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Congregational churches (also Congregationalist churches; Congregationalism) are
Protestant Protestantism is a form of that originated with the 16th-century , a movement against what its followers perceived to be in the . Protestants originating in the Reformation reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of , but disagree among themselves ...
churches in the
Calvinist Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, Reformed Christianity, Reformed Protestantism, or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism Protestantism is a form of Christianity Christianity is an , based on the a ...
tradition practising
congregationalist church governance Congregationalist polity, or congregational polity, often known as congregationalism, is a system of ecclesiastical polity in which every local church congregation is independent, ecclesiastically sovereign, or " autonomous". Its first articulat ...
, in which each
congregation A congregation is a large gathering of people, often for the purpose of worship. Congregation may also refer to: *Church (congregation), a Christian organization meeting in a particular place for worship *Congregation (Roman Curia), an administrat ...
independently and autonomously runs its own affairs. Congregationalism, as defined by the
Pew Research Center The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan Nonpartisanism is a lack of affiliation with, and a lack of bias toward, a political party A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's ...

Pew Research Center
, is estimated to represent 0.5 percent of the worldwide Protestant population; though their organizational customs and other ideas influenced significant parts of Protestantism, as well as other Christian congregations. The report defines it very narrowly, encompassing mainly denominations in the United States and the United Kingdom, which can trace their history back to nonconforming Protestants,
Puritans The Puritans were English Protestants Protestantism is a form of Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of J ...
,
Separatists Separatism is the advocacy of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental or gender separation from the larger group. As with secession, separatism conventionally refers to full political separation. Groups simply seeking greater ...
, Independents, English religious groups coming out of the English Civil War, and other
English dissenters English Dissenters or English Separatists were Protestant Protestantism is a form of that originated with the 16th-century , a movement against what its followers perceived to be in the . Protestants originating in the Reformation reject t ...
not satisfied with the degree to which the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is a Christian church Christian Church is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Critic ...
had been reformed. Congregationalist tradition has a presence in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and various island nations in the Pacific region. It has been introduced either by immigrant dissenter Protestants or by missionary organization such as the
London Missionary Society The London Missionary Society was an interdenominational evangelical missionary society formed in England in 1795 at the instigation of Welsh Congregationalist minister Edward Williams. It was largely Reformed tradition, Reformed in outlook, with C ...
. A number of
evangelical Evangelicalism (), also called evangelical Christianity, or evangelical Protestantism, is a worldwide trans-denominational movement within Protestant Christianity Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century ...

evangelical
Congregational churches are members of the
World Evangelical Congregational Fellowship The World Evangelical Congregational Fellowship is a global association of evangelical Christian Congregational Churches, from various national associations around the world, which is united by a common belief in the lordship of Jesus Christ and t ...
. In the United Kingdom, many Congregational churches claim their descent from Protestant denominations formed on a theory of union published by the theologian and English separatist Robert Browne in 1582. Other accounts trace these origins further back to the
London Underground ChurchThe London underground church was an illegal Puritans, puritan group in the time of Elizabeth I and James I. It began as a radical fringe of the Church of England, but split from the Church and later became part of the Brownist or Definitions of Puri ...
of the 1560s. Ideas of nonconforming Protestants during the
Puritan Reformation
Puritan Reformation
of the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is a Christian church Christian Church is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Critic ...
laid foundation for these churches. In
England England is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. E ...

England
, the early Congregationalists were called ''
Separatists Separatism is the advocacy of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental or gender separation from the larger group. As with secession, separatism conventionally refers to full political separation. Groups simply seeking greater ...
'' or '' Independents'' to distinguish them from the similarly
Calvinistic Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, Reformed Christianity, Reformed Protestantism, or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism Protestantism is a form of Christianity Christianity is an , based on the a ...
Presbyterians Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, Reformed Christianity, Reformed Protestantism, or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism Protestantism is a form ...
, whose churches embrace a polity based on the governance of elders. Congregationalists also differed with the Reformed churches using
episcopalian church governance An episcopal polity is a Hierarchy, hierarchical form of Ecclesiastical polity, church governance ("ecclesiastical polity") in which the chief local authorities are called bishops. (The word "bishop" derives, via the British Latin and Vulgar L ...
, which is usually led by a
bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Moravian Chu ...

bishop
.
Congregationalism in the United States Congregationalist polity, or congregational polity, often known as congregationalism, is a system of ecclesiastical polity Ecclesiastical polity is the operational and governance structure of a church or of a Christian denomination. It also ...
traces its origins to the Puritans of
New England New England is a region comprising six states in the Northeastern United States The Northeastern United States (also referred to as the American Northeast, the Northeast, and the East Coast) is a geographical region In geography ...

