An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Free Church

A church that is not an established church or a state church, and in that sense it is “free” from governmental control. The term emphasizes the contrast or distinction relative to the established church. In England, those who did not conform to the doctrine, discipline, and polity of the established Church of England were known as nonconformists or dissenters, and their churches were known as Free churches. In England, the term has been applied to Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, Quakers, and Baptists. There has also been a Free church tradition in Scotland relative to the established Church of Scotland, which is Presbyterian; and in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark relative to the established Lutheran churches in those countries. Free church ideals may be seen in the American Constitutional principle of separation of church and state. See Establishment of Religion.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.