Baptists in Appalachia.
They don't all agree in one Tune. For one sings this Doctrine, and the next something different--so that Peoples Brains are turn'd and bewilder'd.... Then again to see them Divide and Sub divide, split into Parties--Rail at and excommunicate one another--Turn out of one meeting and receive in to another--And a Gang of them getting together and gabbling one after the other (and sometimes disputing against each other) on abstruse Theological Questions ... such as the greatest Metaphysicians and Learned Scholars never yet could define, or agree on--To hear Ignorant Wretches, who can not write ... discussing such Knotty Points for the Edification of their Auditors ... must give High offence to all Intelligent and rational Minds. (1)
Such caricatures of religion in the "back country" set the scene for similar descriptions of Appalachian Baptists that continued across the twentieth century. Indeed, Deborah Vansau McCauley writes that "Old School Baptists have been portrayed in denominational histories as a small group of disruptive, embarrassing malcontents who stood in the way of progress and the national good at the behest of a few narrow, zealous, ignorant leaders." (2) Many Baptist groups present in the Appalachian region of the United States have born such stereotypes over the years. Yet, Appalachian Baptists, like the residents of their region in general, are difficult to quantify. At best, we can only view them in the context of multiple communities and traditions. Even the most basic generalizations are easily contradicted. We begin with certain qualifications.
First, defining the Appalachian region itself is no easy matter. As described by the Appalachian Regional Commission, "official" Appalachia includes some 397 counties in thirteen states and all of West Virginia. The Baptists addressed in this study generally inhabit a segment of Appalachia known as the Southern Highlands, including a seven- to nine-state area stretching southward from Virginia to Alabama. This section of the country is a mosaic of small towns, rural communities, and expanding urban areas characterized by certain diverse religious, political, economic, and social concerns.
Second, one of the great debates among students of American studies concerns the divergent definitions o3 Appalachia as region, culture, "idea," and "problem." (3) Catherine Albanese described the independence of many Appalachian churches by noting that "By the twentieth century ... this intensely religious people would have the least need for official church structures of perhaps any people in the United States." (4) Deborah McCauley noted that one way to study Appalachian churches is to focus on a "native mountain church" which "does not belong to national, denominational organizational structures with a national purpose ... and identity." (5) McCauley's own work, Appalachian Mountain Religion: A History (1995), gave particular attention to the mountain Baptist and independent Holiness churches of the region. She distinguished "between those church traditions that are in the Appalachian region but not largely of it, mostly the denominations of American Protestantism, and those church traditions that exist predominately--or almost exclusively--in the region and are very special to it." (6) Howard Dorgan's Giving Glory to God in Appalachia: Worship Practices of Six Baptist Subdenominations (1987) pursued the nature of those mountain Baptist groups that continue to maintain their own unique ecclesiastical and communal life.
Studies by McCauley, Dorgan, and others demonstrate efforts to differentiate between the denominationally based churches in Appalachia and the mountain churches that represent a more independent, regionally related subgroup of religious communities. (7)
These studies call us to distinguish multiple Baptist groups that impact and are impacted by the Appalachian region. They include certain "mountain" Baptist churches such as Old Regular, Union, and Primitive Baptist communions, denominational Baptist communions such as those related to the Southern Baptist Convention, and Independent Baptist churches that are fundamentalist in theology and generally antidenominational in organization.
McCauley insisted that, while there are "similarities," it is
absolutely necessary to underscore ... that mountain religious life and history should not be subsumed under `southern religion' or `religion in the South,' treated simply as one more variant of this broadly encompassing label. (8)
Albanese suggested that, "Southern Appalachia also offers a chance to study religion with a strong traditional orientation in which both ordinary and extraordinary values are blended. It provides an explicit instance of how regionalism supplies an overarching flame within which religion and culture come together." She concluded that
Southern Appalachia gives us a chance to study transition in regional religion.... By standing out so distinctly from their background, the changes help us to see more accurately how history comes to grips with the geography of a specific place. (9)
Appalachian Baptist churches, mountain and denominational, are heirs of the Separate Baptist tradition that came into the region in the mid-eighteenth century. These Baptists were personified in the work of Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall and their families who brought revivalistic religion, modified Calvinism, and charismatic preaching into the frontier of Kentucky and Tennessee. (10)
The Separate Baptist brand of congregational polity and local autonomy was well suited for frontier, mountain culture. Churches were constituted by local constituents who required no approval from ecclesiastical tribunals. Many Baptist ministers were so-called "farmer-preachers," individuals who lived in the community, worked the land throughout the week, and preached on Sunday. These grass-roots ministers were often semiliterate or self-taught persons who exercised gifts of proclamation and ministry in the churches. Their bivocational occupations kept them close to the soil and to the people. (11)
Frontier Baptists developed procedures for recognizing and ordaining potential ministers. Debates continued over the education of ministers, clergy compensation, and the nature of ministerial authority--unending controversies in Baptist life. Ordination to ministry generally required a statement of conversion and "call" as verified by the congregation. One initiatory step involved "licensing," whereby a congregation formally vouched for an individual's calling and provided a kind of ministerial apprenticeship prior to ordination.
