Mountain Baptists, Mountain Theology

By Super, Joe | Baptist History and Heritage, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

Mountain Baptists, Mountain Theology


Super, Joe, Baptist History and Heritage


Writing about Baptists in Appalachia, religious historian Deborah Vansau McCauley argues that "[r]egional scholars estimate that, taken as a whole, these 'Old Time' Baptist churches and their members clearly outnumber the mountain churches and the church members associated with the Southern Baptist Convention ... It is these church traditions that most characterize the Baptist movement in Appalachia." (1)

This concept of Appalachian religion has dominated the field since the idea of "Appalachia" itself first began to develop after the Civil War. By the mid-1880s, the image of a backward region confined completely within an otherwise advanced and modern country became accepted fact among mainline Protestant denominations. (2) Not only were the people culturally different, but they also were religiously different.

But this leading paradigm, at least as it is applied to Baptists, overlooks two important realities. First, while McCauley's statement might apply today, it certainly does not hold for much of American history, including the critical time between 1880 and 1920, when denominational missions into the region reached their peak. Census data across the region indicate Baptists affiliated with national groups far outnumbered those belonging to independent or sub-regional groups. In 1906, the first year religious data was compiled by the Census, there were a total of 767,258 Baptists (both Northern and Southern) in five states with significant numbers of counties within Central Appalachia--West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and North Carolina. By contrast, there were just 66,669 adherents of other Baptist denominations. In fact, for a few of the small Baptist groups there actually are no available numbers from 1906. These statistics reflect in part the numbers from 1916 and 1926. (3) Of course, this data includes numbers from counties outside Appalachia. However, they are broadly suggestive of the predominance of mainline Christianity in the region.

In West Virginia nearly all the Baptists belonged to churches affiliated with the Northern Baptist Convention. There were 50,149 such congregants, with a mere 1,672 belonging to Southern Baptist Convention churches. By contrast, in 1906 Primitive Baptists in the state numbered 2,019. (4) While these numbers seem to prove McCauley's point in some respects, they also reveal the second reality she overlooks. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, West Virginia, the only state completely within the confines of the Appalachian region, had an overwhelming number of Northern Baptists and a tiny number of both Southern Baptists and what Howard Dorgan calls sub-denominational Baptists. (5)

So, who were these West Virginia Baptists? What did they believe? How did they relate to the national Baptist group to which they belonged? Examining these Baptists and their mission work during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era provides a different angle on the nature and development of the Appalachian religion. Much of the literature on Baptists in Appalachia concentrates on small sub-regional and sub-denominational Baptist groups, emphasizing local autonomy and commitment to traditional Baptist theology and practice during a time of greater denominational control, theological inclusivity, and social change. While West Virginia Baptists cooperated with the Northern Baptist Convention, they maintained a strong sense of identity, part of which meant a continued commitment to Baptist theology and practice as they understood it, even as the national body, or elements of it, began to rethink certain doctrinal positions. Thus, a mainline Christian presence in Appalachia did not have to be one that was new, alien, or doctrinally suspect. Rather, West Virginia Baptist activity during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era reveals the continuity of faith in a region experiencing social, political, and cultural change, upheaval, and uncertainty. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Mountain Baptists, Mountain Theology
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.