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date: 17 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The seventeenth century marked a high point in the Presbyterian experiment. A variety of models were tested internationally, and apologists for its polity offered a rigorous defense against Episcopalians, Congregationalists, and Erastians. The Westminster Assembly offered Presbyterians the first opportunity since the Reformation to model a fully Reformed church in England, and the gathering looked closely not only at the teachings of Scripture on ecclesial governance, but also at historical and contemporary models of connectional, nonhierarchical government to guide their formulations on church polity. The century also saw some of the worst persecution of Presbyterians, especially in France and Scotland, but also in England and central Europe. During their seasons of suffering, some Presbyterians found subtle ways to articulate their polity or identify essential elements of Presbyterianism. Others fought or fled hostile authorities, supplying a legacy of martyr narratives and missionary impulses for later Presbyterians.

Keywords: presbytery, local church, synod, discipline, ordination, excommunication, Westminster Assembly, ecclesiology, polity

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