THE dissident clergy insisted that they were loyal members of
the Church of England. They claimed that they had been given
assurances of an honoured place at the table. But, if the new
legislation went through, their consciences left them no choice -
they would have to leave the Church, taking many members of their
congregations with them.
This was not the summer of 2012, with the Church of England
inching its way towards a decision on women bishops; it was the
summer of 1662. King Charles II was restored to the throne,
episcopal government was restored to the Church, and the
Presbyterian clergy faced the prospect of ejection from their
livings, unless they made a public declaration of "unfeigned assent
and consent" to the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Book of Common
We can follow the events of that summer through the diary of
Samuel Pepys. On 17 August 1662, he got up early to hear the
celebrated preacher William Bates deliver his farewell sermon.
Pepys being Pepys, his attention wandered from the sermon to the
sight of a young lady in the next pew ("and very pretty and
sprightly she is"), but he took note of Bates's parting remark as
he stepped down from the pulpit: "As to my nonconformity . . . it
is neither fancy, faction, nor humour that makes me not to comply,
but merely for fear of offending God."
The Presbyterian clergy were formally ejected the following
Sunday, 24 August, St Bartholomew's Day. All was quiet at Pepys's
own church, St Olave's, Hart Street, where "we had a lazy, dull
sermon." At dinner that evening, however, he heard reports of
disturbances in other London churches, "a thing which appears to me
very ominous". He feared that if the bishops could not find enough
good clergy to fill all the vacant livings, "all will fly a-pieces,
for bad ones will not [go] down with the City."
PEPYS was right that the Great Ejection, as it came to be known,
was a high-risk strategy. There was nothing inevitable about it.
At the Restoration, it had been widely assumed that there would
have to be an inclusive settlement to keep the Presbyterians
inside the Church of England, probably involving some version of
"primitive" or "modified" episcopacy - a compromise scheme in which
the bishops would have governed with the help of an advisory
council of diocesan clergy.
What changed the situation was the huge upsurge of popular joy
and relief that greeted the restoration of the monarchy. Senior
churchmen, led by the Bishop of London, Gilbert Sheldon (soon to be
appointed Archbishop of Canterbury), realised that, with skilful
parliamentary management, and by playing on fears of
Nonconformists as rebels and regicides, they had the opportunity to
restore the pre-war Church of England more or less intact, with no
concessions to the Presbyterians.
So it was that on "Black Bartholomew Day", 350 years ago last
month, the Presbyterian clergy preached their farewell sermons and
prepared to leave their parishes, under the threat of imprisonment
if they continued their ministry.
More than 900 parish clergy are estimated to have lost their
livings in 1662, bringing the total number expelled or forced to
resign as a result of the Restoration settlement to nearly 2000 -
approximately one-fifth of all Anglican clergy.
In the words of the church historian Eamon Duffy, "1662 marked a
parting of the ways as momentous as any event since the break with
Rome." It was part of a raft of oppressive legislation, the
so-called Clarendon Code, designed to criminalise Protestant
Nonconformity and exclude Dissenters from public office. Much of
this legislation remained on the statute-book until the 19th
FOR Presbyterians and Congregationalists ("Old Dissent", as
they came to be known, to distinguish them from Methodism), this
was a defining event. Black Bartholomew Day was kept as a solemn
anniversary, the ejected clergy were remembered and honoured as
victims of persecution, and 1662 was viewed, with hindsight, as
the moment when the Presbyterian and Congregational churches came
into being as separate denominations.
For the Church of England, too, 1662 came to be seen as a
foundational moment, when the distinctive Anglican spirituality
nurtured by Richard Hooker and Lancelot Andrewes finally came to
fruition in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Ironically, the 1662
settlement - narrow and intolerant as it was - came to be cherished
as the definitive expression of Anglican balance and
These myths of origin can be hard to dislodge. It is only
recently that historians have begun to reassess the 1662
settlement, and to question whether it really did mark an
irrevocable parting of the ways. It is now becoming clear that,
even after the Great Ejection, many Presbyterian clergy remained
deeply attached to the Church of England, and even, in a few cases,
managed to cling on to their livings.
