Congregational church

Congregational church

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Congregational churches are Protestant
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 Christian
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 churches practicing Congregationalist church governance, in which each congregation independently and autonomously runs its own affairs.

Many Congregational churches claim their descent from a family of Protestant denominations
Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and...

 formed on a theory of union published by the theologian Robert Browne
Brownist
The Brownists were English Dissenters and followers of Robert Browne who was born at Tolethorpe Hall in Rutland, England in about 1550.-Origins:...

 in 1592. These arose from the Nonconformist religious movement during the Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

 reformation of the Church of England. In Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

, the early congregationalists were called separatists or independents to distinguish them from the similarly Calvinistic
Calvinism
Calvinism is a Protestant theological system and an approach to the Christian life...

 Presbyterians. Some congregationalists in Britain still call themselves Independent
Independent (religion)
In English church history, Independents advocated local congregational control of religious and church matters, without any wider geographical hierarchy, either ecclesiastical or political...

.

Congregational churches were widely established in the Massachusetts Bay Colony
Massachusetts Bay Colony
The Massachusetts Bay Colony was an English settlement on the east coast of North America in the 17th century, in New England, situated around the present-day cities of Salem and Boston. The territory administered by the colony included much of present-day central New England, including portions...

, later New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

. The model of Congregational churches was carried by migrating settlers from New England into New York and the Old Northwest regions that now includes Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Illinois. With their insistence on independent local bodies, they became important in many social reform movements, including Abolitionism
Abolitionism
Abolitionism is a movement to end slavery.In western Europe and the Americas abolitionism was a movement to end the slave trade and set slaves free. At the behest of Dominican priest Bartolomé de las Casas who was shocked at the treatment of natives in the New World, Spain enacted the first...

 and women's suffrage
Suffrage
Suffrage, political franchise, or simply the franchise, distinct from mere voting rights, is the civil right to vote gained through the democratic process...

. Modern congregationalism in the U.S. is split into three bodies: the United Church of Christ
United Church of Christ
The United Church of Christ is a mainline Protestant Christian denomination primarily in the Reformed tradition but also historically influenced by Lutheranism. The Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches united in 1957 to form the UCC...

, which most local Congregational churches affiliate with; the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches
National Association of Congregational Christian Churches
The National Association of Congregational Christian Churches 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 Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee...

; and the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference
Conservative Congregational Christian Conference
The Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, colloquially known as the CCCC or 4C's, is a Protestant Christian denomination operating in the United States. The denomination maintains headquarters in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, a suburb of St. Paul...

, an evangelical group.

Origins



Congregationalists sympathetically interpreted various dissident movements among the western churches, which were suppressed throughout the Middle Ages. By the 16th century, political and cultural changes had created a climate in which men such as John Wycliffe
John Wycliffe
John Wycliffe was an English Scholastic philosopher, theologian, lay preacher, translator, reformer and university teacher who was known as an early dissident in the Roman Catholic Church during the 14th century. His followers were known as Lollards, a somewhat rebellious movement, which preached...

, John Hus, Martin Luther
Martin Luther
Martin Luther was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517...

, and John Calvin
John Calvin
John Calvin was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church around 1530...

 sought change, with new ideas about the relationship of individual men to God. This influenced what they saw as the power of people without priests to intercede between them and God, the need for the people to read and interpret the Bible, and correction of distortions from original Christian thinking, as well as their protests against church abuses. These reformers advocated a return to the simplicity and authenticity they believed was described in the New Testament. Congregationalists believe their model of church governance fulfills the description of the early church and allows people the most direct relationship with God.

Congregationalism is more easily identified as a movement than a single denomination, given its distinguishing commitment to the complete autonomy of the local congregation. The idea that each distinct congregation fully constitutes the visible Body of the church can, however, be traced to John Wycliffe
John Wycliffe
John Wycliffe was an English Scholastic philosopher, theologian, lay preacher, translator, reformer and university teacher who was known as an early dissident in the Roman Catholic Church during the 14th century. His followers were known as Lollards, a somewhat rebellious movement, which preached...

 and the Lollard movement, which followed Wycliffe's removal from teaching authority in the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

.

