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Short Anglican History

Ruthwell Cross, ca 680 AD

Table of Contents

1. The Church in Britain before Augustine
2. The Church in the West before Augustine
3. The Development of the Western Church
4. Movements Leading up to the Reformation
5. The Reformation in England
5.1 The Church in England under King Henry VIII
5.2 The Church in England under King Edward VI
5.3 The Church in England under Queen Mary
5.4 The Church in England under Queen Elizabeth I
5.5 The Church in England under King James I
5.6 The Church in England under King Charles I
5.7 The Commonwealth                                                               Pictured: Canterbury Cathedral
6. Anglicanism from 1662
6.1 James II and William III
6.2 The Eighteenth Century
6.3 The Evangelical Revival
6.4 The Oxford Movement

1. The Church in Britain before Augustine

Christians came to Britain from as early as 200 AD. Some were traders and others were Roman soldiers. The first British martyr was Alban. He was a soldier who was converted after caring for a priest who was being persecuted. He later allowed the priest to escape and was killed himself. The traditional date of his death was thought to be about 304 AD, in the time of the persecution under Diocletian, but recent research puts the date at 209 in the time of the Emperor Severus.

Although Augustine was the first Archbishop of Canterbury, a Celtic church had been in existence before Augustine arrived, and bishops from the church in Britain were present at the Council of Arles in 314.

In Ireland, especially, a strong intellectual life had been developing in monasteries. Patrick was sent as a missionary, probably from Britain, to Ireland in the early 5th century. This church that was outside the boundaries of the Roman Empire had developed in a different way to the western church and its strength was in the scattered monasteries that could be found in all the tribal centres. In the century or so after the Romans left Britain around 410, and the Anglo-Saxons held power, Irish missionaries took the gospel to Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Europe.

Thus a church which was mainly Celtic in culture and origin developed in Britain without the help of the church of Rome.

2. The Church in the West before Augustine

In 306, Constantius I, the Emperor of the Western part of the Roman Empire, died at York, in Britain. His son, Constantine, was proclaimed Emperor by the Roman army in Britain, and became Emperor of the European and British part of the Empire. In 312 he defeated his rival in the West, Maxentius, and became sole Emperor of the western part of the Roman Empire. He attributed this victory to the Christian God and made his soldiers wear the Chi Rho symbol on their shields. He and Licinius, the Emperor in the East, proclaimed toleration for both Christians and pagans. Constantine defeated Licinius in 324 and became sole Emperor of the whole empire.

Arianism and the Trinity

A dispute in Alexandria soon drew in the Emperor. This dispute arose because of a teacher in Alexandria called Arius. He tried to state a Christian doctrine of God in a way that Platonists could understand. He started with the idea that the supreme God is one and that therefore Christ could not be eternal in the same way as God. His saying was: "There was when he was not." Christ was not equal to the Father and had been created by the Father out of nothing, even though he was the highest of all God's creatures.

Many in Alexandria supported him, but not bishop Alexander. A council of bishops in Egypt condemned his teaching, so he appealed for help to his friend Eusebius the bishop of Nicomedia. The Emperor Constantine tried to stop this debate dividing the church and so causing trouble in the empire. He planned to call a Council of the church to Ancyra but the opponents of Arius called a meeting first at Antioch to choose a new bishop for that city and to condemn the teachings of Arius. The Emperor was angry and called a Council at which he would preside at Nicea, near his headquarters in Nicomedia.

At the Council in Nicea in 325 Constantine (probably at the suggestion of Bishop Hosius of Cordova) proposed the clause, that the Son was "of one substance" (homoousios) with the Father. The decision of the Council became the basis of the Nicene Creed which is a creed used by both the Western and Eastern churches. Although Arius was defeated, the teaching of Arianism did not die. Some of the Eastern bishops thought that homoousios was too much like the mistaken Monarchian teaching (the belief that stressed the unity of God, but denied the full divinity of the Son, and the Spirit).

Later a new Emperor, Theodosius, who did not agree with the Arians, called a Council in Constantinople in 381. The eventual outcome was to describe God as three hypostases (three persons) in one ousia (essence). Tertullian, a theologian from Carthage, had already suggested a Latin version: "three persons and one substance."

