Dissenters and Nonconformists: Phenomena of Religious Deviance Between the British Isles and the European Continent

von by Thomas Hahn-Bruckart Original aufOriginal in German, angezeigt aufdisplayed in English
PublishedErschienen: 2017-04-19
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    The terms "Dissenters" and "Nonconformists" traditionally refer to adherents of Christian groups that separated from or were established outside of the Anglican state church (or "established" church) in early modern England. In the metalinguistic sense, however, these terms can also be used for examples of religious deviance that manifested themselves in social forms in other historical and local contexts in modern Europe, and which were brought about by different circumstances and transfer processes. Ensuing from the traditional meaning of the terms, this article investigates the transfer context of the developments in Great Britain, illuminating exchange processes with the Netherlands in particular, and also relates it to the formation of "Free Churches" on the European continent.

    InhaltsverzeichnisTable of Contents

    Theory: Norm Creation and Deviance

    The terms "Dissenter", "Nonconformist" and also "Separatist" are all relational terms, which arose out of an emphasis on deviation from norms created by groups that were dominant within society.1 They were thus examples of "self" and "other" categorizations that were often connected with value judgements and referred to processes of the formation and the enforcement of norms at a particular point in time. In modern , in the area of religion it was predominantly a state church or at least a church privileged by the authorities that laid down such norms – both as regards the doctrinal content to be adopted and the behavioural norms to be adhered to. In the academic literature, the distinction is thus sometimes made between "Dissent", which tended to imply conflict with orthodox doctrine, and "Nonconformism", which tended to refer to deviations from orthodox practice.2 Research on deviating behaviour has entered historical studies from sociology and has focused in historical studies primarily on questions of criminality and research on marginal social groups. Nonconformism – particularly of the religious kind – fundamentally represented a destabilizing element in the cultural and social order, which the observer either viewed as a productive innovation or as a destructive danger, depending on his/her individual values.3

    Prior Histories: Religious Nonconformism and Dissent in the Late Middle Ages and the Reformation

    The "destructive danger" mode of interpretation manifested itself most potently in church history in the form of heresy trials, which were used to eliminate forms of deviation from church doctrine as far as possible and to minimize the danger to the social structure of the church. Of particular significance in the British context in this regard was the pre-Reformation movement known as the Lollards. This movement, which was based on the teachings of John Wycliffe (ca. 1330–1384) and which was fed by desire for reforms in the church and anti-clerical resentment, emphasized the equality of priests and lay people, devalued the sacraments compared with the Bible – which it was argued could be interpreted by any believer – and also pointed to the New Testament as a model and standard for the external structure of the church. The Lollards themselves did not found their own church structure. Instead, they held gatherings in their homes. Up to the 1530s, they were persecuted as heretics and are viewed as having been a "precursor of the Reformation" in .4

    During the Reformation, which began on the continent earlier than in England, it was primarily Anabaptists and spiritualists who were marginalized because their positions deviated from those established by the authorities, and they are represented in the historiography as "deviating" forms of Reformation upheaval. The existence of very heterogeneous Anabaptist movements, which nonetheless share the principle – albeit with varying emphases – of adult baptism, is documented in the linguistic region from 1525 onward, in the and linguistic region from 1530 onward, in Italy from about 1540 and from 1565 in the form of the Anabaptist-Antitrinitarian Polish brethren. This list already demonstrates that the traditional narrow focus both of normative Benderian research and of revisionist Anabaptist research5 on German and Dutch Anabaptism should be dispensed with – particularly if one is investigating how the different contexts influenced and affected each other.6 Conceptualizations of a voluntary church were perceived as being politically explosive, as they undermined both the basis of the late-medieval social order and the national-church approaches of the Reformation leaders. In the Netherlands, the Anabaptists – in the form of the Mennonites – were granted a limited degree of toleration from 1570 onward. The Mennonites also received a legal status outside of the usual estate order in a number of territories of the Holy Roman Empire and in the in the 16th century, which generated additional income for the authorities in those territories due to the economic power of the Anabaptists. Due to this pressure to be economically successful, but also due to their strong internal discipline, Anabaptist groups tolerated in this way tended to behave in a way that Michael Driedger (born 1967) has described as "conforming nonconformity", that is, behaviour that compensates for religious deviation by intensively fulfilling the norms and expectations of society and of the authorities.7 Even though the historiography of Anabaptism does to a degree trace connections back to pre-Reformation movements, some of which – such as the Bohemian Brethren – used baptism as a means of conversion, there is no dependable historical evidence for this.8 Contrary to research of the 1960s, which made a much greater effort to establish clear classifications, more recent research places much greater emphasis on the transitions and grey areas between Anabaptism and spiritualism.9

    Dissenters and Nonconformists in Great Britain – and the Netherlands: a History of Relations

    There is a certain plausibility to the thesis that the movements described above – along with Calvinism, which emerged subsequently – played a not insignificant role in the emergence of English Dissent. The continuity between the latter and Lollard traditions seems obvious, though it is very difficult to prove in individual cases. But it is very probable that there was a connection between English Dissent and Anabaptist views. There are indications that Anabaptist views had spread to England and proof that Anabaptists were subjected to persecution there as early as the 1530s,10 and also a larger number of sources from the mid-16th century that prove that not only Dutch religious refugees but also English people propounded and adapted elements specifically of Melchiorite theology. This can be observed particularly clearly in regions with older Lollard traditions – which would appear to support the thesis of a connection between the two strands.11 It is also clear from the contemporary heresiological vocabulary that the term "Anabaptist" was used to refer to those people who propounded "radical" views that were close to those of the Lollards and that were inspired by "heterodox" views from the Netherlands – without this necessarily being connected with a focus on believer’s baptism (baptism exclusively of people who are old enough to make an independent profession of faith).12

    This already hints at the fact that the Netherlands was a space with which Great Britain was connected in numerous ways. On the one hand, there were the economic relationships, while on the other hand there was an intensive exchange in the area of religion, which in the 16th century initially consisted primarily of flows of religious refugees between the two countries. Initially, supporters of the Reformation of various hues from the southern provinces of the Netherlands sought refuge in England in the mid-16th century, which – along with refugees from other parts of the continent after the Augsburg Interim of 1548 – gave rise to separate foreign congregations. There were concentrations of Dutch people in , , , , , , and in particular.13 Then during the reign of Mary Tudor (1516–1558), English Protestants – who mainly belonged to the upper class – left England for the sake of their religious beliefs and predominantly settled in Protestant cities on the continent (, , , , , ).14 The Netherlands only became a potential haven on a much larger scale later on, after freedom of conscience was proclaimed in the Union of of 1579, which occurred in the context of the division of the Netherlands between 1566 and 1585 and which formed the basis of the republic in the north. The Reformed church was privileged; but in general the northern Netherlands were confessionally pluriform, while the southern Netherlands became or remained Catholic.15

    It has been said of the foreign congregation organized by Johannes à Lasco (1499–1560) in London that "hier [...] ein puritanisches Kirchenmodell im Kleinformat" had developed.16 This brings us to a second, much more tangible movement than the Lollard-Anabaptist movement, and one which would be of significance for the subsequent development of the Dissenters: Puritanism. This movement, for which the "purification" of the church service and the church structure of its Catholic elements was a central concern and which from 1560 to 1660 was "die stärkste geistige Kraft in England",17 initially operated inside the Church of England, which had separated from in 1534, and hoped to reform that church from the inside. Although Elisabeth I (1533–1603)[Elisabeth I. (1533–1603) National Portrait Gallery IMG ] had reached an agreement or "settlement" between the competing forces within the Church of England in the second half of the 16th century, individual Puritans, for whom the purge of Catholic tendencies had not gone far enough, moved towards separation in the 1570s, and founded their own congregations in London, Norwich, Gainsborough and Southwark. A wave of arrests in the 1580s and 1590s18 prompted many separatist Puritans to emigrate to the Netherlands, which by then guaranteed freedom of conscience, and Puritan communities formed in , and . The first congregation to choose this path was the one founded by Robert Browne (ca. 1550–1633) and Robert Harrison (ca. 1545–1585) in Norwich, which emigrated to Middelburg in the Netherlands in 1582, where Browne published his programmatic Treatise of reformation without tarying for anie. According to Browne, the true church was a voluntary community of believers, who commit in a covenant to obey the commandments of God and to maintain the moral standards of the congregation in a spirit of mutual fraternity. Thus, under Browne's leadership and that of John Robinson (ca.1575–1625), the ecclesiological foundations of Congregationalism were formulated for the first time.19 In this way, the terms "Brownists" and "separatists" became the earliest terms denoting groupings outside of the English established church.

    But they were only part of the Puritan movement, as the majority remained within the Church of England and did not make the step towards separation. This majority can still very much be described as "Nonconformists". While they remained in the established church under Elisabeth I, they refused to adhere to certain practices that they viewed as "Roman", which were demanded by the Act of UniformityAct of Uniformity 1559, Elisabeth I., Bildquelle: Parliamentary Archives, HL/PO/PU/1/1558/1Eliz1n2, http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/private-lives/religion/collections/common-prayer/act-of-uniformity-1559/ of 1559.20 The clergy divided into conformists and Nonconformists, with the latter often seeking their livelihood as private chaplains to Puritan noblemen, or as teachers or lecturers – in order to escape the discipline of the church.21

