One Family Under God: Love, Belonging, and Authority in Early Transatlantic Methodism (Early American Studies)

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9780812243307: One Family Under God: Love, Belonging, and Authority in Early Transatlantic Methodism (Early American Studies)
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Originally a sect within the Anglican church, Methodism blossomed into a dominant mainstream religion in America during the nineteenth century. At the beginning, though, Methodists constituted a dissenting religious group whose ideas about sexuality, marriage, and family were very different from those of their contemporaries.

Focusing on the Methodist notion of family that cut across biological ties, One Family Under God speaks to historical debates over the meaning of family and how the nuclear family model developed over the eighteenth century. Historian Anna M. Lawrence demonstrates that Methodists adopted flexible definitions of affection and allegiance and emphasized extended communal associations that enabled them to incorporate people outside the traditional boundaries of family. They used the language of romantic, ecstatic love to describe their religious feelings and the language of the nuclear family to describe their bonds to one another. In this way, early Methodism provides a useful lens for exploring eighteenth-century modes of family, love, and authority, as Methodists grappled with the limits of familial and social authority in their extended religious family.

Methodists also married and formed conjugal families within this larger spiritual framework. Evangelical modes of marriage called for careful, slow courtships, and often marriages happened later in life and produced fewer children. Religious views of the family offered alternatives to traditional coupling and marriage—through celibacy, spiritual service, and the idea of finding one's true spiritual match, which both challenged the role of parental authority within marriage-making and accelerated the turn within the larger society toward romantic marriage.

By examining the language and practice of evangelical sexuality and family, One Family Under God highlights how the Methodist movement in the eighteenth century was central to the rise of romantic marriage and the formation of the modern family.

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About the Author:

Anna M. Lawrence teaches history at Florida Atlantic University.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Introduction
The Transatlantic Methodist Family

In 1771, Freeborn Garrettson had a life-changing conversation with Methodist preacher Francis Asbury. Their talk was so affecting that Garrettson wondered, "How does this stranger know me so well!" Many Methodists in the eighteenth century described their entry into the group in a similar fashion. "He spake to me," converts recounted, feeling that the preacher knew their own story, marking the intimacy of the moment of awakening. As a result of Asbury's instrumental role in his conversion, Garrettson claimed Asbury as his "spiritual father." Like most Methodists at this time, Garrettson was not born into the Methodist church; his parents had been members of an Anglican church in Maryland. After Garrettson's conversion, he wrote, "something told me, these are the people. I was so happy in the time of preaching, that I could conceal it no longer; so I determined to chuse God's people for my people." These people would become Garrettson's Methodist family.

In this book, I examine the Methodist family as paradigmatic of the influence of religious ideas on the eighteenth-century family. During these formative years, Methodists used the central metaphor and organizational principle of "family" to organize themselves across a great geographical expanse. Methodism was a movement that spanned the transatlantic world, spreading throughout England, Wales, Ireland, and America during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. By the late eighteenth century, Methodism was the fastest growing denomination in America. In the early nineteenth century, Methodists and Baptists competed to claim the greatest number of souls in Protestant America. In England, Methodists dominated the revivalist scene of the eighteenth century and became a serious challenge to the Church of England. This group rose originally as a subset of the Anglican church, but they sought to associate with each other in a closer, more spiritually watchful way than could be done within a formal denomination. Instead of starting by building churches or congregations, they began by forming societies and bonds between each other as evangelicals. In this book, I explore how men and women related to one another within this rapidly growing transatlantic network of familial relations and how they claimed authority over the personal decisions within their own lives and within the family as a whole.

This book addresses contemporary disputes over the history of family and marriage by examining this crucial period in which the contexts and meanings of family were open to debate. Most research has confirmed the dominance of the nineteenth-century romantic marriage model in both England and America, by opposing it to the earlier mode of spousal choice, in which economic concerns and parental control were the primary considerations. In examining this shift, historians have often pointed to secular literature, legal trends, the rise of the romantic novel, and prescriptive literature, but the roles of religious families and the significance of religious literature are almost entirely left out of the conversation. For the most part, we have assumed that religion had a conservative effect on the rise of individualistic, love-based marriages. I argue that we should revisit and reassess religious families to understand their effect on the formation of the modern family. I measure their impact on family history along three interrelated trajectories: (1) religious families were quite elastic in their ideas of membership, since unrelated evangelicals became "brothers," "sisters," "mothers," and "fathers"; (2) this flexibility of familial association strengthened the emotional bonds of family by emphasizing the intimacy of this chosen family; and (3) evangelicals accelerated the turn toward romantic marriage through their exaltation of the "soul mate" as a central consideration for marriage.

