From Jamestown to Jefferson: The Evolution of Authority in Colonial Virginia

  • Virginia was the first American colony to have an established church, and became the first state to adopt a statute on religious freedom.  This symposium will explore a range of themes related to Virginia’s historic journey, including such questions as:  How did this journey transform the relationship between church and state?  What was the Church’s social and moral influence during this period?  How were “heretics” and dissenting religious groups treated?  What role did religion play in the daily lives of the colonists?  What lessons from Virginia’s experience are relevant today?  This Symposium will explore these issues from a range of perspectives.


    All programs are presented at 11:00 a.m. and repeated at 7:30 p.m., in Boyd Dining Center.


    The First Decades of the Established Church
    Thursday, September 6, 2007
    Brent Tarter, M.A., Program Manager and Editor of the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia
    When did the Church of England become a viable established church in colonial Virginia?  What did “establishment” mean in these early years?  How was the church’s legal and political authority played out in the hard realities of colonial life? Summary


    Lived Religion in Colonial Virginia
    Thursday, September 20, 2007
    Edward L. Bond, Ph.D.
    , Professor of History, Alabama A&M University
    What was the role of religious belief and practice in the daily lives of the colonists?  What was the relationship of popular piety to established church authority?


    The Role of “Dissenting” Churches
    Thursday, October 4, 2007
    Monica Najar, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History, Lehigh University
    What social and religious influences contributed to the emergence of dissenting groups?  What was the impact of English and colonial law on dissenting churches?  Why did certain people find dissent appealing?  What role did women play in dissenting movements?

    Professor Najar's book, Evangelizing the South: A Social History of Church and State in the Upper South, 1765-1815 (Oxford University Press) will appear in November 2007.


    Unorthodox Religions in Colonial Virginia
    Thursday, October 18, 2007
    Philip D. Morgan, Ph.D., Professor of History, Johns Hopkins University
    What was the legal and social status of Roman Catholicism, witchcraft, slave religions, Native American traditions, and other “outsider religions”?  What issues of authority, control and law influenced the official response to these groups?  How did the treatment of these groups reflect a particular understanding of what was acceptable as “religion”?


    The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom
    Thursday, October 25, 2007
    Thomas E. Buckley, S.J., Ph.D., Professor of Modern Christian History, Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley/Graduate Theological Union
    Why Virginia?  What realities of the Virginia situation allowed the statute to emerge here?  What were the main political, legal and theological arguments over the statute?  How did its enactment shift the nature of religious authority, both official and unofficial?  What influence did the statute have beyond Virginia?

    Professor Buckley's book, Church and State in Revolutionary Virginia (UVA Press 1977), is a definitive work on the subject.

    Virginia’s Contributions to the Enduring Themes of Religious Liberty in America
    Thursday, November 8, 2007
    Daniel L. Dreisbach, J.D., D.Phil., Professor, Department of Justice, Law and Society, American University School of Public Affairs
    The pursuit of religious liberty is one of the defining themes of the American historical narrative. What are the great and enduring themes of religious liberty in the American experience, and how did Virginia and Virginians help shape these themes? What lessons can we learn today from the struggle in centuries past to create a regime of religious liberty in Virginia and the new nation?



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