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Nonjurors, English


The name given to eight bishops and some 400 clergy of the Church of England who refused to take the oath of allegiance to William and Mary after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 out of loyalty to their previous oath to James II (see james ii, king of england). Among them was Archbishop Sancroft of Canterbury. They were not notably friendly to the deposed James II and would have accepted William and Mary as regents, but not as king and queen. They were all High Churchmen, believers in passive obedience and the divine right of kings, and regarded James II as their rightful sovereign. Three days after the landing of William, George Hickes, Dean of Worcester, preached a sermon on submission to persecuting princes, citing the early Christians as examples. In February 1690, Parliament deprived the bishops of their sees and benefices and expelled them from the Anglican Church. Though reduced to poverty and persecuted by the government, they held to their claim to represent, and their duty to preserve, the true Anglican succession. They held services in secret. In 1694 the exiled James consented to nominate two new bishops, and G. Hickes and J. Wagstaffe were consecrated in secret. In 1713 Hickes, the only living nonjuring bishop, consecrated three more bishops. After the death of the Young Pretender in 1788, nonjurors largely disintegrated. The last nonjuring bishop was Charles Booth, who died in 1805.

The nonjurors found support in jacobite families for whom they were chaplains or tutors. Many English regarded them as apostate Anglicans or stalking horses for popery. After some time they had, in London alone, 50 chapels. Through the mediation of Peter the Great in 1716 they entered into discussions for union with four Eastern patriarchs, but by 1725 the efforts had failed. In England they sympathized with and prayed for the exiled Stuarts but were never actively disloyal to the government. In Scotland, however, where most of the Episcopal clergy were nonjurors, they took part, in accord with Episcopal disestablishment in 1689, in Jacobite uprisings in 1715 and 1745. In 1701 on the death of James II, some nonjurors accepted Queen Anne and rejoined the Anglican Church while others held that their oath to James bound them to support his descendants. In 1714 they were split over the oath to George I. They were divided also on points of theology and liturgical usage. Their secession deprived the Church of England of a group of devoted, pious, learned, and experienced churchmen whose small numbers belied their importance. They continued the tradition of the caroline divines and may be regarded as forerunners of the oxford movement. They included T. Brett, T. Carte, J. Collier, T. Deacon, H. Dodwell, T. Hearne, T. Ken, J. Kettlewell, W. Law, C. Leslie, and R. Nelson.

Bibliography: j. h. overton, The Nonjurors (London 1902). c. gaskoin, j. hastings, ed. Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, 13 v. (Edinburgh 190827) 9:394396. n. sykes, Church and State in England in the XVIIIth Century (Cambridge, Eng. 1934). f. l. cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (London 1957) 963964. d. carter, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 195765) 4:150910.

[b. norling]

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