The early Congregationalists shared with Anabaptist
Anabaptist
Anabaptists are Protestant Christians of the Radical Reformation of 16th-century Europe, and their direct descendants, particularly the Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites....

 theology the ideal of a pure church. They believed the adult conversion experience was necessary for an individual to become a full member in the church, unlike other Reformed churches
Reformed churches
The Reformed churches are a group of Protestant denominations characterized by Calvinist doctrines. They are descended from the Swiss Reformation inaugurated by Huldrych Zwingli but developed more coherently by Martin Bucer, Heinrich Bullinger and especially John Calvin...

. As such, the Congregationalists were a reciprocal influence on the Baptists. They differed in counting the children of believers in some sense members of the church. On the other hand, the Baptists required each member to experience conversion, followed by baptism
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

.

In England, the Anglican system of church government was taken over by the king, Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

. Influenced by movements for reform and by his desire to legitimize his marriage to Anne Boleyn
Anne Boleyn
Anne Boleyn ;c.1501/1507 – 19 May 1536) was Queen of England from 1533 to 1536 as the second wife of Henry VIII of England and Marquess of Pembroke in her own right. Henry's marriage to Anne, and her subsequent execution, made her a key figure in the political and religious upheaval that was the...

 in 1533 (without the blessing of the Pope in Rome) after divorcing his first wife Catherine of Aragon
Catherine of Aragon
Catherine of Aragon , also known as Katherine or Katharine, was Queen consort of England as the first wife of King Henry VIII of England and Princess of Wales as the wife to Arthur, Prince of Wales...

, Henry's government influenced Parliament to enact the 1st Act of Supremacy in 1534. It declared the reigning sovereign of England to be 'the only supreme head on earth of the Church in England.' In the reign of Elizabeth I, this title was changed to Supreme Governor of the Church of England, an act still in effect. The Church of England thus replaced Catholicism as the established state religion.

Robert Browne, Henry Barrow, John Greenwood, John Penry
John Penry
John Penry is Wales's most famous Protestant martyr.-Early life:He was born in Brecknockshire, Wales; Cefn Brith, a farm near Llangammarch, is traditionally recognised as his birthplace. He matriculated at Peterhouse, Cambridge, in December 1580, being then probably a Roman Catholic; but soon...

, William Brewster
William Brewster (Pilgrim)
Elder William Brewster was a Mayflower passenger and a Pilgrim colonist leader and preacher.-Origins:Brewster was probably born at Doncaster, Yorkshire, England, circa 1566/1567, although no birth records have been found, and died at Plymouth, Massachusetts on April 10, 1644 around 9- or 10pm...

, Thomas Jollie
Thomas Jollie
Thomas Jollie was an English Dissenter, a minister ejected for his beliefs from the Church of England.-Biography:Thomas Jollie was born at Droylsden, near Manchester, on 14 September 1629, and baptised on 29 September at Gorton Chapel, then in the parish of Manchester...

 and John Robinson
John Robinson (pastor)
John Robinson was the pastor of the "Pilgrim Fathers" before they left on the Mayflower. He became one of the early leaders of the English Separatists, minister of the Pilgrims, and is regarded as one of the founders of the Congregational Church.-Early life:Robinson was born in Sturton le Steeple...

 were notable people who established dissenting churches separate from the Church of England. In 1639 William Wroth
William Wroth
William Wroth , a minister of the Church of England, is generally credited with the establishment of the first Independent Church in Wales in 1639...

, then Rector
Rector
The word rector has a number of different meanings; it is widely used to refer to an academic, religious or political administrator...

 of the parish church at Llanvaches
Llanvaches
Llanvaches is a village and community parish located within the boundaries of the city of Newport, Wales. It lies to the east of the urban area, in the historic county of Monmouthshire and the preserved county of Gwent.- Location :...

 in Monmouthshire
Monmouthshire (historic)
Monmouthshire , also known as the County of Monmouth , is one of thirteen ancient counties of Wales and a former administrative county....

, established the first Independent Church in Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 "according to the New England pattern", i.e. Congregational. The Taberacle United Reformed Church
United Reformed Church
The United Reformed Church is a Christian church in the United Kingdom. It has approximately 68,000 members in 1,500 congregations with some 700 ministers.-Origins and history:...

 at Llanvaches survives to this day.

With the demise of the monarchy, the Westminster Confession of Faith
Westminster Confession of Faith
The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith, in the Calvinist theological tradition. Although drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly, largely of the Church of England, it became and remains the 'subordinate standard' of doctrine in the Church of Scotland, and has been...

 (1646) was officially declared the statement of faith for both the Church of England (Anglican) and Church of Scotland (Presbyterian). In 1658 the Congregationalists created their own version of the Westminster Confession, called the Savoy Declaration
Savoy Declaration
The Savoy Declaration is a modification of the Westminster 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 meeting at the Savoy Palace, London.-The...

. The underground churches in England and exiles from Holland provided about 35 out of the 102 passengers on the Mayflower
Mayflower
The Mayflower was the ship that transported the English Separatists, better known as the Pilgrims, from a site near the Mayflower Steps in Plymouth, England, to Plymouth, Massachusetts, , in 1620...

, which sailed from London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 in July 1620. They became known in history as the Pilgrim Fathers. The early Congregationalists sought to separate themselves from the Anglican church in every possible way and even forwent having church buildings. They met in homes for many years.

Congregational Christian Churches in Canada


The Congregational Christian Churches in Canada
Congregational Christian Churches in Canada
The Congregational Christian Churches in Canada is an evangelical, Protestant, Christian denomination, headquartered in Brantford, Ont., and a member of the World Evangelical Congregational Fellowship.-Organization and leadership:...

 (or 4Cs) is an evangelical, Protestant, Christian denomination, headquartered in Brantford, Ont., and a member of the World Evangelical Congregational Fellowship. 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.

United States


The Pilgrims sought to establish at Plymouth Colony
Plymouth Colony
Plymouth Colony was an English colonial venture in North America from 1620 to 1691. The first settlement of the Plymouth Colony was at New Plymouth, a location previously surveyed and named by Captain John Smith. The settlement, which served as the capital of the colony, is today the modern town...

 a Christian fellowship like that which gathered around Jesus himself. Congregationalists include the Pilgrims of Plymouth
Plymouth Colony
Plymouth Colony was an English colonial venture in North America from 1620 to 1691. The first settlement of the Plymouth Colony was at New Plymouth, a location previously surveyed and named by Captain John Smith. The settlement, which served as the capital of the colony, is today the modern town...

, and the Puritan
Puritan
The Puritans were a significant grouping of English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. Puritanism in this sense was founded by some Marian exiles from the clergy shortly after the accession of Elizabeth I of England in 1558, as an activist movement within the Church of England...

s of the Massachusetts Bay Colony
Massachusetts Bay Colony
The Massachusetts Bay Colony was an English settlement on the east coast of North America in the 17th century, in New England, situated around the present-day cities of Salem and Boston. The territory administered by the colony included much of present-day central New England, including portions...

, which were organized in union by the Cambridge Platform
The Cambridge Platform
The Cambridge Platform was a doctrinal statement for the Puritan Congregational churches in Colonial America. It was drawn up in August, 1648 by a synod of ministers from Massachusetts and Connecticut, which met pursuant to a request of the Massachusetts General Court...

 in 1648. These settlers had John Cotton as their most influential leader, beginning in 1633. Cotton's writings persuaded the Calvinist
Calvinism
Calvinism is a Protestant theological system and an approach to the Christian life...

 theologian John Owen
John Owen (theologian)
John Owen was an English Nonconformist church leader, theologian, and academic administrator at the University of Oxford.-Early life:...

 to separate from the Presbyterian
Presbyterianism
Presbyterianism refers to a number of Christian churches adhering to the Calvinist theological tradition within Protestantism, which are organized according to a characteristic Presbyterian polity. Presbyterian theology typically emphasizes the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Scriptures,...

 church. He became very influential in the development of Congregationalist theology and ideas of church government. Jonathan Edwards, considered by some to be the most important theologian produced in the United States, was also a Congregationalist.

The history of Congregational churches in the United States is closely intertwined with that of American Presbyterianism
Presbyterianism
Presbyterianism refers to a number of Christian churches adhering to the Calvinist theological tradition within Protestantism, which are organized according to a characteristic Presbyterian polity. Presbyterian theology typically emphasizes the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Scriptures,...