This Council finalised the creed we call the Nicene Creed. Around the same time in the Western church the Apostles' Creed was beginning to find its final shape (the Eastern church never used it).


The focus of theological debate then moved from Christ's relationship with God to the relation of his human and divine natures.

One way to understand this debate is to see how different theologies developed in two of the major centres of the Eastern church, Antioch and Alexandria.

Alexandrians, following Origen, stressed the distinctness of the three persons of the Trinity. But they did not want to further stress a distinctness in the person of Christ. At Antioch they stressed the oneness of the Godhead and were much more ready to talk about two separate natures of Christ, human and divine, an idea the Alexandrians thought was heretical.

A new Emperor called another Council, this time at Chalcedon, near Constantinople, in 451. At this Council the ideas of Leo, Bishop of Rome, were accepted. The extremes of both the Antiochenes and the Alexandrians were rejected. This Chalcedon definition has become the standard statement of orthodox belief in the Western church. Most of the Eastern church also accepted it, but some Eastern churches kept the teaching of Nestorius (from Antioch) and set up centres in Persia where their mission was highly successful until the arrival of Islam.

The Chalcedonian Definition

We, then, following the holy Fathers, and all in agreement, teach everyone to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [of the same essence or being] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial [of the same nature or substance] with us according to the Manhood; in all things like us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Bearer of God, according to the Manhood;

One and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, that are not confused, that are not changed, that are not divided, that are not separated; the distinction of natures is not taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature is preserved, and occurs together in one Person and one Being, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

A Latin Bible

In 382 Bishop Damasus, of Rome, persuaded his secretary Jerome to translate the whole bible into Latin. Just as Origen (185-254) had earlier produced a clear Greek text from a variety of sources, so Jerome edited a new Latin bible which became the bible for the western church for the next 1000 years. It is known as the Vulgate (meaning common).

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3. The Development of the Western Church

In 597 Augustine was sent by Pope Gregory I as a missionary to Britain from Rome. He established a mission in the south east and built a cathedral at Canterbury where he became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. Augustine's mission had great success with the Anglo-Saxon pagan kingdoms. The church became strong enough to be a centre of mission to central Europe.

It took some time for the the churches from the Celtic tradition and those from the Roman tradition to find a way to work together. In 663 a conference at Whitby resolved the disagreements. After this the church in England was under the authority of Rome.


In 774 the Roman Bishop Hadrian I made an agreement with the Frankish King Charles. This gave protection to the church against the Eastern emperor and the other European groups who were trying to gain control over Italy. Charles wanted to restore the glory of Rome. He rebuilt an empire that stretched far into northern Germany. In 800 Pope Leo III crowned him as the first Holy Roman Emperor. He was known as Charles the Great or Charlemagne. He built huge churches, and started a great programme of copying manuscripts. He tried to remodel society on Christian lines and reformed the church's liturgy.

The Split between East and West

Charlemagne was also at the centre of the great debate between the Eastern and Western churches which eventually led to them splitting. After the Council of Constantinople in 381 the text of the Nicene Creed said that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father. Augustine of Hippo influenced the western church to say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (the Latin word was filioque). In 589 the Spanish church added this to their version of the creed and then after 800 Charles used it in his private chapel. The Eastern church was angry at this addition to the creed. The Church of Rome added it to their version of the creed in the 11th century, and after negotiations between the bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople finally broke down, the Pope excommunicated the Patriarch in 1054. The split has continued to the present.

The Increase of Papal Power

An Italian named Hildebrand had worked for the papacy since the 1040s. In 1073 he became Pope Gregory VII. He began to build a new image and a new structure for the church in which the Pope and the church would be the ruler over all the kingdoms of the world. The claim to have sovereignty over the whole world was new. In the western church the bishop of Rome had gradually become the centre of power because there were no rivals. But now Gregory decided that he was not just the Vicar of St Peter but the Vicar (substitute) of Christ as well.

