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Across the frontier and around the fringe: Baptist growth in America and in Australia
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 11:06 authored by Michael John Petras
This thesis examines why Baptists in America from their origin in 1639 to the post-Civil War period have prospered to the extent they have while in Australia since Baptist beginnings in the early 1830s they have remained relatively small. Baptists in America during this period were affected by the two Great Awakenings, the Revolutionary War, westward migration known as the frontier movement, the Civil War and the emergence of African American churches containing ‘freedmen’ or emancipated slaves. The story of Baptists in Australia has proved to be much less spectacular. In many ways it was a constant struggle with limited resources and faced with a much smaller, more sparsely-settled population. In assessing all reasons for what assisted or militated against growth and expansion this study examines a wide range of factors: population size, migration to these countries, the denominational affiliation of the population, characteristics of Baptist preachers in both countries, notably those deeply moved by the First Great Awakening. It also looks at significant individuals and the development of church organization. It takes into account the cultural differences between the two countries such as individualism and collectivism in Baptist activity and the Australian reliance upon English assistance and the retention of English practices and traditions. The thesis looks at these reasons for growth and expansion with reference to the Baptist ministry, the constitution, location and expansion of new churches, the importance of evangelism and revivalism and the methods employed and finally, the issue of Baptist church governance or Baptist polity relating to church organisation and united church action. Connected to this have been issues relating to the conditions of church membership.