Old Regular Baptist

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Most Regular Baptists merged with the Separate Baptists near the beginning of 19th century. The party names were dropped in favor of United Baptists. The use of the name "Regular" has persisted among some Baptist groups, particularly among primitivistic sects that reject modern methods, including missionary and educational auxiliaries for the churches. Most Old Regular Baptists can be traced back to the New Salem Association of United Baptists (org. in eastern Kentucky in 1825). In 1854 the name was changed to "Regular United", to "Regular Primitive" in 1870, and then in 1892 to "Old Regular." The minutes of New Salem Association in 1892 indicate that they feared the extremism of some predestinarians that tended toward teaching God is the author of sin.

Faith and Practice

The theology of the group is predestinarian, but more moderately so than the Primitive Baptists. While Primitives describe their belief as "particular election," Old Regulars prefer the terminology "election by grace." Churches form local associations by which they fellowship with one another. This fellowship is formally maintained by the associations electing "correspondents" to attend the meetings of the other associations. Preachers are God-called, untrained and unpaid, and preach "improvisational" (often chanted) sermons. Baptism (in running water), the Lord's supper and feet washing are held to be ordinances. Shouting is a frequent occurrence at Old Regular meeting, particularly among the female membership. Conversion experiences may be a lengthy "process," beginning with an awakening to sin, through a period of conviction and travail of the soul, to repentance and belief.

Current Status

The strength of Old Regular Baptists is in the Appalachias, particularly along the Kentucky and Virginia border. Currently there are sixteen local associations: Mud River, New Salem, Northern New Salem, Old Friendship, Old Indian Bottom, Philadelphia, Sardis, Union, Bethel, Friendship, Indian Bottom, Little Dove, Mountain #1, Mountain #2, Original Mountain Liberty, and Thornton Union. The first eight on the list maintain "correspondence" with one another, while the remaining eight exhibit various correspondence patterns, including one that has corresponded with Primitive Baptists and United Baptists. These sixteen associations contain about 325 churches with some 15,000 members. The folk singer Jean Ritchie was a member of the Old Regular Baptists in Kentucky.

Lined-Out Hymnody

One noted feature that has gained much attention to the Old Regular Baptists is their lined-out, non-instrumental, congregational hymnody. Songs of the Old Regular Baptists (http://www.folkways.si.edu/40106.htm) by Smithsonian and Jeff Todd Titon's Old Regular Baptists of Southeastern Kentucky: A Community of Sacred Song (http://www.folklife.si.edu/97fest/baptists.htm) are notable in the folk music industry. Though Old Regular Baptists are not the only group to retain lined-out hymnody, theirs may be the purest, since it is the only form of singing used in their churches. According to Titon, "The leader sings the very first line, and the congregation joins in when they recognize the song. After that, the song proceeds line by line: the leader briefly chants a line alone, and then the group repeats the words but to a tune that is much longer and more elaborate than the leader's chant or lining tune." E. D. Thomas' Hymns and Spirtual Songs (1877) and Edward W. Billups' The Sweet Songster (1854) are two "words-only" hymn books preferred by these churches.


  • Appalachian Mountain Religion: a History, by Deborah McCauley
  • Dictionary of Baptists in America, Bill J. Leonard, editor
  • Giving Glory to God in Appalachia, by Howard Dorgan
  • The Old Regular Baptists of Central Appalachia, by Howard Dorgan

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