Q: Seventh Day Baptist? Don’t you mean Seventh-day Adventist?
A: Seventh Day Baptists and Seventh-day Adventists are two distinct groups with very different historical and theological backgrounds. Historically, SDBs precede SDAs by more than 200 years and arose out of the events following the Protestant Reformation in England. Theologically, SDBs have different opinions than SDAs about many issues, including church polity and organization.
Q: When did the Seventh Day Baptist movement start?
A: It is difficult to place an exact date on the beginnings of the SDB movement, because it was dangerous in England to be known as a Seventh Day Baptist in the 17th century. At the same time, we can confirm that by 1653 or 1654 groups of Sabbatarian (Sabbath-observing) Baptists were meeting in London. The first of these congregations, known as Mill Yard, is still in existence today. Likewise, a book by John Ockford which advocated Seventh Day Baptist principles was published in 1650 and subsequently confiscated and banned by the English crown. Prior to these dates, we cannot confirm on the basis of the data that SDBs existed, although it is possible.
Q: When and where did SDBs make inroads in North America?
A: The first SDB congregation in North America was founded in 1671 in Newport, Rhode Island. Members who left John Clarke’s First Baptist Church joined in covenant with 2 SDBs who had emigrated from England to comprise that first body. Subsequently, other SDB groups began in Piscataway, New Jersey and the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area by about 1700.
Q: Do Seventh Day Baptists believe you must keep the Sabbath to be a Christian?
A: No. Seventh Day Baptists have not advocated that observance of the Sabbath is compulsory for all those who have received salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Q: How do Seventh Day Baptists differ from other Baptists?
A: Seventh Day Baptists share much with other Baptists, including the doctrinal distinctives of believer’s baptism by immersion, regenerate church membership, the priesthood of all believers, and the authority of Scripture to guide our faith and practice. In addition, Seventh Day Baptists would affirm with other Baptists the principle we call “freedom of conscience under the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” or “soul freedom.” The primary distinguishing mark between SDBs and other Baptists is that we are convicted by the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures that God set apart the Sabbath and made it holy, and that the honoring of the day still holds benefits for Christians. We do not see a compelling case from the Scriptures that the blessings associated with the Sabbath have been rendered null for believers in Jesus Christ.
Q: I’ve read your General Conference’s Statement of Belief, but there were some things that it doesn’t include that I think are important. What is the SDB position about [issue not mentioned in the Statement of Belief]?
A: Because of our conviction that God guides individuals by His Spirit as they study Scripture, Seventh Day Baptists do not have official positions on some matters which fall outside of our Statement of Belief. The Statement of a Belief is an attempt to capture what we have in common–the beliefs which we share. Outside of those shared convictions, there is no official position of the General Conference on these matters: we allow members of our member churches to study the Scriptures and arrive at their own conclusions. This is not to say that we think these matters are unimportant, but only that we do not have a shared position about them as a Conference.
Q: How many SDBs are there in the United States and Canada? How many are there around the world?
A: In the United States and Canada, there are approximately 5,000 SDBs, spread across around 100 churches and fellowships. The SDB World Federation is comprised of more than 20 member Conferences from 6 continents and represents at least 50,000 Seventh Day Baptists. Because of difficulties in reporting and inconsistencies in the way that membership and attendance is calculated, it is difficult to know exactly how many of us there are!
Q: Some of my ancestors were Seventh Day Baptists. What services does the Historical Library and Archives provide to aid genealogical researchers?
A: Our primary mission is not to aid genealogy researchers, but the research library which we maintain is open to researchers who make an appointment in advance. In addition, parts of our collection has been made available to search online for those who are friends or patrons of the Library. We encourage researchers to make use of the resources available on our site before they send us a query by email, as we try to help with genealogical requests where we can, but we cannot guarantee service on such requests.
Q: If I wanted to get involved with Seventh Day Baptists, what should I do?
A: The easiest way to get involved is to visit one of our local congregations. If you can’t find one close to you, the General Conference website includes a variety of resources about Seventh Day Baptists, including links to local congregations which stream all or part of their weekly worship service over the internet. You can also learn more about Seventh Day Baptists through our publication, The Sabbath Recorder. If you have additional questions about SDBs, we encourage you to contact us.