National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.

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National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
Nbc logo.png
Classification Protestant
Orientation Baptist
Polity Congregationalist
Origin 1880
Montgomery, Alabama
Merge of the Foreign Mission Baptist Convention (org. 1880), the American National Baptist Convention (org. 1886), and the National Baptist Education Convention (org. 1893)
Separations the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention (separated 1897), the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. (separated 1915); the Progressive National Baptist Convention (separated 1961); the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship (separated 1992)
Congregations 31,000
Members 7.5 million
Official website

The National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. (National Baptist Convention) is the [1] largest predominantly African-American Christian denomination in the United States and is the world's second largest Baptist denomination. It is headquartered at the Baptist World Center in Nashville, Tennessee.[2]

The Convention reports having an estimated 7.5 million members.[3]



The root of cooperative efforts began in the Antebellum period. Both free blacks and slaves were welcomed into the Baptist Church by missionaries in the First Great Awakening, and the second Awakening in the early 19th century brought in more members.[4] Independent Black Baptist churches were formed in Petersburg, Virginia and Savannah, Georgia before the American Revolutionary War.[5] Subject to the slave societies of the South, they had to belong to white Baptist associations and were subject to white supervision by law, especially after the slave rebellion of Nat Turner in 1831.[6]

The first attempts at wider black cooperative efforts began in the North, with Ohio and Illinois leading the way. In 1834 Black Baptists in Ohio formed the Providence Baptist Association. In 1838, following the lead of the Baptists of Ohio, Illinois Black Baptists formed the Wood River Baptist Association.[7]

As early as 1840, Black Baptists sought to develop a cooperative movement beyond state lines. Baptists in New York and the Middle Atlantic states formed the American Baptist Missionary Convention. The spirit of cooperation beyond state lines soon spread westward. In 1864 the Black Baptists of the West and South organized the Northwestern Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.[7]

In 1866, following the American Civil War, these two conventions met with the American Baptist Convention and formed the Consolidated American Baptist Convention. One of the great successes of the new Consolidated American Baptist Convention was the support given to black Baptists in the South to form state conventions. Black Baptists in the former Confederacy overwhelmingly left white-dominated churches to form independent congregations and get away from white supervision.[7]

After emancipation, Black Baptists in the South with the support of the Consolidated Convention formed their own state conventions. Among these were Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas, and Kentucky.[7] Despite the pioneer work of the Consolidated Convention, regionalism continued among Black Baptists. In 1873 the Black Baptists of the West formed the General Association of the Western States and Territories, and in 1874 the East organized the New England Baptist Missionary Convention. This continued regionalism and other factors caused the decline and eventual demise of the Consolidated American Baptist Convention.[7]

Convention Founding[edit]

In 1880, about 150 Baptist pastors met in Montgomery, Alabama, and formed the Baptist Foreign Mission Convention. The formation of the Baptist Foreign Mission Convention was to some degree a result of the demise of the Consolidated American Baptist Convention. The Consolidated Convention's death created a vacuum in mission work, especially for African missions. In response to this void, Rev. William W. Colley of Virginia who had served as missionary to Nigeria under the Southern Baptist Convention during the 1870s issued a call for Black Baptists to meet in Montgomery, Alabama for the purpose of organizing a national convention to do extensive foreign missionary work.

At the initial 1880 meeting, Rev. W. H. McAlpine of Alabama was elected President of the Foreign Mission Convention and is considered the first President of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. Subsequently, two other national Black conventions were formed. In 1886, Rev. William Simmons of Kentucky led the formation of the American National Baptist Convention. In 1893 Rev. W. Bishop Johnson of Washington, D.C. led the formation of the National Baptist Education Convention. The desire to have one convention remained alive and the movement reached its fruition on September 24, 1895 at the Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta, when these three conventions came together to form the National Baptist Convention of the United States of America. The heart of the new convention was that the three former conventions serve as the three boards of the convention: Foreign Missions, Home Missions, and Education.

History of the National Baptist presidency[edit]

Rev. E. C. Morris was elected president of the National Baptist Convention of the United States of America in 1895 and served for 27 years. His tenure was important for laying the foundation of the Convention. In addition to managing growth and organization of new chapters, one of the greatest achievements during his presidency was the formation of the National Baptist Publishing House in Nashville, Tennessee. Blacks wanted to publish literature written by their own ministers.