Licensed ministers and newly ordained preachers could also serve as "exhorters," a particular assignment given to preachers in the revivals. Exhorters were asked to "draw in the net" by urging persons to receive salvation-after the more seasoned preacher had delivered the principal sermon. While some congregations permitted licensed ministers to administer baptism and the Lord's Supper, most required full ordination as a prerequisite for conducting the ordinances.
When the verification process was complete, an ordination could occur, often after the new minister received an official call from a specific congregation. An ordaining council (or "presbytery") was constituted by local ministers, deacons, and associational representatives who evaluated the candidate's doctrinal stability and spiritual maturity. The council made a recommendation that was voted on by the church. Candidates were required to describe their "call" as illustrated in this statement by one nineteenth-century ordinand:
Tried to evade it by excuses--had no gift for public speaking,--my education was extremely limited--was wholly destitute of means to defray the expense of an education--and above all I lacked a natural ability.... At such seasons I was often much distressed and could find peace of mind only by yielding the point--casting myself wholly upon the Grace of Christ, with the determination, to do what seemed to be present duty to the extent of my ability leaving the result with God. (12)
The interaction between the church and the individual was an important element in discerning the veracity of the divine call to ministry.
Churches often were organized around three types of documents: a covenant, a confession of faith, and "rules of decorum." The covenant set forth the behavioral regulations to which members were subject. John Taylor (1752-1836) reported on the organization of the Buck Run Church in Kentucky in 1818 and its covenental agreement "to fulfil the duty of brethren to each other...." (13)
A confession of faith established the theological boundaries of the church. Most congregations used existing documents such as the Second London or Philadelphia Confessions, or a combination of statements excerpted from several confessions and dealing with Scripture, faith, church, the, ordinances, salvation, the final judgment, and other dogmas.
Rules of decorum dictated procedures for conducting the congregation's business that included election of officers and proper behavior during the meeting. The rules of the Brush Run Church required that "There shall be no laughing, talking, or whispering in the time of a public speech, nor shall there be any ungenerous reflections on a brother who has spoken before." (14)
Baptisms were administered in creeks and rivers at every season of the year. John Taylor suggested that "sometimes two of us went into the water at once to baptize, and to prevent confusion, only one pronounced the ceremony, and that by the plural term, standing near together, and both getting ready, one would pronounce `we baptize you in the name of the Father &c.'" He recalled that he "once baptized 26 myself, on a cold freezing day, the ice cut about six inches thick where the people stood, close on the edge of the icy grave." (15)
While divisions over doctrine and practice continued to occur in the Baptist ranks, there were also efforts at unity. The Separate and Regular Baptists, long divided over revival methods, worship, and the nature of ministry, sought greater union as early as the 1780s. In Kentucky, an alliance of Regulars and Separates formed in 1801 under the name United Baptists. The union was short-lived, ending in 1803 when the Elkhorn Association withdrew from the South Kentucky Association of Separate Baptists because the organization admitted a supposed Universalist to its membership. (16) After this split, Separate Baptists formed a Kentucky-based General Association of Separate Baptists in Christ. The South Kentucky Association and the Nolyn Association of Kentucky were the oldest and largest of the Separate Baptist associations. (17)
Separates in Kentucky rejected mission boards, a paid clergy, and the use of confessions of faith. They claimed that Baptists manifested the only genuine expression of the New Testament church, and placed great emphasis on individual interpretation of Scripture and doctrine. By the early-twentieth century, many composed confessions of faith and required subscription to those documents as a testimony to orthodoxy in their ranks. (18) Many congregations practiced the washing of feet along with baptism and the Lord's Supper as ordinances of Christ.
