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Monday, April 02, 2007

Unaffiliated Landmark Baptist churches survey

I completed a survey of unaffiliated Landmark Baptist churches in 2001. After weeding out duplicates and/or churches for which I discovered some denominational affiliation, my total was 1305 churches. I compiled no membership statistics for these churches, but, based on the average size of churches from known landmark Baptist statistics (ABA, BMAA, etc.) the membership of these churches should be approximately 200,000 (155 is the number I used for the average). I also identified 35 associations that hold landmark ecclesiology - 3 general associations, 1 state association, and 31 unaffiliated local associations (the 3 general and 1 state also have local associations affiliated with them). In those 35 associations I identified 3657 churches with 569,338 members. Most of those statistics were from the year 2000, but, for 8 or 10 of the local associations, the latest stats I could find were early 1990's. If these numbers are combined with the independent churches, there are almost 5000 churches that hold Landmark ecclesiology, representing about 770,000 members. I am of the opinion that there are probably twice as many unaffiliated independent landmark Baptists as I have been able to identify.

Add to these facts, that groups of Baptists often identified as primitivistic (Central Baptists, Duck River/Kindred Baptists, Old Regular Baptists, Primitive Baptists, Regular Baptists, and United Baptists) usually hold an ecclesiology in practice like Landmarkism (they do not accept baptisms from other orders, do not use ministers from other orders, and practice closed communion, hold successionism etc.), churches in the United States holding this form of ecclesiology probably number 8000 to 10,000 with over 1,000,000 members. These primitivistic churches are not normally identified as Landmark Baptists because the term is usually limited to missionary Baptists. This also does not consider that a number of churches in the Baptist Bible Fellowship, Southwide Baptist Fellowship, World Baptist Fellowship, and even the Southern Baptist Convention would identify with this doctrine and practice. This shows that, while perhaps a small grouping compared to the total number of Baptists in the United States, Landmark-type Baptist ecclesiology does have an important place in American Baptist life.

In my attempt to make sense of the 1305 unaffiliated independent landmark Baptist churches on my list, I developed seven categories to note some of the differences between the churches - Covenant Landmark, Direct Mission, Independent Fundamental, Old Time Missionary Baptist, Sovereign Grace, Unregistered Baptists, and Unknown. These categories are somewhat arbitrary (I place the churches in the categories rather the churches placing themselves) and fluid (many of the churches could legitimately be placed in two or more categories). The decision to place a church in a category was based on what I thought seemed to be her primary emphasis that made her stand out and/or seemed to guide her in her choice of fellowship with other churches. I am listing below a link to represent these categories and the total number of churches placed in each category. Remember that each link is representative of a single church and may not represent other churches in the same category. It is possible that some of the churches in a category would fellowship with churches that I have placed in another category. Another possiblity is that some churches placed in a category might not fellowship with other churches in the same category.

Covenant Landmark - 28 churches. These churches might be described as believing that only Christians in landmark Baptist churches are part of the New Covenant. They might not choose to describe themselves this way. Be sure to check out the website.

Direct Mission - 61 churches. Many of these churches have an historical connection to the gospel mission movement of missionary to China T. P. Crawford. I placed these in a separate category because I felt that their landmark principles of mission work was the chief reason they choose not to participate in associations or fellowships.

Independent Fundamental - 386 churches. These churches are very much heirs of the traits developed from the fundamentalist/modernist controversies of the early 1900's. They are the same as others commonly thought of independent fundamental Baptists, but with a stronger local church emphasis on baptism, Lord's supper, and pulpit affiliation, etc.

Old Time Missionary Baptist - 176 churches. These churches place a strong emphasis on a definite salvation experience, and usually have a mourner's bench in or near the front of the church. They tend to usually not have as strong objections to associations and fellowships as some unaffiliated Baptists, and are often found closely fellowshipping with other Old Time Missionary Baptists that are in associations.

Sovereign Grace - 419 churches. These churches place a strong emphasis on the doctrines of grace, usually known as TULIP or five-point Calvinism. I think most of these churches would not fellowship with other churches that do not hold the doctrines of grace.

Unregistered Baptist - 35 churches. These churches could probably all be placed in the independent fundamentalist category. But I found a strain of Landmarkers that are asserting that churches should not incorporate or otherwise cooperate with certain requirements of the government (e.g. Indianapolis Baptist Temple). Some of these believe that the registration and cooperation with governmental tax laws, etc. causes a church to lose its candlestick (no longer be recognized as a true church).

Unknown - 200 churches. These are churches which I believe meet the basic requirements to be called "Landmark", and yet I found no outstanding features (or did not have enough information) to classify them. In this group are probably some who themselves observe Landmark practices such as closed baptism, closed communion and non-pulpit affiliation, and yet do not strictly draw the line of fellowship on these issues.

These unaffiliated independent Landmark Baptist churches are scattered throughout the United States, with especially strong areas being in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas. The Sovereign Grace Landmarkers are very strong in Kentucky, but also surprisingly strong in states like West Virginia and Ohio. The Covenant Landmarkers have their strongest base on the west coast. They draw their lines of fellowship on the covenant issue, but not on whether a church is independent. So they are often found fellowshipping with Covenant Landmarkers in the ABA, etc. The Independent Fundamental Landmarkers have great strength in Texas, probably partly because of the influence of J. Frank Norris and Louis Entzminger. Old Time Missionary Baptists have their greatest strength in Tennessee and Kentucky, with a good showing in Missouri as well.

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