Bethel Church is a member of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, one of the oldest Baptist groups in the country, with nearly 2,500 churches in the United States and mission works around the world. The Free Will Baptist Treatise is a volume containing the basic doctrines and describing the faith and practices that have characterized Free Will Baptists through the centuries.
Download the Treatise (Revised, 2013)
A Brief History of Free Will Baptists
The rise of Free Will Baptists can be traced to the influence of (Arminian) General Baptists who settled in the colonies from England. Free Will Baptists sprang up on two fronts in Colonial America. The southern line, or Palmer movement, traces its beginnings to the year 1727 when Paul Palmer organized a church at Chowan, North Carolina.
The northern line, or Randall movement, had its beginnings with a congregation organized by Benjamin Randall June 30, 1780, in New Durham, New Hampshire. Both lines of Free Will Baptists taught the doctrines of free grace, free salvation, and free will, although no organizational connection existed between them.
The northern line expanded more rapidly in the beginning and extended its outreach into the West and Southwest. In 1910-1911 this body of Free Will Baptists merged with the Northern Baptist denomination, taking along the great majority of its 1,100 churches and all denominational property, including several major colleges. In 1916, the Cooperative General Association was formed at Pattonsburg, Missouri. This new association included delegates from the Randall churches that had resisted the merger and others that owed their origins to the Palmer movement.
Free Will Baptists in the southeastern United States, having descended from the Palmer foundation, established relationships with Free Will Baptists from the Randall movement in the North and West, but the slavery question and the Civil War prevented formal union between them. The churches in the southern line were organized into various associations and conferences from the beginning and finally organized into a General Conference by 1921. These congregations were unaffected by the 1911 merger with the Northern Baptists.
A New Movement
It was inevitable that the Cooperative General Association and the General Conference of Free Will Baptists would finally come together. In Nashville, Tennessee, on November 5, 1935, representatives from the two bodies met and organized the National Association of Free Will Baptists. The new body adopted a Treatise that has been revised on numerous occasions and continues to serve as a guideline for a denominational fellowship comprising more than 2,400 churches in 42 states and 14 countries.
To learn more about the rich history of Free Will Baptists, visit www.FWBHistory.com.