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Anglican Church Policy, Eighteenth Century Conflict, and the American Episcopate


Kenneth R. Elliott

Anglican Church Policy, Eighteenth Century Conflict, and the American Episcopate examines how leaders in the Church of England sought to reorganize the colonial church by installing one or two resident bishops at critical moments in the late 1740s, the early 1760s, and the mid 1770s when the British government moved to bring the colonies into closer economic and political alignment with England. Examining Anglican attempts to install bishops into the American colonies within the context of the Anglo-American world provides insight into the difficulties British political and ecclesiastical authorities had in organizing the management of the colonies more efficiently. Although the Church of England sustained wide influence over the population, the failure of the Anglicans’ proposal to install bishops into the colonies was symptomatic of the declining influence of the Church on eighteenth century politics. Differing views over political and ecclesiastical authority between the colonists and the Anglicans, and the possibility religious conflict might have on elections, concerned British authorities enough not to act on the Anglicans’ proposals for resident bishops for the colonies. The failure also highlights how eighteenth century British government increasingly focused on the political and economic administration of the expanded British Empire rather than its religious administration.


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Introduction 1


1 19. A sampling of the literature on the Episcopal/Presbyterian debate includes: Thomas Bilson, The Perpetual Government of Christ’s Churches. (1593); Richard Baxter, Five Disputations of Church Government, and Worship. (London: Printed by R. W., 1659); Thomas Brett, The Divine Right of Episcopacy and the Necessity of an Episcopal Communion for preaching God’s word, and for the Valid Ministration of Christian Sacraments. (London: Henry Clements, 1718); Edmund Calamy, A Defence of Moderate Non-Conformity. (London: 1703–1705); Charles Chauncy, A Compleat View of Episcopacy. (Boston: Printed by Daniel Kneeland, 1771); John Checkley, A Modest Proof of the Order and Government Settled by Christ and his Apostles in the Church. (Boston: Thomas Fleet, 1723); John Gauden, Analusis: The Loosing of St. Peter Bands; Setting forth the True Sense and Solution of the Covenant in point of Conscience so far as it Relates to the Government of the Church by Episcopacy. (London: Printed by J. Best, 1660); Joseph Hall, (1574–1656). The works of Joseph Hall, D.D., successively Bishop of Exeter and Norwich: with some account of his life and sufferings. (Oxford : D.A. Talboys, 1837–1839); Benjamin Hoadly, A Serious Admonition to Mr. Calamy, occasion’d by the first part of his Defence of Moderate Non-conformity. (London: 1705); Richard Hooker, The Folger Library Edition of the Works of Richard Hooker. 6 vols. Edited by W. Speed Hill. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977–93); Richard Hooker, Works of that Learned and Judicious Divine, Mr. Richard Hooker: with an Account of his Life and Death by...

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