Mountain Baptist churches constitute a distinctive expression of religion in Appalachia. These churches are considered unique to the region. Their numbers include a variety of Baptists (United, Old Regular, Primitive, and Free Will) as well as numerous independent Holiness congregations. These communities of faith are not related to national denominational systems. Their services are often characterized by the practice of certain traditional rituals such as foot washing, outdoor baptisms, speaking in tongues, and Spirit-led preaching. Their ministers are bivocational, often with limited formal education. They are linked to the mountain culture in powerful ways through grass-roots constituency, stem-family kinship relations, as well as a pervasive piety and spirituality. (19)
Appalachian churches struggle with the issue of authority, many defining the church as a community which observes most precisely the practices of the earliest New Testament community. To be the church is to do what the early Christians did.
For example, Primitive, Old Regular, and other Baptist subdenominations insist that they are only a step away from the New Testament church, that their doctrines, worship, and actions are simply a reflection of the first Christian congregations. They distance themselves from denominations that promote "man-made" dogmas outside the bounds of biblical Christianity.
The question of origins is extremely important to many Appalachian religionists. For instance, many Baptists in the region believe that they are heirs to certain gospel "landmarks" preserved by crypto-Baptist congregations since the first century. This trail of blood and martyrs, largely outside established churches, can be traced back to John the Baptist and Jesus' immersion in the Jordan River. This form of Baptist successionism is ordered, not through bishops, but local congregations of dissenters. Early Baptists in the region sang their theology unashamedly in hymns such as this:
Not at the Jordan River, but in that flowing stream, Stood John the Baptist preacher when he baptized Him. John was a Baptist preacher, when he baptized the Lamb, So Jesus was a Baptist, and thus the Baptists came. (20)
Appalachian churches are also concerned for conversion. They insist that every church member must have a personal experience with Jesus Christ to be saved from sin and prepared for heaven. The conversion process among some Appalachian Baptist churches--Primitive Baptists and Old Regular Baptists are exceptions--has been shortened considerably from the often-laborious, agonizing process characteristic of early Calvinism to the immediate event promoted by an Arminianized mass revivalism. (21) Appalachian communions vary as to the normative age of conversion and baptism. Howard Dorgan noted that missionary Baptists (Southern and Independent Baptists) "go down in the water" around "twelve to fifteen years of age." Old Regular Baptists, however, often defer baptism until "in their forties or fifties." (22) Some Southern Baptist youth are baptized during the elementary years, some even as preschoolers.
Appalachian Baptists also address the idea of the ministry, the nature of leadership in the church. In one sense, many Appalachian churches are people's churches, founded on a rabid egalitarianism in which all the saved are ministers, witnessing for Christ, and carrying the gospel to the world. Many mistrust denominational alignments as detrimental to the autonomy of the local congregation and the liberty of the individual believer. Many congregations exist unto themselves, denouncing hierarchies and institutional affiliations as unscriptural. Salvation thus becomes the great equalizer by which social, economic, and spiritual elitism is abolished. Faith is not mediated by clergy or ecclesiastical institutions but comes directly from God to the individual.
Authority comes from the Holy Spirit working in the life of the lone believer or the lay leaders of the entire congregation. As one Primitive Baptist preacher declared, "The preacher hasn't got any say-so at all in the Primitive Baptist church; it's the deacons that rule the church." (23) Tensions regarding the question of leadership often lead to schism in congregations throughout the region.
At the same time, ministerial authority in Appalachian churches remains a powerful force to be reckoned with. Preachers, ordained or otherwise anointed, maintain an important position as mediators of the Word of God and leaders of the church. Jeff Todd Titon recounts the testimony of one independent Baptist preacher: "I was saved a good while, brother, before God called me, and then when he did call me I tried every way in the world to get out of it." (24) A period of resistance is frequently a prerequisite before preachers submit to the will of God.
