The Book of Common Prayer
United States England Scotland Ireland Wales Canada World

    Liturgies of the Nonjurors


The Nonjurors were a group of Anglican clergy who, after the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 in which Parliament deposed King James II and installed William and Mary, refused to take an oath to the new monarchs, believing that would violate their oath to the previous king. Most were "high-church", and included several bishops and other high-ranking clergy. Because they would not swear allegiance to the new king and queen, they were relieved of their "livings", or positions, and forced to seek support on their own. Many continued to serve independent congregations as priests and bishops, giving rise to the first separation of clergy and bishops in apostolic succession from the Church of England.

Gradually, toward the end of the next century, the Nonjurors died out - particularly after the death in 1788 of Charles Edward Stuart, James II's grandson, removed any real reason for their continued existence.

The Nonjurors initially used the standard Book of Common Prayer, but, as they were no longer subject to the same restrictions of Parliament as was the Church of England, some, aided by then-recent scholarship, devised new liturgies, mostly based on ancient, pre-Constantinian liturgies. These formed a group called the "Usagers", the name being based on their insistence on four ancient "usages": the mixed chalice of wine and water, prayers for the dead, the invocation (prayer for the descent of the Holy Ghost on the consecrated elements), and prayer of oblation of the consecrated elements. All this is the subject of an extract taken from History of the Nonjurors: Their Controversies and Writings, with Remarks on Some of the Rubrics in the Book of Common Prayer, by Thomas Lathbury, published in London by Pickering in 1845.

From the Introduction to this book:

"The history of the schism in the Church of England, occasioned by the Revolution of 1688, constitutes one of the most interesting chapters in our Ecclesiastical Annals. The views and procedings of the Nonjurors, from their origin as a party to their extinction, must be contemplated with much interest by members of the Church of England. Few persons are aware how much of the cause of religion, as well as of Sacred Literature, was indebted, during the last century, to the exertions of the Nonjurors, who, when they were excluded from the National Church by their scruples respecting the oaths, devoted themselves to useful and laborious study. Whatever we may think of their views, we canot deny, that they suffered much for conscience' sake, and that they generally suffered with meekness and in silence, not parading their wrongs, whether real or imaginary, before the public, as was the case with the Nonconformists subsequent to the year 1662."

As may be implied by the above extract, the Nonjurors, though few in number were a significant influence on later liturgical developments.

We have three resources related to the liturgies of the Nonjurors:

Several other resources relating to the Nonjurors are available online from Project Canterbury. Another text, The Nonjurors, their Lives, Principles and Writings, by John Henry Overton, is also available from the Internet Archive.



James II

William III

Mary II


Web author: Charles Wohlers U. S. EnglandScotlandIrelandWalesCanadaWorld