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Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access
Bachelor of Arts
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This thesis reexamines the origins of American Unitarianism. Scholars disagree about whether American Unitarianism was a “home grown” religion that emerged from reformed New England Calvinism or whether English Unitarians brought the religion to America in the latter eighteenth century. This thesis argues that American Unitarianism really originated as part of a transatlantic reformation of the Episcopal Church. Theophilus Lindsey and the English Unitarians of the late-eighteenth century were first anti-Trinitarian Anglican reformers. When parliament rejected a petition from these dissenters asking for more freedom within the Anglican Church, Lindsey broke off to form the first Unitarian church in England. American Unitarianism followed the same pattern. The first American Unitarian, James Freeman, was also an Episcopal minister who held anti-Trinitarian and other heterodox views. Freeman was inspired by the English Episcopal reformers to reform the Episcopal Church in America. He thought that in America, where church and state were strictly separated, he could carry out Lindsey’s heterodox reformation. But when Freeman’s Episcopal colleagues rebuffed his request for more latitude, he too broke away from the Episcopal Church and founded a Unitarian church. Unitarianism in America thus began as a continuation of an English movement to reform the Episcopal Church.
Components of Thesis
1 pdf file.
Learner, Samuel Williams, "The Origins of American Unitarianism Reconsidered: Theophilus Lindsey, James Freeman, and the English Episcopal Reform Origins of American Unitarianism" (2015). Honors Theses. 112.
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