American Baptist Churches in the USA
The organized existence of the American Baptist Churches in the USA began in 1814, when a national body of Baptists, called the Triennial Convention, was formed. Its immediate purpose was to support a missionary couple to Burma. Later it became the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS). The second body to be founded was the General Tract Society, in 1824. This later became the American Baptist Board of Education and Publication Society (ABBEP). A third one, the American Baptist Home Mission Society (ABHMS) followed in 1832. Baptist unity in America was first broken in 1845 over the issue of slavery. The Baptists in the south withdrew to organize the Southern Baptist Convention. Following the Civil War, ex-slaves both in the north and the south organized their own churches and conventions on both sides of the Mississippi River. Because they were nationwide, they called themselves National Baptist Conventions, of which there are now three. After the north-south schism in 1845, the Baptists of the north maintained the societal structure until 1907, when the Northern Baptist Convention was founded, involving participation by the three societies (ABFMS, ABBEP, ABHMS), on a voluntary basis. Many state and city Baptist associations became affiliated with the Northern Baptist Convention, also by voluntary action. In 1950 the name was changed to American Baptist Convention - to communicate a theological, philosophical and sociological posture of inclusiveness, racially and geographically.
Two parallel women's boards known as the Women's American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (WABFMS) and the Women's American Baptist Home Mission Society (WABHMS) were founded to do work associated with the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society and the American Baptist Home Mission Society. In 1972 the directors of the three national societies were acknowledged to be the boards of the denomination with the following programme designations: ABFMS/ WABFMS (Board of International Ministries), ABBEP (Board of Educational Ministries), ABHMS/WABHMS (Board of National Ministries). This new arrangement was called American Baptist Churches in the USA. It gave American Baptist laity more representational control over the denominational mission as expressed through the boards.
In 1979 the American Baptist Churches in the USA was further reorganized to provide for covenantal relationships among all denominational groupings of churches - region, state, city and nation-wide. At present the ABC is the most heterogeneous Baptist communion in the USA, with no majority racial group. It includes Caucasian churches, black American churches, Hispanic, Asian and Native American Indian congregations, and the Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico. The ABC maintains a close fraternal relationship with a number of conventions and associations of bilingual Baptist churches of nationality groupings from southern and eastern Europe organized as worshipping communities in the United States. There are also close relations with Baptist churches in such countries as Burma, India, Japan, Philippines, Thailand and the Republic of the Congo, and in Latin America.
Ongoing priorities and areas of concern for ABCUSA and its churches include evangelism and church growth, human rights, global religious freedom, economic justice, international stability and national security, peace and justice, pro-choice/pro-life issues, and human sexuality. Major denomination-wide programme foci and emphases include discipleship, leadership, healthy missional churches, church planting/growth, evangelism, peace and justice, youth, and denominational identity.