Frustrated Fellowship

Overview

Between 1788 and 1834 black Baptists formed their first distinctively black congregations and organized regional associations. By 1831, when an enslaved Baptist preacher named Nat Turner inspired an insurrection against slaveholders in Virginia, black Baptists had acquired "a peculiar and precarious religious freedom." Turner's rebellion and the black Baptist role in ending slavery in Jamaica brought restrictions on the movements of black preachers, but black Baptists continued to preach and to claim the freedom ...
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Overview

Between 1788 and 1834 black Baptists formed their first distinctively black congregations and organized regional associations. By 1831, when an enslaved Baptist preacher named Nat Turner inspired an insurrection against slaveholders in Virginia, black Baptists had acquired "a peculiar and precarious religious freedom." Turner's rebellion and the black Baptist role in ending slavery in Jamaica brought restrictions on the movements of black preachers, but black Baptists continued to preach and to claim the freedom to worship as communities of believers.

As James Melvin Washington demonstrates in this pathmaking study, the black Baptist struggle for religious freedom was also a quest for identity and community. From the beginning the black Baptists battled "the perverse trusteeship of the slave regime." At every stage their striving was complicated by their relationships with white Baptists. Biracial congregations, formed in the enthusiasm of mission efforts among the slaves, dissolved as Christian doubt and rationalization about slavery increased. White Baptists divided along sectional lines and fought bitterly about missions among slaves and, later, among freed blacks. Even the most sympathetic white Baptists saw blacks as "part of that heathen element that was supposed to be saved and civilized: it was difficult ... to see how blacks could save themselves."

By 1895, when the National Baptist Convention was organized, most black Baptist leaders had chosen the path of racial and ecclesiastical separatism. As Professor Washington notes, "fear of duplicating the racial dominance so prevaent in American society at large encouraged African-American Baptists to be fierce opponents of any form of ecclesiastical dominance...black Baptist pastors tend to be exceptionally strong and independent leaders, and their churches tend to be more militantly congregational than those of other kind of Baptists." The black Baptist movement, Professor Washington writes, is a "frustrated fellowship' because it is an expression of social identity and a quest for social power."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780865541924
  • Publisher: Mercer University Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/1991
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Table of Contents

Abbreviations
Preface
New Preface
Foreword
Pt. I Roots of a Charismatic Pedagogy 1
1 The Formation of a Chattel Church: The Baptist Phase 3
2 Abolitionism and the Quest for a Prophetic Polity 23
Pt. II The Polity and Politics of a New Religious Culture 47
3 The Politics of Religious Reconstruction, 1864-1866 49
4 Racial Conflict and Racial Pride, 1866-1872 83
5 The Reconstruction Ideology of Black Baptists, 1869-1879 107
Pt. III The Rise of Black Baptist Nationalism 133
6 The Making of a Church with the Soul of a Nation 1880-1889 135
7 The Seeming End of a Painful Quest, 1889-1895 159
Epilogue: The Enduring Legacy of Separatism 187
Bibliographical Essay 209
Index 219
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