Ministerial education also brought controversy into frontier and Appalachian Baptist life. The "Black Rock Address" approved by a group of Old School (Primitive) Baptists in 1832 was sharply critical of Baptist-sponsored higher education for several reasons. First, while they affirmed their concern for education, these staunchly Calvinistic Baptists were opposed to the idea of "sectarian colleges"--Baptist, Presbyterian, and others--since that implied that "our distinct views of church government, of gospel doctrine and gospel ordinances, are connected with human sciences, a principle which we cannot admit...." (25) Second, they objected to the idea of a faculty member in "divinity," since that implied that God's revelation was "a human science on a footing with mathematics, philosophy, law, &c...." Third, they rejected the idea that persons "called of the Lord to preach his gospel" should go to school to learn how to proclaim the Word. They insisted that God called "no man to preach his gospel, till he has made him experimentally acquainted with that gospel, and endowed him with the proper measure of gifts suiting the field he designs him to occupy...." (26)
In spite of these criticisms, Baptists in Appalachia and elsewhere continued to form educational institutions. The schools served many purposes, providing Christian higher learning in a Baptist context, and offering Baptist youth the possibility of a better economic future.
Controversies among nineteenth-century Baptists were deep and divisive. The missionary movement raised significant theological and organizational questions. Many Calvinistic Baptists were convinced that God alone was the agent of grace to be offered irresistibly to the elect in God's own way. Missionary efforts, therefore, were little more than human interference in ministrations known only to the Divine. Many who affirmed the need for missionary endeavors hesitated to organize denominational mission boards for which they could find no biblical precedents.
Daniel Parker (1781-1844) was an articulate spokesman for the anti-mission cause. Born in Virginia and raised in Georgia, Parker was baptized in 1802, and ordained in Tennessee in 1806. After moving to Illinois in 1817, Parker published a series of works that challenged the theological rationale for the missionary movement. As a result, numerous Baptist associations in Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois divided over Parker's anti-mission and "two-seed" theology.
In Views on the Two Seeds Taken from Genesis, published in 1826, Parker promoted the doctrine of "two seeds," suggesting that at birth all persons received the seeds of salvation or damnation. Citing Genesis 3:15, Parker claimed that the "Serpent's seed" existed in the
Non-Elect, which were not created in Adam, the original stock, but were brought into the world as the product of sin, by way of a curse on the woman, who, by reason of sin, was made susceptible of the seed of the Serpent, through the means of her husband, who had partook with her in the transgression.... (27)
He concluded that "It is evident that there are the two seeds, one of the Serpent, the other of the woman; and they appear plain in Cain and Abel, and in their offerings." (28) Election and predestination were irrevocably at conception "in our mother's womb." God alone granted salvation from "before the foundation of the world." Missionary efforts were not only unnecessary, they were a futile attempt by sinful human beings to claim Divine prerogative. Missionary ventures were evidence of hubris, not human compassion.
Parker's response to the founding of missionary societies is a bit unclear. Sometimes, he seemed opposed to all missionary endeavors, convinced that the irresistible grace of God would ultimately seek out all the elect. At other times his arguments seem directed at missionary societies, for which he could find no New Testament evidence. His ideas shaped Primitive and other Calvinist Baptists in the Appalachian region.
Parker's critics charged that he had misread the New Testament. John Mason Peck called him "one of those singular and extraordinary beings whom divine Providence permits to arise as a scourge to His church, and a stumbling-block in the way of religious effort." (29)
Parker was joined in his opposition to certain missions endeavors by the frontier preacher John Taylor who outlined his views in Thoughts on Missions, published in 1819. In the East, the opposition to missions came from persons who called themselves "Old School," or "Primitive Baptists." These groups maintained that missionary and revival activities were departures from traditional Baptist doctrine and practice.
