Joseph Hardwick
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The making of a colonial laity
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This chapter charts the emergence of a colonial laity and compares this with the contemporaneous development of the colonial political public. The colonial Church was transformed by the growing visibility and significance of a colonial laity that was increasingly being asked to stump up the cash that would facilitate the maintenance and further expansion of the Anglican Communion. The chapter shows that the identity and make-up of the colonial laity was a contested and problematic issue throughout the first half of the nineteenth century. In theory all the inhabitants of the British colonies were defined as members of the empire’s established Anglican Church; in practice, churchmen wanted to limit the right to sit in church vestries and administer Church property to a narrower community of regular communicants. Clergy also found that the growing strength of the laity posed a number of difficult questions: how could clergy articulate their clerical authority when they were dependent on the voluntary subscriptions of their churchgoers? How could a Church maintain centres of authority when much of the responsibility for finding and funding clergy was delegated to networks composed of evangelical lay persons?

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An Anglican British World

The Church of England and the Expansion of the Settler Empire, c. 1790–1860


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