The Donation of Constantine was a forged document. It was alleged to have been written in 313 by the Emperor Constantine. It gave the bishop of Rome the highest position in the church and made him the ruler of the whole western Empire. This document was probably forged around the time of the creation of the Holy Roman Empire and was not shown to be a forgery until the Renaissance. But it strengthened the status and power of the papacy. Gregory VII twice excommunicated the Holy Roman Emperor over who should appoint bishops. From then on the Pope appointed bishops and gradually took authority to appoint all the clergy.

In the 12th century Thomas a Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered over a dispute concerning whether the King or the Pope had supreme authority over the church in England.


The church became more centralised, the parish system was developed and a process began to prevent all clergy from being married. In the past monks and higher clergy were generally not allowed to marry. At the second Lateran Council in 1139, all clergy were prevented from marrying, and the existing marriages were declared invalid.

The church extended its control also over the laity. Since the 9th century some had taught that marriage was a sacrament. In the 11th and 12th centuries this became established doctrine and so marriage was also brought under the control of the church.

The more power was centralised in Rome the larger the bureaucracy became. The 12th century was also the time when church law (Canon Law) was unified and systematised especially by the Italian monk Gratian. Bishops also developed their own bureaucracy, and Kings and Nobles often used these bishops and other clergy in their secular administration.


In the 12th and 13th centuries heretical movements attracted many followers. But the church also established schools attached to cathedrals some of which became universities. This was the time when universities began to be established in Europe. A new intellectual life began to flourish as a result of a new interest in the work of Aristotle. Aristotle's works were well known in the Jewish and Islamic world. But through contact with Islam these works came into the hands of Christians in the west and were translated into Latin. This sparked a huge interest in ancient writings. The intellectual discussions in the new university schools were centred on how to connect the use of reason with the truths revealed in the scriptures. This movement became known as scholasticism.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Thomas was born into a noble family in Aquino in Italy. He joined the Dominicans and studied in Italy and at the Universities of Cologne and Paris (the leading university of his day). He studied the works of Aristotle and urged that they all be translated into Latin. He helped the church work out what to do with Aristotle. He taught that reason and analysis did not replace faith and revelation, but helped to illustrate and even prove it to be true. He built on Aristotle's idea that every created thing must have a cause. He developed a system of describing things in terms of their cause and tracing everything back to God who is the first cause of all things. His great work is his Summa Theologiae. In it he discusses the being and nature of God as well as things to do with ordinary Christian life. His attempt to relate faith and reason has had lasting impact on Christian (especially Roman) theology, but even in his own day not everyone agreed.

Popes and Councils

In 1309 the Pope moved his headquarters to Avignon (under pressure from the French King). In 1377 Gregory XI moved back to Rome. In 1378 there were two Popes, both elected by the College of Cardinals. A Council in Pisa in 1409 tried to resolve the schism but this only resulted in there being a third Pope. Finally the matter was resolved at the Council of Constance in 1415, but the Papacy never regained its prestige or power and was never again taken seriously as the Ruler of the World, except, perhaps, in 1494 when Pope Alexander VI drew a line on a map to divide the New World of the Americas between Spain and Portugal.

After this some wanted a change in the way authority was exercised. They rejected idea the idea from Gregory VI that the Pope had ultimate authority. They said a General Council should be the highest authority. They were called Conciliarists. It was a General Council that ended the controversy of the three Popes in 1415. But in 1460 Pope Pius II (who had been elected by the Council) published a Bull forbidding appeals to a General Council. After this it was illegal to appeal to a General Council.

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4. Movements Leading up to the Reformation

Early in the 14th century new movements of thought challenged the church. One of these was called Nominalism. William of Okham challenged the kind of theory that Aquinas had been teaching. He claimed that universal concepts had no existence. So it was not possible to construct systems of thought by the use of reason. And it was therefore not possible to understand God by the use of reason. This meant that all the doctrines of the church had to be taken on faith. They could not be proved by reason. This scepticism had a big impact on the church, and although it was condemned by the church, the teaching found its way into the universities and had a long influence, including on the Reformers.

