Saturday, June 29, 2019

Follow Up on Anglican Defenestration In America

We can all agree on a few things about religion and the original Constitution. On the one hand, religion, including establishment policy, was left to the states. On the other, the states were in the middle of a movement termed disestablishmentarianism. (Massachusetts was the last state to disestablish around 1833 and interestingly did so because the "orthodox" didn't like Unitarians, whose religion they didn't view as "real Christianity," getting their hands on establishment money.) The third thing to appreciate is the Anglican Church and its establishment in America lost the most ground, as a result of the revolution. And that makes sense because Anglicanism officially taught submission to the King as head of church and state, which is what America rebelled against.

As this source notes:
Picture yourself an American member of the colonial Church of England (COE) during or after the Revolutionary War. Your church was part of the royal government, the same government that people were fighting against. Perhaps you felt more allegiance to the Crown than your fellow colonists. After all, the Church of England in the United States (remember “Anglican” wasn’t a term in common use until the 19th century) attracted members of the merchant class, civil servants, royal governors, and others with strong ties to England. 
If you left during the Revolution to go to Canada or return to England you weren’t alone. About 40% of Anglicans did. For those who stayed on after the war, their church was a shadow of its former self. Where the COE was the established (government-subsidized) church, such as the southern colonies and parts of New York, the church was quickly dis-established and lands sold off. Clergy, who took an oath of loyalty to the King, were caught in a dilemma: do you remain faithful to your ordination vows and support the King or side with the colonists who were part of the Revolution?
It was a relatively orthodox Bishop named William White, who was a Whig (supported the rebellion) who led the effort to rewrite the faith into American Episcopalianism (you can read about it here). It obviously wasn't going to be a Tory like Samuel Seabury (the "farmer" whom Alexander Hamilton "refuted") playing the leading role in directing the new project. He was, you could view him as "too cold." On the other hand, Whig Bishop James Madison (the President's cousin and namesake) was probably too hot. William White was just right.

6 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

According to Stark and Finke, only 20% of Americans were affiliated with a church in 1776. Anglicanism was only 15% of those, total.

Which makes this topic more of passing interest, and Gregg Frazer's almost exclusive reliance on the arguments of the Anglican preachers much the same.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Okay, I've seen that stat offered very often by the "un-Christian" America types to prove that revolutionary America was a distinctly UNCHURCHED people.

I also recall MDH challenging it.

Perhaps something more useful might be to examine out of the 13 colonies, WHICH ones had the Anglican Church established, and WHEN the disestablishment occured.

For instance, VA was an important state, with scads of important Founding Fathers, and they disestablished the Anglican/Episcopal Church hard in the 1780s. NY too.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Virginia also had a ton of Presbyterians, Baptists and even Quakers. Why would they want an established Anglican church?

1776, Southern Colonies:

Presbyterian 24.9%
Baptist 28.0%
Anglican 27.8%
Quaker 9.0%


Once again, it is sectarianism, not secularism, which was the driving force.

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