The Free Church of England: Introduction to an Anglican Tradition

By Rutz, Michael A. | Anglican and Episcopal History, March 2006 | Go to article overview

The Free Church of England: Introduction to an Anglican Tradition


Rutz, Michael A., Anglican and Episcopal History


JOHN FENWICK. The Free Church of England: Introduction to an Anglican Tradition. New York, New York: T&T Clark International, 2004. Pp. vii + 339, introduction, appendices, bibliography, index. $89.95.

John Fenwick, formerly lecturer at Trinity College, Bristol, and assistant secretary for ecumenical affairs to the archbishop of Canterbury, has written an informative new history of the Free Church of England. The Free Church currently consists of twenty-four congregations organized into two dioceses. With nearly two hundred years of history as an independent church in the Anglican tradition, it is an interesting and generally overlooked aspect of the history of religion in modern Britain. Fenwick' s book, unlike official histories published in the 1870s and 1930s, is not a traditional denominational history. The author provides what he calls a "warts and all" (5) history of the denomination, its strengths and weaknesses, and its prospects for the future.

The book traces what Fenwick calls the three "strands" (10) of the Free Church of England's development. The first strand was the eighteenth-century Evangelical Revival; in particular, the countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, which, although separate from the Church of England, maintained evangelical religion within a generally Anglican structure of practice and worship. The second strand, beginning in the 1840s, was the movement of congregations out of the Church of England in protest against Tractarian and high-church influences. These congregations found a home in the Connexion, and this led to the official establishment of the Free Church in 1863. …

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