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Examples from the Web for congregationalists Schleiermacher had as many disciples among the Congregationalists as among their antagonists of the opposite school. American Missionary, Volume 43, No. Among the Sioux R. Harlow Spencer Mills. In the New Testament we find Churches associated with one another as equals, with neither one Church claiming authority over the others, nor the several Churches lording it over the one. T he early Churches lived together in an atmosphere of mutual love, not in a relationship of dominance and submission.

Congregationalists, following their example, have companied together because they wanted to, not because a Bishop or a Book of Discipline forced them to. Fellowship is neither organisational, legal or political in essence; it is a free relation of affection. We believe that there is need for us to reach out to one another in mutuality and affection, that together we witness that the Congregational Way not be lost in the world-wide councils and structures of Christendom and that we share on equal grounds with our fellow-Christians who are organised according to Episcopal or Presbyterian polities.

A move to unite the Congregational Christian Churches with the Evangelical and Reformed Church was approved by the councils of the two denominations in , forming the United Church of Christ.

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The National Association of Congregational Christian Churches was formed in by churches that chose not to join in the merger; it had about 70, members in Bibliography See W. Walker, The Creeds and Platforms of Congregationalism , repr.

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  • Rouner, Jr. Davies, The English Free Churches 2d ed. Starkey, The Congregational Way Congregationalism Christian church denomination in which local churches are autonomous; members have been called Brownists, Separatists, and Independents. It is based on the belief that Christ is the head of the Church and all members are God 's priests.



    Modern Congregationalism began in England in c. Congregational churches arose in England in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In their early days, Congregationalists were also known as Independents. They are most numerous in the United States , England, and Wales, but recently most of them have joined with others to form united churches in several parts of the world. Among churches, they have stood somewhere between the Presbyterians and the more radical Protestant groups, with a distinctive emphasis on the rights and responsibilities of each properly organized congregation to make its own decisions about its own affairs without recourse to any higher human authority.

    This, along with an emphasis on freedom of conscience, arose from convictions concerning the sovereignty of God and the priesthood of all believers. Some of the Separatists settled in Holland, and it was from among these that the Mayflower group set out for New England in During the English Civil War , Congregationalists, then usually called Independents, were particularly prominent in the army, reaching the peak of their influence during the Commonwealth through Oliver Cromwell and such outstanding ministers as John Owen and Hugh Peter.

    The Restoration of Charles II was a disaster for their cause, and the Act of Uniformity of was the first of many efforts to suppress them.


    Most of the two thousand ministers ejected from livings in the Church of England at that time were Presbyterians, but many Independent ministers who did not hold livings also suffered. Persecution was not so severe as to prevent creative work being done, and the major theological works of John Owen, the greatest poems of John Milton , an Independent, and John Bunyan 's Pilgrim's Progress although Bunyan's closest affinities were with the Baptists all appeared after the Restoration.

    The works of the latter two, along with some of the hymns of Isaac Watts , have become part of the furniture of the English imagination. The accession of William and Mary in made life more tolerable for Congregationalists, and, after a threatened setback in the reign of Queen Anne, they played a significant minor part in eighteenth-century England. They were particularly active in education, where the Dissenting Academies were educational pioneers at a time when Oxford and Cambridge languished. The spiritual influence of such leading ministers as Philip Doddridge and Isaac Watts helped prevent Congregationalists from becoming Unitarians, as most Presbyterians did at that time.

    Congregational unions

    Congregationalists received a considerable spiritual quickening toward the end of the century through the influence of the Methodist revival. English Congregationalism shared fully in nineteenth-century ecclesiastical prosperity.

    As members of the emerging lower middle classes crowded into the churches, they became more politically minded. Voluntarism, opposing state support of denominational education, and the Liberation Society, advocating the disestablishment of the Church of England , were influential. The Congregational Union, linking the churches in a national organization, was formed in , and the Colonial later Commonwealth Missionary Society for promoting Congregationalism in English-speaking colonies in Many large new churches were erected, and some ministers, like R.

    Dale of Birmingham, were well-known public figures. Civic disabilities were steadily removed. Mansfield College was founded at Oxford in Thriving churches in city centers and residential neighborhoods were hives of social, philanthropic, and educational activities, which anticipated many of the services taken over by the state in the twentieth century.

