Friday, October 12, 2018

The Old Baptist Union in the UK

Over the last 40 years or so, I’ve made a hobby of ferreting out small Baptist sub-denominations. Most of them I’ve found are in the US, but I discovered this one – the Old Baptist Union – in the UK several years back. This history is a bit different and somewhat intriguing.

The Old Baptist Union was founded in 1880 by Henry Augustus Squire and others.[i] Despite this later date, they consider themselves “true representatives” of the General Baptist Confessions of 1611 and 1660.[ii] It seems the idea of “Old Baptist” in the name is because they believe they represent the first or oldest Baptists in the UK. Most of the General Baptists in the UK (I believe) either descended into Universalism and/or Quakerism, or else eventually merged with the Baptist Union of Great Britain.

After the death of Henry Squire in 1914, his son Thomas H. Squire seems to have become the primary leader until his death.[iii] He was probably the most prolific writer within the Old Baptist Union.

Statistics are hard to come by, but perhaps the following is fairly accurate numerically – “the Old Baptist Union has 17 member churches (16 in England and 1 in the Netherlands) with about 700 members.”[iv] The Union itself is a member of both the Free Churches Council and the Evangelical Alliance. Some of its churches participate in local associations of the Baptist Union of Great Britain.[v]

The churches of the Old Baptist Union are:

  • Evangelical, holding “that the Gospel should be preached to all creation”
  • General Atonement, holding “God has made a full provision for’ the salvation of all men, but that those only will be saved who repent of their sins and accept Christ, by faith”
  • Six-Principle, holding “that those who are baptised should receive the ‘laying on of hands’”
  • Lean charismatic, holding that the Holy Spirit’s “gifts may still be claimed and exercised, subject to His will”[vi]
Old Baptist Union website (very basic, but contains their articles of faith)
Old Baptist Union

Emmanuel Baptist Church Eastleigh website
Emmanuel Baptist Church » We Believe - Eastleigh

A mission in the Netherlands, Providence, has a website with information

[i] One odd thing about the ministry of Henry Augustus Squire is that he joined the Mormon Church about 1847, and moved to Utah in 1856. He moved back to England circa 1866 and returned to his Baptist faith. His children who stayed in the U.S. use the spelling Squires and seem to have remained in the Mormon Church. His children who lived in England (and he & his wife) use the spelling Squire and seem to be Baptists. A bit of history from a Mormon descendant of Squire is HERE and HERE.
[ii] These would be the Thomas Helwys confession in 1611, and what is often called “The Standard Confession” from 1660.
[iii] Thomas Squire’s view of original sin approached Pelagianism (see HERE), but that doesn’t seem to be reflected – or at least clearly stated – in their current articles of faith.
[iv] From the Providence Old Baptist Mission website.
[vi] Emmanuel at Swanage, Dorset says on their website they are “an evangelical charismatic church.”

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