Monday, April 7, 2008


This Sunday past I was asked about the reference in the leaflet to the fact that William Law (feast day 9 April) “joined a group known as the Non-jurors.” Here is a short note on the Non-jurors with some references for further information.

In 1688 King James II (of England and Ireland) and VII (of Scotland ) fled the country in the face of an invasion by his son-in-law William of Orange, Stadtholder of the main provinces of the Dutch Republic, who had been invited by “a group of worthies.” After the King’s flight the Convention Parliament declared the throne vacant and offered it to William and his wife Mary as joint rulers, which they accepted. On February 13, 1689, Mary II and William III jointly acceded to the throne of England, and on May 11 to that of Scotland.
The difficulty came in the Church when the government required an oath of allegiance to the new sovereigns, which many of the bishops and clergy scrupled to take on the grounds that it were impossible to swear allegiance while the king to whom they had already sworn theire allegiance was still living. To cut a long story short, William Sancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury, and eight other bishops, including Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells (feast day, March 22), along with some four hundred of the clergy and an unknown number of laity, refused the oath. The bishops were deprived of their sees and others appointed in their place.
These Non-jurors (i.e., “non-swearers”) refused to recognize the new bishops. Some of the Nonjuring bishops later consecrated successors to maintain the episcopal succession, and so the schism continued until it finally petered out around the end of the eighteenth century. Of course, like all Anglican schisms, the Non-jurors held that they were in the right and were therefore the real Church of England.
In Scotland the entire episcopate was deprived for refusing the oaths and the Presbyterian order introduced (or re-introduced: Scottish church history can be somewhat confusing). The Scottish Episcopal Church continued until the present despite an extended period of persecution. It was the first Anglican Church to govern itself not as a church established by law.

Some further reading:
The Wikipedia Article,, is a bit skimpy, but has references and external links.
H. Overton The nonjurors : their lives, principles, and writings (1902) online at:
Project Canterbury, a useful collection of Anglican writings, offers:
For Scotland see:
Frederick Goldie, A short history of the Episcopal Church in Scotland : from the Restoration to the present time, St Andrew Press, 1976. 181 p.
The Website of the Scottish Episcopal Church:

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