Skip to main content
Select Source:

Congregationalism

CONGREGATIONALISM

CONGREGATIONALISM. Congregationalist Churches trace their ancestry to the Non-Separating Puritans who originally settled the New England colonies. The first century of their existence was a stormy period in which the New England churches searched for principles of church order that would be adequate to the new American situation. The first systematic exposition of those principles was the Cambridge Platform (1648), which accepted the Calvinist Westminster Confession of Faith as a doctrinal standard and affirmed that the policy of New England was to admit to the sacraments only those "visible saints" who could relate a conversion experience. This system left unanswered the question of whether or not the children of believing nonmembers could be baptized. After considerable controversy, the Halfway Covenant, which allowed for two types of church affiliation—including both those who could and those who could not relate a conversion experience—was adopted by a synod in 1662 to resolve the issue. By the turn of the century, the churches were clearly moving toward a general "established" church pattern.

The Great Awakening (1733–1746) was a period of crisis for the Congregational way. On the one hand, the evangelical wing of the church wished to return to the earlier ideal of a converted church of "visible saints." On the other hand, the liberal wing of the church, which was moving in a more latitudinarian direction, was offended by the emotionalism and lack of clarity of the evangelicals. The more extreme evangelicals withdrew from the state church system to establish their own separate churches, and many Boston-area liberals accelerated their movement toward Unitarianism. Some Congregational churches even disbanded after the Revolutionary War.

In the early nineteenth century, a number of New England Congregationalists moved west and spread their gospel with missionary zeal. Under the Plan of Union (1801) and the Accommodation Plan (1808), Congregationalists and Presbyterians agreed to share the responsibility for the evangelization of the West. Thirteen frontier colleges, including Beloit (1846), Grinnell (1846), and Carleton (1866), trace their roots to the Congregationalists' efforts in the Midwest. In addition, Rev. Horace Bushnell and others cultivated ties with German Evangelical churches, paving the way for a twentieth-century merger of these organizations. The Congregationalist-Presbyterian arrangement gradually disintegrated as Presbyterians became disturbed over the liberal drift of the so-called New England theology, and, by 1837, the two sects had separated.

The early part of the nineteenth century also saw the splitting off of the Unitarian churches, which were located primarily in the area around Boston. But Congregational parishes continued to thrive among the older, more static communities of New England. Along with the Federalist party, many Congregational clergy opposed the War of 1812. A number of prominent Congregationalist women, such as Emma Willard, Catherine Beecher, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, took leading roles in promoting public school reform and opposing slavery. During the second half of the nineteenth century, Congregationalism continued its movement in a more liberal direction. The denomination was one of the leading ecclesiastical opponents of slavery in the 1850s; never very popular in the South, Congregationalism did not suffer the institutional division that plagued many other Protestant denominations in the years preceding the Civil War. After the war, Congregationalism was deeply affected by the Social Gospel. Congregationalists working through the American Missionary Association tended to the educational needs of free blacks in the South. In the North, Rev. Josiah Strong, Rev. Washington Gladden, and Jane Addams all brought attention to the problems of industrialization and refocused attention from individual salvation to social and political reform. A national council was formed in 1871 to provide some denominational coordination among Congregationalists, and, in 1913, a liberal confession of faith was adopted at Kansas City.

The twentieth century saw Congregationalism taking a position of leadership in the ecumenical movement. In 1931 Congregationalists merged with the Christian Churches (a group founded by frontier evangelicals in 1794) to become the Congregational Christian Churches. In the 1940s this denomination began negotiations to merge with two churches deeply rooted in the German Diaspora in North America: the Evangelical Synod of North America—strongest in the Midwest, and the Reformed church—German religious separatists that had broken their ties with Europe in the 1790s and had only just united to form their organization in 1934. The union of Yankee and German did not occur without debate and controversy. The Congregational Christians wanted to preserve local control over church operations. On the other hand, the Evangelical and Reformed churches believed that congregations should be made accountable to one another and were less concerned about centralizing authority. After ten drafts for an agreement of union and a federal lawsuit, the Evangelical and Reformed churches were merged with the Congregational Christian Churches at the Uniting General Synod in Cleveland, Ohio, on 25 June 1957, creating the United Church of Christ (UCC).

The UCC was a standard-bearer of liberal Protestantism in the twentieth century. Men and women like the UCC minister Andrew Young, later a U.S. congressman and United Nations ambassador, were active in the struggle for black equality during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. In 1972 a UCC church in San Francisco ordained one of the first openly gay men to a Christian ministry. Changing regional demographics and the revitalized evangelical movement reduced the UCC's membership in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1973 the UCC claimed 1,895,016 members; by 2002 the number had dropped to 1,359,105. Like other mainline Protestant denominations, the UCC has embraced growing Hispanic and immigrant communities in the hopes of growing its membership.

The UCC is the largest church in the Congregational family. However, not all Congregational churches were content with the new body. In 2002 the somewhat liberal Congregational Christian Churches (continuing Congregational) had 70,000 members, down from 110,000 in 1973. By contrast, the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference, which opposed abortion rights and believed homosexuality to be a sin, had grown from 19,000 members in 1973 to 40,000 members in 2002. The Unitarian Universalist Association should be considered a member of the Congregational family. The Unitarians withdrew from orthodox Congregationalism in the early nineteenth century under the leadership of such eminent pastors as William Ellery Channing. Initially, the group stressed the unity of God, the revelation by Christ but not His divinity, a nonsubstitutionary doctrine of the atonement, and each human's ethical duties to his or her neighbor. The rise of transcendentalism in the 1830s further liberalized the movement, and the Unitarians have been moving progressively away from distinctively Christian affirmations since that time. Unitarians now stress an intellectual humanism rooted in the values of all religions.

Although John Murray gathered the first Universalist church in Gloucester, Massachusetts, in 1779, the greatest influence on American Universalism was Hosea Ballou, who stated the classical Universalist position in his Treatise on Atonement (1805). According to Ballou, Christ's death is to be regarded as effecting salvation for all men. Ballou also moved Universalism in a more Unitarian direction; in 1803, the denomination accepted a statement of faith in harmony with his views. In 1961 the Unitarians and the Universalists formally merged in the Unitarian Universalist Association, which in 2002 had approximately 156,000 members.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Atkins, Gaius, G., and Frederick Louis Fagley, History of American Congregationalism. Boston: Pilgrim Press, 1942.

Chrystal, William G. A Father's Mantle: The Legacy of Gustav Niebuhr. New York: Pilgrim Press, 1982.

Gunnemann, Louis H. The Shaping of the United Church of Christ: An Essay in the History of American Christianity. Cleveland, Ohio: United Church Press, 1999.

Robinson, David. The Unitarians and the Universalists. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1985.

Von Rohr, John. The Shaping of American Congregationalism, 1620–1957. Cleveland, Ohio: Pilgrim Press, 1992.

Youngs, J. William T. The Congregationalists. Westport, Conn: Praeger, 1998.

Glenn T.Miller/a. r.

See alsoEvangelicalism, and Revivalism ; Great Awakening ; Latitudinarians ; Puritans and Puritanism ; Social Gospel ; United Church of Christ .

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Congregationalism." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Congregationalism." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 13, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/congregationalism

"Congregationalism." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved November 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/congregationalism

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Congregationalism

Congregationalism, type of Protestant church organization in which each congregation, or local church, has free control of its own affairs. The underlying principle is that each local congregation has as its head Jesus alone and that the relations of the various congregations are those of fellow members in one common family of God. Congregationalism eliminated bishops and presbyteries.

History of the Movement

In Great Britain

The movement to which the name came to be applied began in the 16th and 17th cent. in England in a revolt against the Established Church. Robert Browne published in 1582 the first theoretical exposition of Congregational principles and expressed the position of some of those separatists. Churches established on such lines were started very early in the 17th cent. in Gainsborough and Scrooby, but government opposition drove them into exile in Holland.

Not until the Protectorate did the Congregationalists make much progress. About that time the name Independents was first introduced, a term long common in Great Britain (it is still used in Wales) but seldom used in America. In 1658, when the Savoy Synod met in London, over 100 churches were represented. With the Restoration came repression for the Independents, partly relieved by the Toleration Act of 1689.

A marked tendency among English Congregationalists in the 19th cent. was toward combination in larger fellowship. Churches of this denomination formed a union in Scotland in 1812 and in Ireland in 1829; in 1831 the Congregational Union of England and Wales was established. The Congregational Union and the Evangelical Union were united in 1896. Membership in Congregational churches in Great Britain has declined in the 20th cent. Congregationalists have been active in ecumenical activities, and in 1972 most British Congregationalists and Presbyterians merged to form the United Reform Church.

In America

Congregationalism was carried to America in 1620 by the Pilgrims, who were members of John Robinson's congregation in Holland, originally of Scrooby, England. In America, Congregationalism reached its greatest public influence and largest membership. In New England numerous communities were established based on Congregational-type religious principles. In 1648 in the Cambridge Platform a summary of principles of church government and discipline was drawn up. Congregationalists took a leading part in the Great Awakening that, in New England, was started in 1734 by the preaching of Jonathan Edwards. As the country expanded, Congregational churches were established in the newly opened frontier regions.

In 1810 the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions began its work; in 1826 the American Home Missionary Society was formed. These were followed in 1846 by the American Missionary Association, primarily devoted to missionary work among African Americans and Native Americans. The early part of the 19th cent. brought the Unitarian secession, when over 100 churches left the main Congregational body.

Congregational churches began to meet in local and then in statewide conferences, out of which developed (1871) the National Council of the Congregational Churches of the United States. But each local church remained free to make its own declaration of faith and free to decide its own form of worship; in the conduct of the local church each member was granted an equal voice. The principal assistants of the pastor are the deacons. In education Congregationalists were always prominent, but the institutions of their founding—Harvard, Yale, Williams, Amherst, Oberlin, and many others—have generally been free from sectarianism.

The trend toward broader fellowship and larger cooperation was notably indicated in the merging in 1931 of the National Council of the Congregational Churches of the United States and the General Convention of the Christian Church (see Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)) to form the General Council of the Congregational and Christian Churches of the United States. A move to unite the Congregational Christian Churches with the Evangelical and Reformed Church was approved by the councils of the two denominations in 1957, forming the United Church of Christ. The National Association of Congregational Christian Churches was formed in 1955 by churches that chose not to join in the merger; it had about 70,000 members in 1997.

Bibliography

See W. Walker, The Creeds and Platforms of Congregationalism (1907, repr. 1960); A. A. Rouner, Jr., The Congregational Way of Life (1960); H. Davies, The English Free Churches (2d ed. 1963); M. L. Starkey, The Congregational Way (1966).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Congregationalism." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Congregationalism." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 13, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/congregationalism

"Congregationalism." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved November 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/congregationalism

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Congregationalism

Congregationalism Christian church denomination in which local churches are autonomous; members have been called Brownists, Separatists, and Independents. It is based on the belief that Christ is the head of the Church and all members are God's priests. Modern Congregationalism began in England in c.1580. In the UK, the Congregational Church in England and Wales merged with others to form the United Reformed Church (1972). In the USA, the Congregational Christian Churches united with others to form the United Church of Christ (1957).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Congregationalism." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Congregationalism." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 13, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/congregationalism-0

"Congregationalism." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved November 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/congregationalism-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Congregationalism

Con·gre·ga·tion·al·ism / ˌkänggrəˈgāshənlˌizəm/ • n. a system of organization among Christian churches whereby individual local churches are largely self-governing. DERIVATIVES: Con·gre·ga·tion·al·ist n. & adj.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Congregationalism." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Congregationalism." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 13, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/congregationalism

"Congregationalism." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved November 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/congregationalism

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Congregationalism

CONGREGATIONALISM

CONGREGATIONALISM . Congregational churches arose in England in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In their early days, Congregationalists were also known as Independents. They are most numerous in the United States, England, and Wales, but recently most of them have joined with others to form united churches in several parts of the world.

