Theophilus Lindsey was by no means the only clergyman in the Established Church (The Church of England) to have doubts about some of the 39 Articles with which the clergy had to profess to agree. Important figures had written significant books expressing their doubts about some of the doctrines, notably the assertion that Jesus was divine. Newspaper reports of the opening of Lindsey's new chapel in Essex Street, refer to the thinking of the Reverend Dr Samuel Clarke (1675-1729) who wrote, among many other works, The Scripture Docrine of the Trinity, questioning the assertion that God is three persons - Father, Son and Holy Ghost. But another figure who has a strong influence on Lindsey was the Very Reverend Francis Blackburne, Archdeacon of Cleveland and Lindsey's father in law. His book, The Confessional, was published in 1766. Lindsey, who had become vicar of Catterick in 1963, knew and respected Blackburne greatly. Blackburne lived at no great distance from him at Richmond, North Yorkshire. He was a latitudinarian that is he held very liberal views about church doctrine
His conscience led Lindsey to try to free clergy from the requirement to assent to the 39 Articles. A group of clergy, of whom Lindsey was evidently the leader, met at the Feathers Tavern in the Strand in London in the summer of 1771, forming an association with the aim of petitioning parliament to remove the element of compulsion, leaving clergy free to hold their own beliefs. Why parliament? The Church of England is the State church and parliament and the monarch remain the supreme authorities on all aspects of its legality.
Lindsey campaigned vigorously for support for the petition. It was debated in the House of Commons on 6 February 1772. Lindsey was present to hear the arguments for and against and to learn that it had been rejected by 217 votes to 71.
A few days later, Lindsey wrote to a close friend of his, William Turner, who was a Nonconformist minister at Westgate Chapel in Wakefield. He wrote:
The debate lasted full 8 hours, from half past two to eleven. Lord North declared, and it plainly appeared, that it was resolved to receive our Petition, treat it and us civilly, but move to have it lie on the table for 6 months, ie for ever...as the times go, and the prodigious influence of the Minister and Bishops avowedly against us, 71 dividing for us is reckoned a respectable minority'
The petition was rejected a second time in May 1774 but by then Lindsey had already given up his living.
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