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Anglican Roots : Movement 4

The Missionary Societies

Thomas Bray, founder of SPCK and the SPGWe heard earlier on how the Bishops of the Church of England, and principally the Bishop of London, managed church life in the colonies through the work of commissaries. The most famous, able, and influential of these commissaries was a Shropshire Boy, Thomas Bray, who was born in 1658. A bright boy from a boy family, Bray went to Oxford, became a school master and then was ordained, being presented to a series of livings by lay patrons who heard him preach and were impressed by his learning and good sense. By 1690 he was Rector of Sheldon in Warwickshire.

Bray took his legal responsibilities seriously, especially that laid down in the 59th Canon of the CofE’s Canon Law: the young of the parish were to be catechetized on Sunday afternoons. Bray realised that teaching the faith required resourcing, and so published his own system of teaching under the catchy title Catechetical Lectures. It was a best seller, selling 3000 copies and making a profit of £700 (equivalent to more than £100,000 today!). Even more importantly it got him the attention of the bishop of London, Henry Compton.

When in 1695 the Governor of Maryland requested the Bishop of London to provide an able clergyman as commissary for the colony, Compton knew exactly who to send.

As he was preparing to leave for the Americas Bray surveyed the clergy who would be prepared to travel as missionaries with him. Unsurprisingly he found that it was the poor, unbeneficed clergy who were prepared to go (they had no fat living to lose in England), and yet they were the clergy without libraries of their own, and the learning Bray felt was necessary for such an important task. He petitioned the Bishop Compton for assistance in setting up a charity to support buying books for clergy. He received a donation of £44 (£5000) from Princess (later Queen) Anne, and thus was born, in 1699, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. In the December of the same year he finally travelled to Maryland, taking three months to get there, and founding thirty-nine libraries, some having more than a thousand volumes.

On his return Bray realised that a more thorough effort at the evangelising of the colonies was needed. He saw the danger posed to the Anglican Church by the vigour of such groups as the Quakers, and so in 1701 he received the charter for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG). Its first meeting was held in Lambeth Palace, and the Archbishop of Canterbury became its first president. It was the means by which the Church of England was able to support its clergy in the English colonies ‘for the instruction of the King’s loving subjects in the Christian religion’ and to evangelize the native peoples there. Having set up these two important societies, Bray retired to his parish, first Sheldon, and then St Botolph’s Aldgate in the city of London.

It was Bray’s foresight that enable the Anglican church to survive the shocks of the War of Independence. It was the model of the two societies which enabled the Church of England to respond to the growth of empire in the nineteenth century, with the swift foundation of other missionary societies:

  • CMS– 1799, for the missions to Africa and Asia;
  • UMCA (Universities’ Mission to Central Africa)– 1857 (working in Malawi and Zanzibar);
  • the BFBS (British & Foreign Bible Society)– 1804;
  • the LMS (London Missionary Society)– 1795 (David Livingstone’s sponsoring body);
  • SAMS (South American Missionary Society originally the Patagonian Mission)– 1844.

An assessment of the missionary societies?

On the one hand:

SPG funded its missionary endeavours, in part, through the ownership of the Codrington plantation in Barbados where slaves had the word “Society” branded on their chests. Thomas Secker, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1758 to 1768 realised that this was a dreadful responsibility: “I have long wondered and lamented that the Negroes in our plantation decrease and new supplies become necessary continually. Surely this proceeds from some defect, both of humanity and even of good policy. But we must take things as they are at present.” When slavery was abolished in 1833, the bishop of Exeter was paid nearly £13,000 (over £1 million) to compensate him for the loss of 665.

On the other hand:

John Sentamu, Archbishop of YorkBefore his enthronement as Archbishop of York, John Sentamu said this:

My late parents always said to me whenever you meet a group of people who may be interested in hearing what you have to say, always tell them how grateful we are for the missionaries who risked their lives to bring the good news of God’s salvation to Uganda. It is because of that missionary endeavour that I am standing in front of you. A fruit of their risk-taking and love.1

In the end it was right and is right that a church which was founded and fostered and fed by missionary endeavour from a world-wide church contributed in turn to that missionary endeavour.

