In 1636, Roger Williams founded Providence Plantation (later Rhode Island) as the first place in modern history where religious liberty and the separation of church and state were acknowledged. Just two years later, in 1638, he gathered the First Baptist Church in America in Providence, RI. From that beginning, the Baptist insistence on soul liberty and the civic rights of religious liberty and separation of church and state have grown around the world, transforming not only our nation, but many others as well. The early Baptists in Rhode Island and the other colonies were willing to take risks to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
Now, almost 375 years later, The First Baptist Church in America is still leading the way in its openness to the transformative work of the Spirit. The church was one of the first in American Baptist Churches USA to make a financial contribution to Transformed by the Spirit. This new initiative is designed to help small groups of churches and individuals explore the adaptive changes needed to allow us to respond to the changing environment in which we find ourselves. Together, American Baptists are beginning a journey to rediscover the authority of Scripture, to listen to the voice of the Spirit, and to be reshaped by our participation in God’s mission.
“We are excited and proud to be a part of such an important endeavor that’s been going on for 375 years,” said Rev. Dr. Dan Ivins, 36th pastor of The First Baptist Church in America. “We are still advocating the separate and complementary relationship between church and state and we still ‘reserve the right to accept everybody.’ What Roger Williams established is still worth standing for and rightly celebrated.”
Baptist history is filled with the stories of individuals who heard the voice of the Spirit and were willing to take risks to follow the calling. American Baptists continue to listen and respond as we move into the bright future that God has for us.