There is no one Southern Baptist Church or a universal Southern Baptist Church Covenant. A Southern Baptist Church is one that identifies itself as a member of the Southern Baptist fellowship of churches, embraces the biblical teachings and traditions by which Southern Baptists identify themselves, cooperates with and supports the Convention’s missions and provides regular financial support for the Convention’s works. Each church is unique and autonomous and maintains its own guidelines on its activities, operations and practices.
This autonomy is a fundamental aspect of the Southern Baptist tradition and allows important decisions that affect members to be made by the individual churches at the congregational level. For this reason, the SBC is unwilling and unable to take official action or positions on matters such as sexual abuse by church officials, homosexuality and abortion, and allows individual churches to establish their official positions or take appropriate actions.
The Southern Baptists Convention is a network of over 47,000 individual churches that have joined together to form an organizational framework that empowers cooperating churches to pursue missions related to Christian education and social services. Key aspects of the Convention are a belief in Christ as the son of God and savior of humanity evidenced by baptism through total immersion, and complete acceptance of the Bible as the literal word of God, as well as an evangelical mission to establish the faith to the world.
The Convention has adopted a broadly accepted Statement of Baptist Faith and Message, which contains 18 articles of faith and provides a broad outline of its doctrine. This statement is a revised version of the original New Hampshire Confession of Faith and Covenant, to which most cooperating churches subscribe.