There are hundreds of different types of Baptist churches, but the two largest Baptist groups in the United States are the American Baptist Churches and the more conservative Southern Baptist Churches. There are about a dozen other major U.S. Baptist groups. Doctrine varies greatly among the groups.
Other major Baptist groups are the Primitive Baptists, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Reformed Baptist Church, New Testament Association of Independent Baptist Churches, North American Baptist Conference, National Association of Free Will Baptists, National Baptist Convention of America, National Primitive Baptist Convention, Baptist General Conference, General Association of General Baptist Churches and the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.
At the beginning of the 21st century there were about 43 million Baptists worldwide, 33 million of them U.S. residents.
Baptists preach the authority of the Bible, local congregational autonomy, the priesthood of the believer and individual soul liberty. Aspirants to the faith first profess Jesus as Lord and Savior and are then baptized to symbolize cleansing and remission of sins.
An Englishman, John Smyth, began the Baptist movement in Holland in 1609, preaching the need for adults, not infants, to be baptized by immersion in water. Modern branches of the sect are influenced by Calvinism, others by universal salvation, and still others seek a return to primitive New Testament faith. Beliefs about baptism have diversified greatly in four centuries.