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A nonconformist is an English or Welsh Protestant of any non-Anglican denomination, chiefly advocating religious liberty.
The Act of Uniformity (1662) required episcopal ordination for all ministers. As a result, nearly 2,000 clergymen left the established church. The Test and Corporation Acts , which lasted until 1828, excluded all nonconformists from holding civil or military office. They were also prevented from being awarded degrees by the universities of Cambridge and Oxford.
Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, and those less organized, were those considered Non-Conformists at the time of the Act of Uniformity. Later, as other groups formed, they were also considered nonconformists. These included Methodists, Quakers, Unitarians, and members of the Salvation Army.
The term dissenter came into use, particularly after the Act of Toleration (1689), which exempted nonconformists who had taken the oaths of allegiance and supremacy from penalties for nonattendance at the services of the Church of England. For those ancient Non-Conformists from the 17th and 18th centuries, see English Dissenters.
The religious census of 1851 revealed that total nonconformist attendance was very close to that of Anglicans.
Nowadays, churches independent of the Anglican Church of England or the Presbyterian Church of Scotland are often called Free Churches.