Autonomy and Interdependence
American Baptists today are rooted solidly in nearly four centuries of a distinctive Christian tradition. As early Baptists overcame oppression by establishing a congregational church system emphasizing local church autonomy and separation from state influence, so contemporary American Baptists continue to emphasize both the importance and the responsibility of every church and the individual believer before God.
While embracing autonomy from the state, American Baptists long have affirmed the principle of interdependence. This recognizes that the Holy Spirit is at work in congregations and other organized bodies and that great things can be done in God’s name through cooperation. In American Baptist Churches, the cooperative efforts of 5,800 congregations, 34 regional organizations and a number of national and international agencies have resulted in fruitful accomplishments in evangelism and social outreach.
We recognize that cooperative Christianity allows yet another dimension of God-ordained outreach to be accomplished. With that understanding, our churches have worked for God’s glory in local and regional ecumenical arenas. In addition, our denominational outreach for Christ has been extended because of our relationships with the Baptist World Alliance, the National Council of Churches of Christ, the World Council of Churches and with members of the National Association of Evangelicals.