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In the 18th and 19th centuries, the First and Second Great Awakening increased church membership in the United States.

Baptist historian Bruce Gourley outlines four main views of Baptist origins: (1) The modern scholarly consensus that the movement traces its origin to the 17th century via the English Separatists, (2) the view that it was an outgrowth of Anabaptist traditions, (3) the perpetuity view which assumes that the Baptist faith and practice has existed since the time of Christ, and (4) the successionist view, or "Baptist successionism", which argues that Baptist churches actually existed in an unbroken chain since the time of Christ.

However, the Southern Baptist Convention passed resolutions rejecting this view in 1859.

Proponents of the Baptist successionist or perpetuity view consider the Baptist movement to have existed independently from Roman Catholicism and prior to the Protestant Reformation.

A number of other Baptist churches sprang up, and they became known as the General Baptists.Baptists generally recognize two ordinances, baptism and the Lord's supper, Diverse from their beginning, those identifying as Baptists today differ widely from one another in what they believe, how they worship, their attitudes toward other Christians, and their understanding of what is important in Christian discipleship.Thomas Helwys formulated a distinctively Baptist request that the church and the state be kept separate in matters of law, so that individuals might have freedom of religion.Helwys died in prison as a consequence of the religious persecution of English dissenters under King James I.In 1638, Roger Williams established the first Baptist congregation in the North American colonies.