    These tensions were also reflected in the cities in the Netherlands where English congregations had emerged. In some of the cities with an English population, there was not one Engelse Kerk, but a number of them. This was the case in AmsterdamOverzicht westgevel en zuidgevel - Amsterdam, Farbfotografie, 2010, Fotograf: Paul van Galen,Bildquelle: Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Overzicht_westgevel_en_zuidgevel_-_Amsterdam_-_20534348_-_RCE.jpg, gemeinfrei., and Leiden and for a short period in Middelburg also. While the congregations consisted predominantly of traders, craftsmen, soldiers and students, the preachers were predominantly Nonconformist Puritans who had left England as they found the conditions there unbearable. Religious refugees tended to belong to the separatist congregations. The Puritan congregations could thus be either of a Presbyterian type, which earned them both the recognition of the city magistrates and of the Dutch Reformed church, or were avowed separatists, which did not prevent the city authorities from recognizing them, but did prevent the established Reformed church from doing so. Thus, in Middelburg, which was already mentioned above, in addition to the congregation of the Brownist separatists there was also the Presbyterian congregation of the English "merchant adventurers". However, the connections between Puritanism and the Netherlands in the Elizabethan period were not limited to this exchange of people. The Netherlands also became extraordinarily important for Puritan publishing. Puritan writings were published in several cities there. In particular, the publisher Richard Schilders (ca. 1538–1634) in Middelburg published numerous Puritan publications that could not have printed in England, but which – once printed – found their way there. These included the writings of Browne and Harrison as well as Thomas Cartwright's (1535–1603) Brief ApologieAuthor: Cartwright, Thomas, 1535-1603. Title: A brief apologie of Thomas Cartwright against all such slaunderous accusations as it pleaseth Mr Sutcliffe in seuerall pamphlettes most iniuriously to loade him with Date: 1596 Reel position: STC / 416:08  URL: http://gateway.proquest.com/openurl?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2003&res_id=xri:eebo&rft_id=xri:eebo:image:19212 and Walter Travers' (ca. 1547–1635) Defence of the Ecclesiastical DisciplineAuthor: Travers, Walter, 1547 or 8-1635. Title: A defence of the ecclesiastical discipline ordayned of God to be vsed in his Church Date: 1588 Reel position: STC / 862:02 Copy from: British Library URL: http://gateway.proquest.com/openurl?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2003&res_id=xri:eebo&rft_id=xri:eebo:image:19103.22 "Many chapters of the Puritan story happened in the Low Countries".23 In this way, the centre of English-language religious "deviation" shifted to the Netherlands in the late-16th century and the first half of the 17th century. From there, the central Congregationalist concern of the autonomy of the individual congregations was brought to the colonies through the emigration of a considerable number of members of the exile congregation in Leiden on the Mayflower in 1620.24

    At the same time, developments in the Netherlands created the context for the emergence of another large Protestant family of churches. In 1606, John Smyth (1554–1612) gathered a separatist congregation around him in , which gave rise to another free congregation close by. These sought refuge in the Netherlands after 1608 due to repression. In the Netherlands, Smyth became convinced that only believer's baptism was in line with the Bible. Smyth first baptized himself and then his followers. Thus, the first Baptist congregation was formed in 1609 in Amsterdam – English-speaking, but on Dutch soil.25 Though they had contact with Dutch Mennonites and some of Smyth's followers joined the Mennonites after his death, the congregation had not emerged from Anabaptism, but from the separatist Puritanism of England. Part of the congregation returned to England after Smyth's death and founded the first Baptist congregation in England. While this congregation was Arminian in outlook (a variant that was subsequently referred to as General Baptists), Baptist congregations with a Calvinist outlook (which came to be known as Particular Baptists) emerged out of Congregationalism from 1641 onward.26

    The revolution, civil war and English republic between 1640 and 1660 brought about an entirely new situation for Nonconformists and separatists. Previously during the reign of James I (1566–1625), it had become increasingly difficult for Puritanism to act as an internal reform movement within the Anglican church, and there was a further wave of emigration from England to the Netherlands and North American around 1630.27 However, inspired by Henry Jacob (1563–1624), congregations following a semi-separatist model had formed from 1616 onward particularly in London and in southern and . The members did not fully separate from their Anglican parish congregations, but they joined a "covenant" committing their religious life to a congregation structured in accordance with biblical standards. While the king and the bishops equated this with the separatism of the Elizabethan period and combated it accordingly, we can assume that this period was characterized in a certain sense by grey areas between the established church and complete separatism. It was ultimately different church models that split the Puritan camp while the army of the parliament was fighting against Charles I (1600–1649) from 1642 to 1645. Presbyterians wanted a national church with the authority to enforce discipline among the whole population in line with the situation in , which the parliament was allied with. The Independents, on the other hand, advocated for the model of voluntary and independent congregations of individuals ("gathered churches") and demanded general freedom of conscience. In the subsequent years, this internal division ultimately prevented a comprehensive reform of the church and other aspects of society, even after the execution of Charles I in 1649.28 However, in the Netherlands the developments from 1640 onward prepared the way for the return of the exiled Puritans. Now it was the royalists who left England to find refuge in the Netherlands.29 The freedom of religious practice that was granted in England during this period had the effect that increasing numbers of people joined Puritan circles. However, the abolition of popular festivities and the restrictions placed on popular customs often met with resistance in the population. The English Civil War and the accompanying privations experienced by the lower classes of society had led to demands for social and political reforms by Nonconformists. However, these conditions were also fertile ground for the emergence of millenarian prophets and the spread of libertine ideas. New members were also drawn to the comparatively moderate Quakers, who formed from 1652 onward under the leadership of George Fox (1624–1691) and who propounded the ideal of freedom of conscience, which was ultimately brought by William Penn (1644–1718) to the territories acquired by him in North America in the period from 1674 to 1682.30

    After the death of the lord protector Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658)[Hamo Thornycroft (1850 - 1925), Statue of Oliver Cromwell outside the Palace of Westminster, 1829, Farbfotografie von 2009, Fotograf: Elliott Brown. Bildquelle: Wikimedia Commons, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Statue_of_Oliver_Cromwell_outside_the_Palace_of_Westminster.jpg, gemeinfrei.], the restoration began under Charles II (1630–1685). The intolerant provisions of the Clarendon Code (1661–1664) excluded all non-conformists – even royalist Presbyterians – from all municipal offices, and also prohibited conventicles. All clergymen, teachers and professors had to adhere to the Book of Common Prayer in full. It was in this context – the introduction of the Act of Uniformity of 1662 – that the term "Dissenter" emerged, as it was used to refer to clergymen and their followers who resisted the Act of Uniformity and left the established Anglican church.31

    While this resulted in the decline of Puritanism as a movement within the church, it also resulted in the production of impressive literary works, including John Milton's (1608–1674)[John Milton (1608–1674) IMG] Paradise Lost (1667) and John Bunyan's (1628–1688) Pilgrim's Progress (1678)Westminster chapel, Farbfotografie von 2009, Bildquelle: Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Westminsterck.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE.. Like the early Puritan writings, these works resonated throughout Europe. However, the Netherlands and Germany appear to have been most receptive to Puritan writings in this period.32 A large number of Puritan works appeared in Dutch translation, beginning before 1600 and experiencing an initial period of popularity that continued up to about 1620. After that, the production of devotional literature by Dutch authors dealing with practical piety increased in the Netherlands, before English devotional literature enjoyed another period of strong circulation between 1640 and 1660 driven by an increased supply due to the favourable political conditions in England. What books the Dutch book merchants and publishers offered for sale was probably determined both by economic motives and by their individual opinions on the content.33 This translation activity existed in the context of efforts towards greater piety in the Netherlands (Nadere Reformatie), which can be observed throughout the entire 17th century and which exhibit some similarities with English Puritanism and German Pietism – both within the Dutch Reformed church and in groupings which can be described as "Dissenters" in the Dutch context (Anabaptists, Collegiants, individualist and communal mystics; in the Dutch context, Lutherans and Remonstrants also belonged to the Dissenters). In the academic literature, varying degrees of emphasis is placed on the role that Puritan influences played in addition to Calvinism in these efforts towards greater piety.34 These influences were spread through literature, on the one hand, but also through personal contact, which resulted both from the presence of Puritan foreign congregations in the Dutch cities, as described above, and from travel. Willem Teellinck (1579–1629), who was active in the early phase of the Nadere Reformatie, was so impressed by the life and piety of a Puritan circle that he encountered during his stay in England that it became a model for his own church activity in the Netherlands.35 While Godefridus Udemans (ca. 1581–1649), who also played an important role in the Nadere Reformatie, was not personally connected with English Puritans, his library contained a selection of English and Scottish Puritan works. The phenomenon of the translation of English devotional literature can also be observed in German-speaking territories. A bibliographical survey of the beginnings of German Pietism conducted in the mid-1980s recorded a total of 1661 German translations of English tracts for this period.36

    The spiritual currents in England in the 16th and 17th centuries described above, from which – as already discussed – connections can be traced to the emerging German Pietism, gave rise to the so-called "Old Dissent"Evolution of Old Dissent (Stemma des Old Dissent). Grafik aus: Michael R. Watts, The Dissenters: From the Reformation to the French Revolution, Bd. I, Oxford 1978, S. 6, Abb. 1. By permission of Oxford University Press.: Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists and Quakers. In the 18th century, another wave emerged in the form of the so-called "New Dissent", which in its turn received ideas from German Pietism and was connected with the Evangelical Revival. The Toleration Act of 1689 that resulted from the Glorious Revolution guaranteed Dissenters freedom of religious practice, though they continued to be excluded from holding public office and from attending university. It is estimated that Dissenters represented about 6 per cent of the entire population at the start of the 18th century.37 Together with Puritanism, the religious societies that began to emerge during this period (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in 1695, Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts in 1701) provided fertile soil for the emergence of the revivalist movement, which manifested itself primarily in the emergence and spread of the Methodist movement, which was heavily influenced by Pietist ideas from continental Europe. The Methodist movement began in the mid-18th century as a reform movement within the established church in England, but it ultimately resulted towards the end of the century in the formation of a new church, even though the main stream of the Wesleyan Methodists (in contrast with the Methodist New Connexion, Primitive Methodists and the Wesleyan Methodist Association) hesitated for a long time before joining the Dissenters (and actually adhered to the Book of Common Prayer).38 It is these groups that are referred to as the "New Dissent". Theologically, the early-18th century was characterized by an increasing tendency towards Unitarianism in the Presbyterian groups among the Dissenters in the context of theological debates about the Trinity.39 The "Evangelical Revival" itself, however, also reinvigorated the groups of the "Old Dissent".40 Under Philip Doddridge (1702–1751), a mediating theology emerged, which enabled Independents and Particular Baptists to transition from Calvinism to a more Arminian theology.41 In this way, a favourable climate also emerged for the formation of groups across confessional boundaries, which ultimately became the "most significant embodiment of evangelical Christianity in England and an influential factor for change".42

    The massive urbanisation that accompanied industrialization created challenges for the Christian churches. Nonconformism – the term was now increasingly used to refer to this spectrum of Protestantism – proved to be much better placed to meet these challenges as, compared with the established church, it was much more flexible in terms of its institutional structure and it was much closer to voluntarism and free entrepreneurship. Consequently, it were primarily the Dissenters that increased their membership in the first half of the 19th century.43 The Anglican Church only managed to respond effectively to the new societal conditions from the 1830s onward.