New England
, who wrote the
Cambridge Platform The Cambridge Platform is a statement describing the system of church government in the Congregational churches of colonial New England. It was written in 1648 in response to Presbyterian criticism and in time became regarded as the religious con ...
of 1648 to describe the autonomy of the church and its association with others. Within the United States, the model of Congregational churches was carried by migrating settlers from New England into
New York New York most commonly refers to: * New York City, the most populous city in the United States, located in the state of New York * New York (state), a state in the northeastern United States New York may also refer to: Film and television * New ...
, then into the Old North West, and further. With their insistence on independent local bodies, they became important in many
social reform A reform movement is a type of social movement A social movement is a loosely organized effort by a large group of people to achieve a particular goal, typically a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting pop ...
movements, including
abolitionism Abolitionism, or the abolitionist movement, was the movement to end . In Western Europe and the Americas, abolitionism was a historic movement that sought to end the and liberate the enslaved people. The British abolitionist movement star ...
, temperance, and women's
suffrage Suffrage, political franchise, or simply franchise, is the right to vote in public, political elections (although the term is sometimes used for any right to vote). In some languages, and occasionally in English, the right to vote is called a ...

suffrage
. Modern Congregationalism in the United States is largely split into three bodies: the
United Church of Christ The United Church of Christ (UCC) is a mainline Protestant Christian denomination based in the United States, with historical and confessional roots in the Congregationalism in the United States, Congregational, Reformed churches, Reformed, Lut ...
, the
National Association of Congregational Christian Churches The National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (NACCC) is an association of about 400 churches providing fellowship for and services to churches from the Congregational tradition. The Association maintains its national office in Oa ...
and the
Conservative Congregational Christian Conference The Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (CCCC or 4Cs) is an evangelical Evangelicalism (), evangelical Christianity, or evangelical Protestantism, is a worldwide trans-denominational movement within Protestant Christianity that ...
, which is the most theologically conservative.


Beliefs

Congregationalism is a
Protestant Protestantism is a form of that originated with the 16th-century , a movement against what its followers perceived to be in the . Protestants originating in the Reformation reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of , but disagree among themselves ...
movement within the
Calvinist Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, Reformed Christianity, Reformed Protestantism, or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism Protestantism is a form of Christianity Christianity is an , based on the a ...
tradition that occupies a theological position between
Presbyterianism Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition, Reformed Christianity, Reformed Protestantism, or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Protestantism Protestantism is a form ...
on one end and the
Baptists Baptists form a major branch of Protestant Protestantism is a form of that originated with the 16th-century , a movement against what its followers perceived to be in the . Protestants originating in the Reformation reject the Roman Cath ...
and
Quakers Quakers are people who belong to a historically Protestant Christian Protestantism is a form of that originated with the 16th-century , a movement against what its followers perceived to be in the . Protestants originating in the Ref ...

Quakers
on the other. Through the years, Congregationalists have adopted various confessional statements, including the
Savoy Declaration The Savoy Declaration is a Congregationalist confession of Faith. Its full title is ''A Declaration of the Faith and Order owned and practiced in the Congregational Churches in England.'' It was drawn up in October 1658 by English Independents an ...
, the
Cambridge Platform The Cambridge Platform is a statement describing the system of church government in the Congregational churches of colonial New England. It was written in 1648 in response to Presbyterian criticism and in time became regarded as the religious con ...
and the Kansas City Statement of Faith. Unlike Presbyterians, Congregationalists practise
congregational polity Congregationalist polity, or congregational polity, often known as congregationalism, is a system of ecclesiastical polity Ecclesiastical polity is the operational and governance structure of a church or of a Christian denomination. It also de ...
(from which they derive their name), which holds that the members of a
local church A church (or local church) is a religious organization or congregation that meets in a particular location. Many are formally organized, with constitutions A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles A principle is a propo ...

local church
have the right to decide their church's forms of
worship Worship is an act of usually directed towards a . For many, worship is not about an emotion, it is more about a recognition of a God. An act of worship may be performed individually, in an informal or formal group, or by a designated . Such a ...
and confessional statements, choose their own officers, and administer their own affairs without any outside interference. Congregationalist polity is rooted in a foundational tenet of Congregationalism: the priesthood of believers. According to Congregationalist minister Charles Edward Jefferson, the priesthood of believers means that "Every believer is a priest and ... every seeking child of God is given directly wisdom, guidance, power." Congregationalists have two sacraments:
baptism Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian rite of initiation, admission and Adoption (theology), adoption, almost invariably with the use of water, into Christianity. It may be pe ...

baptism
and the
Lord's Supper The Eucharist (; also known as Holy Communion and the Lord's Supper among other names) is a Christian rite A rite is an established, Ceremony, ceremonial, usually religious, act. Rites in this sense fall into three major categories: * rites o ...
. Unlike Baptists, Congregationalists practise
infant baptism Infant baptism is the practice of baptising infants 222x222px, Eight-month-old sororal twin sisters An infant (from the Latin word ''infans'', meaning 'unable to speak' or 'speechless') is the more formal or specialised synonym for t ...
. The Lord's Supper is normally celebrated once or twice a month. Congregationalists do not use the
sign of the cross Making the sign of the cross ( la, signum crucis), or blessing oneself or crossing oneself, is a ritual blessing made by members of some branches of Christianity. This blessing is made by the tracing of an upright cross or + across the body wit ...
or invoke the
intercession of saints Intercession of the Saints is a Christian doctrine Doctrine (from la, doctrina, meaning "teaching, instruction") is a codification Codification may refer to: *Codification (law), the process of preparing and enacting a legal code *Codificatio ...
.


