Challenges to the authority of the
The Church of England under Archbishop Laud was, however, a high
church jealous of its power, and keen to root out any such challenges
to its authority. Although puritan activity was less in Wales,
there were prosecutions and cases of incumbents deprived of their
living. The period of the Commonwealth which followed the execution
of Charles I was an opportunity for Puritans in Wales to shape
the established church to their beliefs. In 1650 an Act for
the Better Propagation and Preaching of the Gospel in Wales
was passed by a parliament more sympathetic to puritan sentiments.
Many Anglican clergy, fearful of what was to follow, left their
parishes. 278 were ejected from their livings by Commissioners
appointed under the terms of the Act.
Scourge of the clergy
One of men appointed as an Approver to advise the Commissioners
was Vavasor Powell of Knucklas in Radnorshire,
a well known Puritan, and pastor of Newtown once parliament was
in control. He was a great scourge of the clergy in Radnorshire,
removing many from their livings and appointing itinerant preachers.
This itinerant ministry for a while left many parishes with no
local clergy at all, until a more stable pattern was established
with carefully vetted preachers occupying parish positions.
This was a genuine attempt to create a dedicated clergy active
among their parishioners, but the ejected clergy and many of
the gentry from whom they were drawn were affronted by this challenge
to their class, and outraged at the struggles of the displaced
clergy to live on the irregular payments given to them. They
were worried, too, about the free dissemination of tracts which
had been banned under the previous Anglican control. Free discussion
and publication meant that new sects were being formed and that
Puritanism was fragmenting.
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