One such was Ralph Josselin, Vicar of Earls Colne, in Essex,
whose remarkable 300,000-word diary - not published in its
entirety until 1976 - allows us to know him almost as well as we
Josselin viewed the restoration of episcopacy with dismay, and
fully expected to be put out of his living in 1662. On St
Bartholomew's Day, he wrote dismally that he was "sad to see how
the shepherds are scattered", and, a week later: "All hopes of
suspension of the act of uniformity taken away. . . Oh Lord,
provide for our security."
His diary for the next few months shows him agonising over
whether to adopt the new liturgy. On 12 October, he came to
church to find the Prayer Book "laid in the deske for mee"; the
following Sunday it was "laid again and used in part in the
morning, but in the afternoon taken away". Not until 1665 did he
start using the Prayer Book service of holy communion. But, despite
his reluctant and partial conformity, Josselin remained Vicar of
Earls Colne until his death in 1683.
EVEN among the ejected clergy, there was a wide variety of
responses to the 1662 settlement. Richard Baxter, a hugely
respected figure, chose the path of Nonconformity, and spent the
rest of his life working tirelessly for a more comprehensive
settlement that would allow the Presbyterians to rejoin the
Established Church. But not all the clergy followed Baxter's
example of dignified suffering in the face of persecution.
One who did not was Samuel Crossman, one of Josselin's
neighbours in Essex. Crossman was ejected and briefly imprisoned
in 1662 ("Mr Crosman preaching actually sent to prison and some
others in danger thereof", Josselin noted in his diary), but later
conformed, and ended his life as Dean of Bristol. His most enduring
legacy to the Church of England is his hymn "My song is love
Another case that defies easy categorisation is that of the
naturalist and botanist John Ray. Ray resigned his Cambridge
fellowship in 1662 rather than subscribe to the Act of Uniformity,
and has usually been counted among the ejected clergy. Yet he
regarded himself as a loyal Anglican, and described himself near
the end of his life as "a true though unworthy son of the Church by
law established in this kingdom".
As these examples show, relations between Anglicans and
Presbyterians were often very close, and it is hard to draw a clear
dividing line be-tween the two. Many of the ejected clergy longed
for reunion with the Church of England, and felt far more affinity
with their Anglican brethren than with the radical fringe of sects
such as the Quakers and Baptists. Nothing would have
horrified them more than to be lumped together with George Fox
or John Bunyan into a single category of "Dissent".
Long after 1662, some of the leading Nonconformist clergy,
including Bates and Baxter, continued to attend sermons and
receive the sacrament in their parish churches. This practice of
"occasional conformity", as it was known, expressed a genuine
sense of divided loyalties. When they preached or met for worship,
they took care to do so outside Anglican service times, so that
their followers could attend church in the morning, and chapel in
THIS sense of a shared Protestant identity proved crucial in
1689, when the Nonconformists spurned the offer of toleration
from the Roman Catholic James II, in favour of solidarity with the
Church of England. It was only after 1689, with the failure of
schemes for religious comprehension, that the Dissenters finally
gave up hope of reunion with the Established Church, and started to
think of themselves as separate denominations.
The scars of the Great Ejection remained very painful. Among the
Dissenters there was a deep-seated resentment of Anglican power and
privilege; and, on the Anglican side, a lingering guilt about the
part played by the Church of England in religious persecution. The
Evangelical J. C. Ryle, later Bishop of Liverpool, described the
Great Ejection in 1853 as "an injury to the cause of true religion
in England which will probably never be repaired".
In the 20th century, this led to a series of projects for
corporate reunion, including the 1938 outline scheme for reunion
between the Church of England and the Free Churches, and the 1957
report Relations between Anglican and Presbyterian Churches
in England and Scotland. The latter came up with an ingenious
proposal for modified episcopacy that would have gladdened the
heart of Richard Baxter, with the Moderator of the Church of
Scotland replaced by a "Bishop-in-Presbytery".
