Revolutionary Anglicanism. the Colonial Church of England Clergy during the American Revolution

By Haydon, Colin | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2002 | Go to article overview

Revolutionary Anglicanism. the Colonial Church of England Clergy during the American Revolution


Haydon, Colin, The Catholic Historical Review


Revolutionary Anglicanism. The Colonial Church of England Clergy during theAmerican Revolution. By Nancy L. Rhoden. (New York: New York University Press. 1999. Pp. xii, 205. $40.00.)

Nancy L. Rhoden's Revolutionary Anglicanism examines the history of Church of England clergymen in the American colonies before the Revolution and their responses to it. It begins by investigating the condition of the church in the different colonies, stressing its problems. One of these was the lack of a resident, directing episcopate, but the possible creation of colonial bishops was highly controversial-an ecclesiastical equivalent of British taxation policies. Unsurprisingly, some of the most prominent supporters of a colonial episcopate later became loyalist exiles. With the coming of the Revolution, the Anglican clergy's principles of passive obedience and non-resistance-though admittedly modified after 1688-stood in stark contrast to fervent patriot ideas, bolstered by dissenting resistance traditions. Clerics split into loyalists, neutrals, and patriots (the last, using Professor Rhoden's figures, constituting only 28% of the total). The loyalists often described the conflict as "unnatural"; the revolutionaries turned "Faith into Faction, and the Gospel of Peace, into an Engine of War and Sedition," stated Charles Inglis (p. 85). Loyalist clergymen could suffer harassment, assault, the threat or reality of imprisonment, and exile (useful tables detail the number of clerical exiles or deaths from 1775 to 1783). Local circumstances determined whether or not clergymen could continue their ministry. The Revolution led to the depoliticization of the Anglican clergy; during the conflict, calls for "peaceableness" were widespread. Fast days approved by Congress, however, proved a"Tryal by Ordeal" for clerics (p. 105), since a sermon might prove a political shibboleth. From 1789, the Protestant Episcopal Church, organized so as to be acceptable to the conflict's victors,"preserved its ecclesiastical heritage and simultaneously laid a republican foundation for its future development" (p. …

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