Church discipline of adulterous slave owners

Discussion in 'Church History' started by PointyHaired Calvinist, Mar 17, 2019.

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  1. PointyHaired Calvinist

    PointyHaired Calvinist Puritan Board Sophomore

    It's assumed that a number of Southern slave owners raped or otherwise committed adultery with female slaves, bringing forth illegitimate children who are also slaves.

    Is there any talk among antebellum pastors or theologians about such a crime? Any talk of disciplining such offenders? Any idea how common this really was? (Any is clearly horrific but I don't know if 1%, 10%, or 40% of slave owners had slave mistresses.)
  2. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I suppose there are church records that would answer the question. However, very few owned slaves (that was why the average southerner didn't really like the slave owners). And among those that did, and assuming they did commit adultery, church discipline presupposes a) a church that disciplines and b) that they belonged to it.
  3. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    Adding to what Jacob said rich people historically have had ways of avoiding church discipline.
  4. Southern Presbyterian

    Southern Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    Sorry, but I must ask. What possible difference could / would this make for today's church? Are we going to track down the descendants of those people and alternatly punish or make reparation to them? Do we somehow become more virtuous by digging up and pointing out the sins of our forebears? I just don't get its relevance.
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  5. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

  6. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Some baptist churches urged and even disciplined some owners when they split up husband and wife slaves, as was a common practice and pushed for not separating the family units of the slaves.

    Here is the link:

    Adultery was hard to punish among the slaves themselves because some owners would not allow legal marriage among slaves and, if I am right, some regions did not allow this legally. And so the slaves were marrried by common custom only.

    Other articles exist concerning breeding of slaves together to create stronger future slaves, a sinful practiced that was sort of the opposite of the eugenics programs of the next century.

    Here is an article about sexual abuse of female slaves by white masters in the South, and several books are listed for further investigation:

    It seems the church was largely silent. They were property and treated as such.

    And YES, this matters.

    It matters due to (1) History, (2) A good case study in how to apply theology to practical everday ethics (or NOT to apply it and fail as the Church), (3) and it gives us a wake up call to do better in the future.

    Our faith should change the society in which we live.

    Nobody has mentioned reparations, but history is history and we should dig as deep as possible into all aspects of it. To suppress any aspect of it is to do the same as the Leftists who are removing statues.
  7. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    Also, this extract from the Southern Presbyterian Review is particularly condemnatory: James A. Lyon on slavery and marriage in the Confederate States.

    As much as I despise the Woker-than-thou agenda, do not make the mistake of apologising for the evils of the Old South. It will only add fuel to the SJW fire.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2019
  8. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Most theological errors develop as an over-reaction to some aspect lacking in the church. Folks are getting woke because others falsely believe our theology has nothing to do with justice in society. The false error of social justice is best undone by true biblical justice and advocating for the poor and needy.
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  9. Bill Duncan

    Bill Duncan Puritan Board Freshman

    Definition of bigot

    : a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices
    I think some of you need to apply the mirror to yourselves.
  10. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    I have no reason to believe the question was anything other than what was plainly asked. I wish I new more. The history of church discipline isn’t well researched as far as I know other than extreme examples like witch and heretic burnings.
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  11. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

  12. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    Disciplining dead people. Now there's a novel idea.
  13. Ryan&Amber2013

    Ryan&Amber2013 Puritan Board Junior

    Well, I guess that's what purgatory is for ;)
  14. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    I am pretty sure he meant to ask whether there was any talk at that time to be found in church minutes or theological tomes of that time about discipline for such cases. And yes there is, among the baptists (article is linked in my first reply above, but unfortunately is not free).
  15. Johnathan Lee Allen

    Johnathan Lee Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    This is an interesting thread. My direct family line on my dad’s side come directly from an adulterous relationship. I have zero information on his religious life. Apparently she was a housemaid that he eventually purchased a second property for. He split his time between the two houses. I took after my mom’s side in looks.
  16. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Why aren't you sharing more of this stuff that you write with us, brother! You're holding out on us! :)
  17. PointyHaired Calvinist

    PointyHaired Calvinist Puritan Board Sophomore

    Wow! I said nothing - and meant to say nothing - about SJW, tracking down descendants of these sins, disciplining dead people, or even picking out men who perhaps should have been disciplined but weren't! My question was specifically curiosity about whether slave owners' sins of this nature were ever addressed by the Southern church at the time, either with Church discipline or with writings of the Southern church.

