was dominated by ministers who were Scottish Presbyterians.18 The Christianity of all these lands was remarkably similar to that of the homeland because the personnel were overwhelmingly emigres or their descendants.

The United States showed equivalent features for the same reason. The religious exceptionalism of America has been much exaggerated, for most of its denominations were drawn from Britain. Despite the federal ban on laws for the establishment of religion, two states, Connecticut and Massachusetts, even retained elements of a fusion between church and state down to i8i8 and 1833 respectively. The Congregationalists of New England, the heirs of the original Puritan settlers, suffered division in the early nineteenth century as many congregations adopted liberal beliefs. The result, as in England and Ireland, was a sizeable Unitarian community. Methodism, as in England, displayed the greatest capacity for expansion, becoming the largest denomination in the country by 1840. It differed from its English counterpart in being ruled by bishops and the extent ofAmerica dictated several Conferences, but otherwise it had the same structure of preachers (though by 1840 more were 'settled' than were travelling 'circuit riders'), societies and classes. The Baptists were second to the Methodists in size, doing specially well in the South, not least among the enslaved African-American population. Methodists and Baptists alike split, in i844 and i845, over the issue of whether slave-owning was tolerable, so prefiguring the national conflict of the Civil War. The main divisions among the Presbyterians were over the extent to which doctrinal standards could be relaxed to accommodate revivalism: the Cumberland Presbyterians were most revivalist, the Old School most resistant and the New School in between. Although the Old and New Schools reunited in 1869, a fresh schism between the Northern and Southern sections of Presbyterianism arose from the Civil War. The Catholic presence was regularly augmented from Ireland. The American scene, however, did differ from that in the British Isles in two significant respects. On the one hand immigrants from continental Europe brought their own Christian traditions, especially of the Lutheran and Mennonite families. On the other America proved fertile soil for new religious bodies, generating in particular the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons) and the Seventh-Day Adventists. The common man in America, encouraged to carve out his own path in religion as in politics, ensured that the religion of the republic was even more diverse than in British territories.

Although state churches continued to dominate continental Europe, voluntary religion made inroads there too. There were inherited pockets of

18 Ross, 'Student kaleidoscope', p. 206.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment