NONCONFORMIST, a term denoting historically (a) those persons who at the beginning of the 17th century refused to conform to certain practices, e.g. the wearing of the surplice, kneeling at the reception of the Sacrament, &c., of the Church of England; (b) those who, after the passing of the Act of Uniformity 1662, refused to conform to that act and ceased to be members of the church. In current usage the term" nonconformist " is applied in Great Britain to any member of a church not conforming to the ceremonies, worship and doctrines (" forms ") of the Church of England, but is generally used of a member of the so-called Free Churches, or Protestant Dissenters, and is not usually applied to Roman Catholics. The name can also be applied, in other countries, to those who do not belong to the established religion. Strictly a " dissenter " is one who dissents from the church as an " established " body, or who dissents from the establishment of a state church, while conforming or not to its forms, ceremonies or practice.
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