  1. Quoted in Stephen Bates, ‘A cleric’s journey: from Idi Amin’s Uganda to York’, The Guardian, Saturday 18 June 2005. []

Anglican Roots : Inheritance 4

The ethos of Anglicanism

It has become the easiest of journalistic cliches to accuse leaders of the Anglican Communion of sitting on the fence, fudging issues and woolly thinking. It is worth distinguishing pusillanimous behaviour, which simply lacks the courage to face a difficulty or the honesty to admit that one exists, with a fully justified refusal to fall into a neatly-set journalistic trap. ‘We know you are a plain, honest-to-goodness, no nonsense kind of teacher,’ they said to Jesus once. ‘What about this tax, then; should we pay it or not?’ And the meaning of Jesus’s famous reply, ‘Pay to Caesar what is due to Caesar, and to God what is due to God’ — an archetypical sound-bite— has been disputed ever since he uttered it. The refusal to give neat, categorical instructions on each and every issue is by no means a necessary sign of religious decay.
Stephen Sykes1

The word ‘Anglican’ begs a question at once. I have simply taken it as referring to the sort of Reformed Christian thinking that was done by those (in Britain at first, then far more widely) who were content to settle with a church order grounded in the historic ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, and with the classical early Christian formulations of doctrine about God and Jesus Christ – the Nicene Creed and the Definition of Chalcedon. It is certainly Reformed thinking, and we should not let the deep and pervasive echoes of the Middle Ages mislead us: it assumes the governing authority of the Bible, made available in the vernacular, and repudiates the necessity of a central executive authority in the Church’s hierarchy. It is committed to a radical criticism of any theology that sanctions the hope that human activity can contribute to the winning of God’s favour, and so is suspicious of organized asceticism (as opposed to seeing the free activity of God sustaining and transforming certain human actions done in Christ’s name).
Rowan Williams2

The Anglican “Via Media”?

the… via media was not in [George] Herbert’s day a mere compromise, a golden mean. Rather, it was a balance and an integration, an affirmation of the best of both traditions. In the sense that it was Catholic – in its sacramentalism, its liturgical worship, and in its continuity with the past – it was very Catholic. In the sense that it was Reformed – in its focus on the grace of God, in its Biblicism, in its evangelical liberty – it was very Reformed.
Gene Edward Veith3

The Collect for Quinquagesima : The Anglican Collect

O Lord, who hast taught us
that all our doings without charity are nothing worth:
send thy Holy Ghost,
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity,
the very bond of peace and of all virtues,
without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee:
Grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

  1. Stephen Sykes, ‘The Genius of Anglicanism’ in Unashamed Anglicanism, p. 222. []
  2. Rowan Williams, Anglican Identities (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2004), pp. 2-3. []
  3. G.E. Veith Jr., ‘The Religious Wars in George Herbert Criticism: Reinterpreting Seventeenth Century Anglicanism’, George Herbert Journal, 11 (1988), p. 18. []

Anglican Roots : 1888 The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral

Every time a church body meets it comes up with a statement, justifying the meeting and the accompanying expense. Sometimes the statement is grandly called a “communique” as if saying it in French makes it more official. I am sure that all of you eagerly seize upon these statements, with their neatly bulleted and outlined sentences, knowing that the publication of each is bringing the kingdom nearer. No?

Then praise the Archbishop of Canterbury for turning the 2008 Lambeth Conference away from being a deliberative legislative body and into a retreat for bishops to learn how to be better bishops (although, in the words of a senior retired clergyman of my acquaintance, the Lambeth Conference has always had a simpler purpose: “The Lambeth Conference is a teach in for Bishops who have stopped reading books. They come to Lambeth, go to Wipples and get kitted out with the latest Episcopal gear and then go home and retire.”)

