Church Act

November 30, 1706

According to its provisions, the act allowed dissenters to practice their faiths and participate in politics but they were denied public support for their churches or the right to perform marriages.

(1706) Enacted on November 30, 1706, this statute established the Church of England as the official, tax-supported church of South Carolina, a privileged status it would retain for seven decades. During the first decade of the eighteenth century, English Anglicans undertook a bitter campaign to exclude non- Anglicans, or “dissenters,” from public office in England. Lord Granville, the senior proprietor of Carolina, played a leading role in the persecutions, which inevitably spilled across the Atlantic to South Carolina. With Granville’s backing, South Carolina Anglicans seized control of the Commons House of Assembly from local dissenters in 1704. Two years later the assembly passed the Church Act. According to its provisions, the act allowed dissenters to practice their faiths and participate in politics but they were denied public support for their churches or the right to perform marriages.

The act divided the province into ten parishes and required the allocation of land for Anglican churches, cemeteries, messuages (parsonages), and glebes (agricultural plots belonging to parish churches). Buildings and “suitable outbuildings” were to be erected at public expense where they did not already exist, and Anglican-approved rectors, or ministers, were to be employed by the province. Each parish was to choose seven vestrymen, whose job it was to administer the parish; to record births, deaths, and marriages; and to appoint a clerk and sexton to serve the church. All parishioners were required to conform to the rites of the Church of England via the Book of Common Prayer, while officeholders were compelled to affirm their faith and to take parliamentary oaths of allegiance and supremacy.

From 1716 until the end of the colonial period, parish vestries were the only local government in the province. In 1778, during the Revolutionary War, the General Assembly disestablished the Church of England in South Carolina.

Bolton, S. Charles. Southern Anglicanism: The Church of England in Colonial South Carolina. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1982.

Dalcho, Frederick. An Historical Account of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South-Carolina. 1820. Reprint, New York: Arno, 1972.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Church Act
  • Coverage November 30, 1706
  • Author
  • Keywords exclude, Anglicans, Church of England
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date October 2, 2022
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update July 20, 2022
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