Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Revolutionary Anglicanism: The Colonial Church of England Clergy during the American Revolution

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Revolutionary Anglicanism: The Colonial Church of England Clergy during the American Revolution

Article excerpt

NANCY L. RHODEN. Revolutionary Anglicanism: The Colonial Church of England Clergy During the American Revolution. New York: New York University Press, 1999. Pp. xii + 205, index. $40.00.

A hallmark of Nancy Rhoden's monograph is its brevity. In six chapters and an epilogue comprising less than 150 pages, she addresses Revolutionary Anglicanism with admirable directness and conciseness. While Rhoden centers her study on the predicament of colonial Church of England clergy "facing contradictory demands of conscience, duty, and allegiance," she has placed it within a broader and more ambitious context of the circumstances of the church before, during, and after the War for Independence, as is made evident in her introduction (chapter 1) as well as in chapters two and three where she summarizes the pre-war situation of the church in the North American colonies and subjects the intercolonial bishop controversy of the 1760s and early 1770s to close examination.

The fourth chapter, "The Political Philosophies of the Two Extremes," sets the stage for confronting the difficult and painful decisions facing Anglican clergy (and laity) with the onset of armed conflict. Rhoden accomplishes this by exploring the political commitments attending high and low churchmanship as reflected both in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English experience and in their varied regional manifestations in the colonies. Actual behaviors are tabulated and analyzed in the next chapter ("The Depoliticization of the Colonial Anglican Clergy"). Of 318 clergy, for example, she identifies 123 loyalists, eighty-eight patriots (fifty-eight of whom were Virginia clergy), and 107 neutrals and argues, as the chapter title suggests, that the majority sought to protect themselves and sustain their ministry by detachment and withdrawal from public involvement as much as was humanly possible. …

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