Origins

The origins of Congregationalism are found in 16th-century
Puritanism The Puritans were English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries who sought to purify the Church of England of Roman Catholic practices, maintaining that the Church of England had not been fully reformed and should become more Protestant. ...
, a movement that sought to complete the
English Reformation The English Reformation took place in 16th-century England when the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church. These events were, in part, associated with the wider European Protestant Reformati ...
begun with the separation of the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is a Christian church Christian Church is a Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be Critic ...
from the
Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian ...

Catholic Church
during the reign of
Henry VIII Henry VIII (28 June 149128 January 1547) was King of England from 22 April 1509 until his death in 1547. Henry is best known for Wives of Henry VIII, his six marriages, including his efforts to have his first marriage (to Catherine of Aragon ...

Henry VIII
(1509–47). During the reign of
Elizabeth I Elizabeth I (7 September 153324 March 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to i ...

Elizabeth I
(1558–1603), the Church of England was considered a Reformed or Calvinist church, but it also preserved certain characteristics of medieval Catholicism, such as
cathedral A cathedral is a church Church may refer to: Religion * Church (building) A church building, church house, or simply church, is a building used for Christian worship services and other Christian religious activities. The term is used ...

cathedral
s,
church choir A choir (; also known as a chorale or chorus) is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform. Choirs may perform music from the classical music repertoire, which spans f ...
s, a formal
liturgy Liturgy is the customary public worship performed by a religious group. As a religious phenomenon, liturgy represents a community, communal response to and participation in the sacred through activities reflecting praise, thanksgiving, remembrance ...
contained in the ''
Book of Common Prayer A book is a medium for recording information Information is processed, organised and structured data Data (; ) are individual facts, statistics, or items of information, often numeric. In a more technical sense, data are a set of v ...

Book of Common Prayer
'', traditional clerical
vestment Vestments are liturgical Liturgy is the customary public worship Worship is an act of religion, religious wikt:devotion, devotion usually directed towards a deity. For many, worship is not about an emotion, it is more about a recognition ...
s and
episcopal polity An episcopal polity is a hierarchical A hierarchy (from Ancient Greek, Greek: , from , 'president of sacred rites') is an arrangement of items (objects, names, values, categories, etc.) that are represented as being "above", "below", or "a ...
(government by
bishop A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Clergy#Christianity, Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Moravian Chu ...

bishop
s). The Puritans were Calvinists who wanted to further reform the church by abolishing all remaining Catholic practices, such as clerical vestments, wedding rings,
organ Organ may refer to: Biology * Organ (anatomy) An organ is a group of Tissue (biology), tissues with similar functions. Plant life and animal life rely on many organs that co-exist in organ systems. A given organ's tissues can be broadly cate ...
music in church, kneeling at
Holy Communion The Eucharist (; grc-gre, εὐχαριστία, eucharistía, thanksgiving) also known as Holy Communion and the Lord's Supper, among other names, is a Christian Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity, a monothe ...

Holy Communion
, using the term ''priest'' for a minister, bowing at the name of Jesus, and making the sign of the cross in baptism and communion. Many Puritans believed the Church of England should follow the example of Reformed churches in other parts of Europe and adopt
presbyterian polity Presbyterian (or presbyteral) polity is a method of church governance ("ecclesiastical polity") typified by the rule of assemblies of presbyters, or elders. Each local church is governed by a body of elected elders usually called the session or ...
, in which an egalitarian network of local ministers cooperated through regional
synod A synod () is a council of a Ecclesia (church), church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. The word ''wikt:synod, synod'' comes from the meaning "assembly" or "meeting" and is analogous with the L ...

synod
s. Other Puritans experimented with congregational polity both within the Church of England and outside of it. Puritans who left the
established church A state religion (also called an established religion or official religion) is a religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whethe ...
were known as
Separatists Separatism is the advocacy of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental or gender separation from the larger group. As with secession, separatism conventionally refers to full political separation. Groups simply seeking greater ...
. Congregationalism may have first developed in the
London Underground ChurchThe London underground church was an illegal Puritans, puritan group in the time of Elizabeth I and James I. It began as a radical fringe of the Church of England, but split from the Church and later became part of the Brownist or Definitions of Puri ...
under Richard Fitz in the late 1560s and 1570s. The Congregational historian Albert Peel argued that it was but accepted that the evidence for a fully thought out congregational
ecclesiology In Christian theology, ecclesiology is the study of the Church (congregation), Church, the origins of Christianity, its relationship to Jesus, its role in salvation, its ecclesiastical polity, polity, its Church discipline, discipline, its escha ...
is not overwhelming. Robert Browne (1550–1633) was the first person to set out explicit congregational principles and is considered the founder of Congregationalism. While studying for
ordination Ordination is the process by which individuals are , that is, set apart and elevated from the class to the , who are thus then (usually by the composed of other clergy) to perform various religious . The process and ceremonies of ordination va ...

ordination
, Browne became convinced that the Church of England was a false church. He moved to Norwich and together with Robert Harrison formed an illegal Separatist congregation. In 1581, Browne and his followers moved to
Holland Holland is a geographical region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interaction of humanity and the environment (en ...

Holland
in order to worship freely. While in Holland, Browne wrote treatises that laid out the essential features of Congregationalism. Browne argued for a church only of genuine, regenerate believers and criticised the
Anglicans Anglicanism is a Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western Junction, Tasmania, a locality in Australia * ...
for including all English people within their church. The congregation should choose its own leaders, and the ministers should be ordained by the congregation itself not by bishops or fellow ministers. Each congregation should be founded on a written
church covenant A church covenant is a declaration, which some churches draw up and call their members to sign, in which their duties as church members towards God and their fellow believers are outlined. It is a fraternal agreement, freely endorsed, that establis ...
, and the congregation as a whole should govern the church: "The meetings together… of every whole church, and of the elders therein, is above the apostle, above the prophet, the evangelist, the pastor, the teacher, and every particular elder" and "The voice of the whole people, guided by the elders and the forwardest, is said n Scriptureto be the voice of God". While each church would be independent, separate churches would still come together to discuss matters of common concern. Short lifespans were typical of Separatist churches (also known as
Brownist The Brownists were a group of English Dissenters or early English Dissenters#Puritans, Separatists from the Church of England. They were named after Robert Browne (Brownist), Robert Browne, who was born at Tolethorpe Hall in Rutland, England, in t ...
congregations). These were small congregations who met in secret and faced persecution. They were often forced to go into exile in Holland and tended to disintegrate quickly. Notable Separatists who faced exile or death included Henry Barrow (c. 1550–1593), John Greenwood (died 1593), John Penry (1559–1593), Francis Johnson (1563–1618), and
Henry Ainsworth Henry Ainsworth (1571–1622) was an English Nonconformist clergyman and scholar. He led the Ancient Church, a Brownist or English Separatist English Dissenters or English Separatists were Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianit ...
(1571–1622). In the early 1600s, a Separatist congregation in Scrooby was founded through the efforts of John Smyth (who later rejected infant baptism and became a founder of the Baptist movement). John Robinson was the congregation's pastor and William Brewster was an
elder An elder is someone with a degree of seniority or authority. Elder or elders may refer to: Positions Administrative * Elder (administrative title), a position of authority Cultural * American Indian elder, a person who has and transmits cul ...
. In 1607, the congregation moved to Holland fleeing persecution. In 1620, the group (known in history as the Pilgrims) sailed to North America on the ''
Mayflower ''Mayflower'' was an English ship that transported a group of English families, known today as the Pilgrims (Plymouth Colony), Pilgrims, from England to the New World in 1620. After a grueling 10 weeks at sea, ''Mayflower'', with 102 passenger ...

Mayflower
'', establishing the
Plymouth Colony Plymouth Colony (sometimes Plimouth) was an British America, English colonial venture in America from 1620 to 1691 at a location that had previously been surveyed and named by Captain John Smith (explorer), John Smith. The settlement served as t ...
and bringing the Congregational tradition to America. In 1639 William Wroth, then
Rector Rector (Latin for the member of a vessel's crew who steers) may refer to: Style or title *Rector (ecclesiastical), a cleric who functions as an administrative leader in some Christian denominations *Rector (academia), a senior official in an educ ...
of the parish church at Llanvaches in
Monmouthshire Monmouthshire ( cy, Sir Fynwy) is a Local government in Wales#Principal areas, county in the South East Wales, south-east of Wales. The name derives from the Monmouthshire (historic), historic county of the same name; the modern county covers th ...
, established the first Independent Church in
Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the Wales–England border, east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It ...

Wales
"according to the New England pattern", i.e. Congregational. The Tabernacle
United Reformed Church The United Reformed Church (URC) is a Protestant Christian Protestantism is a form of that originated with the 16th-century , a movement against what its followers perceived to be in the . Protestants originating in the Reformation reject ...

United Reformed Church
at Llanvaches survives to this day. During the
English Civil War The English Civil War (1642–1651) was a series of civil wars A civil war, also known as an intrastate war in polemology, is a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, ...
, those who supported the Parliamentary cause were invited by Parliament to discuss religious matters. The
Westminster Confession of Faith Westminster is a district in central London, central London, part of the wider City of Westminster. The area, which extends from the River Thames to Oxford Street has many Tourism in London, visitor attractions and historic landmarks, includin ...
(1646) was officially claimed to be the statement of faith for both the Church of England (Anglican/Episcopal) and Church of Scotland (Presbyterian), which was politically expedient for those in the Presbyterian dominated English Parliament who approved of the
Solemn League and Covenant The Solemn League and Covenant was an agreement between the Scottish Covenanters Covenanters ( gd, Cùmhnantaich) were members of a 17th-century Scottish religious and political movement, who supported a Presbyterian Presbyterianism is ...

Solemn League and Covenant
(1643). After the Second Civil War, the
New Model Army The New Model Army was a standing army formed in 1645 by the Roundhead, Parliamentarians during the First English Civil War, then disbanded after the Stuart Restoration in 1660. It differed from other armies employed in the 1638 to 1651 Wars ...
which was dominated by Congregationalists (or Independents) seized control of the parliament with
Pride's purge Pride's Purge is the name commonly given to an event that took place on 6 December 1648, when soldiers prevented members of Parliament considered hostile to the New Model Army from entering the House of Commons of England. Despite defeat in the ...
(1648), arranged for the
trial In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by ...
and
execution of Charles I The execution of Charles I by Decapitation, beheading occurred on Tuesday 30 January 1649 outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall. The execution was the culmination of political and military conflicts between the cavaliers, royalists and the r ...
in January 1649 and subsequently introduced a republican
Commonwealth A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good Common good Common good In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about r ...
dominated by Independents such as
Oliver Cromwell Oliver Cromwell (25 April 15993 September 1658) was an English general and statesman who, first as a subordinate and later as Commander-in-Chief, led armies An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via Old French ''armée'', "armed" e ...