These debates simply reflect the theological boundaries that separated traditional Calvinists from evangelical Calvinists and led to the development of new Baptist subgroups that promoted those distinctive views. Some view the controversies as an accommodation made by Baptists to the cultural experience of the American frontier and the impact of democratic idealism. (30) Others insist that the antimission movement was merely an amalgamation of "religious individualism, primitivism, and pessimism." (31) Norman Maring wrote that while "Old School Baptists were correct in regarding the new [missionary] movements as modifications of Baptist theology," they were not necessarily the paragons of "true" Baptist dogma. Rather,
As is often true of movements which are in reaction against something, there was a stress upon certain elements of Baptist thought and life which lacked balance. Therefore, the Old School group might be regarded more as a caricature of eighteenth-century American Baptists than as a replica. (32)
The "Black Rock Address" was an important statement of opposition to missionary activity. The document condemned missionary societies, tract societies, Bible societies, Sunday Schools, "Colleges and Theological Schools," and "four-day or protracted (revival) meetings." (33)
As the "Primitives" saw it, there was no scriptural basis for such activities. They represented certain "arrogant pretensions," that "regeneration is produced by impressions made upon the natural mind by means of religious sentiments instilled into it...." (34) The Black Rock statement concluded with the affirmation that "regeneration, we believe, is exclusively the work of the Holy Ghost, performed by his divine power, at his own sovereign pleasure, according to the provisions of the everlasting covenant...." (35)
These differences created longstanding divisions between missionary and nonmissionary Baptists in Appalachia. The Black Rock statement reflected the schismatic nature of these disagreements by referring to its signers as "Old School" (Primitive) Baptists, over against "New School" (denominationalist) societies. (36) The former term meant that they were stubbornly set in their ways.
The Baptist presence in the central Appalachian region is evident in numerous subdenominations that often refer to themselves as "old-timey" Baptists. These include Regular, Separate, Union, Primitive, and Old Regular Baptists. Howard Dorgan identified certain common characteristics shared by these Baptist communions. They include: (1) chanted songs sung a capella, often accompanied by shouting and hugging; (2) foot washing and "living water" (outdoor) baptisms; (3) "governance rules that preserve Pauline gender mandates" and articles of decorum used by colonial Baptists; (4) sanctions against divorce and "double marriage" (remarriage following divorce while former spouse lives); and similarity of preaching styles and other liturgical practices. (37)
Separate Baptists are Calvinists who date their origins from the First Great Awakening and the work of Shubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall. They include the South Kentucky Association of Separate Baptists and other participants in the General Association of Separate Baptists in Christ. Unlike many other Appalachian Baptist groups, Separate Baptists permit women to lead in worship and preach but do not ordain women to the ministry. (38)
Regular Baptists trace their roots to the 1760s and the founding of the Ketocton Association from the Philadelphia Association. Many Regulars moved into the Shenandoah Valley, spreading to Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kentucky. By the end of the twentieth century, Regular Baptist churches were evident in Allegheny, Ashe, Avery, Wilkes, and Yadkin counties in North Carolina, and in the Virginia counties of Grayson and Smyth. The Little River Association of Regular Baptists included three congregations in North Carolina, one in Virginia, and one in Maryland. The Mountain Union Association of Regular Baptists included two North Carolina churches, two Maryland churches, and one communion in Pennsylvania. The Original Mountain Union Association of Regular Baptists claimed nine congregations in North Carolina and one in Virginia. (39)
Several Union Baptist congregations developed in the 1860s as a result of schisms among the Regular Baptist churches. The name "Union" signified their support for the northern cause in the Civil War. Nonetheless, Dorgan's studies led him to include them along with the Regulars, not as a separate subdenomination. (40)
Old Regular Baptists
Dorgan called the Old Regular Baptists the "most traditional of the Central Appalachian Old-Time Baptist groups." He and Deborah McCauley documented the beliefs and activities of the group in lined-out hymns, outdoor immersions, extemporaneous sermons, male-dominated leadership, Calvinistic theology, and specific dress codes. For these Old-Time Baptists, conversion and baptism often come late in life. The normal baptismal age is near thirty and persons are urged to "wait" on the drawings of the Spirit on the elect. (41)
Old Regulars claim some seventeen associations, with approximately 15,000 members and 15,000 or so "attending nonmembers." (42) A poem by Sister Beulah Jones Patrick, written around 1987, set forth the basic beliefs and practices of the Old Regular Baptists as described by an insider. It stated:
We may Ask you to go to church; We will not beg you in. We believe you will follow When Jesus forgives you for your sins. We have no guitars in our church, No piano or tambourine. All we have are saints of God, And our music is when they sing. Our songs may be a little slow, And some of us may cry. We may stop and hug your neck and Shake your hand as we pass by. We may not be very educated. Some of us may not read. But our preachers can paint a picture That a child can plainly see. You won't see much make-up on Our sister's face, For she has a "new look now" She's cleaned ... by His saving grace. If you wonder who I am, Why this way I do feel, I'm an Old Regular Baptist, Who's been raised in these old hills. (43)
Like other subdenominations, the Old Regular Baptists continue to perform baptisms out of doors and take the Lord's Supper in conjunction with the washing of feet. Their church buildings are simply worship centers, often located in rural, mountainous areas.
Primitive Baptists are perhaps the best known of the Appalachian Baptist groups, with numerous congregations inside and outside the region. Although they share Calvinistic theology with Old Regulars and others, Primitive Baptists generally affirm the Fulton Confession of Faith approved in 1900. It draws on the First and Second London Confessions with additional statements on biblical inerrancy, baptismal immersion, close communion, and the rejection of divorce and remarriage. (44) Primitive Baptists eschew Sunday Schools, missionary activities, revival services, and direct evangelism, insisting that God alone will draw the elect to salvation.
They also may be divided into at least four subgroups. These include:
* Single Predestinarians accept election of the redeemed, but reject God's "predestination of all things," including the damnation of the lost.
* Double-Predestinarians believe that God predestines all things, choosing some persons for salvation and others for damnation before the foundation of the world.
* Some Primitive Baptists have modified earlier practices to include Sunday Schools, paid clergy, evangelical witness to all the unredeemed, and the use of instrumental music in the church.
* Primitive Baptist Universalists (not recognized by other Primitives) believe that all persons will ultimately be redeemed, after being purged of sin in this life. (45)
Primitive Baptist Universalists, sometimes incorrectly labeled "No-hellers," are a little-known subgroup with four associations in Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. These Primitives insist that "Christ tasted death for all men," and that in the resurrection all will share eternity in heaven. As Adam's death brought sinfulness and retribution to all humanity, so Christ's death brought salvation for all. (46)
Primitive Baptists have spread to the midwest and southwest. They are the largest group of the Appalachian Baptist subdenominations.
Southern Baptists and their later antecedents such as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship represent the evolution of denominational consciousness and organization in the South in general and in Appalachia in particular. They share congregational polity, regenerate church membership, and immersion with the mountain churches; but SBC churches are more connectional, more widespread, and show greater theological diversity. They have often thrived in towns and cities whereas mountain churches are more rural--even remote. While some near-indigenous churches chose to connect with the Southern Baptist Convention, others were rounded as "home mission starts," by ministers and missionaries sent into the Appalachian region specifically to inculcate a Southern Baptist style of conversion, organization, and church life.
Independent Baptists were evident in the region by the 1950s as part of an antidenominational, antimission board, and fundamentalist orientation. Independent Baptists frequently refer to themselves as "premillennial, Bible-believing, conversionistic, and mission-sending." They generally have some connection with "fellowships" such as the Southwide Baptist Fellowship," or the "Baptist Bible Fellowship." The observer must be careful in distinguishing the differences. Throughout Appalachia, many Southern Baptist churches are described as "missionary" over against the antimissionary churches of the Primitive and Old Regular Baptists. However, in other areas, Independent Baptist churches are called missionary Baptist churches over against the Southern Baptist Convention. These missionary Baptists eschew denominational mission boards in favor of local church appointment and funding for missionary candidates.
African American Baptists
In their study, Blacks in Appalachia, William Turner and Edward Cabbell trace the "invisible" nature of the African-American presence in Appalachia. They write that "as a result of myths based on black invisibility in the mountains, scholars and analysts ... have failed to focus on the existence and plight of black Appalachians." (47) There are enclaves of African-American Baptists throughout the region with affiliations related to the Primitive Baptists, Independent Baptists, National Baptists, and Southern Baptists.
In conclusion, the diversity of Baptist groups and theologies provides a fascinating case study in the pluralistic, indeed contradictory, nature of Baptist life and practice. "Sectarian Baptists," as Clifford Grammich calls them, offer important counterpoints to the Baptist majoritarians in the region and elsewhere. (48) Rather than dismiss them as quirky "Baptist Amish," who live in a particular time warp of another century, it is important to reexamine the witness they bring to Baptist identity.
First, the liturgical practices of these faith communities illustrate the power of oral tradition, of sacramental observances, and the visual nature of Christian experience. The now-classic documentary, In the Good Old-Fashioned Way, produced by Appalshop film producers, surveys the "enacted word" of Old Regular Baptist worship in outdoor baptisms, foot washings and communion, preaching styles and memorial services in a cemetery "up a holler." These practices also give evidence of a communal hermeneutic passed on orally to succeeding generations of preachers and laity that provides guidance for the use of Scripture and the practice of the faith.
