Baptist Bible Fellowship International

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Baptist Bible Fellowship International
Classification Baptist
Orientation Fundamentalist Baptist
Polity Congregationalist
Associations International Baptist Network
Origin 1950
Separated from World Baptist Fellowship
Congregations 4500
Members 1,200,000

The Baptist Bible Fellowship International (BBFI) is a separatist, fundamentalist Baptist organization formed in 1950 by members who broke away from the World Baptist Fellowship as the result of a leadership dispute with J. Frank Norris. It is headquartered in Springfield, Missouri. In North America there are 4,500 congregations totaling 1.2 million members associated with it; an additional 10,000 churches are associated worldwide.[1]

Founding and history[edit]

In 1948, George Beauchamp Vick (Norris' co-pastor in Detroit, Michigan) became president of the World Baptist Fellowship owned Bible Baptist Seminary of Fort Worth, Texas. In May 1950, Norris had Vick removed from the school presidency. After Vick officially resigned from the WBF, he and Noel Smith, W. E. Dowell Sr., R. O. Woodworth, Fred Donnelson, and other pastors met in the Texas Hotel and laid groundwork for a new fellowship.[citation needed]

Approximately 100 pastors and missionaries were among the founders of the new Baptist group. They chose Springfield, Missouri as their headquarters and started the Baptist Bible College, the Baptist Bible Tribune, a clearinghouse for missionary support. In the years that have passed since those early days, it has grown into the largest independent Baptist Missionary organization in the world.[citation needed]

Functions and structure[edit]

There are three functions of the Baptist Bible Fellowship International. Worldwide missions, training, and communication.

A Missions Office at the Springfield, Missouri headquarters serves as a support base for the over nine hundred missionaries of the BBFI. Their primary task is to serve as a clearinghouse for missions support sent by thousands of BBFI-affiliated churches and distributed to the missionaries' accounts. Over $385 million was sent through the BBFI Missions Office between 2000 to 2009. The Missions Office is supported separately by the churches on a voluntary basis so that all the donations are dispersed to the field. Through the efforts of BBFI missionaries, well over 6,000 churches have been established, along with numerous schools, camps, orphanages, and feeding centers. The current Missions Director is Jon Konnerup.

Training takes place through the Fellowship's two owned schools and other approved, but separately owned and operated schools. Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, has been the flagship school since its founding in 1950, growing to become the world's largest Bible college at its apex in the mid-70's.[citation needed] It is accredited by the North Central Association, and the current president is Mark Milioni. A second school was founded in 1976 in Shrub Oak, New York, later moving to Boston to become Boston Baptist College. It is accredited by Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, and the current president is David Melton. Two other schools are approved by the BBFI as recognized training centers for its missionaries, Pacific Baptist College in Pomona, California; and Louisiana Baptist University in Shreveport, Louisiana. These schools are owned and operated by others, but are sanctioned to be eligible to receive funds through the BBFI Missions Office.

The Baptist Bible Tribune, published monthly, contains numerous opinion pieces, reports from the foreign mission field, reports from domestic churches, and light theological treatises. It is written by BBFI officers, pastors and missionaries and is the official voice of the BBFI. The current editor is Keith Bassham.

The current national structure of the BBFI consists of pastors rather than congregations. Affiliation is open to any Baptist pastor of a supporting Baptist church believing in and adhering to twenty articles of faith, outlined in a small booklet available from the Mission Office. Official recognition of that affiliation is contingent upon financial support of at least one of the three established functions described above.

The organizational structure includes President, Vice-Presidents, Secretary, Treasurer, and Directors, one from each state and elected by State Fellowships. Within this organization, there are State Fellowships in each of the fifty United States. Some BBFI churches and pastors also affiliate with and support other fellowships, such as the World Baptist Fellowship. The BBFI is also one of three Fellowships---along with the World Baptist Fellowship and the Southwide Baptist Fellowship which make up the International Baptist Network.

Although the current number of members is not public knowledge, most experts believe that membership in the BBFI has declined in the past 10 years.[citation needed] The Fellowship owns the original Baptist Bible College, as well as Boston Baptist College.

Association with Jerry Falwell[edit]

Jerry Falwell was affiliated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship International since his graduation from Baptist Bible College in Springfield Missouri in 1956, and later also affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.[citation needed] Falwell retained his affiliation with the Baptist Bible Fellowship, and the church he founded in 1956, Thomas Road Baptist Church of Lynchburg, Virginia, is listed in the current BBFI directory.[citation needed]

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