Northern Baptist Convention
Search Timelines:

Time Period
The Northern Baptist Convention descended from the Triennial Convention (1814). Its first President, Charles Evan Hughes, was the progressive Republican governor of New York. In the 1920s and 1940s, the fundamentalist-modernist controversy led to two splits from the Convention. Even so, the denomination continued to grow, supporting civil rights activism in the 1950s-60s, and joining the ecumenical church movement.
Interactive Timeline(s)
Baptist Religious Events and People in American History
Browse Related Timeline Entries
Baptist Religious Events and People in American History
The Northern Baptist Convention had its roots in the Triennial Convention. In 1814 Baptists across the country had joined together to advance foreign missions, home missions, and religious publication. The Southern Baptist Convention split off from the Triennial Convention in 1845 over the issue of slavery, leaving most of the Northern churches in the Triennial Convention.

On May 17, 1907, in Washington, D.C., the Triennial Convention reorganized as the Northern Baptist Convention (NBC) and elected Charles Evan Hughes as its first president. Hughes, then the Republican governor of New York, epitomized the spirit of the Northern Baptist Convention at the time. He was theologically liberal and politically progressive, like his opponent, Woodrow Wilson, in the U.S. presidential election of 1916, who narrowly beat him.

The growing presence of theological liberalism in the Northern Baptist Convention alarmed its fundamentalist members, especially William Bell Riley, who led the charge to make the Convention adopt a binding statement of faith in 1922. When that effort failed, a faction of fundamentalists split off to form the Bible Baptist Union (which is today the General Association of Regular Baptists). A moderate fundamentalist named J.C. Massee tried to calm the waters by calling for a six-month truce between fundamentalists and liberals, to which Riley replied, "This is not a battle. It is a war from which there is no discharge." In the 1940s, Riley led the Minnesota Baptist Convention out of the NBC and formed the Conservative Baptist Association.

Despite the schisms, the Northern Baptist Convention, which would change its name to the American Baptist Churches in the USA, continued to grow to a peak of more than 1.6 million members in 1982. From 1950 to 1966, the denomination distinguished itself by passing annual resolutions in support of the civil rights movement. Today, it claims 1.3 million members and is joined to the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, and the Baptist World Alliance.
Religious Groups
Baptist Family: Other ARDA Links

Riley, William Bell
Christian Modernism
Civil Rights Movement

Charles Evan Hughes portrait- Library of Congress, LC-DIG-hec-43170

Northern Baptist Convention members- Library of Congress, LC-DIG-npcc-23373

Minutes of the Northern Baptist Convention, 1907, title page- Internet Archive
Web Source(s)
Web Page Contributor
Paul Matzko
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in History

Bookmark and Share