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Pilgrims & Baptists: The Little Known Connection by David Roach

If not for a Baptist church split, the Pilgrims might never have come to America.

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John Smyth, who often is credited with being the first Baptist, pastored a church where many of the Christians who later came to be known as Pilgrims were members. But when Smyth began to argue with the future Pilgrims over church government, they formed another church under the leadership of John Robinson. In 1620, a portion of Robinson’s congregation sailed to Plymouth, Mass., aboard the Mayflower.

Following the split, Smyth became convinced that the Bible teaches believer’s baptism and launched the Baptist movement.

“Most people don’t realize how closely the Pilgrims and the first Baptists were related. John Smyth and [Plymouth Colony governor] William Bradford knew each other, and in fact Smyth pastored the church where many of the Pilgrims were members before they left England for Holland and then sailed to America,” Jason Duesing, provost at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press in written comments. “The world of English Separatism was very intertwined. Those that became Baptists were a formative part of the story that led to the first Thanksgiving.”

Smyth and the Pilgrims both emerged from a movement in England known as Separatism.

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