HEAR YE!!!
HEAR YE!!!
Next Tea Party Friday March 4th

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Revolutionary War And The Anglican Church


While it is well known that the Revolutionary War caused division in communities and families throughout the colonies, it also brought about the disestablishment of a Christian denomination. The history of the Church of England, or the Anglican Church in America, dates back to 1607 when the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown, Virginia was formed.
Bruton Parish, Williamsburg, Virginia circa 1660
Current structure built in 1715 remains an active parish

In 1693 James Blair, an Anglican missionary to colonial Virginia, secured the charter for an institution of higher learning for the colonies. The College of William and Mary, located in Williamsburg, Virginia is the second oldest college in the United States, preceded only by Harvard.

In 1775, when the Revolution began, there were about 300 congregations of The Church of England throughout the thirteen colonies. The Church of England was the established church in six of the thirteen colonies. They were: Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and New York.

The “established church” is a church recognized by law as the official church of a state or nation and supported by civil authority. Within those six colonies there were other religious orientations. For instance, Maryland had a religious orientation to Roman Catholicism. The religious orientation in New York was Dutch Reformed. It just means that the Church of England, or the Anglican Church, was the established church.

You can imagine when the colonies found themselves divided between the patriots pursuing separation and the loyalists, or Tories, maintaining ties to the crown, that the established church would be impacted, as well. The Church of England in the colonies experienced hostility and its membership declined during the Revolution, since all clergy swore an oath of allegiance to the crown when they were ordained. As a result, many of the clergy fled to Canada and England while others who sided with the patriots seeking independence remained. 

Bishop William White
credit Library of Congress, Washington DC

In order to continue the spiritual legacy of the Church of England, but to be separate from it, a proposition was made by William White, the Chaplain of the Continental Congress that the congregations become an American church. A Convention of clergy and laity was held in the early 1780s resulted in taking the church properties from the Church of England and establishing a new church in American. During that decade interstate conventions for the new church were held, and a constitution and prayer book were drafted. Dr. Samuel Seabury of Connecticut was consecrated Bishop in 1784 by the bishops of Scotland, and William White of Pennsylvania and Samuel Provoost of New York were consecrated bishops in England in 1787. The Episcopal Church, autonomous but part of the Anglican Communion, was formally organized in Philadelphia in 1789 as the successor to the Church of England. William White became the first Presiding Bishop of the United States.


Conflict in this denomination in America has not been limited to the eighteenth century. The Episcopal Church has once again become embroiled in division in the twenty-first century. After about three decades of debate over orthodoxy, practice, and the authority of Scripture, many congregations in the United States have experienced partition. Beyond the anguish and legal battles over property, it has resulted in the formation of over 1000 new Anglican congregations coming out of existing Episcopal Churches. It will be interesting to see what the future holds, but it is often through times of great trial that the body of Christ is purified and strengthened. Hopefully, that will be the result of the present upheaval.

12 comments:

  1. I am a member of the Episcopal Church. I love the old liturgy and the knowledge that I am taking part in traditions, singing hymns and reading a book (Book of Common Prayer) that Jane Austen and the Brontes also took part in.
    And while there may be discord sometimes and in certain congregations, I think you'll find most Episcopal churches are proud of their English roots. We are still considered part of the Anglican Communion, although we're more independent and not under the complete jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, as Anglican churches are. However, we do include him each Sunday in prayers, as well as all world and local leaders.

    I think its revolutionary roots is really interesting. Because it would have been very difficult to have your head want patriotism, but your heart want your English church.

    Also, since a priest has to be ordained by a bishop, early American priests used some political savvy and went to Scotland instead to be ordained. We also took their version of the Book of Common Prayer and include their flag in the crest you see as the symbol of the Episcopal Church.

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  2. PS-- I think this would make a great storyline, the whole church/patriotism angle, especially for someone who loves Scotland (cough, cough, Laura Frantz...hehehe)

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    1. Sounds like a good idea! I would read that :)

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  3. Thanks for this great post, Janet. Esp. since I was asking for help with Episcopalian terms last week in CACW! It has been a while since I was a member but I am grateful to have come back to the Lord via the Episcopal Church.

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  4. Thanks Carrie and Heather for your comments.
    You are correct, Heather, to be ordained, or even to make ones confirmation, required a Bishop. So travel to England or Scotland would have been necessary, hence the need to separate from The Church of England. I am an Anglican and also love the liturgy and church seasons.

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  5. Janet, thank you for clarifying so much information on church(es), religion and the reason for the separation of church and state in this country. I never knew we originally had an "established church". I agree with Heather-- following your head or your heart would really make a great theme! Great post!

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  6. Janet, in my research I learned some of this, but you've added and clarified a number of things, and presented it in a very interesting way. Thank you! I really enjoyed reading this article!

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  7. Thanks so much for this post. I was aware of some of this, but not all, so I appreciate the info.

    Thanks also for Gina Welborn's book! I am really looking forward to reading it. :) This is a very nice surprise to cap off a busy week.

    Thanks and blessings,
    Karen

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  8. Thanks, Janet. This is helpful. In my new novel set in 1817, I wanted my main spiritual guide to be Methodist because that was the new fresh denomination at the time. (I ended up leaving him a vague circuit preacher to avoid the denomination thing.) But the interesting fact I learned was that in England, Methodists were an offshoot of the Church of England, not a separated denomination. But in American, they were separate from the Episcopal church.

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  9. Thanks for the comments, ladies. I'm glad you found the post helpful.

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  10. Love this! I don't often hear church-related historical facts. And like Heather mentioned, it would be awesome to read a novel based on this :)

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  11. A thread in my current WIP involves a character impacted by the changes occurring in the Church of England in Virginia during the Revolution.

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