    By the mid-19th century, about 20 per cent of the population of Great Britain belonged to Free Churches,44 which means that those attending Nonconformist services constituted roughly half of all people who regularly attended church services at that timeWestminster chapel, Farbfotografie von 2009, Bildquelle: Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Westminsterck.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE..45 The term "Nonconformists" was used at the time to refer to precisely this (people who attended religious services outside of the established church) and it gradually replaced the term "Dissenters".

    The rivalry between the denominations was one of the main features of religious life in the Victorian period. This rivalry was increased by the removal of discrimination against Catholics and Nonconformists, the rise of the middle class (which tended towards Nonconformism), a wave of conversions at Oxford and Irish immigration. Nonconformism consolidated its position further and through its link with the Liberal party deepened the divide with the established church.46 Having obtained broad societal acceptance and developed its own distinctive culture, it became a central milieu in the late-19th century in EnglandUnbekannter Photograph: Innenraum der Westminster Congregational Chapel, London. Quelle: Erik Routley, English Religious Dissent, Cambridge 1960, Abb. 14 (ursprünglich BBC).  and .47 However, this milieu experienced a rapid decline in the 20th century. One study on Nonconformists in the 19th and early-20th century carried the subtitle "In search of a lost culture".48

    "Dissenters" in other parts of the Continent? On the Entanglement of Deviating Groups with the English-Dutch Developments

    If one thinks of examples of religious "Dissent" on the European continent in the early modern period, in addition to the phenomena already described it is mainly Antitrinitarianism that comes to mind. It took shape in the context of an Italian-Eastern European transfer process, and in and Poland it even went beyond mere dissidence.49 Antitrinitarianism links into the contexts being discussed here by virtue of the fact that the works of Fausto Sozzini (1539–1604) were published in 1656 in Amsterdam, a city sometimes referred to as "Irenopolis".50 This once again demonstrates that into the 18th century the Netherlands was the European centre for the publication of "heterodox" religious literature – even in other languages – due to the religious tolerance that existed there.51 It was also this kind of literature that influenced other countries – for example, the devotional writings of the Nonconformists Baxter and Bunyan had considerable influence in Germany.52 It was also in Amsterdam that the first complete collection of the writings of Jakob Böhme (1575–1624) was published in 1682. Through the Böhmist Philadelphians in England, these went on to play an important role in the "radical" strands of German Pietism in particular, as from the mid-1690s the writings of Jane Leade (1624–1704), John Pordage (1607–1681) and Thomas Bromley (1629–1691) were published in German translation and had a broad influence.53 This was almost certainly preceded by initial contact between German Pietists and English Philadelphians by means of travel to England and via Böhmist circles around Johann Georg Gichtel (1638–1710) in the Netherlands in the 1680s.54 This contact and these reception processes gave rise primarily to millenarian speculation and the formation of Philadelphian circles, and it played a central role in radical Pietism generally.55 As a sign of the approaching end of days, in 1702 the Philadelphian Society in London adopted a constitution in the form of statutes and a comprehensive creed, and sent an emissary to Germany in an attempt to establish a cross-border union with their fellow believers there. However, the latter would not participate in this – not least because the formation of a new "sect" in Germany carried considerable political risks.56 Another strand of "Dissent" that arose from the Dutch context and promoted separatist tendencies was Labadism, which led to the formation of groups in the Netherlands and northern Germany based on the principle of shared propertyTaufe im Rummelsburger See, Lithographie von G. W. Lehmann, Bildquelle: Baptistische Orte in Berlin, http://www.boibb.de/lib/exe/detail.php/wiki/mitgliedschein.jpg?id=lichtenberg%3Arummelsburger_see, gemeinfrei..57 While the formation of such groups subsequently came to a halt in the 18th century, the formation of Free Churches in the 19th century proved more enduring.

    British Dissenters and the Formation of Free Churches in Continental Europe: Connections

    Congregationalist, Baptist and Methodist congregations emerged on the European continent during the course of the 19th century. In this process, Nonconformists in Great Britain in many cases only planted the initial idea, while the formation of lasting communities was brought about by efforts from the . To an extent, the ground was prepared for the emergence of these congregations by Pietism and the Moravian Brethren of Herrnhut, as well as the continental European revivalist movements of the early-19th century, while the Mennonite congregations tended not to interact with broader society enough to be considered a direct influence in this case. The associations and societies that established these connections were internationally oriented, and gave rise to varied contacts, particularly with the English-speaking world.

