Protestant Families: Anglican

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Protestant Families: Anglican

Began as a state issue and not a doctrinal issue, King Henry VIII “seceded” from Roman Papal authority, declaring himself as “Head of Church and State”. The Church of England would endure hardship at the hands of the Roman Catholic Mary Stuart or “Bloody Mary” as she was known, but eventually reformers like Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, compromiser Elizabeth I and eventually the Puritans, would bring about distinction for this branch of the visible church family tree. Most denominations trace their roots to this branch: Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, etc

(Henry VIII 1534 A.D.) The Christian church existed in England long before the Christian Church throughout civilization became known as the “Roman Catholic Church”. The patriarchal authors and apologists Origen and Tertullian write of a Christian contingency in the far isles of Breton. Bishops from these small churches managed to attend the councils of Arles and Rimini in 314 and 359 respectively. However, with the invasion of the pagan Germanic tribes – Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, much of this small Christian establishment was disbursed or lost altogether until a mission was sent from the Catholic church in 597. The Germanic Breton, soon to be called “England” or “Land of the Angles” would be part of the Catholic Empire until the English Reformation of the 16th century.

The churches of the Anglican Communion have their historical beginning when King Henry VIII (r. 1509-1547) wished to obtain a divorce from Anne Boleyn that the pope would not grant. Seizing upon the spirit of emancipation sparked by the boldness of Hus and Luther, the King of England would make an historic proclamation. Through the Act of Supremacy of 1534, the king made himself the “supreme head” of the Church of England in place of the Pope.

When Henry’s daughter, Mary Tudor, ascended the throne, she brought the English country back into the Roman Catholic fold. By this time there were many in England that opposed the idea of going back to papal authority and when they raised their voice in protest, many of them lost their lives. This internal martyrdom earned Queen Mary the title of “Bloody Mary”.

In 1558, Mary grew ill and eventually died. Henry’s other daughter (under Anne Boleyn) Elizabeth succeeded her and restored the Church of England as the official church for England, never to return to Catholicism.

The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 meaning the “English Church”. The liturgy of the Anglican church closely resembles that of Catholicism in that it is considered ‘high’ church or a church of orthodoxy. Today, there is a move within the Anglican church to modernize worship and interaction resulting in a greater appeal to a younger generation in the UK.

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I. The Buildup to Breakup With the Roman Catholic Church:

“Lutheranism began in a monastic cell, Calvinism at a scholar’s desk, Anabaptist at a prayer meeting, Anglicanism began in a palace.” – Bruce Shelley, Historian

The Church of England or “Anglican” Church had its beginnings as a “state” matter – a “constitutional” reformation by King Henry VIII. It was this King who garnered the title “Defender of the Faith” by Pope Leo X, a title still held by the English monarchy today. Henry received this title in 1521 for condemned the Reformer Martin Luther as a “poisonous serpent” and a “wolf from hell”

Henry gained succession to the throne in 1525 but his wife, Catherine of Aragon – daughter to
Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, had not borne him a male heir. Whereas Catherine had 5 children, all but one, Mary, died in infancy. Because of this, Henry believed himself to be under some sort of “curse from God” because Catherine was his dead brother’s wife – he based this belief on the Scripture from Leviticus 20:2.

In 1527 Henry asked Pope Clement VII to declare the marriage “invalid” based on the Leviticus in order to lift the curse. Clement refused as she was the aunt of Emperor Charles V who was largely responsible for Clement’s ascendency to the Popish throne. (This Charles V was the same one who referred to Luther as a “swine” at the Diet of Worms). Thomas Cranmer – an advisor to King Henry, suggested Henry present his case to European scholars which he used as a cover for his actions.
This was wise as there was a general rise in the belief of “state” churches which broke the yoke of Roman Catholic dominance.

This raised the issue of the authority of a King vs the authority of the Pope and his Roman Catholic Church who would refer to Henry VIII as a “most intolerable ruffian”. Henry desired to marry Anne Boleyn (Whom he would later execute for “adultery”) and in1533, Henry, the most intolerable ruffian married Anne Boleyn and had an English court declare his marriage to Catherine null and void. This infuriated Pope Clement who had Henry excommunicated thereafter.

Henry, in keeping with the spirit of the times, would not be intimidated by the attempted spiritual abuse of the Pope which had worked on kings countless times before. Henry struck back where it would hurt the Roman Catholic Church the most – in their pocket book! Ingeniously, he invoked a 14th century law prohibiting fraternisation with “foreign entities” – which was used to block/stop English clergy from dealing with Rome and from British tithes and offerings of finding their way into the deep clerical pockets of Rome. The air in England was for a national church, so very few citizens complained and in 1534 – Anglicana Ecclesia was proclaimed which declared the King to be the “supreme head” of the Church of England (not in England!)

