'An Antient Protestant Episcopal
Church': The Moravian Act of 1749
In 1749 the British Parliament passed an act which allowed Moravians in America to make payment in lieu of military service, and permitted Moravians in Great Britain and Ireland as well as America to affirm rather than take an oath on all occasions. This Act, with its preamble describing the Moravian Church as 'an antient Protestant Episcopal Church', is crucial to an understanding of the history of the Moravian Church in England and important in wider Moravian history. Wauer's view that it closed the first period of the history of the Moravians in England is in many ways correct.1 As indicated in Chapter VI, it effectively ended the debate over the Moravians' role in England and vis-à-vis the English Church and State, being in fact a defeat for the count's ideals. It also marked a turning-point in the history of the Moravian dealings with the Anglican episcopate, with whom (as Chapter VII has shown) relations had reached a low ebb by 1747-8. The years 1749-53 represented the high-water mark of official recognition of the Moravian Church by government and Parliament, Church and society. With the passing of the Act the Moravians mounted the public stage and became an accepted feature of English life, less than seven years after the 'settling' of the first two congregations. The headquarters of the worldwide Moravian Church could now be established in London, the focal point between the Continental settlements and those in the New World. On the other hand, the Act can be seen as an important stage in a development which was not really concluded until the mid-1750s. By drawing attention to the Moravians and making their leader a public figure, it laid them open to the opposition which was to erupt only four years after it was passed. This crisis of public confidence, together with the financial collapse which partly provoked it, was to set the definitive____________________
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Publication information: Book title: The Moravian Church in England, 1728-1760. Contributors: Colin Podmore - Author. Publisher: Clarendon Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 228.
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