    The efforts of the wealthy brothers Robert (1764–1842) and James Haldane (1768–1851) from had a great effect on the continent. They came from the Scottish Presbyterian church – in Scotland this was the established church and the Anglicans were the "Dissenters" – but they left it in the late-1790s after their conversion, and they founded a Congregationalist congregation.58 The brothers were involved in the foundation of various societies which frequently provided the impetus for the foundation of Free Churches on the continent. The non-confessional Continental Society for the Diffusion of Religious Knowledge over the Continent of Europe proved to be particularly significant in this regard.59

    Having planned for some time to travel to the continent for the purpose of evangelism, Robert Haldane travelled to Geneva in the autumn of 1816, and in the context of the Réveil, which was commencing there, he gained access to a student circle that had formed there over the preceding years, which was critical of rationalist theology. He held gatherings at which he interpreted St. Paul's Letter to the Romans. These left a lasting impression on those present. After his departure in 1817 and a Reglement of the Compagnie des Pasteurs of the same year stating that certain theological topics such as original sin and the two natures of Christ were no longer to be mentioned from the pulpit, it was Henry Drummond (1786–1869), a member of the Scottish Free Church who was passing through Geneva, who convinced the revivalist theologians – the controversy had by then spread beyond the student body – to take the step of separation. The Nouvelle Église was formed, out of which developed the independent congregation at Place de Bourg-de-Four. "Zweifellos formte das Herrnhutertum Frömmigkeit und antirationalistische Haltung der oppositionellen jungen Theologen, doch erst die Begegnung mit dem britischen Evangelikalismus" – and more specifically with British Dissenters – "ermöglichte die organisatorische Verselbständigung des Réveil."60 Further independent congregations formed, and the movement spread through Switzerland, including its German-speaking parts.61 From , these revivalist approaches, which were linked with Congregationalist ideas, spread to , and independent congregations formed there also. Inspired by the Francophone model of the Eglise libre, the first Freie evangelische Gemeinde in Germany emerged in 1854 in .62 Interestingly, in the debate that was conducted in print regarding the developments in Geneva, the state church made an accusation of "Methodism" against the other side, even though Methodism in the narrower sense was not involved in the developments in Geneva at all.63 This demonstrates that the term could be used as a kind of code for Anglo-American revivalist Protestantism in general.

    The Continental Society referred to above hired a number of students, including Henri Pyt (1796–1835) who worked as an evangelist in the French-speaking countries. He was convinced of the correctness of believer's baptism, but he did not act too forcefully for fear of igniting a conflict with the Reformed church. He thus waited until a revivalist circle in France requested baptism from him around 1820, and out of this circle developed what was probably the first Baptist congregation on the continent after the on of Smyth. In addition to this congregation in , a second formed in . Further Baptist congregations formed in France, which were supported both by the American Baptist Missionary Union – "attempting to diffuse among that oppressed people the blessings of an enlightened Christianity"64 – and by the British Baptist Continental Society.65 Johann Gerhard Oncken (1800–1884) is usually described as the actual "father of the continental European Baptist movement". He maintained various connections with Great Britain, and he served as an agent for both American and British tract and Bible societies, as well as being employed by the Continental Society.66 The first Baptist congregation in was founded under his leadership, and through his work the Baptist movement spread through large parts of Europe.67

    The influence of the Haldane brothers can also be found in . Two "missionaries", who were connected with the Haldane brothers, began their work in in 1809, out of which developed a free congregation based on the Scottish-English model in Göteborg.68 After prior contact with Methodism, an English-Wesleyan mission established itself from 1826 onward in Stockholm. It was initially focused on the English-speaking workers of a British factory owner, but soon extended beyond this and took shape in the formation of two Methodist classes.69 The emergence of publications and a missionary society out of this context also breathed new life into the older Läsare Pietist movement and encouraged people like Carl Olof Rosenius (1816–1868), who would become a central figure in the revivalist movement within the Lutheran church. After he made critical statements about the Swedish state church, George Scott (1804–1874), who directed the work of the Wesleyans, was forced to leave the country in 1842.70 After his departure, the Methodist mission there came to a standstill71 and it was only revived twenty years later from America.72 Thus, there was also a strong American involvement in the beginnings of the Baptist movement in Sweden.73

    The earliest missionary activities of British Methodists on the European mainland did not come about through the planned activities of a missionary society, but through individual initiatives. A businessman from the Channel Islands, where Methodists had lived from 1775 onward, became aware of the shortage of Reformed pastors in while travelling on business around 1790, and he subsequently made efforts to bring "missionaries" to France to strengthen Protestantism there. Prior to 1815, there was no planned development of a mission, but individual people were nonetheless engaged for the purpose of acting as Methodists – in the original English sense – within the official Protestant church. Some of them subsequently became pastors in the Reformed church.74

    The revivalist mood that was also apparent in France in the aftermath of the Geneva Réveil led to a renewed engagement by the Methodist mission there after 1818. Together with other missionaries and in cooperation with the Methodist missionary society back in England, Charles Cook (1787–1858) began to systematically develop a Methodist mission in France, which led to the formation of Methodist societies within the Reformed church. The identity question which began to pose itself over time – as it subsequently did in a similar way in Germany – was whether the Methodists were a religious grouping inside the state church or an independent church.75 The dependence on the English missionary society continued up to 1852. It was only then that an independent conference, and with it an independent church was founded, which, however, remained dependent on financial assistance from England and was subsequently also supported by Methodist churches in America.76 There were also Methodist missionary efforts by the English missionary society in , and Italy.77 In Germany, there were Wesleyan circles initially in Hamburg, and from 1830 onward others emerged that were particularly connected with in Württemberg. These did not view themselves as being outside the state church and they were loosely organized. Actual Methodists churches did not form in Germany until after the mission from North America began in 1849.78

