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Nonconformity (usually capitalized) is the refusal to "conform" to, or follow, the governance and usages of the Church of England by the Protestant Christians of England and Wales.


Origins and use

In England, after the Act of Uniformity 1662 a Nonconformist was an English subject belonging to a non-Christian religion or any non-Anglican church. A person who also advocated religious liberty may also be more narrowly considered as such. English Dissenters (such as Puritans and Presbyterians) who violated the Act of Uniformity 1559 may retrospectively be considered Nonconformists, typically by practising or advocating radical, sometimes separatist, dissent with respect to the Established Church.

Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, Quakers (founded in 1648), and those less organized were considered Nonconformists at the time of the 1662 Act of Uniformity. Later, as other groups formed, they were also considered Nonconformists. These included Methodists, Unitarians, and members of the Salvation Army.

The religious census of 1851 revealed that total Nonconformist attendance was very close to that of Anglicans.


Nowadays, churches independent of the Anglican Church of England or the Presbyterian Church of Scotland are often called free churches. In Scotland, the Anglican Scottish Episcopal Church is considered nonconformist (despite its English counterpart's status) and in England, the United Reformed Church, principally a union of Presbyterians and Congregationalists, is in a similar position.

In Wales the strong traditions of Nonconformism can be traced back to the Welsh Methodist revival which led to Wales effectively being a Nonconformist country by the mid 19th century. The influence of Nonconformism, boosted by yet another great religious revival in the shape of the 1904–1905 Welsh Revival, in the early part of the 20th century in Wales led to the disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Wales via the Welsh Church Act 1914, which created the Church in Wales.

Critics[citation needed] argued the required degree of conformity was quite high, and that members who refused to conform to common standards, conventions, rules, traditions or laws of the Nonconformist church were dealt with far more severely than the Established Church dealt with its members.

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