The American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) is a mainline Baptist Christian denomination within the United States. The denomination maintains headquarters in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The organization is usually considered mainline, although varying theological and mission emphases may be found among its congregations, including modernist, charismatic and evangelical orientations. It traces its history to the First Baptist Church in America (1638) and the Baptist congregational associations which organized the Triennial Convention in 1814. From 1907 to 1950, it was known as the Northern Baptist Convention, and from 1950 to 1972 as the American Baptist Convention.
In 2017, ABCUSA had 1,145,647 members in 5,057 congregations.
In 2006, the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest, believing that "the practice of homo
In 2006, the American Baptist Churches of the Pacific Southwest, believing that "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching," split from the ABCUSA. The region was renamed Transformation Ministries. This happened notwithstanding the fact that the ABCUSA affirms that each congregation possesses the freedom to determine whether or not to perform same-sex marriages or ordain LGBT clergy.
ABCUSA churches recognize two ordinances: Believer's baptism and the Lord's Supper. Baptism is by immersion, and those being baptized must be of an age to understand its significance. Believing in the Believer's baptism and the Lord's Supper. Baptism is by immersion, and those being baptized must be of an age to understand its significance. Believing in the priesthood of all believers, the ABCUSA avoids using creeds, affirming the freedom of individual Christians and local churches to interpret scripture as the Holy Spirit leads them. The ABCUSA affirms the ordination of women.
Regarding issues of human sexuality, the ABCUSA is consistent in its approach and allows each congregation to determine whether or not to perform same-sex marriages or ordain LGBT clergy. The ABCUSA General Board voted in 2005 to amend the statement "We Are American Baptists" to define marriage as "between one man and one woman" and declare that "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Biblical teaching." However, the denomination never officially adopted the board's statement and also stated that it will "respect and will continue to respect congregational freedom on this issue". Each local congregation is autonomous and permitted to perform same-sex marriages if they opt to do so. For example, Calvary Baptist Church in D.C., affiliated with the ABCUSA, performs same-sex marriages. In 2013, an ABCUSA congregation in Washington D.C., ordained the denomination's first openly transgender pastor.
The American Baptists Churches USA has a congregationalist polity emphasizing local church autonomy. Local churches are organized into 33 regions. The General Board makes policy for the denomination's national agencies. However, General Board resolutions are not binding on local congregations. Three-fourths of the representatives to the General Board are nominated and elected by the regions. One-fourth of the representatives are nominated by the Nominating Committee and are elected by the regions. The General Secretary executes the policies and decisions of the General Board. Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer was called as ABCUSA General Secretary on May 8, 2017.
A substantial portion of the ABCUSA consists of African-American churches that may have joint affiliations with the ABCUSA and historic bodies such as the National Baptist Convention or the National Baptist Convention or the Progressive National Baptist Convention.
In 2009, the ABCUSA reported 1,310,505 members in 5,402 churches. Membership remained fairly steady during the 20th century. In 1925, there were just over 1.4 million members. Membership peaked in the early 1980s at around 1.6 million. Lately, membership has begun to decline again, with the ABCUSA reporting 1,145,647 members in 5,057 churches at the end of 2017. Congregations are concentrated in the Midwest and Northeast United States.
There are a number of universities and colleges affiliated with the ABCUSA. There are ten seminaries affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA: