The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is a United States-based Christian denomination. It is the world's largest Baptist denomination and the largest Protestant body in the United States, with nearly 16 million members as of 2012. This also makes it the second largest Christian body in the United States, after the Catholic Church.
The word Southern in Southern Baptist Convention stems from its having been founded and rooted in the Southern United States. In 1845, members at a regional convention being held in Augusta, Georgia created the SBC, following a split from northern Baptists over the issue of forbidding Southern slave-owners from becoming ordained missionaries. After the American Civil War, another split occurred: most black Baptists in the South separated from white churches to set up independent congregations, regional associations, and state and national conventions, such as the National Baptist Convention, the second largest Baptist convention.
Since the 1940s, the SBC has moved away from some of its regional identification. Especially since the late twentieth century, the SBC has sought new members among minority groups and become much more diverse. In addition, while still heavily concentrated in the Southern US, the SBC has member churches across the United States and 41 affiliated state conventions.
At its annual convention in 2012, the SBC elected as president Fred Luter Jr., the first African American to hold the position. A SBC presidential term is for one year, with a term limit of two terms. Each president is elected by Messengers sent by each local church at the SBC annual meeting. Since Luter ran unopposed, per the by-laws of the Convention, only a single ballot was cast by the Recording Secretary to secure his election. Because of the historic nature of the vote, the assembly was asked to rise in support of the vote, which the messengers did enthusiastically. Luter, was re-elected president for a second (and final) term at the 2013 meeting.
Southern Baptists emphasize the significance of the individual conversion experience which is affirmed by the person having a total immersion in water for a believer's baptism. As a result, they reject the practice of infant baptism. SBC churches are evangelical in doctrine and practice. Specific beliefs based on biblical interpretation can vary somewhat due to their congregational governance system which allows autonomy to each individual local church.