Contending for Liberty

Philip N. Mulder

in A Controversial Spirit

Published in print May 2002 | ISBN: 9780195131635
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834525 | DOI:

Series: Religion in America

Contending for Liberty

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The American Revolution heightened the differences between Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists as the dissenters addressed the political crisis through petitions and met the resultant disestablishment of the Church of England on their own terms. Presbyterians generally embraced the Revolutionary cause, but they maneuvered primarily to achieve their long‐sought goal of gaining parity with the Anglican, now Protestant Episcopal Church, allowing for multiple establishments when the plans included Presbyterians. Baptists faced the matters resolved to maintain their absolute principles, and they were pleasantly surprised when Virginia, prompted by Thomas Jefferson's Statute for Religious Freedom, seemed to embrace some Baptist truth by striking down establishment. Francis Asbury dreamed that Methodists could stay neutral, truly separating religion from unholy matters, but he suffered when John Wesley rebuked the patriots and when most Methodist leaders fled the troubled colonies. Methodism would recover, but only by transforming into an American denomination and joining the other evangelicals already in contention for their own particular notions of religious liberty.

Keywords: American Revolution; Church of England; denominations; disestablishment; dissenters; petitions; Protestant Episcopal Church; religious establishment; religious liberty; Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom

Chapter.  9930 words. 

Subjects: Christianity

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