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Posted by on Jan 4, 2009 in Uncategorized

Baptists in the 111th Congress

Baptists in the 111th Congress
by Aaron Douglas Weaver

Baptists in the United States make up the largest branch on the Protestant family tree. According to a 2008 religious landscape study conducted by the Pew Forum On Religion & Public Life, Baptists account for one-third of all Protestants and 17.2 percent (38.7 million) of the overall adult population in the United States. Baptists make up a plurality (41 percent) of the “Evangelical Tradition,” 64 percent of the “Historically Black Tradition,” and 10 percent of the “Mainline Tradition.”

A survey released in December by the Pew Forum, based on data from the Congressional Quarterly, found that a majority of the new 111th Congress are Protestants. Of the 239 Protestants in the 111th Congress, 66 or 12.4 percent are Baptists. The Pew Forum survey notes that Congress as a whole is much more religiously diverse now than in decades and includes Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons, Unitarians, Seventh-Day Adventists, and a Christian Scientist.

Baptists who are the second-largest religious group after Catholics are actually underrepresented in the 111th Congress. Baptists 12.4 percent share of Congress is significantly less than their 17.2 percent share of the national adult population. Meanwhile, Methodists make up 10.2 percent of Congress while only accounting for 6.2 percent of the national adult population. Despite the increased religious diversity, the percentage of Baptists in Congress has changed very little (+.7 percent) in the pasty fifty years. The 87th Congress (1961-1963) included 11.7 percent Baptists. Nearly twenty years later, Baptists in the 96th Congress (1979-1981) accounted for 10.3 percent of Congress. This number increased to 13.1 percent by the 105th Congress (1999-2001).

The 100-member Senate of the 111th Congress is comprised of eight Baptists including seven Republicans and just one Democrat. Four of the eight Baptist Senators are members of Baptist churches that affiliate with the Southern Baptist Convention. Southern Baptists in the Senate include John McCain (R-AZ), North Phoenix Baptist Church; Roger Wicker (R-MS), First Baptist Church Tupelo; Tom Coburn (R-OK), First Baptist Church Muskogee; and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Corinth Baptist Church, Seneca. As the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, the SBC includes slightly over 15 million Baptists or 39 percent of Baptists in the United States.

Senator Charles “Chuck” Grassley (R-IA) is a member of Baptist General Conference-affiliated Prairie Lakes Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The BGC, a national evangelical Baptist body with roots in Swedish Pietism, is comprised of 194,000 members in 950 churches located throughout the United States. The lone Baptist Democrat in the Senate, Robert Byrd (D-WV), is a member of Crab Orchard Missionary Baptist Church which is affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA. Formerly known as the Northern Baptist Convention, ABC-USA is an ethnically diverse “mainline” denomination made up of 1.4 million Baptists in 5,780 churches that affiliates with the National Council of Churches.

Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) is a member of Northminster Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. Northminster is aligned with both the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a renewal movement among Baptists that includes individuals and approximately 1,900 affiliated churches, and the Alliance of Baptists, an alliance of individuals and 125-affiliated congregations. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who according to data from the Congressional Quarterly is a “Baptist” now identifies with Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Southeast Christian Church is an evangelial megachurch associated with the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. Senator McConnell was formerly a long-time member of Crescent Hill Baptist Church also in Louisville.

The House of Representatives includes 58 self-identified Baptists from 26 states. Baptists in the House of Representatives are equally divided with 29 Democrats and 29 Republicans. House Baptists are also racially diverse with African-Americans accounting for 33 percent of Baptists in the lower chamber. However, only 10 percent of Baptists in the House are female. There is also great denominational diversity among House Baptists. Forty-seven percent of House Baptists (27 Representatives) hold membership in a Baptist church that affiliates with the Southern Baptist Convention. African-American Baptists who are part of the “Historically Black Church Tradition” comprise 33 percent of House Baptists (19 Representatives). Historically black Baptist denominations represented include the National Baptist Convention USA Inc., National Missionary Baptist Convention of America and the Progressive National Baptist Convention. Other Baptist groups represented include the American Baptist Churches USA (3), Alliance of Baptists (2), Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (2), Conservative Baptist Association of America (1), North American Baptist Conference (1), Independent Fundamental Baptist (1) and Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (1).

