Question: "What is the Baptist General Conference?"
Answer: The Baptist General Conference (BGC) was renamed Converge in 2015. The BGC is a national association of autonomous evangelical churches that began in the Midwest among Scandinavian immigrants. Immigrants from Sweden, persecuted for their faith in Europe, came to America and organized a Swedish Baptist Church in the mid-19th century, and the continued arrival of Swedish immigrants helped the movement to expand rapidly. Part of the Pietist movement, the Swedish Baptists emphasized holy living; as Baptists, they held to the inerrancy of the Bible, salvation by grace through faith, the necessity of the new birth, the autonomy of the local church, and believer’s baptism by immersion.
When the Swedish Baptist churches in America numbered 65, they formed a general conference, but by 1945 most churches were English-speaking, so they dropped the “Swedish” part of their name and became simply the Baptist General Conference. The BGC has grown to encompass 17 ethnic groups in 19 nations. In 2008 they changed their name to Converge Worldwide while retaining the name Baptist General Conference in legal contexts. In 2015 the name was shortened to simply Converge. By dropping the name Baptist, Converge sought to remain relevant and to distance its missionaries and international ministries from a label that had become vague and in many places implied something negative. The word converge in their name is a reminder that “We Converge around the cross to take what Christ has done for us and make it known to others” (from the official website). Bethel Theological Seminary and Bethel University near St. Paul, Minnesota, are schools sponsored in part by Converge.
The Baptist General Conference (Converge) has remained true to its original doctrines of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, water immersion as the only acceptable form of believer’s baptism, the inspiration and inerrancy of the Word of God, and the reality of heaven and hell. The BGC (Converge) strives to remain evangelical, multi-ethnic, and committed to fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16–20).