The Civil War and post-war period was difficult. Two of the church's pastors fought for the Confederacy and one of them was captured. When Union troops occupied the city, the Sunday School building was used as a slaughterhouse. After the war, the church became focused on enforcing individual morality. This rose to another level in 1877, when a reign of terror began, which entailed trials and public shaming of members who failed to follow strict rules against activities such as card playing, attending the theater, and dancing. One case was particularly infamous. The church put on trial a father who allowed dancing at his daughter's Christmas party.
Thankfully, by 1890, the church returned to a less stringent focus, and began to emphasize its commitment to serving the needs of the community. In the coming decades, the church would start outreach programs, support labor strikes and the demand for fair wages and treatment, and call for racial equality. For example, in 1907 the church formed the Atlanta Union Mission, which provided food and shelter to the homeless (this still exists today), and in 1912, the Young Women’s Bible Class led the effort to establish dormitories for single female workers, who previously had to resort to prostitution to support themselves.
In 1968 following the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., the church offered shelter and food to the thousands of people who came to King's funeral. Church leaders soon made a commitment to build bridges between the white and black communities.
Central Presbyterian continues its tradition of supporting social justice today.