Dissertation Title

Regular Baptists in Colonial Anglican Virginia: Civil Obedience during Religious Toleration

Publication Date


Degree Granted


Institution Granting Degree

University of Birmingham


Christianity, Christian Denominations, United States local history, Social history and conditions, Social problems, Social reform


Christian Denominations and Sects | Christianity | Social History | United States History


This thesis is also included in EThOS, the British Library operated UK e-theses service: https://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.852457


This thesis explores an under-examined corner of Virginia Baptist history while gauging Anglican responses to Regular Baptist settlement in the British North American colony of Virginia. Regular Baptists practiced civil obedience to the religious toleration regulations in colonial Virginia. Their leadership in their faith circle and in their larger communities offered evidence that religious pluralism was not a barrier to peaceful community life. The presence of dissenters did not turn out to be a social problem that needed close scrutiny via government-sanctioned toleration measures. Regular Baptists’ strategy of civil obedience was a less dramatic but an important factor in the decision of Anglican leadership to allow space for dissenters. Much of the ecclesiastical and historical scholarship on religion in Virginia during the eighteenth century has focused on the conflict between Virginia Anglicans and Separate Baptists, and the impact of that conflict on religious freedom. Much of the major scholarship on this was completed in the mid-twentieth century. Regular Baptists were lightly treated by these scholars, and more recent scholarship has generally followed this pattern. The thesis further observes that the transition from religious toleration to religious liberty was costly for both established church and dissenting churches. For the established church, it meant losing its place as a junior partner in the governance of the colony turned commonwealth. For dissenters, years of struggling to live peaceably with an anxious, insecure Establishment finally yielded the freedom for which they yearned, but with society’s assumption that they would otherwise conform to its expectations.