    In contrast with the Baptist movement, where British and American influences combined and collaborated, in Methodism the English and the American influences appear more like two distinct phases, which often involved a degree of rivalry. The situation of these "Dissenters" varied between the various countries and territories of the continent. In general, the decision to withdraw from the established church usually brought civil or legal disadvantages, repression, and even public enmity.79


    Even though the Dissenters were always a minority in English society, the influence that they had on the countries of the British Isles and worldwide should not be underestimated. As regards the struggle for individual liberties as well as concepts of community that are based on mutual obligation and democratic decision-making processes, their approaches together with Enlightenment state-philosophical concepts had a profound effect in the political realm. Writing in the early-20th century, Max Weber (1864–1920)[Max Weber (1864–1920) IMG] and Ernst Troeltsch (1865–1923) attributed a central role to the "Sektentypus" (sect type) – in which they included the phenomena of Dissenters and Free Churches – in the emergence of modernity.80 In England itself, a pluralistic society was cultivated much earlier than in many other European countries due to the tradition of Dissenters refusing to let themselves be controlled by the state church. As the Dissenters were very much politically active, the features that led to irreligiosity on the continent in the context of industrialization and rapid population growth did not appear to the same extent in England. In this way, the Dissenters made an important contribution to the internal stability of English society. Dissenters were also often to the fore in the beginnings and the development of the missions worldwide.81