While it is easy to associate religious notions of family with conservative, backward-looking principles, religious groups have also prompted radical reconsiderations of family formation, gender roles, and marriage. This is particularly true of dissenting religious groups, which critics have frequently characterized as sexually deviant. Early Quakers excited suspicion for the ways that they allowed women to preach in public, and critics accused Quakers of sexual flagrancy behind closed doors. Similarly, antipopery movements in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England, France, and America fostered the idea that Catholics were sexually aberrant; images circulated of publicly prudish priests and nuns who were secretly lascivious. The Moravians, who were Methodists' contemporaries, shared similarly pietistic, ecstatic language with Methodists. Moravian communities also challenged the normative patriarchal family through their separation of the sexes in worship and life. Polygamous Mormons in the nineteenth century faced violent public opposition to their marital practices. A common component of these religious dissenters' challenge to the larger society was their countervailing notions of gender and sexuality.

The preponderance of anti-Methodist literature written in the eighteenth century demonstrates how disturbing and provocative this group was to outsiders. During the eighteenth century, critics contributed to a deluge of material written against Methodists, and publishers turned out more than six hundred anti-Methodist pamphlets. Common themes in this literature were the interdependent ideas of evangelicalism's power and women's susceptibility to that power. The writings characterized itinerant preachers as poor, uneducated, irrational, self-interested, rapacious, seductive, and dangerous.

The opposition to this group illustrates the ways in which early Methodists were a revolutionary community. While we are now more likely to associate modern Methodism with middle-class morality, conservative denominationalism, and temperance, Methodism is historically rooted in dissent. In the eighteenth century, Methodists dissented from the Church of England to form their own religious and social culture. In opposition to the dominant social and political beliefs of broader secular society, early Methodists championed antislavery, women's religious participation, and leadership from a variety of social classes.

Methodist Family

"Family" as a term does not have a static meaning throughout history. The sociological conditions of family have always been contextual, and the cultural and emotional meanings of family changed rapidly during this period in history. There were also variations among families, due to location, race, class, and ethnicity, which make it difficult to speak of "the family." The geographic scope of Methodists ranged across a variety of settings from London to the newly industrialized areas of North England, and from the American South and Middle Atlantic to the Northeast. Methodists came from elite families and very poor families. Methodists drew from primarily English ideas of family, but the American Methodist family encompassed African Americans as well, especially in the South and Middle Atlantic.

The eighteenth century marks an important, but also a somewhat ill-defined, period in family history. In 1976, Nancy Cott marveled that "the eighteenth century is the most mysterious of times in the history of American families." In 2003, Ruth Bloch reiterated the call for further definition of eighteenth-century family culture. "The transition from seventeenth to eighteenth century ideas about sex and marriage was far from smooth . . . and remarkably little has been done by historians to give an account of the change." Evangelicalism was the predominant emergent moral and religious movement of this era, and it brought a new sensibility to the domestic and social ideas of family in this "mysterious" eighteenth century.

In this study, I analyze the Methodist discourse of family with a concern for both the language and roles of the Methodist family. In using the concept of "family" as a broad association of unrelated people, I depart from family histories based in demographic surveys, a field that has been well established since the late 1960s. In going outside the definition of "family" as a unit of the household, I seek to understand how evangelicals used the terms of family as a broader measure of association.

At the outset, this book asks the reader to think of family in two ways: family as metaphor for a profound sense of association for people with few blood ties; and family in the more traditional sense of legally defined families. Just as the alternate metaphorical meaning of family is distinct from the traditional blood family, the religious family is also distinct from the more concrete sense of community. In this current virtual age, a nonphysical community seems very familiar and probable. In the eighteenth century, community was largely a local identification, with a bounded set of peoples and territory. The eighteenth-century evangelical family certainly had a sense of its own membership, but its people were scattered throughout the Atlantic world. Its members were drawn from multiple denominations, races, and nationalities. This was the essence of the evangelical mission, to expand the work of God in every direction. Thus, evangelicals necessarily saw the scope of their mission spreading beyond the boundaries of community.

