The Free Church of England story is a history of grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We have seen the renewal of our work in recent times, as we continue to serve our God in the world.
The Free Church of England (FCE) is an Anglican church which separated from the established Church of England in the course of the 19th Century. The FCE was founded by evangelical clergy and congregations in response to the growth in influence of the Oxford Movement in the Church of England.
The first congregations were formed in 1844. The church was founded by James Shore, an evangelical clergyman in Devon, in response to the Anglo-Catholicism of Henry Phillpotts, the Bishop of Exeter. It was initially supported by Edward Adolphus St Maur, 11th Duke of Somerset, who built the first church in Bridgetown.
In the early years ministers were often provided by the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion which had its origins in George Whitefield and the 18th century Evangelical Revival. By the middle of the 19th century the church still retained many Anglican features such as the use of the surplice and the Book of Common Prayer. In 1863 the Annual Conference of the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion created a Constitution for the new congregations under the title of the Free Church of England. The Constitution made provision for the creation of Dioceses, each to be under the oversight of a bishop. The first Bishop was Benjamin Price, who initially had oversight of all the new congregations.
In 1874, the FCE made contact with the newly organised Reformed Episcopal Church in North America. In 1876 an REC bishop, Edward Cridge, came to the UK and consecrated Benjamin Price and John Sugden. The following year a branch of the REC was founded in the UK. The two Churches lived in parallel until 1927, when the Free Church of England united with the UK branch of the REC, as “both Churches are similar in character and government: Episcopal, Liturgical and Evangelical” (Report of the Union Committe).
In recent years, the Free Church of England has recaptured the vision for new churches and since then new chuches have been planted in England and France. At the same time, in the last few years, the FCE has established a growing presence in Australia and the Latin World (Brazil and Venezuela).