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Bangorian Controversy


Bangorian Controversy

Benjamin Hoadly by Sarah Hoadly

The Bangorian Controversy was a Glorious Revolution, as Bishop of Thetford excommunicated all but the non-juror churchmen. Benjamin Hoadly, the Bishop of Bangor, wrote a reply entitled, Preservative against the Principles and Practices of Non-Jurors; in it his own Erastian position was sincerely proposed as the only test of truth.

The controversy itself began very visibly and vocally when Hoadly delivered a sermon on 31 March 1717 to John 18:36, "My kingdom is not of this world," and from that Hoadly deduced, supposedly at the request of the king himself, that there is no Biblical justification for any church government of any sort. He identified the church with the kingdom of Heaven—it was therefore not of this world, and Christ had not delegated His authority to any representatives.


  • Background 1
  • Sermon and aftermath 2
  • Timeline of publications 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6


Two competing visions of government were in play. On the one hand, there was a vision of God appointing the king and the bishops to be leaders, selecting them from all others and imbuing them with special characters, either through grace or in creation. This view held that the king, as the head of the Established Church, was not merely a secular leader of a state, but also a religious primate. Power and regulation flowed downward from God to the people. This was the aristocratic model that was favoured by the Tory party and which had been used to propose the divine right of kings.

The other view was that power flowed up from the people to the leaders, that leaders were no more intrinsically better than those led, and that God gives out revelation freely. This Whig view was also the view of the Puritans and the "Independents" (i.e., the various Congregational and Baptist churches, Quakers, etc.).

George I favoured the Whig party in Parliament and favoured a latitudinarian ecclesiastical policy in general. This was probably not due to any desire to give up royal prerogative, but rather to break the power of the aristocracy and the House of Lords. A significant obstacle to all kings of England had been the presence of bishops in the Lords. While a king could create peers, it was much more difficult for him to move bishops into and out of the Lords.

Sermon and aftermath

The sermon was immediately published and instantly drew counter-attacks. William Law (Three Letters to the Bishop of Bangor) and Thomas Sherlock (dean of Chichester), in particular, gave vigorous defences of church polity. Hoadly himself wrote A Reply to the Representations of Convocation to answer Sherlock, Andrew Snape, provost of Eton, and Francis Hare, then dean of Worcester. These three men, and another opponent, Robert Moss, dean of Ely, were deprived of their royal chaplaincies by the king. Hoadly did not, however, attempt to answer William Law. It has been claimed that, in all, over 200 pamphlets linked to the controversy were published, by 53 writers; of those, 74 were published in July 1717.[1][2][3]

In May 1717, the Convocation appointed a committee to study the sermon. When the report was ready for synodal sanction against Hoadly, the king dismissed the convocation, which did not meet again for over 130 years.

Timeline of publications

Year Author Publication Position Replies
1716 Thomas Deacon[4] The Constitution of the Catholick Church and the Nature and Consequences of Schism Non-juror Benjamin Hoadly, ‘A Preservative against the Principles and Practices of the Nonjurors both in Church and State, 1716.[5]
1717 Andrew Snape Letters to the Bishop of Bangor[6] High Church
1717 Thomas Sherlock Remarks on the Bishop of Bangor's Treatment of the Clergy and Convocation and other works[7] High Church
1717 William Law Three Letters to the Bishop of Bangor, from 1717.[8] Non-juror of the Hanoverian succession[9]
1718 Robert Moss The Report Vindicated from Misreports[10] High Church
1718 Thomas Herne A letter to the Reverend Dr. Edward Tenison, concerning some citations made from ... the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury's preliminary discourse to the Apostolical fathers, in a paper lately published, intituled, A letter to the Reverend the Prolocutor: being an answer to a paper, &c. By the author of that letter[11] Supporter of Hoadley and Tenison
1719 Francis Hare Church Authority Vindicated[12] High Church Hoadly, An Answer to Dr. Hare's Sermon, intituled “Church Authority vindicated,” 1720.[5][13]

See also


  1. ^ "Outlines of the History of the Theological Literature of the Church of England (1897)". Retrieved March 2013. 
  2. ^ "New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. V: Goar - Innocent - Christian Classics Ethereal Library". Retrieved March 2013. 
  3. ^ "History of English thought in the eighteenth century". Retrieved March 2013. 
  4. ^  "Hickes, George".  
  5. ^ a b  "Hoadly, Benjamin (1676-1761)".  
  6. ^  "Snape, Andrew".  
  7. ^  "Sherlock, Thomas".  
  8. ^ "§5. Law’s Controversial Writings against Hoadly, Mandeville and Tindal. XII. William Law and the Mystics. Vol. 9. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift. The Cambridge History of English and American Literature: An Encyclopedia in Eighteen Volumes. 1907–21". Retrieved March 2013. 
  9. ^  "Law, William (1686-1761)".  
  10. ^ Warner, Rebecca Louise. "Moss, Robert".   (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  11. ^ A Letter to the Reverend Dr. Edward Tenison, Concerning Some Citations Made from .... the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury's Preliminary Discourse to the Apostolical Fathers, in a Paper Lately Published, Intituled, A Letter to the Reverend the Prolocutor: Being an Answer to a Paper, &c. By the Author of that Letter at Google Books
  12. ^  "Hare, Francis".  
  13. ^ Denis Larionov & Alexander Zhulin. "Read the ebook Catalogue of the printed books in the library of Merton College by Merton College. Library". Retrieved March 2013. 

Further reading

  • Cross, F. A., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. 1964. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Church of England and the Bangorian controversy, 1716-1721. Andrew Starkie: 2007: Boydell Press.
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