The Methodist family pulled people out of their identification with local communities into an expansive sense of identity within the larger world of godly people. Furthermore, the Methodist sense of family went beyond the shared elements implied by a community to emotional, personal ties that one finds in affectionate blood families. Family also implied the sense of eternal bonds for Methodists, who saw their commitments to each other and God as eternal ones that would exist beyond the world of the living. As an interesting point of contrast, eighteenth-century Moravians had both a community and a religious family. For Moravians, founding local communities was just as important to their mission as expanding the sites of those communities and reaching various different kinds of people throughout the Atlantic world.

Methodists evoked the ideas of family by widespread use of terms such as "fellowship," "our people," "our society," and "the connection" when referring to the broader group of Methodists. While eighteenth-century people generally used the term "connection" to refer to extended kinship, the Methodist "connection" meant the whole group, or Methodist associations in different geographical areas. When Methodists employed broader associative terms like "our people," it was a way of talking about their sense of being a distinct family, their shared sense of religious experience, and their linked fates in the world beyond. The concept of "family" underlies all of these terms and encompasses their shared sense of intimacy, obligation, and cohesion.

In researching the accounts and letters written by early Methodists, I came across a consistent use of family terms to describe various kinds of evangelical relationships. The use of the family as metaphor is simultaneously everywhere and nowhere in studies of Methodism. Almost every work references the titles of "brother" and "sister," but very few examine the context and meaning of those titles. At the same time, there has been little attention paid to the exact nature of early Methodist approaches to individual family formation and sexual activity. In 1984, religious historian David Hempton wrote, "The influence of Methodism on family life is also under-researched. On one level, families could be useful in recruitment, as converted parents or children shared their faith within the household. . . . On another level, however, the austerity of Methodist religion could be recognized by their dress, hairstyles and physical detachment from the world of revelry, sports and dancing." Hempton's call to study Methodism's influence on family life underlines the need to study family from both the perspective of conjugal families and the broader body of believers. Hempton wonders how Methodist families expanded the sect's membership, but also how converts joining the "the austerity of Methodist religion" might have ignited segregations of or divisions within individual families. This book expands on Hempton's questions by looking at how individual families viewed their children's conversion and how these adult children took up new roles in the "Methodist family."

Familial language and organization defined the first sixty years of Methodism in particular, and it pervaded early evangelicalism in general. From the 1730s into the 1790s, the language and institutions of the religious family helped to incorporate newly converted individuals like Freeborn Garrettson into a larger organization and culture. On the individual level, Methodists like Garrettson, who took "God's people for my people," were born again into a religious family, often after painful separations from their own parents' religious traditions. As individuals, they were welcomed into the Methodist fold with the alternative bonds of a voluntary family. Unrelated Methodists called each other "brother," "sister," "father," and "mother," and they offered one another spiritual, emotional, and economic support as family members. Often these familial bonds helped to loosen or dissolve ties to their birth families. At the same time that individuals temporarily or permanently broke their bonds with their blood families through conversion, Methodist leaders and laity provided a way to assuage this loss through the institutions and culture of the religious family.

In the eighteenth century, men and women used "family" flexibly, and it took on varying meanings in different religious associations during this period. I argue that eighteenth-century Methodists understood family in a way that seemed compatible with current models, yet they also redefined them. They based their family on the model of the nuclear family, but they were also operating outside of nuclear families. If they challenged nuclear families in some ways, they also expanded and elaborated on nuclear families, providing crucial support from outside of nuclear families. When Quakers and Baptists called themselves brother and sister, their language and actions implied the erasure of hierarchical distinctions between people, acknowledging each other, to some extent, as real equals. When Methodists used the terms "brothers" and "sisters," they also evoked egalitarian spiritual bonds. Fathers and mothers held more authority, having earned those titles by being mentors and leaders to other converts. As Susan Juster shows in her work on American Baptists, evangelical use of family terms changed distinctly over the course of the eighteenth century. It generally evolved from a fraternity of equals to an association of duty, rule, and authority. The metaphor of family was a sword that cut both ways in the Methodist family as well. Sometimes the family ideal emphasized the equal nature of believers and. at other times, highlighted the need for conformity to the rule and discipline of the fathers and mothers.

Anti-Methodists saw the bonds of family as a sect-like encroach...

