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Colonial Period (1607-1763)

Colonial America took root in Virginia in 1607 and gained momentum when the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts. By 1760, there were two million settlers.

Roger Williams Founds Providence, Rhode Island (6/1/1636)

In 1636, Roger Williams founded Rhode Island, which became known for its religious tolerance and deregulation of religious behavior.

Henry Dunster Becomes President of Harvard (8/27/1640)

In 1640, Henry Dunster became the first President of Harvard College and helped lay the foundational structure for America’s most renowned institution for higher learning.

Rhode Island Royal Charter (7/8/1663)

In 1663, the Rhode Island Royal Charter made a unified government in the colony possible, acknowledged American Indian land rights, and declared religious toleration.

King Philip's War (1675-1676)

For 14 months (1675-1676), Indians raided settlements and colonialists launched counterattacks. It ended after King Philip, the chief of the Wampanoag Indian tribe, was assassinated.

Philadelphia Baptist Association (7/1/1707)

In 1707, Welsh Baptist immigrants in Philadelphia formed the first permanent Baptist denomination in America.

Free Will Baptists Founded in North Carolina (1727)

In 1727, Paul Palmer founded North Carolina’s first Baptist Church. This led to the spread of Baptist churches throughout the state.

The First Great Awakening (1733-1770)

The First Great Awakening (1730s-1770s) was a series of religious revivals that propelled the expansion of evangelical denominations in the colonies.

Philadelphia Confession of Faith (1742)

The Philadelphia Baptist Association adopted the Philadelphia Confession of Faith in 1742, unifying Particular Baptist churches throughout the country.

Brown University (3/3/1764)

In 1764, the Philadelphia Baptist Association commissioned James Manning to found Brown as a Baptist college.

The Trial of Margaret Meuse Clay (1770)

In 1770, local authorities trialed Margaret Meuse Clay for challenging the gender norms of colonial society and for preaching without a license.

Publication of An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty (1773)

In 1773, Isaac Backus published a collection of sermons promoting religious liberty and the separation between church and state.

Silver Bluff Baptist Church (1775)

Silver Bluff Baptist Church was founded over the course of 1773-1775 as the first black Baptist church in America.

American Revolution (4/19/1775-9/3/1783)

When the first shots were fired in 1775, the Colonies didn’t even have a military. Eight years later, the United States had defeated England.

Benjamin Randall Organizes the Free Will Baptists (6/30/1780)

Itinerant preacher Benjamin Randall organized the Free Will Baptists in New England in 1780.

Founding Period (1783-1791)

With independence won, the United States of America began creating a new government during the Founding Period (1783-1791), including the selection of the first president.

Virginia's Religious Disestablishment (1/16/1786)

In 1786, the Virginia legislature passed a bill by Thomas Jefferson ending the Anglican Church’s formal establishment as the state religion.

The Second Great Awakening (1790-1840)

The Second Great Awakening(s) (1790s-1840s) fueled the rise of an evangelical Protestant majority in antebellum America, giving rise to new denominations and social reform organizations.

Westward and Southern Expansion (1790-1848)

The United States of America began pushing beyond the boundaries of its original 13 states, until its holdings spanned from sea to sea (1790-1848).

Thomas Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists (1/1/1802)

In 1802, Thomas Jefferson's letter contained the phrase "a wall of separation between Church and State," important in later legal interpretations of the first amendment.

War of 1812 (1812-1815)

The War of 1812 (1812-1815) is often called the second American Revolutionary War, because it again pitted America against Britain.

Triennial Convention (5/18/1814)

In 1814, the Triennial Convention became the first formal Baptist missionary agency in America.

The Primitive Baptists Coalesce (1827-1832)

In 1827, the Primitive Baptists began forming in response to growing Baptist denominationalism.

Nat Turner's Rebellion (8/21/1831-8/23/1831)

Nat Turner’s rebellion (1831) is the most famous slave revolt in American history.

Southern Baptist Convention Founded (5/8/1845-5/12/1845)

The Southern Baptist Convention (1845) resulted from a split between Northern and Southern Baptists over slavery. It is now the largest Protestant denomination in America.

Ordination of Ruby Knapp Bixby by the Free Will Baptists (7/1/1846)

In 1846, the Freewill Baptists ordained Ruby Knapp Bixby, making her the first licensed female Baptist preacher.

First Wave of Feminism (1848-1920)

The 72-year struggle to grant women the right to vote evolved as the central theme of the first wave of American feminism (1848-1920).

Initiation of the Baptist Landmarker Movement (6/24/1851)

In 1851, the Baptist Landmarker movement began and embroiled the Southern Baptist Convention in controversy.

Civil War (1861-1865)

The Civil War (1861-1865) was fought between the U.S. government and 11 southern states. The Union prevailed, slaves were freed, and nearly 700,000 people died.

Reconstruction and Industrialization (1865-1890)

During the Reconstruction and Industrialization period (1865-1890), the South struggled to recover after the Civil War. Meanwhile, United States was emerging as an industrial giant.

Lottie Moon Sent to China as a Southern Baptist Missionary (7/7/1873)

In 1873, Lottie Moon went to China as a Southern Baptist missionary at a time when sending unmarried women to the mission field was rare.

University of Chicago (1890)

In 1890, John D. Rockefeller and William Rainey Harper founded a non-sectarian university in Chicago to promote progressive education and modernist theology.

Jim Crow Laws (1890-1965)

Abolition freed the slaves, but blacks were kept segregated from whites in the South through local and state regulations known as Jim Crow laws (1890-1965).

National Baptist Convention (9/24/1895)

The National Baptist Convention has been the largest national association of African-American Baptists since 1895 despite major denominational splits in 1915 and 1961.

Northern Baptist Convention (5/17/1907)

The Northern Baptist Convention formed in 1907 and represents the theologically liberal and politically progressive strains of the Baptist tradition.

World War I (1914-1919)

World War I (1914-1919) began in Europe, but grew into an unprecedented global conflict with 65 million troops. It was called the Great War.

Prohibition (1920-1933)

The 18th amendment made the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcohol illegal in the United States for 13 years (1920-1933).

Harry Emerson Fosdick Preaches "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" (5/21/1922)

In 1922, Harry Emerson Fosdick's sermon accused fundamentalists of being "essentially illiberal and intolerant." His subsequent dismissal made Fosdick a martyr for liberal mainline Christianity.

Baptist Bible Union (1923)

The Baptist Bible Union was a fundamentalist association of churches which had separated from the Northern Baptist Convention in 1923.

Publication of Shailer Mathews's The Faith of Modernism (1924)

Shailer Mathews's The Faith of Modernism (1924) was an influential systematic theology of theological liberalism.

The Cooperative Program Instituted in the Southern Baptist Convention (1925)

In 1925, the Southern Baptist Convention's Cooperative Program centralized budgetary authority and aided the growth of the denomination.

Great Depression (1929-1939)

The Great Depression (1929-1939) brought the biggest economic upheaval in U.S. history. Millions of people were unemployed, banks/businesses failed, and there was sweeping poverty.

National Association of Free Will Baptists (11/5/1935)

In 1935, the two major "branches" of Free Will Baptists joined together to form the National Association of Free Will Baptists.

World War II (1939-1945)

With the rise of Adolf Hitler, Germany began annexing neighboring countries, leading to the second World War (1939-1945) and the deadliest conflict in world history.

Signing of the American Baptist Bill of Rights (1939)

The American Baptist Bill of Rights (1939) defended the separation of church and state, paving the way for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

Cold War (1947-1991)

The antagonistic relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, known as the Cold War (1947-1991), lasted for nearly half a century.

Conservative Baptist Association of America (5/17/1947)

William Bell Riley, fundamentalist minister and Bible college president, led the Minnesota Baptist Convention out of the Northern Baptist Convention in 1947.

Billy Graham's Los Angeles Crusade (9/25/1949-11/20/1949)

Billy Graham's Los Angeles Crusade (1949) catapulted the southern evangelist into the national spotlight for the first time.

Bible Baptist Fellowship (1950)

The Bible Baptist Fellowship formed after a split with J. Frank Norris in 1950 and became the largest association of independent Baptists in America.

Baptist Missionary Association of America (1950)

The Baptist Missionary Association of America, which split from the American Baptist Association in 1950, is the largest Landmark Baptist denomination in the United States.

Billy Graham Holds First Integrated Crusade in Chattanooga, TN (3/15/1953-4/14/1953)

In 1953, Billy Graham's decision to hold an integrated crusade in the South helped shift racial attitudes among white evangelicals.

Vietnam War (1955-1975)

America’s two-decade involvement in the Vietnam War (1955-1975) was costly and divisive. It claimed more than 58,000 U.S. lives and cost 140 billion dollars.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference (2/15/1957)

Founded in 1957, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) believed that racial equality was a Christian imperative and utilized non-violent protests to combat racism.

Billy Graham's New York Crusade (5/15/1957-9/1/1957)

In 1957, Billy Graham's New York Crusade became his largest American revival campaign with more than two million attendees.

Pat Robertson founds Christian Broadcasting Network (1961)

In 1961, Pat Robertson founded the Christian Broadcast Network, which became a multi-million dollar outlet for Christian television.

Progressive National Baptist Convention (11/14/1961-11/15/1961)

In 1961, the Progressive National Baptist Convention split from the National Baptist Convention, USA, due to disputes regarding Martin Luther King Jr.'s civil rights activism.

Rise of Equal Rights Movements (1962)

The social justice movements of the 1960s were infectious, giving rise to women, racial minorities, and LGBT groups seeking equal rights in the United States.

Ralph Elliott fired in the "Genesis" controversy (10/25/1962)

When Southern Baptist seminary professor Ralph Elliott challenged the historicity of Genesis, conservatives forced him to resign (1962), foreshadowing the conservative resurgence in the SBC.

Birmingham Church Bombing (9/15/1963)

On September 15, 1963, a bomb detonated inside 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama. Four young girls were killed, sparking national outrage.

First Ordained Southern Baptist woman, Addie Davis (8/9/1964)

In 1964, Addie Davis became the first woman ordained in a Southern Baptist church.

Liberty University (8/1/1971)

Jerry Falwell founded the small Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971, which would grow into the largest private, nonprofit university in America by the 2010s.

Election of Jimmy Carter (11/2/1976)

In 1976, Jimmy Carter was the first self-proclaimed "born again" Christian elected president of the United States.

Adrian Rogers elected as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (4/12/1979-4/14/1979)

In 1979, Baptist conservatives elected Adrian Rogers as president of the Southern Baptist Convention as the first part of a takeover strategy.

Jerry Falwell Helps Found the Moral Majority (6/1/1979)

With the help of Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell in 1979, the founding of the Moral Majority would later influence Ronald Reagan's election in 1980.

Formation of the Alliance of Baptists (2/12/1987)

Liberals in the Southern Baptist Convention, frustrated by the conservative takeover of the denomination, formed a progressive association of churches in 1987.

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (5/9/1991)

Moderate Southern Baptists formed the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in 1991 to protest the conservative dominance in the denomination during the prior decade.

Tim LaHaye publishes Left Behind (1995)

Starting in 1995, the Left Behind series of novels about the Rapture would become the best-selling works of American Christian fiction.

9/11 (9/11/2001)

On September 11, 2001 ("9/11"), al-Qaeda terrorists crashed two planes into the Twin Towers and one into the Pentagon. More than 3,000 people died.


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