Included among the Baptists in the 111th Congress are two ordained Baptist ministers (Ed Towns (D-NY) and Bobby Lee Rush (D-IL)), current and former Deacons and Sunday School teachers (Gregg Harper (R-MS), Bobby Bright (D-AL), John Barrow (D-GA), John Fleming (R-LA)), a renowned Civil Rights leader (John Lewis, D-GA), staunch proponents and opponents of the Iraq War, anti-abortion rights Democrats, an anti-online gambling Democrat and a pro-medical marijuana Republican. Three of the top leaders in the 111th Congress are Baptist. They include Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) the House Majority Leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) the Senate Minority Leader and Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) who serves as Senate President Pro Tempore. Seven members of the 111th Congress’s freshmen class identify as Baptist. For a complete list of Baptists in the 111th Congress and their church membership information, see below.

*The list of Baptists in the 111th Congress was obtained from the Pew Forum via the Congressional Quarterly. Members of Congress supplied their religious affiliation information directly to the Congressional Quarterly.

**Church membership information is based on independent research and in some instances correspondence with staff members of the individual Senators and Representatives.

***This report lists Rep. Bobby Lee Rush (D-IL) as an ordained Baptist minister. However, based on data from the Congressional Quarterly, Rush no longer self-identifies as a Baptist. Instead, Rush lists his religious affiliation as simply “Christian.” Since he was ordained in a Baptist church, I still count Rush as an “ordained Baptist minister.” Rush is the only practicing minister in the 111th Congress.

****This report does not include Senator-designate Roland Burris (D-IL) who various sources have listed as Baptist.

*****John McCain is “technically not a member of North Phoenix Baptist Church. However, North Phoenix is his “church home” (the church he attends) as Baptists like to say.

******Baptists in the 111th Congress is the research project of Aaron Weaver of No outside assistance has been given. This list will be updated as information regarding church membership is given by congressional staff members that I personally contacted.


