Church polity and politics in the British Atlantic world, c. 1635–66

The debate on the polity of the church was at the centre of the religious debates in the British Atlantic world during the middle decades of the seventeenth-century. From the Covenanter revolution in Scotland, to the congregationalism of the New England colonies, to the protracted debates of the Westminster assembly, and the abolition of the centuries-old episcopalian structure of the Church of England, the issue of the polity of the church was intertwined with the political questions of the period. This book collects together essays focusing on the conjunction of church polity and politics in the middle years of the seventeenth century. A number of chapters in the volume address the questions and conflicts arising out of the period’s reopening and rethinking of the Reformation settlement of church and state. In addition, the interplay between the localities and the various Westminster administrations of the era are explored in a number of chapters. Beyond these discussions, chapters in the volume explore the deeper ecclesiological thinking of the period, examining the nature of the polity of the church and its relationship to society at large. The book also covers the issues of liberty of conscience and how religious suffering contributed to a sense of what the true church was in the midst of revolutionary political upheaval. This volume asserts the fundamental connection between church polity and politics in the revolutions that affected the seventeenth-century British Atlantic world.

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