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nonconformists,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.
..... Click the link for more information. ) 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.
..... Click the link for more information. . 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.
..... Click the link for more information. ). 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.
..... Click the link for more information. , 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
..... Click the link for more information. ). 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 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.