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1815-1850: Religion: Chronology

1815-1850: Religion: Chronology




  • Presbyterian philanthropist David Dow Dodge founds the New York Peace Society, the first of many, multidenominational organizations dedicated to the eradication of war on moral principles.
  • In Charleston, South Carolina, white Methodists abolish a large black Methodist conference and deny African Americans the right to maintain their own financial and disciplinary affairs.


  • Richard Allen becomes bishop of the one of the first black denominations, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, in Philadelphia.
  • The American Bible Society is founded with the aim of putting Bibles into every home in the nation.


  • Forty-three hundred African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina, secede from their church to affiliate with the Northern African Methodist Episcopal denomination.


  • The Presbyterian Church denounces slavery as utterly inconsistent with the law of God.
  • In The Conversion of the World missionaries Gordon Hall and Samuel Newell argue that with dedicated evangelism the entire world can be converted in twenty years.


  • William Ellery Channing preaches a sermon defining the beliefs of Unitarians.


  • The first Roman Catholic school in New England is founded in Boston, enrolling more than one hundred girls in its first year.



  • The African Church of Charleston is destroyed and worship forbidden after white authorities discover that most of the slaves implicated in the Denmark Vesey conspiracy belong to this church.


  • Alexander Campbell begins publication of the Christian Baptist, a monthly periodical that draws many readers into the effort to restore the practices of the early Christians.


  • Members of the Orthodox Sephardic synagogue in Charleston, South Carolina, withdraw to form the first Reform congregation in the United States.
  • The American Sunday School Union is founded and dedicated to establishing a Sunday school in every place with sufficient population.


  • The American Unitarian Association is founded, implying that Unitarianism is becoming a distinct denomination.
  • The American Tract Society commissions hundreds of people to distribute religious literature throughout the Mississippi Valley.


  • Publication of Lyman Beechers Six Sermons on Intemperance mobilizes increasing numbers to fight the evils of drink.
  • The American Home Missionary Society is founded to promote the spread of the gospel in the West. Its missionaries become important cultural, civic, and educational leaders in their communities, in addition to providing religious instruction.


  • Eighteen Presbyterian and Congregationalist ministers gather in New Lebanon, New York, to debate the proper conduct and style of revivals.


  • Missionaries Samuel Worcester and Elizur Butler are jailed for acts of civil disobedience in defense of the Cherokees.
  • Nat Turner becomes convinced that he is an instrument of God with a mission to avenge the wrongs of slavery.


  • The nations Catholic population reaches five hundred thousand.


  • The Book of Mormon is published in Palmyra, New York. The appearance of the Golden Bible, as it is referred to in derision, is noted with curiosity and suspicion in newspapers as far away as Ohio.
  • Charles Grandison Finney begins the series of revivals in Rochester, New York, that will give tremendous energy to reform movements and catapult Finney to national prominence.


  • Facing persecution, the Mormons leave New York for Kirtland, Ohio.


  • Alexander Campbells disciples of Christ merge with Barton Stones Christians, forming what will become the Disciples of Christ denomination.
  • Lyman Beecher brings his reforming and evangelizing efforts to the West when he becomes the first president of Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio.


  • Having resigned his pulpit in the Unitarian Church, Ralph Waldo Emerson launches his career as a public lecturer.


  • The Ursuline convent in Charlestown, Massachusetts, is burned down amid anti-Catholic rioting.


  • Lyman Beecher publishes A Plea for the West, outlining the threat to American values posed by the spread of Catholicism to the western frontier.
  • William Miller publishes his lectures on the Second Coming, alerting audiences that the return of Christ to earth is near.
  • Charles Grandison Finney becomes professor of theology at Oberlin College, which soon experiences a period of revivalism and perfectionist fervor.


  • The Methodist Church disclaims any right, wish, or intention to interfere in the civil and political relationship between master and slave.


  • Perfectionist Phoebe Palmer experiences sanctification and begins her career as an evangelist.
  • The Presbyterian Church divides over the issue of slavery.


  • In Philadelphia, Rebecca Gratz starts the nations first Jewish Sunday school in an effort to counteract Protestant attempts to convert Jews.


  • The Mormons found the city of Nauvoo, Illinois, where for a time they are able to prosper.


  • The American Baptist Missionary Convention, the first of a series of African American Baptist conventions, is organized.


  • Theodore Parker sets off controversy among Unitarians with his sermon on The Transient and Permanent in Christianity, which denies the importance of the historical Jesus Christ.
  • Roman Catholic bishop John Hughes begins his School War with the Public School Society in New York. His failure to win public funds for Catholic schools provokes a rapid rise in the construction of private Catholic schools.


  • The Talmud, Torah and Hebrew Institute is founded in New York. As the cohesiveness of older Jewish communities declines, schools such as this become important centers of community life.
  • Ellen G. Harmon (later Ellen Harmon White), future leader of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, joins William Millers Adventist movement.


  • The first date set by William Miller for the Second Coming passes.
  • Bronson Alcott founds Fruitlands, a communitarian experiment partially based on Transcendentalist ideals.


  • The final date set by Miller passes, leaving the world intact and thousands deeply disappointed.
  • Mormon prophet Joseph Smith and his brother are murdered in Carthage, Illinois, leaving a temporary vacuum in church leadership.
  • The Methodist Church divides into Northern and Southern branches after disagreements over the issue of church discipline for slaveholders.


  • The formation of the Southern Baptist Convention marks the first time the Baptists adopt a true denominational structure.


  • Ravaged by fire and facing bankruptcy, the Transcendentalist commune Brook Farm loses most of its members.



  • The Fox sisters first report the rapping noises they claim are communications from the dead, sparking the Spiritualist craze.


  • The nativist American Party, better known as the Know-Nothing Party, is founded with the aim of keeping foreigners and Catholics out of public office.


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