The History of the Church: Year II unit 8: The Protestant Churches in America (1800-1900)



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The History of the Church: Year II

Unit 2.8: The Protestant Churches in America (1800-1900)

  • Disestablishment of state-supported churches

  • Congregational in New England, Presbyterian in Mid-Atlantic states, Episcopalian in southern states

  • Tax dollars went to support “official” ministers

  • Ministers of “non-official” churches had to pay for a license
  • US Constitution of 1787: 1st Amendment separation of church & state

  • But this applied only to federal government: not state constitutions
  • Baptists in New England fought for disestablishment

  • Thomas Jefferson & James Madison fought for disestablishment in Virginia

  • By 1833 all states had revoked establishment (Massachusetts was last)

  • Franklin, Jefferson, Paine, Washington, Madison

  • Very influenced by Enlightenment ideals: especially Locke
  • Deist attitudes: question Bible as inspired, Jesus as God, Trinity
  • Development of Unitarian & Universalist churches
  • Sought for general religious attitude to unite the many churches: separation of church and state to insure peace
  • This “Republican Religion” would rival church religion
  • Some fought for establishing “Christianity” as official religion

  • Patrick Henry, John Adams: their goal ultimately failed
  • Churches loosed from ties with civil power: became “voluntary”

  • Had to be supported by their own members
  • Free enterprise in the “marketplace of religion”: America
  • Early 1800’s: the “soul rush” to the frontier

  • This “2nd Great Awakening” churched the west

  • Quakers, Unitarians, Congregationalists, Episcopalians failed to adapt

  • Anglicans who didn’t go back to England: formed Episcopalian Church
  • These churches stayed put in their old strongholds: began to decline
  • Catholics & Lutherans tended to focus on their own immigrants

  • Presbyterians, Baptists, & Methodists became the leaders on the frontier

  • The Methodists (Wesley first failed in Georgia in 1736)

  • His friend George Whitefield began preaching in America in 1738

  • He and Jonathan Edwards spurred 1st Great Awakening (1740’s)
  • 1784: Wesley began ordaining presbyters for America

  • Most Anglican clergy were Loyalists: fled to England after 1776
  • He appointed Thomas Coke & Francis Asbury as “superintendents”
  • They took title of “bishop”: oversaw Methodist mission in America
  • Wesley was against the colonies in their War of Independence

  • But Coke & Asbury supported the cause of independence
  • Organized Methodist Episcopal Church: American Methodists have bishops (episcopoi), English Methodists have “superintendents”
  • With its lay preachers, lively sermons, and adaptability Methodism was well suited to the frontier mission: especially successful in the West

  • The Baptists

  • Grew out of Congregationalists in New England

  • 1st Great Awakening in 1740’s sent thousands into the Baptist churches

  • “Believers baptism”: by sprinkling, later by immersion
  • After the War of Independence they made great strides in the South

  • Virginia, Carolinas, and new territories of Tennessee & Kentucky
  • “Congregational” model well suited to the frontier: adaptable



  • The 2nd Great Awakening began in 1801

  • Cane Ridge Revival (Kentucky) was organized by local Presbyterian pastor

  • Try to draw the “unchurched” on frontier into a living faith
  • Thousands gathered for this “camp meeting”: many motives
  • Week-long meeting led 1000’s to repentance and conversion
  • Started whole trend of camp meetings & revivals as way to evangelize
  • Presbyterian leaders pulled away from this phenomenon: too emotional

  • Baptist & Methodist ministers became the chief preachers at these

  • They competed with each other for souls
  • By 1830 Baptists & Methodists were largest denominations in America
  • Protestant Bible societies and the missionary movement

  • 2nd Great Awakening spurred inter-denominational efforts to spread gospel

  • American Bible Society formed in 1816
  • American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions (1810)

  • Baptists became especially active in sending missionaries: to China, Hawaii, SE Asia, India, and Africa
  • Women’s societies formed to support various causes: missions, abolition of slavery, temperance

  • Roots of women’s suffrage movement and early feminism
  • Political events in early 19th century

  • 1803: The Louisiana Purchase

  • 1763: France ceded Canada to Britain, lands west of the Mississippi to Spain

  • 1800: Spain (under Napoleon’s thumb) gave these lands back to France

  • 1803: Jefferson sent delegation to France to try to buy New Orleans

  • Napoleon was looking to get out of North America, focus on Europe

  • He offered to sell all French lands west of Mississippi for $15 million!
  • Jefferson’s delegates sealed the deal: huge opening to US expansion

  • All the way to the Rocky Mountains
  • Spain still controlled area of Texas, southwest, from Rockies to Pacific
  • War of 1812: US was pulled into war between Britain & France

  • US & Britain fought to a stalemate: Indian allies of Britain were defeated

  • New religious movements

  • Shakers (may have grown out of the Quakers)

  • Mother Ann Lee: English-born founder, came to Albany NY in 1774

  • She taught God was both male and female: Christ was the male Messiah

  • 2nd Coming of Christ now occurred in female Messiah: Ann Lee
  • Women and men were equals and Eden would be restored

  • No more marriage or sex: live like angels (Mother Ann Lee died in 1784)
  • Shaker communities: lived in common dormitories but carefully separated

  • Called “Shakers” because of trembling at prayer: developed into a dance

  • Principle of “simplicity” reflected in furniture: song “Simple Gifts”
  • At height in 1840 about 6000 members: only 1 community remains today

  • Disciples of Christ

  • 1811: founded by former Presbyterian minister Thomas Campbell

  • Concern for evangelizing the American frontier: began in west Pennsylvania

  • Aimed at uniting all Christians through return to NT Christianity
  • Rejection of all creeds: Scriptures as sole basis of faith

  • Believers baptism only: weekly celebration of Lord’s Supper



  • Millennialism: 1000 year reign of the saints (Revelation 20)

  • Post-millennialists: Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Calvinists

  • Christ would return at end of 1000 years of social perfection brought about by missionary conversion of the world
  • Pre-millennialists: Baptists, Methodists, Disciples of Christ

  • Christ would suddenly return and destroy forces of evil, then set up his 1000 year earthly reign
  • Seventh-Day Adventists

  • NY Baptist preacher William Miller predicted Christ’s return in 1843
  • Thousands of Baptists, Methodists, and Disciples prepared
  • 1843 came and went: most went back to normal lives disappointed
  • 1860’s: a committed remnant formed Seventh-Day Adventists
  • Emphasis on coming advent of Christ: 7th day (Saturday) as holy
  • Mormons: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

  • Joseph Smith (1805-44): raised on the western New York frontier

  • He was turned off by revivalism: petty competition among preachers
  • 1822: he had a vision, heavenly figure told him to form own movement

  • 1823: heavenly figure Moroni revealed that a hidden book of golden plates lay buried in nearby hills, stones Urim & Thummin translate

  • Smith says he found these and translated them: Book of Mormon

  • Native Americans were 10 lost tribes of Israel
  • Christ preached in America after his resurrection: former saints
  • Task is to prepare “Latter-Day Saints” for Christ’s return
  • 1830: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was founded

  • Under persecution they moved to Ohio, then Missouri, then Illinois
  • Mormon Nauvoo on Mississippi became 2nd largest Illinois city

  • 1843: Smith claimed new revelation sanctioning polygamy (from OT)

  • 1844: Smith was killed in jail by an angry mob of Illinoisans
  • 1847: Brigham Young led community to Salt Lake City, Utah

  • Offshoot “Reorganized Church of JC of Latter-Day Saints” centered in Independence, MO: rejected polygamy

  • 1890: Federal government forced Mormons to reject polygamy
  • Mormon priesthood was finally opened to black males in 1978: new revelation

  • Transcendentalism: God is in every person

  • Grew out of Unitarianism: general sense of the divine and nature

  • Influenced by Romantic movement: importance of “feeling”
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82): essayist, philosopher, poet

  • Son of Unitarian minister: eventually became one himself in Boston
  • Developed very unconventional views: resigned as minister
  • 1833: traveled to Europe and met Thomas Carlyle, Samuel Coleridge, & William Wordsworth
  • Returned and became famous essayist
  • Henry David Thoreau (1817-62)

  • He left same Unitarian church that Emerson was member of
  • Famous for solitary life at Walden Pond: nature became his church
  • Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

  • “Manifest Destiny” and the War with Mexico

  • Led by priests Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and Jose Maria Morelos

  • Mexico allowed people from USA to settle in area of Texas

  • They had to be or become Catholic, swear allegiance to Mexico

  • Stephen Austin and others built their power in the area: brought slaves

  • Mexico outlawed slavery in 1829: so Texans waged war to secede
  • 1836: President Antonio de Santa Anna defeated Texans at the Alamo

  • “Remember the Alamo”: rallying cry of rebels, raised support in USA
  • April 21, 1836: Sam Houston led surprise attack, captured Santa Anna

  • Texas was granted independence on condition it wouldn’t be annexed to USA




  • 1823: President James Monroe proclaimed “Monroe Doctrine”

  • USA would not tolerate European intervention in Western Hemisphere

  • Sense of larger “mission” of USA in world

  • 1844: James Polk became president, expansionist party

  • Phrase “manifest destiny” was coined: Western expansion as right & destiny

  • Congress made Texas a state of the Union
  • Generals Zachary Taylor & Ulysses Grant were sent to “provoke” Mexico

  • Polk obtained from Congress a declaration of war on Mexico

  • Grant was convinced that all was an effort to increase slaveholding states
  • 1846-48: USA defeated Mexico in Mexican-American War

  • Rest of southwest and west become part of USA: churches go to frontier
  • Discrimination against native Mexicans became common practice
  • Huge addition to the Catholic population in America

  • Yet “aloof” Eastern bishops were sent to oversee: no native bishops
  • Slavery and the Civil War

  • After War of Independence many churches opposed slavery

  • But soon they moderated their stance: attracted believers in the south

  • Abolitionist movement gained strength in the North
  • Yet economic system of south was based on slave labor: powerful support

  • Many preachers argued slavery was good: brought Africans to gospel
  • Some denominations split over the issue of slavery

  • 1845: Methodist Episcopal Church North and South
  • Northern Baptists vs. Southern Baptists
  • Confederate states seceded from Union: Civil War (1861-65)

  • Lincoln took “Republican Religion” to its heights: Gettysburg Address

  • Reconstruction era after the Civil War

  • South basically became an economic colony of the North: resentment

  • Southern whites vented their anger on blacks: Ku Klux Klan

  • Also led to anti-intellectualism and conservatism in southern churches

  • Northerners were seen as liberals: universities
  • 1892: Supreme Court approved segregation (“separate, but equal”)

  • “Jim Crow laws” excluded blacks from vote, education, public places

  • Southern churches encouraged black members to leave

  • Formation of National Baptist Convention and Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (CME)

  • Northern Presbyterians & Methodists began work among southern blacks

  • Yet even in the North there was prejudice & segregation

  • 1810: freedman Richard Allen was first black ordained by American Methodists

  • 1816: as pastor of a church in Philadelphia he was resented by whites, so he founded new African Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Black churches became the backbone of black society

  • The North continued to develop economically: factories, cities

  • Immigrants poured in from Europe, blacks came north for jobs

  • The South continued in racist and anti-intellectual direction

  • In West relentless pressure on Indians, discrimination against Hispanics

  • Sense of “manifest destiny”: white, Protestant, capitalists









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