Free Baptists believe that a church answers directly to God. A free Baptist Church is free of any denominational hierarchy, free of any obligations to associate with other churches who are not of like faith, and free to obey and worship God solely according to the Bible. Free Baptists are commonly known as independent Baptists in America.
Free Baptist churches are not part of the Baptist Union. We believe that when a denomination owns the church building, has any influence in pastoral selection, or controls the pastor's salary or pension, it is in a position to influence the church in ways which God did not intend. The existence of a Baptist Union or Baptist Convention is a relatively new phenomenon in Baptist history, and many Baptists have not joined such organisations.
Free Baptists believe that every Christian is free and accountable to God, rather than to a priest or minister. A Baptist minister leads only by consent of the congregation, and has no authority on his own.
Some famous free (or independent) Baptists from history include John Bunyan (author of Pilgrim's Progress), Charles Spurgeon (world-famous 19th century pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London), Roger Williams (founder of the American colony of Rhode Island), and John Leland of Virginia (famous for his influence on the religious liberty clause of the American Bill of Rights). Thomas Jefferson wrote his famous letter about "the wall of separation" between church and state to an independent Baptist church in Connecticut.