In 1890, the American Baptist Publication Society refused to publish writings of black ministers because of resistance from their White Southern clients. This event, more than any other, inspired Blacks to develop their own Convention and publishing arm. One year after the formation of the Convention, the National Baptist Publication Board was established under the leadership of Richard Boyd in Nashville, Tennessee. It was given the right to supply National Baptist churches with general ministry and Sunday School supplies. In a short time the publishing house became the largest Black publishing enterprise in the world. The twenty-seven years of Morris' leadership represented the formative period for the Convention.

Upon the death of E.C. Morris, L. K. Williams became President of the Convention in 1924. During his 16 years' tenure, he expanded the publishing board to gain increased support. Williams appointed L. G. Jordan as General Secretary of the Board and laid plans for a new building. The building was opened for inspection in 1925. On the recommendation of President Williams, it was named the Morris Building in honor of the legacy of E. C. Morris. A Laymen's Department was also established.

David V. Jemison succeeded Williams as President of the Convention in 1940. His two major accomplishments during his 13 years were paying off the mortgage on the Morris Memorial Building and the purchase of the Bath House in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

In 1953, Joseph H. Jackson of Chicago became President, serving until 1982. His 29-year tenure was the longest of any President, and spanned some of the most active years of the African American Civil Rights Movement. Among President Jackson's many contributions was the many new commissions and restructuring of the convention. He also purchased the National Baptist Freedom Farm and set up an unrestricted scholarship at Roosevelt University. He was noted for low tolerance of dissent. He said that social protests were not enough, but people needed to prove their economic productivity as well.[8]

In 1983, T. J. Jemison became President of the Convention, serving for 12 years. His crowning achievement was the construction of the Baptist World Center; a Headquarters for the Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. He spoke out on public issues more than some presidents, and expressed his opposition to the Gulf War. In a controversial statement, he spoke in favor of the boxer Mike Tyson, who had been convicted of rape. The uproar caused by Jemison's remarks translated into a deep decline of membership and associated churches in the convention in 1992. Later presidents built up the convention again.

Henry Lyons of Florida was elected President in 1994. The Lyons tenure was characterized by much activity as He established a Unified Program, reduced the debt on the Baptist World Center, and dissolved the debt on the Sunday School Publishing Board. In addition, many commissions were added to the convention. Legal problems, however, forced Lyons to resign from the presidency. Lyons would seek the President's post again in 2009 with then, National Congress President, R.B. Holmes of Tallahassee, Florida as his Vice-President. They were defeated.

S. C. Cureton, Vice President-At-Large, took over the leadership of the Convention in 1999 and served the remainder of Henry Lyons' tenure. In 1999, William J. Shaw of Philadelphia was elected as president and served until 2009. His presidency was centered on the motto and theme 'V.I.S.A': Vision, Integrity, Structure and Accountability. He worked hard to reestablish integrity and credibility in the Convention, and to make the Convention a leader for the work of Christ in the nation.

Julius R. Scruggs of Huntsville, Alabama was elected President in 2009 and served one 5-year term. He did not seek re-election. In September of 2014, Dr. Jerry Young of Mississippi was elected President; he is expected to bring a progressive air to the office.

Splits in the Convention[edit]

In 1897, during the Morris Administration, a group of National Baptist pastors left the convention and formed the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention. The separation was centered on two issues: the location of the foreign mission board and greater cooperation with White Baptists.

The second split, also during Morris' Presidency, came in 1915 over ownership and operation of the Publishing Board. The Publishing Board was the most successful agency and was led by R. H. Boyd. Leaders and pastors of the Convention became suspicious of the actions of the Publishing Board when they did not receive the reports they thought due them. A debate ensued concerning the ownership.

Those who supported Boyd and his view that the Board was independent of the Convention formed the National Baptist Convention of America. It became known as the Unincorporated Convention (now National Baptist Convention of America, Inc.). Because of the question of incorporation, leaders who remained in the original Convention led a movement to incorporate their organization. The Constitution was amended in 1916 and the convention was later incorporated, taking the name of National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.

