What is a Dissenter?

John Wesley was born in 1703 in Epworth, 23 miles (37 km) north-west of Lincoln, as the fifteenth child ofSamuel Wesley and his wife Susanna Wesley (née Annesley). Samuel Wesley was a graduate of the University of Oxford and a poet who, since 1696, had been rector of Epworth. He had married Susanna, the twenty-fifth child of Samuel Annesley, a Dissenting minister, in 1689. Ultimately, she bore him nineteen children, of which nine lived beyond infancy. She and Samuel Wesley had both become members of the Church of England as young adults.

Note: Both Susannah and Samuel Wesley were raised in the homes of Dissenting families; their fathers were both dissenting ministers. Throughout Wesley’s life, Methodists were accused of being a dissenting church, were encouraged to leave the Church of England and form a dissenting church, and finally became separate – a dissenting church – after Wesley’s death. Dissenters were Protestants, often Puritans, who for their religious beliefs practiced their faith separate from the Church of England. In order to prevent dissenters from gaining political power, as they had during the English Revolution, English law discriminated against dissenters and in many ways inhibited the welfare of dissenting congregations. To understand Wesley’s desire to remain within the Church of England, and why this benefited the revival, it’s important to understand the dissenting churches. Dissenters were also known as Nonconformists.

The term dissenter (from the Latin dissentire, “to disagree”), labels one who disagrees in matters of opinion, belief, etc. In the social and religious history of England and Wales, and, by extension, Ireland, however, it refers particularly to a member of a religious body who has, for one reason or another, separated from the Established Church or any other kind of Protestant who refuses to recognise the supremacy of the Established Church in areas where the established Church is or was Anglican.[1][2]

Originally, the term included English and Welsh Roman Catholics[1] whom the original draft of the Nonconformist Relief Act 1779 styled “Protesting Catholic Dissenters.” In practice, however, it designates Protestant Dissenters referred to in sec. ii. of the Act of Toleration of 1689 (see English Dissenters.)

English Dissenters were Christians who separated from the Church of England in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.[1]

They originally agitated for a wide-reaching Protestant Reformation of the Established Church, and triumphed briefly under Oliver Cromwell.

King James I of England, VI of Scotland had said “no bishop, no king”;[2] Cromwell capitalised on that phrase, abolishing both upon founding the Commonwealth of England. After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the episcopacy was reinstalled and the rights of the Dissenters were limited: the Act of Uniformity 1662 required Anglican ordination for all clergy, and many instead withdrew from the state church. These ministers and their followers came to be known as Nonconformists, though originally this term referred to refusal to use certain vestments and ceremonies of the Church of England, rather than separation from it.

Dissenters opposed state interference in religious matters, and founded their own churches, educational establishments,[3] and communities; some emigrated to the New World.

Dissenters were also known as Nonconformists.


This post is provides material from Wikipedia with links to articles and information on English History which forms the background for the development of Methodism. While it is lightly edited, the source is Wikipedia unless noted below. Links above are recognized by blue underlined text and lead to other articles. The major article(s) quoted here are:



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