The Communion of Saints

Radical Puritan and Separatist Ecclesiology 1570-1625
Brachlow, Stephen
Date published: 
January 1988

This study of left-wing puritan and separatist ecclesiology in Elizabethan and Jacobean England explores several major ecclesial motifs, including the relationship of soteriology, eschatology, and puritan covenant thought to ecclesiology; radical puritan and separatist ideals about the government of gathered churches; the role of synodical authority; and the relationship between church and state. Instead of looking at pre-revolutionary dissent in terms of two distinct ecclesiological categories of radical puritan `presbyterians' and separatist `congr egationalists', the author underlines the shared ecclesiological ideals of both traditions. While recognizing that there were presbyterian as well as congregational tendencies within each of the two movements, he argues that they were by no means always clear, nor denominationally fixed. It was an ecclesiology still in its infancy, largely untested by the moulding of long-standing, unhindered practice, and bearing within itself the possibilities of development in more than one direction. For this reason, radical puritan polity would prove to be a rich and many-layered source, providing an ideology that could be manipulated by both Independents and Presbyterians for historical support of their respective polities, when denominationalism began in the mid- seventeenth century.