During the Joseph Jackson tenure, a third split occurred in the Convention. The two key issues were tenure and the lack of support of the civil rights movement. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, known for increased public activism, demonstrations and protests was highly controversial in many Baptist churches. Often the ministers preached spiritual salvation rather than political activism. Jackson, the Convention's autocratic leader, had supported the Montgomery bus boycott of 1956, but by 1960 he told the members they should not become involved in civil rights activism. Based in Chicago, Jackson was a close ally of Mayor Richard J. Daley and the Chicago Democratic machine. He opposed public activism of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his aide ,the young Jesse Jackson, Jr. (no relation to Joseph Jackson). Gardner C. Taylor of New York challenged Jackson for the Presidency, but lost.

After Jackson was re-elected, a group led by L. Venchael Booth formed a new Convention at the Zion Baptist Church, Cincinnati, Ohio in 1961. They named themselves as the Progressive National Baptist Convention. These activists supported the extensive activism of the King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference.[9][page needed]

In 1992 Paul S. Morton of New Orleans, Louisiana formed a fellowship within the convention. It was named the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship. It explored spiritual gifts, speaking in tongues, prophecy, exclamatory worship, etc. The leadership of this fellowship later separated completely from the Convention.

State conventions[edit]

Auxiliaries/subsidiary bodies[edit]

Congress of Christian Education[edit]

The National Baptist Congress of Christian Education is the training arm of the Convention. It is an annual event, held in June, that draws more than 50,000 attendees from around the country and the world.[citation needed] The Congress includes over 300 classes, lectures and group discussion panels targeted and relevant to every age group and every area of the Christian Church and Ministry.

Sunday School Publishing Board[edit]

The Sunday School Publishing Board is the official publisher of the Convention and provides all of the educational resources of the convention. The Publishing Board was founded in 1915 and is one of the largest African American owned publishing companies. The Publishing Board supplies books, text books, curriculum and other resources to over 36,000 churches.

Laymen's Movement[edit]

The National Baptist Laymen’s Movement of the National Baptist Convention U.S.A., Inc. was organized at the Forty-third Session of the National Baptist Convention in Los Angeles, California, in 1923. The new President of the Convention, Dr. L.K. Williams presided. The Movement came into existence under the leadership of Deacon John L. Webb, a Christian businessman from Hot springs, Arkansas. John Webb served as the first president of the organization and continued in that position until his death in 1946.

Mr. Webb in his open letter to national laymen, appearing in the August 30, 1924 issue of the National Baptist Voice stated the long range objectives of the Movement: “And wherever the Laymen’s Movement is organized, the spirit of it will be to see that the pastor is well paid; and to foster and encourage by words and our money the institutions of learning that have made space for Theological Departments, so as to have a better educated ministry, better Sunday School Superintendents, teachers, and B.Y.P.U. workers throughout our denomination.”

The first annual session of the Laymen’s Movement was held September 10–15, 1924 in Nashville, Tennessee. The second annual session was held September 10–11, 1925 at the Econ Baptist church in Baltimore, Maryland. At the end of the second session twenty-five laymen, five ministers and five persons representing other church organizations had been official registrants.

His Vice President-at-Large Brother J.C. McClendon of Jackson, Mississippi, succeeded John L. Webb. After serving six years he was succeeded by his Vice President-at-Large, Brother Allen Jordan of Brooklyn, New York. In the annual session of 1971 in Cleveland, Ohio, Jordan turned the reins over the his Vice President-at-Large, Deacon Walter Cade, Jr. of Kansas City, Kansas.

During the tenure of Walter Cade, Jr., many laymen ministries and programs were birthed. The Regional Workshop concept was started in 1971. The Allen Jordan Seminars for laymen was started in 1981 during the annual Congress of Christian Education. The Junior Laymen Basketball Tournament and Bible Bowl were started in 1981. The Junior Laymen’s convention was moved from the September session to the June session in 1981. The national laymen became involved in the Men’s Department of the World Baptist Alliance. The laymen made their first work-witness trip to Africa to repair the convention’s mission stations in 1976.

Following Walter Cade, Jr. was Jerry Gash of Los Angeles, California. Under Jerry Gash’s leadership he initiated the process of membership to identify the active laymen in the movement. He started the Male Chorus Sing-off and two mission projects for Africa, 25,000 pairs of shoes and 75,000 school supplies. Jerry Gash started the Southern Region Workshop in 1997.

Glen Chelf of New Mexico served on an interim basis in 2000. Harold Simmons of Kansas City, Kansas was appointed president of the Laymen’s Movement by Dr. William Shaw in 2000 to succeed Glen Chelf.

