A Historical and Statistical Analysis
Albert W. Wardin Baptist History and Heritage Society (770-457-5538), 168 Pages, Paper, $24.95
Albert Wardin, a respected Baptist historian, uses the term “twelve Baptist tribes” to develop distinguishing categories of Baptist groups in the United States. For example, he puts the GARBC under a tribe called “Fundamental (Northern).” Other categories are “Ecumenical Mainline,” “Conservative Evangelical (Northern),” “Landmark,” “General/Free Will,” “Primitive,” “Neo-Calvinist,” and so on. Wardin’s write-ups of the various Baptist categories are interesting in themselves, to say nothing about his summaries of the Baptist groups within each category.
More importantly, when readers find the review of our own Fellowship, they are left with the impression that an author finally got it right. Warden says the GARBC “has held a premier position among fundamentalist bodies not only for its pioneer efforts but also for defining fundamentalist principles and its consistency in holding to them.” Later, when he reviews difficult issues such as changes to the GARBC approval system, he reports the changes in a balanced way. Generally, Wardin’s analyses of the various Baptist groups seem neutral, accurate, and fair.
Wardin notes such statistics as total membership of each group (one group has but 15 members!), attendance figures, and total number of churches. The section on distribution of Baptists by each U.S. geographic region and state is most interesting, and it shows where the groups have their numerical strength or lack. At the end of the book are colored maps of the United States showing by county the membership stats, not only of Baptists, but of other major religious groups. A map is included for each major Baptist group, including the GARBC, showing where the churches are.
Be sure to read the introduction which is a good summary of Baptist history and growth in the United States. Wardin points out that Baptists are not only the largest Protestant “denomination” in the U.S. but that Baptist churches are located in more counties than any other denomination: 3,036 out of 3,141. Baptists predominate in 1,287 counties, also more than any other denomination.
Reviewing Wardin’s work reminds us that some Baptists are comfortable calling themselves a “denomination” and some, like us, are clearly uncomfortable with the term. The author correctly understands that…
Believers who are interested in the many Baptist groups in the U.S. are going to have fun with this interesting compilation. Those of us who love statistics, history, and demographics will spend hours poring over the information presented here. Church librarians will be interested to find a a good, inexpensive book that describes various Baptist groups on a easy-to-read level.
Wardin is well qualified to undertake this project. He was a professor of history from 1967 to 1993 in Baptist schools of higher learning, and he served as an officer or trustee of several Baptist historical organizations. He has also published eight previous books, including Baptists around the World, showing the statistics, history, and demographics of Baptists worldwide.