Second, the Calvinistic Baptists of central Appalachia, while not uniform in their theological orientation, should be studied, not simply as doctrinal reactionaries, but also as evidence of the way in which Baptists change, adapt, and revise their theology. Their opposition to missionary movements, revivals, Sunday Schools, and educational institutions was based, I believe, on their belief that those kind of external changes would ultimately change Baptist theology, particularly from Calvinism to Arminianism. And they were right. The methods for extending Christian ministries, statistics, and witness invariably changed the message, moving it toward theological positions in direct opposition to limited atonement, election, Landmarkism, and Calvinist particularism. Many Baptists who affirmed the changes in method were unable or unwilling to admit that the changes had occurred. They preferred to use the language of Calvinism all the while moving away from its central tenets.
Finally, this diversity illustrates again that Baptists are one of the few Protestant communions in which members can subscribe to dogmas at either end of a very wide theological spectrum. One can legitimately claim Baptist identity as a hyper-Calvinist or hyper-Arminian, or with a theological position somewhere in between. Thus, inside the Baptist community diverse, even contradictory, belief systems may be maintained with historical legitimacy. Parson Woodmason was right, Baptists "don't all sing in one tune." They never have. They still don't. That's just how it is, if you are a Baptist.
(1.) Richard J. Hooker, ed., The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution: The Journal and Other Writings of Charles Woodmason, Anglican Itinerant (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1953), 109, cited in John G. Crowley, Primitive Baptists of the Wiregrass South (Gainesville: University Press of Florida. 1998), 8.
(2.) Deborah Vansau McCauley, Appalachian Mountain Religion (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995), 22.
(3.) The debate is one of the most characteristic aspects of Appalachian studies. Readers might consult such classic works as John C. Campbell, The Southern Highlander and His Homeland (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1969, reprint of 1921 ed.): Horace Kephart, Our Southern Highlanders (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1990, reprint of 1913 ed.): Jack E. Weller, Yesterday's People: Life in Contemporary Appalachia (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1966): Harry M. Caudill, Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1963); and David E. Whisnant. All That Is Native and Fine: The Politics of Culture in an American Region (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983). Historiographical surveys may be found in such works as Henry D. Shapiro, Appalachia on Our Mind: The Southern Mountains and Mountaineers in the American Consciousness. 1870-1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1978): W. K. McNeil, ed., Appalachian images in Folk and Popular Culture (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1989): and Mary Beth Pudup, Dwight B. Billings, and Altina L. Waller, eds., Appalachia in the Making: The Mountain South in the Nineteenth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995). These are but a few of the many works that surest the many ways to approach Appalachian studies. Segments of this paper are taken from chapters I contributed to Bill J. Leonard, ed., Christianity in Appalachia: Profiles in Regional Pluralism (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1995). Other segments of the article are taken from Bill J. Leonard, Baptist Ways: A History of a Diverse People, a forthcoming book to be published by Judson Press in 2003.
(4.) Catherine Albanese, America: Religion and Religions (Belmont, Cal.: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1981), 229. Albanese uses Appalachia as an example of regional religion.
(5.) McCauley's statement was made in correspondence with me in September 1990.
(6.) McCauley, Appalachian Mountain Religion: A History. 1.
(7.) In addition to works by McCauley and Dorgan, see Loyal Jones. "Old-Time Baptists and Mainline Christianity," An Appalachian Symposium. ed. J. W. Williamson (Boone, N.C.: Appalachian State University Press. 1977), 120-30.
(8.) McCauley, Appalachian Mountain Religion, 7; see also Samuel Hill's essay in this volume.
(9.) Ibid., 223.
(10.) Elder John Sparks. The Roots of Appalachian Christianity: The Life and Legacy of Elder Shubal Stearns (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001).
(11.) William Warren Sweet. Religion in the Development of American Culture (New York: Charles Scribners' Sons, 1952), 111.
(12.) Bill J. Leonard, ed. Early American Christianity (Broadman Press, 1983), 123.
(13.) John Taylor. A History of Ten Churches (Frankfort, Ky.: J. H. Holeman, 1823), 37.
(14.) Ibid., 141.
(15.) Ibid., 69.
