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in religion, those who refuse to conform to the requirements (in doctrine or discipline) of an established church. The term is applied especially to Protestant dissenters from the Church of England. Nonconformity in England appeared not long after the Reformation in the secession from the Established Church of such small groups as the Brownists (see Browne, RobertBrowne, Robert,
c.1550–1633, English clergyman and leader of a group of early separatists popularly known as Brownists. Browne conceived of the church as a self-governing local body of experiential believers in Jesus.
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) and, a little later, the PilgrimsPilgrims,
in American history, the group of separatists and other individuals who were the founders of Plymouth Colony. The name Pilgrim Fathers is given to those members who made the first crossing on the Mayflower.
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. Most of those, however, who objected to the Elizabethan church settlement did not at first intend to secede; their hope was rather to reshape the Established Church (see PuritanismPuritanism,
in the 16th and 17th cent., a movement for reform in the Church of England that had a profound influence on the social, political, ethical, and theological ideas of England and America. Origins

Historically Puritanism began early (c.
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). The conflicts thus engendered within the Church of England were a major factor leading to the English civil war. After the victory of the Puritan party in that war, a Presbyterian church establishment was adopted (1646), but in that period also the separatists, or IndependentsIndependents,
in religion, those bodies of Christians who claim freedom from ecclesiastical and civil authority for their individual churches. They hold that each congregation should have control of its own affairs.
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, gained a stronger foothold. The restoration (1660) of the monarchy also brought the restoration of episcopacy and harsh legislation against the Puritans (see Clarendon CodeClarendon Code,
1661–65, group of English statutes passed after the Restoration of Charles II to strengthen the position of the Church of England. The Corporation Act (1661) required all officers of incorporated municipalities to take communion according to the rites of
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). The Act of Uniformity (1662) made a distinct split unavoidable, since it required episcopal ordination for all ministers. As a result, nearly 2,000 clergymen left the Established Church. Significant nonconformity dates from that time. The term dissenter similarly came into use, particularly after the Toleration Act (1689), in which reference was made to the "Protestant Dissenters." Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, Quakers, Unitarians, and Methodists are among the nonconforming denominations in England. In Scotland, where the established church is Presbyterian, the Anglicans, or Episcopalians, are among the nonconformists. In more recent usage, churches independent of the established or state church in both England and Scotland are often called Free Churches.


See C. Burrage, The Early English Dissenters (1912); H. Davies, The English Free Churches (1952).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the name for members of English sects (Presbyterians, Independents, Methodists, Congregationalists, and others) that did not recognize the rituals and teachings of the state Anglican Church. Nonconformist movements (another name was “Dissenters”) arose in the 16th century, but the name “Nonconformist” was coined only after the English Parliament passed the Act of Uniformity in 1662.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
If Betjeman respected the cultural achievements of Nonconformists, he was not always so sympathetic to their manner of expressing their spirituality and faith.
Nevertheless, as the years passed, toleration, at least of nonconformist Protestants, became progressively real in practice.
For their part, "moderate" nonconformist apocalyptic commentators, who were more prolific than their Anglican counterparts, argued that the Church of England had reacquired too much of its popish, anti-Christian trappings in 1660.
In his latest column, our family historian Paul Wilkins explains how Nonconformist records can help you trace your family tree A couple of weeks ago I discussed parish registers of the Church of England.
Selections from Philip Henry's Diary (243-48) and the farewell sermons of ejected clergy (235-43) add considerably to what, in textbooks, is too often a lifeless social and political narrative; and the selections in Part V, relating to personal experience, give the reader a window into the interests and values which motivated the Nonconformists to risk everything for their convictions.
For instance, White traces the way religion never functioned monolithically in the romantic period as nonconformists at times presented a united front and at other times were embroiled in internal contests within and across denominations.
Sell's portraiture of Nonconformity as ultimately orthodox, catholic and reformed and his description of Nonconformists as "ardently committed to the modern ecumenical movement" (p.
If you find amarriage record in a parish register, but no earlier baptism record, and then more marriages a generation later, you probably have nonconformists in your family.
Perhaps because the "nonconformist movement" is too redolent of the sickly collectivism its participants meant to resist, artists like Turetsky are being historicized afresh--making them more palatable to private enterprise in turn.
Of the seventy-five schoolmasters identified in both counties, seven were listed as Nonconformists, disaffected, or excommunicated and five of the forty-two physicians were listed as Nonconformists.