The Baptist Bible Fellowship International (BBFI) is a separatist fundamentalist Baptist organization formed in 1950 by members who broke away from the World Baptist Fellowship as the result of a leadership dispute with J. Frank Norris. It is headquartered in Springfield, Missouri. In North America there are 4,500 congregations totaling 1.2 million members associated with it; an additional 10,000 churches are associated worldwide.
In 1948, George Beauchamp Vick (Norris' co-pastor in Detroit, Michigan) became president of the World Baptist Fellowship owned Bible Baptist Seminary of Fort Worth, Texas (later Arlington Baptist College). In May 1950, Norris had Vick removed from the school presidency. After Vick officially resigned from the WBF, he and Noel Smith, W. E. Dowell Sr., R. O. Woodworth, Fred Donnelson, and other pastors met in the Texas Hotel and laid groundwork for a new fellowship. The organizational meeting for what would become BBFI was held in 1950 at the Central Baptist Church in Denton, Texas.
Approximately 100 pastors and missionaries were among the founders of the new Baptist group. They chose Springfield, Missouri as their headquarters and started the Baptist Bible College, the Baptist Bible Tribune, and a Missions Office to serve as a clearinghouse for missionary support. In the years that have passed since those early days, it has grown into the largest independent Baptist Missionary organization in the world.
There are three functions of the Baptist Bible Fellowship International. Worldwide missions, training, and communication.
A Missions Office at the Springfield, Missouri headquarters serves as a support base for the over nine hundred missionaries of the BBFI. Their primary task is to serve as a clearinghouse for missions support sent by thousands of BBFI-affiliated churches and distributed to the missionaries' accounts. Over $385 million was sent through the BBFI Missions Office between 2000 and 2009. The Missions Office is supported separately by the churches on a voluntary basis so that all the donations are dispersed to the field. Through the efforts of BBFI missionaries, well over 6,000 churches have been established, along with numerous schools, camps, orphanages, and feeding centers. The current Missions Director is Jon Konnerup.
Training takes place through the Fellowship's two owned schools and other approved, but separately owned and operated schools. Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, has been the flagship school since its founding in 1950, growing to become the world's largest Bible college at its apex in the mid-1970s. It is accredited by the North Central Association, and the current president is Mark Milioni. A second school was founded in 1976 in Shrub Oak, New York, later moving to Boston to become Boston Baptist College. It is accredited by Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, and the current president is David Melton. Two other schools are approved by the BBFI as recognized training centers for its missionaries, Pacific Baptist College in Pomona, California; and Louisiana Baptist University in Shreveport, Louisiana. These schools are owned and operated by others, but are sanctioned to be eligible to receive funds through the BBFI Missions Office.
The Baptist Bible Tribune, published monthly, contains numerous opinion pieces, reports from the foreign mission field, reports from domestic churches, and light theological treatises. It is written by BBFI officers, pastors and missionaries and is the official voice of the BBFI. The current editor is Randy Harp who was preceded by Keith Bassham.
The current national structure of the BBFI consists of pastors rather than congregations. Affiliation is open to any Baptist pastor of a supporting Baptist church believing in and adhering to twenty articles of faith, outlined in a small booklet available from the Mission Office. Official recognition of that affiliation is contingent upon financial support of at least one of the three established functions described above.
The organizational structure includes President, Vice-Presidents, Secretary, Treasurer, and one Director from each state elected by his own State Fellowship. Within this organization, there are State Fellowships in each of the fifty United States. One example of a State Fellowship is the Texas Baptist Bible Fellowship. With nearly 500 affiliated churches, the Texas BBF is active in planting new churches and helping raise financial support for new missionaries. Current chairman of the Texas BBF is Pastor Mike Marcellus at First Church, Austin, Texas. Some BBFI churches and pastors also affiliate with and support other fellowships, such as the World Baptist Fellowship. The BBFI is also one of three Fellowships---along with the World Baptist Fellowship and the Southwide Baptist Fellowship which make up the International Baptist Network.
Although the current number of members is not public knowledge, most experts believe that membership in the BBFI has declined in the past 10 years. The Fellowship owns the original Baptist Bible College, as well as Boston Baptist College.
Jerry Falwell was affiliated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship International since his graduation from Baptist Bible College in Springfield Missouri in 1956, and later also affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Falwell retained his affiliation with the Baptist Bible Fellowship, and the church he founded in 1956, Thomas Road Baptist Church of Lynchburg, Virginia, is listed in the current BBFI directory.
While Falwell's Moral Majority was intended to be an inter-faith coalition, more than half its State Chairman were members of the Bible Baptist Fellowship International.