1662 — a defining moment
No fundamentally new issues arose in 1662, but old ones were crystallised and the identities of Nonconformity and Anglicanism defined. This was the message of the papers given at a well attended conference on ‘1662 and Nonconformity’, at the Evangelical Library on 27 March.
Dr Garry Williams gave an incisive analysis of the issues behind the ‘Great Ejection’, when 2000 Puritan ministers were deprived of their Anglican livings.
He examined puritan views on liberty, the puritan ‘experiment’ and why it went wrong, and why the Presbyterians acted as they did in 1660. He outlined the provisions of the Clarendon Code and concluded that its hard-line attitude — motivated partly by revenge for years of puritan ascendancy — put a punitive stumbling block in the way of gospel men
Gary Brady sketched the effects of the Ejection in general — 85 per cent of those ejected were university educated, mostly at Cambridge; 87 ministers were graduates of Emmanuel College alone.
He looked at three ejected men — Thomas Manton, Joseph Alleine and Philip Henry. All Presbyterians, they represented this group in its spirituality, strength of conviction and willingness to suffer for the sake of conscience.
Dr Robert Oliver concluded the papers with a concise summary of the Restoration period, leading up to the Toleration Act of 1689. The outcome of this fascinating and turbulent period was that Nonconformists were second class citizens until the nineteenth century.
There followed a panel discussion with questions. What relevance does 1662 have for relationships between Nonconformists and Anglicans today? What is the importance of conscience and how may we educate it? How should Christians relate to the state when restrictions on freedoms increase?
The issues behind the Great Ejection are not outdated. They arise whenever believers try to worship God according to conscience and answer the question: ‘What kind of church should we have?’ (Recordings can be obtained from the Evangelical Library, 0208 362 0868.)