Sancroft and eight bishops would not belie their belief in the doctrines of divine right and passive obedience by swearing allegiance to William and Mary, and the archbishop, five bishops and over 400 clergy were deprived. Certain of these nonjuring bishops consecrated others and a schism ensued. The loss to the church was heavy; for among the nonjurors were many men of holy lives and eminent learning, and the fact that some suffered for conscience sake seemed a reproach on the rest of the clergy.
After 1715 the secession became unimportant. Protestantism was secured from further royal attack by the Bill of Rights; and in 1701 the Act of Succession provided that all future sovereigns should be members of the Church of England. That the king's title rested on a parliamentary decision was destructive of the clerical theory of divine right, and encouraged Erastianism, then specially dangerous to the church; for William, a Dutch Presbyterian, gave bishoprics to men personally worthy, but more desirous of union with other Protestant bodies than jealous for the principles of their own church. A bill for union was rejected in the Commons, where the church party had a majority, though one for toleration of Protestant dissenters became law. William, anxious for concessions to dissenters, appointed a committee of convocation for altering the liturgy, canons and ecclesiastical courts, but the Tory party in the lower house of convocation was strong and the scheme was abortive. A long controversy began between the two houses: the bishops were mostly Whigs with latitudinarian tendencies, the lower clergy Tories and high churchmen. During most of the reign convocation was suspended and the church was governed by royal injunctions, a system injurious to its welfare. It had been the bulwark of the nation against Romanism under James II, and the affection of the nation enabled it to preserve its distinctive character amid dangers of an. opposite kind under William III.
Its religious life was active; associations for worship and the reformation of manners led to more frequent services, the establishment of schools for poor children, and the foundation of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (S.P.C.K.) and for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (S.P.G.). This activity and the discord between the two houses of convocation continued during Anne's reign. Anne was a strong churchwoman, and under her the church reached its highest point of popularity and influence. Its supposed interests were used by the Tories for political ends. Hence the Occasional Conformity Act, to prevent evasion of the Test Act, and a tyrannical Schism Act, both repealed in 1718, belong rather to the history of parties than to that of the church. So, too, does the case of Dr Sacheverell, who was prosecuted for a violently Tory sermon. His trial, in 1710, caused much excitement; mobs shouted for 'High Church and Dr Sacheverell', and the lightness of his sentence was hailed as a Tory victory. Queen Anne is gratefully remembered by the church for her Bounty, which gave it the first-fruits and tenths (see Annates and Queen Anne's Bounty).
This text forms part of the History of the Church of England originally part of the entry ENGLAND, CHURCH OF from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the content of which lies within the public domain.