Baptist organizations North and South convene in the opening days of the month. Virginia’s General Baptist Association – the state organization of Virginia Baptists – meeting in Petersburg offers pointed statements regarding the war, expressing a willingness to give all Baptist monies to the Confederacy in order to secure southern victory:
The long-cherished hatred of the Northern States towards the institutions of the South, has at length developed itself in an aggressive and cruel war — a war which, in the inadequacy of its cause, in the earnest efforts of the assailed to avert it by peaceful adjustments, and in deliberate purpose to exterminate or subjugate brothers whose chief crime consists in asking to be let alone, has no parallel among civilized nations. Our reliance for ministers of the Gospel must henceforth be, under God, exclusively on ourselves. While we cherish, with undiminished confidence, those brethren among us who, though born and bred at the North, are yet royal and true to the South, we proclaim it on the house-top, that in future our churches will not, and should not, accept a single evangelist coming from that corrupted region. What was once a prejudice, that time and acquaintance often overcame, is now a stern and settled principle, that will admit of no discussion — no modification — no relaxation.
‘”We have convincing and painful evidence that a large majority of the so called ministers of the Prince of Peace are active instigators of the crusade against our soil, our homes, our wives, our daughters. The inference is that our educational labors, instead of being lessened, must hereafter be greatly augmented. Especially must we train our own preachers. During the progress of the war, we consent and advise that every dollar, if needed, shall be given to the holy cause of maintaining our independence. But as soon as victory shall perch on our banners, as it surely will in the end, and we shall be recognized, as we shall inevitably be, by European Powers and the United States as a distinct confederacy, a scene of prosperity, unexampled in our past career, will open upon us, and then we shall call on every lover of his country to give holy to the cause of emancipation from ignorance, as he does now to the cause of deliverance from social and political oppression.”’
Virginia Baptists also pledge to put Bibles in the hands of soldiers:
The Committee to whom was referred so much of the Report of the S. S. and Colportage Board as refers to colportage among the soldiers of the Confederate Army, beg leave to report, for the adoption of the General Association, the following resolutions:
1.Resolved, That we recommend to the Board to restrict their appointment of Colporteurs, for the present, to the army, unless in particular cases there may be some special reasons for a different course.
2. Resolved, That we recommend the Board to appoint at once a sufficient number of Colporteurs to occupy all the important points of rendezvous and promptly to reach all the soldiers in service in the State.
3. Resolved, That we recommend that during the war, as many Colporteurs as can profitably be employed, and as the means of the Board admit, be kept in service.
4. Resolved, That we recommend that special contributions to colportage among the soldiers be solicited from our churches, from the community, and even from such persons in other of the Confederate States as may feet interested in the welfare of the soldiers who are gathered from various Southern States to fight their common battles on the soil of Virginia.
5. Resolved, That we recommend to the Board to take steps to secure the issue of a tract of tracts especially adapted to general circulation among the soldiers.
Sunday School is also viewed as necessary for the salvation of the South:
“In the Sabbath School cause we have made some steps in advance. The number of conversions reported, and attendance on the schools, will appear in the annexed tabular statement. Too great care cannot be taken to ensure proper selections of Sunday School libraries. This is peculiarly important in the present attitude of our national affairs. We have one good Southern book — the Bible–we can confidently recommend, wherever printed; but we have not otherwise a good Southern Sunday School literature. It must, necessarily, be of slow growth; and until we have such a literature, produced by Southern writers, and published by Southern publishers, every volume that passes into the hands of our children and youth should undergo the rigid supervision of some competent Southern man.”
The extent to which the southern culture of white supremacy pervades the Baptists of Virginia is thus evident. While many northern voices clamor for the emancipation of African slaves, white Virginia Baptists claim for themselves the mantle of emancipation and argue that they, rather than African slaves, are oppressed.
Source: Extracts of the Minutes of the 1861 meeting of the General Baptist Association in Petersburg (link)