Bishop Colenso of NatalThe first Lambeth Conference was called to deal with a doctrinal crisis in the now world-wide Anglican Communion. In 1853 a methodical mathematician called John Colenso was consecrated bishop of the new diocese of Natal. Someone didn’t do their research, because it soon emerged that Colenso had radical (for then!) ideas about polygamy, heathenism and the proper interpretation of the Old Testament. The Bishop of Cape Town attempted to depose Colenso, then excommunicate him. The Privy Council in London got involved and complicated matters further. There ended up two bishops in Natal, the Bishop of Natal (Colenso, who remained in communion with the Church of England even if excomunicate from the church in South Africa) and the Bishop of Maritzburg (who was in communion with the Bishop of Cape Town). It was a mess: if I am in communion with you, but not with him, will I be in communion with her, who is in communion with him, but not with you? Positions were assumed and attitudes were struck. Samuel John Stone, the curate of Haggerstone in London, even wrote a polemical hymn attacking Colenso and supporting the actions of the Bishop of Cape Town:

Though with a scornful wonder
men see her sore oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder,
by heresies distressed;
yet saints their watch are keeping,
their cry goes up, “How long?”
and soon the night of weeping
shall be the morn of song.

The Bishop of Cape Town, despairing of this mess, called in 1860 for a synod of the colonial bishops. The Canadian Church agreed in 1865. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Longley, was a cautious man, and it wasn’t until 1867 he invited the colonial bishops to a meeting at his London home, Lambeth Palace: the first Lambeth Conference. It was not a great success: 76 bishops attended for the four day meeting (four days! After a voyage to London of weeks for some of the bishops!); the Archbishop of York refused to attend, concerned that this impinged upon the authority of Parliament. As one historian said:

It ended after only four days of meeting without any great accomplishments, but its great achievement was simply to have met. [(!)]1

Which isn’t entirely fair. Longley was wise enough to recognise the true nature of the Anglican Church and the more profitable way for such meetings to behave: “Longley insisted that the meeting was a conference not a synod: no declaration of faith was to be made nor were canons to be enacted.”2 — a lesson not heeded by subsequent Archbishops.

A second Lambeth Conference, held in 1878, meant, according to Anglican custom, that we have always done things this way, and so a third was inevitable. It was at the third conference, held in 1878 that the strange beast that is the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral was discussed.

William Reed Huntington, originator of the CLQTo understand the C-LQ we have to take a step back and introduce William Reed Huntington (1838-1909), the Rector of Grace Church, New York. Reed Huntington was a great man in the history of the Anglican Communion, an inheritor of the great theologian saints such as Anselm and Hooker. He realised the doctrine when correctly understood and articulated, was the great engine of evangelism and mission. In 1870 he wrote a book The Church Idea which deserves to be much better known outside the Episcopal Church:

If our whole ambition as Anglicans in America be to continue a small, but eminently respectable body of Christians, and to offer a refuge to people of refinement and sensibility, who are shocked by the irreverences they are apt to encounter elsewhere; in a word, if we care to be only a countercheck and not a force in society; then let us say as much in plain terms, and frankly renounce any and all claim to Catholicity. We have only, in such a case, to wrap the robe of our dignity about us, and walk quietly along in seclusion no one will take much trouble to disturb. Thus may we be a Church in name, and a sect in deed.
But if we aim at something nobler than this, if we would have our Communion become national in very truth, – in other words, if we would bring the Church of Christ into the closest possible sympathy with the throbbing, sorrowing, sinning, repenting, aspiring heart of this great people, – then let us press our reasonable claims to be the reconciler of a divided household, not in a spirit of arrogance, but with affectionate earnestness and an intelligent zeal.

And the curious path Huntington took to achieve this role as the reconciler of a divided house was to set out exactly what united all those who called themselves Anglican, so that we can press onward to find out exactly what unites all those who call themselves Christian. Huntington’s path to unity had four points, hence “Quadrilateral”. By 1886 the Quadrilateral had got itself on to the agenda of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church at its meeting in Chicago. It was heartily endorsed. It was then passed over the Atlantic to the meeting of the Third Lambeth Conference. Again it was endorsed as the irreducible basis of all that we hold in common as Anglicans. Thus it became the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral.

Four points, in four sentences, and 108 words.

