The First Baptist Church of America
When Dr. John Clarke moved onto a small island near the Rhode Island colony, he established the community of Newport. There he established the first Baptist Church of America.
The beginning of this church was very humble – a simple meeting house erected in 1644 for people to meet. Dr. Clarke acted as the leader, physician, and pastor of this small community. In 1651, Clarke and Roger Williams returned to England to begin the proceeding of drawing a charter that ensured the Baptist distinctive of "liberty of conscience" and religious liberty. Williams eventually returned, but Clarke stayed in England for twelve years until the charter was granted.
During Clarke's absence in England, Obadiah Holmes pastored the small church. After Clarke's death in 1676, Holmes continued to pastor the church until his death in 1682.
The church experienced many ups and downs throughout the years, including church splits, occupation by British troops during the American Revolution, and much more. Presently, the church is called United Baptist Church, John Clarke Memorial.
Now Newport is a luxurious resort town, including opulent mansions that line the seacoast. Yet, the very beginnings of this town were in a church established by a Baptist minister and his people. Not far from the present location of the United Baptist Church is the first Jewish Synagogue ever founded in the United States, the Tuoro Synagogue. The present building was built in 1759. The Newport community was the only one in the colonies at that time that not only did not persecute the Jews, but also gave sanctuary and religious freedom.
Disclaimer: We do not know exactly where this church stands doctrinally today. Sadly, it is affiliated with The American Baptist Churches which no longer stands uncompromisingly upon the Bible. This should encourage each one of us to hold fast to the inspired, infallible Word of God as our sole authority.