    You're hearing this from a descendant of Confederate soldiers, who loves the South for the most part and appreciates having been raised in the South. However I've never heard if this "open secret" was ever dealt with.

    Pergamum, if I could give you a hundred "likes" I'd gladly do so.
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  18. chuckd

    chuckd Puritan Board Sophomore

    I think it's a great thread and question. Did the church discipline open secrets with significant cultural implications & questions of the time? It would be relevant to today for topics such as abortion, homosexuality, etc.
  19. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    [Decided to leave my post up anyway as I originally wrote it - To be utterly clear, I don't post with a spirit of controversy, or with any particular church in mind]

    Coming from someone who pretty much doesn't follow developments in SJM, but in response to the question, Does this even matter, or does it make any difference to ask about these things?

    At the least, God has said that He visits the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. That was a threat leveled against the covenant people. Sins covered and glossed over in the past may still be causes of judgments today, even in the church. That's great reason to ask good questions about the behavior of our churches and denominations in the past. And, "Judgment begins in the house of God." In any case, the actions of those in the past do still influence people and their current situations. In the case of slavery, many begin life with social and economic handicaps. So, whether or not we acknowledge those sins, somebody today is paying for them. Even if reparations are not possible, we may still avenge our sins by seeing their ugliness, the disaster they cause, mourning them, and being affected by them in such a way that we will guard against such sins ourselves, and repent of any similar sins we are now engaged in. In the case of slavery issues from the 1800's, we still learn that even the church can be blinded by cultural norms and even augment the damage that the devil and his kingdom do in the world.

    Also, the world is good at digging up these old skeletons for us, and they are usually not impartial in their assessments, especially if we have ignored them. Might as well beat them to it.
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2019
  20. Bill Duncan

    Bill Duncan Puritan Board Freshman

    Which slave owning "Church" are you speaking about. Abraham's, Issac's, Jacob's, Moses', David's, Philemon's, and historically the whole world's. Why are you singling out the Southern Presbyterians? Using the continuing punishment for sins of the fathers theory, how should you direct God's wrath? Are the factory owners and the sweat shops of the Northern States and England post Wilberforce, who abused the female "employees" in their backrooms exempt from this study? Are we only focusing on the black slaves or are we including the Native Americans, the Asians, and the Irish. How about the owners of the Slavers, who by the way were all from the New England Colonies and Puritans? Did they have their way with the picks of the crops? Maybe God missed. Maybe he passed judgment on the Northern Congregationalists. Instead He zapped the congregational abolitionists with Unitarian Universalists, and by mistake made the South the bible belt. Wow he really showed those wicked Presbyterians.

    The OP had one thing right, "It's assumed". Yea it's assumed that evil men have passed through every Church unscathed but you guys do as much damage assuming what you do not know, nor will ever know. What a bunch of self righteous bigots. I'm done here.
  21. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Bill, that is hardly appropriate behavior or language and sets a
    terrible example. You need to apologize. Also, everyone else is bad as a shut down mechanism to a subject of discussion is actually the progressives tactic of late (cf. Dems in congress).

    As to this question, folks, prove the answer to the question if the data is there, otherwise, settle for "don't know" and close this one out. Another beat down of the old Southern Church just because one can is not really that edifying.

    Also, the moderators are severely hobbled with the loss of Patrick and you have no idea how disheartening it is to see a return to "business as usual" in less than a day.
    /end moderating/
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  22. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    Later I can answer your reply point by point. I think you make some good points.

    WHAT-ABOUT-ISMS: I just recently heard the phrase "what-about-ism." What is a Whataboutism? That is when one sin is mentioned and then somebody mentions other sins or injustices.

    It can be annoying sometimes, and sometimes can make a valid point.

    For example, when liberals mention illegal immigrants without health care, Conservatives often reply back with, "What about War Vets who don't get adequate healthcare?"

    Or when Conservatives mention being Pro-life, then the Liberals (and some Libertarians) often reply with, "What About all the Pro-life hawks who never met a war they didn't like? Is that also Pro-life?"