The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral

(Resolution 11 of the Lambeth Conference, 1888)

  1. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as “containing all things necessary to salvation,” and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
  2. The Apostles’ Creed, as the baptismal symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
  3. The two sacraments ordained by Christ himself — Baptism and the Supper of the Lord — ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of institution, and of the elements ordained by him.
  4. The historic episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of his Church.

There was a elegant simplicity to this formula, which proved to be very effective for some years, especially in cementing the unity of the disparate churches throughout and beyond the British Empire which had some historic connection with the See of Canterbury:

There was no mention of England, Anglicanism, the Reformation, the Thirty-Nine Articles, or the Book of Common Prayer.3

But there are also (were also) very serious problems caused by the formula. To work out what those might be, think ecumenically.

  1. Frederick Shriver in John E. Booty, Stephen Sykes and Douglas A. Knight, eds., The Study of Anglicanism, (SPCK, 2nd rev ed. 1998), p. 195. []
  2. J. R. Garrard, ‘Longley, Charles Thomas (1794–1868)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 []
  3. Mark Chapman, Anglicanism: A Very Short Introduction, (Oxford VSIs, 2006), p. 121 []

Anglican Roots : 1784 Samuel Seabury consecrated first American bishop

So far, the acute-eyed among you will have noted, that in this series about Anglican Roots, as we prepare for the Lambeth Conference of the world-wide Anglican Communion, we have heard very little about the world beyond the Tweed, the Severn, the Irish Sea or the English Channel. A lot of what we have said has been about the Church in England as well as the Church of England. Where did this W.W.A.C. come from then?

It certainly didn’t come from the Church of England’s own self-understanding. As we have seen, the most consistent thread throughout the Church of England’s history is that it is self-governing and autonomous, in as much as the sovereign, the chief magistrate of the realm, allows it to be: “no king, no bishops” and no Church of England. How would that work in lands which weren’t ruled directly by the king, in the new trading posts and colonies which began to emerge in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century?

Stuck in Frobisher Bay with FrobisherThe first Church of England service to be held outside the lands of the English crown was a celebration of Holy Communion at Frobisher Bay on 3 September 1578, presided over by Robert Wolfall, chaplain to the exploration voyage of Martin Frobisher. The first service within the lands which later became the United States was probably in a bay in Oregon on 19 June 1579 when the crew of the Golden Hind and Sir Francis Drake landed to repair the ship. Attempts were made to set up permanent settlements on the west coast of North America in the later years of the sixteenth century, but all failed until the settlement of Jamestown in Virginia in 1607. The Church of England was designated the established church there in 1609, in the lower part of New York in 1693, in Maryland in 1702, in South Carolina in 1706, in North Carolina in 1730, and in Georgia in 1758.

But what did “established” mean in this context? It certainly didn’t mean “bishops”. The parishes were expected to be self-financing and largely self-governing. The Bishop of London, William Laud, was appointed in 1632 to over see the overseas churches in the king’s dominions, but he was never expected to visit the parishes(!). Instead he ruled by commissaries, and, for many years, this light touch governance seemed successful. By the time of the American Revolution in 1776, there were perhaps 400 parishes in the American colonies. But it was built on thin roots. Most of the parishes were served by priests sent out from England; there were very few local men ordained priest— the long months of sea voyage to England to find a bishop to ordain them was a strong disincentive.

And then came the Revolution. How was a Church which placed so much emphasis on loyalty to the King to deal with a Revolution which overthrew the authority of that King? By 1783, when the War of Independence ended, almost 80,000 loyalists had left the colonies, most (50,000 or more), heading for Canada. By 1790, in a nation of four million, Anglicans were reduced to about ten thousand; in Virginia, for example, of the 107 parishes which existed in 1784, fewer than 42 were able to support a priest between 1802 and 1811.1 Others, who wanted a balance between national loyalty and religious conviction, attempted to find another way. Samuel Tingley, an SPG missionary in Delaware and Maryland, attempted vagueness (a very Anglican solution!): rather than praying “O Lord, save the King” in the Office, substituted “O Lord, save those whom thou hast made it our especial Duty to pray for.”

In 1783 the Clergy Convention of Connecticut recognised that if the church in America couldn’t have a king, it still needed bishops. They elected Samuel Seabury to be bishop, and like Don Quixote, he left home on a voyage to seek consecration.

Samuel SeaburySeabury was a colonist, born in Groton, Connecticut, in 1729. He trained as theologian at Yale College and then as a doctor at the University of Edinburgh. Whilst in the United Kingdom he sought ordination, and returned to the colonies as a missionary for the SPG. When the War broke out he resigned his living in Westchester, New York, and served in private medical practice and as chaplain to the British army. And yet when the war ended, he had remained in the United States. He was unsuccessful in finding an English bishop who would ordain him. They were reluctant to interfere in the affairs of an enemy nation, and anyway, the canons required the newly consecrated bishop to swear an oath of loyalty to the Crown, something that Seabury as an American was manifestly unable to do.

Disappointed, he travelled north, and discovered in the Scottish Episcopal Church three bishops willing to do the deed: at the time the Episcopal Church in Scotland was (amazingly) not in communion with the Church of England: it was made up of non-juring bishops, who had refused the oath of loyalty to William of Orange. They had strong Jacobite sympathies. Consecrating Seabury would be one in the eye for German George (III) and his bishops. On 14 November 1784, Samuel Seabury was consecrated the first bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States, and the first colonist (ie, non-Englishman, not working within the Church of England) to the episcopacy. As such, his consecration marked the beginning of the world-wide Church of England, otherwise, and more accurately known as the Anglican Communion. (Incidentally, the English Parliament concerned that this marked the beginning of some fiendish Jacobite religious plot to overthrow the English crown, cleared the way for future consecrations to happen in England by removing the requirement for the oath of loyalty).

A word about a word

Finally, a word about a word; Anglicanism. Although, as we have seen “Anglican” appeared, sort of, in Magna Carta, and a play on the word appeared in the story of Pope Gregory the Great and the Angel-Angels, the grammarians among you will have noted that Magna Carta used “Anglican” as an adjective: the “English Church”. When did “Anglicanism” emerge as a proper noun?

Perhaps you would like to have a guess.

The earliest that the OED can date the use of the word “Anglican” to mean characteristic or defining of the established Church of England is [drum roll please] … 1838.

John Henry Newman, in the journal The British Critic said this:

The heroine… after going through the phases of Protestantism… .seeks for something deeper and truer in Anglicanism, or, as Mr. Palmer more correctly speaks in his recent work, Anglo-Catholicism.

Shortly after defining the word he left the Church.

The next use of the word was in 1846 by Charles Kingsley in a letter:

Decent Anglicanism… having become the majority is now quite Conservative.

The reason the word was only coined so late in the church’s history has been noted by Stephen Sykes:

… the very concept of ‘Anglicanism’ itself has a history. It was invented in the nineteenth century, possibly as an English adaptation of the (French) ‘Gallicanisme’, an anti-papal tendency within French Catholicism… ‘Anglicanism’ is a term with no fixed content and it can be, and has been, used in a more or less blatantly one-sided way in the course of its history.2

In other words, beware of someone using the word “Anglican” in unfamiliar surroundings. It might not mean what you expect it to mean.

  1. David Hein and Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr. The Episcopalians (New York: Church Publishing, 2004). []
  2. Stephen Sykes, ‘The Genius of Anglicanism’ in Unashamed Anglicanism, p. 219. []

Anglican Roots : Movement 3

Dissenters and Sectaries (aka Methodism)

The Church of England never learnt to cope with dissent. More groups split away from the church throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The American high churchman, Samuel Johnson (not the English dictionary compiler) referred to those affected by the so-called Great Awakening in America in the 1730s and 1740s disparagingly:

There is nothing they will stick at: they patronize monstrous enthusiasm, strolling teachers and wild notions.1)

Similar attitudes were found in the mother church. At the same time the Duchess of Buckingham reacted with horror to the “Methodism” introduced into aristocratic circles by the Countess of Huntingdon: “Their doctrines are most repulsive, strongly tinctured with impertinence and disrespect towards their superiors. It is monstrous to be told you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl the earth”. (The Duchess of Buckingham is only notable otherwise as the illegitimate daughter of James II).

John Wesley John Wesley was born in 1703, the son of the rector of Epworth, in Lincolnshire. Whilst at Oxford, he gathered a group of devout undergraduates around him who attempted to live their Christian faith methodically: they became known as the ‘Holy Club’ or ‘Methodists’. Ordained priest in 1728, he went to America as a missionary in 1735: it was an unmitigated disaster, and he fled back to England. In 1738 he had (another?) conversion experience at a meeting of a Moravian church group in London: “I felt my heart strangely warmed”. He determined to devote his life to evangelistic work. Finding the churches closed to him, he began preaching out doors, and developed his own organization with the help of lay preachers and extended his activity to cover the whole of the British Isles by 1751. Although he lived and died as an Anglican priest, and wanted his organization to remain within the Church of England, in 1784 he ordained Thomas Coke as a superintendent for the growing Methodist organisation in America.

But what is his relevance to Anglican self-understanding? It is simply this: God raises up men and women within the church who are capable through grace of reforming the church, strengthening it for the task ahead. Most times the Church ignores or persecutes them, only recognising the meaning and value of their contribution with hindsight. Whenever we despair of the paucity of resources available to the church in its challenges today, we should remember John Wesley, and look for his equivalent among our number today.

  1. Richard Webster, A history of the Presbyterian Church in America from its origin until the year 1760, with biogr. sketches of its early ministers, (Philadelphia, 1858 []

Anglican Roots : Inheritance 3

The Church can be self-reforming

When the Church of England relies on law and enforcement it cuts itself off from the richness of skills and gifts that God has given all his people. When it remains open to the new things God is doing among us, it can be a self-reforming, self-healing and self-strengthening body.

Anglican Roots : 1662 The Act of Uniformity and the Book of Common Prayer

What was a interesting diversion for James, debating with bishops and puritans, became a matter of life and death for his son, Charles I, and, to be honest, mostly death. James’s refusal to address even the minor issues agreed to at the Hampton Court Conference left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Puritans, a group of people whose numbers and influence increased in the 1620s. A bourgeois middle class was developing, making money through trade, and they began to chafe against the social restrictions that the Elizabeth and Jacobean settlements placed upon them.

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Anglican Roots : 1604 The Hampton Court Conference

The Elizabeth Settlement of 1559 was no such thing. It was the Elizabethan Truce, and a truce which became increasingly out of date over the course of her long reign. The enemy at the beginning of her reign was, as we have seen, the papalists: those who wanted to bring England back into communion with Rome. By the 1590s it was the Puritans: those more radical Christians who wanted to take the examples of reformation to be found in Zurich and Geneva and apply them to England.

There was another example of a thoroughly reformed church, closer to home. The Church of Scotland, by law established, was presbyterian in governance and doctrine, “one of the best reformed churches”1. Perhaps when the King of Scotland became King of England as well he might bring some of his presbyterian ethos with him. Elizabeth died in 1603, and James VI of Scotland became James I of England. Even while he was travelling south the Puritans of England approached him. They presented him with the Millenary Petition, so-called because it was supposed to have been signed by a thousand ministers. The Petition was, as these things go, moderate and peaceful. The petitioners wanted a number of catholic hangovers from the Elizabethan Settlement to be finally removed from Church of England worship:

  • the sign of the cross at baptism
  • forbidding the administration of women at baptism (ie in emergencies)
  • making the cap and surplice optional
  • abolition of the ring in the marriage service
  • restrictions on the use of music in worship
  • forbidding kneeling at the name of Jesus

There were some other, godly, proposals. The Puritans wanted ministers to hold one living only, and not many parishes in plurality; that people should not be excommunicated for “trifles and twelve-penny matters”, and that only learned men, “able and sufficient”, should be admitted to ministry.

