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This Far by Faith

Journeys

Timeline

People

About the Series
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1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues
1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA
1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR
Next Journey
Abolition and the Splintering of the Church 1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW



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Timeline: 1776-1865 View Detailed Timeline
1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues
1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues



1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR
Abolition and the Splintering of the Church





One of the legacies of the Second Great Awakening was the Abolitionist Movement, the coalition of whites and blacks opposed to slavery. To support their cause, they frequently quoted Jesus' statements about treating others with respect and love. White Christians in the south, however, did not view slavery as a sin. Rather, their leaders were able to quote many Biblical passages in support of slavery. The Civil War and the divide over the question of slavery thus began in the nation's churches, a decade before fighting began on the battlefields.


Handwritten petition sent by black Methodists in Philadelphia to the 1832 General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church "to give the Bishop power to appoint Ministers of Colour to Coloured congregations."

Handwritten petition sent by black Methodists in Philadelphia to the 1832 General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church "to give the Bishop power to appoint Ministers of Colour to Coloured congregations."


During the 1840s and 50s, several of America's largest denominations faced internal struggles over the issue of slavery. Even earlier, in 1838, the Presbyterians split over the question. The Baptists maintained a strained peace by carefully avoiding discussion of the topic. But in 1840, an American Baptist Anti-Slavery Convention brought the issue into the open. Southern delegates argued that, while slavery was a calamity and a great evil, it was no sin. The Baptist Board later denied a request by the Alabama Convention that slave owners be eligible to become missionaries. Finally, a Baptist Free Mission Society was formed and "refused 'tainted' Southern money."

The southern members withdrew and formed the Southern Baptist Convention, which eventually grew to become the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. The Baptist denomination officially split in 1845, with the North Carolina State Convention "cordially approving" of the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention.

By this time, the United States had developed an obvious North/South divide over slavery, one that was based less on moral arguments than on economic realities. The cotton-based economy of the southern states depended largely on the low-cost labor provided by the slave population. In the industrialized North, however, slavery had become only marginally economic. This split was also reflected in the views of the various Christian denominations with respect to abolition. Many Christians in the southern states saw abolition as a massive threat to their culture and economy.


Cotton pickers

Cotton pickers


The split in the Methodist Episcopal Church came in 1844. The immediate cause was a resolution of the General Conference censuring Bishop J. O. Andrew of Georgia, who by marriage came into the possession of slaves. As soon as word of the dissension reached North Carolina, the members of the church in the Raleigh Station met and advised the North Carolina delegates to withdraw from the Conference.

"We believe," states the resolution, "an immediate division of the Methodist Episcopal Church is indispensable to the peace, prosperity, and honor of the Southern portion thereof, if not essential to her continued existence…we regard the officious, and unwarranted interference of the Northern portion of the Church with the subject of slavery alone, a sufficient cause for a division of our Church."

The General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church split into two conferences because of these tensions over slavery and the power of the denomination's bishops. Some anti-slavery clergy and laity of the Methodist Episcopal Church left to form the Wesleyan Methodist Church in America. It continues today as the Wesleyan Church. The southern churches organized the Methodist Episcopal Church (South), at a meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. A group of anti-slavery members in Piedmont, North Carolina withdrew from the Methodist Episcopal Church and joined the Wesleyan Methodist Church

Slavery and race proved to be a divisive factor, leading to the formation of numerous Protestant denominations in the United States. The aftershocks of this splintering of American churches would be felt well into the twentieth century.




People of Faith


 Daniel Payne
Daniel Payne

 Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth

 Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass


Did You Know?



Southern Christians used their Bibles to justify slavery.
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