House Democrats
Bobby Bright (AL-2) First Baptist Church Montgomery
Barbara Lee (CA-9) Allen Temple Baptist Church (Oakland)
Corrine Brown (FL-3) Bethel Baptist Institutional Church (Jacksonville)
Kendrick Meek (FL-17) Unknown
Sanford Bishop (GA-2) Mount Zion Baptist Church (Albany)
John Lewis (GA-5) Ebenezer Baptist Church (Atlanta)
John Barrow (GA-12) First Baptist Church (Athens)
David Scott (GA-13) Unknown
Jesse Jackson Jr. (IL-2) Salem Baptist Church (Chicago)
Danny Davis (IL-7) New Galilee Missionary Baptist Church
Donna Edwards (MD-4) Unknown
Steny Hoyer (MD-5) Broadview Baptist Church (Temple Hills)
Elijah Cummings (MD-7) The New Psalmist Baptist Church (Baltimore)
John Conyers Jr. (MI-14) Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church (Detroit)
Travis Childers (MS-1) East Booneville Baptist Church (Booneville)
Donald Payne (NJ-10) Unknown
Harry Teague (NM-2) Unknown
Gregory Meeks (NY-6) St. John’s Baptist Church (Rockaway)
Edolphus Towns (NY-10) Unknown
G.K. Butterfield (NC-1) Jackson Chapel First Missionary Baptist Church
David Price (NC-4) Binkley Memorial Baptist Church (Chapel Hill)
Larry Kissell (NC-8) First Baptist Church Biscoe
Heath Shuler (NC-11) Biltmore Baptist Church (Arden)
Marcia Fudge (OH-11) Zion Baptist Church (Cleveland)
Chaka Fattah (PA-2) Unknown
Lincoln Davis (TN-4) First Baptist Church Byrdstown
Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30) St. John Missionary Baptist Church (Dallas)
Gwen Moore (WI-4) Unknown
Alan Mollohan (WV-1) First Baptist Church Fairmont
House Republicans
Mike Rogers (AL-3) Saks Baptist Church (Anniston)
Robert Aderholt (AL-4) Unknown
Spencer Bachus (AL-6) Hunter Street Baptist Church (Hoover)
Trent Franks (AZ-2) North Phoenix Baptist Church
John Boozman (AR-3) First Baptist Church Rogers
Tom McClintock (CA-4) First Baptist Church Elk Grove
Kevin McCarthy (CA-22) Valley Baptist Church (Bakersfield)
Dana Rohrabacher (CA-46) Unknown
Vern Buchanan (FL-13) First Baptist Church Sarasota
Lynn Westmoreland (GA-3) Southcrest Church (Newnan)
Nathan Deal (GA-9) First Baptist Church Gainesville
Paul Broun (GA-10) Prince Avenue Baptist Church (Bogart)
Donald Manzullo (IL-16) Unknown
Aaron Schock (IL-18) Bethany Baptist Church (Peoria)
Geoff Davis (KY-4) Hebron Baptist Church
Harold Rogers (KY-5) First Baptist Church Somerset
John C. Fleming (LA-4) First Baptist Church Minden
Rodney Alexander (LA-5) Sweetwater Baptist Church (Quitman)
Sam Graves (MO-6) First Baptist Church Tarkio
Roy Blunt (MO-7) First Baptist Church Branson
Gregg Harper (MS-3) Crossgates Baptist Church (Brandon)
Frank Lucas (OK-3) First Baptist Church (Cheyenne)
Henry Brown Jr. (SC-1) Cooper River Baptist Church (North Charleston)
J. Gresham Barrett (SC-3) First Baptist Church Westminster
Zach Wamp (TN-3) Red Bank Baptist Church (Chatanooga)
Louie Gohmert (TX-1) Green Acres Baptist Church (Tyler)
Michael Conaway (TX-11) First Baptist Church Midland
Randy Neugebauer (TX-19) First Baptist Church Lubbock
Randy Forbes (VA-4) Great Bridge Baptist Church (Chesapeake)
Senate Democrats
Robert Byrd (WV) Crab Orchard Missionary Baptist Church
Senate Republicans
John McCain (AZ) North Phoenix Baptist Church
Chuck Grassley (IA) Prairie Lakes Church (Cedar Falls)
Mitch McConnell (KY) No Longer Attends A Baptist Church
Thad Cochran (MS) Northminster Baptist Church (Jackson)
Roger Wicker (MS) First Baptist Church Tupelo
Tom Coburn (OK) First Baptist Church Muskogee
Lindsey Graham (SC) Corinth Baptist Church (Seneca)
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  1. This is excellent, but the link for Steny Hoyer actually goes to Donna Edwards’ Wikipedia page–as does her own link!

  2. Two quibbles:
    1) Since for many Baptists church “membership” is a technical term by whose definition John McCain is not a member of North Phoenix BC, perhaps it might have been well to clarify the sense in which you were using “member(ship)” in the article.
    2) I’m not aware of any churches whose primary denominational affiliation is with AWAB. Most AWAB member churches seem to be ABCUSA and/or Alliance, though there may be a few that align primarily with other bodies.

    All in all, an informative article. Thanks, BDiddy.

  3. I was wondering if you see any problem with this Baptist-led event:

    “Burris, … was leaving a day after dozens of black leaders and ministers organized by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush gave him a rousing send-off at New Covenant [Missionary Baptist] Church on Chicago’s South Side.*** At the church sendoff, Burris took the stage to a crescendo of drums, organ music and applause as hundreds of supporters cheered his appointment.

    ‘”We are hoping and praying that they [Harry Reid and Senate] will not be able to deny what the Lord has ordained,’ Burris said.”

  4. I made a note about McCain below the article. McCain may or may not be the only self-identified Baptist in the 111th Congress who is “technically” not a member of a Baptist church. Who knows. However, all have listed their religious affiliation as “Baptist” or in a few instances “Southern Baptist.”

    For the handful of churches that are “dually-aligned” or list affiliation with more than one organization, I did not attempt to determine their primary affiliation. That would have been impossible to do that with all such congregations. My aim was consistency, so I stuck with just listing all visible affiliations with Baptist denominations/groups. The lone AWAB church is Binkley Church in North Carolina. Their affiliation info is at the bottom of their main page.