Now, the ecumenical landscape looks very different. The report
Healing the Past, Building the Future, produced by a joint
Anglican and United Reformed study group in 2011, noted a sense of
unfinished business, but also, with commendable honesty,
acknowledged "a waning of ecumenical energy and enthusiasm in both
Churches at the moment". The focus has now shifted from corporate
reunion to local partnership (see panel).
Dr Rowan Williams's sermon at the service of mutual
reconciliation held at Westminster Abbey earlier this year, marking
the 350th anniversary of the Great Ejection, sums up this new
approach to the legacy of 1662. Both Anglicans and Dissenters, he
suggested, benefited from separation in ways that could not have
been foreseen at the time. Anglican complacency was challenged by
"the questioning presence of English Dissent", while the Dissenting
Churches in their turn were able to forge "a new kind of political
identity" without the trappings of establishment.
The year 1662 was not the final parting of the ways, but it was
the moment when Anglicans lost their monopoly as the sole
Protestant Church in England. As such, it was a crucial step
towards a religiously pluralist society. This no longer appears to
be the tragedy that Bishop Ryle believed in 1853. From the
perspective of 2012, it looks more like something to be
There is, perhaps, a further message for the Anglican
Communion, as it looks ahead to an uncertain future and the
possibility of a global restructuring. Schism is not something
that any Church would wish for. As the Great Ejection
demonstrates, it can be painful, brutal, and unjust, with clear
winners and losers. But when the dust has settled, it can also
prove to be an unexpected liberation.
Dr Arnold Hunt is a curator of manuscripts at the British
Library, and author of The Art of Hearing: English preachers and
their audiences, 1590-1640 (CUP, 2010).
Ruth Whitehead is joining together two churches
that were once put asunder.
SHARING a minister among several churches is a fact of life for
rural areas. So it is not surprising that, as a United Reformed
Church minister in Whittlesford and Pampisford, two villages south
of Cambridge, I have charge of four churches. What is unusual is
that I am United Reformed Church minister to two congregations,
and also Priest-in-Charge of two parishes in a local ecumenical
partnership that dates back to 1988.
In one village, I take services at 8 and 9.30 a.m. in the
Anglican church, and then cross the village green to the URC church
for another, at 11.15. I am Churches Together in Whittlesford!
The ecumenical partnership was formed by a formal covenant
between the local churches, the Eastern synod of the URC, and the
diocese of Ely. The strength of this arrangement is that it allows
mutual recognition of the ministries of both Anglican and United
We have some shared services, but mostly each church worships
within its own tradition - although sometimes URC members will
come to services at the Anglican church, and vice versa. This
leaves me, a URC minister, whose forebears were ejected from the
Church of England, celebrating communion using the Book of
Common Prayer at least once a month. I have grown to love the
phrase which speaks of God "whose property is always to have
I don't feel I'm doing something different, whether I am
presiding at communion in one church or the other, even if the
practicalities are different. I am still a priest, and I am still
me. It helps that I wear the same vestments - a cassock, alb, and
stole - in both, but the congregation are not getting a
"compromise" service. I have no agenda to change people's minds
through the liturgy.
Liturgically, the two denominations have moved much closer
together since the 1960s and '70s. And most people in the
communities I serve don't really know - or care - which one I
represent. I'm just the local minister; so they know who to call
when they need help. This makes all sorts of sense locally - it is
better than having both an Anglican and a URC minister, who would
then each have to travel much further, to more villages, and be
less present in all of them. All my congregations are within a bike
We are one church theologically, if not
ecclesiologically. And to the outside world, our different
histories make very little sense.
We've come a long way since 1662, and I hope that what we are
doing in Cambridgeshire stands as an emblem of the degree of
reconciliation that has taken place. My feeling is that if a Great
Ejection were to take place now, it would be on very different
grounds than it was then. But, in Whittlesford and Pampisford, our
ecumenical vision echoes the prayer of Jesus: "That they may all be
one, that the world may believe. . ."