Committee for Plundered Ministers
The Committee for Plundered Ministers was appointed by the Long Parliament, then under the influence of the Presbyterians, after the start of the English Civil War in August 1643 for the purpose of replacing and effectively silencing those clergy who were loyal to the King Charles I.
The Committee for Plundered Ministers met in London, but it delegated much of its work to its sub-committees of which there was one for each county. It was initially envisaged that the committee would help ministers who were evicted from their livings by Royalists for supporting the Parliamentary cause (hence the name). However, as Parliament gained the upper hand in the war, so the work of the committees became less to do with supporting clerics who supported their cause and more to do with suppressing those who supported the monarchy.
The committee would hear evidence, often from local parishioners, of the errors in doctrine of the parish priest. If the allegations were proved, the rector was replaced and his property forcibly sequestered, so that he could only recover it by buying it back. Local parishioners sometimes used the committee's activities as an opportunity to get rid of clergy they did not like.
The committee also acted as trustee, allocating money collected from rent of rectory lands to support priests in their roles throughout Britain.
These sequestrated clergy were described as "scandalous", which meant that either they supported the Royalist cause, or their theological attitudes were high Anglican, or both. Often the two went hand in hand because, in a religious age, some of the political differences about how the country should be governed were over the laws on how church affairs should be organised and the details of how services should be conducted.
An example of the worst sort of "scandalous" behaviour (from the point of view of Parliament and its supporters) was Griffith Williams, who at the start of the Civil War was Bishop of Ossory. He remained a committed Royalist throughout the war, writing pamphlets and preaching against Parliament. During the Interregnum he lived in poverty because of the sequestration that was imposed on his property. Although during this period powerful friends found him livings, he could not take them because he would not take an oath of allegiance to Parliament. He was finally restored to his bishopric after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.
- Archives in London and the M25 area Senate House Library, University of London Accessed 1 April 2008.
- Foster, William Edward, (Annotator (c. 1891)) The Plundered Ministers of Lincolnshire; Being Extracts from the Minutes of the Committee of Plundered Ministers, Guildford : Printed by Billing and Sons. different text formats, The Internet Archive