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The Scottish Episcopal Church: Religious Conflict in the Late Stuart Period




Fox, Paul, II

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In 1689 the Scottish Parliament overthrew the Church of Scotland’s Episcopal government and replaced it with a Presbyterian church structure. Traditionally, historians have interpreted these events as evidence of the Episcopal Church’s lack of popularity and as symptomatic of a trend towards modernization and secularization within Britain as a whole. The Scottish Episcopal Church: Religious Conflict in the Late Stuart Period suggests a reconceptualization of the period. Far from being unpopular, the Scottish Episcopal Church enjoyed considerable support throughout the country. This had several important implications for not only Scotland, but for Britain and Europe as a whole. The reformation in Scotland was not a fait accompli established with a few acts of Parliament, but rather a protracted struggle over ecclesiology and theology that began in the sixteenth-century with John Knox, George Buchanan, and Andrew Melville; this was an endeavor only truly resolved in the early eighteenth-century. The Scottish Episcopal Church examines this process and explores the continued centrality of religion in politics and society. The Scotland that produced some of the Enlightenment’s greatest minds remained gripped with religious fervor at this time and, the Scottish Episcopalians created and developed an alternate view of church and state relations that contrasted with the Whig vision typically associated with the eighteenth-century. It was a political vision of a nation based on an indefeasible, hereditary, divine right monarchy in which the church and state cooperated in a synergistic manner and supported the other’s right to rule in its respective realm. It is only with a solid understanding of the religious situation in Scotland that one can make larger assessments anent the situation in Britain as a whole.