  5. Karen,

    Yes. I see significant problems with those who turn the worship hour into a political rally. This happens all over the country in white and black churches but it is especially a common occurrence in certain Baptist churches on the south side of Chicago.

  6. Aaron, are you certain Mitch McConnell is still a Crescent Hill member? I have heard — from reliable sources — that he asked them within the past few years to delete him from the membership rolls and now identifies with Southeast Christian Church in Louisville.

  7. Thanks, Rob. The info on McConnell has been updated. According to recent data from the Congressional Quarterly and Pew Forum, McConnell still lists himself as a “Baptist” despite identifying with a non-Baptist church connected to the Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ.

    I just sent an e-mail to a member of McConnell’s staff regarding this matter.

  8. Aaron, as I explained before, no Baptist congregation can have AWAB as a primary affiliation because it is not a denomination. Belonging to AWAB is like belonging to the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, not like belonging to the SBC, CBF, American Baptist Churches, USA, etc. My congregation is an Alliance church. That’s our denomination. We are also a congregational member of AWAB and a congregational partner of BPFNA–but those aren’t “dual affiliations” like we would have if we were dually aligned Alliance and ABC or (as so many) SBC and CBF.

  9. True. AWAB is not a denomination. Nor is the Conservative Baptist Association of America. Dan Vestal would say that the CBF is not a denomination either. Like I said, I did not try to determine “primary” anything with the handful of congregations that listed more than one national Baptist organization.

    But I describe AWAB as a “Baptist group represented” and surely they are that. I prefer to include both AWAB and CBA since I chose to include in my list any “Baptist group” that a Baptist church “affiliates” “aligns” or “partners” with or is a “member” of.

    Obviously, I see the difference between a church whose denomination is ABC-USA and who is a congregational partner of BPFNA. I will say that I know of such a church out West whose members would likely identify more strongly with BPFNA and is more actively involved in and supportive of the work of BPFNA than they are in their own denomination (ABC-USA). In the case of that church, it seems that (for them) BPFNA is primary and the denomination is secondary.

    I just tried to include any listed national Baptist groups/bodies in this list of affiliations.

  10. Again, this is really yeoman work, Aaron. Are there any Baptists on the current Supreme Court? In major cabinet posts of the new Obama admin.? What about Baptist governors of various states?

  11. That’s the topic of my next post.

    There will be no long list to report though.

  12. Very interesting, Aaron. Thanks.

    I’m more interested in the new crop of “common good” reps who’ve been elected. These are young Congresspersons who have backgrounds in community and public service, and most of them ran as Democrats with a religious bent in their campaigns. They’re not Baptists by and large, but will be very, very interesting to follow in terms of the types of legislation they pursue.

  13. Bdid:

    I pretty certain Robert Aderholt, my Congressman is a United Methodist; graduate of the Methodist School Bham Southern.
    Senator Lindsey Graham, McCain’s great friend, may worship in Seneca with Nixon strategist Harry Dent’s daughter, an IMB trustee with Wade Burleson.

  14. Regarding Roger Aderholt: At some point in recent months, a member of Aderholt’s staff filled out a questionnaire for Congressional Quarterly on his behalf and chose “Baptist” as his religious affiliation.

    Aderholt’s father was a congregationalist minister in Alabama.

  15. Now that Burris has been sworn in as Junior Senator from IL (I doubt he’ll win reelection in ’10), you can update the list to include TWO Democratic Baptist senators.

  16. Aaron – thanks for a very interesting article.

    I was wondering how many ordained ministers are serving in the 111th Congress?

    I can think of three: Edolphus Towns (Baptist Minister), Emmanuel Cleaver (Methodist Minister) and Bobby Rush (Baptist).

    Are there any others? I would greatly appreciate all feedback on this question.

    Again, thanks for a great article.

  17. Those are the only three that I know of. I believe Bobby Rush (who now identifies as “Christian” rather than Baptist) is the only member of Congress to actively serve a congregation as pastor. His church is nondenominational.


  1. Baptists In The 111th Congress | Southern Baptist Blogs - SBC Voices - [...] Aaron Weaver, has posted some analysis on the church affiliation claimed by members of the 111th US Congress. He…

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