The Primitive Baptists can be sub-divided into four main groups: (1) Absolute Predestinarian; (2) Limited Predestinarian; (3) Progressive; and (4) Universalists. This last group is the smallest and consists of 5 or 6 small associations in Appalachia that adapted the theory of universal atonement to the doctrines of Primitive Baptists. The Limited Predestinarians (also called Old Line, Conditionalists, etc.) are the largest group with around 50,000 members in about 1500 churches. The Absolute Predestinarians are similar to the Limited Predestinarians, but hold to the absolute predestination of all things. They number about 350 churches. The Progressive Primitive Baptists separated from the main body around the turn of the 20th century, and have adopted such practices as Sunday School, instrumental music, homes for the aged, and various auxiliaries to the church. They have about 8000 members in over 100 churches. In addition to these predominantly white Primitive Baptist groups, there are at least two types of Colored Primitive Baptists - Old School & National Primitive Baptist Convention of the U.S.A. The Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists and Old Regular Baptists departed from the Primitive Baptists in the latter part of the 19th century.
The division of "Primitive Baptists" and "Missionary Baptists" cannot be recognized as occurring at one particular time. The Baptists of the early 19th century were separated by distance and lack of communication. In addition to this, each congregation was independent and autonomous. Though some confusion still existed as late as the 1840s, the declaration now known as the Black Rock Address clearly defined the issues and marked the separation of the two different philosophies. Representatives convened at Black Rock, Maryland on September 28, 1832 and set forth the "Primitive" position on tract societies, Sunday Schools, Bible societies, missions, theological schools, and protracted meetings (revivals).