John Wyclif, from Oxford University, was one of the greatest philosophers of his day. He taught that the true church was spiritual and invisible and was made up only of the saved. He thought that the visible church, ruled over by Popes and bishops could not be the true church. He also taught that Christ had lived a life of poverty and the church was a purely spiritual body without any possessions. He thought authority in the church was based on the Bible, and that all the church's teachings and practice should be tested by scripture. That is why he wanted everyone to be able to read it. He also strongly opposed the doctrine of transubstantiation (the idea that during the Mass the substance of the bread and wine was changed into the actual flesh and blood of Christ). He was the first to translate the Bible into English, but in 1407 all the English versions of the Bible were banned. After his death in 1384 his followers, called Lollards (which means people who talk nonsense), continued to read his writings but were generally oppressed and were unable to develop his teaching any further.

In Bohemia, Jan Huss the Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Prague, was attracted to Wyclif's ideas. He spoke out for Reform of the church but was excommunicated by one of the three popes. He appealed to a General Council which met in Constance in 1415. It settled the problem of the popes but condemned Huss. He was burnt at the stake. A national uprising in Czechoslovakia followed his death. Some of his followers (Hussites) eventually settled in Moravia and became influential in England at the time of the Wesleys, in the 18th century.

Other reforms and changes were attempted in the later part of the 15th century. Savonarola in Florence tried to reform the lives of Christians and the church. He persuaded people to give up their wealth and to live simple lives. He was very popular for a time in Florence but eventually the Pope and the church was too strong and he was burnt as a heretic. In England William Tyndale translated the Bible into English in the early years of the 16th century.

William Tyndale

Tyndale was an Oxford scholar who was forced to flee to the Netherlands because of his beliefs. In 1525-6 he published his New Testament in English.

His English Bible became the basis for all future English translations of the Bible. Before his death about 16,000 copies of his English Bible had been smuggled into England.

He was killed in the Netherlands in 1536 by officials of the Holy Roman Emperor with the approval of the Bishop of London and Henry VIII.

In Italy humanism began to develop as scholars rejected the debates of the scholastics and began to seek understanding of human life through ancient literature. There was a new interest in the writings of ancient Greece and Rome. As a result of the spread of the Ottoman Empire many old manuscripts found their way from places in the East such as Constantinople (Istanbul) to Europe, carried by refugees. Scholars gathered ancient texts and published new editions of them. This movement became known as the Renaissance. Printing presses were developed in the 15th century and new ideas began to spread.

In northern Europe a new movement called Devotio Moderna began to transform the lives of Christians. The aim was a simple life full of prayer and acts of worship. New monastic communities were founded. Erasmus, a Dutchman, was an Augustinian monk who had been influenced by the Devotio Moderna. He did not like the life of a monk and instead was able to become an editor of texts. He turned to theology, learned Greek and then produced new editions of the early Latin and Greek Fathers and, in 1516, a new edition of the Greek New Testament. This made a big impact on the way Christians understood their faith because it gave them a different understanding of the text of the New Testament. Before that time people read the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible, translated by Jerome in the 4th century. It was Erasmus' Greek New Testament which was the crucial bible in the hands of the reformers.

In 1517 Martin Luther, a German monk, challenged the church of Germany and eventually the Pope about many of the abuses that had developed in the church, for example the sale of indulgences.

Many of these abuses were based on the idea that people had to do good works to be saved, or that the merits of a holy person could be added to their own good works.

One of the most important issues in the Reformation was how people were justified by God. Luther said that the clear message of the Bible was that justification was by faith alone.

Luther translated the Bible into German so that German Christians could read it in their own language instead of Latin.


In 395 Augustine became bishop of Hippo in North Africa. His writings about the church and about salvation have been important ever since. In 1490 a Swiss printer began to print a new edition of Augustine's works (it took 16 years to complete). A new study of Augustine influenced many in the church. Martin Luther was one of them.

Luther was a monk in the Augustinian order and a lecturer in theology at the University of Wittenberg. His lectures on Psalms and Romans led him to a new understanding of justification by faith. In 1517 he nailed 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, inviting others to debate matters which he thought should be changed in the church.

