Independents


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Independents,

in religion, those bodies of Christians who claim freedom from ecclesiastical and civil authority for their individual churches. They hold that each congregation should have control of its own affairs. In a historic sense, it is ordinarily applied to churches in Great Britain now known as Congregational. The name Independents came into use in the 17th cent. and was in use in Great Britain until the end of the 18th cent. See CongregationalismCongregationalism,
type of Protestant church organization in which each congregation, or local church, has free control of its own affairs. The underlying principle is that each local congregation has as its head Jesus alone and that the relations of the various congregations
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; PuritanismPuritanism,
in the 16th and 17th cent., a movement for reform in the Church of England that had a profound influence on the social, political, ethical, and theological ideas of England and America. Origins

Historically Puritanism began early (c.
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; separatistsseparatists,
in religion, those bodies of Christians who withdrew from the Church of England. They desired freedom from church and civil authority, control of each congregation by its membership, and changes in ritual. In the 16th cent.
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.

Independents

 

the adherents of a religious-ecclesiastical trend in Protestantism; during the period of the 17th-century English bourgeois revolution they formed a political party expressing the interests of the radical wing of the bourgeoisie and of the new gentry that was in the process of becoming bourgeois in its outlook.

The Independents were formed in England during the 1580’s and 1590’s as the left wing of the Puritan and bourgeois-gentry opposition to absolutism and the ruling Anglican Church. As opposed to the right wing of Puritanism, the Presbyterians, the Independents (who were also known as Browneans, after their founder, R. Browne, as well as Congregationalists or Separatists) advocated full autonomy and self-government for each community of church members (the congregations), decisively rejecting any church that had its basis in a state. During the first stage of the English revolution, the Independents led the uprising against the absolutism of the Stuarts; during this period they reflected the hopes of the broad masses of the people to a certain extent.

Splits became apparent within the ranks of the Independents after the military victory over the king (1646). The democratic elements came out against the bourgeois-gentry wing, headed by O. Cromwell, who considered that the revolution was fundamentally completed. These dissidents established their own independent party, the Levelers. Under pressure from the lower classes, Cromwell and his followers were compelled to adopt decisively revolutionary measures (the execution of the king and the dissolving of the House of Lords). The years of the Independent Republic (1649–53) and the Protectorate (1653–59) were marked by large-scale land speculations, the defeat of the democratic movements of the Levelers and the Diggers, unrestrained colonial plunder, and an expansionist foreign policy. After the Stuart Restoration (1660), the Independents abandoned the political arena. The religious-ecclesiastical trend of the Independents, which continued to exist in England and a number of other countries, has become better known as Congregationalism.

REFERENCES

Angliiskaia burzhuaznaia revoliutsiia XVII v., vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1954. (Contains a bibliography.)
Barg, M. A. Kromvel’ i ego vremia, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1960.

M. A. BARG

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