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Book Description University of Pennsylvania Press, United States, 2011. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. Originally a sect within the Anglican church, Methodism blossomed into a dominant mainstream religion in America during the nineteenth century. At the beginning, though, Methodists constituted a dissenting religious group whose ideas about sexuality, marriage, and family were very different from those of their contemporaries.Focusing on the Methodist notion of family that cut across biological ties, One Family Under God speaks to historical debates over the meaning of family and how the nuclear family model developed over the eighteenth century. Historian Anna M. Lawrence demonstrates that Methodists adopted flexible definitions of affection and allegiance and emphasized extended communal associations that enabled them to incorporate people outside the traditional boundaries of family. They used the language of romantic, ecstatic love to describe their religious feelings and the language of the nuclear family to describe their bonds to one another. In this way, early Methodism provides a useful lens for exploring eighteenth-century modes of family, love, and authority, as Methodists grappled with the limits of familial and social authority in their extended religious family.Methodists also married and formed conjugal families within this larger spiritual framework. Evangelical modes of marriage called for careful, slow courtships, and often marriages happened later in life and produced fewer children. Religious views of the family offered alternatives to traditional coupling and marriage-through celibacy, spiritual service, and the idea of finding one's true spiritual match, which both challenged the role of parental authority within marriage-making and accelerated the turn within the larger society toward romantic marriage.By examining the language and practice of evangelical sexuality and family, One Family Under God highlights how the Methodist movement in the eighteenth century was central to the rise of romantic marriage and the formation of the modern family. Seller Inventory # APC9780812243307

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Book Description University of Pennsylvania Press, United States, 2011. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. Originally a sect within the Anglican church, Methodism blossomed into a dominant mainstream religion in America during the nineteenth century. At the beginning, though, Methodists constituted a dissenting religious group whose ideas about sexuality, marriage, and family were very different from those of their contemporaries.Focusing on the Methodist notion of family that cut across biological ties, One Family Under God speaks to historical debates over the meaning of family and how the nuclear family model developed over the eighteenth century. Historian Anna M. Lawrence demonstrates that Methodists adopted flexible definitions of affection and allegiance and emphasized extended communal associations that enabled them to incorporate people outside the traditional boundaries of family. They used the language of romantic, ecstatic love to describe their religious feelings and the language of the nuclear family to describe their bonds to one another. In this way, early Methodism provides a useful lens for exploring eighteenth-century modes of family, love, and authority, as Methodists grappled with the limits of familial and social authority in their extended religious family.Methodists also married and formed conjugal families within this larger spiritual framework. Evangelical modes of marriage called for careful, slow courtships, and often marriages happened later in life and produced fewer children. Religious views of the family offered alternatives to traditional coupling and marriage-through celibacy, spiritual service, and the idea of finding one's true spiritual match, which both challenged the role of parental authority within marriage-making and accelerated the turn within the larger society toward romantic marriage.By examining the language and practice of evangelical sexuality and family, One Family Under God highlights how the Methodist movement in the eighteenth century was central to the rise of romantic marriage and the formation of the modern family. Seller Inventory # APC9780812243307

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Book Description University of Pennsylvania Press. Hardcover. Condition: New. 296 pages. Dimensions: 9.1in. x 6.2in. x 1.1in.Originally a sect within the Anglican church, Methodism blossomed into a dominant mainstream religion in America during the nineteenth century. At the beginning, though, Methodists constituted a dissenting religious group whose ideas about sexuality, marriage, and family were very different from those of their contemporaries. Focusing on the Methodist notion of family that cut across biological ties, One Family Under God speaks to historical debates over the meaning of family and how the nuclear family model developed over the eighteenth century. Historian Anna M. Lawrence demonstrates that Methodists adopted flexible definitions of affection and allegiance and emphasized extended communal associations that enabled them to incorporate people outside the traditional boundaries of family. They used the language of romantic, ecstatic love to describe their religious feelings and the language of the nuclear family to describe their bonds to one another. In this way, early Methodism provides a useful lens for exploring eighteenth-century modes of family, love, and authority, as Methodists grappled with the limits of familial and social authority in their extended religious family. Methodists also married and formed conjugal families within this larger spiritual framework. Evangelical modes of marriage called for careful, slow courtships, and often marriages happened later in life and produced fewer children. Religious views of the family offered alternatives to traditional coupling and marriagethrough celibacy, spiritual service, and the idea of finding ones true spiritual match, which both challenged the role of parental authority within marriage-making and accelerated the turn within the larger society toward romantic marriage. By examining the language and practice of evangelical sexuality and family, One Family Under God highlights how the Methodist movement in the eighteenth century was central to the rise of romantic marriage and the formation of the modern family. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Hardcover. Seller Inventory # 9780812243307

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