Laymen Presidents 1923 - 1945 John L. Webb 1946 - 1952 J. C. McClendon 1953 - 1970 Allen Jordan 1971 - 1994 Walter Cade, Jr. 1995 - 2000 Jerry Gash 2000 - 2000 Glen Chelf 2000 - 2014 Harold Simmons

Dual Alignment[edit]

Known to occur though infrequently, a State Convention, District Association or Member Church of NBCUSA may dually align with another organization. The autonomous make-up of the NBCUSA gives local congregations the latitude to govern itself and contribute to the causes of other religious bodies as it seems necessary and is led by the Spirit.

Some members dually align with The Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention which offers the NBCUSA member a convention-wide focus on foreign missions.

The Mother Church is a well-rounded Spirit-led body of believers with ministries to meet the needs of her members, a strong theological foundation, and rich biblical preaching history that has endured and strengthened for over 130 years. The autonomous nature of the church allows the local congregation to decide its focus, interpret scripture and define its theology on issues not specified in the foundational truths of the Baptist Articles of Faith as well as dually align with a convention with a mission specialized on a specific issue.

Joint Convention[edit]

The Joint Convention of National Baptists converge on an American city every four years and comprises the four Black Baptist Conventions. The other three member conventions all originated from or trace origin to NBCUSA and together the four groups represent over 17,000,000 African-American Baptists in America. This convention of National Baptists meet to harness the power and influence of their collective bodies for Christian missions and social action.

Presidents of the Convention[edit]

Presidents of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.

President Dates
W. H. McAlpine 1880-1882
J. Q. A. Wilhite 1882-1883
J. A. Foster 1883-1884
W. A. Brinkley 1884-1885
W. J. Simmons 1885-1890
E. M. Brawley 1890-1891
M. Vann 1891-1893
Elias Camp Morris 1894–1922
L. K. Williams 1924–1940
David V. Jemison 1940–1953
Joseph H. Jackson 1954–1982
T. J. Jemison 1983–1994
Henry Lyons 1994-1999
S.C. Cureton 1999
William J. Shaw 1999-2009
Julius R. Scruggs 2009-2014
Jerry Young 2014

Higher Education Institution Affiliates[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hartford Institute for Religion Research. (2012). "Fast Facts About American Religion". Retrieved from
  2. ^ "contact us." National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. Retrieved on October 22, 2010. "Baptist World Center Headquarters 1700 Baptist World Center Drive Nashville, TN 37207."
  3. ^ "About Us". National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. Retrieved 2013-02-23. 
  4. ^ James Barnett Taylor, Virginia Baptist Ministers (1859) pp 57, 60, 71, 83 online edition
  5. ^ Albert J. Raboteau, Slave Religion: The "invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South (1979)
  6. ^ Raboteau (1979), Slavery is a Religion
  7. ^ a b c d e Brooks, Walter H. "The Evolution of the Negro Baptist Church." Journal of Negro History (1922) 7#1 pp: 11-22. in JSTOR
  8. ^ Nick Salvatore, Singing in a Strange Land: C.L. Franklin, the Black Church, and the Transformation of America (2007)
  9. ^ Peter J. Paris, Black Leaders in Conflict: Joseph H. Jackson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (1978); Salvatore (2007), Singing in a Strange Land

Further reading[edit]

  • Brooks, Walter H. "The Evolution of the Negro Baptist Church." Journal of Negro History (1922) 7#1 pp: 11-22. in JSTOR
  • Higginbotham, Evelyn Brooks. Righteous discontent: The women's movement in the Black Baptist church, 1880-1920 (Harvard University Press, 1993)
  • Jackson, Joseph H. A Story of Christian Activism: The History of the National Baptist Convention, USA. Inc (Nashville: Townsend Press, 1980); official history
  • Paris, Peter J. Black Leaders in Conflict: Joseph H. Jackson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. (1978)
  • Salvatore, Nick. Singing in a Strange Land: C. L. Franklin, the Black Church, and the Transformation of America (Little Brown, 2005) ISBN 0-316-16037-7. (Contains lengthy discussion of politics of the National Baptist Convention including vignettes describing efforts by Martin Luther King, Jr. and others to depose Jackson)

External links[edit]