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In 1638, Roger Williams established the first Baptist congregation in the North American colonies.In the 18th and 19th centuries, the First and Second Great Awakening increased church membership in the United States.Baptists rejected the name Anabaptist when they were called that by opponents in derision. In 1612, Thomas Helwys established a Baptist congregation in London, consisting of congregants from Smyth's church.Mc Beth writes that as late as the 18th century, many Baptists referred to themselves as "the Christians commonly—though falsely—called Anabaptists." According to Tom Nettles, professor of historical theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, "Spilsbury's cogent arguments for a gathered, disciplined congregation of believers baptized by immersion as constituting the New Testament church gave expression to and built on insights that had emerged within separatism, advanced in the life of John Smyth and the suffering congregation of Thomas Helwys, and matured in Particular Baptists." According to this view, the General Baptists shared similarities with Dutch Waterlander Mennonites (one of many Anabaptist groups) including believer's baptism only, religious liberty, separation of church and state, and Arminian views of salvation, predestination and original sin. A number of other Baptist churches sprang up, and they became known as the General Baptists.

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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.

It was a time of considerable political and religious turmoil.

Both individuals and churches were willing to give up their theological roots if they became convinced that a more biblical "truth" had been discovered.

During the Protestant Reformation, the Church of England (Anglicans) separated from the Roman Catholic Church.

There were some Christians who were not content with the achievements of the mainstream Protestant Reformation.

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