The Puritans didn’t know two things about James. First, he loved a good debate. Second, he had no intention of allowing any reforms which questioned, even remotely, the status of the monarch. To the consternation of the Bishops, he said that the Petition deserved a good discussion. Some Puritans took this as a sign of the King’s favour and began petitioning for more radical reforms. This had the expected effect on the Church: reaction. All Puritan agitating was condemned, and Archbishop Whitgift undertook a survey of all dissenters and sectaries within the province of Canterbury: know where your enemies might be.

The Conference met at Hampton Court Palace, the home of Wolsey and Henry VIII, in January 1604. The English Bishops were represented by Richard Bancroft, Bishop of London and soon to be Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Puritans by John Rainolds, fellow of Corpus Christi, Oxford, Dean of Lincoln, tutor to Richard Hooker and former Roman Catholic. The conference was run amicably, although it soon became apparent to the Puritans that James was more interested in arguments than outcomes. The king agreed to act against ministers not being resident in their parishes, and to improve the quality of preaching (OffPreach?), but he had no intention of budging on church discipline and ceremonies. Rainolds made a tactical error when he recommended the king set up a synod of bishops and presbyters to determine contested issues in the church. This so infuriated James that he walked out of the room, snapping ‘No bishop, no king’ as he went.

Various bits and pieces were agreed upon; commissions were to be set up to tinker with certain small reforms, only one of which was every achieved; an agreement to produce one uniform translation of the Bible led directly to the Authorised Version of 1611: the so-called “King James Bible”, which is so much a defining possession of the English speaking world.

Two different, ideologically determined translations were in use in the Church of England at the time: the Geneva Bible (with its biased explanatory notes in the margins) and the Bishop’s Bible (1568). James entrusted the task to Bancroft, who formed a network of committees to produce the new translation: six committees of fifty-four scholars in all, meeting in Oxford, Cambridge, and the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey. They took as their starting point the earliest English translations of William Tyndale and was completed in five years.

Looking at the way the AV has been worshipped subsequently, it is interesting to see how little loved it was when it first appeared. It was said to be filled with ‘uncouth and obsolete expressions’, and to have ‘all the disadvantages of an old prose translation’. It wasn’t until 1760 that it had completely superceded the Bishop’s Bible or the Geneva Bible as the standard English translation (which is why Book of Common Prayer of 1662 uses Coverdale’s Great Bible translation of the psalter). Curiously, it was never “Authorized”.

  1. Kenneth Hylson-Smith, The Churches in England from Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II: 1558-1688 v. 1 (London: SCM Press, 1996), p. 94 []

Anglican Roots : Movement 2

Christian Humanism

John ColetNowadays, if you say “humanism” people tend to think you mean “atheism”: the British Humanist Association is prominent in opposing all public expressions of religion in our society. But in the early sixteenth century humanism didn’t mean such a feeble-minded thing. Then “Humanism” was a liberal arts movement: it was an attitude towards learning, which emphasised the skilful use of the past, applied to the present. The Christian humanist wished to apply his knowledge of the ancient writers, Christian and pagan, in the betterment of the lives of his fellows.

Christian humanists advocated a synthesis of classical, biblical, and patristic learning as the basis for an ambitious renewal of theology, piety, and public morality.1

This was a Europe-wide movement, and something that was shared in with enthusiasm by English scholars. Early examples are John Colet, (founder of Saint Paul’s School at London), John Fisher, (prime mover in the foundation of St John’s College Cambridge), Lady Margaret Beaufort, (founder of Christ’s College Cambridge) and Thomas More. Erasmus, the Dutch humanist, was a huge influence on the development of Anglican learning, and the church and universities weren’t afraid to import the best continental learning: Martin Bucer and Peter Martyr Vermigli are two of the most prominent scholars of the period.

For the consequences of which see… here.

  1. James Michael Weiss “HumanismOxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation. Ed. Hans J. Hillerbrand. (Oxford University Press, 1996) []

Anglican Roots : Inheritance 2

The Church and its learning

Despite being the product of a national church asserting its national identity (and its submission to the secular power of the realm), in the period in which the Church of England was learning to define itself as opposed to its mother church on the continent, it is significant that it was an intellectual movement which had the greatest influence. The Church of England was founded as a church of learning: often it has been able to remember that legacy.

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