Luther's protest was not only about abuses in the church. He was driven by the great idea that people were justified by God through faith because of God's grace. He had learned this idea from Augustine and the Bible.

Luther was later excommunicated by the Pope. Many Germans and others followed Luther and a movement of reform spread across northern Europe.

Luther and some of the secular leaders of Germany issued a Protestation in 1529 affirming their reforming beliefs. From then on they were called 'Protestants'.

Luther did not reform everything in the old church. He was not worried by images. He thought transubstantiation was wrong, but believed in a real spiritual presence of Christ in the Communion (a view that was different to that of Calvin, Cranmer and Zwingli). He thought clergy should be permitted to marry.

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5. The Reformation in England

In England there had been various attempts at reform. In the 14th century John Wyclif was the first to translate the Bible into English but was opposed by the authorities. His followers, called Lollards, were persecuted but they kept alive the hope of reform. It was not until the time of Henry VIII that the opportunity came for reform to begin.

5.1 The Church in England under King Henry VIII

Henry VIII became king of England in 1509. In 1502 his older brother, Arthur, had died. Their father Henry VII decided that Henry should marry Arthur's widow, Catherine of Aragon. Henry and others thought this was prohibited by Leviticus 18 and 20. But the Pope gave permission and they were married after Henry VIII became king. By 1514 he had produced no child, and he asked the Pope for an annulment. Mary was born in 1516. But by the mid 1520s he still had no son. He began to think God was judging him.

Henry began to look for a way to end his marriage to Catherine. (He was already in love with Anne Boleyn.) He employed teams of scholars to find good biblical reasons why his marriage to Catherine should be ended. One of these scholars was Thomas Cranmer, a graduate of Cambridge University. From 1527 Thomas visited Universities in Europe and some of the European reformers to seek their help.

The Pope refused to annul the marriage.

One of the ideas the scholars had was that the King should be the supreme head of the Church in England and not the Pope. Before this time Henry had been loyal to the church of Rome. In 1521 he had published an essay against Luther about the Seven Sacraments. Because of this the Pope gave him the title 'Defender of the Faith'.

In 1533 Thomas Cranmer was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. That same year Parliament passed an Act that prevented English people from appealing to the Pope for a legal or church decision. This was partly meant to stop Catherine of Aragon appealing against her divorce. In May the marriage was annulled by Archbishop Cranmer. The King had already married Anne Boleyn who was pregnant at the time. She was crowned Queen at the end of May.

In 1534 Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy which declared that the King was the supreme head of the Church of England.

From then on the King and the Archbishop began to reform the church. For the next seven years they were helped by Thomas Cromwell, who became the most powerful man in the kingdom after the King. The King did not want too much theological reform and always tried to balance the evangelical and traditionalist forces.

The main reforms during Henry's reign were:

Service in English. In 1544 the Litany was the first service to use English. Before that all services were in Latin, which most people didn't understand. Later all the other services also used English.

Bible in English. In 1537 the government ordered that there should be a Latin Bible and an English Bible in every parish church. In 1539 the Great Bible was published in English. It was probably edited by Miles Coverdale and based on earlier translations including that of William Tyndale.

Removal of images. Orders were given in Henry's time for the destruction of all images and shrines in churches. This was connected to a new way of numbering the Ten Commandments. Before the Reformation the commandment about images was part of the first commandment and was not considered very important. Now it was seen as a commandment of its own.

Monasteries. In the mid 1530s the monasteries were closed and their property was taken by the government.

Theological. The main theological change concerned justification by faith. Unfortunately Henry did not follow Cranmer and the other reformers. He thought that the idea of faith alone undermined morality. He thought it removed the value of good works and so endangered the peace of the kingdom.

Communion. The other big theological debate was about the Mass. The Roman doctrine of transubstantiation taught that during the Mass the substance of the bread and wine was changed into the actual flesh and blood of Christ. During Henry's reign Cranmer said this was not so. He was opposed to the idea that Christ was sacrificed again each time there was a mass. He was also against the idea that these sacrifices could help people who had died. Instead Cranmer believed in the real presence of Christ in the Communion, a view similar to Luther's. (He meant that the body and blood of Christ was truly present in the Lord's Supper but that the bread and wine were not changed). Later he changed his mind again and taught that Christ's body is in heaven and that Christ is received and eaten only in the heart by faith.

