The mid-19th-century Swedes who emigrated to America in pursuit of religious freedom read the Bible with a hunger that confirmed their claim that it was the Word of God, their sole authority. Theirs was a theology of redeeming grace, giving central place to Christ and the cross. Faith meant transformed lives as well as doctrinal truth, a commitment of heart and will as well as of intellect. They demanded a spiritually reborn clergy and membership. They believed in believer’s baptism by immersion. And they held a strong conviction about living a holy life as followers of Jesus Christ.
The Swedish Baptist General Conference
These followers of Christ earnestly reached other Swedish immigrants with the life-changing message of the gospel, and eventually organized as a fellowship of churches called the Swedish Baptist General Conference. Our early years were characterized by rapid growth and perennial revival (1875, 1880s, 1890, 1895).
The Baptist General Conference
Due to waning Swedish immigration, English became the predominant language used in our churches, and more and more non-Swedish churches were planted and organized. Although U.S. demographics changed, the BGC’s core values remained the same. In 1945 the Baptist General Conference became the new name of our family of churches. As a missional movement, the BGC became a multiethnic, worldwide family of believers and churches: diverse, yet committed to the common mission of fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) for the church.
Toward the end of the 20th century, the Baptist General Conference name began to lose its cultural currency. More than a fifth of all BGC churches had been planted within the prior 15 years, and a scant few wanted to identify themselves by the name Baptist. They held to Baptist convictions, but didn’t want to spend precious time refuting stereotypes of other Baptist leaders or groups. Meanwhile, the Baptist name put missionaries and their national partners at risk in several countries overseas. Converge leaders saw the need to make a change.
In 2008 the board of overseers approved a new missional name, Converge Worldwide, while retaining the historic name Baptist General Conference in some settings and for legal purposes. The Converge name captures the strategy of starting and strengthening churches through the collaboration of 11 districts, Converge churches and national and international ministries. In response to our changing diversity and American culture, we have changed our name over the course of time:
- 1879: Swedish Baptist Conference of America
- 1945: Baptist General Conference
- 2008: Converge Worldwide
- 2015: Converge