Forging Britain's Gospel Era
The evangelical movement in eighteenth-century England, which emphasized a "new birth" in Christ and an active ministry of outreach, was overwhelmingly an Anglican phenomenon. From George Whitefield to biblical commentator Thomas Scott, to John Wesley, who declared his determination to live and die a member of the Church of England, the movement's leading clergy were members of the Established Church.
So, too, were the movement's leading laity, including men like Admiral Barham, the organizer of the British Navy, and the influential Earl of Dartmouth. There were also women like author and educationalist Hannah More, and Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, who devoted her considerable private fortune and formidable organizing ability to spreading the revival, especially among the leaders of English society.
What, me separate?
When viewed from a twenty-first century perspective, it seems inevitable that the congregations organized by Whitefield would become Independent Calvinist churches and that 80,000 of John Wesley's followers would leave the Church of England in the 1790s. It is easy to lose sight of the movement's Anglican context.
When viewed from the perspective of the 1730s, too, it must have seemed exceedingly improbable that evangelical strength would emerge from within the Church of England. The inheritors of the Puritan tradition, which in America gave birth to the evangelical revivals, were in England to be found primarily in small dissenting churches such as the Presbyterians, Baptists, and Independents (Congregationalists).
The clergy of the Established Church, by contrast, had largely rejected reformed theology, which was widely associated with political, ecclesiastical, and moral anarchy during the civil wars of ...