Who Are American Baptists?
American Baptists are quite different from any other Baptist denomination. While there is great diversity of belief and practice among us, the following distinctives make us unique. The first six are most critical.
2. Biblical Freedom - We believe scripture is our primary authority as the inspired word of God. Each of us is free to read and interpret the scriptures through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. While this may differ by congregation, we generally believe scripture is not meant to be interpreted literally, absolutely or infallibly. Scripture must be interpreted with reverence and care. (2 Timothy 3:14-17, 1 Corinthians 13:12)
3. Local Church Freedom - Because the soul is free, the local church is free. No church hierarchy can impose its will on the local congregation because the highest authority is Jesus Christ in the local church. For example, we have no bishops, but a regional and national executive ministry serves the congregation like consultants. Even the name of our denomination is plural: The American Baptist Churches. (Acts 2:40-47)
4. Religious Freedom and The Separation of Church and State - American Baptists exist because of the Separation of Church and State in our country. Our nation's founders were inspired by scripture and a Natural Law given by God to create a land that is truly free, where all "are endowed by their Creator with certian inalienable rights." In the early nineteenth century, Deacons from our church and others from the Hartford Baptist association successfully petitioned President Thomas Jefferson to push for religious liberty in Connecticut. It was Roger Williams who founded Rhode Island for the purpose of complete religious freedom. Williams helped to found the First Baptist Church in America. We strongly believe in the "establishment clause" of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which states that government shall not establish any form of religion. Thomas Jefferson believed the purpose of government was to decide upon action, not to express opinion or belief. Without the separation of church and state, Baptists and many other religious traditions would not exist. The first amendment serves to protect religion from government. (Acts 5:17-32; Galatians 5:1)
5. The Ordinances of Believers Baptism and Holy Communion - We have two ordinances, ordained by Christ in scripture: Believers Baptism by Immersion and Communion. While we dedicate infants in worship in a manner quite similar to christening, we allow our young people to grow in the church community, surrounded by the faithful. After a time of education and preparation around the age of thirteen, they may - by their own free choice - be baptized by immersion in a special pool called the baptistery or even outdoors in a larger body of water. (Psalm 95:1-7a; Acts 8:26-40)
6. The Priesthood of All Believers - We believe all people are called by God to serve. As pastor and parish we are following God's call together. The laity serve God both inside and outside the church. The clergy and other religious professionals are specially trained for specific ministries with Bachelors and Masters degrees. Ordination in Connecticut requires certification in prevention of abuse and commitment to a professional . Code of Ethics. (Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13; Colossians 1:27-29; 1 Corinthians 12:3-7)
7. The Principle of Association - Local churches voluntarily agree to work in association with other like-minded churches and organizations. This forms our denomination of American Baptist Churches, American Baptist Churches of Connecticut and Baptist World Allicance. (John 10:16)
8. Missions & Evangelism - We are a people of mission locally, domestically and internationally. We intentionally practice indiginous mission. We do not force our missionaries upon people but work to build relationships and partner with others far away in ministries of their choosing. For example, our missionaries might be invited to another country to train and educate pastors but would then leave once the local folk are able to train and educate themselves. (Acts 1:6-11)
9. Racial Diversity - Because of our strong emphasis on mission and association, there is no ethnic majority in our denomination. We are Anglo, African-American, Latin-American, Haitian-American, Asian-American and many others. It makes for wonderful worship services and conferences. (Acts 10:34-35; Galatians 3:26-29)
10. Social Justice - From time to time we speak out on important, larger and sometimes controversial issues in our world. For example, we have been ordaining women for mission and ministry for over 150 years. Many ABC churches are led by female clergy. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Baptist. Second Baptist Church in Suffield is also associated with the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. (Micah 6:8; Acts 4:23-31, 1 Peter 2:1-12)
11. Ecumenical Cooperation With Others - We are founding members of both the National Council of Churches of Christ and the World Council of Churches. We tend to work very with other like-minded churches and denominations at the local, regional, national and global levels. (John 10:16)
100 North Main Street Suffield, CT 06078