The Halfway Covenant was an early marketing strategy
for colonial Puritan ministers to recruit more settlers for their church membership
. In the late 1600s the pressures of increasing population were dispersing the strict Puritan
grip on New England
and opening the door to other religions. This terrified local ministers, who were seeing their Israel
in the wilderness
torn to shreds right before their eyes. Conversions, testimonials by individuals that they had received God's grace according to Calvinist
principles and therefore deserved to be admitted to the church as members of the elect
, were steadily decreasing. The elect were the only members of the community with the privilege of deciding village
matters, so this was somewhat of a problem.
The solution, as they saw it, was to offer a Halfway Covenant, partial membership rights to people who had not converted yet. After all, they would soon once they saw the Glories of the Lord, right? Not really. The widening of church membership gradually eliminated the distinction between the predestined, heaven-bound "elect" and other lowly, devil-gripped members of society. Strict religious purity was sacrificed on the altar of wider religious participation, and the Puritans never really recovered.