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American Baptist Association

Though the American Baptist Association was organized in 1924, its roots go back to the mid 19th century to a controversy rising within the Southern Baptist Convention. What would soon be termed Landmarkism was considered by its leaders to be a restoration of Baptist ecclesiological principles. Important to early development of Landmarkism were leaders such as James R. Graves, James M. Pendleton, and Amos C. Dayton.

The Cotton Grove Resolutions, adopted at a meeting at the Cotton Grove Baptist Church (near Jackson, Tennessee) in 1851, were probably the first systematized expression of Landmarkism, though all the tenants existed among Baptists in some form or another prior to them. Logical application of Landmark emphases on "local church only" and "the Great Commission given to the church" led toward dissatisfaction with SBC structure and programs (such as Mission Boards). Conflicts between Landmarkers and non-Landmarkers were behind at least four important SBC controversies in the late 1800's – Gospel Missions, the Whitsitt controversy, the "Hayden" Controversy in Texas, and the "Bogard" Controversy in Arkansas.

The two state controversies led to the organization of two new state associations - the Baptist Missionary Association (BMA) of Texas in 1900 and the State Association of Missionary Baptist Churches in Arkansas in 1902. Soon Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Louisiana would follow. The Texas association formed its own foreign mission work, but others desired to see a national organization for Landmark Baptists. Some of these organized the General Association of Baptists in the United States of America in 1905. The General Association never garnered full support of Landmark Baptists. Some local associations that withdrew from the Southern Baptist Convention still remain aloof from any national organization.

A move for unification of the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas and the General Association came to fruition at Texarkana, Texas in 1924. The BMA of Texas continued as a state organization. The General Association adjourned 'sine die,' and was replaced by the newly formed American Baptist Association (ABA). The ABA has steadily grown, but also suffered a serious setback in 1950 with a schism that led to the formation of two new general bodies – the North American Baptist Association (now Baptist Missionary Association of America) and the Interstate & Foreign Missionary Baptist Associational Assembly of America (now Interstate & Foreign Landmark Missionary Baptist Association of America). Other churches withdrew and remain independent.

The numerical strength of the American Baptist Association is in the Old Southwest – Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas – but there are several churches in California and Florida. Initially a southern movement, now there are at least a few churches in most of the United States. Mission work has expanded the association worldwide. In 2000, there were 225,479 members and 1,867 churches in the US.

The American Baptist Association has developed its own structure, though somewhat in line with SBC structure, but more oriented to the local church. Most churches participate in local and state associations in addition to the national body. Churches support local, state, interstate, and foreign missionaries, a publishing house, several seminaries (each owned by a local church), youth camps, etc. They are mildly Calvinistic, holding total depravity and eternal security in conjunction with general atonement; are evangelistic; and for the most part are still partisans for the Landmark view of ecclesiology. Most churches will not accept "alien" immersion (immersion performed by other than Baptists) and each church usually limits participation in the Lord's supper to only the members of that church. Premillennialism is the dominant eschatological view, and all churches hold the general orthodox principles of the Christian faith: Genesis account of creation, the Trinity, the Atonement, etc.

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