(16.) James Owen Renault, "The Changing Patterns of Separate Baptist Religious Life, 1803-1977," Baptist History and Heritage. (October 1979), 16.
(17.) Ibid., 16-17.
(18.) Ibid., 20.
(19.) David Kimborough. Taking Up Serpents: Snake-Handlers of Eastern Kentucky (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995). This book gives extensive attention to Appalachian stem-family relationships.
(20.) Sweet. Religion in the Development of American Culture. 158.
(21.) Many Calvinists were evangelical in their efforts to convert persons, believing that God had chosen to awaken the elect by means of the preaching of the gospel. They preached as if all could be saved, knowing that it would be efficacious for the elect while having no ultimate influence on the reprobate. The "hyper-Calvinist" groups--Primitives and Old Regulars, for example--rejected evangelistic methods, believing that God would save the elect on God's own terms. All human efforts at converting the lost represented a futile "works-righteousness." Arminians, however, accepted the teaching of the Dutch reformer, Jacob Arminius. which put greater emphasis on the participation of human flee will in the salvific process. McCauley, Appalachian Mountain Religion. 170-78, discusses distinctions in conversion experience among certain mountain communions.
(22.) Howard Dorgan. Giving Glory to God in Appalachia (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1987), 27.
(23.) Paul Gillespie, ed., Foxfire 7. 65.
(24.) Jeff Todd Titon, Powerhouse for God (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1988), 318.
(25.) Leon McBeth, A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1990), 238, citing "The Black Rock Address."
(27.) Daniel Parker. Views on the Two Seeds Taken from Genesis (Vandalia, Ill.: Robert Blackwell, 1926), 7.
(28.) Ibid., 8.
(29.) Frank M Masters. A History of Baptists in Kentucky (Louisville: Kentucky Baptist Historical Society, 1953), 196-97.
(30.) William Warren Sweet. Religion on the American Frontier: The Baptists (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), 72-76.
(31.) Norman Maring. Baptists in New Jersey, 131, citing Byron C. Lambert. "The Rise of Anti-Mission Baptists: Sources and Leaders. 1800-1840" (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago. 1957), iv-viii, 405-412.
(32.) Norman Maring. Baptists in New Jersey, 131.
(33.) B. L. Beebe, ed., The Feast of Fat Things (Middletown. N.Y.: G. Beebe's Son. N.d.), -3-2. See also W. J. Berry, comp., The Kehukee Declaration and Black Rock Address (Elon, N.C.: Primitive Publications. n.d.), 24-41.
(34.) Ibid. 9.
(35.) Ibid. 21-22.
(36.) Terms for the so-called hyper-Calvinist, or Old School. Baptists evolve over time and are often difficult to track precisely. Many appear in The Throgmorton-Potter Debate (St. Louis: Nixon-Jones Printing Co., 1888).
(37.) Howard Dorgan. "Old Time Baptists of Central Appalachia." in Bill J. Leonard. ed.. Appalachian Christianity: Profiles in Regional Pluralism (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. 1999), 117-18.
(38.) Ibid., 120.
(39.) Ibid., 120-21.
(40.) Ibid., 121. This is a departure from the position he took in an earlier, larger work entitled Giving Glory to God in Appalachia: Worship Practices of Six Baptist Subdeonominations (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1987), 32-36.
(41.) Ibid., 124. See also Howard Dorgan. The Old Regular Baptists of Central Appalachia (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. 1989: and Deborah Vansau McCauley. Appalachian Mountain Religion (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995).
(42.) Ibid., 125.
(43.) Dorgan. The Old Regular Baptists of Central Appalachia, 27-28.
(44.) Ibid., 129.
(45.) Ibid., 129-32.
(46.) For an extensive study of these fascinating Baptists, see Howard Dorgan, In the Hands of a Happy God: Primitive Baptist Universalists of Central Appalachia (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1997).
(47.) Edward J. Cabbell, "Black Invisibility and Racism in Appalachia: An Informal Survey," in William H. Turner and Edward J, Cabbell. eds., Blacks in Appalachia (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1985), xvii.
(48.) Clifford A. Grammich Jr., Local Baptists. Local Politics (Knoxville: University Press of Kentucky, 1999), 57-112.
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|Author:||Leonard, Bill J.|
|Publication:||Baptist History and Heritage|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2002|
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