Counsel of Chalcedon
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From Theocracy to Spirituality: The Southern Presbyterian Reversal on Church and State

A Century Ago, and for long afterward, the Presbyterian Church in the United States ("the Southern Church") made a complete isolation of the church from secular and political concerns its distinctive doctrine. Adherents of the "spirituality" or "non-secular character" of the church have regarded it as an old Presbyterian tradition, and have attributed the founding of a separate southern church in 1861 to the national (Old School) General Assembly's adoption of "political" resolutions supporting the Federal war effort in 1861. Critics of the doctrine have attributed it to an otherworldly tendency of southern white Protestantism or to fear of national church pronouncements on slavery. Adherents have insisted that the Southern Church never wavered from strict spirituality before 1900; critics have pointed to proslavery and proConfederate pronouncements during the Civil War as deviations from the church's apolitical professions. All writers have agreed, however, that Southern Presbyterians embraced "the spirituality of the church" before 1861, and that their great theologian, James Henley Thornwell of South Carolina, made it one of his principal emphases.