Nonjurors

A title used to describe those members (usually clergy) of the Church of England and Episcopal Church of Scotland who refused to take the Oath of Allegiance to William and Mary after the Revolution of 1688. Six English bishops (and all the Scottish bishops) together with about 400 English clergy felt bound in 1689 by virtue of their oath to James II* to refuse the oath and were deposed in 1690. They set in motion a kind of High Church, episcopalian nonconformity, separate from the national church but claiming to be the true, historical church of England. The English prelates deprived were Archbishop W. Sancroft* and bishops T. Ken* (Bath and Wells), J. Lake (Chichester), F. Turner (Ely), T. White (Peterborough), and W. Lloyd (Norwich). With the permission of James II, three of these took part in the consecration of two bishops in secret-Thomas Wagstaffe (Ipswich) and George Hickes (Thetford). The latter consecrated three more.

In 1714 the ranks of Nonjurors were enlarged by the accession of those who did not swear allegiance to George I. Though agreeing in their opposition, the Nonjurors were divided among themselves on secondary matters. They disagreed as to the lawfulness of worshiping in parish churches and, after the death of Hickes, on whether or not they should use a new liturgy (based on early Christian liturgies and the 1549 Book of Common Prayer) written by a group of their own men, or continue to use the 1662 BCP. In the latter controversy the participants were called Usagers and Non-Usagers, but their quarrel was settled in 1732 in favor of the use of the new form. The four “usages” were the mixed chalice, the oblatory prayer, the offering of the elements to the Father, and the prayer for the descent of the Holy Spirit on the elements.

Apart from their belief in the Divine Rights of Kings* and the doctrine of nonresistance to rightful authority, they held a high doctrine of the historical episcopate and of liturgical worship. They admired the Eastern Orthodox Churches and even made efforts to unite with them. Their movement, however, did not last much more than a century, the last congregation dying out in 1805. Not a few able laymen were attracted to the Nonjurors—e.g., Henry Dodwell, the Camden professor of history at Oxford. Because of their high doctrine of the ministry and emphasis on liturgy, they are usually classed with the seventeenth-century Caroline and the nineteenth-century Tractarian divines.

See J.H. Overton, The Nonjurors: their lives, principles and writings (1902), and H. Broxap, The Later Nonjurors (1924).