UU Minute #59

King's Chapel and James Freeman, part 1

Remember Thomas Emlyn? Emlyn was featured in episodes 42 and 43. He was the first British preacher to definitely describe himself with the word Unitarian. Years after his death, reprints of Emlyn’s book, “An Humble Inquiry into the Scripture Account of Jesus Christ” made their way to America’s shores where they aided and abetted the growing liberalism. In 1757, a group of New Hampshire churches, influenced by Emlyn’s arguments, revised their catechism to delete all references to the trinity.

Then an Episcopal Congregation – the oldest Episcopal Congregation in New England – went Unitarian. King’s Chapel in Boston had been established in 1686 as an Anglican Church. In 1782, facing a shortage of Anglican clergy after American Independence, the congregation reached out to James Freeman, a congregationalist and recent Harvard Graduate, and asked him to serve as reader – “with permission to omit the Athanasian Creed and to make such other changes in the services as he thought best.”

After a couple years, Freeman said he could not use the Anglican Book of Common Prayer because of its references to the Trinity doctrine. He offered to resign. Instead, the congregation asked him to preach a series of sermons about the Trinity. The sermons were evidently effective. The congregation endorsed Freeman’s views and revised their Book of Common Prayer to delete references to the Trinity. They adopted, in fact, the liturgy Theophilus Lindsey used at his Essex Street Chapel. Freeman had not been ordained, and the congregation wanted to have him ordained. The Anglican bishops refused. How the impasse was resolved, we’ll see in our next thrilling episode.

NEXT: King's Chapel and James Freeman, part 2

No comments:

Post a Comment