The New England way reconsidered
An exploration of church polity and the governance of the region’s churches
in Church polity and politics in the British Atlantic world, c. 1635–66
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This chapter looks at the issues surrounding church polity in mid- to late seventeenth-century colonial New England. It looks at the debates surrounding the role of synods in the congregational churches of New England, as well as disputes concerning the role of the laity in church governance. The chapter focuses on the gradual seventeenth-century drift in the American colonies away from the pure congregationalism of its founders towards more presbyterian forms of government. This retreat from congregational and lay governance was made more rapid by the New Englanders witnessing the events of the civil war and interregnum in England and the chaos caused by the de facto toleration of religious sects.

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