    A Whataboutism can become either a valid point or a slick rhetorical device. It diverts the issue. It enables you to choose the field of battle.

    And I concur with you that history and the media does highlight some sins and downplays other sins. They have set the narrative and it is right and proper to resent how they set the narrative in an injust way so often.

    For example, when apartheid is mentioned, I think "What About" the Commies and the sins of Mandela and others who "necklaced" so many people and murdered them with flaming tires in the streets.

    Or for example, Hitler killed his 6 millions, but Stalin killed his 60 millions...but why is one viewed as more evil than another? Because of bias, of course. Fascism is in the cross-hairs because the media is controlled by Socialists, even though Socialists have killed more people in the 20th-Century than Fascism.

    We see Whataboutisms happening this very week. A crazy guy shoots Muslims in New Zealand. But what about the thousands killed by Muslim crazies in Africa? It is both valid and a diversion at the same time.

    So, you are engaging in a Whataboutism. We all do. It is a common tactic of debate and discussion.

    So later on (or in a new thread) I think it will be very profitable to speak of all these other side-issues you mention above. Each one is important.

    The near-wholesale heresy of many northern denominations is important to discuss. Though they rightly condemned Southern Chattel slavery, they failed in defending the basics of salvation. Or the fact that many slaveowners are now in heaven and many abolitionists now in hell. Or that the word SLAVE came from the same root as Slav due to the massive slave-taking from the white race, often by brown Barbary pirates.

    These are all needful and somewhat related topics.

    But they should not be used to silence this present conversation about this specific OP in particular.

    Let's thoroughly explore THIS issue, and then move on and explore THOSE OTHER related topics you mention above.

    All cultures are sinful, especially when they have power over others. Just ask the Dahomey's in Africa who supplied the whole Western world with slaves through wars committed just for that purpose and became richer off slaving than any white master ever did. But this OP is not about the evil Dahomeys.

    I don't think you should "bow out" of this conversation. I like talking to you. And I agree almost wholly with you. Let's just keep the conversation cool-headed and cover one topic at a time.
  23. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    Remove any modifiers to the word slavery except for ‘modern’ and the conversation would be just as fruitful and less controversial.

    Did Quakers and/or Mennonite/Amish ‘shun’ for slavery? There may be some records there. Other than social ostracism I don’t know that Methodists or Anglican’s disciplined much at all. There are the Covenanters of course.

    I restate my case that someone needs to write a book on the history of church discipline. Save the subject from being lost on an overly tread few, albeit horrific examples.

    Maybe I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth. There is also the point that needs to be made about confidentiality. Maybe it shouldn’t be handled entirely like JFK assassination files where once enough time has passed its all fine and dandy for the public to see. Does every believer need the sins he’s repented over to his session perused by his great great grandchildren and their peers? Would we want that of ourselves?
  24. Bill Duncan

    Bill Duncan Puritan Board Freshman

    Remove me from PB.
  25. Reformed Bookworm

    Reformed Bookworm Puritanboard Colporteur

    May the Lord bless you and keep you.
  26. PointyHaired Calvinist

    PointyHaired Calvinist Puritan Board Sophomore

    I will say the link about Thornwell were excellent, as is the rest of the info on that site. Thanks Daniel! This answered a related question to my OP. I'm happy to read Covenanter material also.
  27. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Before you go can you tell us how to stay in contact, brother. I would not want to part company but would like to stay in contact and relationship. I appreciate you and do not want to see you go. God bless.
  28. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    Do you seriously think it wise to leave a relationship with a brother in Christ unreconciled? I'd much rather be reconciled. I'm sorry if my message seemed targeted--it wasn't. I don't mean it as a scathe against the Southern Presbyterians or anyone else, though I'm conscious the church in general did not always act right in that time, men whom I respect and admire anyway. I do not like the idea of you leaving on this note. We are in Christ. Let's make this right.
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2019
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  29. Johnathan Lee Allen

    Johnathan Lee Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    @Bill Duncan I’m also stating this, too. You have my number via message. Please, let’s stay in touch.
  30. G

    G Puritan Board Junior

    I too made a similar mistake not too long after making my PB account. I have since returned and sought to be reconciled. I sent a PM to Bill and shared my own failure. I encouraged him to stay. I hope he does.:detective:
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