A Glimpse of Religious Mayhem in Early NC

I’m reading North Carolina: Through Four Centuries by William S. Powell, published by the University of North Carolina Press. It’s required reading for my North Carolina History class, which I’m taking this semester. (I’m sure you’re yawning at the idea of reading any textbook, especially a history textbook, but for me, this is heaven.)

Anyway, I’ve come across an interesting section in chapter three called “Religion in the Colony” and has to do with establishing religious freedom and the installation of the tax-supported Church of England in early North Carolina, along with all kinds of convoluted politics. As I read through, I came across this…

An Anglican missionary in Albermarle in 1701 found that the colonists fell into four distinct categories with regard to their religious leanings. First and most numerous were the Quakers whom he regarded as enemies of ‘the Church.’ (Church, spelled with a capital letter, meant the established church.)…The next largest group, he observed, were those who seemed to have no religion but who would have been Quakers if they had been willing to behave themselves. The third category consisted of people ‘somewhat like Presbyterians, which sort is upheld by some idle fellows who have left their lawful employment, and preach and baptize through the country, without any manner of order from any sect or pretended Church.’ These people, it has been suggested, may have been Baptists. Finally, the fourth and smallest group was composed of ‘the better sort of people, and would do very much for the settlement of the Church government there. The hopes of these Anglicans were stymied, however, by the three other groups…”

It goes on to say later…

Another Anglican missionary, surely not the most unbiased of observers, referred to the Quakers in Perquimans Precinct as ‘very numerous, extremely ignorant, insufferably proud, and consequently ungovernable.’ Those in Pasquotank he found to be ‘factious, mutinous, and domineering.’

Earlier in this section of the book, it was stated that anyone who was not a part of the Church of England, but was a Protestant who could worship as they pleased, were called “Dissenters” because they dissented from the creed, beliefs, and rituals of the Anglican church.

When I read all this information, I thought about what it all meant in a contemporary sense. I thought about the growing movement in America, which is already strong throughout the rest of the world, where people are being drawn out of “the established church,” with all its traditions and liturgy, and how they are considered by many to be “dissenters” who have “dissented from “the creed, beliefs, and rituals” of the American/Western Church.

Anyone who has studied the Quakers, along with the Moravians and the rest of those who were considered Puritans, knows that they had the real thing for the most part and yet they were considered “enemies of ‘the Church’,” who were considered by “the better sort of people” as ignorant, arrogant, factious, mutinous and domineering. Incredible!

Near the end of the “Religion in the Colony” section, it says that there was a man by the name of “Henderson Walker, an able and zealous Anglican churchman,” who became governor in 1699. “He expressed concern that the colony had gone forty years ‘without priest or alter.'” In 1701, this man secured the passage of the FIRST church law in Carolina, called the Vestry Act which basically provided for a massive building up of the Anglican church, on the government dole. He also got another bill through in 1703; it demanded that all members of the government Assembly had to devote themselves to the Church of England and also had to take an oath of allegiance to Queen Anne, who was Queen of Britain at that time.

All of this smacks of the same political and religious control which runs so rampant in the overall church system today. It’s all the same spirit which has energized this kind of stuff throughout the ages on so many stages, in so many ways, with so many varying church sects.

Personally, I consider myself to be a modern Puritan of sorts – a Moravian specifically.

How about you?

[Note: While I’m on the subject, you may want to reference chapter five of my book Jesus, Unleashed, entitled “Jesus Goes to Church,” where I dissect the life and ministry of Jesus as he related to the religious system of His day and how it relates to us. To purchase a copy of Jesus, Unleashed, go to www.lulu.com/spotlight/JoelKillion. Thank you.]

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