National church

National church
This article discusses 'national churches' in the ethnic sense. See state church for church organizations at a national level.

National church is a concept of a Christian church associated with a specific ethnic group or nation state. The idea was notably discussed during the 19th century, during the emergence of modern nationalism.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in a draft discussing the question of church and state around 1828 wrote that

"a National Church might exist, and has existed, without [Christianity], because before the institution of the Christian Church - as [...] the Levitical Church in the Hebrew Constitution, [and] the Druidical in the Celtic, would suffice to prove".[1]

John Wordsworth, bishop of Salisbury, wrote about the National Church of Sweden in 1911, interpreting the Church of Sweden and the Church of England as national churches of the Swedish and the English peoples, respectively. Lake (1987) traces the development of Presbyterianism in 16th-century England from the status of a "godly minority" which saw itself surrounded by the corrupt or hostile mass of the population, into a "genuine national church".[2]

The concept of a national church remains alive in the Protestantism of England and Scandinavia in particular. While, in a context of England, the national church remains a common denominator for the Church of England, the Lutheran "folk churches" of Scandinavia, characterized as national churches in the ethnic sense as opposed to the idea of a state church, emerged in the second half of the 19th century, following the lead of Grundtvig.[3]

Karl Barth denounced as heretical the tendency of "nationalizing" the Christian God, especially in the context of national churches sanctioning warfare against other Christian nations during World War I.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Samuel Taylor Coleridge. On the Constitution of the Church and State. Classic Books Company; 2001. ISBN 9780742683686. p. 59.
  2. ^ Peter Lake, Maria Dowling, Protestantism and the national church in sixteenth century England, Taylor & Francis, 1987, ISBN, 9780709916819, ch. 8 (193ff.)
  3. ^ Dag Thorkildsen, 'Scandinavia: Lutheranism and national identity', in World Christianities, c. 1815-1914, vol. 8 of The Cambridge history of Christianity, eds. Sheridan Gilley, Brian Stanley, Cambridge University Press, 2006, ISBN 9780521814560, 342-358
  4. ^ Barth, Ethnics, ed. Braun, transl. Bromiley, New York, 1981, p. 305.
  • William Reed Huntington, A national church, Bedell lectures, Scribner's, 1897.

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