The Anglican Non-Jurors

Last spring, Philip Jenkins wrote about the Non-Jurors, who reacted against the replacement of James II with William and Mary. From his first post:

High Churchmen were aghast at the outcome of the Glorious Revolution, and the new constitutional settlement. In their eyes, when the church’s new leaders consecrated the change, they had abandoned God’s truth in the name of political expediency. Worse, the new order was demanding that all clergy and office holders take oaths to the new king. Many clergy, including some of the church’s greatest spiritual and intellectual beacons, found that they simply could not accept. They refused to swear those oaths, and by dint of that, became non-swearers, “Non-Jurors.” They began a domestic schism from the established church, and ordained their own succession of bishops.

That is the political background, but the consequences were lasting. The Non-Juror movement continued into the early nineteenth century, and it developed a potent High Church ideology. I do not mean that in the Victorian or Oxford Movement sense of quasi-Catholic liturgy, “bells and smells.” (Although some Oxford Movement thinkers, notably Newman, did look back fondly on the Non-Juror inheritance). Rather, the Non-Jurors struggled to create a kind of Christian practice that was fully in tune with the Bible and the Fathers, with “Primitive Christianity,” and which did not just depend on the good will of a state or king. They agonized over issues of ecclesiology, and at the same time sought new ways of leading a pure Christian life. Taking sacramental life very seriously, they were devoted to the ideal of small-c catholic Christianity. At so many points, they have much in common with their very influential near-contemporaries, the German Pietists.

One of the Non-Jurors, Thomas Ken, wrote the Doxology (“Praise God from whom all blessings flow…”).

The most surprising element of the story is described in Jenkins’ second post: “around 1716, the English Non-Jurors approached the Eastern patriarchs to be acknowledged as a church under their jurisdiction, whether that of the Patriarch of Alexandria or Jerusalem. Although resident on English soil, they would nevertheless obey these distant masters, who represented authentic ancient Christianity.”

Jenkins quotes from Reverend H.W. Langford’s 1965 paper on the subject:

The Non-Juror bishops showed in their correspondence a strong reluctance to ‘go behind’ the English Reformation Settlement, and were obviously very ill at ease in dealing with Orthodox belief on such subjects as transubstantiation and invocation of saints. With regard to the nature of the worship due to Our Lady, the patriarchs replied with some sympathy but with a possible touch of ridicule. “It is not to be wondered at for being born and bred in the principles of the Luthero-Calvinists, and possessed with their prejudices, they tenaciously adhere to them like ivy to a tree.”

As you can surmise from the current ecclesiastical arrangements, things didn’t work out.

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3 thoughts on “The Anglican Non-Jurors

  1. Yes, I have the feeling that you’re right.

    There were some Anglican priests a while back that were received into the Roman Catholic church by the pope, and they were allowed to remain married, which reminds me of the accommodations made for the Uniate and Maronite churches in the Middle East in earlier centuries.

    Are there some comparable examples of large church bodies being received by Orthodox churches?

    1. The Anglican Ordinariate and the Anglican Use. They’re not allowed to advertise their existence to other parishes, though, because the Roman-Rite bishops are worried about poaching, and some are straightforwardly opposed to what they see as a conservative body. I can’t remember whether the Use was the precursor to the Ordinariate, or the other way around, but for the earlier one, one could not be ordained to it, one could only be received into it if one were already ordained — so one could not be ordained to it as a married man, one needed to be already married. This might have changed. The parishes tend to be very small, under 20 people, and much older, Boomers and up. Roman-Rite bishops have also prevented many married priests from the Maronite and Byzantine-Rites from entering the US for the sake of ministry, preferring celibates, because they were worried that it would scandalize the faithful of the Roman Rite, or confuse them. (I heard this from several Maronite and Byzantine priests over the past decade or more.)

      The Evangelical Orthodox Church was received _en masse_ into the Antiochian Archdiocese, after being rejected by several other jurisdictions; there have been individual Episcopal/Anglican parishes that have been received into the Orthodox Church, whether with or without their property. There have been numerous missed or failed opportunities over the years, some on large scales (Metr. Jonah’s efforts) and some on small scales (the Anglo-Catholic parish where I formerly attended flirted heavily with one of the Orthodox jurisdictions to become Western Rite Orthodox, but weren’t happy with some of the things they’d need to do and not do, and then I’m told the priest declared –and I knew him, so I believe it, it sounds like him– “But we really just want to be true _Anglicans_!” –which they felt they couldn’t do in the ECUSA, and wouldn’t quite be able to do in the Orthodox Church, for reasons I’ve forgotten, had I ever even known them. Anglicanism is an addictive drug, very hard to give up once one sees behind the curtain and is disillusioned. One still wants to find a way to make it work. Some of that is the sunk-cost effect, but not much of it.

      P.S.: the word “Uniate” goes in and out of being a derogatory term, so probably best to avoid it. Best to simply say “Byzantine-Rite Catholics” in general, or (_e.g._) “Greek Catholic” or “Ukrainian Catholic” in particular.

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