II. Apple in The Tree – New Catholic Old Catholic

To be fair, The Church of England was in all respects, simply Roman Catholicism without Rome or the Pope. The Church of England would not experience true “reform” i.e. a return to a Scriptural basis for the church, for another 100+ years with the rise of the Puritans and the incorporation of a Bible in the English language. Henry wanted an “English” Catholic Church and not a “Roman” Catholic church and he did so by upholding the Statute of 6 Articles – defending the decidedly ungodly and unbiblical Catholic doctrines of clerical celibacy, the mass, and confessions to a priest. He also demanded that the Seven Sacraments were kept intact. (Defense of which is how Henry received his title from Leo in the first place.)

That being said, there were a few departures from Roman Catholicism in those early days of the denomination which gave the Church of England its distinctiveness:
    1. The King could appoint but not consecrate Bishops

    1. The King could defend but not formulate the Faith.

    1. Established Thomas Cranmer as the Archbishop of Canterbury – the supreme spiritual leader for all England. Despite a bit of waffling and tolerance of Roman Catholic traditions, Cranmer was truly a reformer at heart and was quite instrumental during and after Henry’s reign in establishing a break from Roman Catholicism. In 1536 King Henry released the “10 articles” (most likely written by Thomas Cranmer) which served as guidelines for the new Church of England and sought to “keep the peace” with those still loyal to Roman Catholicism:
      1. That Holy Scriptures and the three Creeds are the basis and summary of a true Christian faith: It is noteworthy that Cranmer was in agreement with many of the early groups which broke from the Western Church after the 4th Ecumenical Council – Coptic Christians, Church of the East, Oriental Orthodox etc.

      1. That baptism conveys remission of sins and the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, and is absolutely necessary as well for children as adults. (Art. II. says that ‘infants ought to be baptised;’ that, dying in infancy, they ‘shall undoubtedly be saved thereby, and else not;’ this opinion of Cranmer has no basis in Scripture whatsoever but was a carryover of high middle ages church superstition. Scripture clearly represents the doctrine of “baptism by volition” and never did we see a single child baptised in the Bible, much less an infant!

        1. He shared the Roman Catholic opinions that Anabaptists and Pelagians are ‘detestable heresies, and utterly condemned’. The practices of the pelagians would be suitably labeled a “heresy” as the doctrine seeks to undermine the sinful condition of man and asserts that man is “basically good” in which case the cross is of no purpose.

        1. However, the practices of the Anabaptists were condemned primarily because they refused to disobey Scripture and baptise their babies. They staunchly believed in baptism by volition and of a complete and total separation of church and state. Both of which wouldn’t have sat well with either King Henry VIII or with Thomas Cranmer

      1. That penance consists of contrition, confession, and reformation, and is necessary to salvation if followed with works of “charity”. This affirms the decidedly unbiblical sacrament of penance, with confession and absolution, which he declared ‘expedient and necessary’ of which this Roman Catholic tradition is neither expedient nor necessary and in fact, stands in contrast to ITim 1:7 which declares that there is only one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus and also Eph 2:8-9 which states that we are saved by grace through faith and that not of ourselves not by works lest any man should boast

      1. That the body and blood of Christ are really present in the elements of the eucharist. This affirms the substantial, real, corporal presence of Christ’s body and blood under the form of bread and wine in the eucharist otherwise known as “transubstantiation” – Luther continued to hold to a form of this whereas John Calvin got it right when he began to teach that the bread and wine is just a powerful and valuable symbol of Christ’s death on the cross and our perpetual need of His saving grace.

      1. That justification is remission of sin and reconciliation to God by the merits of Christ; but good works are necessary. Reinforces justification by faith+works, i.e. joined with charity and obedience which closely resembles the Roman Catholic position for justification. Again this goes against Ephesians 2:8-9

      1. That images are useful as remembrancers, but are not objects of worship. Continued the use of images in churches despite the clear command in Scripture from the Lord stating, “Thou shalt not create for thyself any graven images not of anything in heaven above nor on earth below, nor shall thou bow down to them”

      1. That saints are to be honored as examples of life, and as furthering our prayers. Carried on the disturbing practise of honoring dead saints and the Virgin Mary

      1. That saints may be invoked as intercessors, and their holydays observed. Carried on the disturbing practise of the invocation of saints – that is praying to dead men and women to provide certain things for us – albeit not salvation but other things in life. This is nothing less than the Roman Catholic practice of necromancy – speaking to the dead.

