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Slavery Divides Baptists

In the Baptist Beacon, I found the following summary. “In 1785 the Baptist General Committee of Virginia pronounced slavery ‘contrary to the word of God.’ Two years later the Ketockton Association called it ‘a breach of divine law.’ In 1790 the General Committee of Virginia adopted a statement calling slavery ‘a violent deprivation of the rights of nature, and inconsistent with a republican government; and therefore (we) recommend it to our brethren to make use of every legal measure, to extirpate the horrid evil from the land.’ By 1840 Northern Baptists and Southern Baptists disagreed over the issue with the southerners supporting the institution of slavery. Virginia Baptists called Baptists of the south to a meeting in Georgia…. Since 1845 we were no longer just ‘Baptists’ but ‘Northern’ and ‘Southern Baptists’.”

Corporate views changed dramatically in the south during the first half of the 19th century. As Baptists in the south dealt with the issue of slavery, some no doubt wavered in their acceptance of the practice when confronted face to face with its reality. Can people be property? How would you have reacted to a socially accepted belief (some arguments for slavery can be found here) when your personal experience called it into question? The short story at “The Southern Baptists” addresses just such a personal dilemma.

Impact After the Revolution

“The Revolutionaries” is the seventh segment in The Courage of Your Faith series. What is meant by separation of church and state? What implications does that have today?

After the Revolutionary War, states faced the need to set up their own governments. Most leaders felt a Christian population was required for good government. Men like Patrick Henry wanted the new Virginia government to impose a tax that would be distributed to all teachers of the Christian religion. This bill would have passed had Baptists not opposed it, taking the stand that a separation of church and state was required.

This idea was so important to them that Baptist John Leland had a “secret” meeting with James Madison concerning the new Constitution of the United States. It was held east of the City of Orange. Baptists would not support the new Constitution unless there was an amendment guaranteeing separation of church and state. Without Baptist support, Madison would not be sent to the Constitutional Convention from Virginia. If Virginia had not voted to accept the Constitution, other states would have followed suit. And the United States would have never have been. A park commemorates this meeting. In the park is a monument to Leland and Madison. The words on the monument are here.

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