Oliver Cromwell
. This government lasted until 1660 when the monarch was restored and Episcopalism was re-established (see the
Penal Laws In the history of Ireland The first evidence of human presence in Ireland Ireland (; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to ...
and
Great Ejection The Great Ejection followed the Act of Uniformity 1662 in England. Several thousand Puritan ministers were forced out of their positions in the Church of England, following Stuart Restoration, The Restoration of Charles II of England, Charles II. ...
). In 1662, two years after the Restoration, two thousand Independent, Presbyterian and congregational ministers were evicted from their parishes as dissenters and not being in Holy Orders conferred by bishops. In 1658 (during the
interregnum An interregnum (plural interregna or interregnums) is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organization, or social order. Archetypally, it was the period of time between the reign of one monarch and the next (coming from Latin ''i ...
) the Congregationalists created their own version of the Westminster Confession, called the
Savoy Declaration The Savoy Declaration is a Congregationalist confession of Faith. Its full title is ''A Declaration of the Faith and Order owned and practiced in the Congregational Churches in England.'' It was drawn up in October 1658 by English Independents an ...
, which remains the principal
subordinate standard A subordinate standard is a Reformed confession of faith, catechism or other doctrinal or regulatory statement subscribed to by a Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformation, a movement ag ...
of Congregationalism. A summary of Congregationalism in Scotland see the paper presented to a joint meeting of the ministers of the United Reformed Church (Scottish Synod) and the Congregational Federation in Scotland by Rev'd A. Paterson is available online.


By country


Argentina

The mission to Argentina was the second foreign field tended by German Congregationalists. The work in South America began in 1921 when four Argentine churches urgently requested that denominational recognition be given to George Geier, who was serving them. The Illinois Conference licensed Geier, who worked among Germans from Russia who were very similar to their kin in the United States and in Canada. The South American Germans from Russia had learned about Congregationalism in letters from relatives in the United States. In 1924 general missionary John Hoelzer, while in Argentina for a brief visit, organised six churches.


Australia

In 1977, most congregations of the
Congregational Union of Australia The Congregational Union of Australia was a Congregational Congregational churches (also Congregationalist churches; Congregationalism) are Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16th-century Reformati ...
merged with all Churches of the
Methodist Church of Australasia The Methodist Church of Australasia was a Methodist Methodism, also called the Methodist movement, is a group of historically related denominations Denomination may refer to: * Religious denomination, such as a: ** Christian denomination ** J ...
and a majority of Churches of the
Presbyterian Church of Australia The Presbyterian Church of Australia (PCA) is the largest Presbyterian denomination in Australia. (The larger Uniting Church in Australia incorporated about two-thirds of the PCA in 1977.) History Beginnings When captain James Cook landed i ...
to form the
Uniting Church in Australia The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) was founded on 22 June 1977, when most congregations of the Methodist Church of Australasia, about two-thirds of the Presbyterian Church of Australia and almost all the churches of the Congregational Unio ...
. Those congregations that did not join the Uniting Church formed the
Fellowship of Congregational Churches The Fellowship of Congregational Churches is a conservative Congregational denomination in Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (co ...
or continued as Presbyterians. Some more ecumenically minded Congregationalists left the Fellowship of Congregational Churches in 1995 and formed the
Congregational Federation of Australia The Congregational Federation of Australia and New Zealand is a Congregational Congregational churches (also Congregationalist churches; Congregationalism) are Protestant Protestantism is a form of Christianity that originated with the 16t ...
.


Bulgaria

Congregationalists (called "Evangelicals" in
Bulgaria Bulgaria (; bg, България, Bǎlgariya), officially the Republic of Bulgaria ( bg, Република България, links=no, Republika Bǎlgariya, ), is a country in Southeast Europe. It is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia ...

Bulgaria
; the word "Protestant" is not used) were among the first Protestant missionaries to the
Ottoman Empire The Ottoman Empire (; ', ; or '; )info page on bookat Martin Luther University) // CITED: p. 36 (PDF p. 38/338). was an empire that controlled much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa, Northern Africa between the 14th ...
and to the Northwestern part of the European Ottoman Empire which is now Bulgaria, where their work to convert these Orthodox Christians was unhampered by the death penalty imposed by the Ottomans on Muslim converts to Christianity. These missionaries were significant contributors to the
Bulgarian National Revival The Bulgarian National Revival ( bg, Българско национално възраждане, ''Balgarsko natsionalno vazrazhdane'' or simply: Възраждане, ''Vazrazhdane''), sometimes called the Bulgarian Renaissance, was a period ...

Bulgarian National Revival
movement. Today,
Protestantism in Bulgaria Protestantism is the third largest religious grouping in Bulgaria after Eastern Orthodoxy and Islam. In the census of 2011, a total of 64,476 people declared themselves to be Protestants of different denominations, up from 42,308 in the previous c ...
represents the third largest religious group, behind Orthodox and Muslim. Missionaries from the United States first arrived in 1857–58, sent to
Istanbul ) , postal_code_type = Postal code A postal code (also known locally in various English-speaking countries throughout the world as a postcode, post code, PIN or ZIP Code) is a series of letters or digits or both, sometimes ...

Istanbul
by the
American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions , commemorates the event in 1806 that inspired the creation of the ABCFM. Image:New Morning Star 1884.jpg, The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions issued shares to finance its new ship Morning Star in the year 1884 The American Boa ...
(ABCFM). The ABCFM was proposed in 1810 by the Congregationalist graduates of Williams College, MA, and was chartered in 1812 to support missions by Congregationalists, Presbyterian (1812–1870), Dutch-Reformed (1819–1857) and other denominational members. The ABCFM focused its efforts on southern Bulgaria and the Methodist Church on the region north of the
Balkan Mountains The Balkan mountain range (Bulgarian Bulgarian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the country of Bulgaria * Bulgarians, a South Slavic ethnic group * Bulgarian language, a Slavic language * Bulgarian alphabet * A citizen of Bulgar ...
(Stara Planina, or "Old Mountains"). In 1857, Cyrus Hamlin and Charles Morse established three missionary centres in southern Bulgaria – in Odrin (
Edirne Edirne (, ), formerly known as Adrianople or Hadrianopolis (), is a city in Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country located mainly on Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the ...
, former capital city of the Ottoman Empire, in Turkey),
Plovdiv Plovdiv ( bg, Пловдив, ) is the second-largest city in Bulgaria Bulgaria (; bg, България, Bǎlgariya), officially the Republic of Bulgaria ( bg, Република България, links=no, Republika Bǎlgariya, ), is a co ...

Plovdiv
and
Stara Zagora Stara Zagora ( bg, Стара Загора, ) is the fifth-largest agglomeration in Bulgaria Bulgaria (; bg, България, Bǎlgariya), officially the Republic of Bulgaria ( bg, Република България, links=no, Republika ...
. They were joined in 1859 by Russian-born naturalized America Frederic Flocken in 1859. American Presbyterian minister Elias Riggs commissioned, supported and edited the work of Bulgarian monk Neofit Rilski to create a Bible translations into Bulgarian which was then distributed widely in Bulgaria in 1871 and thereafter. This effort was supported by Congregationalist missionary Albert Long, Konstantin Fotinov, Hristodul Sechan-Nikolov and
Petko Slaveikov Petko Rachov Slaveykov ( bg, Петко Рачов Славейков) (17 November 1827 Old Style and New Style dates, OS – 1 July 1895 Old Style and New Style dates, OS ) was Bulgarian poet, publicist, public figure and folklorist. Biograph ...
. Reportedly, 2,000 copies of the newly translated Bulgarian language New Testament were sold within the first two weeks. Congregational churches were established in Bansko, Veliko Turnovo, and Svishtov between 1840 and 1878, followed by Sofia in 1899. By 1909, there were 19 Congregational churches, with a total congregation of 1,456 in southern Bulgaria offering normal Sunday services, Sunday schools for children, biblical instruction for adults; as well as women's groups and youth groups. Summer Bible schools were held annually from 1896 to 1948. Congregationalists led by Dr James F. Clarke opened Bulgaria's first Protestant primary school for boys in
Plovdiv Plovdiv ( bg, Пловдив, ) is the second-largest city in Bulgaria Bulgaria (; bg, България, Bǎlgariya), officially the Republic of Bulgaria ( bg, Република България, links=no, Republika Bǎlgariya, ), is a co ...

Plovdiv
in 1860, followed three years later by a primary school for girls in
Stara Zagora Stara Zagora ( bg, Стара Загора, ) is the fifth-largest agglomeration in Bulgaria Bulgaria (; bg, България, Bǎlgariya), officially the Republic of Bulgaria ( bg, Република България, links=no, Republika ...
. In 1871 the two schools were moved to Samokov and merged as the American College, now considered the oldest American educational institution outside the US. In 1928, new facilities were constructed in Sofia, and the Samokov operation transferred to the American College of Sofia (ACS), now operated at a very high level by the Sofia American Schools, Inc. In 1874, a Bible College was opened in Ruse, Bulgaria for people wanting to become pastors. At the 1876 annual conference of missionaries, the beginning of organizational activity in the country was established. The evangelical churches of Bulgaria formed a united association in 1909. The missionaries played a significant role in assisting the Bulgarians throw off "the Turkish Yoke", which included publishing the magazine Zornitsa (Зорница, "Dawn"), founded in 1864 by the initiative of Riggs and Long. Zornitsa became the most powerful and most widespread newspaper of the Bulgarian Renaissance. A small roadside marker on Bulgarian Highway 19 in the Rila Mountains, close to Gradevo commemorates the support given the Bulgarian Resistance by these early Congregationalist missionaries. On 3 September 1901 Congregationalist missionaries came to world attention in the Miss Stone Affair when missionary Ellen Maria Stone, of Roxbury, Massachusetts, and her pregnant fellow missionary friend Macedonian-Bulgarian Katerina Stefanova–Tsilka, wife of an Albanian Protestant minister, were kidnapped while traveling between Bansko and Gorna Dzhumaya (now Blagoevgrad), by an Internal Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization detachment led by the voivoda Yane Sandanski and the sub-voivodas Hristo Chernopeev and Krǎstyo Asenov and ransomed to provide funds for revolutionary activities. Eventually, a heavy ransom (14,000 Ottoman lira (about US$62,000 at 1902 gold prices or $5 million at 2012 gold prices) raised by public subscription in the USA was paid on 18 January 1902 in Bansko and the hostages (now including a newborn baby) were released on 2 February near Strumica—a full five months after being kidnapped. Widely covered by the media at the time, the event has been often dubbed "America's first modern hostage crisis". The Bulgarian royal house, of Catholic German extraction, was unsympathetic to the American inspired Protestants, and this mood became worse when Bulgaria sided with Germany in WWI and WWII. Matters became much worse when the Bulgarian Communist Party took power in 1944. Like the Royal Family, it too saw Protestantism closely linked to the West and hence more politically dangerous than traditional Orthodox Christianity. This prompted repressive legislation in the form of "Regulations for the Organization and Administration of the Evangelical Churches in the People's Republic of Bulgaria" and resulted in the harshest government repression, possibly the worst in the entire Eastern Bloc, intended to extinguish Protestantism altogether. Mass arrests of pastors (and often their families), torture, long prison sentences (including four life sentences) and even disappearance were common. Similar tactics were used on parishioners. In fifteen highly publicized mock show-trials between 8 February and 8 March 1949, all the accused pastors confessed to a range of charges against them, including treason, spying (for both the US and Yugoslavia), black marketing, and various immoral acts. State appointed pastors were foist on surviving congregations. As late as the 1980s, imprisonment and exile were still employed to destroy the remaining Protestant churches. The Congregationalist magazine "Zornitsa" was banned; Bibles became unobtainable. As a result, the number of Congregationalists is small and estimated by Paul Mojzes in 1982 to number about 5,000, in 20 churches. (Total Protestants in Bulgaria were estimated in 1965 to have been between 10,000 and 20,000.) More recent estimates indicate enrollment in Protestant ("Evangelical" or "Gospel") churches of between 100,000 and 200,000, presumably reflecting the success of more recent missionary efforts of evangelical groups.


Canada

In Canada, the first foreign field, thirty-one churches that had been affiliated with the General Conference became part of the United Church of Canada when that denomination was founded in 1925 by the merger of the Canadian Congregationalist and Methodism, Methodist churches, and two-thirds of the congregations of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. In 1988, a number of UCC congregations separated from the national church, which they felt was moving away theologically and in practice from Biblical Christianity. Many of the former UCC congregations banded together as the new Congregational Christian Churches in Canada. The Congregational Christian Churches in Canada (or 4Cs) is an evangelical, Protestant, Christian denomination, headquartered in Brantford, Ontario, and a member of the
World Evangelical Congregational Fellowship The World Evangelical Congregational Fellowship is a global association of evangelical Christian Congregational Churches, from various national associations around the world, which is united by a common belief in the lordship of Jesus Christ and t ...
. The name "congregational" generally describes its preferred organizational style, which promotes local church autonomy and ownership, while fostering fellowship and accountability between churches at the National level.


Ireland

The Congregational Union of Ireland was founded in 1829 and currently has around 26 member churches. In 1899 it absorbed the Irish Evangelical Society.


Samoa

The Congregational Christian Church of Samoa is one of the largest group of churches throughout the Pacific Region. It was founded in 1830 by the
London Missionary Society The London Missionary Society was an interdenominational evangelical missionary society formed in England in 1795 at the instigation of Welsh Congregationalist minister Edward Williams. It was largely Reformed tradition, Reformed in outlook, with C ...
missionary John Williams (missionary), John Williams on the island of Savai'i in the village of Sapapali'i. As the church grew it established and continues to support theological colleges in Samoa and Fiji. There are over 100,000 members attending over 2,000 congregations throughout the world, most of which are located in Samoa, American Samoa, New Zealand, Australia and America. The Christian Congregational Church of Jamaica falls under the constitution of the Samoan Church.


South Africa

Congregational churches were brought to the Cape Colony by British settlers.


United Kingdom

The Congregational Union of England and Wales was established in 1831. It had no authority over the affiliated churches, but instead aimed to advise and support them. In 1972, about three-quarters of English Congregational churches merged with the English Presbyterianism, Presbyterian Church of England to form the
United Reformed Church The United Reformed Church (URC) is a Protestant Christian Protestantism is a form of that originated with the 16th-century , a movement against what its followers perceived to be in the . Protestants originating in the Reformation reject ...

