Full Text for Church History 3 - Volume 29 - How did Christianity Come to America? (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CH3-029 PROFESSOR LAWRENCE REST PROFESSOR WILL SCHUMACHER Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 800-825-5234 ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***** >> DAVID: I know that we've already touched upon this briefly, but I'd like to dig a bit deeper in this now. How did Christianity come to America? I'm sure we're all familiar with the Puritans´┐Ż exodus to the New World, but I'm also sure there is more to this story. Can you provide some depth to the history that we've learned in school? >> SPEAKER: Well, David, the short answer to your question is that Christianity came to America as Europeans arrived. The explorers and colonists brought Christianity with them. But since you've asked for a little more depth, let's back up and go behind, even before those Puritans you mentioned. We should note that Roman Catholic priests and monks had arrived in North America with the Spanish explorers. There were Dominican friars, monks, and priests who landed in Florida as early as the year 1549. To put that into perspective, 1549, this is just three years after Martin Luther's death and a good 70 years before those Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock. So the Dominicans were here long before the Pilgrims were. As the Spanish conquered Mexico and extended their influence over much of Central America, missionary priests also moved northward and came into the area of what is today the United States. Franciscan monks were beginning work, for instance, in what is today New Mexico before the end of the 1500's, before the end of the 16th century. The beginnings of Christianity in Canada, we look to the northern end of the continent, were also Roman Catholic but supported and introduced by the French, rather than by the Spanish. So Christianity was introduced with the very earliest explorers and colonists. The English colonies along the eastern seaboard of America were also settled by Christians. But in this case, the predominant form of Christianity was not Roman Catholicism, but the Protestantism of England. The first Protestant services that we know about were held in the short-lived settlement on Roanoke Island in August of 1587. If you think to your dogmatics courses, this is seven years after the Book of Concord was released. The first permanent English settlement in America was at Jamestown in what they would call Virginia. The colony was named after the Virgin Queen, Queen Elizabeth I. That settlement, naturally, as a matter of course included a chaplain, a clergyman to take care of the spiritual welfare of the settlers. As the colony began to grow and plantations were established in the larger and larger area, that parish at Jamestown was supplemented by other parishes as well. It was a very sparsely settled colony so that the areas that were served by clergymen were very, very large. It was the pastor of one of these early Anglican Protestant parishes in Virginia, a man named Alexander Whitaker, who performed a famous wedding in 1614 as he married John Rolfe and an Indian woman named Pocahontas. Whitaker was a great advocate of promoting the Virginia colony both as a way of strengthening England's national power and, in his mind, as a way of spreading the kingdom of God, spreading the gospel further and further in the world. European settlers who came to America were almost all Christians of one kind or another. But, of course, that does not necessarily mean that they were all motivated by their faith in their explorations and settlements in North America. The Spaniards, for instance, came to the New World for the most part looking for gold and other treasure. The French explored in Canada and set up their colonies both to trade with the local inhabitants in the lucrative fur trade and to explore looking for a northern sea passage to establish new trade routes with the Far East. They have economic interests as well. The English wanted to plant profitable colonies that would, at the same time, balance the power of Spain and France in the New World. Individual settlers, of course, had their own motivation for taking part in such enterprises. Sometimes they were mere adventurers or fortune seekers. Sometimes they were motivated by nationalistic ideals of extending the power of England, for instance. But many of them also had in their minds the necessity of spreading the gospel. And when they came into contact with non-Christian Native American peoples, they also attempted to find some way to bring the gospel to those people as well. That is a brief overview that gives you an idea of how Christianity was introduced to North America by European explorers and settlers. The motives were very mixed. The results were uneven, but little by little as the European colonies were firmly established, Christianity also took root. ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *****