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'Spheres of influence': Simeon's trust and its implications for evangelical patronage



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Balda, Wesley 


Parish patronage, as the prerogative of the wealthy and influential, caused eighteenth-century evangelical clergymen to experience continued difficulty in obtaining parochial spheres of ministry. John Thornton (1720-90) provided a model of a contemporary solution for evangelicals by purchasing several next-presentations, and by gathering nine advowsons into a reversionary testamentary trust. Charles Simeon's assumptions and patronage efforts, though linked by some to Thornton, represented a profound change in motive, scope, and ultimate intent, and were unprecedented in the historical record of patronage practice. Simeon developed a high regard for the parish as a 'sphere of influence', serving first as one of John Thornton's trustees, and then purchasing advowsons himself. Following his death, Simeon's trustees extended the concept through new church-building within existing parishes and through related efforts at parochial decentralization and incumbent nominations. Quantitative implications of evangelical control of spheres of influence were discernible in the returns of the 1851 Census of Religious Worship. Evangelical Simeon trust parishes exhibited marked differences in several areas and indicated that religious features could supersede social and cultural factors in describing Anglican activity at the parish level. In the same era, a volatile situation arose with indictments of party factionalism directed at Simeon's trust, and this subsequently introduced the churchmanship issue. Simeon trust incumbents illustrated the phenomenon of evangelical civil religion as they responded to these ecclesiastical issues with arguments which were largely of a cultural and political nature, though specific charges of divisive low-churchman ship by opponents were generally unfounded or misdirected. Through an examination of publications and by investigating degrees of identification with moderate and extreme religious organisations movements, a preliminary churchmanship taxonomy was created as a research tool. Simeon trust incumbents and trustees, when assessed with this instrument, provide a contrast to modern stereotypes of Victorian evangelicalism. The consequences of evangelical patronage can be found in quantifiable religious impact within parishes, and in the emergence of a functional (and perhaps expedient) style of moderate churchmanship.






Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge