FREE CHURCH: A name given to certain religious bodies in various countries of Europe, in some cases chosen by the organization itself, indicating somewhat loosely secession from an older and larger communion, independence of the domi nant ecclesiastical authorities, and separation from an established church. For the so-called Free Churches of England, France, Holland, Italy, and Switzerland, see the articles upon each country. For the Free Churches of Germany see Lutherans, II; also Free Congregations. For the Free Church of Scotland see Prebryterians. In America the name "free church" is sometimes given to a congregation which does not rent sit tings at a fixed charge, but derives its revenues from the spontaneous contributions of attendants. See Voluntaryism.
FREE CHURCH OF ENGLAND: A small Protestant organization which broke off from the Church of England (see England, Church of ) in 1844 because of antagonism to the Oxford Movement (see Tractarianism). Being free from State control, it claims the right to enter any parish where advanced ritualism prevails, and to establish a liturgical service on the basis of the Evangelical party of the Anglican Church. Its churches are widely scattered throughout England, although their number is small. It is governed by its own convocation and by its few bishops, consecrated by Bishop Cummins (q.v.) of the American Reformed Episcopal Church. The convocation meets annually in June. Its clergy number twenty-four, and its churches twenty-seven, with accommodations for 8,140. It has 1,352 communicants, 361 Sunday-school teachers, and 4,196 Sunday-school scholars. Though practically identical with the Reformed Episcopal Church of England (see Reformed Episcopal Church), the two refuse to unite on account of differences respecting government and the rights of the laity.
FREE CHURCH FEDERATION: A union of free churches for Evangelical work. The federation was initiated at a congress of members of free churches in the city of Manchester in November, 1892. That congress was an outward and visible sign of the growth of the inward and spiritual grace of Christian unity, which had been proceeding for at least the two preceding decades. The causes that development were: (1) the reOrigin. turn of the churches to Christ Jesus as the sole and exclusive authority in the life of the soul and in the activities of the churches; (2) the separation between the greater and the lesser truths of revelation effected by the providence of God in these later years; (3) the growth of sacerdotalism within the Anglican Church, and the total inability of Parliament to control and check it; (4) the consequent necessity for a united resistance to this sacerdotalism by Evangelical Protestantism; and (5) the need for more sustained and enthusiastic efforts to carry the Gospel to the people of the large towns and cities. The Congress formed itself into a Federation in 1896. It embraced all the Evangelical denominations claiming spiritual autonomy and refusing to recognize the patronage and control of Parliament. It was the creation of a new organization in which Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and others met, not as denominationalists, but simply as Evangelical Free Churchmen. It was a wider basis of union and fellowship than any hitherto recognized. The sectarian element was totally excluded. It was the Free Church of England, with hopes of becoming the Church of England of the future.
The denominations embraced within this federation are as follows: Baptists, Calvinistic Methodists, Churches of Christ, Congregationalists, Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, IndependMemberehip ent Methodists, Moravians, Presbyteriand ans, Primitive Methodists, ReformedStatistics. Episcopal Church, Salvation Army,
Society of Friends, United Methodist Church (formed in 1907 by the union of Bible Christians, Methodist Free Connexion and United Methodist Free Churches), Wesleyan Methodists, and Wesleyan Reform Union. In England and Wales the councils number 915, and the federations 53. The movement is spreading in other countries. In the United States a plan has been adopted for the organization of a Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America representing an aggregate membership of over 17,000,000. The movement is also advancing in South Africa, Jamaica., Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, Japan, Korea, India, Germany, France, and Italy. The statistics for England and Wales (1907) art: Sitting accommodation in places of worship, 8,483,925; communicants, 2,183,914; Sunday-school teachers, 405; 391; Sunday-school scholars, 3,471,276. These figures will be better understood if they are compared with the statistics of the Anglican Church: viz., sitting accommodation, 7,240,136; communicants, 2,053,455; Sunday-school teachers, 206,873; Sunday-school scholars, 2,558,240. The international figures (1906) are: Free Church members, 21,731,713; Anglican communicants, 3,830,866.
The objects of the national council are: (1) to facilitate fraternal intercourse and cooperation among the Evangelical Free Churches; (2) to assist in the organization of local councils; (3) to encourage devotional fellowship and mutual eoun-
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