Taylor, “Unity in Christ and Country”

In June, the University of Alabama Press will release Unity in Christ and Country: American Presbyterians in the Revolutionary Era, 1758–1801 by William Harrison Taylor (Alabama State University). The publisher’s description follows:

Unity in Christ and CountryIn Unity in Christ and Country: American Presbyterians in the Revolutionary Era, 1758–1801, William Harrison Taylor investigates the American Presbyterian Church’s pursuit of Christian unity and demonstrates how, through this effort, the church helped to shape the issues that gripped the American imagination, including evangelism, the conflict with Great Britain, slavery, nationalism, and sectionalism. When the colonial Presbyterian Church reunited in 1758, a nearly twenty-year schism was brought to an end. To aid in reconciling the factions, church leaders called for Presbyterians to work more closely with other Christian denominations. Their ultimate goal was to heal divisions, not just within their own faith but also within colonial North America as a whole.

Taylor contends that a self-imposed interdenominational transformation began in the American Presbyterian Church upon its reunion in 1758. However, this process was altered by the church’s experience during the American Revolution, which resulted in goals of Christian unity that had both spiritual and national objectives. Nonetheless, by the end of the century, even as the leaders in the Presbyterian Church strove for unity in Christ and country, fissures began to develop in the church that would one day divide it and further the sectional rift that would lead to the Civil War.

Taylor engages a variety of sources, including the published and unpublished works of both the Synods of New York and Philadelphia and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, as well as numerous published and unpublished Presbyterian sermons, lectures, hymnals, poetry, and letters. Scholars of religious history, particularly those interested in the Reformed tradition, and specifically Presbyterianism, should find Unity in Christ and Country useful as a way to consider the importance of the theology’s intellectual and pragmatic implications for members of the faith.

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