The Church of England controlled Virginian society and government during the colonial era.
Describe the religious landscape of colonial Virginia
The Anglican influence on Virginian society and government meant that that a public lack of interest in church became a statewide problem.
The deep involvement of the Anglican church in Virginian life meant that religion was a divisive factor in Virginian politics.
Baptists, German Lutherans, and Presbyterians funded their own ministers and favored disestablishment of the Anglican church. The dissenters grew much faster than the established church, making religious division a factor in Virginia politics into the Revolution.
Virginia was the largest, most populous, and most important colony. The Church of England was legally established; the bishop of London made it a favorite missionary target and sent in 22 clergyman by 1624. In practice, establishment meant that local taxes were funneled through the local parish to handle the needs of local government, such as roads and poor relief, in addition to the salary of the minister.
According to the ministers, the colonists were typically inattentive, disinterested, and bored during church services. They complained that the people were sleeping, whispering, ogling the fashionably dressed women, walking about, coming and going, or at best looking out the windows or staring blankly into space. Some ministers solved their problems by encouraging parishioners to become devout at home, using the Book of Common Prayer for private prayer and devotion (rather than the Bible). This allowed devout Anglicans to lead an active and sincere religious life apart from the unsatisfactory formal church services.
However, the stress on private devotion weakened the need for a bishop or a large institutional church of the sort Blair wanted. The stress on personal piety opened the way for the First Great Awakening, which pulled people away from the established church. The Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and other evangelicals directly challenged these lax moral standards and refused to tolerate them in their ranks. The evangelicals identified the traditional standards of masculinity as sinful, which revolved around gambling, drinking, brawling, and arbitrary control over women, children, and slaves.
Baptists, German Lutherans, and Presbyterians funded their own ministers and favored disestablishment of the Anglican Church. The dissenters grew much faster than the established church, making religious division a factor in Virginia politics into the Revolution. The Patriots, led by Thomas Jefferson, disestablished the Anglican Church in 1786.