United Reformed Church
(URC). However, about 600 Congregational churches have continued in their historic independent tradition. Under the United Reformed Church Act 1972 that dealt with the financial and property issues arising from the merger between what had become by then the Congregational Church of England and Wales and the Presbyterian Church of England, certain assets were divided between the various parties. In England, there are three main groups of continuing Congregationalists. These are the Congregational Federation, which has offices in Nottingham and Manchester, the Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches, which has offices in Beverley, and about 100 Congregational churches that are loosely federated with other congregations in the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, or are unaffiliated. The unaffiliated churches' share of the assets of the Congregational Union/Church of England and Wales is administered by a Registered charity in England, registered charity, the Unaffiliated Congregational Churches Charities, which supports the unaffiliated churches and their retired ministers. In 1981, the United Reformed Church merged with the re-formed Association of Churches of Christ and, in 2000, just over half of the churches in the Congregational Union of Scotland also joined the United Reformed Church (via the United Reformed Church Act 20002000 c.ii
at legislation.gov.uk
). The remainder of Congregational churches in Scotland joined the Congregational Federation.
Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the Wales–England border, east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It ...

Wales
traditionally is the part which has the largest share of Congregationalists among the population, most Congregationalists being members of ''Undeb yr Annibynwyr Cymraeg'' (the Union of Welsh Independents), which is particularly important in Carmarthenshire and Brecknockshire. The
London Missionary Society The London Missionary Society was an interdenominational evangelical missionary society formed in England in 1795 at the instigation of Welsh Congregationalist minister Edward Williams. It was largely Reformed tradition, Reformed in outlook, with C ...
was effectively the world mission arm of British Congregationalists, sponsoring missionaries including Eric Liddell and David Livingstone. After mergers and changes of name, the Society was succeeded in 1977 by the worldwide Council for World Mission.


United States

In the United States, the Congregational tradition traces its origins mainly to Puritan settlers of colonial New England. Congregational churches have had an important impact on the political, religious and cultural history of the United States. Their practices concerning church governance influenced the early development of democratic institutions in New England, and many of the nation's oldest educational institutions, such as Harvard University, Harvard and Yale University, were founded to train Congregational clergy. In the 21st century, the Congregational tradition is represented by the
United Church of Christ The United Church of Christ (UCC) is a mainline Protestant Christian denomination based in the United States, with historical and confessional roots in the Congregationalism in the United States, Congregational, Reformed churches, Reformed, Lut ...
, the
National Association of Congregational Christian Churches The National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (NACCC) is an association of about 400 churches providing fellowship for and services to churches from the Congregational tradition. The Association maintains its national office in Oa ...
, and the
Conservative Congregational Christian Conference The Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (CCCC or 4Cs) is an evangelical Evangelicalism (), evangelical Christianity, or evangelical Protestantism, is a worldwide trans-denominational movement within Protestant Christianity that ...
.


See also

*Arminianism *Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches *List of Congregational churches *Continental Reformed church *Reformed Baptists


References


Citations


Sources

* * * * * * * *


Further reading


United States

* McConnell, Michael W. "Establishment and Disestablishment at the Founding, Part I: Establishment of Religion" ''William and Mary Law Review'', Vol. 44, 2003, pp. 2105 * Swift, David Everett. “Conservative versus Progressive Orthodoxy in Latter Nineteenth Century Congregationalism.” ''Church History'' 16#1 (March, 1947): 22–31. * Walker, Williston. “Changes in Theology Among American Congregationalists.” ''American Journal of Theology'' 10#2 (April 1906): 204–218. * Walker, Williston. ''The Creeds and Platforms of Congregationalism.'' 3rd ed. Boston, MA: Pilgrim Press, 1960. * Walker, Williston. “Recent Tendencies in the Congregational Churches.” ''The American Journal of Theology'' 24#1 (January, 1920): 1-18.


United Kingdom

* Argent, Alan. ''The Transformation of Congregationalism 1900-2000'' (Nottingham: Congregational Federation, 2013) * Eamon Duffy, Duffy, Eamon. ''The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England, c.1400 to c.1580'' (Cambridge, 1992) * Robert William Dale, Dale, Robert William
''History of English Congregationalism''
(London: Hodder & Stoughton / New York: A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1907) * Hooper, Thomas.
The Story of English Congregationalism
' (1907) * * Ottewill, Roger Martin.
Faith and good works: congregationalism in Edwardian Hampshire 1901-1914
(PhD. Diss. University of Birmingham, 2015) Bibliography pp 389–417. * Rimmington, Gerald. “Congregationalism in Rural Leicestershire and Rutland 1863-1914.” ''Midland History'' 30, no.1 (2006): 91-104. * Rimmington, Gerald. “Congregationalism and Society in Leicester 1872-1914.” ''Local Historian'' 37#1 (2007): 29–44. * Thompson, David. ''Nonconformity in the Nineteenth Century'' (1972). * Thompson, David M. ''The Decline of Congregationalism in the Twentieth-Century.'' (London: The Congregational Memorial Hall Trust, 2002).


Older works by John Waddington (cleric), John Waddington

* ''Congregational Martyrs''. London, 1861, intended to form part of a series of 'Historical Papers,' which, however, were not continued; 2nd ed. 1861 *''Congregational Church History from the Reformation to 1662'', London, 1862, awarded the bicentenary prize offered by the Congregational Union * ''Surrey Congregational History'', London, 1866, in which he dealt more particularly with the records of his own congregation. * ''Congregational History'', 5 vols., London, 1869–1880


External links


Congregational Library and Archives in Boston, Massachusetts
{{DEFAULTSORT:Congregational Church Congregationalism, Christian terminology