Henry died in 1547.

5.2 The Church of England under King Edward VI

Edward became King when he was nine years old. He was the son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, Henry's third wife. Jane died two weeks after Edward was born. The government was controlled by a Council, headed by Jane's brother Edward, who ruled for the young King. King Edward died of tuberculosis when he was 16 years old in 1553. The King and the Council tried to stop Henry VIII's daughter Mary from becoming Queen, so they decided that Lady Jane Grey (the daughter of Henry VIII's sister Mary) would be the next Queen. But Mary had more support. Jane was Queen for only nine days and was executed a few months later at the age of 17.

Edward was a Protestant king and under his rule Cranmer and others were able to continue the reform of the English Church.

The major development in this time was the appearance of a fully English Prayer Book. The First Prayer Book of 1549 removed many of the bad parts of the old services. It brought together all the services in one book. This Prayer Book was authorised for use in every church, so that throughout England every parish had the same services.

In 1550 the King ordered the removal of all the stone altars in English churches. They were replaced by wooden tables (because the Reformers said that the Communion was a supper not a sacrifice).

The Prayer Book of 1552 included many more reforms. The Holy Communion service was changed to represent a more reformed liturgy. Cranmer wanted to avoid ideas about the real presence of Christ in the sacrament. The words of administration no longer said that the bread and wine should 'preserve their bodies and souls to eternal life'. Rather they were to 'take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for you and feed on him in your heart by faith with thanksgiving.'

The 1552 Prayer Book also brought to an end the practice of praying for the dead. This also brought to an end any idea of having Masses for the dead.

For many years Cranmer and others had been preparing a statement of faith. This took the form of 42 Articles which stated the main ideas that the Church of England believed. They were issued at the end of Edward's reign and later became the basis for the Thirty-Nine Articles.


Huldrych Zwingli read Erasmus' Greek New Testament in 1516 and his thinking began to change. He saw that the church of his day was different to the church described in the New Testament. Zwingli became a preacher in Zurich (in Switzerland) in 1518.

His two main contributions to the Reformation were his ideas about the Lord's Supper and his teaching about the covenant.

Zwingli said that the bread and wine in the Communion were symbols that were meant to remind us about Christ's death. He did not agree with Luther's view. However other reformers such as Bullinger (who followed him in Zurich), Calvin and Cranmer expressed their theology differently to Zwingli.

Zwingli's idea of the covenant was developed further by other reformers. It helped provide a theory for infant baptism, a basis for moral behaviour and a way of relating the politics of a state to the Bible. His idea was that some of the covenants God made with humanity were conditional (laws were to be obeyed) and some were unconditional (God's grace was given without conditions). The covenants were also made with a group, eg a nation or a tribe. So all the people in that group were under the covenant. They benefited from it and had to obey it.

5.3 The Church of England under Queen Mary

Mary was the daughter of Henry VIII by Catherine of Aragon. Catherine was Henry's first wife and the person at the centre of the break with Rome. Mary was a strong supporter of the authority of the Pope, and quickly began to restore the old religion and its practices to England. Some of the leading reformers were executed, including Bishops Ridley and Latimer, in 1554. They were two of the outspoken leaders of the reformation under Edward VI. Cranmer was burnt at the stake in March 1556. Nearly 300 others were executed in her five year reign.

The mass in Latin was restored and stone altars were built again. Mary replaced the reformed bishops with others who were loyal to the Pope. She reinstated celibacy for the clergy (Parliament had made clergy marriages possible in 1549). She was married to Philip II of Spain but did not have a child. She died in 1558.

