Baptists form the largest Protestant movement in the United States, comprising over 30 separate groups or conventions. The largely white Southern Baptist Convention, with over 40,000 congregations, has over 16 million members, making it the largest individual Protestant denomination in the country. African-American Baptist groups count almost as many members spread among five different Conventions. The split between the races occurred after the Civil War when African-Americans left white organizations (in which they faced segregation) to form their own denominations.
Baptists believe in the supremacy of the scriptures. Although they do form alliances in loose confederations, Baptists groups do not have a formal church hierarchy. In fact, they call their congregations “denominations” rather than churches. Each local denomination functions as an independent autonomous unit. Baptists believe in baptism (by full immersion of the body into water) of believers, rather than of infants. Beyond this basic tenet, however, there is no body of official Baptist doctrines.
Although they are active in all fifty states, Baptists hold particular sway in the Bible Belt region, which covers much of the American south and includes Texas. Communities in this region, especially in rural areas, are among the most religious in the country.
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