1878-1899: Religion: Chronology

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1878-1899: Religion: Chronology




  • Vanderbilt University fires professor Alexander Winchell for using Darwinian ideas in teaching zoology and geology.
  • Methodists and Baptists account for 90 percent of southern church membership, almost twice the strength (47 percent) of these two denominations in the nation as a whole.
  • Washington Gladden publishes Working People and Their Employers and maintains that the idea of true Christianity lies not in rituals or dogmas but in the principle of Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.


  • The U.S. Supreme Court upholds an 1862 federal law banning polygamy. In Utah the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons, defends the doctrine of plural marriage.
  • Mary Baker Eddy incorporates the Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Nestor Zakkis is appointed Russian Orthodox bishop of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska.


  • The Salvation Army, an English evangelical and philanthropic organization, forms a chapter in Pennsylvania under the leadership of Commissioner George Railton.
  • The American Jewish community has approximately 250,000 members.
  • Daniel Sidney Warner organizes the Church of God in Anderson, Indiana, one of the first Protestant denominations to stress the need for a second baptism.
  • Russell Conwell, a Baptist minister, delivers a lecture titled Acres of Diamonds for the first time in Philadelphia. Conwell insists that to make money honestly is to preach the gospel.
  • Henry Steele Olcott, a cofounder of the Theosophical Society in New York in 1875, moves to Ceylon and converts to Buddhism.


  • Spelman College, the first college for African American women in the nation, is founded in Atlanta through the assistance of the American Baptist Home Mission Society.
  • Francis Clark, a Congregationalist minister in Maine, founds the Young Peoples Society of Christian Endeavor. Within a few years it becomes a national Protestant youth movement with five hundred thousand members.
  • Frances Willard is elected president of the Womans Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and commits the organization to a broad program of social and political reform.
  • Archibald Alexander Charles Hodge and Benjamin Warfield of Princeton Theological Seminary publish an article entitled Inspiration, which asserts the infallibility of biblical Scripture.
  • 30 June Henry Highland Garnet, an African American Presbyterian minister and former abolitionist, is appointed ambassador to Liberia.


  • Congress strips the vote from all practitioners of polygamy. This controversy over plural marriage blocks Utahs entrance into the union because many residents of the territory are Mormons.
  • 29 Mar. The Knights of Columbus, a fraternal benefit society of Catholic men, is chartered by Father Michael Joseph McGivney in New Haven, Connecticut.


  • Tumult ensues when shrimp cocktail is served at a banquet honoring the first class of graduates at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati (under Mosaic law Jews are forbidden to eat shellfish).
  • St. Benedict the Moor becomes the first African American Roman Catholic Church in New York City.


  • The Third Plenary Council of American Catholic Bishops meets in Baltimore and endorses proposals including a system of parochial education and the establishment of the Catholic University of America.
  • Benjamin Tucker Tanner founds the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church Review, a leading magazine of the day.


  • Congregationalist minister Josiah Strong writes Our Country: Its Possible Future and Its Present Crisis. According to Strong, the Anglo-Saxon exhibits a pure spiritual Christianity and is divinely commissioned to be, in a peculiar sense, his brothers keeper.
  • Nov. A group of fifteen rabbis led by Kaufmann Kohler meets in Pittsburgh to discuss the adjustments Jews need to make in order to fit into American life. The resolutions passed by the group become known as the Pittsburgh Platform.


  • Washington Gladden publishes Applied Christianity.
  • James Gibbons, Roman Catholic cardinal of Baltimore, forestalls official condemnation of the Knights of Labor. He also prevents the listing of Henry Georges Progress and Poverty (1879) on the Index of Forbidden Books.
  • Augustine Tolton is the first full-blooded African American to be ordained a Catholic priest.
  • Protestant urban mission workers form the International Christian Workers Association.
  • Josiah Strong becomes secretary of the Evangelical Alliance and develops it into an influential Protestant movement oriented toward urban evangelism and social service.
  • Aug. In Northfield, Massachusetts, one hundred students, later called the Mt. Hermon One Hundred, dedicate themselves to serve as foreign missionaries.


  • Under provisions of the Dawes Severalty Act Protestant and Catholic missionary groups are placed in charge of education on Indian reservations.
  • Orthodox synagogues in New York City join to form the Association of American Hebrew Congregations, the first major organization of its kind in the nation. Jacob Joseph of Vilnius, Lithuania, is made the chief rabbi.
  • Protestant nativists form the American Protective Association (APA) in Clinton, Iowa m reaction to European, and especially Catholic, immigration. Members of the APA swear never to vote for a Catholic and, if possible, never to hire or strike with one.
  • 2 Jan. Rabbi Sabato Morais opens the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, a traditionalist institution meant to counter the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati.


  • The Student Volunteer Movement (SVM) organizes under the leadership of John R. Mott of the Young Mens Cristian Association (YMCA) in Northfield, Massachusetts. The SVM commits itself to the evangelization of the world in this generation.


  • The American Catholic Church celebrates its one hundredth anniversary. Its nearly nine million members are found primarily in northern cities.
  • The Ghost Dance religion, an ecstatic, visionary, and prophetic movement originates among the Northern Paiutes of Nevada and quickly spreads to other tribes. The religion and its rituals promise to revive traditional Indian cultures, forms of sustenance, and independence in the face of white encroachment.
  • Christian Socialism is founded by a group of Protestants in reaction to the problems caused by rapid industrialization. Known as the Social Gospel movement, it advocates the abolition of child labor, better working conditions for women, and a living wage for all workers.
  • The Society of Christian Socialists meets in Boston. The leaders include Josiah Strong, David Jayne Hill, and E. Benjamin Andrews.
  • The settlement house known as Hull-House is founded by Jane Addams in Chicago.
  • Wisconsin passes a law that does not allow a parochial school to be accredited unless it teaches the basic subjects in English.
  • Andrew Carnegies article Wealth appears in the North American Review and emphasizes the moral obligation of the rich to aid the poor.
  • Charles Augustus Briggs publishes Whither? A Theological Question for the Times, a groundbreaking exposition on the higher criticism of Scripture.