      1. That ceremonies are to be observed for the sake of their mystical signification, and as conducive to devotion. Maintained the observance of various rites & ceremonies as good and laudable, such as clerical vestment, sprinkling of holy water, bearing of candles on Candlemas-day, giving of ashes on Ash Wednesday – these practices are simply the traditions of men, the worst of which is the vestments separating “clergy” and “laity” which is an ungodly pagan practice in itself (which was the viewpoint of both Ulrich Zwingli and later, in greater emphasis by the Puritans). This practice was adopted by the high middle ages church (both east and west) and continued down through the centuries. Much of this is still observed even by Lutherans today.

      1. That prayers for the dead are good and useful, but the efficacy of papal pardon, and of soul-masses offered at certain localities, is negatived. Reaffirmed the doctrine of purgatory, and prayers for the dead in purgatory (although he made purgatory a non-essential doctrine)

    1. Henry suppressed the monasteries and their power via confiscating the vast wealth they held (c.f. Zwingli and the Swiss Reformation)

    1. Gave monks of closed monasteries the option of joining a larger cluster or joining secular life – most chose secular life.

  1. Commissioned the work for an English Bible

III. A Noble Work – Arriving at a truly English Bible.

Henry’s commission of an English Bible wasn’t the first attempt to translate the Scriptures into the English language. John Wycliffe, an early pre-reformer from Yorkshire, England put together an early version of the Bible in English in an effort to return the Scriptures (and the Christian faith) to the common person. This early reformer and his English Bible was despised by the Roman Catholic Church and so the Wycliffe Bible was declared illegal and anyone found in possession of an “illegal” copy was condemned to death, even by Henry!

William Tyndale – a Catholic priest who studied at Oxford and Cambridge – was powerfully influenced by
Wycliffe’s desire to get the Scriptures into the language of the common person in England and he was particularly interested Erasmus’ 1516 Greek translation Novum Instrumentum Omne (Erasmus’ translation would go through a few revisions and would eventually be called the “Textus Receptus”)

Unlike Henry, Tyndale was a true reformer who denounced many of the unscriptural practices of Roman and English Catholicism such as prayers to the saints, justification by works, and infant baptism. Tyndall amented the Scriptural ignorance of clergy and the lack of a “common language” translation. His staunch reformist attitudes were likely to get him executed in England, so he was forced to flee.

In 1525, Tyndale translated an entire New Testament from the Erasmus’ Novum Instrumentum and in 1526 began smuggling these early copies back into England. In Germany, Tyndale learned Hebrew and began to translate parts of the Old Testament while improving his New Testament in 1530, four years before Henry broke with Rome, Tyndale published The Practyse of Prelates which opposed Henry VIII’s
divorce from Catherine. While Tyndale was in prison, Miles Coverdale – published a complete translation of the Bible in English – largely based on Tyndale’s version, Latin, and German versions.

In 1536, Tyndale fell into Catholic custody under Henry VIII and was condemned to die. While facing his last breath on earth prior to his execution, William Tyndale uttered his famous line “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes!” In typical martyrdom at the hands of Roman Catholicism know around the world, Tyndale was then strangled and burned. The King of England’s eyes would eventually be opened but it would not be Henry’s eyes but that of James I who, nearly 70 years later, would commission what we know today as the “King James Bible”.

Prior to the monumental work of the King James Bible, there would be several earlier stages and attempts to arrive at an English translation. John Rogers “Matthew Bible” appeared a year after Tyndale died but understandably so, was sent out as an anonymous work to avoid persecution. Rogers might have been found out if it weren’t for the divorce meltdown and separation from Rome brought on by Henry VIII.

Henry’s commission of a Bible in English resulted in an early version called the Great Bible which was the “legal” Henry VIII accepted version resulting largely from the advice of Cranmer. The Great Bible was actually the Matthew Bible which had been revised using the Coverdale version…which was ultimately the William Tyndale Bible – so despite his murdering William Tyndale, King Henry would commission and condone the very Bible for which he had Tyndale put to death. However, Henry, being the non-reformer that he was, limited the reading of this “official” Bible to wealthy merchants and aristocrats only. The more things changed for the English Catholic Church – the more they stayed the same until…

IV. A Failed Attempt to Fell The Apple From The Tree:

Henry VIII died in 1547 at the ripe old age of 38 and was succeeded by his only son Edward VI. Edward was the son of Jane Seymour the wife who replaced Anne Boleyn after she died. Edward was 10 years old and his primary advisors, of which were Thomas Cranmer, Edmund Grindal and others, were protestant minded. Their influence brought about some delightfully major departures from the Roman Catholic church during Edward’s brief tenure as king (he died at age 16):
    1. The 6 articles upholding Catholic doctrine were repealed

    1. Priests were allowed to marry

    1. Latin mass was replaced by Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer: Contained Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Litany, Holy Communion, orders for Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, Prayers for the sick, and funerals

  1. In 1553, Cranmer produced the Forty-Two Articles defining the Christian faith for England from a protestant perspective – Truly one of the early, albeit short-lived, statements of reformed faith introduced (cf Augsburg Confession, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 12 articles etc)
Edward died in 1553 and his half-sister Mary (Bloody Mary) the Catholic ascended to the throne. She was the daughter of the rejected Catherine of Aragon.

This put the reformers, namely Thomas Cranmer on the hotseat because despite a Catholic Queen, Cranmer refused to deliver a “Catholic Mass” in the Canterbury Cathedral which resulted in his imprisonment for sedition. Cranmer was then forced to issue a letter of recant – fully declaring his loyalty to the Pope and condemning the heresies of the reformation. This he did to save his life as he expected to be absolved, however Bloody Mary demanded an example be made of him.

More recantations were demanded and given – renouncing Luther and Zwingli while declaring that no salvation outside the Roman Catholic church was possible – despite the recantations, Mary still proceeded with her execution plans. As a temporarily reinstated priest, Cranmer was to give his last sermon which was prepared for him by Marian authorities to declare all 6 recantations and a pre-written speech. He surprised all by recanting his recantations and declaring the Pope to be the antichrist – which he was and still is an antichrist – a “replacement” for Christ. Way to go Cranmer!

Not long after this, there would be troubles for Bloody Mary – In four years Mary sent over 300 protestants to their death including Cranmer. Edmund Grindal fled the country during this time due to his Puritan views of reform along with two other great reformers, John Knox and William Whittingham, fled her domain to arrive in Geneva under the care of John Calvin where they were permitted to worship as they were accustomed. These Marian fugitives learned from John Calvin and returned to England after Bloody Mary had died and Knox established the “Church of Scotland” which ultimately became the “Presbyterians” in colonial America. The first two offshoots of the Anglican family line.

Mary’s devotion to Rome upset most in England as they enjoyed their independence from the Pope and the ever-popular idea of a “state” church. Also, her marriage to Philip of Spain upset even more as it was looked upon as betrayal. By the grace of God, Mary died, childless, during an influenza outbreak in 1558 and was forced to accept Elizabeth, her Protestant half-sister, as legal successor to the throne.

VI. The Great Compromise: Keeping the Peace With Catholics in England

Queen Elizabeth I was a compromiser between Catholicism and Protestantism and a forerunner for many governments today who attempt to achieve similar religious compromises today. She changed her title from “Supreme Head” to “Supreme Governor” and accepted the Bible only as final authority and like the other reformers, accepted only two of the seven sacraments: Baptism and Eucharist. This was a tremendous leap beyond what Cranmer attempted in her father’s reign.
In 1563, she issued the 39 Articles which were worded to keep both sides: Protestant and Catholic content and in harmony: (Taken from Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church)
    1. Articles I–VIII: The Catholic faith: The first five articles articulate the Catholic credal statements concerning the nature of God, manifest in the Trinity.

    1. Articles VI and VII deal with scripture

    1. Article VIII discusses the essential creeds.

    1. Articles IX—XVIII: Personal religion: These articles dwell on the topics of sin, justification, and the eternal disposition of the soul. Of particular focus is the major Reformation topic of justification by faith. The Articles in this section and in the section on the Church plant Anglicanism in the “via media” of the debate, portraying an Economy of Salvation where good works are an outgrowth of faith and there is a role for the Church and for the sacraments.

    1. Articles XIX–XXXI: Corporate religion: This section focuses on the expression of faith in the public venue – the institutional church, the councils of the church, worship, ministry, and sacramental theology.

  1. Articles XXXII—XXXIX: Miscellaneous: These articles concern clerical celibacy, excommunication, traditions of the Church, etc.
Queen Elizabeth retained the doctrine of Apostolic Succession and much of existing Catholic liturgy and her approaches to religious strife were referred to as “Via Media” – The way of the middle. Many exiled reformers would return to England to practice Biblical Christianity without the threat of persecution. One of these groups returning from Marian exile railed against the “ease in Zion” of Elizabethan Anglicanism and sought to purify the church of its compromises with the pagan practices of Roman Catholicism. They were derogatorily referred to as “Puritans”, but it would be these Puritans who would bring about true and lasting reform to the Church of England.

