Formalism and the Gothic Revival Among Evangelical Protestants

Jeanne Halgren Kilde

in When Church Became Theatre

Published in print July 2002 | ISBN: 9780195143416
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834372 | DOI:
Formalism and the Gothic Revival Among Evangelical Protestants

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Despite its effectiveness for evangelical services, the theater‐like church did not become popular after its introduction in the 1830s; in fact, it was virtually ignored as evangelicals at mid‐century embraced High Church Gothic Revival architecture that was seemingly antithetical to their Low Church heritage. Investigating this paradox, this chapter asserts that the political turmoil aroused by the slavery issue led evangelicals to redirect their congregational activities away from revivalism and moral reform work (particularly abolitionism) and toward worship. Illustrating this trend is Ultraist abolitionist Lewis Tappan's indictment by the Broadway Tabernacle Church and the congregation's later efforts to foster cohesion among its politically disparate members by adopting worship as its primary mission. Such redirection of mission was one of several means of fostering cohesion or “Christian unity” among evangelical groups, the most visible of which was the widespread adoption of Gothic Revival architecture. Growing interest in liturgical formalism within the new churches also contributed to efforts to establish Christian unity in the context of political disruption.

Keywords: abolitionism; Christian unity; Gothic Revival; High Church; Lewis Tappan; liturgical; Low Church; slavery; worship

Chapter.  14078 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Christianity

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