Among churches, they have stood somewhere between the Presbyterians and the more radical Protestant groups, with a distinctive emphasis on the rights and responsibilities of each properly organized congregation to make its own decisions about its own affairs without recourse to any higher human authority. This, along with an emphasis on freedom of conscience, arose from convictions concerning the sovereignty of God and the priesthood of all believers.

Historical Survey

The "Congregational way" emerged as a major factor in English life during the English Civil War, but its roots lay in Elizabethan Separatism, which produced Congregationalism's first three martyrs, Henry Barrow, John Greenwood, and John Penry. Some of the Separatists settled in Holland, and it was from among these that the Mayflower group set out for New England in 1620. During the English Civil War, Congregationalists, then usually called Independents, were particularly prominent in the army, reaching the peak of their influence during the Commonwealth through Oliver Cromwell and such outstanding ministers as John Owen and Hugh Peter. The Restoration of Charles II was a disaster for their cause, and the Act of Uniformity of 1662 was the first of many efforts to suppress them. Most of the two thousand ministers ejected from livings in the Church of England at that time were Presbyterians, but many Independent ministers who did not hold livings also suffered. Persecution was not so severe as to prevent creative work being done, and the major theological works of John Owen, the greatest poems of John Milton, an Independent, and John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (although Bunyan's closest affinities were with the Baptists) all appeared after the Restoration. The works of the latter two, along with some of the hymns of Isaac Watts, have become part of the furniture of the English imagination.

The accession of William and Mary in 1688 made life more tolerable for Congregationalists, and, after a threatened setback in the reign of Queen Anne, they played a significant minor part in eighteenth-century England. They were particularly active in education, where the Dissenting Academies were educational pioneers at a time when Oxford and Cambridge languished. The spiritual influence of such leading ministers as Philip Doddridge and Isaac Watts helped prevent Congregationalists from becoming Unitarians, as most Presbyterians did at that time. Congregationalists received a considerable spiritual quickening toward the end of the century through the influence of the Methodist revival. One result was the founding in 1795 of the London Missionary Society, through whose agency churches were established in Africa, India, Madagascar, China, Papua, and the South Sea Islands.

English Congregationalism shared fully in nineteenth-century ecclesiastical prosperity. As members of the emerging lower middle classes crowded into the churches, they became more politically minded. Voluntarism, opposing state support of denominational education, and the Liberation Society, advocating the disestablishment of the Church of England, were influential. The Congregational Union, linking the churches in a national organization, was formed in 1832, and the Colonial (later Commonwealth) Missionary Society for promoting Congregationalism in English-speaking colonies in 1836. Many large new churches were erected, and some ministers, like R. W. Dale of Birmingham, were well-known public figures. Civic disabilities were steadily removed. Mansfield College was founded at Oxford in 1886. Thriving churches in city centers and residential neighborhoods were hives of social, philanthropic, and educational activities, which anticipated many of the services taken over by the state in the twentieth century. The victory of the Liberal Party in the 1906 election represented the peak of the political and social influence of Congregationalism. After that, numerical and institutional decline began, hastened by the upheaval of World War I and the increased mobility of population. Although churches were losing much of their popular appeal, the emergence of several distinguished theologians and ecumenical leaders in the interwar period provided evidence of continuing vitality. In 1972 the majority of Congregationalists joined with the Presbyterian Church in England to form the United Reformed Church.

In the rest of Britain, Congregationalists have been strongest in Wales, where the Welsh-speaking churches, known as the Union of Welsh Independents, retain their identity. These churches were transplanted successfully from the countryside to industrial Wales during the industrial revolution and became strong centers of distinctively Welsh life, cherishing their traditions of preaching, hymns, and poetry. The numerically smaller Scottish churches acted as a liberalizing influence in Scottish life and gave much to the wider church through such outstanding figures as Robert Moffat, David Livingstone, George McDonald, and P. T. Forsyth.

It is in the United States that Congregationalism achieved its greatest public influence and numerical strength. The New England experiment has been a major factor in determining the character of the nation. The Separatists of the Plymouth Colony were more radical than the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay, but they had enough in common to form a unified community and to repudiate the more radical views of Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson. Their statement of faith, the Cambridge Platform of 1648, accepted the theology of the English Presbyterian Westminster Confession of 1646 but laid down a Congregational rather than a Presbyterian polity. In this, it was followed by the English Savoy Declaration of 1658.

The original New Englanders were not sectarian; they worked out an intellectually powerful and consistent system of theology and church and civil government that they strove, with considerable success, to exemplify. John Cotton's Keyes of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Powers Thereof (1644) is a classic statement of their view of the church. The very success of the New England settlement made it difficult for succeeding generations to retain the original commitment, and the Half-Way Covenant was devised to find a place for those who were baptized but could not make a strong enough confession of faithpermitting them a form of church membership that did not confer a place at the Lord's Table or in church government. Education was seen as vital from the outset. Harvard College was founded in 1637 to maintain the succession of learned ministers. Yale and others followed later, the precursors of a long succession of distinguished colleges founded under Congregational auspices across the country.

New life came with the Great Awakening, the revival movement begun in 1734, in which Jonathan Edwards, a minister at Northampton, Massachusetts, and one of the greatest American theologians, was prominent. Differences began to emerge at the turn of the century between the two wings of Congregationalism, those who continued to accept the modified Calvinism represented by Edwards and those who were moving toward Unitarianism. Unitarianism became dominant in the Boston area but not in Connecticut, where Congregationalism remained the established church until the early nineteenth century.

Despite the loss to the Unitarians, who took with them many of the most handsome colonial churches, Congregationalism flourished in the nineteenth century and was active in the westward expansion of the nation. It adopted in 1801 a Plan of Union with the Presbyterians, who were concentrated chiefly in the Middle Atlantic states, for joint home missionary activity. One factor in the ultimate breakdown of this agreement was the growing theological liberalism of Congregationalism. Horace Bushnell was a representative theologian who challenged the traditional substitutionary view of the atonement and whose influential book Christian Nurture (1847) questioned the need for the classic conversion experience. The so-called Kansas City Creed of 1913 summed up this liberalism, which represented a break with the Calvinist past. This liberalism continues to prevail, although substantially modified after World War II by the influence of neoorthodoxy.

The mainly Congregational American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (1810) promoted missions in China and the Near East. A national Congregational organization was founded in 1871, and its boards of Home Missions and Education have done much to start schools and colleges among the black community in the South. Modern Congregationalism has been exceptionally active in the ecumenical movement. Union with the Christian Churches in the United States was achieved between the wars and with the substantial Evangelical and Reformed Church in 1961, to form the United Church of Christ.

Beliefs and Practices

The beliefs and practices of most Congregationalists have been broadly similar to those of other mainline evangelical Protestant churches of the more liberal kind. The English historian Bernard Manning described them as "decentralized Calvinists," but this fails to allow for their emphasis on the free movement of the Holy Spirit, which gives them some affinity with the Quakers as well as with Presbyterians. In its origin, their notion of the "gathered church" was not a form of secular voluntarism but an attempt, as against Anglican territorialism, to recognize "the crown rights of the Redeemer" and the primacy of the free Spirit's action in gathering together the covenant people of God. Their strong emphasis on this freedom has not only led them to be reluctant to give binding authority to creeds but also served indirectly to promote the rights of minorities of many kinds, especially in England. The long-faced, repressive Puritan of legend is largely a caricature.

Preaching is important in Congregationalism because the word in scripture is thought of as constitutive of the church. The ministry derives its authority from the word, not vice versa. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are the only recognized sacraments, and infant baptism is customary. Traditionally, public prayer has been ex tempore, but more recently set forms have been widely used. Hymns are important. The English Congregational Praise (1952), with many hymns by Isaac Watts, the greatest Congregational writer of hymns, is an outstanding compilation.

Congregational polity is sometimes charged with promoting spiritual individualism, but this is based on a misunderstanding. It is an attempt to give the most concrete expression to the church as a local visible community. It must be properly organized, with Bible, sacraments, a duly called and trained ministry, and deacons and members in good standing. With these, no body can be more fully the church, because all necessary means of grace are available. Congregationalism has never concluded that this has meant spiritual isolation or indifference to "the communion of the churches with each other." This is shown by the fact that no group of churches has shown a greater readiness to enter schemes of reunion.

One of the most distinctive Congregational institutions is that of the church meeting, a regular gathering at which all church members have the right and responsibility to participate in all decisions. This has not always had the vigor that its place in the polity demands, but strong efforts have been made to revive it in recent times. Women have always been active in Congregational churches, which were among the first of the American and British denominations to admit women to the full-time ministry of the word and sacraments.

Until they merged with other bodies, Congregational churches were linked in associations or unions, at local and national levels, and in an International Congregational Council, to which such related bodies as the Swedish Mission Covenant Church and the Dutch Remonstrant Brotherhood also belonged. In the course of the twentieth century, churches in the United States appointed officials called state superintendents, and those in England officials called moderators, to exercise a general ministry to churches over a wide area. When a covenant with the Church of England and the Methodist Church was proposed by the United Reformed Church in England in 19801982, it was implied that the moderators should be made into bishops. This was hotly challenged by a substantial minority as a denial of the Reformed understanding of the ministry. The failure of the Church of England to ratify the covenant meant that this particular proposal was abandoned.

Congregational churches have existed chiefly in English-speaking countries and in communities related to them, and they have not been among the larger Christian groups. Their ideas and practices, however, have had a greater influence than their size might suggest. The Congregational tradition continues to exercise influence as one element in the life of larger reunited churches in many lands.

Bibliography

Williston Walker's Creeds and Platforms of Congregationalism (New York, 1893) is a classic sourcebook. Douglas Horton's Congregationalism: A Study in Church Polity (London, 1952) and The United Church of Christ (New York, 1962) are two works by the most representative American Congregationalist of the twentieth century. Geoffrey F. Nuttall's Visible Saints: The Congregational Way, 16401660 (Oxford, 1957) emphasizes the "spiritualizing" element in Congregationalism, and R. Tudur Jones's Congregationalism in England, 16621962 (London, 1962) is a comprehensive tercentenary history. A fresh view of Congregationalism in the light of the ecumenical movement is presented in my book Congregationalism: A Restatement (New York and London, 1954), and essays on modern Congregationalism can be found in Kongregationalismus (Frankfurt, 1973), edited by Norman Goodall as volume 11 of "Die Kirchen der Welt."

New Sources

Long, Edward Le Roy. Patterns of Polity: Varieties of Church Governance. Cleveland, 2001.

Sell, Alan P. F. Visible, Orderly and Catholic: The Congregational Ideal of the Church. Alison Park, Pa., 1986.

Daniel Jenkins (1987)

Revised Bibliography

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Congregationalism." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Congregationalism." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 13, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/congregationalism

"Congregationalism." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Retrieved November 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/congregationalism

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Congregationalism

Congregationalism

Conservative Congregational Christian Conference

International Council of Community Churches

Korean Christian Missions of Hawaii

Midwest Congregational Christian Fellowship

National Association of Congregational Christian Churches

Reformed Congregational Fellowship

United Church of Canada

United Church of Christ

Conservative Congregational Christian Conference

8941 Highway 5, Lake Elmo, MN 55042

The Conservative Congregational Christian Conference can be dated to 1935 when Rev. Hilmer B. Sandine, then pastor of First Congregational Church of Hancock, Minnesota, began the publication of the Congregational Beacon. Beginning as a monthly parish publication, the Beacon became the organ for communication among theologically conservative Congregationalists. Emphasis was placed on biblical evangelism and evangelical Christianity. Growing concern about liberal theology and social activism within the Congregational and Christian Churches led in 1945 to the formation of the Conservative Congregational Christian Fellowship at Minneapolis. During the previous year a plan of union with the Evangelical and Reformed Church had been published. In 1948, during the lengthy process of the formation of the United Church of Christ, the Conservative Congregational Christian Fellowship became the conference, a separate body from the congregational and Christian churches.

Among Congregationalists, the conference represents the most theologically conservative group. The conference is committed to the five fundamentals: the infallibility of the scriptures, the virgin birth of Christ, the substitutionary atonement, Christ’s bodily resurrection, and Christ’s miracles. The conference also emphasizes the historical Puritan beliefs in the sovereignty of God, the sinfulness of man, redemption through Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit, the sacraments, the life of love and service, and the future life. They restrict membership to those who profess regeneration. The Conservative Congregational Christian Conference is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals and the World Evangelical Congregational Fellowship.

In polity, the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference accepts the interpretation that true Congregationalism is to be identified with the independent or separated Puritan tradition. The local church is the seat of power. In recent years, a number of formerly Evangelical and Reformed churches have joined the conference. It joins in fellowship with other churches for cooperative endeavors. Ecclesiastical bodies or officers have no right to interfere in local church affairs. There is an annual meeting of the conference.

The Conservative Congregational Christian Conference has affiliated work in Pohnpei Micronesia.

Membership

In 2007 the conference reported 41,772 members, 284 congregations, and 847 ministers.

Educational Facilities

The Conference has endorsed Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Fuller Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Bethel Seminary for its ministerial students.

Periodicals

Foresee.

Sources

Conservative Congregational Christian Conference. www.ccccusa.com.

Kohl, Manfred Waldemar. Congregationalism in America. Oak Creek, WI: Congregational Press, 1987.

Rouner, Arthur A. The Congregational Way of Life. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1960.

International Council of Community Churches

21116 Washington Pky., Frankfort, IL 60423-3112

The International Council of Community Churches was formally organized in 1950, but its history dates from the early nineteenth century, when nonsectarian community churches began to appear as an alternative to denominationally affiliated congregations. These churches were especially welcomed in communities too small to support more than one viable congregation, and over the years many have retained a fiercely independent stance. Added to their number were other independent congregations that had separated from denominational structures and adopted a nonsectarian stance.

In the wake of the ecumenical movement in the early twentieth century, the most visible symbol of which was the 1908 formation of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ, many congregations merged across denominational lines, some forming independent federated or union churches and dropping all denominational affiliation. During this period, some community churches began to see, in light of their years of existence apart from denominational boundaries, that they had a particular role tto play in Christian unity.

A first attempt to build a network of community churches was known as the Community Church Workers of the United States. In Chicago in 1923, at a national conference of individuals serving community churches, a committee was formed to organize a second conference and outline plans for a national association. In the next year the group organized and the Rev. Orvis F. Jordan of the Park Ridge (Illinois) Community Church was named as secretary. He later became the first president of the group. The organization continued for more than a decade, but folded in the 1930s due to lack of support.

A second organization of community churches was begun in 1923 among predominantly black congregations. Representatives of five congregations gathered in Chicago, Illinois, in fall 1923 to form the National Council of the People’s Community Churches (incorporated in 1933 as the Biennial Council of the People’s Church of Christ and Community Centers of the United States and Elsewhere). The Rev. William D. Cook, pastor of Metropolitan Community Church in Chicago, served as the first president.

Unable to gain recognition from the Federal Council of Churches, the independent community churches began a second attempt at organization in the last days of World War II. The Rev. Roy A. Burkhart, pastor of First Community Church of Columbus, Ohio, led in the formation of the Ohio Association for Community Churches in 1945. The next year, representatives from 19 states and Canada met and formed the National Council of Community Churches.

Almost immediately, the black and white groups began to work toward a merger. The merger, accomplished in 1950, created the International Council of Community Churches with a charter membership of 160 churches. By 1957 the several foreign congregations had ceased their affiliation with the council and the word international was dropped. In 1969 the name was changed to National Council of Community Churches. In 1983, however, foreign congregations in Canada and Nigeria affiliated, and in 1984 the organization resumed the use of its original name.

There is no doctrinal statement shared by the council and its member churches, though most churches share a liberal, ecumenical-minded, Protestant perspective. The council describes itself as committed to Christian unity and working “toward a fellowship as comprehensive as the spirit and teachings of Christ and as inclusive as the love of God.”

The council is a loosely organized fellowship of free and autonomous congregations. The national and regional officers facilitate communication between congregations and serve member congregations in various functions, such as representing them at the Churches Uniting in Christ and the National Council of Churches and coordinating the securing of chaplains in the armed services.

Membership

In 2008 the Council reported 155 member churches and centers in the United States with a communicant membership of between 60,000 and 75,000. There were also 58 international congregations and centers in 17 countries with membership in the Council.

Educational Facilities

As a matter of policy, the Council has no educational institutions or mission projects of its own. It endorses and encourages member churches to support schools and missions that meet a its standards of being “postdenominational” and promoting Christian unity while meeting human needs.

Periodicals

The Christian Community. • The Pastor’s Journal. • The Inclusive Pulpit.

Sources

International Council of Community Churches. www.icccusa.com.

National Council of Community Churches, Directory. Homewood, IL: National Council of Community Churches, 1982.

Shotwell, J. Ralph. Unity without Uniformity. Homewood, IL: Community Church Press, 1984.

Smith, J. Philip. Faith and Fellowship in the Community Church Movement: A Theological Perspective. Homewood, IL: Community Church Press, 1986.

Korean Christian Missions of Hawaii

1832 Liliha St., Honolulu, HI 96817

The Korean Christian Missions of Hawaii arose early in the twentieth century when Korean immigrants to Hawaii found themselves trapped by a peculiarity of church history. They had been Presbyterians in their home country and wished to organize a Presbyterian judicatory on the island. However, they ran into a long-standing agreement by which Presbyterians and Congregationalists had divided the world and agreed not to organize in areas over which the other had hegemony. Rather than affiliate with the General Council of Congregational Christian Churches (now part of the United Church of Christ), they dropped the word Presbyterian and in 1918 formed Korean Christian churches. Over a period of time they gave up their presbyterianism and moved toward a congregational polity. Thus in recent decades they have emerged as a group that has doctrinal agreement and friendly relationships with both the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Church of Christ.

The church is trinitarian in faith and accepts the Apostles’Creed as its confession of faith. It baptizes by sprinkling.

Membership

In 1980 three congregations were reported, with approximately 500 members.

Sources

Piepkorn, Arthur C. Profiles in Belief: The Religious Bodies of the United States and Canada. Vol. 3. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979.

Midwest Congregational Christian Fellowship

8009 N CR 500 West, Muncie, IN 47304

The Midwest Congregational Christian Fellowship was formed in 1958 by former members of the Congregational and Christian Churches. During the years of negotiating the forming of the United Church of Christ, one center of dissatisfaction was in the Eastern Indiana Association. Theologically conservative members of the association were opposed to the church’s theologically liberal leadership. They felt there was too much emphasis on social action. The first meetings were held in 1957 in which attempts were made to withdraw the entire association. Having failed, laymen devised a plan by which individual congregations could withdraw. Thirty churches, primarily small, rural congregations, removed themselves from the rolls in 1958. These quickly organized as the Midwest Congregational Christian Fellowship (now Church).

The doctrinal statement of the church reflects the Puritan heritage, the Christian noncreedal bias, and the evangelical perspective of the members. The statement affirms belief in the Trinity, salvation, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the resurrection, and the unity of believers. The polity is a loose congregationalism with emphasis on local ownership of property. The church meets quarterly, with one meeting designated the annual meeting. There is an eight-man committee that includes the moderator and officers who oversee the work of the church.

Membership

In 2000 the church reported 1,705 members and 29 congregations.

Sources

Association of Religion Data Archives. www.thearda.com/mapsReports/reports/US_2000.asp.

NAE Evangelism Commission. www.naeevangelism.com/members.html.

National Association of Congregational Christian Churches

PO Box 288, Oak Creek, WI 53154-0288

The National Association of Congregational Christian Churches was formed in 1955 in Detroit, Michigan, by a group of churches and individuals desiring to remain congregational in the face of merger forces that resulted in the formation of the United Church of Christ. The founders came to Detroit in response to a call sent out by the League to Uphold Congregationalist Principles and the Committee for the Continuation of Congregational Christian Churches.

There is little difference between members of the United Church of Christ and those of the National Association. In contrast to the more presbyterial form of the United Church of Christ, the polity of the NACCC emphasizes local autonomy and the fellowship of the local churches in state and national associations. It meets annually in different regions of the country. They gather for fellowship, education, and edification. Although the National Association does not make pronouncements for the member churches, it does undertake mutually cooperative programs, projects, and missions.

The association supports programs for the welfare and career development of ministers and theological students; Christian education and spiritual resources for youths of high school and college age; financial support and building and loan assistance for church development, as well as investment advisory; communications; men’s and women’s work; and missionary work in the United States and 12 countries worldwide.

Membership

The association reports 430 member churches and 70,000 members in the United States, in fellowship with a number of “free” or congregationally governed associations, including the International Congregational Fellowship.

Educational Facilities

Olivet College, Olivet, Michigan.

Piedmont College, Demorest, Georgia.

Periodicals

The Congregationalist. • News from the NACCC. • News and Needs; International Congregational Journal (published by Congregational Press).

Sources

National Association of Congregational Christian Churches. www.naccc.org/.

Butman, Harry R. The Lord’s Free People. Wauwatosa, WI: Swannet Press, 1968.

Hall, Lloyd M., and Steven A. Peay, eds. Congregationalism: The Church Local and Universal: The 1954 Polity and Unity Report. Oak Creek, WI: Congregational Press, 2001.

Kohl, Manfred Waldemar. Congregationalism in America. Oak Creek, WI: Congregational Press, 1977.

Peay, Steven A., ed. A Past with a Future. Oak Creek, WI: Congregational Press, 1998.

Reformed Congregational Fellowship

David Green, Moderator, 14 McKinley Ave., Beverly, MA 01915-3430

The Reformed Congregational Fellowship (RCF) is the product of many meetings that occurred through the mid-1990s by a group of congregational ministers who were searching for a way to publicly affirm their unity based upon adherence to confessional Reformed theology. Over ten years ago, they adopted the Savoy Declaration of 1658 as expressing the system of doctrine taught in the Bible and the Cambridge Platform of 1648 as their understanding of biblical church order.

The Savoy Declaration was the confession of faith for many English and New England congregational churches for over two centuries. It was produced in less than a month by a group of Puritan Congregational ministers who gathered to adapt the Westminster Confession to congregational distinctives. Their work occurred during the time of the fluid religious environment of the Cromwellian Commonwealth in England. It had been Cromwell’s hope—himself a Congregationalist—that the three major branches of the church, Baptist, Congregational, and Presbyterian, that were uncomfortable with episcopacy and opposed to deviant theology could find a way of uniting and thus provide a united standard for the religious life of the nation. The meeting at the Savoy Palace, however, did not achieve this result. The congregational leaders, while strongly affirming Reformed theological roots in common with their Presbyterian and Baptist brethren, solidified their case for Congregational church order. As their views allowed for a closer connection between church and state, they were also distinguished at that point from the Baptists.

The Reformed Congregational Fellowship consists of a number of individuals—mostly congregational pastors—scattered across the United States and in congregations that have adopted the Savoy and the Cambridge as part of their constitutional structure. Such churches are welcome to be listed on the RCF web-site as member churches. Individual membership is by subscription to the RCF constitution, a one page document affirming the final authority of the Bible for all matters of faith and practice and affirming the secondary standards of the Savoy and Cambridge. As such, therefore, it is not a denomination but, as its title suggests, a fellowship of those who are either independent or members of other congregational denominations. Within this larger world of congregationalism, these men see themselves as an important witness to a historic and confessionally reformed theological perspective.

An example among their congregations is the 200-year-old Westminster Congregational Church of Canterbury, Connecticut, which allied itself to the Fellowship in its formative stages. In 1995 its members went through a renewal process that included acknowledgment of the Bible as their supreme authority, the Westminster Confession (apart from its ecclesiology) as a faithful expression of biblical faith, and the Cambridge Platform as a faithful summary of biblical ecclesiology.

The primary work of the RCF at this time is its Confessional Conference held each spring during the second full week after Easter in Sharon, Massachusetts. Anyone is welcome for this event that begins with Tuesday supper and ends with Thursday lunch. Baptists and Presbyterians also regularly attend as the emphasis is not on polity but theology. Papers are presented on themes from one or more chapters of the Savoy Declaration. Engagement with the Westminster Confession and 1689 Baptist Confession is encouraged, as well as other more ancient or reformational confessions. The Conference is held in part from the belief that only by a return to clear theological witness and preaching and by relying entirely on the expounded Bible and the Holy Spirit’s work in the soul, may the tide of ignorance, practical atheism, and lawlessness that envelops the United States be confronted and altered. The Conference also features the singing of hymns, lively discussion, and the opportunity for deep fellowship in the things of God.

The RCF website is a blog and responses are encouraged.

Membership

Not reported.

Sources

Reformed Congregational Fellowship. www.reformedcongregational.org.

United Church of Canada

The United Church House, 3250 Bloor St. W, Ste. 300, Toronto, ON, Canada M8X 2Y4

The United Church of Canada (UCC) was formed in 1925 by the union of the Methodist Church, Canada, the Congregational Union of Canada, the Council of Local Union Churches, and the majority of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. In 1968 the Canada Conference of the Evangelical United Brethren joined the UCC. This church is the most successful result of the various Christian church union attempts in North America during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; more than 40 church bodies from two major church families (Reformed and Methodist) were united.

French Huguenots escaping persecution following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes brought the Reformed Faith to Canada. But even in the New World their growth and development were restricted. After the ceding of Nova Scotia to England in 1713, and particularly after the ceding of all of Canada in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris, the influx of Presbyterians from Scotland and Ireland completely overwhelmed the small French contingent. The first ministers from Scotland were Daniel Cook, David Smith, and Hugh Graham, who organized the Presbytery of Truro in 1786. In 1795 this presbytery was joined by a second, the Presbytery of Pictou, which represented another faction of Scottish Presbyterianism. In 1817 these two groups, joined by a few ministers from the Established Church of Scotland, came together and formed the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Nova Scotia.

Concurrently with the events that led to the formation of the Synod of Nova Scotia, Presbyterians were moving into central and western Canada. As in eastern Canada, they brought the many divisions of the Scottish church with them, establishing several presbyteries and then synods, the first being the Presbytery of the Canadas in 1818. The establishment of new synodical structures continued through the first half of the nineteenth century, in part due to the importing of schisms within the church in Scotland, the arrival of non–English-speaking (Dutch Reformed) immigrants, and the opening of new territories in the West. By mid-century the trend began to reverse, and in 1875 a series of mergers led to the union of most Presbyterians into the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Methodism in Canada is traced to Lawrence Coughlan, an Irish Methodist preacher who came to Newfoundland in 1765. At the time of his arrival, he had left John Wesley’s connection and applied for work with the Anglican Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Though a Methodist in practice, he became an Anglican minister. Upon his return to England, many of the people he organized openly declared themselves Methodists. Meanwhile, Methodists were migrating from England to Nova Scotia; among them was William Black Sr. In 1779 a revival among them led to the conversion of William Black, Jr., who was then only 19 years old. He began to preach, visiting several nearby settlements, and in 1781 travelled the whole of Nova Scotia to organize Methodist classes. His work expanded greatly two years later as immigrants loyal to Great Britain flowed into Nova Scotia after the American Revolution. In 1784 Black journeyed to Baltimore, Maryland, for the meeting that organized the new Methodist Episcopal Church. The Canadian work that Black had developed was taken under their care. The Canadian work grew and developed as an integral part of the Methodist Episcopal Church until 1828, when it became separate and independent. Meanwhile, Methodists from Great Britain migrated into Canada, and like the Presbyterians from Scotland, brought with them the several divisions of British Methodism. Mergers in 1874 and 1884 resulted in the formation of the Methodist Church, Canada.

Congregationalism in Canada originated with the acceptance of the British government’s offer of free land to New Englanders who would relocate in Nova Scotia. In 1759 several hundred immigrants founded new towns and gathered churches; the first was at Chester, and in 1761 the church at Liverpool was formed. In 1760 a colony began at Mungerville, New Brunswick; the first church was organized six years later. The first church in Newfoundland dates to 1777. From these and additional congregations a Congregational Union of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick was organized in 1846. In 1801 the British Congregationalists sent a missionary to organize a church in Quebec. That led to the formation of the Congregational Union of Ontario and Quebec, which merged with the older group in 1906. The newly formed Congregational Union of Canada received the Ontario Conference of the American-based United Brethren in Christ (now part of the United Methodist Church) in 1907.

The final partner in the 1925 merger, the General Council of Union Churches of Western Canada, was the product of the early proposed Plan of Union that led to the founding of the United Church of Canada. A draft proposal of a plan of union was issued in 1908. In November of that year, a new congregation that appeared in Saskatchewan accepted as the basis of its local organization the proposed plan. Others soon followed, and the Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian judica-tories allowed ministers to participate in the ecumenical experiment. In 1912 the several local congregations formed the General Council to handle practical matters and press forward in implementing the Plan of Union.

The merger in 1925 had a major dissenting voice. Approximately 30 percent of the Presbyterians refused to enter the merger, and continued as the Presbyterian Church in Canada. In 1926 a number of the Canadian congregations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) affiliated with the new church. In 1968 the Canadian Conference of the Evangelical United Brethren, following a favorable vote and anticipating the merger of its parent body into the United Methodist Church, became part of the United Church of Canada. In 1943 a two-decade process of negotiation with the Anglican Church of Canada was initiated. It was joined by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The Plan of Union was adopted by the general commission representing the three churches in 1972, but three years later was rejected by the Anglican Church of Canada. The three bodies remain separate entities, though the UCC and the Anglican Church have several joint enterprises.

The union effected in 1925 originated with merger talks between Methodists and Presbyterians in 1899, joined three years later by the Congregationalists. In the proposed Basis of Union, written between 1904 and 1910, a new doctrinal statement was written, based in large part upon the statements of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. It assumes a common affirmation of the Protestant faith and assumes a position between the classical Calvinistic and Arminian positions, leaving considerable latitude for disagreement on issues such as predestination, election, and God’s free grace to all persons.

The church is governed by a General Council that meets triennially. The national church is further divided into conferences and presbyteries. Local churches are administered by an official board. The UCC has retained membership in the Alliance of Reformed Churches (Presbyterian and Congregational), the World Methodist Council, the Canadian Council of Churches, and the World Council of Churches.

Membership

On December 31, 2006, the United Church of Canada reported 3,405 churches, approximately 1,500,000 members and adherents, 3,820 ordained clergy, and 4,500 ordered and lay ministry personnel. They have affiliated work in 39 countries.

Educational Facilities

Theological Colleges (for clergy education):

Atlantic School of Theology, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Centre for Christian Studies, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Dr. Jessie Saulteaux Resource Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Emmanuel College, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Francis Sandy Theological Centre, Paris, Ontario, Canada.

Queen’s Theological College, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

St. Andrew’s College, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

St. Stephen’s College, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

United Theological College, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

University of Winnipeg, Faculty of Theology, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Vancouver School of Theology, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Colleges and Universities

Huntington University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.

Iona College, Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

St. Paul’s United College, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

Victoria University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Westminster College, London, Ontario, Canada.

Periodicals

United Church Observer. • Mandate Magazine.

Sources

United Church of Canada. www.united-church.ca.

Grant, John Webster. The Canadian Experience of Church Union. Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1967.

Silcox, Claris Edwin. Church Union in Canada. New York: Institute of Social and Religious Research, 1933.

White, Peter Gordon, ed. Voices and Visions: 65 Years of The United Church of Canada. Toronto: United Church Publishing House, 1990.

United Church of Christ

700 Prospect Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115-1100

The United Church of Christ (UCC) was formed in 1957 by the merger of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. The two uniting bodies were themselves products of mergers in the early twentieth century, and any account of the modern UCC must begin with a consideration of the four bodies which are now constituent parts of it: The Congregational Churches, the Christian Church, the Reformed Church in the United States, and the Evangelical Synod of North America.

THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCHES

Through the Congregational Churches, the United Church of Christ reaches back to the first decades of the British presence in North America. They were the fourth church to arrive in the colonies (behind the French Reformed Church, Roman Catholic Church, and the Church of England). Coming from England by way of Holland, the Pilgrims first arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1620. The Pilgrims were Separatists, Reformed in theology but believing strongly in the autonomous local congregation. The Puritans arrived a decade later, and for the next century they directed the New England settlement. The Puritans were congregationalists in that they placed most of the ecclesiastical power in the hands of the congregation, but also aligned those congregations to the colonial governments. They hoped to create a theocratic system and were intolerant of competing churches and religious groups. The single Pilgrim congregation at Plymouth was tolerated and eventually was absorbed into the larger body of Congregationalists, though the congregation itself eventually was lost to Unitarianism. Congregationalism was the established church of the New England colonies (except Rhode Island) until the Revolution, and remained established in Connecticut until 1818 and in Massachusetts until 1833.

The early Congregationalists were committed to education. They established Harvard University (1636) soon after their arrival, and several generations later as they spread through New England, they founded Yale (1701). These were but the first of a system of institutions of higher education that have made the Congregational Church a major intellectual force in American culture. In 1810 Congregationalists founded the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, which is not only looked upon as the parent of the nineteenth-century missionary thrust in American Protestantism, but which succeeded in taking Congregationalism around the world—to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), China, India, Africa, and the Middle East.

During the early years of the nineteenth century, Congregationalists, just beginning to slip from their position as the largest church in the new land, led the crusade to build a Christian land. They initiated organizations and took leadership roles in various movements on behalf of the causes of peace, women, children, immigrants, and the poor, as well as the abolition of slavery. They created a number of social service centers, especially in the Northeast, where most of their strength was concentrated.

Through the early nineteenth century, Congregationalists had only formed statewide associations of churches, but the rapid spread of the church in the nineteenth century brought the call for a national organization. In 1852 a national council met for the first time and was soon meeting regularly every three years. In 1913, at a meeting of the triennial council in Kansas City, a new Congregational “platform” was adopted that included a preamble, a confession of faith, a form of polity, and a stand on wider fellowships.

Congregationalists have been tied together by a series of doctrinal statements beginning with the Cambridge Platform in 1648, which affirmed the Reformed theological heritage. The Confession of 1913 adopted at Kansas City declared the “steadfast allegiance of the churches composing this council to the faith which our fathers confessed.” But at the same time, the statement as a whole reflected the nineteenth-century theological trend usually called modernism. Some Congregational ministers and theological professors had become the major intellectual pioneers of modernist thought, which placed a great emphasis upon individualism and progress, while stressing God’s presence in the world over and against his transcendence, Christ’s humanity over and against his divinity, and social activism (the social gospel).

In 1931 the National Council of the Congregational Churches united with the Christian Church to form the General Council of Congregational Christian Churches.

THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH

The Christian Church that was to become part of the United Church of Christ (there were other groups with the same name that stemmed from similar influences) was the product of the revivals of the post-Revolutionary War period and of the new wave of democratic thinking. In 1792 James O’Kelly withdrew from the Methodist Episcopal Church and formed the Republican Methodist Church, rejecting the strict episcopal authority exercised by Bishop Francis Asbury. Methodist bishops have the power to appoint Methodist ministers to their congregations, and O’Kelly continually objected to Asbury’s appointments of him. Two years after leaving the Methodists, O’Kelly and his followers also moved against sectarian labels and resolved to be known as “Christians” only. A similar movement arose among Baptists in New England, where Abner Jones had decided that sectarian names and human creeds should be abandoned and that piety alone should be the test of Christian fellowship. He organized such a “Christian” fellowship in 1800 and was soon joined by others.

In 1819 various churches calling themselves “Christian” held a general conference in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In 1833 a general convention was organized that in effect formed the Christian Church. The following year the church established a Christian Book Association. Concern for education led to the founding of Elon College in North Carolina. From 1854 to 1890, as a result of the forces that led to the Civil War, and occasioned by the adoption of an antislavery resolution by the general convention, the southern branch of the church separated itself from the general convention.

The general convention adopted no doctrinal statement but followed the central affirmations of Reformed Protestantism, stressing the authority of the Bible and salvation by grace through faith. Considerable variation was allowed on doctrinal matters, even on the sacraments. The Southern branch of the church tended to favor adult believers baptism (reflecting their Baptist heritage).

REFORMED CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES

German-speaking adherents of the Reformed Church came into the United States soon after the founding of Pennsylvania. By 1730 there were more than 15,000 people at least nominally members of the Reformed Church in Pennsylvania. By 1800 the number had grown to 40,000. They had come originally at William Penn’s invitation, but were spurred by various negative conditions in their homeland.

Soon after their arrival, these German believers took steps to organize churches. Short of ministers, they often appointed the local schoolteacher to hold services. One such, John Philip Boehm, eventually sought ordination in 1725 and financial support from the Dutch Reformed Church (which had a strong following in New York). That church sent Michael Schlatter to consolidate the scattered congregations into a denominational mold. In 1747 the clergy of these congregations formed the Coetus of the Reformed Ministerium of the Congregations of Pennsylvania. In 1793 the German Reformed Church in Pennsylvania and adjacent states reorganized as a Synod, independent of the Reformed Church in Holland.

In the mid-1880s the German Reformed Church in the United States was torn by a major controversy between the Mercersburg and the Old Reformed movements. The former, stimulated by the leadership of John Williamson Nevin (1803–1886), Philip Schaff (1819–1893), and their associates at the Reformed seminary that had been established at Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, sought to oppose the inroads being made by revivalism (especially that of Charles G. Finney) and sectarianism. The Mercersburg theologians favored an altar-centered liturgy with responses and chants, ritual forms for the traditional church year, read prayers, and more formal garb for the ministers and choirs. They also stressed the authority of the synod over that of regional and congregational powers, and the minister’s authority in matters of local church order. The opponents of the Mercersburg perspective stood for pulpit-centered worship, congregational autonomy, and the control of the churches’order of worship in the hands of lay consistories.

The educational emphasis in the church first emerged in the formation of the seminary at Mercersburg (later moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania) and the formation of a number of colleges—Heidelberg, Catawba, Hood, Franklin and Marshall, Ursinus, and Cedar Crest. Following the movement of German immigration communities, the church spread from Pennsylvania into twenty-one states and three Canadian provinces.

Mission work began in 1838 with the formation of the Board of Foreign Missions. For twenty-eight years this board united with the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions and then began to send its own missionaries to China, India, Japan, and the Middle East.

THE EVANGELICAL SYNOD OF NORTH AMERICA

In 1817 King Frederick William II (1797–1840) united the congregations in his realm, some of which had Lutheran and some of which had Reformed leanings, into a single Evangelical Church, the Church of the Prussian Union. He enforced one form of worship and one church government. Pietism and a more conciliatory spirit were encouraged, and a united front against the inroads of rationalism was created through the development of interconfessional Bible, missionary, and tract societies.

One of these societies, the Basel Missionary Society, sent 288 missionaries as pastors for America, beginning in 1833, in response to appeals from German-American immigrants in the Midwest. The first to arrive were Joseph A. Rieger (1811–1869) and George Wendelin Wall (1811–1867). In 1840 a group of German Evangelical ministers in the St. Louis, Missouri area met and formed Der Deutsche Evangelische Kirchenverein des Westens (the German Evangelical Church Society of the West). In 1866 the word “Kirchenverein” was changed to “Synod.” The society/synod made every effort to avoid rigid institutional organization and to eliminate the bureaucratic features usually associated with synodical bodies. Membership was to consist of ordained pastors, lay delegates, and advisory members. No effort was made at this time to enlist individual churches to the society, and it was explicitly stated that “neither the external nor the internal affairs of local congregations could be made the business of the society.”

Reflecting their dual Lutheran and Reformed heritage, catechetical instruction in these Evangelical churches typically used one of several catechisms that were being used in Germany, usually uniting elements of Luther’s Smaller Catechism with parts of the Heidelberg Catechism of the Reformed Church.

Contemporaneously with the formation of the Synod of the West, two other like synods were being formed. The United Synod of the Northwest served churches in northern Illinois and southern Michigan. The United Synod of the East stretched from New York to Ohio. As early as 1851, union talks were held between the three bodies. In 1872 they merged to form the German Evangelical Synod of North America (dropping “German” in 1927).

Like the Reformed Church in the United States and the Congregationalist Churches, the Evangelical Synod placed a strong emphasis upon education, particularly demanding an educated ministry. Eden Seminary was begun in 1850 and Elmhurst College in 1872. Parochial schools were attached to most congregations. The synod was also deeply involved in the revival of the deaconness movement in the last half of the nineteenth century. A deaconess hospital in St. Louis in 1853 spurred other healing efforts in the church, and hospitals were established in Cleveland, Ohio; Evansville, Indiana; Detroit, Michigan; and Chicago, Illinois.

No other German church body, save the Moravians, developed as extensive a missionary effort as did the Evangelical Synod. It formed missions to the American Indian and sent foreign missionaries to India and Honduras. Domestic missions included the Seaman’s Mission in Baltimore, Maryland; Caroline Mission in St. Louis; Back Bay Mission in Biloxi, Mississippi; and others in the Ozarks and on Madeline Island, Wisconsin.

The talks leading toward the 1934 merger of the Evangelical Synod and the Reformed Church began in 1929. The new Evangelical and Reformed Church (E&R Church) was in place only a short time before talks began with the newly formed General Council of the Congregational-Christian Churches.

THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST

As early as 1941, the Committee on Church Relations of the E&R Church held informal conversations with the corresponding committee of the Congregational-Christian Churches. By 1944 a common procedure was agreed upon for dealing with a formal basis of union and a uniting General Synod was planned for 1950. This, however, was postponed for nearly a decade due to legal challenges within the Congregational-Christian Churches. The formal beginning of the United Church of Christ was the Uniting General Synod in Cleveland in June 1957.

The United Church of Christ adopted a constitution in 1961 that provides for a General Synod as its chief policymaking body. The synod is composed of ministerial and lay delegates from the conferences. The delegates elect an executive council that acts between meetings of the synod. Under the General Synod are a variety of boards and agencies, the most important being the Board of Homeland Ministries, the Board of World Ministries, and the Pension Board of the United Church (all of which continue older organizations and are separately incorporated).

The polity of the church included elements of both congregational and presbyterial styles of government. Local churches are guaranteed the right to own their own property, call their own ministers, and withdraw unilaterally from the denomination. But the associations, in which clergy and denominations hold their denominational standing, can withdraw that standing on their own initiative. Conferences, the General Synod, and instrumentalities can advise local churches and individual members, but their statements and decisions are not binding.

Geographically, the church is divided into 38 conferences (with an additional conference serving Hungarian-American congregations), and each conference is further divided into associations, each related to the other and the General Synod in a covenantal fashion. Local councils or consistories, variously composed of the pastor, a moderator or president, and other officers, govern local churches.

The statement of faith, adopted by the General Synod of the United Church of Christ in 1959, and rephrased in doxological form in 1981, is open to a variety of interpretations, but the Reformed theological background of most ministerial leadership is still evident.

The United Church of Christ has a reputation as one of the most socially liberal and active of American church bodies. At the national level, it has identified with numerous concerns related to peace and justice issues. It is also theologically liberal, continuing its modernist heritage, and maintains a wide variety of theological perspectives. It is broadly ecumenical, yet has developed a variety of specific official partnership commitments to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); the Evangelical Church Union (East and West Germany); the Pentecostal Church of Chile; the Presbyterian Church, Republic of Korea; and the United Church of Christ (Philippines). The UCC is a member of the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (Presbyterian and Congregational).

Membership

The church in 2006 reported 1.2 million members, 5,700 congregations, and 10,270 clergy/ministers.

Educational Facilities

Colleges and Universities

Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin.

Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota.

Catawba College, Salisbury, North Carolina.

Cedar Crest College, Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Deaconess College of Nursing, St. Louis, Missouri.

Defiance College, Defiance, Ohio.

Dillard University, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Doane College, Crete, Nebraska.

Drury College, Springfield, Missouri.

Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Illinois.

Elon University, Elon, North Carolina.

Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee.

Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Grinnel College, Grinnell, Iowa.

Heidelberg College, Tiffin, Ohio.

Hood College, Frederick, Maryland.

Hawaii Loa College, Kenehoe, Hawaii.

Huston-Tillotson College, Austin, Texas.

Illinois College, Jacksonville, Illinois.

Lakeland College, Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Lemoyne-Owen College, Memphis, Tennessee.

Northland College, Ashland, Wisconsin.

Olivet College, Olivet, Michigan.

Pacific University, Forest Grove, Oregon.

Ripon College, Ripon, Wisconsin.

Rocky Mountain College, Billings, Montana.

Talladega College, Talladega, Alabama.

Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, Mississippi.

Ursinus College, Collegeville, Pennsylvania.

Westminister College, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Seminaries:

Andover Newton Theological Seminary, Newton Center, Massachusetts.

Bangor Theological Seminary, Bangor, Maine.

Chicago Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois.

Eden Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.

Hartford Seminary, Hartford, Connecticut.

Harvard University School of Divinity, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Howard University School of Divinity, Washington, D.C.

Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta, Georgia.

Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California.

Lancaster Theological Seminary, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Seminario Evangelico de Puerto Rico, Hato Rey, Puerto Rico.

United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, New Brighton, Minnesota.

Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York.

Vanderbilt University Divinity School, Nashville, Tennessee.

Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Connecticut.

Periodicals

United Church NewsPrism

Sources

United Church of Christ. www.ucc.org.

Bailey, J. Martin, and W. Evan Golder, eds. The UCC @ 50: Our History, Our Future. Cleveland, OH: United Church of Christ, 2007.

Dunn, David, and Lowell H. Zuck. A History of the Evangelical and Reformed Church. New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1990.

Gunnemann, Louis H. The Shaping of the United Church of Christ. New York: Thomas Nelson, 1962.

Horton, Douglas. The United Church of Christ. New York: T. Nelson, 1962.

Starkey, Marion L. The Congregational Way. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966.

Youngs, J. William T. The Congregationalist. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Congregationalism." Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Congregationalism." Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 13, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/congregationalism

"Congregationalism." Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions. . Retrieved November 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/congregationalism

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Congregationalism

Congregationalism

453

Congregational Union of Canada

(Defunct)

(The Congregational Union of Canada no longer exists as a separate entity. It is now a constituent part of the United Church of Canada.) The Congregational Union of Canada was formed in 1906 by the merger of the Congregational Union of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and the Congregational Union of Ontario and Quebec. Together they represented the Congregational Church tradition which entered Canada from the United States in the eighteenth century.

Congregational beginnings in Canada awaited the British take over of Nova Scotia in 1748. At the invitation of the government, shiploads of settlers arrived from New England to establish towns and begin farming. The first Congregational Church was organized in Chester in 1759; others followed, and two years later a second one was formed in Liverpool. Though never a large and growing movement, these churches passed a generation in peace until, in the 1780s, they were disturbed by the independent revivalistic efforts of Henry Alline, whose preachings led to a split in many congregations. The new congregations, though remaining officially Congregational during Alline's lifetime, eventually became the core of Canadian Baptists in the area. Concurrently, the Methodists began their period of growth under William Black, Jr.. The competition between the Baptists and Methodists, coupled with the difficulties of obtaining ministers after the American Revolution, effectively hampered the future growth of Congregationalism.

At the same time settlements were being established in Nova Scotia, New Englanders traveled to New Brunswick. The first Congregational Church emerged in 1766 at Maugerville. Newfoundland's first congregation came a decade later at St. John's.

Organization of the scattered congregations awaited events in England. In the 1830s the Congregational Union of England and Wales was formed, thus consolidating Congregational efforts in Britain. In 1834 fraternal delegates were sent to Canada. They reported their findings, which led to the formation of the Colonial Missionary Society in 1836. This society, whose purpose was to aid churches through the British Empire, assisted the work in Canada and facilitated the formation of the Congregational Union of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 1846.

Congregationalism in Quebec and Ontario grew out of two separate movements. In the years after the American Revolution, settlers from New England began to move northward across the border into Canada. A church was founded at Stamstead as early as 1798. As other churches were founded, ministers were drawn from Vermont. In the 1840s, the Congregationalist-sponsored American Home Missionary Society initiated work in Canada and organized several predominantly black congregations among former slaves who had fled to freedom.

As early as 1801 the British Congregationalists sent a representative of the London Missionary Society to Quebec. Most of that work was lost to the Presbyterians, and the New England-based church were all that survived. British settlers organized a joint Congregational-Presbyterian Church in Elgin County, Ontario in 1819. It survived to become fully congregational, the first in that province.

As with the churches in the Maritime Provinces, those in Quebec and Ontario received a boost from the 1834 delegation from England. Unions were organized in each province, and in 1853 they merged into the Congregational Union of Ontario and Quebec.

In 1807 the Congregational Union of Canada received the Canadian Conference of the United Brethren in Christ into its membership. This German body had become predominantly English-speaking in the late nineteenth century. Rather than becoming another small independent sect after breaking with the American branch, they chose to unite with the Congregationalists.

In 1925 the Congregational Union of Canada joined with the Methodist Church, Canada and the Presbyterian Church in Canada to form the United Church of Canada.

Sources:

Dunning, Albert E. Congregationalists in America. New York: J. A. Hill & Co., 1894.

Silcox, Claris Edwin. Church Union in Canada. New York: Institute of Social and Religious Research, 1933.

454

Conservative Congregational Christian Conference

7582 Currell Blvd., Ste. 108
St. Paul, MN 55125

The Conservative Congregational Christian Conference can be dated to 1935 when Rev. Hilmer B. Sandine, then pastor of First Congregational Church of Hancock, Minnesota, began the publication of the Congregational Beacon. Beginning as a monthly parish publication, the Beacon became the organ for communication among theologically conservative Congregationalists. Emphasis was placed on Biblical evangelism and evangelical Christianity. Growing concern about liberal theology and social activism within the Congregational and Christian Churches led in 1945 to the formation of the Conservative Congregational Christian Fellowship at Minneapolis. During the previous year a plan of union with the Evangelical and Reformed Church had been published. In 1948, during the lengthy process of the formation of the United Church of Christ, the Conservative Congregational Christian Fellowship became the conference, a separate body from the congregational and Christian churches.

Among Congregationalists, the conference represents the most theologically conservative group. The conference is committed to the five fundamentals: the infallibility of the Scriptures, the virgin birth of Christ, the substitutionary atonement, Christ's bodily resurrection, and Christ's miracles. The conference also emphasizes the historical Puritan beliefs in the sovereignty of God, the sinfulness of man, redemption through Christ, the indwelling Holy Spirit, the sacraments, the life of love and service, and the future life. They restrict membership to those who profess regeneration. The Conservative Congregational Christian Conference is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals and the World Evangelical Congregational Fellowship.

In polity, the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference accepts the interpretation that true Congregationalism is to be identified with the independent or separated Puritan tradition. The local church is the seat of power. In recent years, a number of formerly Evangelical and Reformed churches have joined the conference. It joins in fellowship with other churches for cooperative endeavors. Ecclesiastical bodies or officers have no right to interfere in local church affairs. There is an annual meeting of the conference.

Membership: In 2001, the conference reported 40,974 members, 254 congregations, and 710 ministers.

Educational Facilities: The Conference has endorsed Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary for its ministerial students.

Periodicals: Foresee.

455

International Council of Community Churches

7808 College Dr., No. 25E
Palos Heights, IL 60463

The International Council of Community Churches was formally organized in 1946, but possesses a history dating from the early nineteenth century when nonsectarian community churches began to appear as an alternative to the formation of separate denominationally affiliated congregations. Such community churches were especially welcomed in communities too small to support more than one viable congregation. Over the years, such congregations have frequently retained a fiercely independent stance. To their number were added other independent congregations that had separated from denominational structures and adopted a non-sectarian stance.

In the wake of the ecumenical movement in the early twentieth century, the most visible symbol being the Federal Council of Churches of Christ formed in 1908, many congregations merged across denominational lines, some forming independent federated or union churches, dropping all denominational affiliation. During this period, some community churches began to see, in light of their years of existence apart from denominational boundaries, that they had a particular role vis-a-vis Christian unity.

A first attempt to build a network of community churches was known as the Community Church Workers of the United States. At a national conference of individuals serving community churches in Chicago in 1923, a committee formed to hold a second conference and outline plans for a national association. Organization occurred the next year and the Rev. Orvis F. Jordan of the Park Ridge (Illinois) Community Church was named as secretary. He later became the first president of the group. The organization continued for over a decade, but died in the 1930s due to lack of support.

A second organization of community churches was also begun in 1923 among predominantly black congregations. Representatives of five congregations gathered in Chicago, Illinois, in the fall of 1923 to form the National Council of the People's Community Churches (incorporated in 1933 as the Biennial Council of the People's Church of Christ and Community Centers of the United States and Elsewhere). The Rev. William D. Cook, pastor of Metropolitan Community Church in Chicago, served as the first president.

Unable to gain recognition from the Federal Council of Churches, the independent community churches began a second attempt at organization in the last days of World War II. The Rev. Roy A. Burkhart, pastor of First Community Church of Columbus, Ohio, led in the formation of the Ohio Association for Community Churches in 1945. The next year representatives from 19 states and Canada met and formed the National Council of Community Churches.

Almost immediately, the black and white groups began to work toward a merger. The merger, accomplished in 1950, created the International Council of Community Churches with a charter membership of 160 churches. By 1957, the several foreign congregations had ceased their affiliation with the council and the word "International" was dropped. In 1969, the name was changed to National Council of Community Churches. In 1983, however, foreign congregations in Canada and Nigeria affiliated, and in 1984 the original name was again assumed.

There is no doctrinal statement shared by the council or its member churches, though most churches share a liberal, ecumenical-minded, Protestant perspective. The council describes itself as committed to Christian unity and working "toward a fellowship as comprehensive as the spirit and teachings of Christ and as inclusive as the love of God."

The council is a loosely organized fellowship of free and autonomous congregations. The national and regional officers facilitate communication between congregations and serve member congregations in various functions, such as representing them at the Consultation on Church Union and coordinating the securing of chaplains in the armed services.

Membership: Not reported. The council serves more than 1,000 other congregations (membership unknown). The council allows dual membership, and approximately five percent of the congregations have a denominational affiliation.

Educational Facilities: As a matter of policy, the council has no educational institutions or mission projects of its own. It endorses and encourages member churches to support individual schools and missions that meet a council standard of being "postdenominational" and promoting Christian unity while meeting human need.

Periodicals: The Christian Community. • The Pastor's Journal.

Sources:

National Council of Community Churches, Directory. Homewood, IL: National Council of Community Churches, 1982.

Shotwell, J. Ralph. Unity without Uniformity. Homewood, IL: Community Church Press, 1984.

Smith, J. Philip. Faith and Fellowship in the Community Church Movement: A Theological Perspective. Homewood, IL: Community Church Press, 1986.

456

Korean Christian Missions of Hawaii

1832 Liliha St.
Honolulu, HI 96817

The Korean Christian Missions of Hawaii arose early in this century when Korean immigrants to Hawaii found themselves trapped by a peculiarity of church history. They had been Presbyterians in their home country and wished to organize a Presbyterian judicatory on the island. However, they ran into a longstanding agreement by which Presbyterians and Congregationalists had divided the world and agreed not to organize in areas over which the other had hegemony. Rather than affiliate with the General Council of Congregational Christian Churches (now part of the United Church of Christ), they dropped the word Presbyterian and in 1918 formed Korean Christian churches. Over a period of time they gave up their presbyterianism and moved toward a congregational polity. Thus in recent decades they have emerged as a group that has doctrinal agreement and friendly relationships with both the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Church of Christ.

The church is trinitarian in faith and accepts the Apostles' Creed as its confession of faith. It baptizes by sprinkling.

Membership: Not reported. In 1980 there were three congregations with approximately 500 members.

Sources:

Piepkorn, Arthur C. Profiles in Belief: The Religious Bodies of the United States and Canada. Vol. III. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979.

457

Midwest Congregational Christian Church

Current address not obtained for this edition.

The Midwest Congregational Christian Fellowship was formed in 1958 by former members of the Congregational and Christian Churches. During the years of negotiating the forming of the United Church of Christ, one center of dissatisfaction was in the Eastern Indiana Association. Theologically conservative members of the association were opposed to the church's theologically liberal leadership. They felt there was too much emphasis on social action. The first meetings were held in 1957 in which attempts were made to withdraw the entire Association. Having failed, laymen devised a plan by which individual congregations could withdraw. Thirty churches, primarily small rural congregations removed themselves from the rolls in 1958. These quickly organized as the Midwest Congregational Christian Fellowship (now Church).

The doctrinal statement of the church reflects the Puritan heritage, the Christian non-creedal bias, and the evangelical perspective of the members. The statement affirms belief in the Trinity, salvation, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the resurrection, and the unity of believers. The polity is a loose congregationalism with emphasis on local ownership of property. The church meets quarterly, with one meeting designated the annual meeting. There is an eight-man committee which includes the moderator and officers who oversee the work of the church.

Membership: In 1970 the church reported 33 churches, 23 ordained ministers and 26 licensed ministers. Only three churches had a membership exceeding 100.

458

National Association of Congregational Christian Churches

8473 S. Howell Ave.
PO Box 1620
Oak Creek, WI 53154-0620

The National Association of Congregational Christian Churches was formed in 1955 in Detroit, Michigan, by a group of churches and individuals desiring to remain congregational in the face of merger forces that resulted in the formation of the United Church of Christ. The founders came to Detroit in response to a call sent out by the League to Uphold Congregationalist Principles and the Committee for the Continuation of Congregational Christian Churches.

There is little difference between members of the United Church of Christ and those of the National Association. The association leaders saw the United Church of Christ as basically presbyterial, not congregational, in government. In contrast, the polity of the association emphasizes local autonomy and the fellowship of the local churches. The association meets annually. It is seen as purely a spiritual fellowship. While it does not make pronouncements for the member churches, it does undertake a mutually cooperative program.

Today, the association supports programs for the welfare and career development of ministers, theological students, Christian education, spiritual resources, youth of high school age, financial support, building and loan assistance, church development, investment advisory, communications, men's and women's work, and missionary emphasis in the United States and 12 countries worldwide. The association fellowships with a host of "free" or congregationally governed associations including the International Congregational Felassociation reported 430 member churches and 70,000 members in the United States.

Membership: In 1990 the association reported 90,000 members, 400 congregations, and 450 ministers.

Educational Facilities: Olivet College, Olivet, Michigan.

Piedmont College, Demorest, Georgia.

Periodicals: The Congregationalist. • News from the NACCC.• News and Needs.

Sources:

Burton, Malcolm K. Destiny for Congregationalism. Oklahoma City: Modern Publishers, 1953.

Butman, Harry R. The Lord's Free People. Wauwatosa, WI: Swannet Press, 1968.

Kohl, Manfred Waldemar. Congregationalism in America. Oak Creek, WI: Congregational Press, 1977.

459

Reformed Congregational Fellowship

208 Auburn Ave. E.
Bellefontaine, OH 43311

The Reformed Congregational Fellowship was founded in stages through the mid-1990s by a group of congregational churches and ministers who wished to more strongly affirm their unity based upon their adherence to Reformed theology. They adopted the Savoy Declaration of 1658 as the basis of their teachings. They also accepted the Heidelberg Catechism and the Cambridge Platform, the latter being the primary traditional statement of Congregationalism.

The Savoy Declaration was promulgated by a group of Puritan Congregational divines who gathered to affirm their position in the very fluid religious environment of the Cromwellian Commonwealth in England. It had been Cromwell's hope that the three major branches of the church opposed to episcopacy (the Presbyterians, the Baptists, and the Independents or Congregationalists) would find a means of uniting and then assume control of the religious life of the nation. The meet at Savoy appeared to have reversed any trend in that direction. The leadership of the Independents, while strongly affirming their Reformed theological roots (and hence likeness to other non-episcopal Puritans), also made a case for Congregationalism. Their view allowed for a union of church and state (thus alienating the Baptists).

The fellowship consists of an unknown number of congregations scattered across the United States. Those in New England have formed the New England Reformed Fellowship. Within the larger world of congregationalism, they see themselves as the primary witness to a traditional reformed theological perspective. Among the leading congregations is the 200-year-old Westminster Congregational Church of Canterbury, Connecticut, which participated in the early stages of the formation of the Fellowship when in 1995 its members went through a renewal process that included their acknowledgment of the Holy Scriptures as their supreme authority, the Westminster Confession as a faithful summary of biblical faith, and the Cambridge Platform as another faithful summary of biblical teaching, especially on ecclesiology. Member congregations gather annually for the Reformed Congregational Fellowship meeting.

Membership: Not reported.

Periodicals: New England Reformed Journal, 395 Westminster Rd., Canterbury, CT 06331.

Sources:

Transforming Vision Ministries. http://www.transformingvisionministries.net/index.htm. 20 March 2002. Bauswein, Jean-Jacques, and Lukas Vischner, eds. The Reformed Family Worldwide: A Survey of Reformed Churches, Theological Schools, and International Organizations. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmanns Publishing Co., 1999.

460

United Church of Canada

The United Church House
3250 Bloor St. W.
Etobicoke, ON, Canada M8X 2Y4

The United Church of Canada (UCC) was formed in 1925 by the union of the Methodist Church, Canada, the Congregational Union of Canada, the Council of Local Union Churches, and the majority of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. In 1968 the Canada Conference of the Evangelical United Brethren joined the UCC. This church is the most impressive result of the various Christian church union attempts in North America during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; more than 40 church bodies from two major church families (Reformed and Methodist) were united.

French Huguenots, escaping persecution following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, brought the Reformed Faith to Canada. But even in the New World their growth and development were restricted. After the ceding of Nova Scotia to England in 1713, and particularly after the ceding of all Canada in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris, the influx of Presbyterians from Scotland and Ireland completely overwhelmed the small French contingent. The first ministers from Scotland were Daniel Cook, David Smith, and Hugh Graham, who organized the Presbytery of Truro in 1786. In 1795, this presbytery was joined by a second, the Presbytery of Pictou, which represented another faction of Scottish Presbyterianism. In 1817 these two groups, joined by a few ministers from the Established Church of Scotland, were able to come together and form the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Nova Scotia.

Concurrently with the events that led to the formation of the Synod of Nova Scotia, Presbyterians were moving into central and western Canada. As in eastern Canada, they brought the many divisions of the Scottish church with them and established several presbyteries and then synods, the first being the Presbytery of the Canadas in 1818. The establishment of new synodical structures continued through the first half of the nineteenth century, in part due to the importing of schisms within the church in Scotland, the arrival of non-English-speaking (Dutch Reformed) immigrants, and the opening of new territories in the West. By mid-century the trend began to reverse, and in 1875 a series of mergers led to the union of most Presbyterians into the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Methodism in Canada is traced to Lawrence Coughlan, an Irish Methodist preacher who came to Newfoundland in 1765. At the time of his arrival, he had left Wesley's connection and applied for work with the Anglican Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Though a Methodist in practice, he became an Anglican minister. Upon his return to England, many of the people he organized openly declared themselves Methodists. Meanwhile, Methodists were migrating from England to Nova Scotia; among them was William Black, Sr.. In 1779, a revival among them led to the conversion of William Black, Jr., then but 19 years old. He began to preach, visiting several nearby settlements, and in 1781 travelled the whole of Nova Scotia to organize Methodist classes. His work expanded greatly two years later as immigrants loyal to Great Britain flowed into Nova Scotia after the American Revolution. In 1784, Black journeyed to Baltimore, Maryland, for the meeting that organized the new Methodist Episcopal Church. The Canadian work that Black had developed was taken under their care. The Canadian work grew and developed as an integral part of the Methodist Episcopal Church until 1828 when it became separate and independent. Meanwhile, Methodists from Great Britain migrated into Canada, and like the Presbyterians from Scotland, brought with them the several divisions of British Methodism. Mergers in 1874 and 1884 resulted in the Methodist Church, Canada being formed.

Congregationalism in Canada originated with the acceptance of the offer made by the British government which promised free land to New Englanders who would relocate in Nova Scotia. In 1759, several hundred immigrants founded new towns and gathered churches; the first was at Chester, and in 1761 the church at Liverpool was formed. In 1760, a colony began at Mungerville, New Brunswick; the first church was organized six years later. The first church in Newfoundland dates to 1777. From these and additional congregations a Congregational Union of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick was organized in 1846. In 1801, the British Congregationalists sent a missionary to organize a church in Quebec. That beginning led to the formation of the Congregational Union of Ontario and Quebec, which merged with the older group in 1906. The newly formed Congregational Union of Canada received the Ontario Conference of the American-based United Brethren in Christ (now part of the United Methodist Church) in 1907.

The final partner in the 1925 merger, the General Council of Union Churches of Western Canada, was the child of the early proposed Plan of Union that led to the founding of The United Church of Canada. A draft proposal of a plan of union was issued in 1908. In November of that year, a new congregation appeared in Saskatchewan that accepted as the basis of its local organization the proposed plan. Others soon followed, and the Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian judicatories allowed ministers to participate in the ecumenical experiment. In 1912 the several local congregations formed the General Council to handle practical matters and press forward in implementing the Plan of Union.

The merger in 1925 had one major dissenting voice. Approximately 30 percent of the Presbyterians refused to enter the merger, and continued as the Presbyterian Church in Canada. In 1926, a number of the Canadian congregations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) affiliated with the new church. In 1968, the Canadian Conference of the Evangelical United Brethren, following a favorable vote and anticipating the merger of its parent body into the United Methodist Church, became part of The United Church of Canada. In 1943 a two-decade process of negotiation with the Anglican Church of Canada was initiated. It was joined by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The Plan of Union was adopted by the general commission representing the three churches in 1972, but three years later was rejected by the Anglican Church of Canada. The three bodies remain separate entities, though the UCC and the Anglican Church have several joint enterprises.

The union effected in 1925 originated with merger talks between Methodists and Presbyterians in 1899, joined three years later by the Congregationalists. In the proposed Basis of Union, written between 1904 and 1910, a new doctrinal statement was written, based in large part upon the statements of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (now a part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Presbyterian Church in England). It assumes a common affirmation of the Protestant Faith and assumes a position between the classical Calvinistic and Arminian positions, leaving considerable latitude for disagreement on issues such as predestination, election, and God's free grace to all persons.

The church is governed by a General Council that meets triennially. The national church is further divided into conferences and presbyteries. Local churches are administered by an official board. The UCC has retained membership in the Alliance of Reformed Churches (Presbyterian and Congregational), the World Methodist Council, the Canadian Council of Churches, and the World Council of Churches.

Membership: In 2000 the United Church of Canada reported 3,709 churches, approximately 2,000,000 members and adherents, and 4,000 ordained clergy.

Educational Facilities: Atlantic School of Theology, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Centre for Christian Studies, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Emmanuel College, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Queen's Theological College, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
St. Andrew's College, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.
United Theological College, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Vancouver School of Theology, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
St. Stephen's College, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Huntington University, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.
Victoria University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Iona College, Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
Francis Sandy Native Training Centre, Paris, Ontario, Canada.
Dr. Jessie Saulteaux Native Training Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Westminster College, London, Ontario, Canada.
St. Paul's United College, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

Periodicals: United Church Observer; • Mandate Magazine.

Sources:

Grant, John Webster. The Canadian Experience of Church Union. Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1967.

Silcox, Claris Edwin. Church Union in Canada. New York: Institute of Social and Religious Research, 1933.

461

United Church of Christ

700 Prospect Ave. E.
Cleveland, OH 44115-1100

The United Church of Christ (UCC) was formed in 1957 by the merger of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. The two uniting bodies were themselves products of mergers in the early twentieth century, and any account of the modern UCC must begin with a consideration of the four bodies which are now constituent parts of it: The Congregational Churches, the Christian Church, the Reformed Church in the United States, and the Evangelical Synod of North America.

The Congregational Churches. Through the Congregational Churches, the United Church of Christ reaches back to the first decades of the British presence in North America. They were the fourth church to arrive in the colonies (behind the French Reformed Church, Roman Catholic Church, and the Church of England). Coming from England by way of Holland, the Pilgrims first arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1620. The Pilgrims were Separatists, Reformed in theology but believing strongly in the autonomous local congregation. The Puritans arrived a decade later, and for the next century they directed the New England settlement. The Puritans were congregationalists in that they placed most of the ecclesiatical power in the hands of the congregation, but also aligned those congregations to the colonial governments. They hoped to create a theocratic system and were intolerant of competing churches and religious groups. The single Pilgrim congregation at Plymouth was tolerated and eventually was absorbed into the larger body of Congregationalists, though the congregation itself eventually was lost to Unitarianism. Congregationalism was the established church of the New England colonies (except Rhode Island) until the Revolution and remained established in Connecticut until 1818 and in Massachusetts until 1833.

The early Congregationalists were committed to education. They established Harvard University (1636) soon after their arrival, and several generations later as they spread through New England, they founded Yale (1701). These were but the first of a system of institutions of higher education that have made the Congregational Church a major intellectual force in American culture. In 1810 Congregationalists founded the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, which is not only looked upon as the parent of the nineteenth century missionary thrust in American Protestantism, but which succeeded in taking Congregationalism around the world–to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), China, India, Africa, and the Middle East.

During the early years of the nineteenth century, Congregationalists, just beginning to slip from their position as the largest church in the new land, led the crusades to build a Christian land. They initiated organizations and took leadership roles in various movements on behalf of the causes of peace, women, children, immigrants, and the poor, as well as the abolition of slavery. They created a number of social service centers, especially in the Northeast, where most of their strength was concentrated.

Through the early nineteenth century, Congregationalists had only formed statewide associations of churches, but the rapid spread of the the church in the nineteenth century brought the call for a national organization. In 1852 a national council met for the first time and was soon meeting regularly every three years. In 1913, at a meeting of the triennial council in Kansas City, a new Congregational "platform" was adopted which included a preamble, a confession of faith, a form of polity, and a stand on wider fellowships.

Congregationalists have been tied together by a series of doctrinal statements beginning with the Cambridge Platform in 1648 which had affirmed the Reformed theological heritage. The Confession of 1913 adopted at Kansas City declared the "steadfast allegiance of the churches composing this council to the faith which our fathers confessed." But at the same time, the statement, as a whole, reflected the nineteenth-century theological trend usually called Modernism. Some Congregational ministers and theological professors had become the major intellectual pioneers of modernist thought, which placed a great emphasis upon individualism and progress, while stressing God's presence in the world over and against his transcendence, Christ's humanity over and against his divinity, and social activism (the social gospel).

In 1931 the National Council of the Congregational Churches united with the Christian Church to form the General Council of Congregational Christian Churches.

The Christian Church. The Christian Church which was to become part of the United Church of Christ (there were other groups with the same name which stemmed from similar influences) was the product of the revivals of the post-Revolutionary War period and of the new wave of democratic thinking. In 1792 James O'Kelly withdrew from the Methodist Episcopal Church and formed the Republican Methodist Church, rejecting the strict episcopal authority exercised by Bishop Francis Asbury. Methodist bishops have the power to appoint Methodist ministers to their congregations, and O'Kelly continually objected to Asbury's appointments of him. Two years after leaving the Methodists, O'Kelly and his followers also moved against sectarian labels and resolved to be known as "Christians" only. A similar movement arose among Baptists in New England, where Abner Jones had decided that sectarian names and human creeds should be abandoned and that piety alone should be the test of Christian fellowship. He organized such a "Christian" fellowship in 1800 and was soon joined by others.

In 1819 various churches calling themselves "Christian" held a general conference in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In 1833 a general convention was organized which in effect formed the Christian Church. The following year the church established a Christian Book Association. Concern for education led to the founding of Elon College in North Carolina. From 1854 to 1890, as a result of the forces that led to the Civil War, and occasioned by the adoption of an anti-slavery resolution by the general convention, the southern branch of the church separated itself from the general convention.

The general convention adopted no doctrinal statement but followed the central affirmations of Reformed Protestantism stressing the authority of the Bible and salvation by grace through faith. Considerable variation was allowed on doctrinal matters, even on the sacramants. The Southern branch of the church tended to favor adult believers baptism (reflecting their Baptists heritage).

Reformed Church in the United States. German-speaking adherents of the Reformed Church came into the United States soon after the founding of Pennsylvania. By 1730 there were more than 15,000 people at least nominally members of the Reformed Church in Pennsylvania. By 1800 the number had grown to 40,000. They had come originally at William Penn's invitation, but were spurred by various negative conditions in their homeland.

Soon after their arrival, these German believers took steps to organize churches. Short of ministers, they often appointed the local school teacher to hold services. One such, John Philip Boehm, eventually sought ordination in 1725 and financial support from the Dutch Reformed Church (which had a strong following in New York). That church sent Michael Schlatter to consolidate the scattered congregations into a denominational mold. In 1747 the clergy of these congregations formed the Coetus of the Reformed Ministerium of the Congregations of Pennsylvania. In 1793 the German Reformed Church in Pennsylvania and adjacent states reorganized as a Synod, independent of the Reformed Church in Holland.

In the mid-1880s the German Reformed Church in the U.S. was torn by a major controversy between the Mercersburg and the Old Reformed movements. The former, stimilated by the leadership of John Williamson Nevin (1803-1886), Philip Schaff (1819-1893), and their associates at the Reformed Seminary that had been established at Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, sought to oppose the inroads being made by revivalism (especially that of Charles G. Finney) and sectarianism. The Mercersburg theologians favored an altar-centered liturgy with responses and chants, ritual forms for the traditional church year, read prayers, and more formal garb for the ministers and choirs. They also stressed the authority of the synod over that of regional and congregational powers, and the minister's authority in matters of local church order. The opponents of the Mercersburg perspective stood for pulpit-centered worship, congregational autonomy, and the control of the churches' order of worship in the hands of lay consistories.

The educational emphasis in the church first emerged in the formation of the seminary at Mercersburg (later moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania) and the formation of a number of colleges– Heidelberg, Catawba, Hood, Franklin and Marshal, Ursinus, and Cedar Crest. Following the movement of German immigration communities, the church spread from Pennsylvania into 21 states and three Canadian provinces.

Mission work began in 1838 with the formation of the Board of Foreign Missions. For 28 years this board united with the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions and then began to send its own missionaries to China, India, Japan and the Middle East.

The Evangelical Synod of North America. In 1817 King Frederick William II (1797-1840) united the congregations in his realm, some of which had Lutheran and some of which had Reformed leanings into a single Evangelical Church, the Church of the Prussian Union. He enforced one form of worship and one church government. Pietism and a more conciliatory spirit were encouraged and a united front against the inroads of rationalism was created through the development of interconfessional Bible, missionary, and tract societies.

One of these societies, the Basel Missionary Society, sent 288 missionaries as pastors for America, beginning in 1833, in response to appeals from German-American immigrants in the Midwest. The first to arrive were Joseph A. Rieger (1811-1869) and George Wendelin Wall (1811-1867). In 1840 a group of German Evangelical ministers in the St. Louis, Missouri area met and formed Der deutsche evangelische Kirchenverein des Westens (the German Evangelical Church Society of the West). In 1866 the word "Kirchenverein" was changed to "Synod." The society/ synod made every effort to avoid rigid institutional organization and to eliminate the bureaucratic features usually associated with synodical bodies. Membership was to consist of ordained pastors, lay delegates, and advisory members. No effort was made at this time to enlist individual churches to the society, and it was explicitedly stated that "neither the external nor the internal affairs of local congregations could be made the business of the society."

Reflecting their dual Lutheran and Reformed heritage, catechetical instruction in these Evangelical churches typically used one of several catechisms that were being used in Germany, usually uniting elements of Luther's Smaller Catechism with parts of the Heidelberg Catechism of the Reformed Church.

Contemporaneously with the formation of the Synod of the West, two other like synods were being formed. The United Synod of the Northwest served churches in northern Illinois and southern Michigan. The United Synod of the East stretched from New York to Ohio. As early as 1851, union talks were held between the three bodies. In 1872 they merged to form the German Evangelical Synod of North America (dropping the word "German" in 1927).

Like the Reformed Church in the U. S. and the Congregationalist Churches, the Evangelical Synod placed a strong emphasis upon education, particularly demanding an educated ministry. Eden Seminary was begun in 1850 and Elmhurst College in 1872. Parochial schools were attached to most congregations. The synod was also deeply involved in the revival of the deaconness movement in the last half of the nineteenth century. A deaconess hospital in St. Louis in 1853 spurred other healing efforts in the church, and hospitals were established in Cleveland, Ohio; Evansville, Indiana; Detroit, Michigan; and Chicago, Illinois.

No other German church body, save the Moravians, developed as extensive a missionary effort as did the Evangelical Synod. It formed missions to the American Indian and sent foreign missionaries to India and Honduras. Domestic missions included the Seaman's Mission in Baltimore, Maryland; Caroline Mission in St. Louis; Back Bay Mission in Biloxi, Mississippi; and others in the Ozarks and on Madeline Island, Wisconsin.

The talks leading toward the 1934 merger of the Evangelical Synod and the Reformed Church began in 1929. The new Evangelical and Reformed Church (E&R Church) was in place only a short time before talks began with the newly formed General Council of the Congregational-Christian Churches.

The United Church of Christ. As early as 1941 the Committee on Church Relations of the E&R Church held informal conversations with the corresponding committee of the Congregational-Christian Churches. By 1944 a common procedure was agreed upon for dealing with a formal basis of union and a uniting General Synod was planned for 1950. This, however, was postponed for nearly a decade due to legal challenges within the Congregational-Christian Churches. The formal beginning of the United Church of Christ was the Uniting General Synod in Cleveland in June 1957.

The United Church of Christ adopted a constitution in 1961 that provides for a General Synod as its chief policymaking body. The synod is composed of ministerial and lay delegates from the conferences. The delegates elect an executive council which acts between meetings of the synod. Under the General Synod are a variety of boards and agencies, the most important being the Board of Homeland Ministries, the Board of World Ministries, and the Pension Board of the United Church (all of which continue older organizations and are separately incorporated).

The polity of the church included elements of both congregational and presbyterial styles of government. Local churches are guaranteed the right to own their own property, call their own ministers, and withdraw unilaterally from the denomination. But the associations, in which clergy and denominations hold their denominational standing, can withdraw that standing on their own initiative. Conferences, the General Synod, and instrumentalities can advise local churches and individual members, but their statements and decisions are not binding.

Geographically, the church is divided into 38 conferences (with an additional conference serving Hungarian-American congregations), and each conference is further divided into associations, each related to the other and the General Synod in a covenantal fashion. Local churches are governed by local councils or consistories, variously composed of the pastor, a moderator or president, and other officers.

The statement of faith, adopted by the General Synod of the United Church of Christ in 1959, and rephrased in doxalogical form in 1981, is open to a variety of interpretations, but the Reformed theological background of most ministerial leadership is still evident.

The United Church of Christ has a reputation as one of the most socially liberal and active of American church bodies. At the national level, it has identified with numerous concerns related to peace and justice issues. It is also theologically liberal, continuing its modernist heritage, and maintains a wide variety of theological perspectives. It is broadly ecumenical, yet has developed a variety of specific official partnership commitments to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); the Evangelical Church Union (East and West Germany), the Pentecostal Church of Chile, the Presbyterian Church, Republic of Korea, and the United Church of Christ (Philippines). The UCC is a member of the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (Presbyterian and Congregational).

Membership: Not reported.

Educational Facilities: College and Universities:

Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin.
Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota.
Catawba College, Salisbury, North Carolina.
Cedar Crest College, Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Deaconess College of Nursing, St. Louis, Missouri.
Defiance College, Defiance, Ohio.
Dillard University, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Doane College, Crete, Nebraska.
Drury College, Springfield, Missouri.
Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Illinois.
Elon College, Elon College, North Carolina.
Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee.
Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Grinnel College, Grinnell, Iowa.
Heidelberg College, Tiffin, Ohio.
Hood College, Frederick, Maryland.
Hawaii Loa College, Kenehoe, Hawaii.
Huston-Tillotson College, Austin, Texas.
Illinois College, Jacksonville, Illinois.
Lakeland College, Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Lemoyne-Owen College, Memphis, Tennessee.
Northland College, Ashland, Wisconsin.
Olivet College, Olivet, Michigan.
Pacific University, Forest Grove, Oregon.
Ripon College, Ripon, Wisconsin.
Rocky Mountain College, Billings, Montana.
Talladega College, Talladega, Alabama.
Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, Mississippi.
Ursinus College, Collegeville, Pennsylvania.
Westminister College, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Seminaries:

Andover Newton Theological Seminary, Newton Center, Massachusetts.
Bangor Theological Seminary, Bangor, Maine.
Chicago Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois.
Eden Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.
Hartford Seminary, Hartford, Connecticut.
Harvard University School of Divinity, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Howard University School of Divinity, Washington, D.C.
Interdenominational Theological Center, Atlanta, Georgia.
Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California.
Lancaster Theological Seminary, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Seminario Evangelico de Puerto Rico, Hato Rey, Puerto Rico.
United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, New Brighton, Minnesota.
Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York.
Vanderbilt University Divinity School, Nashville, Tennessee.
Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Connecticut.

Periodicals: United Church News. • New Conversation Prism.

Sources:

Dunn, David, and Lowell H. Zuck. A History of the Evangelical and Reformed Church. Cleveland/New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1990.

Gunneman, Louis H. The Shaping of the United Church of Christ. New York: Thomas Nelson, 1962.

Horton, Douglas. The United Church of Christ. New York: Thomas Nelson, 1962.

Starkey, Marion L. The Congregational Way. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966.

Youngs, J. William. The Congregationalist. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Congregationalism." Encyclopedia of American Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Congregationalism." Encyclopedia of American Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 13, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/congregationalism-0

"Congregationalism." Encyclopedia of American Religions. . Retrieved November 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/congregationalism-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.