About Free Will Baptists

Free Will Baptists have a rich history. The Free Will Baptist denomination is a fellowship of evangelical believers united in extending the witness of Christ and building His Church throughout the world. The rise of Free Will Baptists can be traced to the influence of Baptists of Arminian persuasion who settled in the colonies from England.

The denomination sprang up on two fronts in the eighteenth century. The southern line, or Palmer movement, traces its beginnings to the year 1727 when the English General Baptist Paul Palmer organized a church at Chowan, North Carolina. Palmer had previously ministered in New Jersey and Maryland, having been baptized in a congregation which had moved from Wales to a trace on the Delaware River in northern Pennsylvania.

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 from the first there was no organizational connection 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 more than half its 1,100 churches and all denominational property, including several major colleges. In 1916, representatives of remnant churches in the Randall movement joined with Palmer-background churches to organize the Cooperative General Association of Free Will Baptists.

Free Will Baptists in the southeastern United States, having descended from the Palmer foundation, sometimes manifested fraternal relationships with Free Will Baptists of the Randall movement in the north and west but never formally united with them. The churches in the southern line were organized into various associations and conferences from the beginning and had finally organized into a General Conference by 1921. These congregations were not affected by the merger of the northern movement with the Northern Baptists.

A fusion between the General Conference and the Cooperative General Association finally came on November 5, 1935, when representatives from the two bodies met and organized the National Association of Free Will Baptists in Nashville, Tennessee.

This body adopted a Treatise, which set forth basic doctrines and described the faith and practice that had characterized Free Will Baptists through the years. After being revised on several occasions, it continues to serve as a guideline for a denominational fellowship comprising more than 2,400 churches in 42 states and 14 foreign countries.

Preserving and Promoting Free Will Baptist Doctrine

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