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Savoy Declaration

1658. The first and basic English Congregational (or Independent) statement of doctrine and church polity. It was the product of a semi-official meeting of Congregational churchmen at the Savoy Palace in London. The reasons for it, its composition, and its daily agenda are imperfectly known. Probably about 200 representatives attended, with the majority probably laymen. Most of the leading Congregational ministers, however, were present, including Philip Nye,* Thomas Goodwin,* John Owen,* William Bridge,* William Greenhill,* and Joseph Caryl. Philip Nye was most likely the moderator. In a remarkably short time and with remarkable unanimity the group drafted and approved three documents which make up the Declaration-a preface, a confession of faith, and a church polity. The preface is notable only for its verbosity and tolerant spirit. Except for the chapters on church government, the confession is essentially the same as the Westminster Confession*-not surprisingly, since all who worked on it were at Westminster, excepting John Owen. The church polity section is brief and clear, establishing complete autonomy for local congregations under the headship of Christ. The confessional section became more or less standard in New England Congregationalism.

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