The Council of Trent

This famous Council met in three sessions, 1545-1547; 1551-1552; 1562-1563, in Trent, a little town in North Italy, although the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V wanted it to be held in Germany, and the King of France did not really want it to be held at all. No French Bishops attended, and the Council was dominated by Italian bishops, although in fact the Popes held the real power. Despite the Emperor's hope, the Council rejected any compromise with the Reformation churches. Some of the statements of the Council were responses to particular statements of the Reformed Confessions. The Council's decisions strengthened the traditional Roman doctrines, although they did tidy up many of the abuses of their system.

5.4 The Church of England under Queen Elizabeth I

Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. She became Queen when she was 25 years old. She was very well educated and pious, and read the New Testament in Greek every day.

Elizabeth restored the reforms established by Edward VI. In 1559 she brought back the Prayer Book of 1552 with only small changes. She decided that the Church of England would be a reformed church, but she made sure that it developed in a way that was different to the Lutheran and Reformed churches. She kept the three ordained orders of ministry, ie bishop, priest and deacon. These decisions are known as the '1559 Settlement', or the 'Elizabethan Settlement'.

Those loyal to the Church of Rome no longer used Latin or the Mass, the monasteries and other religious organisations were closed. Mary had made laws that the clergy should be celibate. Elizabeth again allowed clergy to marry.

In 1563 the 42 Articles were issued as the 39 Articles (see Articles of Religion).

In 1570 there were political troubles connected with Roman sympathisers. These were put down but after this there was no strong move in the other direction towards the Reformed churches. This disappointed many of the Protestants who believed that there was much more to do to finish the reformation of the church.

A group developed who wanted to continue to reform the church. Some wanted to change the episcopal form of government for a Presbyterian form (rule by elders). They disliked too much liturgy and thought that there should be more preaching. They called themselves the 'godly' but others called them Puritans. But Elizabeth resisted all deviation from her 1559 Settlement.

Towards the end of her reign Richard Hooker developed arguments to support the Elizabethan settlement. The first part of his 'Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity' was published in 1593. His arguments followed a middle way between the Puritans and the Papists. He put a new emphasis on the sacraments instead of preaching.

Some Puritans said the New Testament taught that the church should be governed in a Presbyterian way. The Archbishop of Canterbury at the time (Whitgift) said that bishops were appropriate for England but were not the only way a church could be led. Lancelot Andrewes and others began to teach that it was God's intention that bishops were a necessary part of church structure. No other reformed church has said that bishops were essential to the church.

In the 1590's under the influence of Hooker and Andrewes the idea developed that the reformation had happened somewhere else and not in England. They claimed that Protestant ideas in the Prayer Book of the Church of England were due to foreign interference. This new group wanted to emphasise the idea that the Church of England was conforming to the old church but with some changes. It tried to play down the significance of the reformation in England. These ideas became very influential in later times.

Elizabeth also encouraged the musical and devotional life of the Cathedrals. This allowed a liturgical grandeur to develop which helped the new group to claim a continuity with the early church (although they used Cranmer's reformed Prayer Book).


Jean Calvin was a Frenchman who fled from persecution in Paris to Basel where he wrote the first edition of his famous 'Institutes of the Christian Religion' in 1536. That year he went to Geneva where he was asked to become a teacher in the church. He was asked to leave in 1538 and went to Strassburg.

In 1541 he was invited back to Geneva. As well as his 'Institutes', revised in 1559 just before his death, Calvin is also known for his preaching and exposition of scripture.

In Geneva he was able to work out a new structure for the church. He said the New Testament had four functions of ministers: pastors, teachers, elders and deacons. The pastors and teachers together formed a Company of Pastors. The elders were responsible for the discipline of the church.

This became the basis for the structure of other reformed churches.

5.5 The Church of England under King James I

In 1603 James VI of Scotland became James I of England and ruled over both kingdoms. The Church of Scotland was very reformed. The English Puritans hoped for change when James became King. He called a conference at Hampton Court in 1604 but almost none of the Puritans' requests was granted except for a new Bible. The Authorised Version of the Bible (also known as the King James version) was published in 1611.

One group that grew in influence during James' reign was later named Arminians. These were not related to the followers of the Dutchman Arminius. They were an English group that wanted more ceremonial worship, more use of the sacraments, and had a high view of the calling of ordination.

James kept a balance between this group and the Puritan and reformed groups. Overall he affirmed reformed theology.

5.6 The Church of England under King Charles I

Charles I became King in 1625. Together with William Laud, who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633, Charles tried to restore some of the pre-reformation practices but within the structure of the Church of England. He said that the Communion Table should be regarded as an altar and that people had to kneel to receive Holy Communion. He tried to restrain reformed preaching. In 1637 he tried to impose an English Prayer Book on Scotland. This Prayer Book allowed people to think that the real presence of Christ was in the Holy Communion.

Not everyone was happy with Charles' policies. In fact there was strong opposition. In 1640 a hostile parliament was elected. Laud was sent to the Tower of London and was executed in 1644.

In 1642 civil war broke out in Ireland and spread to England and Scotland. Parliament debated a new form for the Church of England. Some wanted to replace bishops with a Presbyterian form of government. In 1643 Parliament called a synod to reform the Church of England. It met at Westminster and is known as the Westminster Assembly. It produced the Westminster Confession in 1646. This was a reformed and Calvinist document and has had an important place in the Church of Scotland.

In 1646 the King was defeated in wars between his supporters and Parliament. He was executed in 1649.

5.7 The Commonwealth

Oliver Cromwell was one of the leading Generals in the army. He became the ruler of England and called himself 'Lord Protector'. In his time Puritan and Presbyterian forms of church life developed.

He was a good soldier but a poor politician and had to rule with the help of the army which the people hated. His attempts to rule Ireland and Scotland were strongly resisted.

He died in 1658. No one was able to maintain his strong leadership and two years later the army decided to restore the old monarchy. They brought back the exiled King Charles II who was restored to the throne in 1660.

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6. Anglicanism from 1662

In 1662 Cranmer's Prayer Book and the old Church of England episcopal system was restored. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer was a revised version of the 1552 and 1559 Prayer Books. The Act of Uniformity of 1662 resulted in 3000 clergy and laity leaving the Church of England. These 'Dissenters' wanted a more reformed Church. The Church of England had moved further into the middle between the Reformed churches and the Church of Rome.

6.1 James II and William III

James II, the brother of Charles II, became King in 1685. He was strongly popish and neither Anglicans nor Catharist Dissenters supported him when, in 1688, William III (William of Orange) and Queen Mary replaced him.

William was a strong Protestant. In 1689 the Toleration Act was passed which allowed dissenters to worship independently from the Church of England. This was a most significant development. From then on different kinds of Christian churches could develop side by side in England.

6.2 The Eighteenth Century

In the 18th century the moral and spiritual life of England declined. New religious societies were started to help improve the life of the church and the nation. Pietism, a movement from Europe, introduced an emphasis on emotions and personal experience.

New intellectual movements rose from the work of philosophers such as Newton, Locke, Pascal and Descartes. They questioned accepted beliefs and put forward a new method of establishing truth. This new method was based on reason and questioning. This period of intellectual change is known as the Enlightenment.

The Industrial Revolution changed the nature of society as factories were built and people moved to the cities looking for work.

6.3 The Evangelical Revival

An evangelical revival led by John and Charles Wesley and George Whitfield also changed England. This revival led to the beginnings of the Methodist church. It also encouraged many powerful evangelical leaders to act against the slave trade and to start schools. Missionary Societies were formed including the Church Missionary Society in 1799 and the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804.

The Church of England also joined in the missionary movement of the 19th century. Missionaries were sent to all parts of the world - wherever European colonial expansion allowed them. Many new national churches have resulted from this missionary movement.

6.4.The Oxford Movement

In the 19th century some in the Church of England tried to improve the national life by bringing the church back to her ancient roots. A group of clergy began writing tracts to challenge the nation. This group became known as Tractarians. They also wanted to bring back some of the liturgical practices that had been changed at the Reformation. This has become known as the Oxford Movement. Many of the modern practices of Anglicanism restored from old liturgy and doctrines of the early English church were owing to this movement.

Copyright © Dale Appleby 2005
All Saints' Jakarta

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