Baptists and the American Civil War: September 22, 1861

Alabama Secession Flag

Today the Bethlehem Baptist Association of Alabama convenes at the Brooklyn Church in Conecuh County. A special prayer meeting is held “for our bleeding country, and for the success of our arms.” A resolution concerning the war is passed: “Resolved, That the Bethlehem Baptist Association now in session recommend, especially to the Churches within her bounds, as well as throughout the Confederate States, that the first Sabbath in November next, be observed as a day of fasting and prayer in behalf of our bleeding country, and for the success of her arms.” Delegates lament that revivals and baptisms in their churches have been few. “Brethren, these things call for our action, especially at this time, whenwar is in our laud. We would therefore, most earnestly recommend the churches to try and live this year more religiously and more prayerfully ; — praying for all men, and will all pray that the word of God may have free course, and be glorified,’and that our country be speedily delivered from threatened despotism, war and bloodshed, and that peace and good will may abound throughout our Southern Confederacy and the world.” Disappointment at the war’s negative impact upon missions is also expressed.

Also meeting today is the Flint River Baptist Association of middle Georgia. Gathering at the Shiloah Baptist Church in Monroe County, Flint River Baptists also express support of the Confederacy. Their sentiments, indeed, move into the realm of Christian Nationalism. Declaring northern abolitionism to be “fanatical” and “bitter fruit,” the Baptists of Flint River defend African slavery and pledge loyalty to the Confederate States of America:

Although this is an assembly of Christians, we are desirous to express our feelings on the state of the Country, because, as christians and citizens, its affairs are near and dear to our hearts ….

Resolved, 1st. That we heartily approve of our separation from the North and the formation of the Southern Confederacy.

2nd. We pledge ourselves as citizens to the defence and support of the Southern Confederacy, by furnishing men and money, and all other supplies at our command, to the end that we may establish and forever maintain a separate and distinct government.

3d. We have the utmost confidence in the ability, integrity, and patriotism of our President and V. President, and feel thankful to God that he has given us such men.

4th. We thank God for all the success that has heretofore crowned our arms, and sincerely and earnestly pray that He will guide us in all our efforts and sustain us in all our righteous purposes to a successful and triumphal termination of this war.

Southern Baptists have every reason to be hopeful for a victorious outcome of the war, as battlefield momentum to this point is solidly in favor of the Confederacy. Yet Baptists of the South, largely embracing the Confederacy as God’s earthly kingdom and intermingling church and state, are disengaging from their heritage of church state separation in order to defend the practice of African slavery. These Christian nationalist sentiments will only grow as the war progresses.

Sources: Minutes of the Bethlehem Baptist Association, Alabama, September 21-23, 1861 (link); Minutes of the Flint River Baptist Association, Georgia, September 21-23, 1861