America

America

I. Church History, — Of the religious creeds of the American aborigines we treat in the article INDIANS (AMERICAN) SEE INDIANS (AMERICAN) . The introduction of Christianity coincides with the discovery of America by Europeans. About the year 1000 the Icelanders and Norwegians are said to have established in Greenland twelve churches, two convents, and one bishopric (of Gandar) on the eastern shore, and four churches on the western; and in 1266 some priests are said to have made a voyage of discovery to regions which have recently become more known by Parry, John and James Ross and others. All traces of Christianity, however, had disappeared when, in the sixteenth century, North America, and in particular Greenland, were discovered again. The discovery of America by Columbus was followed by the establishment of the Roman Church in South and Central America, in the West Indies, and on the southern coast of North America. Canada, the northern lakes, and the Mississippi valley were for a century under the sway of the French. and thus likewise under the influence of the Roman Church. But the temperate zone, the heart of the continent, was reserved for the Protestants of England, Germany, Holland, and the persecuted Huguenots. The Church of England was established in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia; in Maryland after the decline of the Roman Catholic influence, and in New York after its cession by the Dutch. Its at. tempts at gaining ground in other colonies failed; and at the time of the Revolution its growth had remained far behind that of the persecuted and dissenting bodies of the Old World, which soon became the strength of the New The Puritans and non- conformists occupied New England, the Quakers planted Pennsylvania, the Presbyterians and Methodists became numerous in the Middle States, and a number of minor denominations found here religious toleration, and helped to foster the spirit of religious liberty. The Declaration of Independence, by which thirteen British colonies freed themselves from the mother country in 1776, marks a new era not only in the church history of America, but in the general history of Christianity. The union between church and state was dissolved; the state renounced its claims over the consciences of men, and the church sought its support no longer from the state, but from the voluntary contributions of its members. SEE UNITED STATES. This principle, which was originally established in the United States only, soon began to exert an influence over the churches of the whole country, and even to spread across the Atlantic, where it prepared, slowly but steadily, an entire transformation of the relation between church and state. Protestantism has since not only brought the whole of North America and a part of the West Indies under its influence, but it is steadily pressing forward toward the south, and narrowing the territory of the Roman Church. The: states of Central and South America have nominally remained connected with the Roman Church, but religious toleration has been established in most of them, and every where the Roman clergy has a hard stand against an advanced liberal party, which is determined to abolish all the privileges of the Roman Church, send to introduce unlimited religious liberty. For the details of American Church History, see the articles on the various states, SEE UNITED STATES, SEE MEXICO, etc. A brief and comprehensive survey of the development of American Church History is given in Smith's Tables of Church History.

II. Religious statistics. — The latest available returns give approximately the following details as to the denominational status of America:

It appears from the above table that Protestant Christianity prevails in the United States, in British America, and in the Dutch, Danish, and Swedish possessions in the West Indies and South America. In the rest of America the Protestant population consists mostly of foreigners. But in Brazil a large immigration from Germany and Switzerland has already established the foundation of a native Church; and in New: Granada, Chili, the Argentine Confederation, Uruguay, and Hayti flourishing congregations labor for the same end. The Roman Church prevails in Mexico, the West Indies, and all the Central and South American states, and is also numerously represented in the United States and in the British possessions. In Russian America all the native Russian population belongs to the Greek Church. A number of pagan Indians still live in nearly all parts of America. Their number is estimated at about 1,000,000. Jews, Mormons, and Spiritualists are found almost only in the United States, where there are also a number of other congregations which expressly place themselves outside of Christianity, without having established any other positive creed (see Schem, Ecclesiastical Yearbook).

 
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