Congregational Political Struggles as Social Conflicts, 1810–1830
This chapter revisits the well-documented ecclesiastical battles within each congregation during the 1810s and early 1820s. The increased strains of city life frame these disputes. Episcopalians divided over the bishop's authority and the right to form ecumenical evangelizing societies, but the struggles also represented a clash between competing Anglican forms of social organization within the congregation. Methodists divided over local and lay versus regional and clerical control over their congregations. Black Methodists tangentially entered white Methodists' debate by defining their identity as independent from white schismatics and churchmen alike, while keeping their local independence from other black churches. Black Episcopalians avoided serious battles in this decade, largely because their perilous financial position impelled them to cling to the High Church Party in the Episcopal Church leadership. In all these cases, ecclesiastical disputes had social dimensions. Local congregations' geographic locations helped determine their positions in these clashes.
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