Saturday, June 25, 2011

This Week in Texas Methodist HIstory June 26

Cumberland Presbyterians Defend Church State Separation July, 1838

The governor’s call for a prayer meeting in Houston in August 2011 naturally makes the Texas historian consider the relation of church and state in the Republic of Texas. In a nutshell, the founders of the Republic were adamantly opposed to entangling the affairs of church and state. They were so strong in their separationist beliefs that the first draft of the Texas constitution denied preachers the right to vote. It was modified to allow them vote but not hold office. Homer Thrall credits William Crawford, a member of the convention, for the amendment. The prohibition against clergy holding political office continued through several constitutions.

The Texas Bill of Rights declares that there shall be no religious test for office, that prospective jurors who do not swear to God may still serve on juries, that no public money can be spent for sectarian causes, and no preference shall be given to any form of worship or non-worship. In other words, the Texas Bill of Rights provides explicit guarantees for the separation of church and state.

Cumberland Presbyterians were the first Protestants to organize a Protestant judicatory in Texas. They did so in San Augustine County in 1837. One year later the four C.P preachers who constituted the Texas Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church convened in San Augustine County. One of their business items directed Amos Roark to write a “Narrative of the State of Religion within the Bounds of the Presbytery of Texas.”

Included in that narrative is a statement that speaks eloquently to the evils of entangling religion and government

Among the first acts of government of our infant republic was the severance of the unholy alliance that existed in the government from which we separated, between church and state—a union deprecated in every age of the world—a union which all experience declares to be productive of unmixed evil to both church and state—a union which robs the holy religion of our blessed Savior of all those peculiar attributes of meekness, purity, humility, and loveliness which its divine founder so fully invested it, and which he ever intended to be its only ornaments, and which degrades and debases it—making it a mere political engine to be used for the promotion of the selfish, vicious, and unholy purposes of political demagogues and designing and ambitious ecclesiastics.

The full text can be read at the Portal to Texas History sunday school date:1838-1838


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