Baptists and Britons: Particular Baptist Ministers in England and British Identity in the 1790s

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This study examines the interaction between religious and national affiliations within a Dissenting denomination. Linda Colley and Jonathan Clark argue that religion provided the unifying foundation of national identity. Colley portrays a Protestant British identity defined in opposition to Catholic France. Clark favors an English identity, based upon an Anglican intellectual hegemony, against which only the heterodox could effectively offer criticism. Studying the Baptists helps test those two approaches. Although Methodists and Baptists shared evangelical concerns, the Methodists remained within the Church of England. Though Baptists often held political views similar to the Unitarians, they retained their orthodoxy. Thus, the ... continued below

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Parnell, John Robert December 2005.

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  • Parnell, John Robert

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Description

This study examines the interaction between religious and national affiliations within a Dissenting denomination. Linda Colley and Jonathan Clark argue that religion provided the unifying foundation of national identity. Colley portrays a Protestant British identity defined in opposition to Catholic France. Clark favors an English identity, based upon an Anglican intellectual hegemony, against which only the heterodox could effectively offer criticism. Studying the Baptists helps test those two approaches. Although Methodists and Baptists shared evangelical concerns, the Methodists remained within the Church of England. Though Baptists often held political views similar to the Unitarians, they retained their orthodoxy. Thus, the Baptists present an opportunity to explore the position of orthodox Dissenters within the nation. The Baptists separated their religious and national identities. An individual could be both a Christian and a Briton, but one attachment did not imply the other. If the two conflicted, religion took precedent. An examination of individual ministers, specifically William Winterbotham, Robert Hall, Mark Wilks, Joseph Kinghorn, and David Kinghorn, reveals a range of Baptist views from harsh criticism of to support for the government. It also shows Baptist disagreement on whether faith should encourage political involvement and on the value of the French Revolution. Baptists did not rely on religion as the source of their political opinions. They tended to embrace a concept of natural rights, and their national identity stemmed largely from the English constitutional heritage. Within that context, Baptists desired full citizenship in the nation. They called for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts and the reform of Parliament. Because of their criticism of church and state, Baptists demonstrate the diversity within British Protestantism. For the most part, religion did not contribute to their national identity. In fact, it helped distinguish them from other Britons. Baptist evangelicalism reinforced that separate identity, as the nation did not outweigh spiritual concerns. The church and state establishment perceived the Baptists as a threat to social order, but Baptists advocated reform, not revolution. They remained both faithful Baptists and loyal Britons.

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  • December 2005

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  • Feb. 15, 2008, 4:30 p.m.

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  • Jan. 21, 2014, 2:11 p.m.

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Parnell, John Robert. Baptists and Britons: Particular Baptist Ministers in England and British Identity in the 1790s, dissertation, December 2005; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc4947/: accessed December 10, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .