A Conscientious Baptist Split

Dan Graves, MSL

A Conscientious Baptist Split

Because most Baptists have an independent, congregational form of organization, it is easy for them to form new churches. They have often done so when principle seemed at stake. On this day, May 17, 1947 Baptists in America did just that. The Conservative Baptist Association came into being in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Doctrinal issues prompted the conservatives to split from the American Baptists, whom they said had become too liberal. Many of the conservatives were connected with the Fundamentalist Fellowship. Some had also existed in a semi-autonomous Conservative Baptist Fellowship within the American Baptists where they urged that the American Baptists support only missionaries who accepted the tenets of fundamentalism. The fundamentals were five basic doctrines derived directly from Scripture with which most of the church would have agreed in all ages: (1)the virgin birth of Christ, (2)the inerrancy of the scriptures, (3)the physical resurrection, (4)a substitutionary atonement, and (5)the imminent physical, second coming of Christ. The application of "scientific" analysis to the text of the Bible was eroding these key doctrines in leading theological seminaries and had affected the American Baptists as well.

For a time the conservatives were content to form a new missionary society. Conservative Foreign Missionary Society staff were sworn fundamentalists. Eventually however, separation took place and any affected Baptist church could join the voluntary association, which was held together solely by "a common and abiding love for the work and person of Jesus Christ, and the word of God..."

As early as 1921, Frank M. Goodchild wrote a doctrinal statement which the conservatives had asked the American Baptist churches to accept. The American Baptists rejected it. It now became the manifesto for the Conservative Baptist Association.

It was a separatist document. The Conservative Baptist Association even refused to merge with the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches whose fundamentalist doctrines varied no more than a hair's-breadth from its own.

The Conservative Baptists adopted this statement regarding Christ: "We believe in Jesus Christ, God's only begotten Son, conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, sinless in His life, making atonement for the sin of the world by His death on the cross. We believe in His bodily resurrection, His ascension into heaven, His high priestly intercession for His people and His personal, visible return to the world according to His promise."


  1. Mead, Frank S. Handbook of Denominations in the United States. Nashville: Abingdon, 1980, 1951.
  2. Shelley, B. L. "Conservative Baptist Association of America." Dictionary of American Baptists. Edited by Bill J. Leonard. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1994.

Last updated April, 2007.

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