Religious Nonconformity and Democracy: Dissenting Politics from the Seventeenth-Century Revolution to the Rise of the Labour Party


Bebbington DW (2016) Religious Nonconformity and Democracy: Dissenting Politics from the Seventeenth-Century Revolution to the Rise of the Labour Party. Zeitschrift fur Theologie und Gemeinde, 21, pp. 143-156.

First paragraph: The Dissenters of England and Wales, that is the Protestants who stood outside the Church of England, originally included five main strands. The largest body in the seventeenth century consisted of the Presbyterians, who, like their coreligionists in Scotland, upheld the stoutly Calvinist doctrines expounded in the Westminster Confession of 1646. They originally aspired to copy their Scottish contemporaries by creating a system of church courts that would govern a national church, supplanting the episcopal structure of the Church of England. Alongside them was the second and smaller strand, the Independents, who, while sharing the Calvinist theology of the Presbyterians, differed from them in church organisation. Rejecting any ecclesiastical authority outside the individual gathered congregation, the Independents gained their name from asserting that each such church was wholly independent. The Particular Baptists, the third strand, were so called because, as Calvinists, they believed in the redemption of a particular group, the elect, and they echoed the teaching of the Independents about congregational autonomy. In the fourth place, a minority of Baptists, the General Baptists, accepted the Arminian teaching that redemption was general and maintained a tighter connection between congregations than their Particular cousins. The fifth body, the Society of Friends or Quakers, was semi-detached from the other Dissenters because its members held that the inner light of God in human beings was an authority higher than the Bible. Consequently treated as unorthodox, the Quakers had distinctive ways such as refusing to doff their hats to social superiors. Later these five denominational groupings were to be joined in the ranks of non-Anglican Protestants by Methodists, but during the seventeenth century that development remained in the future. Religious Nonconformity was from the start a diverse phenomenon.

Zeitschrift fur Theologie und Gemeinde: Volume 21

Publication date31/12/2016
Date accepted by journal01/03/2016
PublisherVerlag der Gesellschaft fur Freikirchliche Theologie und Publizistik
Publisher URL…einde-21-jg.html