Slavery was the second evil to be attacked, as some persons saw it made very little difference to slaves whether their owners were Christians or heathens. Life was better under Christian owners to be sure, but when Christian slaveowners went bankrupt or died, their slaves went to an auctioneer who took bids not from beliefs but from cash. Therefore, societies were formed for the purpose of destroying American slavery, with the first Methodist one being formed in the New York Conference in 1834. The United Brethren Church acted in 1821 to forbid slave ownership among its members. Evangelicals were prohibited by their Discipline of 1839 from dealing in slavery "under any pretense or condition whatsoever," and their church papers were strongly abolitionist. Such antislavery agitation produced little backlash in Evangelical and United Brethren circles, although the columns of a United Brethren paper were closed to abolitionist controversy in the early 1840s. But major opposition to abolitionism sprang up in Methodism. The Philadelphia Conference from 1837 to 1847 asked every candidate for admission as a preacher, "Are you an Abolitionist?" and if he was, he was not received.
Another social evil that began to receive attention during the period under consideration was the oppression of women. Women were among the leaders of the temperance and abolitionist movements, yet they were not given similar opportunities to use their talents in the churches until the United Brethren gave Charity Opheral a "vote of commendation" to engage in public speaking in 1847 and licensed Lydia Sexton to preach in 1851.
home table of contents index back continue