    Thomas Hahn-Bruckart



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    1. ^ See Schwerhoff, Devianz 2005.
    2. ^ See Wriedt, Netzwerke 2011, p. 39.
    3. ^ See the research programme of the German Research Foundation graduate project "Religiöser Nonkonformismus und kulturelle Dynamik" (Religious Nonconformism and Cultural Dynamics) at Leipzig University, online: https://mahara.uni-leipzig.de/artefact/file/download.php?file=134&view=54 [31/03/2017]; Hase: Nonkonformismus 2011; Kleine, Nonkonformismus 2015.
    4. ^ See Ehrenschwendtner, Lollarden 2002; McFarlane, Wycliffe 1972. On the continent, the ideas of Wycliffe primarily influenced Jan Hus (1369–1415), who was burned at the stake as a heretic, and his followers. On the concept of the so-called "Wegbereiter" (precursor, one who prepares the path), see also Schäufele, Wegbereiter 2015.
    5. ^ On research on Anabaptism, see Stayer, Täuferforschung 2013.
    6. ^ See also Rothkegel, Wurzeln 2014, p. 13.
    7. ^ Rothkegel, Wurzeln 2014, p. 22, while citing Driedger, Heretics 2002.
    8. ^ See Rothkegel, Täufer 2011, column 283.
    9. ^ See the volume of essays: Roth, A Companion to Anabaptism and Spiritualism, 2007.
    10. ^ See Horst, Brethren 1972, pp. 49–53; Hazlett, Reformation 2003, p. 43; Watts, Dissenters 1978, p. 9.
    11. ^ See Watts, Dissenters 1978, pp. 9–14.
    12. ^ See Watts, Dissenters 1978, pp. 1–2; Ward, Dissenters 1986, columns 882–883.
    13. ^ See Sprunger, Puritanism 1982, p. 4.
    14. ^ See Deppermann, Puritanismus 1993, p. 16; Sprunger, Puritanism 1982, p. 14.
    15. ^ See Augustijn, Niederlande 1994, p. 479. On this congregation, see also Becker, Gemeindeordnung und Kirchenzucht, 2007.
    16. ^ Deppermann, Puritanismus 1993, p. 15 ("here [...] a Puritan church model on a small scale" transl. by N. Williams).
    17. ^ For example, in Deppermann, Puritanismus 1993, p. 12 ("the strongest spiritual force in England" transl. by N. Williams).
    18. ^ See Schwarz, Freikirche 1983, p. 551.
    19. ^ See Deppermann, Puritanismus 1993, pp. 23–24.
    20. ^ See Watts, Dissenters 1978, p. 1.
    21. ^ See Deppermann, Puritanismus 1993, p. 18.
    22. ^ See Sprunger, Puritanism 1982, pp. 25, 28.
    23. ^ Sprunger, Puritanism 1982, p. 9.
    24. ^ See Deppermann, Puritanismus 1993, p. 45.
    25. ^ See Meier, Dissenters 2005, column 1055.
    26. ^ See Coggins, Congregation 1991; on the beginnings of the Baptist movement in general, see also Briggs, Ursprünge 2012.
    27. ^ See Deppermann, Puritanismus 1993, p. 42.
    28. ^ See Deppermann, Puritanismus 1993, pp. 48–49.
    29. ^ See Sprunger, Puritanism 1982, p. 378.
    30. ^ See Meier, Dissenters 2005, columns 1055–1056.
    31. ^ See Meier, Dissenters 2005, column 1056; Duffy, England 1982, p. 643.
    32. ^ See Deppermann, Puritanismus 1993, p. 52.
    33. ^ See Berg, Frömmigkeitsbestrebungen 1993, pp. 75–77.
    34. ^ See Berg, Frömmigkeitsbestrebungen 1993, pp. 58–61.
    35. ^ See Berg, Frömmigkeitsbestrebungen 1993, pp. 69–70.
    36. ^ See Deppermann, Puritanismus 1993, p. 55, note no. 59.
    37. ^ According to Duffy, England 1982, p. 643, by 1715 there were 1200 Presbyterian, Independent and Baptist congregations.
    38. ^ See Meier, Dissenters 2005, column 1056; Watts, Dissenters 1999, column 877.
    39. ^ See Duffy, England 1982, p. 643.
    40. ^ See Duffy, England 1982, p. 644.
    41. ^ See Duffy, England 1982, p. 644. This reorientation with regard to the Calvinist teaching of predestination led in particular to an opening up to missionary activity.
    42. ^ For example, in Duffy, England 1982, p. 644 (transl. by N. Williams; der "wichtigsten Verkörperung evangelikaler Christlichkeit in England und zu einem einflußreichen Faktor des Wandels").
    43. ^ Between 1801 and 1841, Methodists increased from 1.6 per cent of the population to 4.5 per cent.
    44. ^ See Ward, Dissenters 1986, column 883.
    45. ^ See Duffy, England 1982, p. 645.
    46. ^ See Duffy, England 1982, p. 645.
    47. ^ See the excellent concise overviews in Bebbington, Nonconformity 2011; see also Binfield, Prayers 1977 and Sellers, Nonconformity 1977; in Routley, Dissent 1960 the chapter on the 19th century carries the heading "Prosperity".
    48. ^ Munson, The Nonconformists 1991.
    49. ^ On this, see Daugirdas, Antitrinitarier 2011.
    50. ^ See the list of sources in Daugirdas, Antitrinitarier 2011. Even though Antitrinitarianism represents a different transfer context, it is worth investigating connections with, and variations in England; see Wilbur, History 1952.
    51. ^ See Schneider, Pietismus im 17. Jahrhundert, p. 393.
    52. ^ See Damrau, Reception, 134–189. On the reception of Puritan devotional literature, see also Sträter, Sonthom 1987.
    53. ^ See Schneider, Pietismus im 17. Jahrhundert 1993, p. 394.
    54. ^ See Schneider, Pietismus im 17. Jahrhundert 1993, p. 405.
    55. ^ See Schneider, Pietismus im 17. Jahrhundert 1993, p. 406.
    56. ^ See Schneider, Pietismus im 18. Jahrhundert 1995, pp. 112–113.
    57. ^ See Gleixner, Kommune 2007, column 993; Berg, Frömmigkeitsbestrebungen 1993, pp. 102–103.
    58. ^ On the brothers Haldane, see Weyel, Zukunft 2009, pp. 47–72; Lovegrove, Unity 1990; Gäbler, Evangelikalismus 2000, p. 78, note no. 78.
    59. ^ On this society, see Rott, Beziehungen 1968, pp. 85–87.
    60. ^ Gäbler, Evangelikalismus 2000, p. 44 ("Without a doubt, the Moravian Brethren had shaped the piety and anti-rationalist attitude of the oppositional young theologians, but it was the encounter with British evangelicalism", "that set the Réveil on a firm organizational basis.").
    61. ^ Gäbler, Evangelikalismus 2000, pp. 44–47.
    62. ^ On this, see Lenhard, Einheit 1977.
    63. ^ See Gäbler, Evangelikalismus 2000, pp. 51–64.
    64. ^ Quoted from the Annual Report of the ABMU 1832 in Randall, Communities 2009, p. 40.
    65. ^ See Randall, Communities 2009, pp. 37–48.
    66. ^ See Strübind, Mission 2012, p. 168.
    67. ^ See Randall, Communities 2009, passim.
    68. ^ See Westin, Geschichte 1958, pp. 238–239.
    69. ^ See Noren, Methodism 1996; Westin, Geschichte 1958, p. 239; Streiff, Methodismus 2003, p. 64.
    70. ^ On Scott, see Sharpe, Scott, George 1998, p. 608.
    71. ^ See Streiff, Methodismus 2003, pp. 64–65.
    72. ^ See Streiff, Methodismus 2003, pp. 66–67.
    73. ^ See Westin, Geschichte 1958, pp. 239–240.
    74. ^ See Streiff, Methodismus 2003, pp. 48–49.
    75. ^ See Streiff, Methodismus 2003, p. 50.
    76. ^ On France, see Streiff, Methodismus 2003, pp. 48–52.
    77. ^ See Streiff, Methodismus 2003, pp. 52–58.
    78. ^ See Streiff, Methodismus 2003, pp. 72–75.
    79. ^ On the Free Churches in Germany, see Voigt, Freikirchen 2004; Geldbach, Freikirchen 2005; Verein für Freikirchenforschung, Freikirchen als Außenseiter 2008.
    80. ^ See Troeltsch, Die Soziallehren der christlichen Kirchen und Gruppen 1912; Weber, Die protestantische Ethik 1920, pp. 17–236.
    81. ^ See Watts, Dissenters 1978, pp. 3–4.

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    : Dissenters and Nonconformists: Phenomena of Religious Deviance Between the British Isles and the European Continent, in: Europäische Geschichte Online (EGO), hg. vom Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte (IEG), Mainz European History Online (EGO), published by the Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG), Mainz 2017-04-19. URL: https://www.ieg-ego.eu/hahnbruckartt-2016-en URN: urn:nbn:de:0159-2017041003 [JJJJ-MM-TT][YYYY-MM-DD].

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