VII. The English Reformation: Via Puritanical Reform

The Puritans received their name because they believed in purity of worship and purity of doctrine. They did not accept the Queen’s “settlement” and rightly disliked the “popish” ceremony given in the “Prayer Book” and as the Anabaptists felt toward Zwingli’s slow change from Catholicism in Zurich, Switzerland, the Puritans felt the Church of England did not reform near enough nor fast enough for their liking.

They were clearly influenced by and gained much of their theology from the Swiss Reformed Church but were critical of Zwingli and Calvin. They believed in autonomous gathered churches similar to a Presbyterian approach and not one of an over-arching ecclesiastical hierarchy that was being adopted from the Roman Catholics.

In 1575 the Puritan advisor to the boy king Edward VI and Marian refugee, Edmund Grindal was named Archbishop of Canterbury which was a boon to those seeking true reform and alarming to the compromisers seeking to “keep the peace” with Catholics. Grindal used (some might say ‘misused’) this position to reproach Queen Elisabeth making the point that God’s work over-ruled a mortal, even a great monarch. Also against Elizabeth’s wishes Grindal refused to suppress meetings of the clergy called ‘prophesyings’ where they debated the meanings of the scriptures. He was placed under house arrest (slap on the wrist) and although his position would be restored in 1582, he went blind and died in 1583.

Less than 20 years later, Queen Elisabeth died without leaving an heir and the throne would pass to James VI King of Scotland, son of Mary Queen of Scots. James VI of Scotland would become James I of England and in 1603, the Puritan leaders presented him with the Millenary Petition which outlined the many areas where the Puritans called for Anglican reform. This outlined their rejection of the following:
    1. Sign of the Cross during baptism – this is an odd Roman Catholic practice which carries more superstition with it than any truth. There is absolutely nothing Biblical about the making the sign of the cross other than satiating the fears, worries, and deprivation of the follower

    1. Confirmation – Again, there is nothing in Scripture speaking of a “confirmation” of any kind. This Roman Catholic-carryover tradition nullifies the word of God which calls for a genuine conversion among those who call on the name of the Lord.

    1. Infant baptism by lay people (specifically mid-wives etc) – They didn’t reject infant baptism altogether but just those conducted by “lay people”

    1. Use of the Ring in Marriage – This idea most likely grew out of the teaching of Zwingli that excessive arraignment and ornament was to be rejected (by the priests)

    1. Bowing at the name of Jesus

    1. Requirement of surplice and cap (fancy vestments – cf Zwingli)

  1. Multiple ecclesiastical positions and multiple pay for the same person.

One of the greatest political advances for the Puritans took place when one of their own was promoted to Lord Protector during the English Civil War. Cromwell would defeat King Charles I and go on to pursue the Roman Catholics in the country and confiscated much of their land. He spread a great deal of Puritan values across England during his reign. He would die in office in 1658 and England would revert back to its compromised semi-Catholic state, eventually persecuting the Puritans, many of whom fled the country to the New World: America.

VIII. Today’s Church of England

The Church of England is one of the last state-run churches along with Russian, Greek Orthodox, perhaps some strands of the Lutheran church in Germany and Reformed churches in Switzerland.

For the larger part, it has gone the way of Presbyterianism, Methodism, Lutherans, and most other mainline denominations of the earthly church (visible church) organisations. It has compromised its stand on Scripture and Biblical world view in order to appease and embrace the world view of secularism and naturalism. i.e. rejecting the biblical view of creation, sexual sin, marriage, etc.

However, like all other mainline denominations, each separate congregation is usually a direct reflection of the Vicar or Pastor who leads that congregation. If he is a Bible-believing Christian, you will hear the Scriptures taught faithfully and the Gospel passed down from the Apostles will be the one passed down to those who attend those services. In the Church of England, the position of the Vicar will usually be representative of the position of the Bishop of that particular diocese simply because a Vicar will only be hired based on consistent views of the Bishop who is doing the hiring.

If there is a God-fearing, born again Bishop, chances are the Vicars he hires for the churches in his diocese will generally represent the same views. Sadly, these Bishops are growing as scarce as Bible-believing Pastors are in the United States. The bottom line is, there are still those Vicars who love the Lord and teach faithfully from God’s word, but it might take going through a few Anglican churches to find one these days, the same can be said of Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and the rest.
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