, especially in New England where Congregationalist influence spilled over into Presbyterian churches farther west. Some of the first colleges and universities in America, including Harvard
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

, Yale
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

, Dartmouth
Dartmouth College
Dartmouth College is a private, Ivy League university in Hanover, New Hampshire, United States. The institution comprises a liberal arts college, Dartmouth Medical School, Thayer School of Engineering, and the Tuck School of Business, as well as 19 graduate programs in the arts and sciences...

, Williams
Williams College
Williams College is a private liberal arts college located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, United States. It was established in 1793 with funds from the estate of Ephraim Williams. Originally a men's college, Williams became co-educational in 1970. Fraternities were also phased out during this...

, Bowdoin
Bowdoin College
Bowdoin College , founded in 1794, is an elite private liberal arts college located in the coastal Maine town of Brunswick, Maine. As of 2011, U.S. News and World Report ranks Bowdoin 6th among liberal arts colleges in the United States. At times, it was ranked as high as 4th in the country. It is...

, Middlebury
Middlebury College
Middlebury College is a private liberal arts college located in Middlebury, Vermont, USA. Founded in 1800, it is one of the oldest liberal arts colleges in the United States. Drawing 2,400 undergraduates from all 50 United States and over 70 countries, Middlebury offers 44 majors in the arts,...

, and Amherst
Amherst College
Amherst College is a private liberal arts college located in Amherst, Massachusetts, United States. Amherst is an exclusively undergraduate four-year institution and enrolled 1,744 students in the fall of 2009...

, all were founded by the Congregationalists, as were later Carleton
Carleton College
Carleton College is an independent non-sectarian, coeducational, liberal arts college in Northfield, Minnesota, USA. The college enrolls 1,958 undergraduate students, and employs 198 full-time faculty members. In 2012 U.S...

, Grinnell
Grinnell College
Grinnell College is a private liberal arts college in Grinnell, Iowa, U.S. known for its strong tradition of social activism. It was founded in 1846, when a group of pioneer New England Congregationalists established the Trustees of Iowa College....

, Oberlin
Oberlin College
Oberlin College is a private liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio, noteworthy for having been the first American institution of higher learning to regularly admit female and black students. Connected to the college is the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, the oldest continuously operating...

, and Pomona
Pomona College
Pomona College is a private, residential, liberal arts college in Claremont, California. Founded in 1887 in Pomona, California by a group of Congregationalists, the college moved to Claremont in 1889 to the site of a hotel, retaining its name. The school enrolls 1,548 students.The founding member...

.

Without higher courts to ensure doctrinal uniformity among the congregations, Congregationalists have been more diverse than other Reformed churches. Despite the efforts of Calvinists to maintain the dominance of their system, some Congregational churches, especially in the older settlements of New England, gradually developed leanings toward Arminianism
Arminianism
Arminianism is a school of soteriological thought within Protestant Christianity based on the theological ideas of the Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius and his historic followers, the Remonstrants...

, Unitarianism
Unitarianism
Unitarianism is a Christian theological movement, named for its understanding of God as one person, in direct contrast to Trinitarianism which defines God as three persons coexisting consubstantially as one in being....

, Deism
Deism
Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator. According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the...

, and transcendentalism
Transcendentalism
Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement that developed in the 1830s and 1840s in the New England region of the United States as a protest against the general state of culture and society, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard University and the doctrine of the Unitarian...

.

By the 1750s, several Congregational preachers were teaching the possibility of universal salvation
Universalism
Universalism in its primary meaning refers to religious, theological, and philosophical concepts with universal application or applicability...

, an issue that caused considerable conflict among its adherents on the one side and hard-line Calvinists and sympathizers of the First Great Awakening
First Great Awakening
The First Awakening was a Christian revitalization movement that swept Protestant Europe and British America, and especially the American colonies in the 1730s and 1740s, leaving a permanent impact on American religion. It resulted from powerful preaching that gave listeners a sense of personal...

 on the other. In another strain of change, the first church in the United States with an openly Unitarian
Unitarianism
Unitarianism is a Christian theological movement, named for its understanding of God as one person, in direct contrast to Trinitarianism which defines God as three persons coexisting consubstantially as one in being....

 theology, the belief in the single personality of God, was established in Boston, Massachusetts in 1785 (in a former Anglican parish.) By 1800, all but one Congregational church in Boston had Unitarian
Unitarianism
Unitarianism is a Christian theological movement, named for its understanding of God as one person, in direct contrast to Trinitarianism which defines God as three persons coexisting consubstantially as one in being....

 preachers teaching the strict unity of God
Nontrinitarianism
Nontrinitarianism includes all Christian belief systems that disagree with the doctrine of the Trinity, namely, the teaching that God is three distinct hypostases and yet co-eternal, co-equal, and indivisibly united in one essence or ousia...

, the subordinate nature of Christ, and salvation by character.

Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

, founded by Congregationalists, became a center of Unitarian
Unitarianism
Unitarianism is a Christian theological movement, named for its understanding of God as one person, in direct contrast to Trinitarianism which defines God as three persons coexisting consubstantially as one in being....

 training. Prompted by a controversy over an appointment in the theology school at Harvard, in 1825 the Unitarian churches separated from Congregationalism. Most of the Unitarian "descendants" hold membership in the Unitarian Universalist Association
Unitarian Universalist Association
Unitarian Universalist Association , in full the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations in North America, is a liberal religious association of Unitarian Universalist congregations formed by the consolidation in 1961 of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of...

, founded in the 1960s by a merger with the theologically similar Universalists. This group had dissented from Calvinist orthodoxy on the basis of their belief that all persons could find salvation (as opposed to the Calvinist idea of double predestination, excluding some from salvation.)

Congregational churches were at the same time the first example of the American theocratic ideal
Theocracy
Theocracy is a form of organization in which the official policy is to be governed by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided, or simply pursuant to the doctrine of a particular religious sect or religion....

 and also the seedbed from which American liberal religion and society arose. Many Congregationalists in the several successor denominations to the original tradition consider themselves to be Reformed first, whether of traditional or neo-orthodox persuasion.

In 1931 the Congregational Churches and the General Convention of the Christian Church, a body from the Restoration Movement
Restoration Movement
The Restoration Movement is a Christian movement that began on the American frontier during the Second Great Awakening of the early 19th century...

 tradition of the early 19th century, merged to form the Congregational Christian Churches
Congregational Christian Churches
The Congregational Christian Churches were a Protestant Christian denomination that operated in the U.S. from 1931 through 1957. On the latter date, most of its churches joined the Evangelical and Reformed Church in a merger to become the United Church of Christ. Others created the National...

. The Congregationalists were used to a more formal, less evangelistic form of worship than Christian Church members, who mostly came from rural areas of the South and the Midwest
Midwestern United States
The Midwestern United States is one of the four U.S. geographic regions defined by the United States Census Bureau, providing an official definition of the American Midwest....

. Both groups, however, held to local autonomy and eschewed binding creedal authority.

In the early 20th century some Congregational (later Congregational Christian) churches took exception to the beginnings of a growth of regional or national authority in bodies outside the local church, such as mission societies, national committees, and state conferences. Some congregations opposed liberalizing influences that appeared to mitigate traditional views of sin and corollary doctrines such as the substitutionary atonement
Substitutionary atonement
Technically speaking, substitutionary atonement is the name given to a number of Christian models of the atonement that all regard Jesus as dying as a substitute for others, "instead of" them...

 of Jesus. In 1948, some adherents of these two streams of thought (mainly the latter one) started a new fellowship, the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference
Conservative Congregational Christian Conference
The Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, colloquially known as the CCCC or 4C's, is a Protestant Christian denomination operating in the United States. The denomination maintains headquarters in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, a suburb of St. Paul...

 (CCCC). It was the first major fellowship to organize outside of the mainstream Congregational body since 1825, when the Unitarians
Unitarianism
Unitarianism is a Christian theological movement, named for its understanding of God as one person, in direct contrast to Trinitarianism which defines God as three persons coexisting consubstantially as one in being....

 formally founded their own body.

In 1957, the General Council of Congregational Christian Churches in the U.S. merged with the Evangelical and Reformed Church
Evangelical and Reformed Church
The Evangelical and Reformed Church was a Protestant Christian denomination in the United States. It was formed in 1934 by the merger of the Reformed Church in the United States with the Evangelical Synod of North America . After the 1934 merger, a minority within the RCUS seceded in order to...

 to form the United Church of Christ
United Church of Christ
The United Church of Christ is a mainline Protestant Christian denomination primarily in the Reformed tradition but also historically influenced by Lutheranism. The Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches united in 1957 to form the UCC...

. About 90% of the CC congregations affiliated with the General Council joined the United Church of Christ. Some churches abstained from the merger while others voted it down. Most of the latter congregations became members of either the CCCC (mentioned above) or the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches
National Association of Congregational Christian Churches
The National Association of Congregational Christian Churches 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 Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee...

. The latter was formed by churches and people who objected to the UCC merger because of concerns that the new national church and its regional bodies represented extra-congregational authorities that would interfere with a congregation's right to govern itself. Thus, the NACCC includes congregations of a variety of theological positions. Still other congregations chose not to affiliate with any particular association of churches, or only with regional or local ones.

Southern Africa


There are many United Congregational Churches in Southern Africa all independently run, however they all meet together to discuss challenges.
Visit www.uccsa.org.za/

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 George Geier, who was serving them. The Illinois Conference licensed Geier, who worked among Russia Germans who were alike in every way to those 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, in Argentina for a brief visit, organized six churches.

Australia


In 1977, most congregations of the Congregational Union of Australia
Congregational Union of Australia
The Congregational Union of Australia was a Congregational denomination in Australia.Two hundred and sixty of its congregations joined the Uniting Church in Australia, which was formed in 1977 by the union of congregations of the Congregational Union, Methodist Church of Australasia, and...

 merged with all Churches of the Methodist Church of Australasia
Methodist Church of Australasia
The Methodist Church of Australasia was a Methodist denomination based in Australia.It ceased to exist in 1977 when most of its congregations joined with the many congregations of the Congregational Union of Australia and the Presbyterian Church of Australia to form the Uniting Church in...

 and a majority of Churches of the Presbyterian Church of Australia
Presbyterian Church of Australia
The Presbyterian Church of Australia is the largest Presbyterian denomination in Australia. .-Beginnings:...

 to form the Uniting Church in Australia
Uniting Church in Australia
The Uniting Church in Australia was formed on 22 June 1977 when many congregations of the Methodist Church of Australasia, the Presbyterian Church of Australia and the Congregational Union of Australia came together under the Basis of Union....

.

Those congregations that did not join the Uniting Church formed the Fellowship of Congregational Churches
Fellowship of Congregational Churches
The Fellowship of Congregational Churches is a conservative Congregational denomination in Australia. It was formed by the forty congregations of the Congregational Union of Australia who chose not to join the Uniting Church in Australia in 1977....

 or continued as Presbyterians. Some more ecumenically minded Congregationalists left the Fellowship of Congregational Churches in 1995 and formed the Congregational Federation of Australia
Congregational Federation of Australia
The Congregational Federation of Australia is Congregational denomination comprising fourteen congregations in New South Wales and Queensland. It has sixteen ordained ministers and some two thousand members and adherents, many of them Samoans.-History:...

.

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
United Church of Canada
The United Church of Canada is a Protestant Christian denomination in Canada. It is the largest Protestant church and, after the Roman Catholic Church, the second-largest Christian church in Canada...

 when that denomination was founded in 1925 by the merger of the Canadian Congregationalist and Methodist
Methodism
Methodism is a movement of Protestant Christianity represented by a number of denominations and organizations, claiming a total of approximately seventy million adherents worldwide. The movement traces its roots to John Wesley's evangelistic revival movement within Anglicanism. His younger brother...

 churches, and two-thirds of the congregations of the Presbyterian Church of 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
Congregational Christian Churches in Canada
The Congregational Christian Churches in Canada is an evangelical, Protestant, Christian denomination, headquartered in Brantford, Ont., and a member of the World Evangelical Congregational Fellowship.-Organization and leadership:...

.

Ireland


The Congregational Union of Ireland was founded in the early 19th century and currently has 29 member churches.

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, missionary - John Williams on the Island of Savaii. 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 fall under the constitution of the Samoan Church.

United Kingdom


In 1972, about three quarters of English Congregational churches merged with the Presbyterian Church of England
English Presbyterianism
Presbyterianism in England is distinct from Continental and Scottish forms of Presbyterianism. Whereas in Scotland, church government is based on a meeting of delegates, in England the individual congregation is the primary body of government...

 to form the United Reformed Church
United Reformed Church
The United Reformed Church is a Christian church in the United Kingdom. It has approximately 68,000 members in 1,500 congregations with some 700 ministers.-Origins and history:...

 (URC). However, about 600 Congregational churches have continued in their historic independent tradition. Under the Act of Parliament
Act of Parliament
An Act of Parliament is a statute enacted as primary legislation by a national or sub-national parliament. In the Republic of Ireland the term Act of the Oireachtas is used, and in the United States the term Act of Congress is used.In Commonwealth countries, the term is used both in a narrow...

 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
Congregational Federation
The Congregational Federation is a Federation of independent Congregational churches in England, Scotland and Wales....

, which has offices in Nottingham
Nottingham
Nottingham is a city and unitary authority in the East Midlands of England. It is located in the ceremonial county of Nottinghamshire and represents one of eight members of the English Core Cities Group...

, the Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches
Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches
The Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches is an association of around 125 independent local churches in the UK, each practising congregationalist church governance...

, and about 100 Congregational churches that are loosely federated with other congregations in the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches
Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches
The Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches is a network of over 500 independent, evangelical churches mainly in the United Kingdom that preach an evangelical faith...

, or are unaffiliated.

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. The remainder of Congregational churches in Scotland joined the Congregational Federation.

Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 traditionally is the part of Europe 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
Carmarthenshire
Carmarthenshire is a unitary authority in the south west of Wales and one of thirteen historic counties. It is the 3rd largest in Wales. Its three largest towns are Llanelli, Carmarthen and Ammanford...

 and Brecknockshire
Brecknockshire
Brecknockshire , also known as the County of Brecknock, Breconshire, or the County of Brecon is one of thirteen historic counties of Wales, and a former administrative county.-Geography:...

. Among its leaders up to the end of the 20th century was R Tudur Jones.

The Congregational Federation, , and the United Reformed Church enjoy good relations and share certain aspects of church life together including their joint involvement in the Council for World Mission
Council for World Mission
The Council for World Mission is a worldwide community of Christian churches. The 31 members share their resources of money, people, skills and insights to carry out their missionary work.CWM was established in 1977 in its present form...

.

Mission


The London Missionary Society
London Missionary Society
The London Missionary Society was a non-denominational missionary society formed in England in 1795 by evangelical Anglicans and Nonconformists, largely Congregationalist in outlook, with missions in the islands of the South Pacific and Africa...

 was effectively the world mission arm of British Congregationalists - it sponsored missionaries including Eric Liddell
Eric Liddell
Eric Henry Liddell was a Scottish athlete, rugby union international player, and missionary.Liddell was the winner of the men's 400 metres at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris...

 and David Livingstone
David Livingstone
David Livingstone was a Scottish Congregationalist pioneer medical missionary with the London Missionary Society and an explorer in Africa. His meeting with H. M. Stanley gave rise to the popular quotation, "Dr...

.

As thinking developed, particularly in the context of decolonisation, and churches wanted to recognise the gifts of people of the South, the London Missionary Society transformed into the Council for World Mission
Council for World Mission
The Council for World Mission is a worldwide community of Christian churches. The 31 members share their resources of money, people, skills and insights to carry out their missionary work.CWM was established in 1977 in its present form...

 - an organisation in which the United Reformed Church is no more important than the Church of South India
Church of South India
The Church of South India is the successor of the Church of England in India. It came into being in 1947 as a union of Anglican and Protestant churches in South India. With a membership of over 3.8 million, it is India's second largest Christian church after the Roman Catholic Church in India...

 (for example).

See also

  • Congregational Christian Churches, which operated in the U.S. between 1931 and 1957
  • Christian Congregation of Brazil
    Christian Congregation of Brazil
    The Christian Congregation in Brazil is an evangelical denomination founded in that country by the Italian-American missionary Luigi Francescon .-History:...


Further reading

  • Works by John Waddington
    John Waddington (cleric)
    John Waddington was an English Congregational divine who wrote an important series of books on the history of the Congregational Church in England.-Life:...

    • 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 Church Links: