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The Largest Baptist Communities

Related Pages:
- Largest Southern Baptist Communities
- Famous Baptists
- Churches dropping "Baptist" from their names
- Other Baptist Links

Regarding Baptist statistics: Baptists do not belong to a single religious body, but are members of many distinct religious bodies, often called "conventions" or "unions".

The national figures here represent religious bodies which are part of the Baptist World Alliance, an umbrella consultative organization which represents most of the world's Baptists.

In the United States, the Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Baptist religious body, but there are many others. Southern Baptists constitute just under one-third of all U.S. Baptists, and about 7% of all U.S. Christians.

In order to increase attendance and revenue, many individual Baptist churches are currently dropping the word "Baptist" from their name, often calling themselves "Community" churches. Other Baptist churches are de-emphasizing the word "Baptist" in signs and when they talk about their church. Also, Baptist agencies such as LifeWay and North American Mission Board have dropped the word "Baptist" from their name entirely. [News stories about name changes appear regularly. See, for example, "Call to worship starts with a new church name" (Detroit Free Press).]

Churches are also withdrawing from the Southern Baptist Convention at an increasing pace, usually for philosophical or theological reasons. Some of these churches become affiliated with an alternative Baptist convention which is affiliated with the BWA, some remain independent Baptist churches, and some shift to a "nondenominational" format.

These trends and recent survey data indicate that the proportion of the population identifying themselves as Baptist is decreasing, while the proportion identifying themselves as "non-denominational Christian", "Evangelical" or members of a "community church" is increasing.

In a related development, the Associated Press reported that on 16 November 1999, 60 percent of Southern Baptists attending California's annual convention voted to drop "Southern" from their name. "Supporters of the change said it would be simply a way to attract more members. Opponents feared the move would have shown a softening of a conservative movement within the church." This proposal did not pass, however, because it fell just short of the required two-thirds vote.

Top 20 Nations with the
Highest Proportion of Baptists, 1998

CountryNumber of
Baptists (BWA)
Bahamas 55,000 18.58%
USA 33,175,526 12.11
Tanzania 105,319 5.27
Rwanda 310,756 4.71
Korea 650,000 2.78
Liberia 60,000 2.25
Jamaica 45,150 1.78
Malawi 163,022 1.58
(Democratic Republic of Congo)
720,159 1.47
Myanmar 555,063 1.25
Cameroon 172,061 1.20
Central African Republic 40,800 1.17
Nigeria 1,040,667 0.98
Zambia 81,700 0.93
Belize 1,965 0.85
Haiti 66,786 0.84
Hong Kong 55,115 0.83
Papua New Guinea 35,500 0.77
Kenya 210,000 0.72
Zimbabwe 79,654 0.70

Top 10 Largest National Baptist Populations, 1998

CountryNumber of
Baptists (BWA)
USA 33,175,526 12.11%
India 1,544,203 0.16
Brazil 1,102,000 0.66
Nigeria 1,040,667 0.98
(Democratic Republic of Congo)
720,159 1.47
Korea 650,000 2.78
Myanmar 555,063 1.25
Rwanda 310,756 4.71
Philippines 212,643 0.29
Kenya 210,000 0.72

Source: Baptist World Alliance official web site; web page: BWA Statistics (http://www.bwanet.org/fellowship/member-bodies/member-stats.htm; viewed 31 March 1999). ["Figures are for BWA affiliated conventions/unions only (no independents included), 1998." BWA statistics in individual countries are sum of figures for member bodies of BWA in the countries.]

Source of country population data (for calculating percents): United Nations Population Division, World Population Prospects: The 1998 Revision; URL: http://www.popin.org/pop1998/2.htm.

Top 20 U.S. States with
Highest Proportions of Baptists in the Population
(self-identification), 1990

North Carolina47.10
Washington, D.C.46.80
South Carolina46.50
West Virginia29.30

Least Baptist states in this study: Minnesota (3.5%) and Utah (2.4%).

Figures represent results of the National Survey of Religious Identification, phone survey a nationwide sample of 113,000 respondents, conducted by the City University of New York. Figures represent all people who cited "Baptist" or a specific Baptist denomination as their preferred religion, including people unaffiliated with any Baptist congregation or denomination.

Source: Kosmin, Barry A. and Seymour P. Lachman. One Nation Under God: Religion in Contemporary American Society; Harmony Books: New York (1993), pg. 88-93.

The states with the highest proportion of Southern Baptists are Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Kentucky. According to U.S. government statistics, this is the region with the nation's highest divorce rate. The U.S. states with the highest divorce rates are Nevada, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama and Oklahoma. The SBC has recently begun working with other conservative Protestant churches to explore ways to lower the high divorce rate among Southern Baptists. [Source: "Bible Belt class targets nation's top divorce rate", Associated Press, 13 November 1999.]

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Created 3 June 1999. Modified 30 September 2005.