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The term "Missionary Baptist" originated in the early 1800s during the rise of the modern missions movement. The modern missions movement was a movement among Baptists (and other Christian denominations) to organize para-church institutions for the promotion and funding of evangelism (particularly in foreign lands and on the American western frontier), Bible and literature publication, schools, charitable and social work and other religious causes. This movement created extensive controversy among Baptists, drawing harsh criticism from those who considered these new institutions subversive of traditional Baptist polity. Those who opposed the innovations became known as anti-missions and those advocating them as missionary Baptists.
As the missionary causes were embraced by large numbers of Baptists the controversy divided many Baptist churches and associations along missionary/anti-missions lines. Many of the "missionary Baptist" churches and associations eventually adopted the epithet "missionary" into their official names and thus what started as a descriptive term (and a pejorative one from the anti-mission perspective) became a new religious denominational name - Missionary Baptist.
Claiming to represent the traditional Baptist denominational character, the anti-missions churches became known as Primitive Baptists (and were disparagingly called hardshells, straight jackets and iron jackets by the missionary advocates). However, the name "Missionary Baptist" never became universally used among the advocates of the missionary institutions.
For causes apparently unrelated to its original use, the term Missionary Baptist became more closely identified with certain groups of Baptists. Not a few Southern Baptist churches use the term but in some areas of the country it is used to distinguish smaller Baptist groups from the Southern Baptists. The groups most commonly identified as Missionary Baptists today are:
1. The African American Baptist conventions.
3. Baptists identified with Landmarkism including (1) the American Baptist Association, with greatest presence in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Mississippi; (2) the Baptist Missionary Association of America, and (3) the Interstate & Foreign Landmark Missionary Baptist Association.