significant growth for the Baptist movement. Great preachers such as Charles Haddon Spurgeon in London and Alexander Maclaren in Manchester drew crowds in their thousands.


Today, Baptists are represented globally by the Baptist World Alliance which was founded in 1905. It provides an international forum for the exchange of Baptist thought, paying special attention to Christian education, religious freedom, human rights and missions.





In the Baptist movement everyone is equal. There is no hierarchy of bishops or priests; Baptists are congregational: each church is self- governing and self-supporting, made up of members, each with a role to  play. The churches encourage those attending to become church members through baptism. This entitles  them to vote at the church meeting where all decisions are made. Final authority rests not with the minister or deacons but with church members at the meeting. It appoints ministers, elders, deacons and others who take a leadership role, agree financial policy and determine mission strategy.


Brian Hatton

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everyone is equal