    The victory of the Liberal Party in the election represented the peak of the political and social influence of Congregationalism. After that, numerical and institutional decline began, hastened by the upheaval of World War I and the increased mobility of population. Although churches were losing much of their popular appeal, the emergence of several distinguished theologians and ecumenical leaders in the interwar period provided evidence of continuing vitality. In the rest of Britain, Congregationalists have been strongest in Wales, where the Welsh-speaking churches, known as the Union of Welsh Independents, retain their identity.

    These churches were transplanted successfully from the countryside to industrial Wales during the industrial revolution and became strong centers of distinctively Welsh life, cherishing their traditions of preaching, hymns, and poetry.

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    The numerically smaller Scottish churches acted as a liberalizing influence in Scottish life and gave much to the wider church through such outstanding figures as Robert Moffat, David Livingstone , George McDonald, and P. It is in the United States that Congregationalism achieved its greatest public influence and numerical strength. The New England experiment has been a major factor in determining the character of the nation. The Separatists of the Plymouth Colony were more radical than the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay, but they had enough in common to form a unified community and to repudiate the more radical views of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson.

    Their statement of faith, the Cambridge Platform of , accepted the theology of the English Presbyterian Westminster Confession of but laid down a Congregational rather than a Presbyterian polity. In this, it was followed by the English Savoy Declaration of The original New Englanders were not sectarian; they worked out an intellectually powerful and consistent system of theology and church and civil government that they strove, with considerable success, to exemplify. John Cotton 's Keyes of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Powers Thereof is a classic statement of their view of the church.

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    The very success of the New England settlement made it difficult for succeeding generations to retain the original commitment, and the Half-Way Covenant was devised to find a place for those who were baptized but could not make a strong enough confession of faith — permitting them a form of church membership that did not confer a place at the Lord's Table or in church government. Education was seen as vital from the outset. Harvard College was founded in to maintain the succession of learned ministers.

    Yale and others followed later, the precursors of a long succession of distinguished colleges founded under Congregational auspices across the country. New life came with the Great Awakening , the revival movement begun in , in which Jonathan Edwards, a minister at Northampton, Massachusetts, and one of the greatest American theologians, was prominent. Differences began to emerge at the turn of the century between the two wings of Congregationalism, those who continued to accept the modified Calvinism represented by Edwards and those who were moving toward Unitarianism.

    Unitarianism became dominant in the Boston area but not in Connecticut, where Congregationalism remained the established church until the early nineteenth century. Despite the loss to the Unitarians, who took with them many of the most handsome colonial churches, Congregationalism flourished in the nineteenth century and was active in the westward expansion of the nation.

    It adopted in a Plan of Union with the Presbyterians, who were concentrated chiefly in the Middle Atlantic states, for joint home missionary activity. One factor in the ultimate breakdown of this agreement was the growing theological liberalism of Congregationalism. Horace Bushnell was a representative theologian who challenged the traditional substitutionary view of the atonement and whose influential book Christian Nurture questioned the need for the classic conversion experience.

    The so-called Kansas City Creed of summed up this liberalism, which represented a break with the Calvinist past.

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    This liberalism continues to prevail, although substantially modified after World War II by the influence of neoorthodoxy. A national Congregational organization was founded in , and its boards of Home Missions and Education have done much to start schools and colleges among the black community in the South.


    Modern Congregationalism has been exceptionally active in the ecumenical movement. Union with the Christian Churches in the United States was achieved between the wars and with the substantial Evangelical and Reformed Church in , to form the United Church of Christ. The beliefs and practices of most Congregationalists have been broadly similar to those of other mainline evangelical Protestant churches of the more liberal kind. The English historian Bernard Manning described them as "decentralized Calvinists," but this fails to allow for their emphasis on the free movement of the Holy Spirit , which gives them some affinity with the Quakers as well as with Presbyterians.

    In its origin, their notion of the "gathered church" was not a form of secular voluntarism but an attempt, as against Anglican territorialism, to recognize "the crown rights of the Redeemer" and the primacy of the free Spirit's action in gathering together the covenant people of God.

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