a small part of a big body
We are one of about 5,000 churches that makes up a denomination (family of churches) called the American Baptist Churches USA (ABC-USA). Our denomination was originally created as a support network for overseas Christian missionaries, and we trace our lineage back to the 1600s.
Within the ABC-USA we belong to the American Baptist Churches of Vermont and New Hampshire (ABC/VNH), a regional expression of the ABC-USA. And within ABC/VNH we are a part of a local association, called the Southeast Association.
I thought all baptist churches were independent
One of the essentials of the Baptist tradition is that we are independently governed (the technical term is that we have a "congregational polity"). Practically, this means that our highest governing authority is in the congregation itself. We don't have a bishop, and our denomination does not have any formal authority over us.
So why associate with a denomination? We believe it's wise to associate with and voluntarily submit to one another, for a number of reasons. Here are three:
- We can pool our resources and more effectively serve. Whether homeland projects like Church World Service or international missions, when we work together with other churches, we can be a part of a greater impact as we pursue the mission of God.
- We can better encourage one another. God doesn't mean for Christians to live their faith independently, and we don't think we means for churches to live independently either. When we band together we can better support one another.
- We hold one another accountable. Sometimes churches get it wrong. We're not perfect – only Jesus is. When we're on the wrong track, it's valuable (and critical) to have another churches point us in the right direction again.