Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Religion in America- American Baptist Church

This week I will focus on the ABCUSA. There are 1.3million members and 5,500 congregations of this church in the USA. In 1638 the first Baptist Church in America was established in Rhode Island by Roger Williams; at this time Rhode Island was the first government ‘
founded on the guarantee of absolute religious freedom’, therefore the American Baptist Church aptly reflects the American ideal of freedom. They believe in God’s redemptive love and they aim to heal the world through the power of this.

It says they believe in the importance of ‘
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 importance of the local church, the assurance of freedom in worship and opinion, and the need to be Christ’s witnesses within society.’ This reflects several themes in American identity that we regularly come across. In highlights the importance of independence- the need to be directly connected to God. However it also emphasises individuals’ role within the community and society as a whole. Throughout the site there is an emphasis on helping others and missionary work; this partly links to the idea of American Exceptionalism and that they have toe power to change the world. The quote also mentions ‘freedom in worship and opinion’; this clearly parallels arguably the most important factor in America’s identity. It expresses the first amendment- freedom of speech and religion; this shows that even specific Churches recognise the fact that people can worship however they like. It says ‘seeking the opportunity to worship God as individual members of freely organized and freely functioning local churches. Baptists always have maintained the need for autonomous congregations, responsible for articulating their own doctrine, style of worship and mission’.

The ABCUSA also appreciate the fact that there is a lot of diversity in their Church; they even claim to be ‘
the most racially inclusive Protestant body’. They say that ‘American Baptist Churches USA celebrates the racial, cultural and theological diversity witnessed within its membership...Represented in our churches are equally diverse worship styles, cultural mores and approaches to Scriptural interpretation. The resulting challenges and opportunities have made us stronger —through fellowship, respect, mutual support and dialog, all based on a belief that unity in Christ involves growth and understanding.’ This shows that, like America, they believe that everyone should be included thus resulting in an extremely mixed Church both racially and culturally.

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