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uniformity act

Act of Uniformity 1662

The Act of Uniformity was an Act of the Parliament of England, 14 Charles II c. 4 (1662), which required the use of all the rites and ceremonies in the Book of Common Prayer in Church of England services. It also required episcopal ordination for all ministers. As a result, nearly 2,000 clergymen left the established church in what became known as the Great Ejection.

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.

The Act of Uniformity was an act of Parliament, prescribing the form of public prayers, administration of sacraments, and other rites of the Established Church of England. Its provisions were modified by the Act of Uniformity Amendment Act, of 1872.

It was enacted by Charles II, and reintroduced episcopal rule back into the Church of England after the Puritans had abolished many features of the Church during the Civil War. The Act of Uniformity itself is only one of four crucial pieces of legislation, known as the Clarendon Code, after Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, Charles' Lord Chancellor. They were:

  • Corporation Act (1661) - This first of the four statutes which made up the Clarendon Code required all municipal officials to take Anglican communion, formally reject the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643. The effect of this act was to exclude nonconformists from public office.
  • Act of Uniformity (1662) - This second statute made use of the Book of Common Prayer compulsory in religious service. Upwards of 2000 clergy refused to comply with this act, and were forced to resign their livings.
  • Conventicle Act (1664) - This act forbade conventicles (a meeting for unauthorized worship) of more than 5 people who were not members of the same household. The purpose was to prevent dissenting religious groups from meeting.
  • Five Mile Act (1665) - This final act of the Clarendon Code was aimed at Nonconformist ministers, who were forbidden from coming within five miles of incorporated towns or the place of their former livings. They were also forbidden to teach in schools. This act was not rescinded until 1812.

The Book of Common Prayer introduced by Charles was substantially the same as Elizabeth's version of 1559, itself based on Cranmer's earlier versions, and except for minor changes remains the official and permanent legal version of prayer authorised by Parliament and Church.

(The '16 Charles II c. 2' nomenclature is reference to the statute book of the numbered year of the reign of the named King in the stated chapter. This is the method used for Acts of Parliament from before 1962.)

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