Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Nonconformity in Britannia

James 1st: persecution (>1604)

Elizabeth 1st (r. 1558-1603) pursues a policy of tolerance on questions of Christian thought and practice. James 1st (1566-1625, r. >1603) doesn’t. He prefers, for example, to punish Calvinist reformers within the Church of England. He chooses to have stubborn pastors excommunicated and to persecute their congregations. Even so, some congregations in Britannia persist in being Nonconformists to the Anglican church.

Quakers (>1652)

The Religious Society of Friends, Nonconformists commonly known as Quakers, begin when unaffiliated and itinerant preacher George Fox (1624-91) has a vision atop Pendle Hill (1652). Eventually Quakers pursue the Protestant reform of the Church as far as it can go. An affirm of the priesthood of all believers leads them to see each Quaker as an equally precious witness to Jesus. Church are not buildings but the community of gathered witnesses There is no formal hierarchy or form of worship. Friendly witnesses gather on First day, sit in a circle facing each other rather than a pulpit, and any who are led by the Holy Spirit speak out of the silent prayer otherwise taking place.

John Bunyan (1628-88, fl. >1656)

John Bunyan, participating in a Nonconformist (Baptist) church in Bedford, publishes his first book—Gospel Truths Opened—in response to the preaching of George Fox (1656). In 1660 he is jailed for preaching without a license from the established Church of England. Authorities only release him after twelve years. At least authorities allow his blind daughter to visit him in his cell. He chooses not to remain idle during his confinement; instead, he writes the famous first part of The Pilgrim’s Progress and sees it published in 1678.

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