Baptists and the American Civil War: September 23, 1865

Kentucky Tennessee MapDelegates to the Hiwassee United Baptist Association of Tennessee, in annual meeting in Roane County, discuss and debate the recent Civil War.

The South’s role in the war is considered as that of the aggressor, but the association seeks distance from political conflict and “unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.”

The question at hand has to do with the nature of the war. Was the South right in leaving the Union and warring against the North? And what does politics have to do with the cause of Christ?

Associational minutes capture the debate as follows:

Query from Union church, Roane county, Tenn. Was the rebellion of 1861 wicked in its nature, sinful in its effects; if so, should members of the church, who were in favor of said rebellion and advocated the cause of the same, be dealt with as other offending members?

Answer_ In answer to the query from Union Church we reply: 1st. That to answer such queries, involves a discussion of the various exciting questions that gave rise to and perpetuated this horrid war; that it rekindles the spirit of rebellion now already crushed, and tends to perpetuate rather than heal divisions.

2d. That the church of God is an ecclesiastical organization, recognizing Christ as her only lawgiver, and his word as her only rule of action, by which word alone, all her matters must be determined.

3d. That to introduce and debate questions in the Church of Christ which involves political discussions, is without precept or example in the New Testament, and is contrary alike to the letter and spirit of the Gospel.

4th. Therefore, we advise that the churches make no difference between brethren, for mere opinion’s sake in politics; but that all offending brethren be treated alike as such, in the spirit of Christian love and forbearance, endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, bearing one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Source: Minutes, Hiwasee United Baptist Association, 1865 (link); illustration (link)