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The Nonconformists in United Kingdom

The Nonconformists and the Church of England

From 1574 the Protestant Nonconformists strove to introduce Presbyterianism. Cause for grievance existed in the state of the church which had suffered from the late violent changes. Elizabeth plundered it, and laymen who owned the rectories formerly held by monasteries followed her example; bishoprics were impoverished by the queen and parish cures by her subjects, and the reform of abuses was checked by self-interest. As bishops, along with some able men, Elizabeth chose others of an inferior stamp who consented to the plunder of their sees and whom she could use to report on recusants and harry nonconformists. Separation, or Independency, began about 1578 with the followers of Robert Browne, who repudiated the queen’s ecclesiastical authority; two Brownists were executed in 1583.

The nonconformists remained in the church and continued their efforts to subvert its episcopal system. Elizabeth, though personally little influenced by religion, understood the political value of the church, and would allow no slackness in enforcing conformity. Archbishop Grindal was sequestrated for defending “prophesyings,” or meetings of the Puritan clergy for religious exercises. The House of Commons, in which there was a Puritan element, repeatedly attempted to discuss church questions and was sharply silenced by the queen, who would not allow any interference in ecclesiastical matters. Whitgift, who succeeded Grindal in 1583, though kind-hearted, was strict in his administration of the law.

Violent attacks were made upon the bishops in the Martin Marprelate tracts printed by a secret press; their author is unknown, but some who were probably connected with them were executed for publishing seditious libels. Whitgift’s firmness met with success. During the last years of the reign the movement towards Presbyterianism was checked and nonconformity was less prominent. The church regained a measure of orderliness and vigour; its claims on allegiance were advocated by eminent divines and expounded in the stately pages of Hooker. The queen, who had so vigorously ordered ecclesiastical affairs, died in 1603. (1)


Notes and References

  1. Encyclopedia Britannica (11th Edition)

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  • Article Name: Nonconformists
  • Author: International
  • Description: The Nonconformists The Nonconformists and the Church of England From 1574 the Protestant Nonconformists strove to introduce [...]

This entry was last updated: November 8, 2016


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