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Free Church of England

(otherwise called the Reformed Episcopal Church). A Reformed and Protestant church established in 1844 as a reaction to the doctrines and development of the Oxford Movement* in the Church of England. Its constitution was formally registered in 1863. It is pledged to the Thirty-Nine Articles, and its Prayer Book is, for all practical purposes, the 1689 revision of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer-a revision acceptable at the time to the Puritans, but not adopted in the Anglican Church. The Free Church of England recognizes and adheres to episcopacy “not as of Divine right, but as a very ancient and desirable form of Church polity,” but its ministry is presbyterian. A similar organization called the Reformed Episcopal Church was formed in the USA in 1873 and in England from 1877. The two English bodies maintained close relations and were finally united in 1927. There are two dioceses, north and south, each with its own bishop. The existence of a vigorous evangelical wing in the Church of England has militated against the development of the Free Church of England, but it has persisted in the face of many difficulties. In 1971 there were thirty-three congregations and thirty-nine clergy.