  • In the South, Methodists and Baptists together have 4.5 million to 5 million members (approximately one-half are African Americans). The Southern Presbyterian Church has 190,000 members.
  • Washington Gladdens Burning Questions is published.
  • William James writes Principles of Psychology, which advances pragmatism, a belief that truth is found not in theoretical speculation but in the practical outcome of ideas.
  • A. C. Dixon calls the first Holy Spirit Conference in Baltimore, a precursor of the Pentecostal movement. He tells the gathering that Faith is the connecting power between the battery of Gods power and the hearts of men.
  • 6 Oct. The sanctioning of polygamy is discontinued by Wilford Woodruff, president of the Mormon Church.
  • 15 Dec. Sitting Bull, a Lakota leader of the Ghost Dance movement, is killed by Indian police when they try to arrest him along the Grand River in South Dakota.
  • 29 Dec. A band of Ghost Dance practitioners is massacred by the U.S. Seventh Cavalry at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota.


  • Eastern Rite Catholics under Father Alexis Toth unite with the Russian Orthodox Church. Eventually more than 120 Eastern Rite parishes, mostly in Ohio and Pennsylvania, break with the Catholic Church in protest over restrictions placed on their traditional practices by American Catholic bishops.
  • Professor Charles Augustus Briggs delivers an aggressive inaugural address, The Authority of Holy Scripture, to mark his installation in a newly created chair in biblical theology at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. The lecture rejects the doctrine that God provided verbal inspiration for the precise text of the Bible and triggers a powerful conservative backlash among Presbyterians.
  • Pope Leo XIII issues his encyclical Rerum novarum (Of Modern Things). This new expression of Catholic social doctrine upholds private property as a natural right but condemns capitalism where it has imposed poverty and the degradation of workers.


  • The Catholic Church estimates that at least 1.5 million out of 2.2 million Catholics of school age are attending public schools.
  • In the wake of the massacre at Wounded Knee, the federal Courts of Indian Offenses investigate, convict, and punish Native Americans who persist in following their ancient tribal religions, including the Sun Dance.
  • The Presbyterian General Assembly supports the Princeton Theologicals version of biblical inerrancy, declaring that the inspired Word, as it came from God, is without error.


  • The Worlds Parliament of Religions takes place in Chicago as part of the world s fair. The parliament is an unprecedented gathering of Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox leaders, as well as representatives of other world faiths.
  • The Southern Presbyterian Assembly makes dancing a valid ground for excommunication.
  • The Catholic University of America opens its doors in Washington, D.C Bishop John Lancaster Spaldings Cornerstone Address claims a place for Catholic thought in American intellectual life.
  • Josiah Strong publishes The New Era; or the Coming Kingdom, which predicts that Anglo-Saxons will win the worldwide struggle for racial dominance, partly on the basis of their Protestantism.
  • 4 Jan. Violators of the Anti-Polygamy Act of 1882 are granted amnesty by President Grover Cleveland with the stipulation that they observe the law henceforward.


  • The Central Conference of American Rabbis publishes the Union Prayer Book, a radical simplification and revision of inherited Hebrew-language prayer book.
  • Old Testament scholar Henry Preserved Smith of Lane Presbyterian Seminary in Cincinnati is dismissed from the Presbyterian ministry for heresy.
  • The Open and Institutional Church League is formed to promote the construction of church gymnasiums, libraries, lecture rooms, and other facilities for social programs.


  • Pope Leo XIIIs encyclical letter Longinqua Oceani lauds the growing strength and freedom of the American Catholic Church but rejects the proposition that American-style separation of church and state is desirable worldwide.
  • The Anti-Saloon League, which draws on close church ties, organizes as a national movement to stop the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States.
  • 28 Sept. The National Baptist Convention, the last and largest of the post-Civil War Atacan American Protestant denominations, is founded in Atlanta.


  • William Ashley Billy Sunday, a former professional baseball player, ends his career with the Chicago YMCA. During his five years there, Sunday promoted Prohibition and Bible fundamentalism.
  • Bishop John Keane is removed as rector of the Catholic University of America as part of a papal drive against Americanism.
  • The Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary is founded in New York City by Eastern European immigrants who wish to make a traditional Orthodox Jewish education available in the United States.
  • 4 Jan. Utah is admitted into the Union.


  • The American Society for Church History is founded.
  • W. E. B. Du Bois publishes Tòe Souls of Black Folk, an important interpretation of African American life describing the centrality of religion in black communities.
  • African American Baptists in Mississippi led by Charles Prince Jones and Charles H. Mason organize the Church of God in Christ, the first black Pentecostal church in the nation.


  • 15 Sept. Bishop Alexander Walters of the AME Zion Church is elected president of the National Afro-American Council in Rochester, New York.


  • Tikhon Belavin, Russian Orthodox bishop of the Aleutians and Alaska, petitions the Holy Synod of Russia to change the name of his diocese to that of North America and Alaska in order to reflect its growing focus on Eastern European immigrants to Canada and the United States.
  • Pope Leo XIII issues his encyclical, Testern Benevolentiae, which explicitly condemns Americanism as a heresy.
  • 1 July The Christian Commercial Mens Association of America, a group of traveling salesmen, meets in Boscobel, Wisconsin. The group is better known as the Gideons International and begins to place Bibles in hotel rooms.

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1878-1899: Religion: Chronology

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1878-1899: Religion: Chronology