Why Are Baptist Church Covenants So Similar?

In the early 1600’s, there were questions posed to Anabaptist (Swiss and German) baptismal candidates which received the answer “I will.”  Also in the 1600’s, English separatists employed covenants, properly sealed by baptism.  “The oldest surviving covenant is probably that subscribed to in 1640 by the Broadmead Church in Bristol.”[1]  There was a standardization of covenants between the 1830s to the 1990s in the United States.[2] 

So why are Baptist church covenants so similar?  The 1833 covenant of the New Hampshire Baptist Convention become the gold standard of American Baptist church covenants.[3]  It was primarily revised by J. Newton Brown.  Brown was a prominent pastor of a Baptist church, worked as the editorial secretary for the American Baptist Publication Society, and also served as the editor of the Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (1835).[4]  Along with his influence it was also widely distributed in publication in The Baptist Church Manual.  Brown’s covenant was later sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1927.[5]  The Baptist Sunday School Board (changed its name to LifeWay Christian Resources in 1998) printed and widely circulated Brown’s edition in their material.[6]  And so, the predominant Baptist church covenant is born.  


[1] DeWeese, Baptist Church Covenants, 29. 

[2] DeWeese, 60. 

[3] DeWeese, 61. 

[4] DeWeese, 63, 65. 

[5] DeWeese, 68. 

[6] The 1833 covenant of the New Hampshire Baptist Convention and Brown’s revised covenant can be found in DeWeese, Covenant 36 (p. 157-8) and Covenant 41 (p. 161-2), respectively.

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