Baptists and the American Civil War: July 6, 1863

Confederate flagDays after the Confederacy suffers enormous battlefield losses at Gettysburg, and before many Southerners have heard the news, the Elon Baptist Church of the Dover Association in Virginia goes on record declaring that Christian duty demands obedience to Confederate government officials. In addition, the congregation insists that Christians must “aid and encourage them [Confederate government officials] in every effort to secure our social and religious freedom.” Accordingly, the Elon church issues the following resolution:

Be it Resolved: That the war which the U. S. government has forced upon us, involving as it does, our social and religious freedom, must be met with unfaltering determination and earnest cooperation of every Christian.

The members of Enon Baptist thus go on record aligning African slavery and white supremacy (“social” freedom) with that of religious freedom, an argument common among white Baptists of the South and a blurring of the traditional Baptist principle of church state separation.

Some Baptist churches take other actions in support of the Confederacy, as does the Van Wert Baptist Church of Paulding County, Georgia this day.

After the opening of conference as usual, on motion, it was agreed unanimously that should our Pastor feel it his duty to visit the Army, he be permitted to do so. R. W. Hambrick, Moderator John A. Rentz, Church Clerk

As to whether the good reverend actually visits the army is uncertain. Many Southern Baptist pastors neglect to do so during the war, to the consternation of some Baptist leaders and newspaper editors.

Sources: Minutes of the Elon Baptist Church, 1857-1866, available at the Virginia Baptist Historical Society (link); Minutes, Van Wert Baptist Church, 1860-1870 (link); see also Bruce T. Gourley, Diverging Loyalties: Baptists in Middle Georgia During the Civil War, Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2011 (link)